Another close game for No. 1 Syracuse, and another escape with an unblemished record.
The Orange did it again on Saturday night, with a C.J. Fair layup with 6.7 seconds remaining giving Syracuse a 56-55 win over an N.C. State team that didn’t reach New York until early Saturday due to travel issues. Of Syracuse’s 12 ACC victories six have been by six points or less, and on Saturday night N.C. State went blow for blow with the Orange.
T.J. Warren (23 points) and Kyle Washington (14) led the way offensively for much of the night for the Wolfpack, with both taking advantage of the high post and Warren scoring from other areas of the floor as well. But they needed help in the second half, and that came in the form of two Ralston Turner three-pointers within a 90-second stretch to give N.C. State a 50-45 lead with 6:27 remaining.
With Fair, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney all struggling offensively, this had the appearance of a game that N.C. State would win and bolster their NCAA tournament resume in the process. Fortunately for Syracuse Rakeem Christmas and Jerami Grant picked up the slack, with Christmas reaching double figures (14 points) for the first time since January 18. Fair’s basket may have won the game, but without the contributions of Christmas and Grant Syracuse isn’t in position to take advantage of two Wolfpack turnovers in the final 22 seconds.
Of course there was controversy, with some arguing that a foul committed by Trevor Cooney on Warren with 13.7 seconds remaining should have been a shooting foul. Had that been the case Warren would have been at the line with a chance to put N.C. State up four. But with the foul being called on the floor the Wolfpack had to inbound the ball underneath, and the ensuing turnover led to Fair’s game-winner.
The Orange may have escaped but their shooting struggles need to be addressed with the schedule getting even tougher. Syracuse shot just 35.2% from the field and 2-for-12 from three, with their advantages in points from the foul line (16-7) and second-chance points (14-7) helping to make up for the off night from the field. But that isn’t going to be the case every night, and with their (for the time being) six-man rotation Syracuse is operating with a slim margin for error.
The most important aspect is the result, and Syracuse has found ways to win all season long. Will that continue? That remains to be seen, but these nail biters are a dangerous way to live.
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 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 averaged 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 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 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 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.