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: Perimeter shooting must improve
The Golden Eagles have some solid pieces, whether it’s a Vander Blue, Trent Lockett or Jamil Wilson. But with their balance (two players averaging double figures; five averaging at least 7.7 ppg) has come the fact that Marquette has struggled from beyond the arc. On the season the Golden Eagles are shooting 31.0% from distance, a number that ranks 14th out of 15 teams in the Big East. Wilson (12-of-23) has been their most accurate weapon in this regard, but with Blue and Lockett making less than 35% of their attempts Buzz Williams will need his players to get better as they approach Big East play. Marquette scores 62.3% of their points on two-pointers according to statsheet.com, and with their shooting woes look for opponents to devise defensive game plans that focus on limiting their valuable paint touches. If Marquette can make opponents pay they’ll be better for it.
Stocking stuffer: Davante Gardner continues to perform inside
Gardner’s been very good for the Golden Eagles this season, as he’s second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and grabbing a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game. Gardner, who is in much better physical condition, ranks in the top ten in the Big East in both field goal (59.6%) and free throw (81.0%) percentage and has been a highly valuable reserve for Marquette. If the senior continues on this path the Golden Eagles will have a valuable piece at their disposal when it come sto alleviating some of the scoring responsibilities for their perimeter players.
Planning on re-gifting: Todd Mayo’s academic ineligibility
With Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom moving on to the NBA, the sophomore from West Virginia was looked upon as one of the key figures for Marquette in 2012-13. That clearly didn’t happen, as Mayo was academically ineligible for the fall semester. The question now is how quickly, if at all, can Mayo get back into the swing of things and become another player for Marquette to call on. Early last season Mayo enjoyed a stretch of five straight games in double figures, including a career-best 22 points in a win over Northern Colorado, so he surely has the potential to help Marquette offensively. But did the missed time stunt his on-court growth?
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.
Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.
Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.
The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.
After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.
Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.
With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.
As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.
At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.
Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.
University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.
Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.
In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”
Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.
Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.
She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.