No. 18 Pitt loses to No. 17 Duke, will enter February without a quality win

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Pitt had a chance to notch themselves their first noteworthy victory of the season as they hosted No. 17 Duke on Monday evening.

Instead, the No. 18 Panthers were run off the floor in the second half, losing 80-65 in a game where Quinn Cook, Duke’s starting point guard, was slowed with an ankle injury. Lamar Patterson, who had entered the game looking like he deserved to be in the conversation for the National Player of the Year award, finished with 14 points, many of which came when the outcome was all-but decided, on 4-for-14 shooting and had just a single assist to go along with five turnovers. He was completely shutdown by Duke’s Rodney Hood.

Losing to a streaking Duke team, one that has now won their last five games by an average of just under 20 points, is hardly a “bad loss”. But it’s not a promising one, either. When the Panthers lost at Syracuse earlier this month, they stormed back on the road, taking a late lead before Tyler Ennis did Tyler Ennis things in the final two minutes.

There was hope after that loss. Pitt looked like they deserved to be in the conversation for best team in the ACC. That’s what happens when you lose in the final minutes on the road against the undisputed ACC favorite.

But this?

There is no way to spin this loss as a positive.

The Panthers were simply outclassed on Monday night, and while 40 minute’s worth of poor basketball is a tough way to judge the true ability of a team, the bottom-line is the eye-test is all we have when it comes to judging Pitt. They have not beaten anyone this season. Their best win right now? Pick one: Stanford, Clemson, at N.C. State, at Maryland. None of those teams are heading to the NCAA tournament this season barring a major late-season turnaround.

We went over this on Saturday. Barring a collapse, the Panthers are likely headed to the NCAA tournament. But they only have three games left against top 50 RPI opponents, four if you include North Carolina, who is currently 51st. UNC is the only one of those four games that is on the road.

Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that they lose at home to Syracuse but win out the rest of their league games and get beat by Duke in the ACC tournament. Pitt would have a record somewhere in the neighborhood of 28-5 with an NCAA tournament resume that is befitting of a mid-major conference champion.

That’s a problem.

Pitt is going to enter February without a single win over an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

They get Virginia on Sunday. Will that be the day they finally breakthrough?

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.