Temple v Indiana

No. 1 seed Indiana survives No. 9 Temple, advances to the Sweet 16

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There’s a reason that the slogan for the NCAA tournament is ‘survive and advance’.

It doesn’t matter how you play. It doesn’t matter how ugly the performance is or how many points you give up to the other team’s star. All that matters is that, when that final buzzer sounds, you have more points that the team that you are playing.

That’s good news for Indiana, as they gave up 31 points to Khalif Wyatt but made enough plays down the stretch to hold on and beat No. 9 seed Temple 57-52, avoiding the indignity of becoming the second No. 1 seed to lose in the first weekend of this year’s NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers will advance. They will be playing No. 4 seed Syracuse in DC next weekend. They still are one of the most talented teams left in the tournament and still can win a national title.

That’s what is important.

But that doesn’t mean that Hoosier fans are going to feel confident about the way that their boys played on Sunday afternoon. There were plenty of concerns coming out of this win.

Let’s start with the obvious: Victor Oladipo got lit up by Khalif Wyatt. Wyatt scored 20 of Temple’s first 24 points. He finished with 31 on the afternoon. During the first half, Tom Crean was forced to switch both Will Sheehey and Remy Abell over to Wyatt for stretches to try and cool down his hot hand. In the second half, he put Oladipo back on Wyatt, but one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders was forced to face-guard the Temple star.

So Wyatt went and stood at half court, completely taking Oladipo out of the defensive possession, until the shot clock wound all the way down. Then he went and got the ball, sizing up Oladipo and trying to beat him 1-on-1. It worked, too, and if one play had gone differently — with the score tied and 1:26 left, Oladipo gambled on a steal and missed, leaving Wyatt with a wide-open path to the basket, but Wyatt pulled up for an awkward, off-balance and rushed three and missed instead of penetrating — the outcome might have played out differently.

Should I mention the fact that all this happened while Temple’s other scorer, Scootie Randall, was 0-12 from the floor?

Honestly, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. Indiana did a good job defensively overall, and Wyatt is a talented kid and a big-game player; he was going to get his regardless of who was guarding him.

The bigger issue came on the offensive end of the floor. Indiana’s much better when they can get into transition and operate out of a secondary break than when they have to set up and run offense in the half court. We know this. But on Sunday, every set for the last 30 minutes devolved into some kind of 1-on-1, whether it was Oladipo trying to be his man or Indiana standing around, trying to pound the ball into Zeller on the block. Zeller finished with 15 points, but he was 4-10 from the floor with six turnovers. Indiana, as a team, shot just 4-13 from three.

Now, some of that credit needs to be given to the Owls. Fran Dunphy is an excellent game-planner and Temple is a team that is notorious for playing to the level of their competition. There’s a reason they can beat Syracuse in MSG and take Kansas to the final minute in Lawrence while also losing at home to Duquesne. And to be fair, the Hoosiers are good enough on that end that they should be able to figure out their offensive problems.

The Hoosiers aren’t going to win a national title the way they played on Sunday, especially on the offensive end of the floor.

But they made the plays when they had to: Christian Watford’s block on Anthony Lee, Victor Oladipo drilling a three with less than a minute left.

And, at the end of the day, they will still be in the tournament. They are still capable of winning a title.

Survive and advance.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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
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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

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
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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.