Darrun Hilliard

College Hoops Team of the Week: Villanova Wildcats

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Team of the Week: Villanova

For the first time since Ball State did it back in 2001 a team knocked off two top five teams in the same week. On Wednesday, the Wildcats knocked off then-No. 5 Louisville and followed that up with a win over then-No. 3 Syracuse. Darrun Hilliard was the star against the Orange, hitting for 25 points, while Ryan Arcidiacono had 15 points in the win over Louisville and his the game-tying three to force overtime against Syracuse.

The bigger news here is that Villanova, a team that had been pushed into the back of the mind of every Big East fan thanks to a couple of disappointing seasons in a row, is now firmly back into the NCAA tournament discussion, something that I doubt even the most die-hard fans thought possible. I mean, this is the same Villanova team that lost to Columbia — by 18! — earlier this season. Jay Wright’s team still has work to do, but those two wins likely mean that Villanova will make the tournament barring a dumpster fire taking place over the next month and a half.

Basketball is better when hoops in Philly is relevant, and Villanova certainly is relevant now.

Teams deserving a shout out:

La Salle: Villanova wasn’t the only team from Philly to win two games against ranked teams this past week. The Explorers did as well, beating Butler at the buzzer at home on Tuesday before going into Richmond and knocking off the Rams thanks to 31 points from Ramon Galloway. La Salle is loaded with talented guards and thrives playing small ball, but they also have enough quality size that they can battle with the big boys. Dr. Giannini’s team can also claim a win over Villanova this year.

La Salle has mostly been an afterthought in Philly over the last decade. All of a sudden, they look like they might be the best team in the city.

Georgetown: The Hoyas have now won four of their last five since Greg Whittington was suspended thanks to wins at Notre Dame and at home against Louisville this week. Otto Porter Jr. was the star, but it needs to be noted that Georgetown is a different team on the days that Markel Starks is playing and scoring at a high level.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils got drubbed at home by Arizona last week, which sent them off of the radar as a Pac-12 contender until Herb Sendek’s team when and swept the LA schools this weekend. The overtime win over USC was alright, but beating UCLA by 18 points after the Bruins trounced Arizona in the McKale Center sent a statement.

Miami: As if the win over then-No. 1 Duke wasn’t enough, the Hurricanes also managed to blow out Florida State at home this week. Miami is now 6-0 in the ACC with a two-game lead over the entire conference. Reggie Johnson is now back, and while he’s not playing his best basketball yet, Julian Gamble has made sure that no one has noticed. Miami is unquestionably the best team in the ACC so long as Ryan Kelly is out with an injury, and they may be when he returns.

Montana: The Grizzlies moved to 10-0 in the Big Sky this week, with the biggest win coming on Saturday as the knocked off a good Weber State team. WSU was 8-0 in the league heading into the weekend, but the Wildcats also dropped a game at Montana State. Will Cherry had 28 in the win.

Five more teams that deserve mention: Belmont, Kansas, Oregon, Sacred Heart, San Diego State

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.