VCU advances to Elite Eight in wacky statistical game

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I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s something I’ve had to learn to love as a means of defending arguments and staying abreast of how to best assess teams during the season.

Close throughout, Florida State and Virginia Commonwealth offered one of the wackiest basic and advanced statistic box scores, as both teams clawed their way though 45 minutes of play leveraging entirely different strengths that their players possess. In the end, it was the Rams prevailing in overtime 72-71, meaning Kyle Whelliston is going to bed dreaming of the potential for the most magical of mid-major match-ups in Houston.

As cool as it sounds – Butler against VCU for the right to play in the national championship game – I’m here to quickly shoot that down, as I can confidently say that neither VCU really has a chance against Kansas on Sunday – nor would the Seminoles.

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So let’s dive into this laundry list of strange but true statistics from this Sweet 16 thriller:

  • At the end of the first half, the Seminoles had attempted 19 more field goals than the Rams. They were still down five.
  • Struggling to find any sort of rhythm on offense, only 27 percent of the Seminoles made baskets were assisted on. To put that in perspective, Utah was last in the country in Assist Percentage this season… at 40 percent.
  • Following each of the 21 offensive rebounds the Seminoles pulled down, they shot 8-18 in second chance opportunities. Those extra points were vital.
  • Posting an impressive 56.6 eFG percentage, the Rams were unable to pull away from FSU because of (conversely) a limited second chance opportunities. The Seminoles grabbed 79 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
  • Just a tick under half of VCU’s shots were from beyond the arc. Bradford Burgess converted on 6 of 7 long balls, and he’s now shooting 73 percent (11-15) in the past three games.
  • Derwin Kitchen led all Seminoles with 23 points, but was 0 of 3 in wise decisions made with the clock approaching zero. Kitchen had the ball in his hands at the end of the first half, second half, and OT, all which resulted in fumbled opportunities with no good looks at the basket. Not quite for the KenPom minions, but still noteworthy.

In short, this was a weird game.

I love what Shaka Smart and his club have done for the past two weeks. Shooting the lights out, sticking it to the talking heads, and continuing the trend that the CAA is not just a mid-major, it’s a formidable athletic conference that’s worthy of being a multi-bid league each and every year. I just think a pumpkin awaits them outside of the Alamo Dome on Sunday.

Former Michigan State star arrested for third time in four months

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Photo via Wayne County Prosecutor's Office
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For the third time since May, former Michigan State star Keith Appling has been arrested in an incident involving a loaded gun.

According to police, Appling was the driver of a car that was pulled over on Sunday night in Detroit. After an officer detected the scent of marijuana and requested Appling’s license, Appling rolled up his window sped off. He was stopped a short time later, but officers noticed that a Gucci bag that was in the back seat his car was missing. As they went over the route of the pursuit, they found the bag, which contained a loaded handgun and paperwork with Appling’s name on it.

In June, Appling was arrested when, during a traffic stop, he was in the back seat of a car where a handgun was found in the floorboard. That happened a month after he was arrested in the parking lot of a Dearborn, Michigan, strip club when a handgun and a loaded AK-47 were found in his car.

Tennessee football to honor Pat Summitt with helmet sticker

KNOXVILLE, TN - JULY 14:  Flower wreaths line the wall at Pat Summitt Plaza before the start of a ceremony to celebrate the life of former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt at the Thompson-Boling Arena on July 14, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Summitt died June 28 at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (Photo by Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics - Pool/Getty Images)
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Tennessee’s football team will be wearing a commemorative sticker on their helmet this season to honor the late Pat Summitt.

Summitt coached the Lady Vols for nearly four decades, building the women’s basketball program into a goliath in the sport and simultaneously doing more than just about anyone to advance women’s athletics in this country while becoming the winningest Division I college coach of all-time.

“We’re excited about wearing a commemorative sticker on the back of our helmet to honor the late Pat Summitt,” football coach Butch Jones said. “We know everything she stands for. I think it’s very fitting that Tennessee football and Team 120 recognize her and everything she means to the University of Tennessee and state of Tennessee.”

The stickers will look like this:

Tennessee athletics
Tennessee athletics

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.