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ESPN+ Week 4 college basketball viewers guide — Arizona State wraps up East Coast tour


After Kansas was challenged by East Tennessee State, and SMU escaped Evansville on ESPN+ last week, we flip to Feast Week, when nonconference tournaments such as the Maui Invitational and Battle 4 Atlantis will dominate headlines.

While these fields offer perfect résumé-boosting opportunities, there are matchups on ESPN’s streaming service this week that should spark attention.

On the slate is a Pac-12 school playing a rare road game, many Atlantic 10 squads looking to stand out and a couple of superstars.

1. Arizona State Sun Devils at Princeton Tigers (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)

After traveling across the country for two games at the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut, Arizona State will wrap up its East Coast adventures with a matchup vs. Princeton. While the teams don’t have the same talent level, the Sun Devils have a similar roster makeup to their 2017-18 unit that knocked off No. 2 Kansas on the road and went unbeaten in nonconference play behind the play of two elite guards. This season’s bunch plays small and fast and features bucket-getters like Remy Martin and Rob Edwards. They also play exceptionally hard under coach Bobby Hurley. Princeton is 0-4 with blowout losses to Indiana and Duquesne so far, but Arizona State’s exciting offensive scheme combined with its opponents’ home-court advantage makes this an intriguing showdown to watch.

2. Alabama State Hornets at No. 21 VCU Rams (Monday, 7 p.m. ET)

VCU’s weekly appearance continues as the Rams host Alabama State in another buy-game before the Emerald Coast Classic. We’ve talked in recent weeks about VCU’s style of play and Marcus Santos-Silva‘s breakout campaign, but what has been most surprising about the Rams is their production on the offensive end. The program has been stingy on defense for years — starting with Shaka Smart’s “havoc” system. However this season, it’s clear the Rams are capable of scoring without creating as many turnovers. VCU dropped 84 points in a victory over LSU and the Rams have three players averaging double figures with two others who are on the cusp. Alabama State held Missouri State to only 59 points — despite its 0-4 record — so this game is another chance to see if VCU’s offensive explosion is for real.

3. Vermont Catamounts at Yale Bulldogs (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET)

Vermont takes the Anthony Lamb show to New Haven for what will already be its fifth true road game of the season. Lamb isn’t flashy, but the 6-foot-6 senior is the heart and soul of the Catamounts. He has been so good this season that even Virginia was unable to contain the forward as he dropped 30 points and kept Vermont within striking distance of a top-10 opponent. With Paul Atkinson and Azar Swain leading a group that is coming off a three-overtime thriller on ESPN+ against Siena last week and a near-upset of Penn State, Yale probably won’t be a cake walk for Vermont. How the Bulldogs try to limit one of the most productive players in the country will certainly be the key to which team comes out on top.

4. Southern Illinois Salukis at Saint Louis Billikens (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET)

Saint Louis was picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll last season after reeling in a talented recruiting class led by four-star forward Carte’Are Gordon and multiple high-level transfers. One year later, expectations are much lower with Gordon out of the picture and most of the transfers moving on. The Billikens were projected to finish seventh in their league and are led by Jordan Goodwin and bruiser Hasahn French, who had 21 points and 24 rebounds vs. Belmont. It might be too early to start labeling Travis Ford’s team as a sleeper in the A-10, but they certainly have the makings of a unit that could challenge for a top-four slot. With a difficult nonconference schedule that continues with Auburn and Kansas State, this is one that SLU can’t afford to lose.

5. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash at Saint Joseph’s Hawks (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

In the first year of the post-Phil Martelli era, the Hawks were expected to be rebuilding under coach Billy Lange. While double-digit losses to Old Dominion and Loyola Chicago prove the process is just getting started, Saint Joseph’s has also displayed its potential when the Hawks dropped 96 points in a win over UConn and nearly came back to defeat Florida. This is a chance to gauge the progress of an improving Atlantic 10 team while also watching Keith Braxton, St. Francis’ star guard. The senior is elite at getting to the free throw line and has developed other areas of his game that shined in a loss to Richmond when he nearly put up a triple-double. If Braxton can have a monster outing, the Red Flash could pick off an A-10 team on the road.

