When it comes to the national title chances of No. 4 Wichita State, many detractors rush to point out the fact that they play in a Missouri Valley Conference that isn’t as strong as it’s been in years past. While there may be some truth to that, with No. 18 Creighton’s move to the Big East taking away two (and possibly three) games against a team more than capable of beating the Shockers, the fact of the matter is that all Gregg Marshall’s team can do is take care of business against the teams actually on their schedule.
Wichita State has done that all season long, with their most recent triumph being an 84-68 victory at Evansville on Sunday evening. Unlike the first meeting, in which the Purple Aces made their first eight shots from the field and led by as many as 13 points in the first half, Marty Simmons’ team was unable to establish some early separation against Wichita State.
The reasons for that? Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet. Gregg Marshall’s talented backcourt duo combined to score the Shockers’ first 15 points, shooting 6-for-7 from the field, with Baker scoring 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half. Van Vleet finished the game with 18 points, eight assists and five steals, and as a team Wichita State shot 49.1% from the field. But it was their defense that made the difference, despite the fact that they Purple Aces shot 51.1% from the field.
When Evansville kept possession of the basketball they executed well, but that task is a difficult one against a Wichita State team that rates among the nation’s best on the defensive end. Evansville committed 18 turnovers, which Wichita State converted into 23 points. Nearly 26% of Evansville’s possessions culminated with a turnover, and a percentage that high makes it incredibly difficult to beat any team much less one as good as Wichita State.
With the win the Shockers remain one of the nation’s two remaining undefeated teams, with No. 1 Syracuse being the other. And as this season approaches March, has a clear favorite to win the national title emerged? In the aftermath of their second-half performance on Saturday, No. 3 Florida may be the team closest to earning that distinction. But with Syracuse’s many close calls and the injury issues that both No. 2 Arizona and No. 9 Michigan State have encountered, there seem to be more questions than answers at the top.
So why can’t Wichita State follow up its Final Four run of a season ago with another, or go even further this season? Say what you want about their schedule and their conference, but the Shockers are more than capable of doing just that.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.
Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.
The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.
Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.
Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.
A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.
Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.
Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.
Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.
It’s because he’s a bucket-getter.
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He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:
UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.
This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.
It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.
There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:
– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.
– And then there’s this, from Bryce Alford:
UCLA needs to travel with more towels.