Late Night Snacks: First Saturday of the season produces no upsets

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: Manhattan 99, La Salle 90 (2OT)

The Jaspers and Explorers played an outstanding game at Tom Gola Arena, with Manhattan coming back from four points down with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Guard George Beamon scored 24 points in his return to the court, and Mike Alvarado put together a solid all-around game (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists) to help push the Jaspers past La Salle.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Dayton 81, IPFW 80

IPFW’s answer to the “foul or defend” question when up three in the final seconds was to foul, and it nearly worked. But they threw away the inbounds pass, leading to Jordan Sibert’s game-winning three pointer. Dyshawn Pierre was excellent for the Flyers, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 3 Louisville 70, College of Charleston 48: The Cardinals weren’t at their best, with the absence of both Chane Behanan (suspension) and Luke Hancock (Achilles) playing a role in that. With the eventual return of those key players and the continued development of Montrezl Harrell, Louisville will improve.

2) USC Upstate 64, Virginia Tech 63: All-Atlantic Sun forward Torrey Craig shot just 5-for-20 from the field but the Spartans still managed to win in Blacksburg in a result that wasn’t all that stunning. The Hokies shot 9-for-18 from the foul line.

3) Ohio 75, Northern Iowa 64: The Bobcats have some big holes to fill but their win over UNI is a good start. Junior college transfer Maurice Ndour led four starters in double figures with 20 points and five rebounds.

STARRED:

1) Richard Carter (Drake): In the Bulldogs’ 61-59 win at UIC, Carter “put the team on his back” to the tune of 38 points (12-for-17 FG, 12-for-12 FT), four steals and three rebounds.

2) F Marvin Dominique (Saint Peter’s): The Peacocks didn’t get the win in their game against LIU Brooklyn but Dominique was outstanding, finishing with 31 points (12-for-19 FG), 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern): Murray is the most talented player in the SWAC, and if he’s focused the well-traveled big man can lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament. Murray tallied 33 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists in TSU’s 95-83 win over Norfolk State.

STRUGGLED:

1) Everyone involved with the Niagara/Seton Hall game: The Pirates won 83-72 with Sterling Gibbs scoring 23 points, but the issue was the inability to adjust to the new rules regarding contact. The teams struggled (73 total fouls) and so did the officials, resulting in a game that lacked rhythm.

2) Grambling State: The Tigers were (as expected) outclassed on Saturday, falling 96-58 at DePaul. Grambling State’s now lost 29 games in a row, and they visit Big East preseason favorite Marquette on Tuesday.

3) South Dakota: The Coyotes took one on the chin, falling at St. Bonaventure (68-46) and finishing with more turnovers (17) than made field goals (15).

NOTABLES

  • No. 15 Gonzaga made short work of Bryant in the season opener for both, winning 100-76. While Przemek Karnowki struggled with foul trouble Sam Dowe had no such issues, finishing with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
  • No. 23 New Mexico’s Craig Neal won his first game as head coach, as the Lobos coasted past Alabama A&M by a final score of 88-52. One of the standouts for the Lobos was forward Cameron Bairstow, who put up 22 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Ohio State’s balanced effort in their 89-50 win over Morgan State is something people should get used to seeing this year. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 18 to lead five Buckeyes in double figures, with Shannon Scott adding 16.
  • Cleanthony Early picked up where he left off last season, scoring a game-high 21 points in No. 16 Wichita State’s 93-50 win over Emporia State. Ron Baker (17 points) and Fred Van Vleet (12) also reached double figures for the Shockers.
  • USF scored 70 points or more in just five games last season, with only one of those occasions coming in the 2013 portion of the slate. The Bulls scored 72 on Saturday night, doing so without the services of injured point guard Anthony Collins.
  • Three starters scored at least 20 points for Loyola Marymount, which moved to 2-0 with a 98-89 win over South Dakota State. While Anthony Ireland (20 points, 12 assists) is a known commodity, keep an eye on newcomers Ben Dickinson (22 points; transfer from Binghamton) and Gabe Levin (20).
  • VMI handed Air Force their first-ever loss in the three-year history of the All Military Classic, beating the Falcons 71-63 with D.J. Covington (20 points, seven rebounds) and O.J. Peterson (19) leading the way.
  • First-year head coach Dedrique Taylor enjoyed quite the debut, as his Cal-State Fullerton squad won at Montana State by the final score of 84-55. Guard Alex Harris (20 points) led four starters in double figures.
  • Temple held off Penn 78-73 at the Palestra to move to 1-0 in Big 5 play, with Dalton Pepper accounting for 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Four Owls scored in double figures.
  • Players returning from season-ending injuries included Penn State’s Tim Frazier, Northwestern’s Drew Crawford and Cleveland State’s Anton Grady, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Vikings’ 73-69 comeback win over Iona.
  • Kameron Belin’s shot with four seconds remaining proved to be the difference as Youngstown State beat FIU 74-72 in overtime. Belin, who finished with 17 points, scored all nine of the Penguins’ points in the extra session.
  • Butler’s Brandon Miller picked up a win in his regular season head coaching debut, as the Bulldogs put together a very good second half performance on the way to an 89-58 win over Lamar.
  • One night after losing by 84 points at Utah, NAIA Division II school Evergreen State was back on the floor at Idaho State. The Geoducks put up a better fight against the Bengals, losing 99-62.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.