Late Night Snacks: Happy New Year!

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A few notes from the last day of college basketball in 2012. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the day/night

Gonzaga 69, Oklahoma State 68 – Kelly Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the second half. Marcus Smart had a chance to tie with nine seconds left, but missed both free throws. Kevin Pangos score 23 in the win and the Bulldogs got their signature win of the young season.

Games of note

Cincinnati 70, Pittsburgh 64 – The Bearcats needed this win after the home loss to New Mexico. They got it thanks to Cashmere Wright’s 18 points and holding the Panthers to 0-for-10 from the three-point arc. Solid job by Mick Cronin’s bunch.

Minnesota 76, Michigan State 63 – Minnesota just keeps doing what they need too. Trevor Mbakwe is all the way back from the torn ACL with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Andre Hollins finished with 22 points and the Golden Gophers hit 56.6-percent of their shots. That’ll get you a good win at home.

Starred

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga – This guy was headed for the list below this one in the first half, but then got himself 21 second half points and nine rebounds, including some key plays down the stretch, in the Zags win at Okie State.

Cody Zeller, Indiana – Again, Zeller doing Zeller things. 19 points and 10 rebounds in the tight win over Iowa.

Kinu Rochford, Farleigh-Dickinson – When a kid drops 32 points and 11 rebounds, it deserves applause (so long as it is against a Division I opponent). Rochford did it in a win over Longwood. Well done, young man.

Struggled

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State – One the top scorers in the nation couldn’t get it done against, admittedly, a tough draw in Syracuse. He averages around 21 points per game, but Vinales finished with 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

Jordan Hulls, Indiana – The Hoosiers got the win, but a player that averages 11.4 points per game was held scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse – It’s almost not fair when I get a game on a night I’m on here, and it features MCW. 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the sophomore in a win over CCSU.

Fanbase that can take a breath

Gonzaga – The Bulldogs were fine coming into the game at Oklahoma State. But leaving Stillwater with a win was a whole lot better than a loss, which could’ve brought up the dreaded “are they for real?” question, being that their only other true marquee game this season was a loss at home to Illinois. Great win.

Fanbase that can take a seat

New Mexico – The Lobos could’ve followed a banner win at Cincinnati with a win at St. Louis. They could’ve furthered the theory that the Mountain West Conference was more than a two-team race (and in fairness, they still can). They could’ve showed the world that this team is for real. For tonight though, they didn’t. We’ll see what 2013 brings them.

It’s been a pretty solid start to the college basketball season. Now it’s time to turn the page to 2013 and see what conference play offers us. Unless you’re the fan of an SEC team, which you would gladly take playing non-conference teams (kidding!).

Happy New Year, folks.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.