We are officially in the middle of Championship Week with the NCAA Tournament less than a week away. It’s truly madness out there, so let’s catch up on everything you need to know.
On Friday, LSU suspended head coach Will Wade in light of reports that FBI wiretaps produced evidence of a phone call between Wade and Christian Dawkins, one of the men at the center of the FBI’s investigation into the corruption of college basketball. During the phone call, Wade was frustrated at failing to sign a recruit despite a “strong-ass offer.” Wade’s only comment was to say the recent reports “do not begin to tell the full story.”
Needless to say, this is a bad time for a coach to be suspended. The Tigers are ranked no. 10 and appear to have legitimate Final Four hopes. The team won their season finale against Vanderbilt on Saturday to secure the top seed in the SEC tournament and the regular-season title. They will play either Florida or Arkansas in the SEC Tournament on Thursday. However, it’s unclear if Wade will be reinstated in time to coach the team during the NCAA Tournament.
That’s Not All
In addition to Wade, there is also uncertainty regarding the status of LSU freshman guard Javonte Smart, who is believed to be the recruit Wade mentioned in his phone call with Dawkins. The school held Smart out of Saturday’s game out “of an abundance of caution” and “lack of clarity.” LSU is working with the NCAA to resolve Smart’s situation as quickly as possible. Smart is LSU’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 11.5 points per game and figures to be an important part of any tournament run they make in March.
One Back, One Out
When Duke plays in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday night, Zion Williamson is likely to finally be back on the court. Williamson was a full participant in practice on Monday and is on track to play after missing five games in which the Blue Devils went 3-2. However, Duke is likely to be without starting center Marques Bolden, who sprained his knee during Saturday’s loss to North Carolina. His status moving forward is up in the air. Bolden isn’t as important to Duke’s title hopes as Williamson, but he gives the Blue Devils a little size and rebounding inside.
Not Coming Back
The Kansas Jayhawks saw their NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit this week when they learned that Lagerald Vick will not be returning to the team this season. Vick left the team in early February to attend to “personal matters.” At the time, it was believed he would return at some point this season after his mother indicated she needed him at home in Memphis “for a couple weeks.” Unfortunately, that won’t be the case. The Jayhawks will have to push forward without their senior who’s averaging 14 points per game this season. On the bright side, the Jayhawks went 6-2 in their eight games without him.
Just in Time
The Michigan State Spartans are expecting forward Nick Ward to return from a hand injury in time to play in the Big Ten Tournament. He’s set to return Friday when the Spartans play either Indiana or Ohio State. Before the injury, Ward was averaging 15 points and over six rebounds per game. The Spartans got by without him, but he’s essential to Michigan State’s success in the Big Dance, especially with junior guard Joshua Langford out for the rest of the season.
One Last Chance
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Ohio State is expecting center Kaleb Wesson to play in the Big Ten Tournament after missing the last three games of the regular season because of a suspension. Wesson was suspended earlier this month for a violation of athletic department policy. The Buckeyes went 0-3 without him, putting them at 18-13 overall and 8-12 in Big Ten play. Ohio State is squarely on the bubble and likely needs to beat Indian on Thursday to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, although an upset over Michigan State in the next round wouldn’t hurt either. Needless to say, Wesson is coming back in the nick of time.
Another Late Return
Texas is also reinstating senior Kerwin Roach II from suspension in time for the conference tournament. Roach has missed the last five games following a violation of team rules. It was his second suspension of the season. After going 1-4 without him, the Longhorns will have Roach, who leads the team with 15 points per game, back for the Big 12 Tournament. Texas is squarely on the bubble, so Thursday’s game against Kansas could be a must-win for them.