Late Night Snacks: Shockers move to 31-0 and eight ranked teams fall to unranked foes

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GAME OF THE DAY: Southeast Missouri 118, Murray State 115 (2OT)

This OVC contest was wild, with the Redhawks holding on for the three-point win despite giving Murray State one last shot at the tie with less than a second remaining in the second extra session. How’d it happen? SEMO’s Nino Johnson was hit with a technical foul with four tenths of a second remaining for hanging on the rim. Luckily for the Redhawks after making the free throws the Racers turned the ball over, thus ending the game. Jarekious Bradley led the way for the winners with 24 points and 14 rebounds, with Jarvis Williams pacing the Racers with 25 points and 15 rebounds. And as a result of this outcome Belmont is the outright OVC champion.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

1) No. 2 Wichita State 68, Missouri State 45

Gregg Marshall’s Shockers finished its regular season with a 31-0 record, beating Missouri State convincingly to cap what’s been an incredible run thus far. Cleanthony Early scored 19 points and Ron Baker added 11 for Wichita State, which limited the Bears to 31.4% shooting from the field. Next up for the Shockers is the Missouri Valley conference tournament, and three wins there would make them the first team since UNLV in 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated.

2) Oklahoma State 72, No. 5 Kansas 65

There was no bigger winner amongst bubble teams on Saturday than the Cowboys, who knocked off the Big 12 champions in Stillwater thanks in large part to Marcus Smart. Smart scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half, and over the final 11:53 he accounted for 14 points and three assists without committing a turnover. As for Kansas, they committed 22 turnovers and that combined with the health of Joel Embiid is of far greater concern than the result.

3) No. 12 Virginia 75, No. 4 Syracuse 56

The last time Virginia took the court in the ACC tournament as the top seed was way back in 1981, when Ralph Sampson was patrolling the paint and Terry Holland the sidelines. Thanks to an impressive second half put together by the current edition of the Cavaliers that 33-year streak will come to an end in a couple weeks, with Virginia shooting 57.7% in the second half against Syracuse. Malcolm Brogdon led four Virginia players in double figures with 19 points, and Virginia’s performance on the boards also factored into the outcome.

STARRED

1) D.J. Covington (VMI)

33 points (12-for-17 FG), 14 rebounds and six blocked shots in VMI’s 86-66 win at Longwood.

2) Jared Brownridge (Santa Clara) 

38 points (12-for-22 FG), seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the Broncos’ 86-78 win at Pepperdine.

3) Tim Williams (Samford)

32 points (10-for-11 FG), six rebounds and three assists in the Bulldogs’ 93-86 win over Western Carolina.

STRUGGLED 

1) Kendall Anthony (Richmond)

Anthony shot 2-for-20 from the field in Richmond’s 66-43 loss at Rhode Island.

2) Sheldon Strickland (Charleston Southern) 

Strickland made just one of his ten field goal attempts, finishing the Buccaneers’ 63-61 loss at Coastal Carolina with three points, six rebounds and five assists.

3) Askia Booker and Xavier Talton (Colorado) 

Colorado’s starting backcourt combined to shoot 2-for-16 from the field, scoring seven points in their 75-64 loss at Utah.

NOTABLES

  • No. 1 Florida extended its win streak to 21 games with a 79-61 win over LSU in Gainesville. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 16 points off the bench to lead the way.
  • UConn didn’t make a field goal over the final 7:39 but the Huskies made nine of their 13 free throw attempts, beating No. 11 Cincinnati 51-45 in Hartford.
  • Two other Big 12 bubble teams, Baylor and West Virginia, avoided what would have been crushing defeats by beating Texas Tech and TCU, respectively.
  • The same can be said for SEC teams Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, with all three winning by comfortable margins.
  • No. 21 Memphis picked up a solid win for its resume, beating No. 7 Louisville 72-66 to complete a sweep of the season series. The Cardinals looked to be well on their way to sole possession of first place in the American, but Memphis would come back thanks to some solid defense.
  • No. 18 Michigan State had everyone back on the floor but they didn’t look good at all, falling 53-46 at home to Illinois. Is this a matter of the players needing more time together, or should Tom Izzo be worried about this team’s postseason prospects?
  • Oklahoma converted 16 Texas turnovers into 23 points in their 77-65 win over the Longhorns. Isaiah Cousins scored 24 points and Buddy Hield added 17 for the Sooners.
  • LIU-Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman became the fourth player (Bobby Hurley, Chris Corchianni and Ed Cota being the others) in NCAA history to compile at least 1,000 assists in a career, reaching the mark during the Blackbirds’ 81-62 loss to Bryant. The final assist count for Brickman, whose college career came to an end on Saturday: 1,009.
  • Justin Martin racked up 19 points and 16 rebounds to lead Xavier to a 75-69 win over No. 9 Creighton in Cincinnati.
  • For the second consecutive game No. 10 Saint Louis was made to pay for its turnover issues, committing 17 in a 67-56 loss at VCU. The Billikens have now lost two straight.
  • No. 16 Michigan clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title with a 66-56 win over Minnesota. Michigan can win the title outright with a victory at Illinois on Tuesday night.
  • No. 17 Kentucky came out sluggish at South Carolina, digging themselves a hole that proved too difficult to climb out of with the Gamecocks winning 72-67.
  • Harvard’s one win away from a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament after beating Columbia 80-47. Next up: at Yale on Friday, with the Bulldogs being the only team capable of catching the Crimson in the standings.
  • Gonzaga made quite the statement in its regular season finale, whipping rival Saint Mary’s 75-47 in Moraga.
  • Stephen F. Austin moved to 16-0 in the Southland with a 75-62 win at Southeast Louisiana, with Desmond Haymon leading four Lumberjacks in double figures with 17 points.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.

Two workouts this week could alter Caleb Swanigan’s NBA Draft decision

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Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the most important decision among any college basketball player who could return next season from the 2017 NBA Draft process. If Swanigan comes back for his junior season, he’s the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. More importantly, Purdue would have a serious chance to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, especially if Vince Edwards also returns from the same draft process.

Wednesday night is the decision deadline for players to return to college basketball for next season and Swanigan will use two more workouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday to help decide his future. According to multiple reports, Swanigan will workout for the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s workout with the Magic will also reportedly involve Cal big man Ivan Rabb — an important workout for Swanigan since Rabb is listed ahead of Swanigan on a lot of popular mock drafts. The Magic own three picks between No. 25 and No. 35 — which is listed slightly above the No. 40 slot that Draft Express has Swanigan listed. So if Swanigan has a good workout against Rabb for the Magic, then he could get himself some sort of guarantee from a Magic team that desperately needs talent and has a lot of picks in that range.

The Knicks also have Swanigan scheduled for a Wednesday workout as they own the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Again, the Knicks are a team in win-now mode with current stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis openly feuding with the team’s front-office, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for Swanigan to land some sort of guarantee from New York in the second round.

Of course, guarantees for draft night are nice to have, but things can change quickly on draft night. Swanigan has to consider all of the information he is receiving before he makes his decision on Wednesday. But if Swanigan has two strong workouts and gets the information that he’s looking for this week, then he could easily bolt for a potential guaranteed contract.