Late Night Snacks: Bad night for bubble teams

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Game of the Day: Florida State 53, Virginia 51

This wasn’t the prettiest of basketball games but it did supply what seems to be a predictable outcome when Florida State has the ball and the chance to win in the final seconds. That’s Michael Snaer time, as his three-point play with 4.4 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Tallahassee.

The result means more for Virginia, who has now lost at both Boston College and Florida State after knocking off Duke in Charlottesville last Thursday. The Cavaliers host Maryland in their regular season finale, and as a result of their last two losses Tony Bennett’s team will arrive in Greensboro for the ACC tournament next week with a solid amount of work to do if they’re to get back to the NCAA tournament.

Important Outcomes 

1. No. 10 Michigan State 58, No. 22 Wisconsin 43

The Spartans ended their three-game losing streak in East Lansing, and the hope among Michigan State fans has to be that the win will also be a step in the right direction for point guard Keith Appling. Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half, and while he dished out just one assist the junior did not register a single turnover. Michigan State’s win guarantees Indiana the top seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament, and the Spartans remain a game behind the Hoosiers as they hope to grab a share of the regular season crown.

2. Georgia 72, Kentucky 62 

Multiple bubble teams suffered damaging defeats on Thursday and the young Wildcats were one of them, as they lost at Georgia by ten. Kentucky didn’t come out with the energy required to win on the road and it cost them, as John Calipari’s team was unable to overtake the Bulldogs in the second half. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 24 points to lead Mark Fox’s squad, which is now 9-8 in SEC play. Kentucky drops to 11-6, and their home game against No. 11 Florida on Saturday becomes even more important due to Thursday’s disappointing result.

3. New Mexico State 78, Louisiana Tech 60

The Bulldogs’ 18-game win streak came to a screeching halt in Las Cruces, and the result likely ended Louisiana Tech’s chances of grabbing an at-large bid should they not win the WAC tournament. Louisiana Tech did force 17 NMSU turnovers but overall the defense that has been a staple for Michael White’s team all year long failed to show up. The Aggies shot 54.7% from the field and Daniel Mullings was all over the box score, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists to lead New Mexico State.

Starred

1. F Stan Okoye (VMI) and F Michael Kessens (Longwood) 

These two forwards were outstanding in the Big South quarterfinal between the Keydets and Lancers, which was won by VMI due in part to Okoye’s 31 points and nine rebounds. Kessens scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead Longwood in a losing effort.

2. G Josh Greene (Cal State Northridge) 

The Matadors won’t qualify for the Big West tournament but that didn’t matter as they beat Hawaii 88-75 with Green accounting for 37 points and six assists.

3. G Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)

Hawkins, who went off for 40 points and 12 rebounds in a win at Hawaii earlier this season, shot 12-of-19 from the field and scored 34 points (seven rebounds as well) in the Aggies’ 77-76 loss to Long Beach State.

4. F Xavier Johnson (Colorado) 

The Buffaloes were without the services of leading rebounder Andre Roberson but Johnson was one reason why his absence didn’t hurt Colorado, as he shot 7-of-7 and scored 22 points in a 76-53 win over No. 19 Oregon.

Struggled 

1. G Jontel Evans (Virginia) 

Rough night in Tallahassee for Evans, who scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting and dished out two assists in the Cavaliers’ 53-51 loss at Florida State.

2. F Alex Poythress (Kentucky) 

Poythress played just 19 minutes before fouling out in Kentucky’s 72-62 loss at Georgia, finishing with four points (1-of-3 FG), four rebounds and three assists. The Wildcats can’t afford for Poythress to have games in which he attempts just three shots.

3. G Chaz Williams (Massachusetts)

For UMass to have a shot at beating a team the caliber of Butler, Williams has to be the best player on the floor. Williams dished out eight assists and tallied four steals but also turned the ball over five times, scoring eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. Butler won, 73-62.

4. F/C Jared Berggren (Wisconsin) 

Berggren shot 2-of-9 from the field in Wisconsin’s 58-43 loss to Michigan State, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and four turnovers.

Top 25 Scores

No. 10 Michigan State 58, Wisconsin 43
Colorado 76, No. 19 Oregon 53

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

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The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.