Markel Starks on Josh Smith: ‘You never really know what you’re going to get from [him]’

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Joshua Smith has been an enigma since the moment he stepped on a collegiate court.

From a talent perspective, there are few that are on Smith’s level. His size, his hands, his footwork, his touch around the rim. He’s got lottery pick talent.

His problem has always been effort and desire.

Does he want to be good at basketball bad enough to get into — and stay in — game-shape? This is his fourth year as a college basketball player, and the answer, to date, is a definitive ‘no’.

He’s better conditioned now than he was the last couple of years back at UCLA and, to his credit, he does look slimmer. But he’s still not in the kind of shape that would allow him to maximize his potential. He’s still a major defensive liability. And he’s still struggling with his consistency.

I’m not the only one to notice.

“If I come out, if I’m lax, the entire team is going to be lax. Some guys are going to come that are ready to play, but from a mental standpoint, I pose so much for the team to be collectively good,” senior point guard Markel Starks told Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com. “D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, he’s going to come out, he’s going to be ready to play. Josh, it’s a different story. You never really know what you’re going to get from Josh. Not so much we, but he also has to find his rhythm and give us something consistent. No, he’s not going to give us 25 points and seven rebounds a night. Can he, absolutely. He can be the most dominant big in the nation. But is he? We have yet to determine that.”

Starks later added, “Honestly, Josh can play 30 minutes. It’s just does Josh want to play 30 minutes on a particular night. He’s in really good shape. Everybody wants to talk about his weight and stuff like that. That stuff goes out the window. He’s productive and he can be really productive for us and he will be productive for us. (Starks laughs) He doesn’t have any other option.”

It’s important to note here that Starks was speaking with “positive intentions”, according to Standig. It also should be noted that Starks and Smith are roommates, and that Starks is not the kind of personality that will sugarcoat what he says. He’s an intense dude, and if he’s saying something to the media, you better believe he’s said the same thing to Smith.

But it’s interesting to note that someone on the Georgetown roster is recognizing the same thing that we are. Smith, with all of his deficiencies, is the guy that turns Georgetown from an NCAA tournament team to a legitimate favorite to win the Big East.

Jerome leads No. 1 Virginia past Georgia Tech, 65-54

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Ty Jerome scored 18 points and top-ranked Virginia held off depleted Georgia Tech 65-54 on Wednesday night, clinching the regular season title and top seed next month in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

The Cavaliers (25-2, 14-1), who also got nine points each from De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite, led just 31-30 at halftime and didn’t open a double-digit lead until just 5:14 remained.

Ben Lammers scored 22 points to lead the Yellow Jackets (11-17, 4-11), who lost their sixth in a row and 10th in the last 11 games. Tadric Jackson added 15.

Virginia led just 49-45 before Devon Hall hit a pair of free throws and Jerome followed with a 3-pointer, making it 54-45 with 8:46 to play. The Cavaliers finally got it to double figures on a dunk by Diakite that made it 60-49. Their largest lead all night was 12.

The regular-season title is the eighth in Virginia’s history and third in five years.

The ACC Tournament is March 8-10 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are up against it, having lost their top two freshmen for the rest of the year with injuries, including No. 2 scorer Jose Alvarado (12.1 ppg), but Lammers and Jackson kept them in the game. Sophomore Josh Okogie started the game 50 shy of 1,000 for his career, but missed 7 of 10 shots and scored just seven points. Reinforcements will be appreciated.

Virginia: The Cavaliers were not sharp at either end in their first game in eight days. It could be that their flatness was in part because, after facing the struggling Yellow Jackets, they are to face a team in even worse shape, Pittsburgh.

UP NEXT

The Yellow Jackets face another ranked team on the road, playing at No. 15 Clemson on Saturday.

Virginia goes on the road to face Pittsburgh, which entered the night winless in league play.

Hobbled Keenan Evans can’t help as No. 6 Texas Tech upset by Oklahoma State

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Oklahoma State used a hot-shooting second half to race past No. 6 Texas Tech for a 79-71 Big 12 home win on Wednesday night.

The Cowboys knocked down five consecutive three-pointers and seven straight shots to jump out to a double-digit lead in the second half as they earned the upset win over the Red Raiders. Kendall Smith (21 points), Lindy Waters III (18 points) and Jeffrey Carroll (14 points) supplied most of the offense for Oklahoma State as the team was a blistering 11-for-22 from three-point range.

Although this win gives first-year head coach Mike Boynton another quality effort, the biggest takeaway is how Kansas has regained complete control of the Big 12 thanks to Texas Tech losing its second straight game.

Even though the Jayhawks have lost four games in conference play, while looking beatable at home, they find themselves one game ahead of the Red Raiders ahead of Saturday’s huge Big 12 clash in Lubbock. And it’s all because of a toe injury to Texas Tech All-American senior guard Keenan Evans.

