Late Night Snacks: No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 13 Kentucky, No. 25 Oklahoma lose on the road

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GAME OF THE DAY: Indiana 75, No. 3 Wisconsin 72

Indiana needed this win in the worst way. Although we are still in the beginning of conference play, Indiana has been sputtering. It’s never too early to begin analyzing resumes, and the Hoosiers’ one to date was lacking. It still leaves much to be desired, but their big win over previously unbeaten Wisconsin is exactly what they needed. It moves them to 2-2 in the Big Ten, finally gives them a quality victory, and — perhaps more importantly — some much needed confidence going forward. Yogi Ferrell was tremendous down the stretch, after being bench by Tom Crean early in the second half. Make no mistake, there are still plenty of questions for Indiana, but tonight demonstrated they can’t be written off just yet.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Arkansas 87, Kentucky 85 OT

Can you say buzzer-beating tip-dunk?

2) George Washington 76, Virginia Commonwealth 66

The Colonials picked up a huge win over VCU on Tuesday night, legitimizing their place in the A-10 pecking order. GW now has wins over the Rams, Maryland and Creighton without a truly bad loss on their resume. They have a lot of wins to pick in in league play, but GW has themselves set up nicely to make a run at an at-large bid.

3) Kansas State 72, No. 25 Oklahoma 66

Kansas State bounced back in a big way following their blowout loss at Kansas this past weekend by beating Oklahoma, a team who just entered into the Top 25 for the first time this season. It was a balanced attack for the Wildcats as five players scored in double-figures, led by Marcus Foster who poured in 18 points. After beginning the season 2-3, Kansas State is now 13-4 with solid wins against Gonzaga, George Washington, Oklahoma State, and now Oklahoma.

STARRED

1) One of the nation’s best forwards, despite any stigma or status of being a “mid-major,” Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon nearly had a triple-double as he went off for 27 ponts, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. More importantly, Towson defeated Drexel, 80-68. The Tigers now sit atop the CAA, alongside Delaware and William & Mary.

2) If he really wanted to, Doug McDermott could have gone off for 40+ against Butler. McBuckets’ first half points matched Butler’s halftime score — 24. He was “held” to a mere four points in the second half, but the game was all but over as Creighton won going away, 88-60. Creighton’s offense: scary.

3) There was no worrying tonight for Wichita State as they cruised by Bradley at home, 72-50. The No. 5 Shockers were led by Fred VanVleet who dropped in 22 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting from the field. VanVleet has taken over the title of the nation’s most under-appreciated talent.

STRUGGLED

1) Coming off of back-to-back wins, Georgia struggled against a depleted Florida team, losing to the No. 7 Gators on a night where the Bulldogs shot 33.3% from the floor and mustered all of 16 first half points.

2) It was a second straight rough outing for Cameron Clark who finished just 1-for-9 from the floor with two points in a loss to Kansas State.

3) Deonte Burton was just 1-for-8 from the floor as Nevada lost at home to Boise State, suffering their first loss in Mountain West play this season.

NOTABLES

1) DePaul beat St. John’s at home, 77-75. That’s not all that impressive as the Red Storm continue to disappoint as the season progresses, but get this: DePaul has won consecutive Big East games for the first time since the 2007-08 season. One has to go all the way back to January 3rd and January 5th of 2008 when the Blue Demons defeated Villanova and Providence as the last time they had a winning streak of any kind in the Big East. This was during the Jerry Wainwright era.

2) No. 22 Pittsburgh held on against Georgia Tech, 81-74. Many still don’t know what to make of the Panthers. Their 16-1 record is nice, but who have they played? Their best win is at a neutral site against Stanford. Let’s see what Jamie Dixon’s squad is made of this weekend as they travel to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse.

No. 1 Villanova leads by 44, beats Ewing, Georgetown 88-56

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WASHINGTON — Top-ranked Villanova led by as many as 44 points — 44! — and gave Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing a rude welcome back to the schools’ rivalry, handing the Hoyas their worst loss in more than 40 years, 88-56 on Wednesday night.

Jalen Brunson led the way with 18 points and seven assists for Villanova (17-1, 5-1 Big East), which finished 17 for 33 on 3s, while Georgetown went 4 for 15.

Mikal Bridges scored 17 for the Wildcats, winners of seven consecutive games against the Hoyas, Villanova’s longest streak in a series that dates to 1922.

The last time Ewing faced Villanova in any capacity was in the last game of his college playing career at Georgetown, a surprising 66-64 victory for the underdog Wildcats in the 1985 NCAA championship game. It was quite clear, quite quickly, on Wednesday that there would be no such tight outcome —nor any chance of an upset by Georgetown (12-6, 2-5).

This is Ewing’s first season as a head coach at any level, and he opted to go with an easy-as-can-be non-conference schedule to try to build his players’ confidence. Now that league play is underway, especially against a foe like Villanova, the gap between the Hoyas and the best teams is obvious.

It was 42-20 at halftime, and Georgetown to that point had more turnovers (nine) than made baskets, shooting 8 for 26, including 0 for 8 on 3s.

Villanova just kept pushing the margin after the break, going up by 30, then 40, and then reaching the apex at 88-44 on a layup by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree with about 3½ minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Villanova coach Jay Wright finally sent on the subs and pulled any remaining starters.

INJURED AND ILL

Villanova: Reserves Tim Delaney and Jermaine Samuels sat out with a virus.

Georgetown: Backup PG Trey Dickerson left in the first half with a back spasm and did not return.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Since its only loss, 101-93 at Butler on Dec. 30, Villanova has won four games in a row, propelled by an efficient offense that gets a lot of its work done from beyond the arc.

