Otto Porter Jr., John Thompson III

Georgetown beats Marquette, finally controls Big East destiny

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The Georgetown turnaround has become one of the nation’s most intriguing story lines. Here’s a team that struggled to break 40 points throughout much of December, dropped to 0-2 in the Big East when they were pounded by Pitt at home and lost their second-leading scorer and most versatile defender to academic issues when the second semester began.

I wrote the Hoyas off.

You wrote the Hoyas off.

Just about everyone except for the people in John Thompson III’s locker room wrote the Hoyas off.

And here they are, on February 11th, with a legitimate shot at winning the Big East regular season title.

I’m serious. They’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine to climb to 8-3 in the Big East. Monday’s 63-55 win over No. 18 Marquette at the Verizon Center drew the Hoyas into a second-place tie with the Golden Eagles a half-game behind Syracuse — who holds a one game lead in the loss column — at the top of the league standings.

And, unlike Marquette, everything seems to be clicking for Georgetown right now. Otto Porter is beginning to take over games the way everyone that had him projected as a lottery pick back in October thought he would. He’s averaging 18.6 points over the last nine games. Markel Starks is becoming more consistent as a secondary scoring option and a steadying influence in the Hoya offensive attack. He’s averaged 16.6 points over the last five games. Mikael Hopkins has awoken from his January hibernation. Nate Lubick has embraced the larger role that he’s playing in Thompson’s offense with Whittington out. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is one of a handful of reserves that have made the most of their opportunity to play increased minutes.

A lot has changed for the Hoyas over the course of the last month.

The result is a team that is finally confident offensively while still managing to play defense as well as they have all season long. That’s why they are in a position to make a run at the Big East title. It certainly won’t be easy. Georgetown still has to play two games against Syracuse and visit Cincinnati, UConn and Villanova. That schedule is the reason that I think the Hoyas are still a long shot to win the league.

But they have a chance, and they hold their destiny in their hands.

Win out, and they win the final installment of the Big East as we know it.

Win out, and that Big East title will come when Georgetown sweeps Syracuse by beating them at home in the final Big East matchup between the two teams.

That’s a long way away.

But with all the uncertainty surrounding the Catholic 7 and the future of Georgetown’s basketball program, it’s must be nice to hear that the Hoyas finally control their Big East destiny.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.