NCAA Basketball News and Notes: March 6, 2019
Believe it or not, March has arrived and the madness has already begun with conference tournaments getting underway this past Monday. With 11 days until Selection Sunday, let’s catch up on all the important news in the college basketball world.
Even when he’s nursing a knee injury, Duke freshman Zion Williamson remains the most-watched player in college basketball. Williamson missed Tuesday’s game against Wake Forest, the fourth game he’s missed since suffering a Grade 1 knee sprain. Coach K hasn’t said anything firm on when the freshman will return, only that they won’t be rushing him back. The Blue Devils have gone 3-1 without him, but they did lose to a Virginia Tech team also playing without its best player and barely survived Wake Forest Tuesday night. More importantly, Williamson is doubtful for Saturday’s rematch with North Carolina and his status for next week’s ACC Tournament remain up in the air.
It’s All Over
For the first time in 15 years, the Kansas Jayhawks will not win at least a share of the Big 12 title. After a 13-point loss to Oklahoma on Tuesday, the Jayhawks are 11-6 in conference play and unable to catch Texas Tech and Kansas State, who are both 13-4 inside the Big 12. Head coach Bill Self says he hasn’t talked about the streak to his players that much and says his team’s struggles are largely a result of youth and inexperience. The Jayhawks have played most of the season without junior center Udoka Azubuike and have been missing senior Lagerald Vick since early February. Despite not winning the league, Kansas is still in line for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Steady at the Top
Gonzaga and Virginia continue to hold their spots at no. 1 and 2 in the polls, respectively, despite some changes elsewhere. North Carolina has moved all the way up to no. 3, as the Tar Heels have just one loss in their last 14 games, and that came against Virginia. Duke and Tennessee round out the top-5 as Texas Tech has climbed back into the top-10, as they look to turn their 8-game winning streak into a Big 12 title. Meanwhile, defending champion Villanova has returned to the top-25 after snapping their 3-game losing streak with a win over Marquette. Finally, Central Florida rounds out the top-25 following their upset of Houston over the weekend.
Thursday night, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery will serve the second game of a two-game suspended the university handed down after he verbally abused a referee following his team’s loss to Ohio State last week. McCaffery reportedly called official Steve McJunkins a “cheating m***erf***er“ and “a f***ing disgrace” in a hallway after Iowa’s 90-70 loss to the Buckeyes. The Big Ten also fined Iowa for violating its policy on sportsmanship. McCaffery apologized and took responsibility for his actions after being hit with the suspension. The Hawkeyes lost to Rutgers over the weekend in their first game without their head coach.
Not the Time
As they fight to keep their spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Ohio State Buckeyes have suspended center Kaleb Wesson for violating athletic department rules. Wesson leads the Buckeyes in both points and rebounds. Ohio State lost 86-51 to Purdue over the weekend without Wesson and will play Northwestern on Wednesday night without him as well. At the moment, Ohio State expects Wesson to return before the end of the season, although his status beyond Wednesday’s game remains up in the air. At 18-11 overall and 8-10 in Big Ten play, the Buckeyes may need to win another game or two to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, that will be far more difficult without Wesson on the floor.
Did the Crime, Now Do the Time
Unfortunately, we’ll close with some off-court news, as three people connected who were indicted and convicted as part of a federal investigation into the corruption in college basketball received their sentences on Tuesday. Jim Gatto, a former Adidas executive, was given nine months in prison for three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Meanwhile, Christian Dawkins, a former runner for an NBA agent, and Adidas executive Merl Code were given six months of jail time for two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. All three will appeal and won’t begin serving their time until those appeals are heard.
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