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Sandy Cohen’s break out, Ja’Quan Newton update, Terrance Ferguson intro

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HAMPTON, Va. — The best part about covering an AAU tournament is following along with the kids who go from relative unknowns to hot commodities, and at Nike EYBL Hampton, Wisconsin Playground Elite’s Sandy Cohen may just be that guy.

Cohen entered the game with just four offers — Wisconsin-Green Bay, La Salle, North Dakota and George Washington — but that will likely change after this weekend.

On Friday night, Cohen, a 6-foot-4 combo-guard, was one of the best players on the floor despite going scoreless in a loss, as he finished with seven boards, seven assists and two blocked shots. He found his shooting stroke on Saturday, however, as he led Playground Elite to a win over Tyus Jones’ Howard Pulley squad with 24 points on 8-14 shooting (4-7 from three) to go along wit six boards and three assists.

Cohen has played well on back-to-back weekends in the EYBL, and some of the big boys have started to notice.

“It’s definitely picked up my recruitment,” the Seymour, WI, native said. “I was getting low-major D’I’s and now I’m starting to hear from high-majors.” Minnesota and UCLA are two of the high-major programs that have reached out to him recently.

Minnesota, in particular, seems like an intriguing destination for Cohen as the lanky combo-guard should be a perfect fit in the pressing style that new head coaching Richard Pitino likes to play.

“I’m just looking for a coach I really like and a school that plays to my personality and style of play,” he said. “I like a fast-pace, pick-up pressure.”

Cohen, who is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals, sees himself playing the point in college, but there is some work to be done in order for that to happen. At this point in his development, Cohen is a playmaker, but he’s admittedly not yet ready to be a primary ball-handler.

“I think I got alright handles,” he said, “but I need to work on them more.”

Ja’Quan Newton continues to collect offers: Ja’Quan Newton is everything that you should expect out of a Philly point guard.

He’s quick and strong getting into the lane, and he’s tough enough to take a hit and finish through contact. His jumper isn’t where it needs to be yet, but he’s got the (ahem) intestinal fortitude to take, and make, a shot when his team needs it.

As you might expect, all of the Philly schools are coming after the Neumann-Goretti product and the 60th ranked recruit in the Class of 2014, but he’s not all that concerned about staying in Philly for school.

“It doesn’t really matter if I get away,” Newton said. “Whatever school fits me. If it’s in Philly or all the way on the other side of the country on the west coast, it doesn’t matter.”

Newton currently holds offers from Georgetown, Miami, Cincinnati, Missouri, Villanova, Temple, La Salle and Xavier, but he says he’s not trying to narrow his list down until after the AAU circuit.

“I’m just playing out the summer,” he said.

Remember the name Terrance Ferguson: Terrance Ferguson has been putting on a show at the Nike EYBL Hampton this weekend. In three games for Texas Pro, the Dallas native is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 54.1% (13-24) from three, playing with the 17’s.

Should I mention that the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter doesn’t turn 15 until May 17th?

Yup. He’s still a freshman at Prime Prep, but he’s been impressive enough this weekend that he was offered a tryout for the 16U USA team on Saturday.

“It feels amazing to be my age and doing all this,” Ferguson said, although acknowledging that he needs to really improve his ball-handling to be “more than just a jump-shooter.”

So how good is he?

“Terrence Ferguson is the best freshman in the country.” That quote is from Rivals No. 2 player in the Class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay, who is Ferguson’s teammate at Prime Prep and with Texas Pro. He may be biased, yes, but in time we may find out that it was a factually correct statement.

(Image via Green Bay Gazette)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 22 Xavier’s slide continues with loss to short-handed No. 7 Creighton

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 16:  Chris Mack the head coach of the Xavier Musketeers  gives instructions to his team against the Creighton Blue Jays during the game at Cintas Center on January 16, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.

The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.

But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.

Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?

All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?

This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.

Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.

And it begs the question: If not now, when?

The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.

But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?

VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury

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Creighton point guard Mo Watson was carried off of the Cintas Center floor on Monday afternoon after an ugly-looking injury in the first half.

Watson drove the lane and landed on his left leg. He immediately grabbed the knee in clear distress:

The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.

According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Gregg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.

The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.

UPDATE: Gregg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Kansas vaults to No. 1

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.

Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Kansas (23 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (4)
3. UCLA (2)
4. Gonzaga (3)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
7. Creighton
8. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Louisville
12. Florida State
13. Arizona
14. Butler
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Xavier
20. Cincinnati
21. Florida
22. Purdue
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

College Basketball AP Top 25: Villanova is back to the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.

Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Villanova (28 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (32)
3. UCLA (3)
4. Gonzaga (2)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
t-7. Creighton
t-7. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Florida State
11. Oregon
12. Louisville
13. Butler
14. Arizona
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Florida
20. Cincinnati
21. Purdue
22. Xavier
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

Texas gets important commitment from 2017 point guard Matt Coleman

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Texas landed an important piece for its future on Monday as four-star Class of 2017 point guard Matt Coleman committed to the Longhorns during a televised announcement.

A priority recruit for head coach Shaka Smart, the 6-foot-2 Coleman is regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals. A lefty floor general who can attack the basket and set up others, Coleman played for Smart this summer as the two won a gold medal together with the USA Basketball U18 team during the 2016 FIBA Americas.

Coleman is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting for the next level — he only shot 18 percent from three-point range in Nike EYBL play — but he’s the type of setup guard who should help the talented Texas perimeter get ideal shots. It’ll be intriguing to see how Smart plans to play Coleman in what could be a crowded backcourt next season but Coleman should help bring stability to the team.

With Coleman in the mix, we’ll likely see Smart use a lot of lineups with two ball handlers as we saw with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix last season. That type of backcourt might suit Smart’s style of play a bit better than the current Texas roster this season.

Coleman is the fourth commitment for Texas in the Class of 2017. He joins three other four-star prospects in big man Jericho Sims, guard Jase Febres and forward Royce Hamm.