Phil Pressey

College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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1. We cannot judge Missouri yet: Not until they have Michael Dixon and/or Jabari Brown in the fold. Brown will get eligible in December. A former top 30 recruit coming out of high school, he’s a big-time athlete at 6-foot-5 and may actually be the best perimeter shooter that Frank Haith has on his roster. Which is saying something, because Dixon is a pretty good perimeter shooter in his own right. It’s unclear when (or if) Dixon will be back with the team, as the mystery surrounding his suspension has taken a bit of a turn. But the bottom line is that, right now, Missouri’s offensive is sputtering because the three guys that have started a game at the two and the three are shooting a combined 33.3% from three and 38.3% from the field.

Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi have been great up front. Flip Pressey is as good as advertised. But until the Tigers have that perimeter shooting, they’ll only be OK.

2. St. Mary’s might be in trouble: I love Matthew Dellavedova. From the ugly-as-sin-but-always-goes-in jumper to the mouthguard to the greasy moptop, there’s so much about his game that would make you think he’s garbage. He’d be the last guy picked at the park, but he’s nasty, with a little Mark Jackson in his game; he’s a terrific passer, especially in the pick-and-roll, and has been used in the post by Randy Bennett this season. The problem? The Gaels don’t have guys that can finished those passes. Their bigs are weak around the rim and can’t score with their back-to-the-basket. Their shooters aren’t really shooters at all. Stephen Holt is about as confident spotting up from three as I would be trying to ask Blake Lively out for coffee. Dellavedova can’t do it all himself; he’s not going to play like this every night. He’ll get his team scoring chances, but until those chances start turning into points, the Gaels are going to be just OK.

3. Jahii Carson is a stud: Anyone else that watched him go for 30 points and seven assists against Creighton on Saturday will agree with me. He’s averaging 21.0 points and 5.0 assists five games into the season, and he’s doing so as Herb Sendek has allowed the Sun Devils to put the pedal to the medal in transition. ASU still has a long way to go to be considered a tournament contender, but with Carson, the redshirt freshman, running the show, this group will be entertaining to watch.

Imagine if Arizona would have taken Carson instead of Josiah Turner? Think Sean Miller is regretting that decision now?

4. Northwestern is 6-0: The Wildcats, who are still without an NCAA tournament berth in their history, were 4-0 before heading down to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge, and while they didn’t exactly beat two top ten teams down there, wins over TCU and Illinois State aren’t too shabby. The Redbirds are going to finish near the top of a strong MVC, while TCU followed up their loss to Northwestern with a win over UAB. There’s a long way to go this year, but 6-0 is 6-0.

5. What’s up with Butler and VCU?: We’re two weeks into the season, and the Atlantic 10’s two hyped additions are a combined 6-5. Butler bounced back from a loss at Xavier by beat Marquette and North Carolina out in Maui, but followed that up with a blowout loss to Illinois in the title game. VCU looked really good in their win over Memphis, but Memphis has been bad early in the season, and the Rams have lost battles with Wichita State, Duke and Missouri.

Frankly, I’d be more concerned with Butler. Losing Crishawn Hopkins’ playmaking ability really hurts them. Rotnei Clarke is simply not a point guard, but Roosevelt Jones hasn’t progressed to the point where Brad Stevens can feel comfortable having him bring the ball up the floor. And while I understand the need to allow Clarke to fire away at will, at some point, he needs to improve his shot selection. He doesn’t need to take fadeaway 25-footers with a hand in his face with 25 seconds left on the shot clock; he can get that shot anytime he wants.

VCU will be fine, as I think this is a group that’s still figuring out how to replace Brad Burgess on the offensive end of the floor. Juvonte Reddic’s play has been impressive, as was their three-point shooting against Memphis, but I think Ram fans need to cap their expectations for this group as a borderline top 25 team for now.

My up-to-the-second Atlantic 10 power rankings: St. Joe’s, VCU, Butler, St. Louis, Temple, La Salle, UMass, Xavier.

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

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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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)
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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
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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.