Finally comfortable, Oklahoma forward Romero Osby has some lofty goals for his senior year

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Oklahoma senior forward Romero Osby has spent four years at the college level and had just one season of impact.

His first two were spent at Mississippi State, where playing time for the Meridian, Mississippi native was sparse and the period was described by him as “kind of a waste of time” in an article by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

After those two seasons Osby transferred to Oklahoma, where he found his confidence under Jeff Capel despite having to sit out the 2010-11 season.

“I think this will be the rebirth of Romero Osby,” Capel said at the time of Osby’s transfer. “He was not really able to show a lot of the things he can do in his two years at Mississippi State. We recruited him out of high school and I loved him. I’m excited about the opportunity to coach him.”

But just when Osby was ready to apply that growth on the floor Capel was relieved of his duties and replaced by Lon Kruger.

Any fears Osby had about the coaching change subsided quickly, and in his first season for the Sooners Osby averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest.

Those numbers were good enough to earn Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors and with a year with Kruger under their belts and some good newcomers led by Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye, Osby has some lofty goals for both he and his team this year.

And now, far removed from his two-year downward spiral at Mississippi State, Osby feels ready for huge senior season.

His stated team goals — “a Big 12 championship and NCAA berth.” His stated individual goals — “Big 12 player of the year.”

And he wants to do it all at the place he calls his new home.

“My wife’s here, my daughter’s here, we live here,” Osby said. “Norman, Oklahoma, is where we live. It feels kind of weird, but at the same time, I’ve loved and enjoyed my three years here and I want to end it the right way.”

But can Oklahoma accomplish Osby’s team goal of winning the Big 12 and reaching the NCAA tournament?

The former will be tough, especially when considering the fact that Kansas has won the last eight Big 12 titles. But simply reaching the NCAA tournament? That’s within their reach.

Osby is one of five returning starters for Oklahoma, with senior shooting guard Steven Pledger leading last year’s squad with an average of 16.2 points per game.

The newcomers are led by the aforementioned M’Baye and freshman guards Buddy Hield and Jelon Hornbeak, and while most teams that add nine newcomers would be concerned about experience OU also has five seniors.

Oklahoma hasn’t heard their name called on Selection Sunday since 2009 and in a balanced Big 12 (it does help some that Missouri is in the SEC) there will be challenges, but getting back should be a realistic goal for them.

It’s the job of Osby and his teammates to make sure their return to the Big Dance becomes a reality.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.