While their game at No. 16 Kansas on Sunday afternoon represents a major opportunity for both No. 21 San Diego State and the Mountain West given the league’s low number of marquee non-conference victories, the fact of the matter is that from an importance standpoint that game isn’t as important as a conference matchup.
The Aztecs opened Mountain West play with a tough matchup, playing on the road against a Colorado State team that makes up for its lack of depth with sheer effort. Ultimately the difference between the two teams was their production in an area that measures 15 feet long and 12 feet wide.
Xavier Thames scored 23 points and Winston Shepard III added 17 for the visiting Aztecs, who outscored the Rams 40-16 in the paint on their way to the 71-61 victory. San Diego State shot just 12-for-21 from the foul line compared to Colorado State’s 18-for-25, but the missed opportunities from the charity stripe were nullified by the Aztecs’ ability to get into the paint. San Diego State, which entered the game shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc, shot just 5-for-16 against Colorado State but that wasn’t an issue in the end as the Rams shot 3-for-14.
Colorado State scored just four of its 16 points in the paint in the first half, with San Diego State closing the period on an 11-2 run to establish a nine-point lead at the intermission. San Diego State’s length proved to be an issue for the Rams, and many of the good shots that Larry Eustachy’s team did manage to find missed the mark.
San Diego State may have some good numbers when it comes to perimeter shooting, but they refuse to settle for those shots. That three-point percentage cited earlier? The Aztecs shot that well while attempting the fewest three-pointers in the Mountain West. If Steve Fisher’s team remains committed to getting the ball inside by way of the pass or the dribble, they’ll be in good shape offensively.
Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.
Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.
Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.
Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.
Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.
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.
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.
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.
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.