VCU/Virginia Tech headlines second annual Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic

Leave a comment

The second annual Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic will be played at the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, with the doubleheader matching four of Virginia’s 14 Division I men’s basketball programs. In the opener Hampton takes on James Madison, with the Dukes looking to round into shape after winning the CAA tournament and making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993.

Watch on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET or on on NBC Sports Live Extra with your phone or tablet.

At 3-9 on the season Matt Brady’s team has struggled due to factors such as Andre Nation’s 15-game suspension and the fact that they’re averaging less than a point per possession (0.95). In the Pirates, JMU will face a team that has also had issues when it comes to offensive efficiency. However, with senior forward Du’Vaughn Maxwell and sophomore guard Deron Powers leading the way offensively Hampton’s (5-6) been able to do enough defensively to compete on most nights.

The nightcap is the game that will receive most of the attention however, with the hometown team (VCU) looking for a sweep of the Commonwealth’s ACC schools when they take on Virginia Tech. With the new legislation regarding contact some have assumed that Shaka Smart’s team would have a difficult time adjusting defensively given how active their “HAVOC” system is. But that hasn’t been the case, as VCU’s averaging 20.2 fouls per game (up from 19.7 last season) and they still rank 32nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (45th last season) and first in forced turnover percentage per Ken Pomeroy.

Offensively VCU’s still a work in progress, with newcomers and players who may not have enjoyed prominent roles last season looking to mesh with established veterans such as Treveon Graham, Briante Weber and Juvonte Reddic. The Rams will look to take the next step against a Virginia Tech squad that’s 7-3 and can use every win they can get prior to the start of ACC play. Jarell Eddie leads three Hokies in double figures with an average of 19.3 points per game, and the obvious key for Virginia Tech on Saturday will be their turnover count.

Naturally that number (Virginia Tech averages just over 13 turnovers/game) will rise some against a team like VCU, but how much that figure rises and the kind of turnover that is committed will have a major impact on the outcome. Dead-ball turnovers, while unfortunate, are a much better outcome for Virginia Tech than the live-ball turnover that VCU has been known to feast off of. Virginia Tech doesn’t do a good job of forcing turnovers itself (346th in forced turnover percentage), making this area one of huge importance.

The doubleheader, in addition to providing area fans with some quality entertainment, will also serve as a fundraiser for the state’s food banks. Last season the Classic raised nearly $50,000, with the funds being divided amongst seven food banks. So while two teams will leave the Richmond Coliseum with wins, even more will benefit from the action.

Swanigan to stay in draft

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
2 Comments

Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.