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Late Night Snacks: No. 1 Syracuse remains undefeated

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Syracuse 58, No. 25 Pittsburgh 56

Once against a Syracuse game went down to the wire, and once again the Orange made the plays needed to win in the end. Tyler Ennis’ 35-footer as time expired proved to be the difference, with he and C.J. Fair combining to scored the Orange’ final 13 points of the game. Talib Zanna led Pitt, whose resume is still in need of a marquee victory, with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Texas Tech 68, Oklahoma 60

Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders followed up their win over Oklahoma State with a win at Oklahoma on Wednesday night. Robert Turner scored 16 points to led Texas Tech offensively, and the Red Raiders outscored the Sooners 20-6 at the foul line.

2) Boise State 71, New Mexico 70

After No. 5 San Diego State lost at Wyoming on Tuesday night the Lobos had a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Mountain West. New Mexico failed to take advantage of the opportunity, losing at Boise State with Derrick Marks making two free throws with 13.2 seconds remaining to give the Broncos the win.

3) George Mason 91, UMass 80

As Chaz Williams goes, so goes UMass. On Wednesday Williams shot 3-for-15 from the field, so it comes as no surprise that the Minutemen struggled. But to lose to a George Mason team that entered the game 1-8 in Atlantic 10 play? That’s not good. UMass is still an NCAA tournament team, but their margin for error in games like this one is slim.

STARRED

1) D.J. Balentine (Evansville) 

Made 20 of his 25 free throw attempts, finishing with 38 points, six rebounds and five assists in Evansville’s 104-98 overtime win over Illinois State.

2) Davon Usher (Delaware)

34 points (9-for-17 FG), eight rebounds and two assists in the Blue Hens’ 81-65 win over James Madison.

3) Shavon Shields (Nebraska) 

Shields entered Wednesday’s game against Illinois averaging nine points per game in Big Ten play. He finished the 67-58 win with 33 points, making all 15 of his free throws (8-for-12 FG) and five rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) South Florida

The Bulls shot 12-for-50 from the field and turned the ball over 15 times in their 83-40 loss at No. 24 UConn.

2) Chaz Williams (UMass)

Williams scored just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting in UMass’ 91-80 loss to George Mason.

3) K.T. Harrell (Auburn) 

Shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Tigers’ 64-56 loss to No. 14 Kentucky.

NOTABLES

  • No. 22 Memphis’ 76-70 win over UCF proved to be more interesting than expected, with freshman center Dominic Woodson being banished from the bench by head coach Josh Pastner. Following the game Pastner announced that Woodson’s been suspended indefinitely, with his language on the bench being the reason why.
  • American moved into a tie for first place in the Patriot League with a 64-44 win over Lehigh. Darius Gardner led the way with 17 points.
  • A.J. English’s three-pointer with seven tenths of a second remaining gave Iona a 62-59 win over Saint Peter’s to maintain a two-game lead in the MAAC.
  • Treveon Graham accounted for 25 points, ten rebounds and five assists in VCU’s 92-75 win over George Mason. The Rams have now won 18 straight home games.
  • Rian Pearson scored 29 points and grabbed six rebounds in Toledo’s 82-76 win over Ohio.
  • No. 14 Kentucky shot just 30.9% from the field, but that effort was still enough to beat Auburn 64-58. Andrew Harrison led the way with 16 points.
  • Stanford’s hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament took a hit with a 64-60 loss at Washington.
  • As for California, the Golden Bears survived 39 points from Washington State’s DaVonte Lacy to beat the Cougars 80-76 in overtime in Pullman. Justin Cobb scored all 22 of his points after halftime.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 6 Villanova 87, DePaul 62
  • No. 24 UConn 83, USF 40

Report: Dillon Brooks to return to Oregon

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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Dillon Brooks will be returning to Oregon for his junior season.

Brooks, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a sophomore, went through the NBA Draft process without hiring an agent. He did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft combine, however, and that is as good of a sign as any that he was not likely to get drafted.

According to a report from ESPN, he has heeded the advice he received and will be returning to Eugene.

Brooks is a versatile player whose role for the Ducks is similar to what Draymond Green plays for the Warriors, but he’s not the athlete that Green is. Returning to school, tightening up his shooting stroke and getting into better shape could help him play his way into a spot where he can get a guaranteed contract after next season.

The Ducks are still awaiting word on whether or not rising sophomore Tyler Dorsey will return to school as well. With both players back in the fold, Oregon is a potential top five team next season.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft.

Whitehead announced his intention to stay in the draft last night on his Twitter account.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

brimah
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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.