SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky

2014 point guard Tyler Ulis verbally commits to attend Kentucky

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Another top point guard in the 2014 class is off the board, as Marian Catholic (Ill.) product Tyler Ulis announced Friday evening that he will be attending the University of Kentucky. The 5-8 Ulis picked the Wildcats over Michigan State and Iowa, leaving the two Big Ten programs to seek other options at the position. He becomes Kentucky’s second verbal commitment in the 2014 class, joining versatile 7-footer Karl Towns Jr.

Even though Kentucky is still in contention for the services of Tyus Jones (most experts seem to believe he’s headed to Duke), Ulis’ decision to verbally commit to Kentucky is an important development for head coach John Calipari. Anything can happen in sports but the general consensus is that freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison will be first round picks in next June’s NBA Draft. Add to this the fact that Jarrod Polson is entering his senior season and it’s clear that UK needed some depth at the point guard position.

Enter Ulis, who isn’t considered to be a “one and done” prospect by scouts but is more than capable of running the show for coach Calipari. As a junior Ulis averaged 22 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game on a team that won 29 games and its first-ever sectional title in 2012-13. He may not be the point guard fans have grown accustomed to seeing Calipari work with in regards to his size, but Ulis is a player Kentucky needed to land given the depth situation they could face in 2014.

As for Iowa and Michigan State, what next? Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery has options at the position, with Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell both being sophomores this season. As for Michigan State, the Spartans have Lourawls Nairn on campus this weekend and Ulis’ decision to commit to Kentucky makes the chase for Nairn even more important.

Michigan State loses Keith Appling at the end of the 2013-14 season, leaving them with Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine (despite being 6-5, Valentine did play some point in high school) as possible options at the position next season. Just as Kentucky needed to improve its depth at the position leading into Ulis’ commitment the same goes for Michigan State.

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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.