State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky

Late night snacks: Crashing after the marathon

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It took 24 hours and countless games, but the unofficial beginning to the college basketball season came and went with an overwhelming bang. Let’s recap, shall we?

Games of the Night

1.) Duke 75, Kentucky 68 – The classic matchup didn’t disappoint. Seth Curry dominated. Alex Poythress was a monster. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski threw post-game barbs at each other. The vitriol may not be there, but the on-court product and the tension was high and it was awesome.

2.) Michigan State 67, Kansas 64Keith Appling had a coming out party and Sparty rebounded after a season-opening loss to UConn. Tom Izzo will always have the edge when it comes to big games.

3.) UMass 67, Harvard 64 – One of the first true “dagger” games of the day. A last-second basket proved to be the difference for the late-morning game. More on that later.

4.) New Mexico 86, Davidson 81 – It seemed like this outcome was impossible. The Lobos trailed for a majority of the game, Davidson was bonkers from three and New Mexico had a start that could only be eclipsed in its awfulness by the loser of the game before theirs, West Virginia. Then Tony Snell caught fire with 25 points, the big men started to show up and the Lobos escaped with a win at home.

Starred

Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso – Teams like Valparaiso don’t get a ton of, if any, national attention. So when they do, they need to take advantage. Broekhoff did with 20 points on 4-of-8 three’s in a 69-46 win over Northern Illinois. From personal experience, it was nice to hear Broekhoff’s string music on my television as I went in-and-out of sleep this morning.

Seth Curry, Duke – He came to Duke to play on this stage four years ago when he transferred from Liberty. The fifth-year senior dropped in 23 points, including 3-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the win over Kentucky. Some have wondered when the youngest of the sharpshooting trio (dad Dell, older brother Steph, and him) would truly arrive. He’s showing his elite-level game now.

Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State – Hit game-winning step-back jumper in the closing seconds to lift the Shockers to a 53-51 victory at VCU. Scored 11 points total.

Sampson Carter, UMass – Carter made his only bucket of the game count, a three from the corner in the final seconds to deliver the death-blow for the victory over Harvard in the mid-morning matchup. Carter actually had more fouls (four) than points (three).

Struggled

Butler – How far has Brad Stevens‘ program fallen? The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins hurt, but going into a game against what everyone thought was an undermanned Xavier team, albeit on the road, the Bulldogs laid a colossal egg, losing 62-47. Only one player, reserve Kellen Dunham, finished in double-figures with 11 and prized transfer Rotnei Clarke had seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, including just 1-for-7 from three-point range. In a game that could’ve put them back on the map, they flopped. Hard.

Virginia – It’s been a tough early season for the Cavaliers already. This time it’s in the form of a 59-53 loss to Delaware at home in the NIT Tip-Off semifinals. The Blue Hens stole the Wahoos the chance at going to Madison Square Garden. Man, Tony Bennett, you got some work to do.

Ray McCallum, Jr., Detroit – The day was somewhat uncharacteristic for the consistent son of the Titans’ head coach. Yes, 23 points is the norm for the junior. But it took him 23 shots (eight makes) and he was 4-for-12 from three in a 77-74 loss at St. Johns. He’ll no doubt get his all season. But considering the stage, volume shooting wasn’t what McCallum needed.

Josh Smith, UCLA – He air-balled a lay-up. He got dominated by far-inferior talent in the post. He finished with five points, five rebounds and four steals in a win over UC-Irvine. Off the court, he seems like a great person. On the court? He seems like another Renardo Sidney.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State – The Aztecs made extremely easy work of San Diego Christian, 97-51. Franklin lived up to the preseason conference player of the year hype, pouring in 28 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kid’s on his way.

Fanbases that can take a breath

Kansas State – This is more of a reason for the Wildcats to laugh than to be relieved. They avoided, um, narrowly, being the next victim of the Alabama-Huntsville Pain Train, taking down the Division II squad 87-26. The Chargers beat North Texas last night.

Pittsburgh – The Panthers put in one of the more underrated performances of the night, mainly because it went toe-to-toe with the Kentucky-Duke game. Pitt took down C.J. McCollum and Lehigh impressively, 78-53 at home, scoring 43 in the second half. Travon Woodall scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, while the Mountain Hawks’ McCollum was “held” to 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Fanbases that can take a seat

West Virginia – It’s your first game of the 2012-13 season. It’s your first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. It’s the first game of the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball, aka Marathon Madness. So what do you do!?…You shoot 27.3-percent, 11.5-percent (3-for-26) from three and tank the game 84-50. Mountaineers fans, blame Denniz Kilicli’s shaving of his beard. Or the loss of players like Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones. But man, your team needs a better effort to contend in the Big 12 this season, much less in non-conference.

UCLA – Oh what am I saying? We all were waiting for this. This program has a ton of individual talent, with or without Shabazz Muhammad, but we all wondered, ‘how would it all coalesce?’ Well, the Bruins avoided a near disaster against UC-Irvine in the form of a 80-79 overtime win which had a crazy ending to the extra period. It’s a long season, but those that were waiting to hate on UCLA now have their first — maybe second, if you count Muhammad’s indefinite suspension — bullet in the chamber. Let’s see how Howland manages all those stars in their first taste of adversity.

Now everyone, go get some sleep.

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

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.