Buzz continues to grow for elite 2014 recruit Dante Exum

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This year’s crop of incoming freshmen is already receiving a tremendous amount of buzz. Between Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s class that includes the Harrison twins and Julius Randle, and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, there will be plenty of star power next season in the college ranks.

But could another big name be joining them in college basketball this season? That appears to potentially be the case as Australia-native Dante Exum — son of former North Carolina alum and ’82 NCAA champion Cecil Exum —  will graduate from his high school sometime this winter and could opt to join a program by January of 2014.

A 6’6 point guard, Exum could technically enter the 2014 NBA Draft since he born in 1995 and lives outside the United States. Dante turns 18 on July 13th and according to a report from Adam Zagoria, he’s eyeing college in the United States before the draft.

“[The 2014 Draft] is going to be an option that my family and I will look closely at, but for the time being my eyes are set on college,” Exum told Zagoria.

Exum already visited Indiana earlier this year and also told Zagoria that the other programs on him the “hardest” include Michigan, Louisville, LSU, SMU, Tulsa and Kentucky.

But Exum is going to have to weigh the serious prospects of entering the 2014 NBA Draft with the way he’s currently playing at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague. Draft Express analyst Jonathan Givony has been raving about Exum’s performance on Twitter, which included a 30-point second half in an upset win over Spain to reach the U19 Final Four.

Givony previously had Exum as No. 9 on the 2014 Draft Express mock draft, but has elevated Exum to No. 3 — above Gordon, Marcus Smart, Parker and the Harrison twins — in a draft that is already being hailed as one of the best in the last decade.

While Givony is only one man with one mock draft, his opinion holds plenty of weight and Exum certainly appears to be the real deal.

Exum will have to weigh whether to attend college in January of 2014, the fall of 2014 or just forego college completely and focus on the 2014 NBA Draft, but his stock looks to be skyrocketing in a very deep class.

Scott also writes for NY2LA Sports and can be followed on Twitter @phillipshoops

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.