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Late Night Snacks: Kansas falls, Indiana triumphs, Florida continues to roll

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Game of the Day: No. 3 Indiana 81, No. 1 Michigan 73

We came into the weekend knowing that this was the marquee matchup on the Saturday slate and it didn’t disappoint. It was a game of runs in the first half, but Indiana never seemed out of control at any one point. Victor Oladipo continued to show how important he is to the championship hopes of this Indiana team, scoring 15 points and affecting the game on the defensive end of the floor.

Point guard Trey Burke did everything he could for the Wolverines with 25 points, five rebounds, and eight assists, but there wasn’t enough offensive firepower in the end to topple Indiana and retain the No.1 overall spot. Glenn Robinson III was disrupted on the offensive end and never seemed comfortable. Tim Hardaway, Jr., picked up his third foul early in the second half and that got him out of his rhythm for a stretch.

Indiana now takes sole possession of the Big Ten, but that conference race is far from over.

Important Outcomes 

1. Oklahoma State 85, No. 2 Kansas 80

It’s not every day you see a team come into Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence and walk out with a win. The key to Oklahoma State’s ability to do so Saturday was the play of its backcourt, Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. It is a signature win for Oklahoma State, which now finds itself right in the thick of the race in the Big 12. Kansas is still the overwhelming favorite, but coach Travis Ford’s team is building its postseason resume.

2. No. 4 Florida 78, No. 16 Ole Miss 64

The Gators continue to steamroll through the SEC schedule. In what is a down year for the conference, Florida has just Kentucky left to beat to prove that it undisputedly reigns supreme in the conference. The Gators continue to feed off their defense, holding Ole Miss to 38 percent shooting from the floor.

3. No. 14 Miami 78, No. 19 NC State 77

After trouncing then-No. 1 Duke, Miami continues to pick up steam in the ACC and is looking more and more like the team to beat. They needed a tip-in in the final seconds from Reggie Johnson to get a road win Saturday at NC State, but coach Jim Larranaga has the Hurricanes in business in the final month of the season.

Starred

1. Oklahoma State backcourt (Markel Brown 28 points | Marcus Smart 25 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals)

This one-two punch was the biggest reason that the Cowboys were able to get a big conference win on the road at Allen Fieldhouse over No. 2 Kansas on Saturday. Smart had nine points in the final 2:19 of regulation to help Oklahoma State score the upset.

2. Jack Cooley (26 points, 16 rebounds)

Cooley’s huge double-double helped Notre Dame avoid an upset loss on the road to DePaul. He was efficient, going 9-of-15 from the floor, and didn’t turn the ball over in the overtime victory.

3. Cody Zeller (19 points, 10 rebounds)

Rob Dauster calls him “the nation’s best role player“. Regardless of what his role was Saturday, he was a key to Indiana’s ability to outlast Michigan and get a key conference win. The Hoosiers are now in position to possibly regain the No. 1 overall spot that they held earlier in the season.

Also of Note: Trey Burke, Michigan (25 points, 8 assists) | R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (38 points, 12-of-18 FG, 10-of-15 3pt FG) | Mike Muscala, Bucknell (11 points, 19 rebounds) | Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State (17 points, 18 rebounds, 5 blocks)

Struggled 

1. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan (2 points, 1-of-6 FG)

Robinson III looked more like a true freshman than he has at perhaps any other point this season. He was never able to find his stride on the offensive end and had just one dunk in transition on the night. Without his production, Trey Burke was forced to shoulder more of the load offensively, along with Tim Hardaway, Jr.

2. D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s (2 points, 0-of-10 FG)

St. John’s came into the game hot, but Harrison was cold. Georgetown was able to disrupt him on the offensive end and take the biggest asset out of the game for the Red Storm.

3. Chase Tapley, San Diego State (2 points, 1-of-7 FG)

Tapley was shaken up early in San Diego State’s loss Air Force Saturday, which perhaps contributed to his poor shooting afternoon and his low production in 35 minutes on the floor. Without him, Jamaal Franklin and James Rahon combined for 30 shots in the loss.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.