Villanova caps productive weekend with Battle 4 Atlantis title (VIDEO)

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Villanova entered the Battle 4 Atlantis in a similar situation to the other seven teams in the field, as head coach Jay Wright wondered how his players would respond to three games in three days against tough competition. The Wildcats responded as a coach would hope, fighting back to beat No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa on consecutive nights. Trailing Iowa by as many as 15 points the Wildcats were able to fight their way back into the game, ultimately winning 88-83 in overtime.

James Bell led four Wildcats in double figures with 20 points, capping a productive weekend in which he took home tournament MVP honors. After averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season the senior’s off to a good start, as he entered Saturday with averages of 16.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 45% from the field. Villanova returns four of its top five scorers from a season ago, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need more production from Bell.

This weekend Bell continued to show that he’s capable of being even more of a factor offensively, and doing so against this kind of competition should do nothing but boost his confidence as the Wildcats approach the start of Big East play. With sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono unafraid to take a clutch shot regardless of how he’s shooting from the field and both Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston capable of giving teams fits as well, Villanova has the offensive weapons needed to contend in the Big East.

Just as important in The Bahamas was the play of their newcomers, with Rice transfer Dylan Ennis and freshman Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins all contributing. Ennis gives Villanova the bench scorer they “lost” with Pinkston moving into the starting lineup, as he averaged 12.0 ppg in The Bahamas (his first three games of the season), and both Hart (16 points, five rebounds) and Jenkins (ten points) are capable of adding a similar boost as well.

With these three playing well in the second half and overtime the Wildcats were able to play with essentially five perimeter players on the floor, and they didn’t miss a beat on the glass. Villanova grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, managing to grab 37.2% of their missed shots. Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu spent much of that time on the bench, and the ability of the perimeter players to rebound gives Wright more versatility in his rotation.

So what was learned about Villanova this weekend? Quite a bit skill-wise, but just as important was the toughness the Wildcats displayed. After a poor 2011-12 campaign (13-19 record) Villanova was about to rebound to the tune of 20 wins and a return to the NCAA tournament last season. If they can build on this weekend, Villanova is capable of doing even more in 2013-14.

VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun

Dan Hurley
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No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.

Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.

But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.

It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:

After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”:

Wayne Selden stars as Kansas wins the title in Maui

Wayne Selden Jr., Jeff Roberson
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The last time we wrote about Wayne Selden in this space, it was my colleague Scott Phillips who questioned, after a poor performance in the Champions Classic, whether or not Selden is capable of bring a primary scorer for a team with NCAA title aspirations.

At the time, it wasn’t an unfair question to ask.

Selden is a former top 15 recruit. He is a guy who was expected to go one-and-done that played poorly in the first big game of his third year on campus. But after three days it Maui, it appears that the old Wayne Selden is gone.

[MORE: Kansas got Cheick Diallo news today]

He capped an MVP performance in the Maui Invitational with 25 points and seven boards on 8-for-11 shooting as the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks knocked off No. 19 Vanderbilt, 70-63, in the title game. Selden was terrific for the entire weekend, averaging 21.5 points in the two games against Division I competition and shooting 12-for-17 from beyond the arc in the three game tournament.

It was the best that we’ve seen Selden play during his Jayhawk career, and it came in a game the Jayhawks desperately needed it. Vanderbilt is a damn good team. They’re ranked 19th, which may actually be too low, and they seem to clearly be the biggest challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. They jumped out to a double-digit lead on Kansas in the first half as the Jayhawks seemed to be sleep-walking early in the game.

Enter Selden. He drilled three threes in the first half and scored 13 of the 26 Jayhawk points to keep them close. In other words, he played like a star on a night Kansas desperately needed someone to step up and play like a star. Remember: this is a dude that had enough talent and potential in high school to be considered a McDonald’s All-American and a potential lottery pick. The ability is there:

(That move is filthy.)

The question has always been whether or not he is capable of putting it all together, of being the guy that can be relied upon to make the big play in the big moment, to carry a team with title aspirations.

And to be fair, the jury is still out in that regard. Are we just going to ignore those four free throws he clanged down the stretch?

But seeing Selden have this kind of performance in a game like this against a team that is this good is unquestionably a positive for Kansas moving forward.