Late Night Snacks: Holiday slate highlighted by Syracuse/Cincinnati

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A few decent games on Martin Luther King Day — not to mention President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term — were highlighted on this all-day affair. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the day

No. 3 Syracuse 57, No. 21 Cincinnati 55 – The early game of the day featured two Top 25 teams and it lived up to the billing. Sean Kilpatrick continued his recent scoring binge with 21 points, but got little help from his team as the Orange notched their 35th-straight home court victory. Michael Carter-Williams finished with 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Orange, who have one of the more impressive conference season runs right now, with wins at then-no. 1 Louisville and a home win over the ranked Bearcats.

Games of note

Georgetown 63, Notre Dame 47 – Georgetown proved they could get it done without Greg Whittington on the road, getting a big game from Otto Porter and 14 from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Moses Ayegba pulled down 10 rebounds for the Hoyas. Jack Cooley had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma 73, Texas 67 –  Romero Osby had a big night for the Sooners and the Longhorns got 25 points from Sheldon McClellan, but Texas hit just 6-of-19 threes in the loss. Good win for Oklahoma, but it becomes more and more obvious this Texas team is a shell of its former self without Myck Kabongo…and I wonder how much it would help, even if they had him.

New Orleans 96, New Jersey Institute of Technology 94, 3 OTs – I’ve learn no matter where they happen, you respect a three-overtime game. The two teams combined for a ton of fouls and free throws (more on that later), but Lovell Cook turned in a career night (more on him later, too) and Isaac Mack nailed a jumper with two seconds left to give the Privateers a two-point win.

Southern 82, Alabama A&M 68 – The Jaguars are impressive and deserve your attention. They’ve won 10 in a row, eight in a row in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. This team is much better than the Mississippi Valley State that finished with one conference loss last season and had a legitimate shot at being something other than a 16-seed and a participant in the First Four in Dayton this year.

Starred

Romero Osby, Oklahoma – The big man finished with 29 points and eight rebounds in a dominating performance on national television. He also hit 10-of-11 free throws on the night.

Patrick Cole, Coppin State – It was a full slate for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tonight and Cole turned in the best game in the conference, dropping 29 points, six rebounds and shooting 52.9-percent from the field in 67-65 win at Hampton.

Lovell Cook, New Orleans – The soon-to-be member of the Southland Conference is enjoying their short stop as a Division I Independant. Cook is definitely making the most of it, scoring 32 points, pulling down six rebounds and hitting shots at a 54.5-percent in the win.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State – The Cowboys leaned heavily on the sophomore in this one. It was a loss, but Nash continues to show his development, pouring in 24 points on 52.6-percent shooting in 64-54 defeat at Baylor.

Otto Porter, Georgetown – The Hoyas continue to make pundits scratch their heads. Playing again without Greg Whittington, Porter finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on 70-percent shooting in 63-47 victory at Notre Dame.

Struggled

Markel Brown, Oklahoma State – The junior normally drops in 15.2 points per game this season. He left Waco with just two points on 1-of-10 shooting in a loss. Also finished with four fouls and three turnovers in 26 minutes.

New Orleans/N.J.I.T.’s ability to not foul – In the three overtime game, the two teams combined for 57 fouls and 79 free throws taken. The Privateers hit 23-of-34 from the stripe and committed 30 fouls. The Highlanders shot 28-of-45 from the free throw line and committed 27.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, Baylor – We alluded to it earlier, but the tandem in the paint did work tonight for the Bears. They combined for 11 blocks in the home win over Oklahoma State. Jefferson had six, Austin had five. They won’t get that every night, but about half that a night would be a welcome sign for a team that can be erratic on offense at times.

A decent day of hoops despite a light slate of games. Hope you enjoyed you holidays, everyone. Or at least those of you that didn’t have to work.

4-star center commits to Purdue

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With Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas entering their senior seasons, adding front court options in the 2018 class was something that Purdue needed to do. Purdue added its second front court commitment in the 2018 class Tuesday evening, as four-star center Emmanuel Dowuona reportedly made his pledge. News of Dowuona’s commitment was first reported by the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Dowuona, a 6-foot-11 big man who attends Westwood Christian School in Miami, joins fellow four-star prospect Trevion Williams in Purdue’s 2018 class to date.

Dowuona’s commitment comes just days before he was reportedly to visit Tennessee. Among the other programs to have offered Duwuona were Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and UConn.

Dowuona played for the Team Breakdown program on the Under Armour Association circuit during the summer, averaging 7.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. While still a bit raw offensively, the native of Ghana provides value as a defender and rebounder. Dowuona is joining a program that during Painter’s tenure as head coach has done a good job of developing big men.

Dowuona and the aforementioned Williams will look to compete for playing time in 2018-19 alongside current redshirt junior Jacquil Taylor and 7-foot-3 redshirt freshman center Matt Haarms.

Dayton freshman Toppin ineligible for 2017-18 season

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Dayton announced Tuesday afternoon that one of the program’s incoming freshmen will not be eligible to compete this season. 6-foot-8 forward Obadiah Toppin has been ruled by the NCAA to have not met initial eligibility requirements, and he will have to sit out the 2017-18 season as a result.

Toppin will be allowed to remain a member of the team and participate in practices, and he will have four seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2018-19 season. While the NCAA’s decision leaves the Flyers short a front court option in head coach Anthony Grant’s first season at the helm, it did not come as a surprise.

“We knew this was a possible scenario for Obi early on in the recruiting process,” Grant said in the release. “And if it came to pass, we saw this as a chance for him to utilize this year acclimate as a student and enhance his strength and skill as an academic redshirt. This is a great opportunity for Obi to develop as a player and student over the next 12 months, and prepare himself for a very successful college career.”

