Weekend Preview: Should Syracuse be on upset alert?

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Who’s getting upset?: Sat. No. 2 Syracuse @ UConn, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

I’m probably going to end up regretting this decision, but I think that the Huskies nip Syracuse on Saturday. Starting with the Syracuse loss to Notre Dame back in mid-January, the Orange have been less-than-impress offensively. In six of those nine games, the Orange have posted an efficiency of 1.032 PPP or lower, which is a long way from being the ninth best offensive team in the nation. The first UConn game isn’t included in that group, but the 85 points they scored is a bit deceiving; that game was much closer than the final score indicated.

Throw in the massive struggles that the Orange have had on the defensive glass, and all of a sudden Cuse looks like they may end up being beatable. Where the Orange have kept themselves afloat is in their ability to turn teams over in a live-ball setting — they are third in the country in steal percentage and fifth in turnover percentage — and they are absolutely devastating in the open court. So if you get a team that can attack the gaps in their zone without turning the ball over while having enough size to take advantage of second chances, Syracuse could be in trouble.

UConn certainly has the size, but do they have the pieces to avoid turnovers? That, I’m not so sure of. Who is going to play the high-post in their zone offense? Can Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright be trusted to protect the ball and take good shots? Will Jeremy Lamb continue to be as aggressive as he has been the last two weeks? For UConn to have chance, that is precisely what needs to happen. And having Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi show up and get Fab Melo in foul trouble wouldn’t hurt, either.

Who else is on upset alert?

Fri. No. 10 Marquette @ West Virginia, 9 p.m. (ESPN2): This is less about Marquette than it is about West Virginia. Frankly, I think Marquette is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They are versatile, they can defend in the full court and they are currently playing as well as they have in Buzz Williams’ tenure. That said, West Virginia is better than they have showed of late and they are currently playing with their backs up against the wall. After the loss they suffered to Notre Dame, you can bet practice this week was equivalent to hopping in a cage with a rabid pitbull. In front of their home crowd, I expect the ‘Eers to play with some fire.

Sat. No. 12 Florida @ Georgia, 4 p.m. (ESPN3/SEC Network): Will Yeguete is done for the season, which is a massive blow to the Florida roster. He was their glue guy, the piece that did the dirty work on the glass and ran the point on their pressure defense. The last time he was injured, Florida lost their first game without him to Tennessee in the O-Dome. Tennessee is better than Georgia and the Gators have had some experience playing without him at this point, but I just don’t trust Florida on the road even after the win at Arkansas.

Sat. No. 20 Notre Dame @ St. John’s, 7 p.m. ESPN: This St. John’s roster is and always has intrigued me. They are quite athletic and a couple of those freshmen — Moe Harkless and D’angelo Harrison — have been quite thrilling to watch at times. No team in the country is playing as well as Notre Dame right now, but with the athleticism that the Johnnies have at their disposal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at the Irish. These freshmen may be too naive to realize that they aren’t supposed to win this game.

Sat. No. 18 New Mexico @ TCU, 7 p.m. (MTN): I don’t think that the Lobos are going to come out as flat as they did against Colorado State on Wednesday. That loss was understandable. When, all of a sudden, you become the talk of the country while soundly beating the other two contenders in your conference and moving into a two-game lead in first place, its easy to become complacent. UNM became complacent. Hopefully, they learned their lesson. That said, TCU is not terrible this season, they’ve upset UNLV at home after coming back from 18 down in the second half and they have a kid named Hank Thorns that is one of the nation’s best kept secrets. The Lobos have to show up to win this one.

Sun. No. 15 Florida State @ Miami (FL), 6 p.m. (ESPNU): Miami will be playing for their tournament lives. They have the size to matchup with the Seminoles on the interior and a matchup nightmare in Kenny Kadji at the four. The issue is going to be their back court. You cannot beat Florida State’s perimeter defense going one-on-one, and that is what Miami’s back court tends to do.

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

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

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For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.