Has there been a more surprising breakout player than Casey Prather this season? The Florida senior went from being a bit player as a freshman and a sophomore to embracing a role as a defensive stopper off the bench as a junior. But this season, with Florida dealing with what felt like two-thirds of their roster missing time due to injuries or suspensions, Prather stepped up.
He’s averaging 18.5 points this season, with the highlight of the year being the 22 points that he scored in Florida’s win over Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic. I won’t get too far into how he developed into a star — I did that in the 900 word column I filed from the Garden that night — but I think it’s safe to say that those injuries and suspensions were the best thing that could have happened to both Prather and the Gators. Without them, I don’t think he’s the player that he is today.
They were good, too:
Tracy Abrams, Illinois: Abrams scored 22 points and had the game-winning bucket in a 65-64 win over Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game.
Jason Calliste, Oregon: Calliste went for 31 points as Oregon knocked off BYU in overtime in Eugene. He also popped off for 14 points in a win over UC-Irvine.
Melvin Johnson, VCU: Johnson had 27 points and his eight threes in VCU’s blowout win over Virginia Tech. That’s huge. The Rams desperately need a knockdown three-point shooter.
Aaric Murray, Texas Southern: Murray currently holds the nationwide season-high for points in a game after lighting up Temple for 48 points in a win in Philly.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State: Payne put together one of the most dominating performances of the season on Saturday afternoon in Austin, dropping 33 points on 10-13 shooting.
T.J. Warren, N.C. State: Warren led the Wolfpack to back-to-back wins at Tennessee and over East Carolina by scoring a combined 53 points.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman’s club picked up a pair of wins this week, knocking off BYU at home in an overtime thriller while also blowing out UC-Irvine. That wasn’t the big news of the week in Eugene, however. The big news is that both Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, both expected starters entering the season, are back in the lineup for the Ducks after missing the first nine games of the season.
Here’s the best news of all: the Ducks don’t necessarily need Artis or Carter. They combined to play just 17 scoreless minutes in the win over BYU. Johnathon Loyd has been flat-out terrific this season, and the combination of Richard Amardi and Elgin Cook has been more than enough in the paint. There is a reason the Ducks are still undefeated, and if they can figure out a way to keep everyone happy with their minutes — and iron out some rotation kinks — I think it’s safe to say that the Ducks are Arizona’s biggest challenger in the Pac-12.
They were good, too:
Auburn: How about them Tigers? Beating Clemson and Boston College isn’t exactly program-changing, but it does mean that a potential bottom-feeder in the SEC isn’t losing to bottom-feeders from other conferences.
Boston U.: The Patriot League favorites went into College Park and knocked off Maryland, 83-77. D.J. Irving gave Mark Turgeon’s club 25.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats knocked off Pitt in NYC at the Jimmy V Classic, earning themselves a win they really needed.
Florida State: The Seminoles picked up two big wins over the weekend, blowing out Charlotte before picking up an ugly win over UMass.
Kansas State: The Wildcats picked up a much-needed win over No. 21 Gonzaga on Saturday at home. Marcus Foster is one of the best freshmen in the country that no one is talking about.
Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.
Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.
“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”
Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.
The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.
According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.
The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.
Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.
The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.
Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.
Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.
Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.
One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.
Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.
North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations
North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.
On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.
What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.
“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”
“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”
The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.
A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.