Don’t overlook the importance of Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn

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Georgetown’s season has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

At the start of Big East play, I was ready to crown the Hoyas the best team in the Big East. A month ago, after the Hoyas had lost four of their first five Big East games, I was ready to write them off.

Since that ugly, 72-57 loss to Pitt at the Verizon Center, the Hoyas have reeled off seven straight wins. Impressive wins, at that. Four of them came on the road. Two of those roads wins came at Villanova and at Syracuse. Georgetown also knocked off Louisville during that stretch.

Its an impressive turn around, to say the least.

After Wednesday night’s 64-56 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, you’ll see plenty of words written about the Hoyas. Some will be about how Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark have gotten back on track. Others will be about how Hollis Thompson’s change in roles from starter to hired gun off the bench has helped the Hoyas.

Me?

I want to talk about Georgetown’s big man.

Coming into the season, Julian Vaughn was the x-factor for this team. Its no secret that the Hoyas were lacking their typical front court star. There is no Jeff Green on this team. There’s no Roy Hibbert or Greg Monroe. There isn’t that versatile big man with a deft passing touch for Georgetown to run their offense through.

And while Vaughn will never be confused with any of those talents, he has become something of a pressure release for the Georgetown back court. Vaughn has always been a capable shot blocker and rebounder and an excellent screener, but during this seven game winning streak, its his low-post game that has stood out.

Vaughn isn’t Jared Sullinger by any stretch of the imagination. But his low post game has developed enough that he is now a fairly reliable scoring option when he gets the ball on the block, especially when he is being defended one-on-one. And when there are shooters like Freeman, Wright, Clark, and Thompson on the floor with him, Vaughn is going to get plenty of one-on-one scoring opportunities.

And that is all the Hoyas need him to be.

Look at tonight as an example. Vaughn scored eight of his 12 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half against Syracuse, keeping the game close as the Orange stretch their defense to counteract the Hoya’s hot first half from three. The 17-5 run to close the game was what made the difference against Syracuse, but without Vaughn’s production inside Georgetown would not have been in position to make that run.

Against Providence, Georgetown needed each one of his 14 points (and 11 rebounds) as they barely hung on against a Providence team that got 43 points from Marshon Brooks. In the win over Louisville, Vaughn scored eight points off of low post touches in the second half.

Georgetown’s back court is terrific, as good as any in the country.

Their play is going to determine how far Georgetown can go this season.

But knowing that they have a double-digit scoring threat on the block makes the Hoya’s offense just that much more versatile and difficult to defend.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Wichita State’s McDuffie testing the NBA draft waters

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Wichita State forward Markis McDuffie entered his name into the NBA draft without signing with an agent, sources told NBC Sports on Tuesday.

It was initially believed that McDuffie would return to Wichita State for his senior season. As a sophomore, McDuffie, a former top 100 recruit, averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 boards, but he played fewer than 20 minutes a night as a junior after missing the first half of the season with a broken foot.

He will be a late-second round pick at best, but is likely to go undrafted if he opts to sign with an agent. He’s expected to return.

The Shockers are already staring down the barrel of a rebuilding season. Two players, including starter Austin Reaves, are transferring out of the program while all-american guard Landry Shamet has already made the decision to enter the draft and sign with an agent. As it currently stands, assuming McDuffie returns, just four scholarship players from this year’s team will play for Wichita State next season: McDuffie, Samajae Haynes-Jones, Asbjorn Midtgaard and Rod Brown.

Jeff Capel lands first commitment as the head coach at Pitt

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Jeff Capel is on the board with his first commitment as the head coach of Pittsburgh.

Trey McGowens, a top 100 prospect in the Class of 2019, announced on his twitter page that he will be enrolling at Pitt as a member of the Class of 2018.

A 6-foot-3 combo-guard, McGowens picked the Panthers over a handful of other high-major programs.

This is not exactly a program changing kind of commitment for Capel. Players that are late-spring commitments are almost always more celebrated because they end up in higher demand when there are fewer players left to fill the holes on rosters around the country. I’m not sure McGowens is all that different, but what’s significant about his commitment is that it’s proof that Capel is, at the very least, going to make some noise on the recruiting trail.

Capel has a long rebuild in front of him, but landing four-star prospects that will help spend a few years in the program are the kind of pieces that he needs at this point, and the kind of pieces that his predecessor was not able to land.

Felder no longer part of South Carolina basketball program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina point guard Rakym Felder is no longer part of the Gamecocks basketball team.

Felder, a key freshman reserve for South Carolina’s Final Four team two years ago, was dismissed from the program by coach Frank Martin on Monday.

The 5-foot-10 Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was suspended last summer after his second arrest in less than a year. Felder was not enrolled last fall. He was allowed to return in the spring semester although he did not play.

Martin said there were guidelines Felder had to follow upon coming back “and unfortunately, he has not met those expectations.”

Martin has not detailed those guidelines for Felder’s return to the court.

Felder had 15 points in South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament win over Duke in 2017

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.