Arkansas’ Marshawn Powell scores 33 in a win over Oklahoma

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The big question mark for Arkansas coming into the season was Marshawn Powell.

After turning heads with a dominating freshman season in 2009-2010, Powell’s career took a turn for the worse. He struggled during his sophomore season, seeing his output drop across the board, and after averaging 19.5 points through two games as a junior, Powell blew out his ACL.

Early on this year, Powell didn’t quite look like himself. He was averaging 17.0 points through the first three games — against powerhouse programs like Longwood and Florida A&M — but managed all of 10 points in 37 minutes in the two losses that Arkansas suffered in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Last Friday, however, Powell looked better. He 19 points on 5-10 shooting to go along with seven boards in a loss to Syracuse at Bud Walton Arena, but it wasn’t until Tuesday night that Powell really came alive.

In an 81-78 win over Oklahoma, Powell finished with 33 points on 11-17 shooting — including 4-6 on threes — while adding six boards and five assists. The Razorbacks needed every single one of those points, as well; BJ Young struggled throughout much of the game, finishing with just 10 points on 4-12 shooting.

A healthy Powell is a difference maker for Arkansas. Everyone knows how good Young is. He’s a lottery pick perfectly suited for Mike Anderson’s run-and-gun system, and even when Young is struggling like he did tonight, he’s capable of scoring in the clutch. Young scored on two tough drives in the final minute, the latter giving Arkansas the lead after a Steven Pledger three gave Arkansas their first lead of the second half at 78-77.

With Powell proving that he’s capable of putting up numbers like he did tonight, the Razorbacks have two go-to guys. And while he’s never been known for his ability to shoot, those four threes are meaningful. Powell is a power forward in a league with some big power forwards. If he’s a threat from the perimeter, that creates just that much more space for Young and the rest of the Arkansas wings in the paint.

In a league that looks more wide-open by the day, Powell’s presence makes Arkansas a team that could sneak up on people in the SEC.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, looked better than they did in their last two games. They have a trio of talented big men — Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye combined for 36 points in this one — and a talented back court, headlined by scorer Steven Pledger and setup man Sam Grooms. They hung with Arkansas in one of the tougher home-court environments, putting a run on the Razorbacks in a game they trailed for much of the second half.

I’m not sure Lon Kruger is in the business of moral victories, but after beating Northwestern State and Oral Roberts by a combined five points in the last two games, this is a promising performance.

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

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.