Late night snacks: What got you ready for the marathon

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This is the only night where Late Night Snacks serves as the primer for the college basketball day rather than the ending. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this and neither should you.

Games of the Night

1.) No. 1 Indiana 87, North Dakota State 61

There weren’t any nail-biters pre-marathon, so we’ll start with the top team in the land. Cody Zeller had 22 and nine rebounds. Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell chipped in 14 each and Hoosiers are living up to all the hype. Tom Crean has the team we all thought he had.

2.) No. 17 Memphis 81, North Florida 66

The curtain opened on what is supposed to be Josh Pastner’s best team since he took the job three years ago. They started off on the right foot. Joe Jackson had 14 points and six assists and the Tigers out-rebounded the Ospreys 45-30 in the victory.

3.) Virginia 54, Fairfield 45

The outcome was a win, but the Cavaliers should be doing better against a team that lost most of it’s talent off last season’s squad. Especially after blowing the season opener at home to George Mason. The loss of Tony Scott hurt, but this is a team that’s better than these scores. Or at least we all thought they were.

4.) Lafayette 98, LIU-Brooklyn 94 (OT)

Well, anyone want to figure these Blackbirds out? The got no bench play and allowed a guy no one saw coming to score 30 in the post against one of the best front lines in mid-(low?)-major college basketball. There’s going to be some major changes needed for Jack Perri’s team if they plan to contend for the NEC title.

Starred

Trey Burke, Michigan

A lot is riding on Burke this season. He hasn’t disappointed yet, including a team-high 22 points and nine assists with only three turnovers in a win over IUPUI. He’s an All-American candidate and he’s playing like it early on.

Dan Trist, Lafayette

You’ve got to love when a relative unknown gets his shine. He dropped 30 in a 98-94 victory over LIU-Brooklyn in overtime at home. Trist was 14-of-18 from the field overall, all twos. He’s teammate Seth Hinrichs chipped in 20 in the win.

Garrick Sherman, Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish will be looking for the compliment to Jack Cooley in the post. Maybe it’s Sherman. He poured in 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Notre Dame’s 84-57 rout of Monmouth. Sherman averaged 3.1 points and 2.6 boards for the Fighting Irish last season.

Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State

He was the dark horse for Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. He more than likely will have to settle for first team all-conference, but the senior made a compelling case early with 27 points and 10 boards in a 100-72 victory over UC-Santa Barbara.

Stunk

LIU-Brooklyn

The favorite in the Northeast Conference is now 0-2 after a loss at Lafayette. It’s tough to imagine this team isn’t 0-4 when the Barclay’s Center Classic concludes with games upcoming against Kentucky and Maryland.

North Texas

So, Tony Mitchell isn’t going to be enough? New coach Tony Benford has some serious work to do. The Mean Green lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville tonight. The score doesn’t even matter. I don’t care if the Chargers (UAH’s mascot, GSC represent) win the DII national title, you can’t have problems with inferior teams when the games count.

Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State

You’ll find out more about the actual game, but one of the favorite’s for Horizon League Player of the Year turned in one of the biggest nights for any player across all facets of the game. Perry finished with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals on the road. He’s going to be the catalyst for the Penguins and he’s playing like he knows it this season.

Fanbases That Can Take a Breath

UNLV

Some of those fans had to be talked off the ledge after the Runnin’ Rebels needed overtime to beat Division II Dixie State in an exhibition game. Monday night, UNLV beat Northern Arizona 92-54 in their season opener. Five players finished in double figures led by Anthony Bennett‘s 22 points.

Florida State

The Seminole Nation was flipping out after their team suffered a season-opening loss to South Alabama at home and All-American candidate Michael Snaer went 2-for-9 from the floor. They rebounded with a satisfying 95-68 home win over Buffalo and Snaer had 19 points and was 4-for-7 from three-point range.

Fanbase That Had The Breath Knocked Out of Them

Georgia

Some of us thought the Bulldogs would be a one-man team with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Some of us were right (so far). KCP was the lone player in double figures for UGA with 27 points in a 68-56 loss at home to Youngstown State. If that’s the case, this team can feel free to make plans for the CBI or CIT.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.