The Dagger

  • Kentucky freshman Malik Monk (AP)
    Kentucky freshman Malik Monk (AP)

    Before his team’s clash with second-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo instructed the Spartans to pack in their defense, cut off all driving lanes and force the Wildcats to win with jump shots.

    Malik Monk made Michigan State regret that strategy.

    The streak-shooting freshman led Kentucky to a convincing 69-48 victory with a barrage of deep 3-pointers. Twenty-one of Monk’s game-high 23 points came from behind the arc including a trio of 3-pointers in the game’s opening seven minutes that helped the Wildcats seize control from the outset.

    Most of Monk’s 3-pointers came via catch-and-shoot opportunities from all sorts of spots on the floor. Only once did Monk force a 3-pointer the whole night, a dribble pull-up heat check midway through the first half that went halfway down and came out.

    Torrid shooting and savvy shot selection from Monk on a big stage at Madison Square Garden bodes well for Kentucky’s longterm outlook.

    Outside

    Read More »from Malik Monk's shooting barrage helps Kentucky rout Michigan State
  • Dayton experienced euphoria and devastation all in one play Tuesday afternoon when forward Josh Cunningham suffered a potentially serious injury on a game-clinching dunk.

    With the Flyers leading Alabama by two and the final seconds of the second half melting away, Cunningham went up for a transition dunk, absorbed heavy contact from Alabama’s Ar’Mond Davis and threw down a soaring one-handed slam. Cunningham’s left leg folded underneath him awkwardly when he landed, leaving him writhing in pain on the floor clutching his lower left leg.

    Dayton trainers carried Cunningham to the locker room, where he remained for the final four seconds of the Flyers’ 77-72 road win. Archie Miller said after the game that the Flyers were concerned about both Cunningham’s left knee and ankle.

    “It’s uncertain what it is exactly, but we could be looking at being without him for some time,” Miller added.

    Losing Cunningham would be a massive blow to a Dayton team that’s already short-handed in the

    Read More »from Dayton forward suffers serious injury on game-sealing dunk
  • While the Champions Classic doubleheader will be the highlight of ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon, there have been some other significant results. Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers so far: 

    Winner: Baylor’s offense with Manu Lecomte

    Any lingering doubts about Manu Lecomte’s ability to transition to point guard should be long gone by now. The Miami transfer has been better than predecessor Lester Medford in Baylor’s first two games of the season. Lecomte didn’t shoot well against Oral Roberts, yet he still finished with 13 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers. The step up in competition against fourth-ranked Oregon hardly bothered Lecomte as he torched the Ducks for 18 points and seven assists. Lecomte’s performance is a huge reason that Baylor was able to emerge with a 66-49 upset victory. He knocked down big jump shots from behind the arc, made smart decisions with the ball in his hands and created for himself and his teammates off the dribble. If he continues to play

    Read More »from Winners and losers from Tuesday's 24-hour tip-off marathon
  • Kevin Ollie's team has lost its first two games (AP)
    Kevin Ollie’s team has lost its first two games. (AP)

    Three days after dropping its season opener against lightly regarded Wagner, UConn suffered another alarming loss.

    The Huskies fell 64-61 to Northeastern on Monday to sink to 0-2 for the first time since 1968.

    It’s difficult to assess which loss was more embarrassing for a UConn team that began the year 18th in the AP Top 25.

    Wagner won 23 games last season and is expected to contend for the Northeast Conference title this year, but the Seahawks followed their win over UConn with an 11-point setback against mighty UMass Lowell. Northeastern plays in a stronger conference than Wagner does, but the Huskies went .500 in the Colonial Athletic Association last season and were projected seventh last month in the league’s preseason poll.

    The common thread between the two losses is that UConn isn’t very efficient on offense when it can’t get out and run.

    The Huskies shot just 37.8 percent from the field against Wagner, hit only 6 of 19

    Read More »from Two alarming early losses have UConn searching for answers
  • Villanova's Mikal Bridges and Purdue's Vince Edwards battle for a loose ball (Getty Images)
    Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Purdue’s Vince Edwards battle for a loose ball (Getty Images)

    In the decade since Joakim Noah and Al Horford led Florida to back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007, no team has come particularly close to pulling off that same feat.

