Villanova came out on fire. James Bell hit three threes in the first four minutes and the Wildcats jumped all over a Syracuse team that looked like they hit the snooze button too many times. It was 25-7 with 10 minutes left in the half, and the Orange looked like they were going to get steam-rolled in their own building.
And then it all changed.
Villanova settled for too many quick threes as the Syracuse zone eliminated any kind of penetration, the Orange were able to get out into transition and before you could say ‘Baye Moussa Keita’, the Orange went on a 20-0 run, holding Villanova scoreless over the course of seven minutes. That surge would continue into the second half, as Syracuse would end up winning 78-62. Do the match, and over the course of the last 30 minutes of the game, Syracuse outscored Villanova 71-37.
Trevor Cooney led the way for the Orange with 21 points, but it was the play of Tyler Ennis stabilizing the Syracuse attack that made the difference. He had 20 points, slicing up the Villanova defense during the first half come back and setting the table for his teammates in the second half.
Ennis added two assists and didn’t turn the ball over. On the season, Ennis has just 13 turnovers despite playing more than 32 minutes per game as the primary ball-handler. He’s also a freshman, which makes his performance just that much more impressive. Syracuse is the No. 2 team in the country and looks every bit a national title contender. I think we can all agree that they wouldn’t be in this position without Ennis. Not only does he belong in the same conversation with the likes of Julius Randle, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker when talking about the nation’s top five freshman, other than Marcus Smart, I’m not sure that there is a point guard in the country that is unquestionably better than Ennis. Aaron Craft? Maybe. Jahii Carson and Shabazz Napier? There’s an argument to be made.
At worst, Ennis is probably a top five point guard nationally. Think about that.
Ennis is a different breed of point guard. He’s not overwhelmingly explosive. He’s not lightening quick or 6-foot-5. He’s not a pure scorer or a pure passer. He’s just a smart player that understands change-of-pace and knows when he needs to score and when he needs the Orange to run offense.
He’s the perfect fit for Syracuse. He’s their most valuable player, the biggest reason the Orange look like the best team in the ACC.
He proved it again on Saturday.
Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.
The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.
Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.
Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.
Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.
In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.
TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.
Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.
With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.
Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.
Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.
Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.
“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.
“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.
Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.
Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.
That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.
“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”
Bowen is in a tough spot right now.
On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.
On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.
For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.
On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.
The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.