6. Manhattan Jaspers at Rhode Island Rams (Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET)

Between Fatts Russell‘s flash, Jeff Dowtin‘s effective leadership and Cyril Langevine‘s physicality in the paint, Rhode Island has a big three that can compete with any in the Atlantic 10. But beyond those three, the Rams are searching for more consistency from their role players. Tyrese Martin has been a pleasant surprise and Jacob Toppin has shown an ability to score in short bunches, but the sample size is probably too small — and both players are too young — for coach David Cox to feel comfortable during conference play. Will Martin and Toppin bring their A-game against Manhattan? Or will someone else unexpected step up? Rhode Island’s supporting cast won’t be solved this week, but a step in the right direction before a three-game stretch against West Virginia, Providence and Western Kentucky is necessary.

7. Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Northern Illinois Huskies (Monday, 8 p.m. ET)

If you’re searching for under-the-radar pro prospects to watch this week, there are two gems in this mid-major matchup. We’ll start with Oakland’s Xavier Hill-Mais, who stands at 6-foot-7 with the versatility to impact the game in numerous ways. The senior forward was the Golden Grizzlies’ leading scorer and rebounder last season, and is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds this season. On the Northern Illinois side, Eugene German doesn’t have the physical skill set of Hill-Mais, but he sports a natural gift of scoring the ball. The senior guard averaged more than 20 points the past two seasons and is on pace for another leap in 2019-20. While his efficiency needs to improve, German has an ability that every professional team is looking for.

8. Evansville Purple Aces at IUPUI Jaguars (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)



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No Contract Offered to Richard Jefferson in 2018 or 2019


Richard Jefferson joked during a TV broadcast that he elected to retire instead of accepting New York’s contract offer during free agency.

The Knicks’ PR department, in their infinite wisdom, took the bait and put out a denial (which RJ was quick to mock.)

Meanwhile, current Knicks players are still telling reporters that making the postseason remains a possibility.

Per The NY Post:

“I see a lot of similarities to that [Miami] team,’’ Ellington said. “We were 11-30, flipped the whole thing and went 30-11 to finish the season. I don’t plan on going 11-30, but I think we’ll have breakthrough sooner or later.”

The Knicks, who have lost three straight to fall to 4-13, play their last game before Thanksgiving on Wednesday in Toronto against the defending-champion Raptors (11-4), who are still very good without Kawhi Leonard and dominate the Knicks at AirCanada Centre with six straight wins.

“You got to look at the circumstances we’re in,” starting center Taj Gibson said. “We’re in the East. Nobody’s running away. Maybe the top four teams. We’re still optimistic. If we get three wins in a row, you’re right back in the hunt.”

Related Kevin Durant and Richard Jefferson Clap Back at One Another





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Tom Izzo apologizes for Michigan State’s upset loss


Michigan State coach Tom Izzo took ownership for the third-ranked Spartans’ five-point upset loss in the Maui Invitational.

“I publicly want to apologize to maybe the greatest fan group that was here,” Izzo said after Monday’s loss in Hawai’i. “I feel like I let them down and it’s been an interesting couple of weeks and we just weren’t as sharp today.”

Michigan State lost 71-66 to unranked Virginia Tech to fall to 3-2 on the season.

“Well, I’ve said this for 20 years. Upsets happen,” Izzo said. “And that’s no insult to them, but it is an upset. Upsets happen.”

Consensus preseason All-America selection Cassius Winston was in early foul trouble and held to just seven points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Izzo was protective of Winston following the game. The star senior’s younger brother died earlier this month.

“I would like all the people in Hawai’i and everybody else to see, [Winston] was a shell of himself today,” Izzo said. “I think it’s been a lot on him. I told you that. No excuses for me. I did the poor job. But I couldn’t do what that kid has done, no way. And he just looked tired the whole time. I think the mental stress that he’s going through.”

Michigan State next plays Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET against Georgia on ESPN2.



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Draymond Green Remains Out With Heel Soreness


Draymond Green missed his third consecutive game with a sore right heel and has now been sidelined for eight of the Golden State Warriors’ first 18 games with two separate injuries.

The injury ravaged Warriors are in no hurry to rush the 29-year-old back to a full workload, even as they sputter out to the bottom of the NBA standings with a 3-15 record.

In addition to the heel issue that he’s currently facing, Green missed five games with a ligament injury in his finger and even appeared to tweak his elbow in his most recent game of action last week.

Given what appears to be Golden State’s short-term fate, the team has been wise to let Green take his time to fully recover before re-entering the fray. Heel injuries can be particularly troublesome if not addressed.

