Chris Mack

Late Night Snacks: Tryptophan galore

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Given the holiday and the fact that there were just 14 games on Thursday, Late Night Snacks is getting a one night overhaul.

Today’s game recaps:

Leftover Turkey: Xavier

If you can figure out Xavier, please, do share. The Musketeers scored 117 points in their first outing and whipped up on Butler in during Marathon Madness. After Butler went out and knocked off Marquette before running over No. 9 North Carolina, we had to seriously reconsider whether or not Xavier is better than anyone had considered.

And then Chris Mack’s team went out and lost to Pacific, 70-67, in the first round of the DirecTV Classic. Because that makes complete sense.

Midnight Piece of Pumpkin Pie: Mike Dixon

Missouri needs him, and their win over Stanford in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis proves it. The Tigers won 78-70 thanks to 18 points and nine assists from Phil Pressey, but one can only wonder how many assists Pressey would have finished with if the open looks he got for Earnest Ross and Negus Webster-Chan had gone down. Those two combined to go 4-26 from the floor and 1-10 from three. Ross was 3-19 from the field.

Your Second Midnight Piece of Pumpkin Pie: Matthew Dellavedova

He finished with 32 points as St. Mary’s beat Drexel 76-64 in the first round of the DirecTV Classic, and he did it in a variety of ways: drives, threes, post-ups (seriously). The Dragons were missing some pieces, but that is still a Bruiser Flint-coached team, which means they are tough and defensive-minded.

And Dellavedova still got 32.

The Empty Carton of Ice Cream that forced your Pumpkin Pie to be eaten alone: Drexel

Drexel’s season looks to be headed on the same frustrating path that last year’s was. The Dragons were without Chris Fouch at the start of the season, as they lost four of their first six games, which meant that after winning 25 of their last 26 games, they were still deemed to be worthy of the NIT.

Drexel lost Fouch for the season this week to a fractured ankle. They have been without Damion Lee because of a concussion. And they are now 1-3 on the season after losing to St. Mary’s. The silver lining? Xavier lost, too, so at least they get another chance to be a quality opponent.

Booze. Lots of Booze: Kelly Olynyk

The scary part about Gonzaga’s rout of West Virginia is that they weren’t even at full strength. Kelly Olynyk, the 6-foot-11 long-haired Canadian, missed the first three games due to a suspension, but came back against Clemson and jumped straight into the starting lineup. And it worked, as Olynyk had 13 points in a 57-49 Gonzaga win over Clemson.

The Tigers did a good job of mucking things up with the Zags, taking a lead into the half, but in the end Mark Few’s team was just too talented.

Brussel Sprouts: Rice

Rice shot 11-48 from the floor, which is a cool 22.9%, in a 54-36 loss to Georgia Tech. As a team, they managed just two field goals from inside the arc, as they were 9-30 from downtown. And outside of Austin Ramljak, who was 6-12 from three, the Owls shot 5-36 from the floor. You may not know too much about basketball, but that’s really, really bad.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.