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.

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith returns to school after withdrawing from NBA Draft

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Texas Tech forward Zach Smith will return for his senior season, the school confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the most intriguing athletes in college basketball as he’s been a double-figure scorer for the Red Raiders the past two seasons. As a junior, Smith put up 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as he shot 50 percent from the field.

Three-point shooting was something that Smith improved dramatically last season as he increased it to 39 percent in a small sample size. If Smith can continue to show that he’s a perimeter shooting threat then he could be an ideal three-and-d candidate at the pro level.

By returning to Texas Tech, Smith gives head coach Chris Beard a potential all-league candidate who should be counted on to be a double-double threat next season.

 

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.