Toppin, who averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game at Mt. Zion Academy last season, is one of five freshmen who have joined the program. Matej Svoboda and Jordan Pierce will look to earn minutes alongside returnees Josh Cunningham and Xeyrius Williams, and the same can be said for redshirt freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Toppin being declared ineligible is the third hit Dayton has taken to its front court this offseason. Ryan Mikesell, who played in 32 games last season, will redshirt after undergoing two hip surgeries. And Sam Miller, who was also part of the team’s front court rotation last season, was suspended from school for the fall semester after he was arrested during the summer.

Four-star forward commits to Ohio State

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Ohio State is on the board with regards to the 2018 recruiting class, as Chris Holtmann’s program received a much-needed verbal commitment from four-star forward Jaedon LeDee. The 6-foot-9 Houston native announced his decision via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

In receiving a verbal commitment from LeDee, Ohio State beat out California, Houston, Iowa State, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA. The Buckeyes hosted LeDee for his official visit the weekend of September 9, which coincided with the football team’s matchup with Oklahoma. Originally scheduled to visit Cal this past weekend, LeDee instead visited Texas A&M.

With LeDee’s commitment to Ohio State, visits to LSU (September 30) and UCLA (October 6) are likely off the board.

Currently attending the Kincaid School, LeDee played for the Texas PRO grassroots program on the adidas Uprising circuit this summer. The four-star prospect will likely be a combo forward for Ohio State, playing either the three or the four depending on the matchup.

With Jae’Sean Tate beginning his senior season and Keita Bates-Diop being a redshirt junior, Ohio State had a need to address in the front court. In landing a verbal pledge from Jaedon LeDee, the Buckeyes have done just that.

Among the front court players who will have eligibility remaining beyond the 2017-18 season are Bates-Diop, current sophomores Micah Potter and Andre Wesson, and freshmen Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young.

The Pac-12 is foolish for scheduling Arizona-UCLA once during the regular season

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Last month, I wrote about one of the more troubling trends in college basketball: Teams steering away from playing the games that fans are going to care about the most.

It was the result of Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing stating publicly that he was “not thinking about Maryland” after the rivalry between the DMV’s two most well-known programs went by the wayside.

Ewing isn’t the only coach that is culpable here. Kansas and Missouri don’t play. Kansas and Wichita State don’t play, either. Duke and Maryland don’t play. Ohio State doesn’t play Cincinnati, Xavier or Dayton. It goes on and on.

But the blame can no longer only be given to the coaches that schedule to protect themselves and/or their program.

The conferences deserve some criticism as well. Take, for instance, the Pac-12, who released their schedule recently after deciding that Arizona, a contender for the preseason No. 1 team in the country, should only play UCLA and USC, the only two teams that have a realistic chance of upending the Wildcats for the Pac-12 crown, once apiece.

Not only that, but the games will be played in Tucson, an incredible advantage for Sean Miller’s club as they pursue the league’s regular season title.

Look, I get it. There are 12 teams in the league and there is an 18-game schedule. Each team in the league is going to play four of their 11 league foes just once. It’s simple math. But the answer should never, ever be to schedule the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once.

The reasoning is simple: Arizona and UCLA are the two biggest brands in the league. When they play it will draw more interest than when any other two teams in the conference play, and that’s something the conference should be trying to capitalize on. It takes a lot to convince anyone on the east coast to stay up to watch a Pac-12 basketball game. I cover this sport for a living and I have a hard time making it all the way through a 10 p.m. ET tip. When a two-year old is going to be screaming at me to make breakfast at 6:30 a.m., do I really want to stay up to watch Arizona blow out Washington or UCLA to beat up on Cal?

The Pac-12 should do everything they can to ensure that Arizona and UCLA play twice every season.

That is even more true this year. Arizona might be the best team in the country and they might have the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster in Deandre Ayton. UCLA is a top 15 team that just so happens to have Liangelo Ball, the worst of the three Ball brothers and potentially the last one to matriculate through the college ranks. The seemingly inevitable LaVar Ball blow-up is something we all will be watching patiently to see.

Should I mention the simmering hatred between Sean Miller and Steve Alford as they continually compete for the best prospects on the west coast?

And that’s before you factor in that USC is the second-best team in the league, and anyone that UCLA plays twice, USC will also play twice.

I’ll be sure to watch a number of Oregon games this season, and I think that Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado all have the pieces to sneak up on some people this year. I’ll be sure to check in on them a couple times as well.

But the games that I’ll have circled on my calendar, the games I’ll be excited about watching, are between Arizona, UCLA and USC.

By scheduling the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once during the regular season, the Pac-12 cost themselves a third of that inventory.

That doesn’t seems like the smartest way to run a business conference.

But hey, if conference realignment and the development of conference-only networks taught us anything, it’s that major college athletics are all about competitive balance over those advertising dollars.

Vanderbilt lands commitment from Aaron Nesmith

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Vanderbilt landed their first commitment in the Class of 2018 with four-star wing Aaron Nesmith.

Nesmith is a native of South Carolina, and the Commodores beat out South Carolina for his services. At 6-foot-6, Nesmith is the kind of defensive presence and athlete that Vandy will need to replace Jeff Roberson, who will be graduating this season.

This is a critical class for Bryce Drew, who is squarely in the mix for five-star guards Darius Garland and Romeo Langford. Nesmith isn’t on that level, but he will be a nice piece for Vandy for four years.