Russ Smith, Tyler Olander

Late Night Snacks: The last, first, Big Monday as we know it

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A light slate of games was highlighted by two Top 5 teams on national television. It’s also a night to remember because, to hardcore college hoop-heads, it’s the last, first Big Monday as we know it. For now, enjoy the rundown. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the night

No. 1 Louisville 73, UConn 58 – In the Cardinals’ first game as no. 1 in the nation, they started slow but shot 60-percent in the second half and held the Huskies to 24 second half points. Russ Smith had 23 points and Gorgui Dieng had 16 rebounds. Omar Calhoun had 20 in the loss for UConn.

Games of note

No. 4 Kansas 61, Baylor 44 – This was seen as a game that Baylor could disprove some theories about their team to this point. Instead they shot 23.2-percent overall and 28.6-percent from three to lead to a loss in Lawrence.

Southern 88, Mississippi Valley State 54 – It’s not much of a story nationally, but this Southern team was 4-26 two seasons ago, then turned it around with a 17-14 season last year. In the SWAC, mind you. They’re now 12-6 in 2012-13 after the win over a floundering Delta Devils squad.

Georgia Southern 70, Davidson 57 – The Wildcats suffered their first loss in the  SoCon with this one. De’Mon Brooks was held to six points and the Panthers shot 53.1-percent from the field. This could come back to bite Bob McKillop late in the season.

Starred

Russ Smith, Louisville – He started the night with 15 of the Cardinals first 24 points against UConn. He finished with 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

Ben McLemore, Kansas – He just keeps adding to his legend. The redshirt freshman finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two assists and two steals in the win over Baylor.

Trey Sumler, Western Carolina – The Catamounts guard went for 32 points on 9-of-19 shooting and a 9-of-12 night from the free throw line in a loss to Elon.

Malcolm Miller, Southern – Southern’s turnaround from two seasons ago, when they were under an NCAA postseason tournament ban due to low APR scores, is amazing. Miller had himself a night for the Jaguars with a 28-point, 10-rebound performance in the win over Mississippi Valley State.

Raymond Penn, Texas Southern – It was full night of SWAC games and Penn had the best game of the night in the conference. Even though it was against possibly the worst team in college basketball, Grambling State, Penn finished with 10 points and 14 assists in the 90-59 win.

Struggled

Pierre Jackson, Baylor – He was the most productive player on the court for the Bears, but he still finished with 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting in the loss at Kansas. He committed four turnovers.

De’Mon Brooks, Davidson –  Brooks, who averages 14 points per game, finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting in the loss to Georgia State.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Prince Okoroh, Howard – A big night, even in a loss. The sophomore finished with 15 points, six steals, five rebounds and two assists in 54-49 loss to Norfolk State.

Conference season is in full swing, folks. It only gets better from here.

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.