Patience needed for South Carolina fans

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. He’ll post every week in CBT.

When Frank Martin took over Kansas State in 2007, the response from friends in the coaching world was almost always the same. “People didn’t understand it,” Martin said. “Everyone was like, ‘Why would you want to work there? It’s a graveyard for coaches.”

Soon after, he was coaching the Wildcats in the Elite Eight and honored as the Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Five years later, Martin heard the same type of questions as he began the challenge of rebuilding the brand of South Carolina basketball.

The Gamecocks are 5-3 overall but the signs of a tough road ahead in SEC play are evident.  The season started by sneaking past UW-Milwaukee in overtime.  Then there was the loss to Elon.  And most recently, South Carolina lost their last two to St. John’s and Clemson by a combined 33 points.  The Gamecocks are allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent from the floor.  That is not Frank Martin basketball.  Yet if history repeats itself, it shouldn’t stay this way for long.  As Martin stated on his Twitter account last week: “Sorry we didn’t get it done today for you. We will build a program u deserve.”

WATCH THE RACERS PLAY — AND SOON

I don’t know how many 6-foot-1 guards will be drafted in June, but I know one that should.  Isaiah Canaan is as efficient as any point guard in the country.  Canaan and Murray State critics obsess too much about his size and way too much about how legit the Racers are as a ball club. The ridiculous success Murray State attained last year and their weak schedule sometimes overshadowed their point guard’s stature nationally.  Like a leopard, an elite player does not change its spots.  Remember, Jewuan Long and Donte Pool are gone from last year’s dynamic squad — so expecting Murray State to be the last unbeaten in the nation again is of course unrealistic.

But this team is still very good and their leader is noticeably stronger than last season.  Canaan is 8th in the country in scoring at 22.5 points per game, shoots an astounding 49 percent from the floor, shoots 42 percent from deep and 77 percent from the foul line.  And the Racers as a team?  They are 5-1 with wins against St. John’s, Auburn and Old Dominion.

WELCOME MR. MUNFORD

A little over a week ago the world of college basketball was introduced to Rhode Island’s Xavier Munford.  Who was this transfer who led his team to a double overtime victory at Auburn with 33 points?  Dan Hurley was grateful because it was his first win as head coach of the Rhody Rams.  He’s equally grateful for how long he’s known his junior transfer.  Before his time at Iowa Western College and Miami-Dade College, Munford played for Hurley at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey.  St. Benedict’s went 26-1 Munford’s senior season and were ranked No. 2 in the nation.  Also on that team, was current URI teammate and Rutgers transfer Gilvydas Biruta.

There’s only eight games under his belt, but Munford plays like a seasoned veteran and defends the only way he knows how — the way Hurley taught him years ago.  Munford is averaging 18.9 points per game — tops in the Atlantic 10 — and is shooting 33 percent from 3-point land.  But his impact goes beyond leading the Rams in scoring.  One day soon it looks like we’ll be talking about Dan Hurley’s revival of Rhode Island basketball — and so far the script reads Xavier Munford as the first name fans from the Ocean State will credit.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports.  You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET.  Follow him on Twitter @VinParise.

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?