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College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Five Thoughts

Last word on Kansas-Missouri: I still can’t get over this game. I wrote almost 1,200 words on it after it happened, and I still think I shorted it. The way Missouri played for the first 25 minutes should be lauded. Its not easy to build up a 19 point lead on the road; its near impossible to do so at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a big game. The way that Kansas came back was even more impressive, as they fed Thomas Robinson over and over again what stymieing Missouri’s vaunted offense. There were too many clutch shots down the stretch to remember.

But more than anything, I think the fact that this was one of the best college basketball games you will ever see played in an environment unlike any other will do wonders for keeping this rivalry going. To be frank, the “rivalry” hasn’t been much of a rivalry over the last decade or two. Kansas is Kansas, and while Missouri fields some very good basketball team now and again, they aren’t on the same level as the Jayhawks. That said, during years like this — when Missouri is for real and Kansas is just as good — the games get taken to another level, just like they did on Saturday.

I think that will be enough to convince Kansas to play Missouri again, even if it helps Missouri more than it will ever help the Jayhawks. It won’t be next season. It may be five or ten years. Maybe more. But eventually, this game will come back. Until then, as Joe Posnanski said, we’ll miss it.

The Mountain West race will be fun this week: San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are all tied for first place in the MWC at 8-4 with just two games left this week. Barring another upset — which is a ridiculous assumption to make given how often rank has been a factor in the conference this season — SDSU has the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They already have a win over fourth place TCU, and they play at TCU. That said, TCU has beaten UNLV and UNM at home. Ugh.

UNLV looks like they will be headed for the No. 2 seed if they can win out this week. New Mexico has already lost to Colorado State, the fifth place team, but the Rebels won at home earlier this season and have to travel to Ft. Collins for the rematch. Oh, and Colorado State has beaten both New Mexico and SDSU this year. Double ugh.

So like I said, the end of the MWC race is going to be some fun this week. Buckle up.

Can the CAA get two bids?: It might be tough. Drexel and VCU are both going to have to make the title game of the league tournament. I’d also expect that Drexel has a better chance of getting in with an at-large bid, so we would probably need VCU to win the automatic bid. The Dragons will be an interesting case. They’ll have 27 wins if they make it to the title game. They’ll have won 25 of their last 27 games. Their 2-4 start? Two of those losses came when sharpshooter Chris Fouch was injured and the other two came when he was back on the court but not 100%. Think about it like this: Drexel, as of now, has lost once since Dec. 3rd and ran through an always tough and always balanced CAA, winning the league outright despite a couple of talented teams. That deserves heavy consideration.

Late whistles: There were a number of late calls that decided games this week. The most notable: the no-call on Phil Pressey’s drive and the foul called on Tyshawn Taylor’s drive in the KU-MU game; the charge called on Kyle Casey that erased what would have been the go-ahead bucket for Harvard in their loss to Penn; the no-call when Roscoe Smith drove in the final seconds against Syracuse. I’m sure I missed some.

My opinion is this: I think down the stretch, you have to allow a little bit to change in terms of how a game is called. You don’t call ticky-tack fouls that will decide the outcome. If a player is hit hard enough, yes, you should give him the whistle. The definition of a foul is termed as when “an advantage is gained”, and so long as the referees stick to that theory late, I think they’ll be fine. There was no advantage gained when Robinson hit Pressey at the end of regulation, but there was also no advantage gained when Taylor drove and drew a foul that gave Kansas their final lead. I like seeing players decide the outcome of a game, but if they draw a foul, it has to be given to them.

Also, I have an issue with how much folks talk about overworked referees. The best in the business get paid upwards of $3,000 per game. For two hours worth of work. If I got paid that much, I would be working 20 hours every day. And frankly, I don’t think refs get that tired flying around the country as much as they do. I certainly don’t blame bad calls on refs being travel-weary. I think the bigger issue is that some of these refs just aren’t that good.

Best game you won’t hear anything about this week: Weber State, who is led by future first-round pick, and Montana are tied for first place in the Big Sky. Weber State won the first matchup between the two by 16 at home, but they will be heading to Missoula, MT, for the rematch. Currently, the third place team in the conference is five games behind these two and the fourth place teams is seven games back; in other words, both Montana and Weber State are good. Which is why this matchup should be fun to watch.

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

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson