Late Night Snacks: No. 6 Villanova wins Big East regular season title

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Northwestern State 119, Central Arkansas 102

Central Arkansas scored 52 points in the first half and 50 in the second…and still lost by 17 points. Why? The Demons scored 72 points in the second half, shooting 70.3% from the field and assisting on 19 of their 26 made field goals. Northwestern State also forced 13 turnovers in the second half, converting those opportunities into 23 points. Jalan West scored 26 points and Zikiteran Woodley added 24 for Northwestern State, which locked up the four seed in next week’s Southland tournament.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) N0. 6 Villanova 77, Xavier 70

From the Xavier angle this result represents a missed opportunity to further solidify their standing with regards to the NCAA tournament. As for the Wildcats, Jay Wright’s team wins the Big East regular season title outright for the first time since 1982. Darrun Hilliard continued his solid play by scoring 19 points, and the victory keeps the Wildcats in contention for a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. This is one of the best teams in the country, and Jay Wright’s done an outstanding job with this group.

2) No. 22 Michigan State 86, No. 24 Iowa 76

The big news for the Spartans: Keith Appling knocked down some shots. Appearing more confident Appling scored 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, and Travis Trice scored 17 points off the bench. As for Iowa the night was a frustrating one, as they once again struggled to string together stops. Michigan State shot 58.3% from the field, and if the Hawkeyes don’t find away to get better defensively they won’t be in the NCAA tournament very long.

3) No. 15 Cincinnati 97, No. 20 Memphis 84

On Senior Night the Bearcats senior starters did as they’ve done all season long: they led in regards to both the numbers and the intangibles. Sean Kilpatrick scored 34 points, Titus Rubles 24 and Justin Jackson added 13 to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Cincinnati can win a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a win at Rutgers on Saturday. As for Memphis, the Tigers struggled defensively and as a result they’re locked into the 4/5 game in next week’s conference tournament.

STARRED

1) F Brandon Edwards (UT-Arlington)

33 points (13-for-16 FG), 19 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the Mavericks’ 87-86 win at Troy.

2) G Antoine Mason (Niagara) 

38 points (13-for-19 FG), six rebounds and four assists in the Purple Eagles’ 78-76 win over Marist in a MAAC tournament first-round game.

3) G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) 

34 points (11-for-18 FG) and three assists in the Bearcats’ 97-84 win over No. 20 Memphis.

STRUGGLED

1) Northwestern and DePaul

Both Chicagoland-area teams were bad in home losses. The Wildcats fell to Penn State 59-32, and DePaul lost to Butler 79-46.

2) G Ledrick Eackles (McNeese State) 

Eackles missed all 11 of his field goal attempts in the Cowboys’ 67-51 loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

3) ShawnDre’ Jones (Richmond)

Shot 1-for-11 from the field in the Spiders’ 56-50 loss to VCU, finishing with three points, two assists and five turnovers.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • Atlantic Sun: FGCU, Mercer set up title game rematch
    Last season FGCU began its run with a win in the A-Sun title game on Mercer’s home floor. This year the Bears will aim to return the favor, with the top two seeds winning semifinal games at home. FGCU outlasted ETSU 69-64, and Mercer needed double-overtime to beat USC Upstate 78-75.
  • MAAC: Desi Washington victimizes Fairfield again
    Both regular season meeting between Saint Peter’s and Fairfield ended on Desi Washington three-pointers, and Washington did it again as the Peacocks eliminated the Stags, 65-62 in overtime. The other winners on day one were Niagara (over Marist) and Rider (over Monmouth).
  • MVC: Loyola-Illinois knocks off Bradley
    The Ramblers are now 1-0 all-time at “Arch Madness” by virtue of their 74-72 win over Bradley. Milton Doyle’s three-pointer as time expired was the difference. The other winner on opening night was Evansville, which will take on No. 2 Wichita State after beating Drake 69-61.
  • OVC: Seeds hold to form in the quarters
    After picking up wins on day one Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri State looked to pick up a second win, but both fell short. Morehead State eliminated Tennessee Tech, with Angelo Warner scoring 23 points in their 76-61 win over the Eagles. And SEMO fell 84-76 to Eastern Kentucky as Corey Walden led the victors with 17 points.
  • WCC: Lower-seeded teams win on day one
    With the opportunity to take on top seeds Gonzaga and BYU on the line, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount advanced in Las Vegas. The Broncos beat WCC tournament debutant Pacific 81-64, and they’ll take on Gonzaga Saturday. As for the Lions, they’ll look to duplicate their run to the WCC semifinals last season by beating BYU after coming back to beat Portland 67-64.

NOTABLES

  • Conference USA finished its regular season with a four-way tie for the regular season crown, with Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and Tulsa all finishing 13-3 in conference play. How they’ll be seeded in the conference tournament: Louisiana Tech gets the top seed, followed by Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss.
  • Western Kentucky clinched the second seed in the Sun Belt with a 75-72 win over Louisiana. George Fant scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to help the Hilltoppers hold off the Ragin’ Cajuns, who were led offensively by Elfrid Payton (31 points, 13 rebounds and three assists).
  • North Carolina Central concluded its 15-1 run through the MEAC with a 76-70 win at Norfolk State. Jeremy Ingram scored 19 points to lead the Eagles, who are 25-5 overall.
  • UC Irvine maintained its hold on first place in the Big West with a 62-44 win at Cal-State Fullerton, guaranteeing themselves at least a share of their first conference title in 12 years.
  • Jordan Adams scored 31 points to lead UCLA to 91-82 win at Washington. While the Bruins are locked into the two-seed in next week’s Pac-12 tournament, they’re still playing to improve their NCAA tournament seeding.
  • Southern Utah ended a 31-game losing streak against Division I opponents with a 77-71 win over North Dakota.
  • Portland State beat Weber State 66-59, limiting the Wildcats to 17 points in the first half. The win was a big one for the Vikings, one of five teams competing for the final three spots in next week’s Big Sky tournament.
  • VCU moved to 11-4 in Atlantic 10 play with a 56-50 win at Richmond, keeping alive their hopes of winning a share of the conference title. They’ll need help in the form of another Saint Louis loss, however.
  • Stephen F. Austin moved to 17-0 in the Southland with an 83-72 win over Oral Roberts. Thomas Walkup led three Lumberjacks in double figures with 16 points.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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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 adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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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 to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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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 to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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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, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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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.