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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

College Basketball

Texas A&M left confused after Boston College cancels game over travel conditions

Texas AM Aggies

Saturday’s scheduled basketball game between Texas A&M and Boston College is off, and the Aggies aren’t hiding their irritation.

The Aggies were slated to host Boston College Saturday afternoon, but the Eagles apparently couldn’t get out of Boston quickly enough due to weather issues. This excuse did not fly with Texas A&M, who didn’t hide their displeasure.

According to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle, the Aggies were frustrated by the fact that other planes were landing at the airport even at Boston College refused to. A&M even offered to move the game back by two hours, but Boston College flatly refused to play on the same day that they traveled, instead asking to move the game back to Sunday. The Aggies refused this request.

This was one of Texas A&M’s bigger games of the non-conference slate, and now it’s off without being rescheduled. It will be interesting to see if the Aggies pursue a financial penalty here.

10 college basketball games to watch in December

Bill Self

November college basketball is a wild ride. Half the games are big time match-ups fabricated by sponsored tournaments and the other half feature certain blowouts. One thing both genres share in common is lack of national interest. Tournaments held during Thanksgiving week draw out the die-hards but lack attendance or TV viewing from even casual basketball fans.

Flipping the calendar from November to December makes things start to feel real in college hoops. Some conferences tip off league play, while some blue-blood programs schedule enticing match-ups in on-campus gyms. Gone are the sleepy vacation resort crowds, and in their place are the pep bands and student sections that make this sport great.

Over the 31 days of December, there is plenty to attract your attention, highlighted by this slate of games featuring top teams throughout the nation.

Purdue at Michigan, Dec. 1

Last year, the Big Ten moved a few conference games for each team to the early part of January to compensate for the league playing its conference tournament abnormally early. Most power conferences end their tournament in the 48 hours prior to Selection Sunday. Because the Big Ten wanted access to Madison Square Garden, which is already booked in mid-March by the Big East Tournament, the Big Ten moved things up a week.

This year, the Big Ten Tournament is back where it belongs in Chicago, but the early December conference games remain on the schedule. Big Ten brass looks to the semester break and a newly expanded 20-game conference slate as the reasons.

Whatever the case, it will always feel strange to have important conference games just days following Thanksgiving. That’s where we find ourselves this very Saturday, with two of the league’s top teams squaring off already.

Though it feels like Conference Player of the Year won’t be awarded for millennia, Carsen Edwards can cement himself as the frontrunner for the honor. Getting off to a hot scoring start, especially with a win in Ann Arbor, would put the spotlight on Edwards for the rest of the Big Ten season.

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Shareef O’Neal sends awesome tweet ahead of heart surgery

Shareef O’Neal was part of UCLA’s highly-anticipated recruiting class for this season, but his ability to contribute on the court was put on hold after doctors discovered he had a heart problem.

Shareef, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, underwent a routine medical examination in the fall and doctors discovered his heart had an electrical issue that surgery should correct.

O’Neal is set to undergo the surgery next month. He has been supporting his Bruins teammates all along and sent this great tweet on Wednesday:

The prospect of facing heart surgery seems downright terrifying. O’Neal is approaching it with optimism and the belief that he will be even better afterwards.

Michigan State star Josh Langford flubs missed free throw

Michigan State

Josh Langford has been Michigan State’s top player this season, but he had a rough game on Tuesday night that was capped by an embarrassing flub.

Langford was at the free throw line as Michigan State was trailing Louisville 81-78 in overtime with under 10 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and then was told to intentionally miss the second, which should have created an opportunity for his team to get the rebound and put the ball back in.

On his second free throw attempt, Langford’s shot went high off the backboard and never hit the rim, which created a dead ball situation and gave the ball to Louisville, preventing Michigan State from having a chance at an offensive rebound.

Spartans head coach Tom Izzo could be seen yelling to Langford that he needed to hit the rim on the shot.