    By leaving Purdue with a tense, hard-earned 79-76 victory, third-ranked Villanova showed why it has a real chance to end that streak.

    Not only did the reigning champs emerge with a road win over a top 15 opponent on Monday night, they did it against a team built to exploit their main weakness. Seven-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 6-foot-9 former McDonald’s All-American Caleb Swanigan are exactly the sort of imposing big men who are capable of making Villanova pay for starting four guards and only having one player taller than 6-7 in its rotation.

    Haas scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, overpowering smaller defenders in the paint and drawing foul after foul on Villanova’s Darryl Reynolds and Eric Paschall. Swanigan added 20

    Read More »from Villanova shows championship mettle with road win at Purdue
  • Lorenzo Romar's team dropped its season opener against Yale on Sunday night (Getty Images)
    Lorenzo Romar’s team dropped its season opener against Yale on Sunday night (Getty Images)

    Washington’s bid to prevent its NCAA tournament drought from reaching six years is off to a very rocky start.

    The Huskies opened their season on Sunday night with a discouraging 98-90 home loss to unheralded Yale.

    Although Yale won the Ivy League last season and upset Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs are not expected to approach such heights this year. Three of last season’s four top players have exhausted their eligibility and first-team all-league guard Makai Mason suffered a broken foot earlier this month, leaving Yale without a single returner who averaged more than 5.7 points last year.

    You’d have thought Yale had a roster full of proven scorers the way the Bulldogs sliced up Washington’s swiss-cheese defense.

    Freshman guard Miye Oni scored 24 points, senior forward Sam Downey tallied 22 and sophomore forward Blake Reynolds had 19 as Yale built a 20-point

    Read More »from Crucial season for Washington begins with discouraging loss to Yale
  • The socks that Marist players wore Friday night at Duke (AP)
    The socks that Marist players wore Friday night at Duke (AP)

    It was no coincidence members of the Marist basketball team wore rainbow-patterned socks during their 94-49 loss at Duke on Friday night.

    Red Foxes coach Mike Maker confirmed after the game that the socks were a show of support for the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community in response to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 law.

    “Marist and Duke share similar missions when it comes to inclusiveness and diversity and the respect they have for all that,” Maker told ESPN.com. “We met a lot with our players, and most of them decided that it’d be a good idea to show support in regards to that issue, and I’m very proud of how they handled themselves.”

    Critics of HB2 allege that it purposefully violates the rights of transgender people. HB2 is best known for requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding with their birth gender and for limiting the ability of employees to sue for discrimination

    Read More »from Marist protests HB2 law by wearing rainbow-colored socks at Duke
  • Jalen Adams and UConn suffered a stunning loss on Friday night (AP)
    Jalen Adams and UConn suffered a stunning loss on Friday night (AP)

    Snap judgments from season openers often turn out to be wrong a few months later, but it’s all we have to go on right now. Here are some first impressions from college basketball’s busy opening weekend:

    1. This is how every college basketball season should start

    For a sport that has typically started with a whimper instead of a roar, Friday night was a huge step in the right direction. The Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu featured four name-brand programs, a slew of NBA prospects and two dramatic finishes. In a battle of shorthanded top 15 teams, Arizona edged Michigan State by two on a coast-to-coast drive by senior guard Kadeem Allen. Then James Blackmon scored 22 of his 26 points after halftime to lead Indiana to a 103-99 overtime victory over third-ranked Kansas.  Two great games to whet our appetites for what should be a fun season. Hopefully marquee opening night events like this become an annual tradition rather

    Read More »from Fifteen snap judgments from college basketball's opening weekend
  • Ten months after tearing an ACL, James Blackmon led the Hoosiers to a big win.
    Ten months after tearing an ACL, James Blackmon led the Hoosiers to a big win.

    Since Indiana’s unexpected defensive resurgence last January coincided with James Blackmon’s season-ending knee injury, the 6-foot-4 guard became a scapegoat for the team’s inability to generate enough early-season stops.

