Luke Hancock

Late Afternoon Snacks: Louisville and Marquette win to keep Big East race tight; will Georgetown answer?

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Game of the Day

No. 10 Louisville 58, N0. 12 Syracuse 53: It may seem a little late, but Louisville is rounding into the type of team they were supposed to be from day one of the season. Great leadership at the point from Peyton Siva, who had no turnovers today, with Russ Smith picking up all of the scoring Siva didn’t do (18 points). Gorgui Dieng had a double-double to go with two blocks. The frontcourt duo of Behanan and Blackshear was rather silent, but they didn’t make any egregious mistakes, either. The guy who came up big was Luke Hancock. The pure shooter didn’t even attempt a shot from inside the arc, and went 4-5. That’s his job, and he’s getting better at it. That’s what makes the Cards a little more dangerous going into postseason play. Syracuse, on the other hand, is in a steep decline at the worst possible time, having lost three in a row.

Meaningful Results

VCU 84, N0. 20 Butler 52: The Rams started defending as soon as Butler put the ball inbounds on every play, trapping various members of the Bulldog backcourt and forcing turnover that ended up being jammed, laid up or jumpered right back into the basket so the entire process could begin again. Two truths we already knew were pounded home in this game: Butler could really use a top-notch point guard, and when Havoc is in full effect, VCU can beat anyone in the nation.

N0. 22 Marquette 72, N0. 21 Notre Dame 64: Chris Otule turned in his best game of the season, scoring 16 points on 8-8 shooting from the floor. The big man’s perfect day came at a good time, as frequent Marquette hero Vander Blue was held to six points by the Irish defense. Jamil Wilson led the Golden Eagles with 19 points. Notre Dame fell to 2.5 games off the league pace, while Marquette and Louisville are keeping things snug, sitting just 1/2 game back with two games left to play.

Creighton 91, Wichita State 79: This was one of those games March is famous for. Two teams tied atop the conference, playing to decide who gets the regular season crown in a final regular-season game. This time it was Creighton in front of the home crowd, led by Doug McDermott’s insane 41 point day, that prevailed. The Blue Jays will take the No. 1 seed in Arch Madness, with the Shockers on the other side of the bracket. As much as we love upsets, here’s hoping the two face off again for the tourney crown, and that the loser nabs an at-large bid so we can continue to enjoy top-notch Valley basketball for as long as humanly possible.

N0. 8 Florida 64, Alabama 52: ‘Bama needed this one, for their league standings and for their tournament resume. They didn’t get it.

Georgia 78, Tennessee 68: Jordan McRae scored a bundle, putting up 35 points, but it wasn’t enough to get the Vols past Georgia. This was one of those games that Tennessee needed to handle to prove they’re tourney-caliber. As a team, they just didn’t get it done.

Oklahoma 86, Iowa State 69: The Cyclones got tagged with a loss they didn’t deserve when Kansas came to town – we’ll grant that. That’s what makes it all the more important to win games like this one. The Sooners hit 100 percent of their free throws 34-34, to grab their tenth league win and add to their bubble case in a year where it still seems like anything can happen in the major conferences.

Games of the Night

4:00 Kentucky at Arkansas
4:00 LSU at Missouri
4:00 UNLV at Nevada (NBCSports)
5:00 Portland at Gonzaga (ROOT)
5:00 Wyoming at New Mexico (ROOT)
5:00 Colorado at Cal (ESPNU)
6:00 Miami at Duke (ESPN)
6:00 Harvard at Penn (NBCSports)
6:00 Alabama State at Grambling
7:00 Kansas State at Baylor (ESPN2)
7:30 Iowa at Indiana (BigTen)
8:00 Colorado State at Boise State
9:00 Rutgers at Georgetown (ESPNU)
9:00 Arizona at UCLA (ESPN)

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
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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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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AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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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)
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
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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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.