Indiana v Michigan

Cody Zeller’s reminder: Victor Oladipo isn’t Indiana’s only all-american

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Indiana entered Sunday’s game at Michigan with the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament sewn up and the nets from their regular season title already cut down.

It’s true that they were playing for a chance to win the outright Big Ten title, but whether or not the Hoosiers actually won on Sunday would have no effect on whether or not this team refers to themselves as the 2013 Big Ten regular season champions. Kansas won their ninth straight regular season title in the Big 12, which is a stat that you hear referenced quite often. But do you know how many times his team’s shared that regular season title?

Four.

There wasn’t all that much on the line for the Hoosiers: a loss at Michigan doesn’t hurt their chances at a No. 1 seed; pride and a chance to relegate Michigan to a No. 5 seed and a spot in the first round of the Big Ten tournament can only provide so much motivation.

Yet on Sunday, we got a glimpse at the Indiana team we all expected to see this season, as they knocked off Michigan in Crisler Arena 72-71 behind 25 points, 10 boards and a game-winning bucket with 13 seconds left from Cody Zeller.

The Hoosiers pounded the ball inside to Zeller, the consensus National Player of the Year in the preseason that has become the forgotten all-american in Victor Oladipo’s shadow, for 40 minutes. Michigan didn’t bring help for Mitch McGary or Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford until Zeller put the ball on the floor. The thinking? Once Zeller made his move, he wasn’t going to give the ball up. With shooters flooding Indiana’s perimeter, John Beilein was trying to minimize the number of open looks they got.

And here’s the funny thing: it worked.  If Christian Watford’s foul on Glenn Robinson III is called a flagrant; if Morgan, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. don’t miss a free throw in the final minute (the latter two missed front-ends); if Morgan’s tip happens to fall through the hoop instead of off the rim, the outcome would have been different.

The Wolverines gave that game away, but it’s a game that Indiana, quite frankly, had no business winning. Michigan hadn’t lost at home this season. But they did lose to Penn State on the road, which was just another example of just how difficult it is to win in an opponent’s building in the Big Ten.

Indiana isn’t supposed to win at Michigan, but they were right there at the end, close enough to strike when the Wolverines made a mistake.

That was the doing of Zeller and his 25 points.

And on Michigan’s final mistake — Trey Burke missing a front-end of a 1-and-1 with 27.2 seconds left — it was Zeller who scored in the paint to give the Hoosiers the win and the outright Big Ten title.

He hasn’t been the focal point that often this season and he certainly hasn’t been this team’s media darling. But he was averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 boards entering Sunday with a 123.7 offensive rating (which is very good) while using 26.0% of Indiana’s possessions when he’s on the floor. Only five players in the country — Trey Burke, Kelly Olynyk, Nate Wolters, and Doug McDermott — are that efficient with a usage rate that high.

Zeller’s still a really, really good basketball player.

Don’t forget it just because he’s not the guy everyone is talking about on this team.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

UNLV’s Menzies fills out staff with 3 hires

New UNLV men's basketball coach Marvin Menzies smiles during a news conference after the UNLV board of regents  approved his contract, Friday, April 22, 2016  in Las Vegas. The boards voted 12-1 on Friday to approve a five-year, $3.75 million deal for Menzies.  (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP) LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) New UNLV men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies has filled out his staff with three assistant coaches.

The school announced on Thursday the hiring of Andre LaFleur, Rob Jeter and Eric Brown.

Jeter was the head coach at Milwaukee for 11 seasons, winning 20 or more games five times. His record of 185-170 leaves him one short of the school record for most victories.

La Fleur spent the past five seasons as associate head coach at Providence under Ed Cooley after 10 years working for Jim Calhoun at Connecticut.

Brown has been an assistant coach at Long Beach State the last nine years.

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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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)
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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

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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.