It’s lingering,” head coach Steve Kerr told Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It doesn’t seem like anything that goes on for too long. It’s also not something we want to aggravate that could keep him out for a long time. We just felt more comfortable giving him another couple of days.





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Hokies say ‘aloha’ to Michigan State, Dayton flying, Arkansas unbeaten — and it’s only Monday


Feast Week Monday opened with blowouts that ranged from mildly surprising (Dayton over Georgia) to expected (Kansas over Chaminade), but most of all, the action tipped off with one sizable and potentially important upset: Virginia Tech took down No. 3-ranked Michigan State.

Three things from Monday

Scoring scarce, but opponent 3s have been plentiful for Spartans

Just 20 days ago, Michigan State took the court in the Champions Classic against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden as the No. 1 team in the country. Now, after a masterful 71-66 upset win by Virginia Tech in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, the Spartans are 3-2. If not for a close win at Seton Hall, Tom Izzo’s team would be under .500.

It’s a safe bet that AP voters had no idea the Spartans would struggle as much as they have on offense early in the season. Discounting blowout wins against Binghamton and Charleston Southern, MSU has played 210 possessions against quality opponents: UK, the Pirates and the Hokies. Izzo’s offense has managed to score just 204 points in that span.

Give full credit to Landers Nolley II and to new Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young. The Hokies were the better team at the Lahaina Civic Center, and Nolley in particular was outstanding. The redshirt freshman lit up the Spartan D to the tune of 22 points, thanks to four 3s and perfect 8-of-8 shooting at the line. With a neutral-floor win over Michigan State and an ACC road victory at Clemson now in their pockets, Nolley and Young have put together a profile that has ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi rapidly revising his preseason estimates for Virginia Tech.

As for MSU, seeing Nolley and his teammates drain 10 shots from beyond the arc in a relatively slow-paced (64-possession) contest is getting to be a regular thing. In fact, Seton Hall and the Hokies combined to make 21 treys on 43% shooting against the Spartans. Opponents are likely to cool off from the perimeter eventually, but even when that happens, Izzo will have work to do with this team.

Specifically, Michigan State’s scoring has been a far cry from what we saw from this offense last season, and the individual opportunities for improvement in this rotation are numerous. Cassius Winston is converting just 43% of his 2-point attempts this season (and shooting 31% on 2-point jumpers), Xavier Tillman committed five turnovers against Virginia Tech, and Rocket Watts is 11-of-42 from the floor thus far.

No one’s foolhardy enough to write off Michigan State before Thanksgiving, naturally, but what can be said is that a March run by this team, when it comes, will feature an MSU offense that looks much better than it did in November.

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Dayton’s Obi Toppin scores 12 early points in the first half of the Flyers’ game against Georgia.

Obi Toppin is blowing up before our eyes

When a returning sophomore has a conference rookie of the year award to his credit, it’s hardly a risky forecast to say that player could have a breakout sophomore season. Still, even with what we knew coming into this season, you have to be tremendously impressed by what Dayton‘s Obi Toppin has shown us in his first four games.

In the Flyers’ 80-61 win over Georgia in the Maui quarterfinals, the 6-foot-9 sophomore required just 27 minutes and 11 shots to score 25 points. For the season, Toppin is averaging exactly eight made 2s per contest, thanks to 78% shooting inside the arc.

For comparison’s sake, Zion Williamson finished last season averaging 8.2 makes per game from 2-point land while connecting on 75% of those attempts. Not that we can make direct comparisons in November, of course: Toppin has yet to face a tough defense, and he has played just 117 minutes so far this season.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t underrate what we’ve seen from the sophomore. Toppin is giving Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji a run for his money for the title of most impressive interior scorer for 2019-20.

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Down 61-59, Mason Jones hits a step-back 3-pointer, and Arkansas tops Georgia Tech 62-61 in overtime.

Mason Jones is clutch

With Arkansas trailing Georgia Tech 61-59 in Atlanta in the final seconds of overtime, Mason Jones banked in a 3 from deep NBA range with just 0.1 remaining on the clock. The shot constituted all of the points the Razorbacks scored in the extra session (and, for their part, the Yellow Jackets managed just two), but it was sufficient to keep Eric Musselman’s team undefeated at 6-0.

