Steve Lavin

St. John’s misses out on chance for quality win in loss to No. 20 Pittsburgh

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Villanova notched another quality conference win Saturday when it took down No. 17 Marquette, 60-56, and improved to 18-10 overall and 9-6 in the Big East. That win adds to the two wins against Top 5 teams that they had earlier in the year, Syracuse and Louisville, to make what is shaping up to be a solid bubble resume.

St. John’s needed a win Sunday against No. 20 Pittsburgh to match and help claw its way into the race, but could not, plagued by 32 percent shooting and losing to the Panthers, 63-47, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Guard D’Angelo Harrison, one of the conference’s leading scorers, was 1-of-12 from the floor Sunday as Pittsburgh’s defense did well to  lock down on him and the rest of the Red Storm’s offensive weapons. New York native Tray Woodall went off for 25 points to lead Pittsburgh, including 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range.

The loss drops St. John’s to 16-11 overall and 8-7 in the Big East, but still with two more opportunities to grab the type of quality wins that would be appealing to the committee on Selection Sunday. If they can avoid a loss to a solid Providence team on the road, they have No. 25 Notre Dame on the road and No. 17 Marquette at home to finish out the regular season.

They would at least two of those three wins to get to 18 wins, but would then likely need to do some work in the Big East tournament to woo the committee.

That is where early season blemishes come back to hurt the Red Storm. Losses to UNC-Asheville and San Francisco in the non-conference will stick out, plus they lost to Baylor and Villanova, two teams that are also on the bubble to make the Field of 68.

Steve Lavin’s team is young, talented, and athletic. If they miss out on the NCAA tournament, they’ll find themselves squarely in the NIT. They’re building something solid in Queens, even if this year won’t see them grabbing an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

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

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.