Minnesota lands second significant win over No. 9 Wisconsin

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Let this sink in for a second: Minnesota’s best player, Andre Hollins, played 30 seconds on Wednesday night.

That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a stat. On Minnesota’s first possession of the game, he hit a pull-up jumper and landed on a Wisconsin defender’s foot, rolling his left ankle over badly enough that he didn’t emerge from the Minnesota locker room until late in the second half.

And it didn’t matter.

The Gophers still beat up on No. 9 Wisconsin in convincing fashion, handing the Badgers their third straight loss, 81-68.

The postgame chatter is likely going to center around both of Minnesota’s Hollinses. Andre’s ankle will be a major concern if he injured it seriously, and Austin just about took the roof off the barn when he threw down this dunk late in the second half.

But the reason that Minnesota won was their dominance in the paint. In the first half, it was thanks to not-as-big-as-he-was big man Mo Walker, who finished with season-highs of 18 points and nine boards, five of which came on the offensive end of the floor. He scored 12 straight at one point in the first half, which opened up a lead that the Gophers never rescinded.

The reason they never gave up that lead? Dre Mathieu, a diminutive point guard who finished with 18 points, five boards and three assists, the majority of which came in the final 20 minutes.

It doesn’t get much more impressive than that, dominating a top ten team on a night where you’re without your leading scorer.

At this point, Richard Pitino has to be in the discussion for Big Ten Coach of the Year, and possibly the National Coach of the Year. Obviously, much of that will depend on how well the rest of the season goes for Minnesota. They have home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin, both of whom look completely different than they did two weeks ago, and nothing but a home win over Florida State in non-conference play.

Is that enough to have them on the right side of the bubble today?

Yes.

Will it be enough in March if the Gophers can’t beat anyone on the road and don’t land anymore notable wins at home?

Probably not.

But whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that Richard Pitino has his boys playing hard and playing well. They’re going to be a factor in the Big Ten the rest of the season, and at this point, I would say it would be a disappointment if they didn’t find a way into the tournament.

Given the expectations this group had entering the season, that’s saying something.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedΒ 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.