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Cincinnati stocks backcourt with two verbal commitments

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Many tactics have proven to be effective in college basketball recruiting. Many so-called “blue blood” programs set their targets on top-50 prospects, and often wage battles for those players that extend late in the signing periods. The danger in that tactic is that the runner-ups can come up empty handed, and struggle to complete a roster when other similarly talented prospects are off the board.

Cincinnati is a program that has traditionally not taken such a tactic to heart, as coach Mick Cronin targets high school and junior college players who fit his system. The track record of success for the Bearcats speaks for itself, in recent memory.

That said, Cincinnati landed two backcourt recruits just a few days, as 6-3 combo guards Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson committed within days of each other. While neither is considered a top-50 player, both have the skills to be competent in the Bearcats’ system for years, and should be welcomed with open arms by fans.

Caupain, who hails from Virginia and plays in the strong Team Loaded grassroots program, and Johnson, a player from the backyard at Summit Country Day in Cincinnati, can both handle the ball. While it’s not clear which player will be the primary handler in the future, and which will play off the ball, it is clear that Cincinnati has projected replacements for their senior guards, JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright.

Both Johnson and Caupain are arguably top-150 players, and both received positive reviews during the spring circuit. Cronin and his staff have locked up both backcourt players prior to the July evaluation period, and both seem like solid additions. The key now for Cincinnati will to land a blue chip big man, after missing out on Chris Obekpa in the 2012 class to St. John’s.

One interior star that Cincinnati has their eye on is 6-9 power forward Jermaine Lawrence, a New York City transplant that plays high school hoops in New Jersey. With Caupain and Johnson in the fray, Lawrence is likely to be the subject of a full court recruiting press from the Cincinnati staff going forward. With or without Lawrence, fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the guard core has been replenished with sizable, lengthy and skilled players.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.