UAB v Creighton

Gregory Echenique proves his value in No. 16 Creighton’s win

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Creighton is the nation’s second-best three-point shooting team, knocking down triples at a 43.3% clip. Nearly 40% of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. One of the reasons that the Bluejays collect assists on 62.5% of their made shots is that they are so good at moving the ball around the perimeter and creating open looks from deep.

It’s not a secret that this team is built around two things: Doug McDermott and shooting threes.

So it may come as a surprise to you that the key to Creighton’s season is a senior that has never taken a three-pointer wearing a Bluejays uniform.

Gregory Echenique is a monster. He’s 6-foot-9 and built like bulldozer, but he’s quicker and more explosive than you would expect from a guy with his kind of girth. Put more simply, Echenique has the combination of size and athleticism that you rarely see down in the Missouri Valley; there is a reason he was able to average double-figures at Rutgers before transferring.

That was evident on Saturday as Echenique finished with 16 points, nine boards and four blocks as the No. 16 Bluejays knocked off Indiana State 79-66 to move to 3-0 in the Missouri Valley.

Doug McDermott added 25 points and nine boards and Austin Chatman chipped in with 13 points and nine assists, but it was Echenique’s presence that makes the difference. No one on Indiana State — no one in the country, regardless of level — can score easily in the post against the big Venezuelan. That much cannot be said about McDermott or Ethan Wragge.

Neither of those two can rebound, carve out space or block shots at the same level as Echenique. His ability to be a scoring threat on the block takes some of the pressure off of Creighton’s shooters; if teams allow him to go one-on-one on the block, he can hurt them. If they help, someone is going to get an open three.

Echenique isn’t Creighton’s best player, but he may be their most valuable and irreplaceable.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Getty Images
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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.