That “undefeated” label could stick with the Hogs for a while. Musselman’s men will host Northern Kentucky and Austin Peay in Fayetteville before playing a road game at Western Kentucky. You then have to read all the way down to a road test at Indiana just before the new year to find a truly daunting challenge on the Arkansas schedule.

If it plays out that way and the Razorbacks are sporting an impressive “0” in the loss column next month, remember to credit Jones and his amazing shot against the Ramblin’ Wreck.

Three things for Tuesday

Dayton vs. Virginia Tech is the game you didn’t know you’d be this excited to see

To reference elements of the “From Monday” portion of this piece, Landers Nolley II and Obi Toppin were both outstanding in Maui in the quarterfinals. Seeing them face off against each other in the semis promises to be a must-see event.

In addition to Toppin, Jalen Crutcher was a top performer for the Flyers against Georgia, scoring 20 points powered by 4-of-9 shooting beyond the arc. Toppin and Crutcher are leading what has become a multiseason resurgence in Dayton. UD was a sub-.500 team in Anthony Grant’s first campaign in 2017-18, but the program improved markedly last season. Now the Flyers are looking to push VCU for supremacy in the Atlantic 10 in 2020.

As for Virginia Tech, what a whirlwind eight months it has been in Blacksburg. In March, Buzz Williams’ Hokies took top-seeded Duke to the 40th minute of a Sweet 16 game thanks to stellar offensive rebounding by Kerry Blackshear. Then Virginia Tech lost the game 75-73, Williams left to take the job at Texas A&M, and Blackshear transferred to Florida. Recovering from all of the above was supposed to take time, but Mike Young appears to have accelerated the timetable.

A Butler win could mean a spot in the top 25

On Monday, Butler advanced to the finals of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City with a 63-52 win over Missouri. The Bulldogs entered the contest perched just outside the AP top 25, and a win Tuesday in the finals against Stanford could be the push LaVall Jordan’s men require to land in the rankings for the first time since 2017.



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‘Why Do We Keep Losing?’


Even the Warriors’ kids are baffled by the team’s epic struggles this season.

Stephen Curry‘s daughter, Riley, asked his teammate Draymond Green why Golden State is piling up some many losses.

The 29-year-old is re-tooling—”get back to my offensive game pre-Kevin Durant Warriors”—and taking a philosophical approach to this most unpleasant (and unfamiliar) of seasons.

Per The Athletic:

“The other day, I was getting them out of the family room after the (Celtics) game and Riley Curry was in there,” Green says of Curry’s oldest daughter. “She’s like: ‘Did we lose?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, Riley, we lost.’ She’s like: ‘Why do we keep losing?’”

Green resisted the urge to point over at Riley’s father, mention that giant cast over his left hand and explain that, well, that’s the reason they keep losing. Young Draymond fumed when he lost at “Madden.” He didn’t care about nuances or realistic excuses. Riley won’t. So, Green says, he just told her “we’ll get better.”

“But once I answer (my kids), they’re on to the next thing,” Green says. “It’s: ‘Oh, OK, let’s go do this, let’s have fun, it’s time for you to be the tickle monster.’ I have to get home, do bath time, be present for my fiancée. Perspective.”

Related Kevin Durant: Draymond Green Incident Factored into Leaving the Warriors





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Virginia Tech makes NCAA tournament case 111 days before Selection Sunday


The most significant result of the no-longer-young college basketball season occurred Monday, nearly 5,000 miles from where the NCAA Selection Committee will complete its work in March.

It was not the biggest upset, mind you, as that remains Evansville’s early November shocker at Rupp Arena. But the most impactful win to date is clearly Virginia Tech‘s 71-66 opening-round victory over preseason No. 1 Michigan State at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward. Freshman Landers Nolley did more than hit the biggest shot of his life to close out the Spartans in the final minute. He changed the narrative of Virginia Tech’s season.

Suddenly the Hokies are no longer a nice rebuilding story under first-year coach Mike Young. The Hokies, picked at or near the bottom of the ACC, have a legitimate path to the NCAA tournament.

The difference isn’t that beating Michigan State is harder than what Evansville did to Kentucky. The difference is that Virginia Tech has the opportunity to remain at its lofty new altitude. Throw in a 1-0 start to the conference season, courtesy of a surprising opening night win at Clemson, and the Hokies could not have asked for a better start to their post-Buzz Williams life.

