February 24, 2024

College Basketball’s Best of the Week: Memphis shocks Wichita State; John Calipari goes radio silent


How many sports can produce headlines that include Morgan Freeman getting smacked and a student manager earning national headlines all in the span of a week? It has to be just one, right? Oh, college hoops, how we love you!

The sport delivered a batch of (mostly) good news across the landscape this week that included unpredictable but nonetheless entertaining storylines to gobble up over the last seven days both on and off the court. So, as we do every week here in this space, we’ll take a spin below through all the highlights (and yes, lowlights) of the week that was in our continuing College Basketball’s Best of the Week series. 

Let’s jump in.

Clutch Shot of the Week: Jones saves Memphis

On Jan. 14, Memphis was 15-2 overall, 4-0 in AAC play and ranked inside the top 10 of the AP poll. What followed was an ugly four-game losing streak to unranked teams, a fall entirely out of the rankings and a significant drop in its postseason projections onto (and possibly off entirely) of the dreaded bubble.

Memphis’ David Jones stepped up to save the day, and maybe the season, Saturday, hitting a game-winning shot at home over Wichita State that stopped the skid and may have kept the Tigers’ season alive. 

Player of the Week: Bacot leads UNC over Duke

Armando Bacot delivered a vintage Armando Bacot performance Saturday in a 93-84 win over rival Duke, scoring 25 points and adding 10 rebounds and five assists to help the Tar Heels improve to 10-1 in ACC play. Bacot played 19 of the game’s final 20 minutes and went a perfect 4 of 4 from the field and a perfect 5 of 5 from the free-throw line in the second half.

Assist of the Week: Taylor turns airball into dime

NC State’s Jayden Taylor may have had simultaneously the worst play of the week and the best play of the week — all in one sequence.

Taylor drove to the hoop in a game vs. Georgia Tech, airballed a layup, then went and totally redeemed himself with a one-handed save and dime to an open teammate on the perimeter. Watch this beauty.

Photo of the Week: Crowl wins arms race vs. Edey 

Wisconsin big man Steven Crowl is a 7-footer — but even he needs some help to get an edge on 7-4 Purdue big man Zach Edey.

Crowl won the opening tip Sunday vs. Edey inside the Kohl Center, which was pretty surprising given Edey’s big advantage, until you take a closer look at how he won the tip:


USATSI

Best of the rest

Calipari skips postgame radio after ugly loss

Kentucky coach John Calipari has been begging Big Blue Nation to pack Rupp Arena and give the atmosphere a shot in the arm. His Wildcats then lost twice at home this week, to Florida and to Tennessee, culminating with Calipari skipping his postgame radio obligations Saturday and handing off the responsibilities to assistant coach Orlando Antigua. 
College coaches skipping postgame media isn’t uncommon — especially after bad losses — but at Kentucky when every move is made under a microscope, Calipari deservedly caught some grief. It’s one thing to pass off responsibilities, it’s quite another to do some after giving up 197 points in two losses within a four-day span.

Ayers predicts he’ll get booed

In the final minute of Duke-UNC on Saturday, referee Roger Ayers told Jay Bilas and Dan Shulman that he was “about to get booed real bad” while informing them that he was handing out a hook-and-hold call on UNC’s RJ Davis inside the Dean Dome.

Ayers was right, of course — the home crowd didn’t take kindly to the Tar Heels falling on the wrong end of a call with the game still undecided — but the self-awareness of Ayers in that moment was pure comedy. 

Broome sweeps Freeman’s hand

Auburn star Johni Broome smacked the hand of legendary actor Morgan Freeman on Saturday night after Freeman reached up to grab Broome’s jersey in an apparent attempt to protect himself from getting fallen on in the front row. Broome initially didn’t take too kindly to the gesture … until he realized that it was Freeman.

“I thought it was an Ole Miss fan just grabbing my jersey and holding onto me,” Broome said. “Then I saw who it was and, you know, I’m a big movie guy. I probably watched some of his movies on the plane coming here. But I realized it was him and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan, I’m sorry.’ And he just said to keep playing.”

Ole Miss floor manager steals the show

Ole Miss floor manager Kyle Wakefield stole the show this week when a clip of his exuberance while mopping the floor during a game went viral. Ole Miss smartly put Wakefield in a media availability shortly after the clip, where it immediately became clear he is among the most likable characters in college basketball.

“I’m just so thankful to be here,” Wakefield said. “I love Ole Miss, I love the University of Mississippi, I love this school, and I love this team. … It’s been a wild ride. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I love Ole Miss basketball.”

Wakefield’s backstory is heart-warming and inspiring. His mother told Rebel Grove that he could not speak until he was 5 years old and was later diagnosed with a developmental disorder, PDD-NOS, which puts him on the autism spectrum. He has persevered through his challenges and is on track to graduate next year.

“It didn’t take us long to understand we had greatness here,” Beard said of Wakefield, who initially started helping on Kermit Davis’ staff in 2020 and was retained when Beard took the job. “Wake is special. Everybody sees it on game night but we see it every minute of every day. I tell the players all the time, ‘The motivation to be great is right in front of you.’ Wake inspires us all, every single day.”





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