No. 11 Illinois blows out No. 8 Ohio State at home

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Brandon Paul led four players in double figures with 19 points as No. 11 Illinois beat up No. 8 Ohio State 74-55 in Champaign.

The Illini jumped all over Ohio State early, opening up a 25-13 lead in the first nine minutes and never looking back. At one point early in the second half, Illinois was up 56-31. This wasn’t just a win; Illinois thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game. Calling the Buckeyes embarrassing would be an understatement.

Perhaps the most significant part of the win, however, is that the Illini were able to grow their lead without the benefit of the three-ball. Tracy Abrams hit a three on the second possession of the game, but it wasn’t until the Illini already had a double-digit lead that they hit their second three of the game. Instead, Illinois was able to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, both in the half court and in transition. Teams know that John Groce’s club likes to shoot threes, meaning that the defense isn’t going to be as likely to help off of the shooter. Taking advantage of those driving lanes will be key for Illinois this season.

And it should be noted that the Illini didn’t struggle from deep the entire game; they did hit seven of their last 16 after a 1-10 start.

As far as the Buckeyes are concerned, this performance should be very, very troubling.

Losing by 19 on the road is one thing. Losing as a top ten team that looks like they didn’t care about the fact that they were getting embarrassed on national television is a much bigger issue. Which is why this tweet from Mark Titus, a former walk-on with the Buckeyes, caught my eye:

Isn’t that supposed to be Aaron Craft’s job? Isn’t he the one that’s on the floor for his defense and his leadership? Isn’t that one of the biggest reasons that he’s considered by most to be one of the nation’s elite point guards?

Now I’m mostly spitballing here, but I am curious to see how people feel: If Craft isn’t going to be the kind of vocal and emotional leader that can get this group to snap out of a funk on the road, should Thad Matta start playing Shannon Scott more minutes as the primary ball-handler?

Calling Craft a liability offensively is unfair, but it is fair to say that the Buckeyes are going to have problems when he is the second-best scorer on the floor. Craft is a guy you want to be a facilitator and an opportunity scorer, not a guy that should be hunting shots.

Ohio State does not have a ton of offensive firepower outside Deshaun Thomas. Scott is a much more dynamic offensive player than Craft, and while few are as good as Craft is defensively, Scott is not that much of a drop-off.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.

Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

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Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.