Entering the week, we had the Hokies a dozen spots away from the NCAA tournament cut line. Today, they are at worst a solid bubble team (call it the Seth Greenberg slot …), with a chance for so much more.



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Giannis Scores 50 Points as Bucks Win Eighth Straight


Nets 108 (9-8), Cavaliers 106 (5-12)

Spencer Dinwiddie’s fadeaway jumpshot with 1.6 seconds left broke the tie and gave Brooklyn the win. Dinwiddie finished with a team-high 23 points.

Magic 88 (6-10), Pistons 103 (6-11)

Detroit was given the scoring edge thanks to six double-digit scorers, led by Luke Kennard’s 20 points. Terrence Ross scored 19 points for the Magic.

Grizzlies 114 (5-11), Pacers 126 (10-6)

Four of Indiana’s starters notched 13 or more points, paced by TJ Warren’s 26 points. Ja Morant had to leave the game after falling over a cameraman, but he thankfully returned injury-free, finishing with 19 points.

Timberwolves 125 (9-8), Hawks 113 (4-13)

Another high-scoring night for Trae Young was spoiled as Minnesota came away with the victory. Young poured in 37 points while adding 9 assists and 6 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Wolves with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists.

Kings 102 (7-9), Celtics 103 (12-4)

Sacramento and Boston came down to the wire as they exchanged buckets in crunch time. Marcus Smart hit the go-ahead layup with 31 seconds left to put the Celtics ahead for good. Buddy Hield put up 41 points and hit 11 threes but came up short of the win.

Hornets 100 (6-12), Heat 117 (12-4)

Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler each scored 21 points to help Miami get its 12th win. Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 19 points.

76ers 96 (11-6), Raptors 101 (12-4)

Pascal Siakam hit the clutch and-1 over two defenders to help the Raptors seal the close victory. Siakam poured in 25 points while teammate Fred VanVleet added 24 points. Josh Richardson put in 25 points for Philly.

Blazers 117 (6-12), Bulls 94 (6-12)

Carmelo Anthony was in vintage form Monday night. The veteran scored a game-high 25 points, hitting four 3-pointers and grabbing 8 rebounds. He also passed Alex English for 18th on the all-time scoring list.

Jazz 118 (11-6), Bucks 122 (14-3)

Giannis Antetokounmpo is following up his MVP win last season with another incredible performance this year. He finished with 50 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists as the Bucks edged out the Jazz.

Lakers 114 (15-2), Spurs 104 (6-12)

LeBron James isn’t slowing down in Year 17. He put up 33 points in 35 minutes to keep the Lakers on their hot start to the season.

Thunder 100 (6-10), Warriors 97 (3-15)

Oklahoma City scored 26 points in the fourth quarter as they closed out the road win. Chris Paul hit a go-ahead midrange shot with under 40 seconds left that sealed Golden State’s fate. Paul finished with 20 points.





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Memphis guard Lester Quinones out 3 weeks with broken hand


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis coach Penny Hardaway says freshman guard Lester Quinones will miss three weeks after breaking two bones in his right hand.

Hardaway updated Quinones’ status Monday, saying the guard does not need surgery to repair the third and fourth metatarsal bones.

Quinones was hurt Saturday early in No. 16 Memphis’ 87-86 win over Mississippi, apparently catching his hand in a jersey while turning into a screen. Hardaway says he knew it wasn’t good when the guard walked off the court not doing anything with his hand.

Memphis (5-1) now is down two freshmen with James Wiseman suspended by the NCAA for 12 games for receiving impermissible benefits.

Hardaway says the other Tigers will have opportunities to fill the void Thursday in Brooklyn against North Carolina State.



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Malcolm Brogdon Returns From Back Strain


The Indiana Pacers will welcome star free agent addition Malcolm Brogdon to the lineup after playing without him for the majority of the past four games. The 27-year-old injured his back over a week ago, left that game after nine minutes, and has been out of action since.

Brogdon’s injury put the brakes on a solid start to the 2019-20 campaign. The former Rookie of the Year has averaged 19.2 points and 8.2 assists per game and been a big part of a Pacers team that figures to compete once again in the Eastern Conference.

Brogdon will not have a minute restriction in his return to action, Jeremiah Johnson of Fox Sports reports.

Brogdon considers himself to be back at 100% strength but, as Mark Montieth of the Pacers’ team site writes, doesn’t know exactly what caused the back strain in the first place.





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