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Izzo And Spartans Try To Stay Focused Amidst Tragedy

Memphis and Michigan State face tough matchups amid difficult offcourt situations to headline college basketball's second week.

The 13th-ranked Tigers face 14th-ranked Oregon in the Ducks' home state Tuesday night amid eligibility concerns for star freshman James Wiseman. Two nights later, the third-ranked Spartans travel to 12th-ranked Seton Hall following an emotional weekend win after the death of preseason Associated Press All-American Cassius Winston's brother.


HoopHall Miami Invitational
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Penny Hardaway of the Memphis Tigers reacts against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the HoopHall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena on December 1, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)


Memphis (2-0), which climbed one spot in Monday's new AP Top 25 poll, had no trouble in its opening-week games. But Friday's win against Illinois-Chicago came after the school said second-year coach and former NBA star Penny Hardaway had given more than $11,000 to Wiseman's family in 2017 before taking the Memphis job.

The school originally said the nation's top-ranked recruit would miss games after receiving an NCAA rule interpretation, though Wiseman's attorney got a court order allowing him to play while the school works to resolve the issue.


Jordan Brand Classic
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 20: James Wiseman #32 warms up at halftime of the Jordan Brand Classic boys high school all-star basketball game at T-Mobile Arena on April 20, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Afterward, Hardaway was asked why Wiseman played and whether he'd continue to do so.

"I can't talk about the first part," Hardaway said, "but he will continue to play."

That sets up Wiseman to face the Ducks in Portland and Alcorn State on Saturday before a Monday court hearing.


Binghamton v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 10: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans passes the ball against the Yarden Willis #44 of the Binghamton Bearcats in the second half at Breslin Center on November 10, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)


As for the Spartans (1-1), they regrouped from an opening-night loss to Kentucky that knocked them from No. 1 by beating Binghamton, though that win came after the team learned Winston's brother had died Saturday after being struck by a train.

Winston decided to play and had a double-double. The Seton Hall trip is the Spartans' only game this week.


Binghamton v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 10: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans and his brother Khy Winston watch warm ups prior to the game against the Binghamton Bearcats at Breslin Center on November 10, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)


"There will be a lot of talking," coach Tom Izzo said of how the team moves forward. "There will be a lot of just spending time trying to read people. I told them you can play with a broken heart; there is nothing wrong with admitting that."


Kentucky's win against Michigan State was enough to lift John Calipari's Wildcats back to No. 1 in the AP Top 25.

The Wildcats (2-0) return to action Tuesday night against Evansville in their first game as the nation's top-ranked team since December 2016. They could be set for a lengthy stay at the top, too.


State Farm Champions Classic - Michigan State Spartans v Kentucky Wildcats
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts to a call against his team in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 05, 2019 in New York City.Duke Blue Devils defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 68-66. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)


Kentucky's next seven games are all at Rupp Arena and they don't play another power-conference team until meeting Georgia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Dec. 14.

"It's still early, though," sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley said of reaching No. 1. "We've got a long way to go as far as being the team that we want to be, playing against ourselves each and every day. We just want to be No. 1 at the end of the season."


There's one other matchup featuring two ranked teams coming Wednesday with No. 10 Villanova's visit to No. 16 Ohio State. It will be the first meeting between the schools in 16 years, with the previous three meetings all taking place at neutral sites.


VCU, Marquette and Tennessee are among the leading vote-getters of unranked teams, though they have games this week that could help them crack next week's poll.

The Rams (2-0) were ranked 25th in the preseason before falling just outside Monday's poll, but they host No. 23 LSU on Wednesday in a matchup against former VCU coach Will Wade.

Marquette (1-0) and preseason AP All-American Markus Howard face a pair of Big Ten teams, first by hosting Purdue on Wednesday and then visiting Wisconsin on Saturday.

As for Tennessee, the Volunteers (1-0) face No. 20 Washington in Toronto on Saturday.


© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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