Whether Langford knew about the rule and just missed with poor aim or did not know about the rule is open for debate, but either way, it was a blunder that left Spartans fans (and Izzo) frustrated.

Michigan State is now 5-2 following the defeat. Langford was 5-of-14 for 15 points.

Watch: Zion Williamson throws down windmill dunk after steal

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson continues to prove that he was worth all the hype.

The Duke freshman busted out with another incredible dunk during the Blue Devils’ home game against Indiana on Tuesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Duke was up 36-24 in the first half when Zion grabbed a steal and threw down a massive windmill dunk:

Zion was 7-of-10 shooting for 15 points in the early going. He’s averaging 20.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.7 blocks per game and is looking like a man among boys.

LaVar Ball says son LaMelo will not attend UCLA

LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball, the youngest Ball brother, sounds like he plans to attend college. But according to his father, there’s one school he won’t be going anywhere near.

LaVar Ball told TMZ Sports that his youngest son, who he claims is “better than LeBron” at the same age, won’t be attending UCLA, citing their treatment of LiAngelo Ball after he was detained for shoplifting in China.

“Heck no, he won’t be at UCLA,” LaVar said. “UCLA? Why? After what they did to my other son? Are you crazy?

“Suspend [LiAngelo] and don’t tell him when he supposed to be able to play and all that? No, they ain’t behind him like that. One mistake and now you put him to the side and act like he’s supposed to come the next year?”

LaVar also blamed UCLA for giving LiAngelo No. 15 instead of the No. 3 he’d worn all his life.

It’s worth a reminder that LiAngelo engaged in some seriously troubling conduct that got him suspended, whether he likes it or not. UCLA probably won’t be shedding any tears over the fact that the Ball family circus won’t be coming back to campus as LaMelo begins to assess his next move.

10 college basketball teams off to surprising starts

Jay Wright

The basketball season is still very young, with most teams playing five or fewer games so far. Right now, teams are jockeying for position like horses out of the starting gate before the first turn. The top teams are looking to keep pace with their fellow thoroughbreds. Teams on the fringes are trying to earn respect and build a resume for March. There are also a number of plucky future Cinderellas stealing wins on the road and sneaking into the national conversation.

As the college basketball landscape takes shape, there have been a number of teams who have exceeded and failed to meet preseason expectations. These ten stand out among that group.

Villanova

It’s impossible to start anywhere besides the main line, where the defending National Champions have stumbled out of the gates. Villanova lost four key cogs from the team that cut down the nets last April to the NBA, leaving behind a mish-mash of returnees and newcomers. The Wildcats have now played three games in the shiny new Finneran Pavilion on campus, but have won just once (against lowly Morgan State).

Against Michigan in a title game rematch, the Wildcats looked utterly lost and outmatched. The game was never close and Villanova did next to nothing successfully. A blowout like that can seem like a bump in the road, especially against a talented team like the Wolverines, led by one of college basketball’s best coaches.

Any notion of that game being a one-time worry was erased when Villanova dropped its next game to Furman. The Paladins have been surprisingly good this season (more on that in a moment), yet have nowhere near the talent of Villanova.

The trouble early on for Jay Wright and the gang has been figuring out how to use that talent. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall have both been role players on great teams, yet neither appears ready to make the leap to stardom. Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree were young last year, yet are being asked to contribute at a higher level than they are capable of providing. Finally, the biggest disappointment to date has been highly heralded recruit Jahvon Quinerly. The five-star prospect is shooting 25 percent from the floor and has posted more turnovers than assists. His minutes have been extraordinarily limited, and Quinerly never saw the floor at all in the Furman game

It’s clear that Jay Wright is concerned with what Quinerly has shown in limited playing time or behind closed doors in practice. Unfair or not, Villanova fans were relying on Quinerly to make an immediate impact in helping fill the shoes of Jalen Brunson. Until he’s ready to contribute, expectations have to be shifted for the defending champs.

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