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.

Report: Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft, according to reports.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll reportedly end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.