Late Night Snacks: Two tickets punched, two conference tournament upsets

Leave a comment

Tickets Punched: Liberty (Big South), Creighton (Missouri Valley) 

Game of the Day: No. 2 Indiana 72, No. 7 Michigan 71 

After taking some heat for cutting down the nets following a “Senior Night” loss to Ohio State on Tuesday, the Hoosiers clinched the outright Big Ten title in Ann Arbor. Cody Zeller’s layup with 13 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as two Michigan shots missed the mark. Michigan was out-rebounded 53-30, and while Indiana managed to score just 17 second-chance points this is an area the Wolverines need to address heading into the Big Ten tournament.

Important Outcomes

1. Creighton 68, Wichita State 65

Doug McDermott didn’t go off like he did in the regular season finale between the two Missouri Valley rivals, when he scored 41 points. But Ethan Wragge hit five three-pointers and Jahenns Manigat scored a team-high 16 points, which included a key jumper to give the Bluejays a 68-65 lead with 13 seconds remaining, to lead Creighton to its second consecutive MVC tournament crown. Malcolm Armstead scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Shockers, who will also hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

2. Florida International 61, Middle Tennessee 57

For the second consecutive season a Middle Tennessee team with 26 or more wins will have to wait a week to learn its NCAA tournament fate. The 28-5 Blue Raiders were upset in the Sun Belt semifinals, and the hope now is that their win total and non-conference strength of schedule (ranked 11th) is enough to get them into the field. FIU reaches the title game in Richard Pitino’s first season running the program, which is quite the achievement for this group.

3. Temple 84, No. 21 VCU 76

Temple struggled some with the VCU press early but once their seniors got things under control the Owls were good to go. Khalif Wyatt hit just one of his eight three-point attempts but still scored 30 points, Jake O’Brien added 19 and Will Cummings scored 13 points off the bench to lead Temple. The win likely seals an at-large bid for Temple, which will be the three-seed in next week’s Atlantic 10 tournament. VCU will be the two-seed, and their loss means that Saint Louis is the outright regular season champion.

Starred 

1. G C.J. Harris (Wake Forest) 

In his final home game Harris helped lead the Demon Deacons past Virginia Tech, scoring 29 points (6-of-6 3PT) and dishing out three assists in the 90-79 victory.

2. G Malcolm Armstead (Wichita State) 

Armstead was sensational in a losing effort for the Shockers, tallying 28 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists in the Shockers’ 68-65 loss to Creighton in the MVC title game.

3. F David Laury III (Iona)

Laury accounted for 20 points (7-of-12 FG), 17 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in Iona’s 79-73 MAAC semifinal victory over top-seed Niagara.

Struggled

1. G Treveon Graham (VCU) 

Graham didn’t make a three-pointer (0-of-4) and shot just 5-of-16 in the Rams’ 84-76 loss at Temple.

2. G Devon Saddler and G Jarvis Threatt (Delaware) 

Saddler and Threatt struggled in the Blue Hens’ 58-57 loss to James Madison in the CAA semifinals, combining to score 16 points on 7-of-27 shooting. They also combined for eight turnovers, with Threatt committing five.

3. G Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland)

Howard struggled in the Terrapins’ 61-58 overtime loss at Virginia, going scoreless and accounting for just two assists and one rebound in 25 minutes of action.

Three Facts

1. Liberty became the first NCAA tournament team with 20 losses since Coppin State pulled off the feat in 2008. Dale Layer’s Flames began the season 1-10 due to injuries and other roster issues, but they got rolling at precisely the right time. Look for Liberty to play its next game in Dayton.

2. Stony Brook may not be in the same position as Middle Tennessee but the Seawolves’ hopes of an NCAA tournament bid came to a painful end. Albany’s Mike Black scored a layup in the final seconds to give the Great Danes a 61-59 win over the America East regular season champions.

3. Virginia’s work isn’t done in regards to getting back to the NCAA tournament but the Cavaliers avoided a loss they could not afford, beating Maryland 61-58 in overtime. Tony Bennett’s team earned a first-round by in next week’s ACC tournament with the victory.

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

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

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
2 Comments

Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

Chris Steppig/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
2 Comments

For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.