Andrew Wiggins game-winning bucket saves Kansas at Texas Tech (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

No. 8 Kansas struggled with Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and that shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as the names on those jerseys make it seem.

The Red Raiders are tough this year. They beat Baylor in Lubbock, they beat Oklahoma State in Lubbock and they almost knocked off Iowa State in Ames over the weekend. Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett and Dejan Kravic can matchup with any front line in the country, and on the nights when Tubby Smith’s guards are hitting shots, this group will put up a fight.

That’s exactly what happened against the Jayhawks, who needed yet another clutch lay-in from Andrew Wiggins, who got this one picking up a loose ball when Joel Embiid was stripped, to win the game. He did the same thing after missing a layup in an overtime loss to Kansas State last Monday.

In fact, Wiggins’ second half against the Red Raiders was as impressive of a performance as he’s had this season. He was a terror defensively. He got to the foul line. He got aggressive in big moments of a close road game when Kansas really needed him to try to take over. He was attacking the rim off of the bounce, beating people off the dribble and even finishing with a couple dunks instead of trying to finesse in off-balance layups. On the second-to-last Kansas possession, he took off from about a mile away and missed a dunk, but it was notable. That was one of the first times this season that I’ve seen Wiggins actively try to dunk all over a defender.

He missed it, but he tried.

And that’s what’s important here.

Look, Wiggins needs to add strength. Period. End of story. He has to be stronger finishing through contact, he has to be a stronger ball-handler, he has to add some upper-body mass. He just has to, because he almost seems cognizant of the fact that he’s going to be on the losing end of a collision with just about any front court player in the Big 12 right now. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get into the lane at will. He did that on Tuesday, and he finished with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, six boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks.

More importantly, Kansas finished with a win.

If there was a concern in this game, it was Naadir Tharpe, who reminded everyone of why he was considered a liability entering the season. He was 1-for-7 from the floor with four turnovers. Late in the game, he had two awful turnovers that led to layups — one of which was simply Tharpe losing a handle without being pressured defensively — and one airball on a three-pointer.

That hasn’t been the norm for him this season, but when he does play like that, especially on nights where Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden combine to go 2-for-11 from the floor, the Jayhawks could end up in trouble.

Swanigan to stay in draft

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
2 Comments

Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.