There’s no denying that not only is there not a dominant team in college basketball but also that No. 9 Syracuse was a team capable of getting to Atlanta even without senior forward James Southerland.
But his return after missing six games for academic reasons makes the Orange a team capable of winning not only the Big East but also a national title.
Southerland shot just 4-of-10 from the field and scored 13 points in Syracuse’s 77-58 win over St. John’s but his return gives the Orange a consistent perimeter threat, something they lacked while he was sidelined.
Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair scored 17 points apiece to lead the Orange, with Carter-Williams also dishing out eight assists and Fair grabbing nine rebounds. St. John’s, who played without head coach Steve Lavin due to the passing of his father, was led offensively by freshman JaKarr Sampson (21 points).
Southerland’s return gives Syracuse four players who can get them double figures consistently, with Carter-Williams, Fair and senior guard Brandon Triche being the others. And the task of scoring becomes “easier” for Syracuse now that their best perimeter shooter is back on the floor, as Southerland’s presence also opens the floor for Carter-Williams to set teammates up for quality looks.
Twenty of Syracuse’s 29 field goal were of the assisted variety, as the Orange found the gaps in the Red Storm zone at will and shot 53.7% from the field and 10-of-22 from three. In the six games Southerland missed Syracuse averaged 11.2 assists per game, with a high of 16 in their 63-47 win over No. 25 Notre Dame last Monday, and shot 41.8% from the field.
There isn’t a national title contender this season that doesn’t have a flaw and the same can be said for Syracuse, who will need more from big men Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita as they approach the stretch run (Keita played well on Sunday, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds).
But there should be little doubt that the return of James Southerland makes Syracuse a contender to win the national title.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.
Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.
The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.
Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.
SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.
Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.
South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.
The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.
Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.
A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.
Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.
Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.
Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.
The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.
Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.
A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.
Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.
The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.
N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.