Late-Night Snacks: A recap of Sunday’s action

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While Sunday’s college basketball schedule wasn’t loaded with games there was one match-up of ranked teams and eight other contests involving Top 25 squads. So for those who may have spent the day hemming and hawing over their fantasy football team(s), here are some of the important happenings on the first Sunday of the college basketball season.

Games of the Day 

1. South Carolina 82, Milwaukee 75 (OT)
The first win of the Frank Martin era in Columbia was a tough one, as the Gamecocks needed two free throws from Mindaugas Kacinas to send the game into overtime. Brenton Williams scored 12 of his 14 points in the extra session and freshman Michael Carrera went for 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead South Carolina past the Panthers.

2. No. 12 Arizona 83, Charleston Southern 73
This one ended up being much closer than many expected, but the Wildcats were able to hold off Charleston Southern to win their season opener. Mark Lyons may not have shot his best (5-of-14 FG) but he finished with 17 points, six assists and no turnovers. Arlon Harper led the Buccaneers with 20 points, and the two teams combined to attempt 60 three-pointers (making 21).

3. Holy Cross 74, Morgan State 73
Two free throws apiece from Dave Dudzinski and Justin Burrell gave the Crusaders a four-point lead with 4.8 seconds remaining, and they needed all four as Morgan State’s DeWayne Jackson hit a three as time expired. Dudzinski led Holy Cross with 20 points and eight rebounds.

Important Outcomes

1. No. 9 Syracuse 62, No. 20 San Diego State 49
The Battle on the Midway wasn’t pretty from an offensive standpoint, as the Aztecs shot just 27% from the field and nearly as bad (14-of-33) from the foul line. C.J. Fair led the Orange with 17 points and ten rebounds while Michael Carter-Williams scored 17 in addition to five assists, four rebounds and four steals.

2. Villanova 80, Marshall 68
With the Thundering Herd having the talent to challenge in Conference USA this was a tough home game for Villanova, especially considering the fact that they opened up against the University of the District of Columbia. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono led the way with 25 points, six assists and four rebounds.

3. Washington 85, Loyola (MD) 63
The Huskies weren’t at their best in the first half, turning the ball over 11 times and leading the preseason MAAC favorites by just two (33-31) at the intermission. Abdul Gaddy and company took far better care of the ball in the second half, and as a result Washington put up 52 points and rolled to a comfortable victory.

Starred

1. G Ahmad Starks (Oregon State): 33 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals in the Beavers’ 71-62 win over New Mexico State.

2. F Ryan Anderson (Boston College): 29 points and 17 rebounds in the Eagles’ 84-70 win over FIU.

3. G Michael Lyons (Air Force): 33 points (7-of-12 3PT) to lead the Falcons past The Citadel 77-70.

Stunk

1. San Diego State: 17-of-63 (27%) from the field, 1-of-18 (5.6%) from three and 14-of-33 (42.4%) from the foul line.

2. Alabama State: Nine points in the first half of their 84-35 loss to No. 10 Florida. Sure they were overmatched, but nine points in 20 minutes of basketball?

3. Evan Hymes and Rob Poole (Siena): These two struggled mightily in the Saints’ 54-49 overtime win at Navy, combining to go 5-of-28 from the field (2-of-17 3PT).

Three Facts

1. The championship coach (Larry Brown) and Most Outstanding Player (Danny Manning) of the 1988 NCAA tournament both picked up wins in their debuts at new jobs. Brown’s SMU Mustangs beat Loyola Marymount 73-58, and Manning’s Tulsa squad blew out LSU-Shreveport 110-54.

2. The Pac-12 went perfect this weekend, with wins by Arizona, Washington and California moving the conference to 12-0. No real marquee wins, but when considering the three years prior that’s not a bad start.

3. Hofstra, who dropped an 83-54 decision at Purdue on Sunday, has lost back-to-back games by 29-point margins. The last time the Pride lost consecutive games by 29 or more was during the 1986-87 season, when they were the Flying Dutchmen.

Other Top 25 scores of note

1. No. 2 Louisville 79, Manhattan 51
Russ Smith led the way with 23 points and five steals, but there’s room for improvement in the shot selection department. The Cardinals struggled offensively in the first half, then dropped 51 points on the Jaspers in the final 20 minutes.

2. No. 23 Wisconsin 87, Southeastern Louisiana 47
The Badgers rolled as expected, and also of importance was the return of senior forward Mike Bruesewitz to the lineup after suffering a nasty cut in a weight room accident. Ben Brust posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Jared Berggren scored 19 points and grabbed eight boards for Wisconsin, who won their 11th straight season opener.

3. No. 4 Ohio State 82, Albany 60
All four teams involved in the two aircraft carrier game cancellations on Friday won their season openers on Sunday. Aaron Craft knocked down five of his seven shots from beyond the arc and led the Buckeyes with 20 points and seven assists, and Deshaun Thomas added 19.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.