    There was even a misguided school of thought that the Hoosiers were better off without their second-leading scorer.

    You won’t find any Indiana fans making that argument this season after Blackmon’s brilliant performance during the 11th-ranked Hoosiers 103-99 overtime victory over third-ranked Kansas on Friday night in Honolulu. Blackmon scored 22 of his 26 points after halftime and sank four 3-pointers, none bigger than the one that gave Indiana the lead for good with just over two minutes left in overtime.

    Seeing Blackmon make such a big impact was a mild surprise considering he’s still barely 10 months removed from ACL surgery — his third major knee injury in recent years. He appeared to

    Read More »from James Blackmon's return spearheads Indiana's upset of Kansas
  • One of their top players was at home with eligibility issues. Another tore an ACL for the third time in less than three years. Then they fell behind Michigan State by 15 points before the second TV timeout.

    Everything appeared to be going against Arizona in its season opener until the Wildcats found a way to overcome the early-season adversity. 

    Freshmen Kobi Simmons and Lauri Markkanen led a spirited comeback and senior Kadeem Allen supplied some last-second heroics, leading 10th-ranked Arizona to a 65-63 victory over 12th-ranked Michigan State.

    With the score tied and just over seven seconds to go in regulation, Allen took an inbound pass on the run, got Michigan State’s Josh Langford on his hip and drove the length of the floor for a go-ahead layup with 1.9 seconds left. Langford failed to force Allen to change directions and none of the freshman’s teammates provided any help defense until it was too late.

    Having spent all its timeouts, Michigan State could only inbound the ball

    Read More »from Kadeem Allen's dramatic coast-to-coast drive gives Arizona a big win
  • Kansas freshman Josh Jackson will make his debut against Indiana (AP)
    Kansas freshman Josh Jackson will make his highly anticipated debut Friday against Indiana (AP)

    Reigning national champion Villanova, top-ranked Duke and the rest of the AP Top 25 will be in action Friday night when the 2016-17 college basketball season tips off. Here’s a look at six storylines worth following during opening night.

    1. Which elite freshmen will impress in their college debut?

    Kansas wing Josh Jackson, Rivals.com’s top prospect in the 2016 class, will have a big stage in Honolulu when the third-ranked Jayhawks face 11th-ranked Indiana in one of the marquee games of the night. Jackson is a fiercely competitive 6-foot-7 athletic dynamo whose skill set is reminiscent of Andrew Wiggins but with the assertive mentality of an alpha dog.

    The other must-see game of the night also features a handful of heralded freshmen. Forward Miles Bridges is the centerpiece of a heralded Michigan State class that may be the best Tom Izzo has ever signed. Guards Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons

    Read More »from Six storylines to watch on college basketball's opening night
  • Josh Hart, Monte Morris, Josh Jackson, Grayson Allen and Thomas Bryant are among this season's biggest stars.
    Josh Hart, Monte Morris, Josh Jackson, Grayson Allen and Thomas Bryant are some of this season’s marquee players.

    College basketball season tips off Friday night with every Top 25 team in action. To celebrate the end of the offseason, here are 68 fearless predictions for the new season.

    1. Last season was the year of the senior in college basketball. This season will be the year of the freshman. Of the 14 lottery picks in next year’s NBA draft, DraftExpress projects 12 of them will be college freshmen. What’s more, almost all of the marquee players in the 2016 class landed with name-brand programs.

    2. Freshmen who will have the biggest impact this season: Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Duke’s Jayson Tatum.

    3. Freshmen ranked outside the top 10 who will have the biggest impact this season: Arizona’s Rawle Alkins, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds and Syracuse’s Tyus Battle

    4. Freshmen ranked outside the top 40 who will have the biggest impact this season: Maryland’s

    Read More »from Sixty-eight predictions that are sure to come true (unless they don't)
  • Ivan Rabb likely would have been a lottery pick if he stayed in the 2016 draft .(Getty Images)
    Cal’s Ivan Rabb likely would have been a lottery pick if he stayed in the 2016 draft .(Getty Images)

    As Ivan Rabb pondered whether to return to Cal or remain in the NBA draft last spring, his high school coach suggested he approach the decision from a vantage point few prospects bother to consider.

