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Emmanuel Mudiay, top PG in 2014, picks SMU over Kentucky

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It actually happened.

Emmanuel Mudiay — a top three player nationally and either the best or the second best point guard in the country, depending on how you view Tyus Jones — picked SMU.

Over Kentucky.

Let me say that again in case you didn’t hear me correctly the first time: the No. 3 player in the country, per Rivals, picked SMU — a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since three years before Mudiay was born and whose national relevance is solely tied to their decision to hire the 73 year old Larry Brown — over Kentucky.

SMU!

Over Kentucky!

I still can’t believe it, but at this point it’s reality. And, it goes without saying, that reality may be the most important thing that’s ever happened to SMU basketball. Let’s ignore the obvious, that Mudiay, an athletic, 6-foot-4 lead guard that’s talented enough to spend just one year in college, will make SMU a contender for an NCAA tournament berth in the then Louisville-less AAC. The state of Texas, which is typically known for their high school football, has become one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.

SMU is irrelevant in basketball. But before Scott Drew took over in the post-Dave Bliss days, Baylor was largely irrelevant as well. It took some time, but as Drew started landing some higher-profile players from the area — Henry Dugat, Curtis Jerrells and Kevin Rogers turned into Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones which led to the likes of Perry Jones and Isaiah Austin, among many other four and five-star from outside the Lone Star State — the Bears turned into a program that produces lottery picks and has made two Elite Eights in the last four years.

Considering where Baylor was a decade ago, that’s astounding.

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Point being, you don’t have to be a relevant basketball program to find success in Texas if you can tap into the talent in the area.

And while Mudiay alone isn’t going to make SMU a regional or national power, he could be the guy that makes it ‘cool’ to go to SMU. Does his commitment get Myles Turner to rethink eliminating SMU? Will Elijah Thomas, Mudiay’s teammate at Prime Prep, factor SMU more heavily into his recruitment?

Who knows how long Larry Brown will be around — and who knows if Mudiay will even get eligible, given what’s going on at Prime Prep — but there’s no question that his commitment is a massive positive for the Mustangs.

But what about the Wildcats?

What will Kentucky do about their point guard situation?

The general consensus seems to be that the Harrison twins are going to be heading to the NBA after this season regardless of how they play. Tyus Jones has yet to make a decision about where he’ll be going to college, but popular opinion seems to have him heading to Duke. That means that in a class where two of the top three recruits are point guards, neither picked Kentucky and Coach Cal.

It would be silly to read into that any more than a kid from Dallas wanting to be close to home and a kid from Minnesota liking the academic side of playing at Duke, but it does create a bit of a conundrum for the Wildcats. A quality point guard is incredibly important to Kentucky’s offense, as evidenced by last year’s first round NIT exit.

So who can they get?

Well, of the uncommitted lead guards in 2014, Jordan McLaughlin is a Cali kid that doesn’t hold an offer from UK. Quentin Snider is from Louisville and was committed to be a Cardinal until last month. Josh Perkins waited all summer for an offer from Coach Cal and never got it. This week, however, Kentucky did offer Tyler Ulis a scholarship.

Ulis is small, but he’s tough, both physically and mentally. He’s an excellent creator off the bounce and really understands how to run a team. He’s not exactly a sharp-shooter, but he can hit a three when he’s left open.

I love Ulis. I love the way he plays. He’s not John Wall, but if Kentucky can surround him with talented big men and perimeter scorers, he’s the kind of leader that can distribute the ball and run that team.

And if that’s who Kentucky has to “settle” for, that’s not a bad spot to be in.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org