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NCAA Basketball News and Notes: January 31, 2019

Weekend’s Other Big Games Besides The Super Bowl

While most people’s focus this weekend will be on the NFL Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, don’t forget that there is NCAA basketball on all weekend long as well. As we begin the month of Februrary, we are now at the point where every game is pivotal as the outcomes could have huge implications on the bracket seeds. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the bigger games this weekend:

No. 9 North Carolina at No. 15 Louisville

This Saturday afternoon game will actually be a rematch of a game played on January 12th. In that one, played at North Carolina, Louisville was able to come in an demolish the Tar Heels, winning 83-62. In that game, Louisville had three players who scored 17 points apiece in Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, and Steven Enoch. For the Tar Heels, they will have to play much better to beat the Cardinals, especially now playing on the road. Leading the way this year for North Carolina has been Cameron Johnson (15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Coby White (15.2 points, 4.2 assists).

No. 16 Texas Tech at No. 11 Kansas

For Kansas, Bill Self’s club is in a little bit of a free fall, having lost 3 of their last 4 games, including losses to Texas (73-63), No. 7 Kentucky (71-63) and West Virginia (65-64). Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, it doesn’t get a lot easier as they now welcome in No. 16 Texas Tech. For Kansas, Dedric Lawson has been leading the way, averaging a double-double with 19.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. For Texas Tech, Jarrett Culver has delivered, averaging 18.5 points and 6.9 rebounds.

St. John’s at No. 2 Duke

Okay, I will admit, this isn’t one of the biggest games in terms of most competitive, but let’s be honest, anytime Duke is on it is exciting basketball. Featuring the 4th best scoring team in the nation (Duke is averaging 87.2 points per game) and the likely first pick in the next NBA Draft (Zion Williamson), the Blue Devils have become must-watch television. The aforementioned Williamson is averaging 22 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while his teammate, RJ Barrett, is averaging 23.6 points and 7 rebounds. For St. John’s, Shamorie Ponds is leading the way with 20.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Michigan State Suffers Big Blow With Langford’s Injury

Unfortunately for Michigan State, if they are going to make a deep run in March, they are going to have to do it without one of their best players. Joshua Langford has been declared out for the rest of the season due to the foot injury that has kept him out for the last 8 games for the Spartans. In the 13 games prior to the injury, Langford had been averaging 15 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He has also been shooting 44% from the field and 40.3% from behind the arc. While the Spartans have still been good without Langford, going 7-1 since he went down with the injury, in the tournament, missing Langford could be a huge loss. For the Spartans, who are led in scoring by Cassius Winston (18.5 points) and Nick Ward (15.6 points), they will need others to step up into bigger roles as the NCAA Tourney approaches.

Tennessee Remains On Top

As we begin the February and teams start really honing in on positioning for the NCAA tournament, Tennessee remains atop the AP Rankings. At 19-1 on the season, Tennessee has been both solid and consistent this whole season. Their lone loss came against the No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks, 87-81, back at the end of November. Since that game, they have won 15 in a row, including a big win over No. 4 Gonzaga. With two games left against No. 7 Kentucky and a matchup at No. 19 LSU left on their schedule, the Volunteers will have to continue playing at an elite level as the season winds down. Currently, they rank 7th in the nation in scoring (averaging 86.4 points per game) and are holding teams to 67.6 points per game (89th in the nation). That mix of solid offense and defense has them atop the NCAA rankings and could be on course for a number one seed assuming the wheels don’t fall off down the stretch.

Chris Clemons Clutch For Campbell Camels

Say that 5 times fast. If you have never heard of Chris Clemons, I couldn’t say that I blame you. Heck, if you have never heard of the team he plays for, the Campbell Fighting Camels, I couldn’t say I blame you, either. Still, the reason that Clemons is noteworthy is because he is actually the leading scorer in the entire NCAA right now. On the season, Clemons is averaging 28.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is also shooting 46.6% from the field, 82.6% from the free throw line and 38.3% from behind the arc.

While his team is only 12-9, they are clawing for the lead in the Big South Conference, where they currently rank 3rd with a 5-2 record. Those aspirations were helped on Wednesday when Clemons came up with a clutch shot that gave his team a 68-67 win over the 1st place Radford Highlanders (15-7, 7-1 in the Big South). For the game, Clemons played all 40 minutes, scoring 39 points with 6 rebounds. Despite Clemons’ heroic efforts for the team, the Camels are still ranked 96thin the nation in scoring, averaging 76.8 points per game. Still, if Clemons can get his team rolling down the stretch, they would make for the perfect type of Cinderella team that usually defines March in NCAA basketball.

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