Xavier v Villanova

James Bell scores 27 to lead No. 6 Villanova past Xavier

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At this point, we know what we’re getting out of Villanova.

They are as tough as any team in the country, they are tough to run offense against because they are effective in different defensive looks, their ability to spread the floor with perimeter-oriented guards makes them difficult to defend and on the nights their threes are going down, they are going to be a very difficult team to beat.

On Monday night, those threes were going down.

No. 6 Villanova got 27 points from James Bell and as a team knocked down 11-of-28 from beyond the arc in an 81-58 win over Xavier in Philadelphia. The Wildcats shot 49.5% from the floor, handed out assists on 25 of their 32 field goals and committed just seven turnovers while holding Xavier to 37.7% shooting and 16 turnovers.

It was a beatdown, and outside of a run at the end of the first half, Xavier never really was in the game.

It begs the question: just how good are the Musketeers?

They have now lost three in a row and four of their last six games. Their resume is hinged on a 17 point win over Cincinnati that is only going to look better as the season goes on. But it’s not bolstered by much. They split with Tennessee, a fact that is somewhat nullified by losses to Seton Hall and USC. Semaj Christon has been as good as advertised this season, but his supporting cast hasn’t always been consistent. Defensively, they don’t force turnovers and they don’t defend the three well.

Five of Xavier’s last nine games are going to come on the road, and two of their home games happen to be against Villanova and No. 12 Creighton.

Xavier is currently a nine-seeded in the latest NBCSports.com bracket.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Getty Images
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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.