Injured against Baylor over the weekend, Evans hasn’t been able to complete his last two games — both Red Raider losses. Evans only played in 18 minutes of Texas Tech’s loss to Baylor over the weekend as he was 1-for-6 from the field. In the loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday, Evans attempted to gut it out. It proved to be a mistake as Evans didn’t look ready to play. Evans deserves credit for showing toughness by playing 25 minutes, but he was only 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range as he sat out a Texas Tech rally from the bench. As noted in the broadcast, Evans was short on four of his five three-point attempts — which makes you wonder if the toe was hampering him there.

Even with the back-to-back losses, Texas Tech remains a top-10 team and the second best team in the toughest top-to-bottom league in the country. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders have likely lost their chance to win the Big 12 title because of this two-game slide and the injury to Evans. This recent stretch showed just how important Evans has been to Texas Tech this season.

Without its All-American contender in the lineup, Texas Tech dropped two straight games to lower-level Big 12 teams. They haven’t had the same flow on offense. Evans has been brilliant at times this season and he’s perhaps the nation’s most underrated Player of the Year candidate.

The timing of the injury also makes you wonder how Evans might look over the next week of play when the Red Raiders have two more difficult games. Texas Tech has to follow up these two losses with games against Kansas and on the road at West Virginia. The end of the regular season doesn’t get any easier. If Evans shows any more lingering issues then Texas Tech could continue a slide that sees them finish behind West Virginia in the standings heading into the Big 12 tournament.

It’s unfortunate that such a promising conference season could be derailed by a toe, but that is what Texas Tech is currently dealing with heading into the final stretch of the regular season. The Red Raiders might have potentially lost the Big 12 regular-season race, but they can still close out the season in strong fashion in the postseason if Evans can regain his health and his prior form.

Marshall helps No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77

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WASHINGTON — Naji Marshall scored a career-high 21 points and No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77 on Wednesday night, bouncing back from its loss to No. 3 Villanova.

J.P. Macura added 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while Quentin Goodin had 19 points as the Musketeers (25-4, 13-3 Big East) swept the season series with Georgetown for the second straight season.

Xavier’s leading scorer Trevon Bluiett scored a season low two points on 1 for 10 shooting in 23 minutes. Xavier has now won five straight road games.

Jamorko Pickett tied a career high with 21 points to lead Georgetown (15-11, 5-10) while Jessie Govan added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Pickett made a career high six 3-pointers.

Xavier trailed 40-38 at the half but used a 12-0 run to take a 59-50 lead with 12 minutes remaining. Georgetown closed to 63-58 on a Jahvon Blair 3-pointer but the Hoyas never drew closer.

Blair finished with 12 points for Georgetown while Kaleb Johnson added 11.

Xavier outrebounded Georgetown 38-29 including an 11-6 edged on the offensive glass.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers kept pace with Villanova for the top seed in the conference as well as kept alive their shot at being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with the victory.

Georgetown: The Hoyas fell to 0-4 against Top 25 teams this season and have lost seven straight against ranked opposition going back to last season.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Musketeers have a week off before hosting Providence on Feb. 28 in their final home game of the season.

Georgetown: Hosts Providence on Saturday and then Marquette on Monday to close out their home slate of games.

Report: FBI’s case could reveal detailed information about cheating in college hoops recruiting

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The dealings of NBA agent Andy Miller and former business associate Christian Dawkins could unravel a lot of key information in college basketball over the next several months.

According to a report from Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, financial records, documents and wiretaps from Miller and Dawkins have given a surprising level of detail into payments of college players and their families. In Thamel and Forde’s report, it states that many cases include the exact dollar figures and intricate documentation of how payments were made.

“There are spreadsheets detailing who got paid, how much they got paid and how much more they were planning to pay,” one source familiar with the investigation said in the Yahoo report. “The feds got everything they wanted and much more. Don’t think it will only be players who ended up signing with ASM that got paid. Those spreadsheets cast a wide net throughout college basketball. If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

All of this information threatens college programs, head coaches and current players as NCAA amateurism rules come into play for a number of potential players.

The FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption has been ongoing over the last several months with three seperate criminal cases set over the next 14 months. It’s unclear how this potential information from Miller and Dawkins might be revealed, so it’s difficult to speculate about any potential ramifications until we know exact details.

Even if those details aren’t used in any criminal proceedings, the NCAA also has to render separate rulings on these findings based on how they see fit. Overall, it will be a messy few months for all levels of basketball as many in college hoops brace themselves for the potential fallout.

Providence/Seton Hall suspended due to unsafe playing conditions

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Providence and Seton Hall are playing a key bubble game in the Big East on Wednesday night as both teams aim for another solid win that can help them get in.

But the outcome of this one will have to wait.

The game was suspended with 13:03 left in the second half due to unsafe playing conditions on the court. Condensation was causing players to slip and it wasn’t safe to continue the game. The Dunkin’ Donuts Center had ice under the court that was melting onto the court due to unseasonably warm weather.

Seton Hall was winning 56-47 when the game was suspended. No makeup date has been announced yet.