Georgetown: This was the Hoyas’ largest margin of defeat since a 33-point loss to Maryland, 104-71, on Dec. 10, 1974.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Travels to UConn on Saturday in a matchup between former Big East rivals and the Wildcats’ first game at Hartford in five years. Villanova is 12-0 in non-conference games heading into the last one on their schedule.

Georgetown: Hosts St. John’s on Saturday, the teams’ second meeting in less than two weeks. The Hoyas won 69-66 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9

NCAA pushes up college hoops start date as Champions Classic will open the season

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The NCAA is pushing up the start of the college basketball regular season to begin on the Tuesday before the second Friday in November.

That means the Champions Classic will open the college basketball season in 2018-19 as announced in an official release on Wednesday. So now, we get Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to open the college basketball regular season?

Yes, please.

This is a very smart move for the NCAA as men’s and women’s basketball can now open the regular season a bit earlier. The made-for-TV, neutral-court spectacle of the Champions Classic is also the perfect programming to get casual sports fans to tune in for the opening night of college basketball.

There will also be a new level of intrigue for the Champions Classic with all four superpowers making their season debuts in the event next season. Instead of getting a regular-season tune-up to begin to campaign, all of these teams will get thrown straight into the fire.

Hopefully, the sport can continue to make moves like this to generate casual interest and develop more intriguing non-conference possibilities. College basketball’s regular season has suffered from too many lulls in the past. At least now the regular season will start with a bang.

Arizona State benefits from unusual timing in landing forward Taeshon Cherry

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Arizona State has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season as they’re off to a 14-3 start.

The Sun Devils are also rolling on the recruiting trail as they might have landed their signature recruit on Tuesday night. With high-end, four-star forward Taeshon Cherry pledging to the Sun Devils, it gives them a top-20 class and three different four-star caliber prospects coming in next season.

Bobby Hurley has something going here.

In Cherry, Arizona State gets a 6-foot-9 forward who was previously committed to USC but decommitted in late December. Reportedly “Player-8” in the FBI’s case of college basketball bribery, according to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Cherry’s relative allegedly met Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood at a restaurant in Los Angeles on Aug. 8. The group was joined by an undercover FBI agent posing as a financial advisor as the gathering was recorded.

Dawkins and Sood were attempting to get Player-8’s relative to use their financial services for when the player eventually went pro. The FBI’s complaint also said Dawkins was given an envelope of $4,000 to give to the relative from the undercover agent.

But with Cherry not being present for the meeting, and no firsthand account of the relative actually receiving the money, it’s uncertain how the NCAA might respond to this.

So Arizona State jumped right in the mix for Cherry and started recruiting him once he decommitted from USC. The Sun Devils brought Cherry in for an official visit to campus on Jan. 11 — only weeks after Cherry’s decommitment — and were able to secure the commitment days later as he canceled a trip to Texas A&M.

This commitment is no doubt a product of unusual timing and circumstances.

When Cherry pledged to USC right after the July live evaluation period, Trojans assistant coach Tony Bland hadn’t been involved in the FBI scandal and the Trojans had a top-25 team returning this season. Arizona State was only 30-35 in Hurley’s first two seasons and they hadn’t secured the two four-star commitments they would later get in October.

Now, the Sun Devils are a darkhorse Final Four team after its surprising start this season and they were able to land a highly-touted recruit merely weeks after he left a conference rival. Things have changed quickly in the Pac-12 recruiting race in the past few weeks. And Arizona State also benefited from the unusual circumstances surrounding Cherry and his recruitment.

With commitments in each of the next three classes as well — yes, Arizona State even has a commitment from a high school freshman in the Class of 2021 — the Sun Devils are starting to sustain a presence at every level of college basketball. Arizona State will have to replace some talented seniors when Tra Holder and Shannon Evans depart after this season. The program also seems like its heading in the right direction with all of the talent that is flocking to Tempe.

Four-star recruit Joey Hauser enrolls early at Marquette

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Marquette’s top recruit in the Class of 2018 is enrolling early. According to a release from the school, four-star forward Joey Hauser has enrolled at the school and will join the basketball program.

The younger brother of sophomore forward Sam Hauser, the younger Hauser will redshirt this season and have four years of eligibility remaining.

Suffering a few injuries the past few years, Hauser had surgery on his ankle in early December as he’ll get a chance to rehab on campus while also acclimating to the team and school.

“We are really excited to have Joey join us for the second semester,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said in a release. “It’s a unique opportunity for him to recover from his recent surgery while also becoming acclimated to our basketball program and university.

“He is without question one of the top players in the class of 2018 and for him to be able to get a head start on his career is a tremendous positive.”

Hauser is regarded as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, as he helped Stevens Point win three consecutive WIAA Division 1 state titles during his first three seasons.

While Hauser won’t be able to play and help Marquette this season, the Golden Eagles only have one senior on the roster in Andrew Rowsey. That means the entire roster gets a head start on being together for next season as Hauser should be a contributor by then.

Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey out four weeks with knee injury

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Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey will miss the next four weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Harvey, a 6-foot-6 wing, played only seven minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville on Tuesday night as he’s played 18.2 minutes per contest. With senior All-American candidate Bonzie Colson going down to injury, Harvey had been playing increased minutes for the Fighting Irish, including 37 minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina.

Harvey averaged 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before the injury. The Fighting Irish are fighting the injury bug right now with Colson and Harvey out as their rotation gets even thinner. Notre Dame has dropped three consecutive games as they are 13-6 on the season and 3-3 in the ACC. Another tough game looms for the Fighting Irish as they face Clemson on Saturday.