Winston Shepard

Christmas Wish Lists: San Diego State looks to James Johnson for frontcourt muscle

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: James Johnson proves to be the frontcourt force San Diego State needs him to be
The Aztecs picked up a much-needed addition to the lineup this week, as Virginia transfer James Johnson became eligible after sitting out the last year per NCAA transfer rules. What does Steve Fisher need from the 6-7 junior? Similar to Illinois’ need for a “Deebo”-like figure, San Diego State needs Johnson to be the inside muscle for a group that’s rather slender.

Deshawn Stephens has been SDSU’s best front court rebounder to this point in the season with an average of 5.3 rebounds per game, J.J. O’Brien is averaging 4.3 and Skylar Spencer at 3.8. But with Jamaal Franklin (9.7 rpg) being their best rebounder, San Diego State will need Johnson to take on a prominent role on the glass, beginning with the Diamond Head Classic this weekend.

Stocking stuffer: Taking better care of the basketball
Through ten games the Aztecs have 134 assists…and 128 turnovers. Given their attacking off the dribble the assist count isn’t a surprise, but nearly breaking even in assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t good. The biggest offenders when it comes to taking care of the basketball have been Franklin (4.2 turnovers per game) and freshman Winston Shepard (2.6 turnovers per game). With a schedule that has included four games against teams 201 or worse in the RPI, San Diego State has gotten away with occasionally being reckless with the basketball. That’s going to have to changes at the Aztecs approach Mountain West play.

Planning on re-gifting: Winston Shepard’s start 
It’s been a bit of a struggle for Shepard, who also sat out three games due to NCAA suspension. In seven games the Findlay Prep product is averaging 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, shooting 31.0% from the field and 38.5% from the foul line. Immensely gifted, Shepard was expected to be at the very least a critical reserve for San Diego State and there’s definitely time for that to be the case. Hopefully for SDSU fans the turnaround begins in Hawaii this weekend.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Jaylen Brown throws down hard in transition

Albert Almanza, Jaylen Brown, Jalin Barnes
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Jaylen Brown is a top five player in the Class of 2015 and a kid projected as a top ten pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.


Because he does things like this:

He also did this:

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Denzel Valentine, the nation’s best player?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.

No. 17 Notre Dame 68, Iowa 62: The Fighting Irish blew a 15-point second half lead, but the comeback gassed the Hawkeyes, as Notre Dame was able to pull away down the stretch. V.J. Beachem led the way with 16 points.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.

Cat Barber, N.C. State: Barber notched a career-high 37 points to go along with eight assists as the Wolfpack fought off a scrappy Winthrop team, 87-79. He wasn’t the best scorer on the floor, though …

Jimmy Gavin, Winthrop: Gavin finished with 38 points. Off the bench. The most incredible part? He was 5-foot-4, 90 pounds as a sophomore due to Crohn’s Disease.

John Egbunu, Florida: Egbunu finished with 17 points, 11 boards and four blocks as the Gators knocked off FGCU, 70-50. Dorian Finney-Smith added 23 points for Florida.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
  • Troy Caupain had 17 points and Octavious Ellis added 12 points and nine boards (seven offensive) as No. 24 Cincinnati outlasted Nebraska, 65-61, at the Barclays Center.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
  • Taurean Waller-Prince had 25 points to lead Baylor to a win over Arkansas State.
  • Joey King’s 18 points paced five players in double-figures for Minnesota as they knocked off Omaha, 93-90.
  • Caris LeVert had 19 points and Derrick Walton added 13 points and seven assists as the Wolverines beat Texas in the fifth-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.