NCAA Basketball News and Notes: February 27, 2019

Joshua Clarke

We are less than 48 hours away from March and all the madness that comes with it. There’s a lot going on in the college basketball world, so let’s get to it.

Trouble on Mount Zion

In one of the more unusual moments of the season, Duke star Zion Williamson blew out his sneaker in the opening minute of the team’s rivalry game against North Carolina. More importantly, Williamson hurt his knee in the process and is officially considered day-to-day. The Blue Devils couldn’t recover that night, losing to North Carolina and then losing to Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. In between those games, they managed to squeak by Syracuse, despite trailing at halftime. The injury to Williamson isn’t considered serious, but it remains to be seen when he’ll return to the court. Clearly, Duke is a different team without him on the floor, making his health imperative to their Final Four hopes.

Bulldogs On Top

Duke’s loss last week allowed Gonzaga to reclaim the no. 1 spot in the polls. The Bulldogs were briefly at the top earlier this season and are now back on top, as they appear poised to claim a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga has been bludgeoning teams in the West Coast Conference all season, so a loss between now and the start of the tournament would be shocking. Meanwhile, the ACC has three teams in Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina among the top-5. However, the Big Ten has six ranked teams, one more than the ACC’s five. On the back end of the top-25, the Wofford Terriers have made their first appearance in the polls in program history, as they are 16-0 in the Southern Conference and 24-4 overall.

Not Gonna Help

Texas announced last week that leading scorer Kerwin Roach II has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. He was also suspended for the team’s season opener for a violation of team rules. Head coach Shaka Smart has since said that Roach could return this season, but that the decision will be up to athletic director Chris Del Conte. The senior is averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season. Over the weekend, he watched from the bench as the Longhorns lost a 2-point game to Oklahoma. Texas is 15-12 overall and 7-7 in Big 12 play, putting them on the bubble heading down the stretch, so Roach’s presence could be the determining factor in whether or not they reach the NCAA Tournament.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

The Kansas Jayhawks are in serious danger of seeing their streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles come to an end. However, they kept hope alive Monday night by beating Kansas State, who currently sits atop the Big 12 standings. The Jayhawks are now one game behind K-State with games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor left on their schedule. Kansas State, meanwhile, will play Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma. However, Texas Tech remains only half a game behind Kansas State. The Red Raiders have won five straight, including a 29-point win over Kansas on Saturday. In essence, the Jayhawks will need to win out and get some help in order to win at least a share of the Big 12 title this year.

This is Happening

In a move that will have a profound impact on college basketball, the NBA has formally proposed a rule change to make players draft eligible at 18 instead of 19. The rule would allow players to go to the NBA straight from high school and possibly limit the number of so-called “one-and-done” college players. There seems to be real momentum toward making this change, although it could still be a few years until the change is officially put into place.

Wrong Court Date

Unfortunately, we’ll have to close on some off-court drama. Arizona coach Sean Miller and LSU coach Will Wade will both be subpoenaed to appear in federal court in April as part of the investigation into corruption around college basketball. Both coaches supposedly had a relationship with Christian Dawkins, a runner for a former NBA agent who’s become a centerpiece for the investigation and will be on trial this spring.

Miller is already on thin ice after one of his assistants was put on administrative leave for allegedly violating NCAA rules. Miller also had a short fuse with a reporter when asked about the subpoena Tuesday night. On the court, Wade and LSU are tied for the lead in the SEC and preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Arizona, meanwhile, will likely miss the tournament unless they win the Pac-12 Tournament.