Kansas State reverts to last season’s form, and not a second too soon

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Its said time and time again — winning on the road is not an easy thing to do in college basketball.

If you didn’t believe it yet, you got all the proof you needed on Monday night as newly No. 1 Kansas went into the Octagon of Doom and got bumrushed Kansas State, 84-68. It was the second time in three days the No. 1 team in the country lost on the road.

Kansas didn’t play their best game tonight, as The Morrii struggled against the Kansas State front line (16 points, three rebounds combined, five fouls combined) and the Jayhawks looked lost at times offensively.

But tonight wasn’t about Kansas.

It was about Kansas State.

Simply put, no one was beating the Wildcats tonight.

For the first time this season, we saw the Kansas State team that we all expected to be fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They were active defensively, they were aggressive on the glass, they were diving on the floor for loose balls. It was refreshing, to be honest. Its not secret that it has been a tumultuous season for Frank Martin’s squad — rife with suspensions and players leaving the program — but there is still plenty of talent for this team to make a late run. And if there has been a silver lining to the departures of Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge, its that kids like Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, who had 10 points, five boards, and a block tonight, have gotten a chance to play and build their confidence.

If tonight proved anything, its that this team has not quit on this season.

Kansas State’s hustle wasn’t the only aspect of the “vintage” Wildcat attack that we caught a glimpse of tonight. For the first time all season, we saw Jacob Pullen play like Jacob Pullen. The senior scored 13 points including 11 straight at one point — in a 22-6 run that opened up a 13 point lead with 10:24 left in the half. Kansas never got closer than six the rest of the way.

And Pullen?

Pullen was a long way from done. He finished the night with a career-high 38 points, with 23 of those coming before intermission. He added five assists and two steals, made 5-6 from beyond the arc, and got to the foul line 19 times, hitting 15 of them. Few of those point came easy, as Pullen was in NBA Live mode, hitting step-back jumpers and contested, pull-up threes all night long.

The importance of this game for Kansas State cannot be overstated. Coming in, the Wildcats were barely hanging in most bracket projections, which says quite a bit more about the lack of quality teams on the bubble than the success Kansas State has had this season. Coming in, the Wildcats were 0-7 against the RPI top 50. And while 1-7 is less than ideal, having than one come against the top team in the RPI makes the shoddy record much more valuable.

The key for the Wildcats from here is to build on this win. Beating Kansas in this fashion at home is not just a great win, its a great experience for those kids.

But it doesn’t erase the fact that they were one of the biggest disappointments in a season full of disappointments up until Valentine’s Day.

The Wildcats have five regular season games left — Oklahoma, at Nebraska, Missouri, at Texas, and Iowa State. They still have work to do to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament, although tonight’s win allows them a much bigger margin for error.

So enjoy the win tonight.

But come back ready to work tomorrow.

Because not being “ready to work” is why the Wildcats dug themselves this hole in the first place.

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

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.

Cal promotes assistant Wyking Jones to head coach

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Cal will promote interim head coach and former assistant coach Wyking Jones to head coach, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports.com

A native of Inglewood, California, Jones has been an assistant coach for the Golden Bears for the past two seasons as he replaces former head coach Cuonzo Martin, who departed to take the Missouri job. This promotion comes as a bit of a surprise for some since Jones has never been a head coach at the Division I level.

Jones has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level at places like Cal, Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount — where Jones spent his playing career.

Helping Louisville to the Final Four in 2013, Jones is a respected coach and recruiter who gets a great opportunity for his first head coaching job at the Division I level with Cal.

The Golden Bears made the NCAA tournament last year but finished 21-13 this season as they missed making the field of 68. Sophomore big man Ivan Rabb has already declared for the NBA Draft and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster Jones gets to work with right away.

One of the reasons Jones might have been retained is to help Cal keep its solid five-man recruiting class from bolting. While the Golden Bears don’t have any five-star talents coming in, it is a solid foundation for the program’s future led by a four-star guard in Jemarl Baker.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.