NC State didn’t have a letdown game, they had an ‘NC State’ game

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COLLEGE PARK, Md – Forgive me if I’m the only one that believes this, but I’m not ready to buy into the narrative that No. 14 NC State’s loss to Maryland on Wednesday can simply be explained away by the Wolfpack struggling to overcome their win over No. 1 Duke.

Because if CJ Leslie hadn’t made the ridiculous decision to try and come from the other side of the lane to block a last-second shot by Pe’Shon Howard and, instead, had tried to lay a body on the lottery pick that was parked right in front of the rim, this conversation would be moot. Maryland wouldn’t have earned that 51-50 victory; they would have lost and NC State would still be undefeated in league play.

“We were lucky to win,” Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game, and he’s right. It was an ugly shot on a busted play was so off that it never hit the rim. If that ball had bounced off the iron, I don’t know if Len would have had enough time for the putback.

And we’re going to judge the Wolfpack for a loss on a play like that?

Frankly, I think that performance says less about NC State’s ability to bounce-back from a big win than it does confirm everything that we believed about Mark Gottfried’s club from the first two and a half months of the season.

NC State is talented. There’s no questioning that. They are also confounding and inconsistent and an enigma. Too often they play down to the level of their opponents. Too often they struggle to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers in a position to score. Leslie doesn’t command the ball on a consistent enough basis. These are all things we knew and questioned about NC State prior to Wednesday night.

But now, since they followed up a win over a Duke with a loss at Maryland to a desperate Terp team that absolutely needed this win, they are suddenly the victim of “Big Win Letdown Syndrome”?

The bottom line is this: Maryland has some quality pieces on their roster. They are a good basketball team. They can really buckle down and defend, and they were playing in front of a raucous Comcast Center crowd. Their issues — the reason they had lost their only three relevant games heading into Wednesday — had nothing to do with their ability to defend or compete at a high level. Those three losses are by a combined 13 points. They stay in games, they just can’t close out games.

And it looked like the same thing was going to happen against NC State.

Until CJ Leslie decided it would be a good idea to try to block an unblockable shot from the other side of the paint instead of boxing out Alex Len.

That one decision cost them the game.

It had nothing to do with a letdown.

It had everything to do with NC State being NC State.

In the immortal words of Dennis Green: “They are who we thought they were.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.