NCAA tournament Day 3 recap

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Player of the Day: Brady Heslip, Baylor: For all the talent and all the NBA potential on the Baylor roster, the kid that saved Baylor’s season was a guy that has been a perennial afterthought. He played on a loaded AAU team, transferred to Baylor after leaving Boston College and has been nothing but a role player in his time in Waco. Not on Saturday, however, as Heslip hit nine threes en route to 27 points to lead the No. 3 Bears to a 80-63 win over No. 11 Colorado. Heslip’s biggest contributions came in the first half, when he hit six of those threes and scored 18 of Baylor’s 37 points. The Bears led by just two points at the break.

They were good too:

Marquis Teague, Kentucky: Teague played the best game of his collegiate career, going for 24 points and seven assists as the Wildcats knocked off No. 8 Iowa State in impressive fashion, 87-71.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Christmas didn’t put up huge numbers, but he was a presence inside for the Orange on Saturday. They are going to need him to play up to his recruiting ranking if Syracuse hopes to avoid a disappointing tournament run.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Like Teague, Craft played his best game as a collegian on Saturday, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists and just one turnover as the Buckeyes advanced past Gonzaga.

Team of the Day: Louisville Cardinals: You have to be happy for this Louisville team. After everything they have been through this season — the losses, the injuries, the struggles of their best players — the Cardinals have persevered and are now playing their best basketball of the season. Led by Peyton Siva’s play in the clutch, the Cardinals advanced past New Mexico and have gone from a potential bubble team in mid-January to a Big East champion and a Sweet 16 member.

Shoutouts:

Syracuse Orange: Syracuse may have given up 8,000 offensive rebounds to Kansas State, but they also put together one of their best offensive halves of the season in the second half, steamrolling the Wildcats for 50 points.

Game of the Day: Indiana 63, VCU 61: This is the closest that we have come to a buzzer-beater in this NCAA tournament. The Rams blew a late lead to the Hoosiers, who were sparked by a pair of tremendous drives from Victor Oladipo, with just 12.7 seconds left on the clock, a 12 footer baseline jumper from Will Sheehy. At the other end of the floor, VCU got a good look at a three that would have won the game, but it bounced off of the front of the rim.

For the first time since 2002 and just the second time in 18 years, the Hoosiers are headed back to the Sweet 16, where they will get a rematch of their early season classic with Kentucky. I think it is fair to say that Tom Crean officially has this program back.

They’ve had better days: Vanderbilt Commodores: Jeff Taylor had nine points on 4-12 shooting. John Jenkins had 13 points on 3-13 shooting and missed a would-be game-winner. Festus Ezeli had 14 points and 11 boards, but he was also benched early in the game for a rules violation. The ‘Dores lost 60-57 to Wisconsin. Not exactly the way this group wanted to go out.

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

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.