NCAA Basketball Tournament - Murray State v Marquette

Is Murray State an elite mid-major program, or just a good team?

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Isaiah Canaan has put Murray State on the map.

He’s an all-american, and generally speaking, when those kinds of talents role through college campuses in Kentucky, they are in Louisville and Lexington, not Murray.

The Racers have a strong program. They’ve won three straight conference titles — two of which came before Canaan was a famous face — and their win over Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA tournament came on a buzzer-beater by Danero Thomas in a season where Canaan was coming off of the bench.

The program has won before. Three of the last four coaches that have rolled through have gone on to bigger and better programs. Mark Gottfried has coached at Alabama and is now coaching NC State. Mick Cronin took over the Cincinnati program. Billy Kennedy is currently trying to make Texas A&M relevant in the SEC.

But the true mark of a successful mid-major program has nothing to do with great coaches and even less to do with landing an all-american every once in a while. To be coupled with the likes of Xavier and Butler and Gonzaga — to be the kind of program that’s considered a “high-major” despite their non-BCS conference locale — that team needs to remain nationally relevant after they lose their star players, not while they are the big men on campus.

And Murray State is doing that.

Canaan only developed into an all-american when the Racers lost two of their top three scorers and three starters heading into his junior year. That was the same time that Donte Poole, who had been a bit player four three seasons, developed into a guy that averaged 14.0 points.

Poole graduated after last season. So did Ivan Aska and Jewuan Long, meaning that Steve Prohm headed into this season without three of last year’s top four scorers. But this season, Ed Daniel has developed into so much more than simply being the guy with the awesome afro. He’s averaging 16.2 points and 10.9 boards, up from 6.8 points and 5.3 boards. Stacy Wilson is averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists as a senior after playing just over 10 minutes per game and averaging 4.3 points as a junior.

The best mid-major programs don’t rebuild. They don’t even reload. They simply have another kid in line, ready to step up and perform when it’s his turn.

If you really want a gauge of the kind of program that Murray State has, wait and see how they look when Canaan, Daniels and Wilson graduate after this season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.