College Hoops Week in Review: Julius Randle, Kendrick Perry and Providence

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State

Perry led the Penguins to a championship in the Kennesaw State Tournament this weekend, becoming the only team in the country to go 3-0 in the first three days of the season. The wins themselves weren’t overly impressive — Kennesaw State, Florida International and Eastern Kentucky — but Perry’s play was. He averaged 22.0 points, 5.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals in the three games, including a 31-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist performance in the championship game against EKU.

They were good, too:

  • Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle’s college basketball career started in impressive fashion, as he averaged 22.4 points and 14.5 boards while leading Kentucky to a 2-0 start heading into Tuesday’s showdown with Michigan State.
  • Cady Lalanne, UMass: The Minutemen big man went for 27 points, 12 boards and three blocks in an impressive, 13-point win over Boston College on Sunday.
  • Casey Prather, Florida: With the Gators struggling and shorthanded, Prather went for 28 points in Florida’s opener against North Florida, a game the Gators only won by eight points.
  • Trevor Cooney, Syracuse: Cooney struggled to find confidence as a freshman, but he certainly didn’t lack it on Friday night. He finished with 27 points and hit 7-for-8 from three to lead Syracuse to a win over Cornell after trailing by 14 in the first half.
  • Dylon Cormier, Loyola (MD): Cormier led the Greyhounds to a 2-0 week by averaging 32.5 points, 8.5 boards and 3.0 blocks in wins over Binghamton and Cornell.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Providence Friars

Providence entered their season opener against Boston College short-handed, as Kris Dunn continues to battle the shoulder injuries that slowed him last season and Brandon Austin has managed to get himself suspended from the team already. But that didn’t matter, as Ed Cooley’s club knocked off a better-than-you-think Eagles club in overtime on Friday night. Bryce Cotton led the way with 28 points, six boards and four assists.

They were good, too:

  • UConn: The Huskies nearly blew a 17-point second half lead to Maryland, but ended up pulling out a 78-77 win at the Barclays Center on Friday night. Shabazz Napier led the way with 18 points, seven boards and seven assists.
  • Wisconsin: The Badgers put together an impressive win over St. John’s on Friday, jumping out to an 18-point first half lead, never allowing the Johnnies to get back within four points. Five Badgers finished in double figures, but it was seldom-used big man Duje Dukan’s 15 points off the bench that were most notable.
  • Oregon: Playing without Dominic Artis or Ben Carter, the Ducks picked up a key non-conference win against Georgetown on Friday, surviving despite watching their depleted front line get dominated by Josh Smith.
  • Northern Colorado: Credit where credit is due: UNC was the first team to knock off a high-major program when they went into Manhattan and knocked off Kansas State.
  • Nebraska: It was the first game of the season and it came against a team that finished second in the Atlantic Sun last season while losing their head coach and leading scorer, but the Cornhuskers’ blowout win over Florida-Gulf Coast was impressive. Not because of the final score, but because Nebraska actually looked like a basketball team that will be able to compete in the Big Ten. That conference is going to be really, really balanced this season.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.