    Bishop O’Dowd coach Lou Richie sketched out the most bleak outcome Rabb could realistically expect from either choice and asked his former star player to think about which was more palatable to him.

    To Richie, Rabb’s biggest risk if he entered the draft was languishing on the bench as a rookie for a franchise with minimal available frontcourt playing time. How would the 19-year-old handle the loneliness of a week-long road trip in which he scarcely played and had to stay back at the hotel on off nights while his older teammates went to a nightclub without him?

    Of course spending a second year in college would hardly have guaranteed Rabb a smoother ride. If the 6-foot-11 forward failed to

    Read More »from West Coast Bias: Why projected lottery pick Ivan Rabb returned to Cal
  • Marques Bolden sustained an unspecified injury to his lower left leg. (Getty Images)
    Marques Bolden sustained an unspecified injury to his lower left leg. (Getty Images)

    When heralded freshman Marques Bolden sat out Duke’s exhibition victory on Friday night, Mike Krzyzewski told reporters he just wanted to “give him some rest” and get reserves Chase Jeter and Antonio Vrankovic more playing time.

    Turns out there may have been more to Bolden’s absence than that.

    Duke announced on Monday that Bolden has sustained an unspecified injury to his lower left leg. Doctors will reevaluate the 6-foot-11 McDonald’s All-American after this weekend, which would suggest he won’t play against Marist on Friday or Grand Canyon on Saturday and would put his availability is in doubt for next Tuesday’s Champions Classic matchup with Kansas.

    Bolden is the third member of Duke’s decorated incoming freshman class to sustain an injury in the past month. Power forward Harry Giles underwent his third knee surgery in the past three years last month and wing Jayson Tatum sprained his left foot

    Read More »from Marques Bolden becomes third Duke freshman to sustain an injury
  • Projected Kansas starters Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Devonte Graham (Getty Images)
    Projected Kansas starters Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Devonte Graham (Getty Images)

    Yahoo Sports will break down the top 10 leagues for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 10 to No. 1. Here’s a look at our No. 3 league, the Big 12:

    At the height of its dynasty almost a half century ago, UCLA set a Division I college basketball record by capturing 13 consecutive conference titles from 1967-1979.

    Kansas should match that streak next spring.

    In a year in which most of the Big 12’s upper-echelon programs are replacing senior stalwarts, only the Jayhawks appear to have reloaded on the fly. The return of the conference’s best backcourt duo and the arrival of an elite recruiting class has Kansas poised to extend a run of dominance in the Big 12 that began back when Carrie Underwood was a fresh face on American Idol and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still America’s favorite couple.

    The strength of this year’s Kansas team is its deep, talented backcourt.

    Read More »from Five-minute season preview: Big 12
  • Oregon returns five of its top seven scorers from last year's Pac-12 champs. (Getty Images)
    Oregon returns five of its top seven scorers from last year’s Pac-12 champs. (Getty Images)

    Yahoo Sports will break down the top 10 leagues for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 10 to No. 1. Here’s a look at our No. 4 league, the Pac-12.

    For a conference that landed a league-record seven NCAA bids, many Pac-12 teams ended last season with a sour taste in their mouths.

    Five of the seven NCAA tournament qualifiers flamed out in the opening round and league runner-up Utah lost by 23 points in the round of 32. Only Oregon enjoyed any March success, throttling Duke in the Sweet 16 before falling to Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the Elite Eight.

    The Pac-12 could be too top-heavy to send seven teams to the NCAA tournament again this season, but the league could still achieve more in the postseason next March. Oregon could be even better than it was last season if Pac-12 player of the year candidate Dillon Brooks recovers from an offseason foot injury, while Arizona

    Read More »from Five-minute season preview: Pac-12
  • Ray Smith (center) announced he will retire on Thursday (Getty Images)
    Arizona forward Ray Smith (center) announced he will retire on Thursday (Getty Images)

    When his left knee buckled the summer before his senior season at Las Vegas High School, Ray Smith vowed to return stronger than ever the following year.

