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College Hoops Week in Review: Marcus Smart, Arizona back to being awesome

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart is back.

After playing about as poorly as he possibly could for 30 minutes on Saturday night, Marcus Smart turned in as dominating of a performance as you will see to close out Oklahoma State’s season-changing win over No. 5 Kansas. Smart scored 12 of his 21 points in those final 10 minutes, hitting all four of his field goals, making the only three he shot and handing out three assists without a turnover. That’s before you factor in the plays he made that won’t show up in the stat-sheet, including drawing an offensive foul on Perry Ellis and grabbing an offensive rebound between two Jayhawks as he was flying out of bounds, saving the ball to a teammate.

Therein lies the key to success for both Smart and Oklahoma State. He’s still doing all of the little things that made him so special, but in those final 10 minutes, Smart finally — finally! — played like a guy that accepted the fact that he hurts his team when he fires away from three and makes headlong drives into the paint.

If he plays the way he did in those final ten minutes — distributing, picking his spots to attack, strictly shooting open, rhythm jumpers — the Pokes are going to be a nightmare for whichever No. 1 or No. 2 seed draws them in the Round of 32.

They were good, too:

  • Will Sheehey, Indiana: Sheehey averaged 24.5 points in Indiana’s wins over Iowa and Ohio State this week. All of a sudden, Indiana is back in the bubble conversation. Beat Nebraska and Michigan next week, and things get real.
  • Delon Wright, Utah: Wright won you your college hoops fantasy league this season. In wins over Colorado and Arizona State, Wright is averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 boards, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals while shooting 14-for-16 from the floor.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 boards in two wins last week, shooting 11-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three. When he’s hitting threes, Florida becomes a different team.
  • Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: Robinson had 17 points and the game-winning bucket in overtime at Purdue, following that up with 12 points in a win over Minnesota. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 boards in his last three games.
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime of UNC’s win at N.C. State. He’s been the best player in the ACC the last month and a half.
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats

Arizona blew out Cal by 28 points. Then they took a 25 point second half lead on Stanford. This came after beating Colorado by 27 points in Boulder. Arizona’s back, baby.

What’s changed is that Sean Miller has opened up the floor. The Wildcats are running more. They are taking advantage of the myriad of athletes Sean Miller has at his disposal — Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — and allowing them to make plays on both ends of the floor instead of playing grind-it-out half court games where his group struggles to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end in the half court.

Is Arizona the favorite to win the national title right now? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say, however, is that Arizona is playing better than anyone else in the country right now.

They were good, too:

  • Oregon: The Ducks swept their LA road trip, beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in double-overtime. Mike Moser led the way, averaging 16.0 points, 16.0 boards and 4.5 assists in the two wins.
  • Wichita State: 31-0. That’s all you need to know.
  • UConn: After slogging their way through a win at South Florida, UConn knocked off Cincinnati at home. They’re still a game out of all-important third place in the American.
  • VCU: The Rams bounced back from three losses in four games, picking off Fordham on the road and following that up with a win over Saint Louis in Richmond. Shaka Smart’s crew is still two games out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament by sweeping Cal and Stanford at home. Win at Oregon and Oregon State next week, and Herb Sendek will have steered his team into third-place in the Pac-12.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.

VIDEO: Rupp Arena’s new video board arrives

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Rupp Arena is getting a makeover. Take a peak as the new video board arrives and is put together:

Five-star freshman ruled ineligible to play for Villanova this season

Jay Wright
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Omari Spellman will not be eligible to play for Villanova this season, the school announced on Friday morning.

“We are extremely disappointed for Omari,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “While we don’t agree with the NCAA’s decision, we are members of the association and respect it. We understand why the NCAA felt it had to rule this way.”

“We will make a positive out of this for Omari. He will concentrate on his academics and individual development this season. In the long run Omari will be a better student and player for this experience.”

Spellman is a top 20 recruit that played for St. Thomas More this past season. At 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, Spellman was going to be counted on to play a major role in replacing Daniel Ochefu, the 6-foot-11 center that graduated this past spring. Without Spellman, Villanova will have to rely on inconsistent senior Darryl Reynolds to man their front line.

It is worth noting, however, that Reynolds did average 9.0 points and 10.6 boards in three games Ochefu missed last year. That was the first time in his career that he was given consistent minutes.

Spellman will be allowed to continue to practice with Villanova as he takes an academic redshirt.