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NCAA Basketball News and Notes: March 7, 2019

Weekend Slate Of Games

With conference tournament set to start next week and selection Sunday to follow, let’s not forget that there is one more weekend of regular season games and there are some good ones. While there are several interesting matchups, here are the most compelling of the weekend:

No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (26-4) at No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels (25-5)

The first matchup was expected to be a slugfest. Unfortunately, when Zion Williamson was injured less than a minute into the game, the tide turned, and it was all Tar Heels the rest of the way. With Williamson still doubtful, the Tar Heels are hoping to repeat history. North Carolina is currently tied with Virginia at 15-2 atop the ACC rankings and hope to keep the No. 4 Blue Devils reeling. For the Blue Devils, RJ Barrett is leading the way with 23.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. For the Tar Heels, it is the duo of Cameron Johnson (16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals) and Coby White (16.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1 steal) that lead the team.

No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (26-4) at No. 9 Michigan State Spartans (24-6)

At 15-4, the Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan Wolverines, and Michigan State Spartans all sit atop the conference lead. On Saturday, one of those teams will be bumped down as the Wolverines and Spartans square off. Less than two weeks ago these two squared off with the Spartans winning despite playing on the road. The Wolverines are looking to return the favor this weekend. Leading the way for Michigan is forward Ignas Brazdeikis. On the season, he is averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. For Michigan State, it is Cassius Winston leading the team with 18.8 points, 3 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

No. 12 Houston Cougars (27-2) at No. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4)

Tied for the AAC regular-season conference lead at 14-2 each, it all comes down to this one game. Houston and its 6th-ranked defense (allowing just 60.8 points per game) will be traveling to Cincinnati. For Houston, they are led by Corey Davis Jr. On the season, Davis has averaged 16.1 points, 2.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. For Cincinnati, it has been Jarron Cumberland leading the way, averaging 18.6 points, 3.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Duke Avoids Disaster

Games like Tuesday’s reminds Blue Devils’ fans that Zion Williamson is pretty good. Duke has just not been the same team since Williamson has been out and Tuesday was another reminder of that. Playing at home for senior night, Duke was expected to handle visiting Wake Forest with relative ease. Instead, they had to fend them off, and if it wasn’t for an unlucky roll of the ball, might have lost to Wake Forest. The ultimate outcome was a 71-70 win. In the win, the No. 4 Blue Devils were led by RJ Barrett, who had 28 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. For Wake Forest, it was Chaundee Brown who led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Going back to Williamson, it appears that he may not be ready to go until the ACC Tournament. Coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters that Zion has started to participate in some basketball activities and should be ready come next wee’s ACC Tournament. While he may be good to go for the ACC, Saturday’s game against North Carolina is a different story. While Blue Devils fans would love to get Zion back for UNC, the same team he was injured in after spraining his knee when his shoe blew out, it is better for Duke to make sure he is healthy and ready to go for the postseason. If their games of recent have indicated anything, it is that without him, they may not last in the tournament very long.

Scary Health Scare For Fordham Center

College basketball players deal with injuries all of the time. A sprained ankle, leg cramps, and other ailments are common amongst players. What is not common is a college basketball player suffering a stroke, but sadly, that is exactly what happened to Fordham’s Jesse Bunting on Monday. Luckily for Bunting, it was a minor stroke and he reportedly resting comfortably at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. As expected, though, Jon Rothstein is reporting that he will miss the remainder of the season. At 11-18, Fordham has not had a great season, but Bunting has been playing admirably. In 28 games, averaging 23 minutes per game, bunting has been putting up 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. While his season may be over, it is at least wonderful news to know the young man is in stable condition after quite a scare.

Volunteers Get Big Win As Season Draws To A Close

The Volunteers have sat among the top teams in the country all season long. Still, after a loss to Kentucky in the middle of February, and then another loss to LSU towards the end of February, their stock seemed to plummet. Last Saturday, they exacted a little revenge with a 71-52 win over Kentucky at home. In the game, Jordan Bone scored 27, and Grant Williams added 24 points and 7 rebounds. For Kentucky, in the loss, PJ Washington was the leading scorer with 13 points. Tennessee closes out the season with a road trip to Auburn.

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