    When the same fate befell his right knee during practice before his freshman year at Arizona, Smith once again tirelessly dedicated himself to the rehab process.

    Only after suffering an ACL tear for a third time in less than 30 months did the former five-star recruit concede it was time to hang up his jersey and basketball shoes for good.

    Smith announced his retirement from basketball on Thursday after an MRI exam confirmed that the right knee injury he suffered during an exhibition game on Tuesday night was as serious as he had feared. The 6-foot-8 forward tore his ACL and suffered other ligament and meniscal damage, injuries that would have sidelined him for the entire 2016-17 season even if he had decided to keep playing.

    “My run in basketball has

    Read More »from Arizona's Ray Smith steps away from basketball after third ACL tear
  • Brianna Fraser goes up for a layup (photo by Maryland Athletics)
    Brianna Fraser goes up for a layup. (Photo by Maryland Athletics)

    Reigning Big Ten champion Maryland won 31 games last season, added four top-30 prospects and enters the new season ranked sixth in the nation in the AP women’s Top 25.

    Division II Bluefield State went 2-23 last season, returns only two players from that team and is just hoping its freshman-laden roster can climb a few rungs in its league standings this year.

    Everything about Wednesday night’s women’s basketball exhibition matchup screamed blowout, yet hardly anyone would have expected this one-sided an outcome. Maryland clobbered Bluefield State 146-17, a 129-point margin of victory that only scratches the surface of how much of a mismatch this contest was.

    1. The Terps held Bluefield State without a point the entire second half, outscoring the Big Blues 72-0 in the third and fourth quarters. Of the 20 shots Bluefield State missed during the second half, 11 came from behind the arc

    2. Disruptive, energetic defense from

    Read More »from Five crazy stats from the Maryland women's team's 129-point victory
  • Lute Olson's 1997 Arizona team is the last from the West to win a championship. (AP)
    Lute Olson’s 1997 Arizona team is the last from the West to win a championship. (AP)

    When Arizona toppled a trio of No. 1 seeds en route to the 1997 national championship, the balance of power in college basketball appeared to be tilting to the left.

    UCLA was two years removed from its 10th title and still awash with talent. Arizona was at the apex of Lute Olson’s run of 11 Sweet 16s in 18 years. Stanford and Utah were entering their respective golden eras under Mike Montgomery and Rick Majerus.

    “The Pac-10 alone put four teams in the Sweet 16 that season and two in the Elite Eight,” said former Arizona star Miles Simon, the 1997 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. “I would never have imagined it would take so long for another team from the West to get a title. I wouldn’t have thought that at all.”

    The West’s national title drought indeed will reach an almost unfathomable 20 seasons if one of the region’s powers can’t break through next April in Phoenix. Oregon and Arizona begin the

    Read More »from West Coast Bias: Why the West has gone 19 years without a national title
  • Sean Miller and Allonzo Trier (AP)
    Sean Miller and Allonzo Trier (AP)

    At one point last spring, Sean Miller’s biggest headache appeared to be trying to find playing time for the glut of talented wings on his 2016-17 roster.

    Now the Arizona coach must wonder if he’ll have enough scholarship players to field a team by the time the Wildcats open the season in Honolulu on Nov. 11 against Michigan State.

    The roster attrition started in June when heralded incoming freshman Terrance Ferguson opted to pursue professional opportunities amid concerns over whether he would have been eligible to play for the Wildcats. Then on Tuesday night, four other players didn’t suit up for Arizona’s exhibition victory over College of Idaho and heralded redshirt freshman Ray Smith suffered a potentially serious injury.

    Smith, who has already suffered ACL tears in both knees, went up awkwardly for a second-half layup, crumpled to the floor next to the basket and had to be helped off the court. The extent of his injury won’t be known until he

    Read More »from Injuries, eligibility issues cast a pall over Arizona's exhibition win