Late Night Snacks: No. 16 Iowa State, N.C. State among Friday’s winners

1 Comment

Friday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: Arkansas State 116, Arkansas-Little Rock 114 (4OT)

The wildest game of the day was played at the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans, with the Red Wolves final beating the Trojans after four overtimes were played and 230 points were scored. Melvin Johnson III’s three-point play with six seconds remaining in the fourth overtime was the difference for Arkansas State, who will face top-seed Georgia State in Saturday’s semifinals. Ed Townsel led five Arkansas State players in double figures with 32 points, and Leroy Isler paced six Trojans in double figures with 25.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 16 Iowa State 94, No. 10 Kansas 83

Not having Joel Embiid in the lineup certainly impacts the way Kansas defends, and that was the case in their loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals. Iowa State shot 54% from the field and 11-for-19 from beyond the arc, and all five starters scored in double figures with Georges Niang scoring 25 points. Perry Ellis scored 30 points in a losing effort with Andrew Wiggins adding 22 (on 7-for-21 shooting), but the shoddy defense was too much to overcome.

2) N.C. State 66, No. 11 Syracuse 63

The Orange lost for the fifth time in their last seven games Friday night, dropping a three-point decision to N.C. State in Greensboro. T.J. Warren scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Wolfpack, who will play No. 7 Duke in the ACC semifinals, but the issue for Syracuse was their offense. C.J. Fair shot 3-for-16 and Trevor Cooney 1-for-6, and as a team the Orange shot 32.7%. Syracuse has shot 40% or better in just two of their last eight games.

3) No. 24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67

With just under 14 minutes remaining the Huskers led 48-30 and looked poised to reach the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament for the first time in their short time as a member of the league. But Ohio State decided to take better shots and not turn the ball over, and the Buckeyes were able to come back and win as a result. LaQuinton Ross scored 26 points and Amedeo Della Valle gave the Buckeyes some really good minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points.

STARRED 

1) Russ Smith (Louisville) 

Smith scored a career-high 42 points (14-for-22 FG) to go along with three rebounds and three assists in the Cardinals’ 94-65 win over Houston in an American semifinal.

2) Ed Townsel (Arkansas State)

Accounted for 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Red Wolves’ 116-114 quadruple overtime win over UALR in a Sun Belt quarterfinal.

3) LaDontae Henton (Providence) 

Scored 26 points (9-for-13 FG) and grabbed 14 rebounds in Providence’s 80-74 win over Seton Hall in a Big East semifinal.

STRUGGLED

1) Andre Hollins (Minnesota) 

Hollins shot 2-for-14 in Minnesota’s 83-57 loss to No. 12 Wisconsin in a Big Ten quarterfinal.

2) C.J. Fair (Syracuse) 

Fair made just three of his 16 shot attempts in Syracuse’s 66-63 loss to N.C. State in an ACC quarterfinal.

3) Kendall Anthony (Richmond) 

Anthony shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Spiders’ 71-53 loss to VCU in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • ACC: No. 7 Duke withstands furious Clemson rally
    Up 12 in the second half the Blue Devils looked to be on their way to another ACC semifinal appearance, but their taking the air out of the basketball helped get Clemson back into the game. Two Rodney Hood free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Duke the 63-62 win, but they’ll need to be better against N.C. State. The other winners on Friday were top-seed Virginia and five-seed Pittsburgh, with the latter beating North Carolina and adding a quality win to its resume.
  • American: No. 21 UConn eliminates top-seed No. 13 Cincinnati
    Kevin Ollie’s Huskies put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season, limiting the Bearcats to 37.9% shooting in their 58-56 win. Shabazz Napier scored 15 points and DeAndre Daniels added 14 and nine rebounds, with Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah also contributing. UConn will play No. 5 Louisville in the title game, with the Cardinals whipping Houston 94-65 in the other semifinal.
  • Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure upsets top-seed Saint Louis
    The will be a new champion in the Atlantic 10, as Jordan Gathers’ three-pointer as time expired gave the Bonnies a 71-68 win over the 18th-ranked Billikens. Mark Schmidt’s team will face Saint Joseph’s in one semifinal, with Langston Galloway’s three-pointer with 17.9 second remaining giving the Hawks the lead for good in their 70-67 win over Dayton. The other semifinal matches VCU and George Washington, with the Rams beating Richmond and GW holding off UMass.
  • Big 12: Baylor moves to 10-1 in its last 11 games
    Scott Drew’s Bears are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, with their latest victory being an 86-69 whipping of Texas. Brady Heslip scored 24 points and Cory Jefferson added 20 to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks. Baylor takes on No. 16 Iowa State in the title game.
  • Big East: Providence, Creighton advance to title game
    Of the two winners Providence, still fighting to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, had more to lose. LaDontae Henton scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Friars’ 80-74 win over Seton Hall. As for the Bluejays, they continued their march with an 86-78 win over Xavier and Doug McDermott led the way with 32 points.
  • Big Sky: North Dakota, Weber State move on to Saturday’s final
    Weber State needed five extra minutes in their semifinal, beating Northern Colorado 66-63 in overtime. Their opponent in Saturday’s title game will be North Dakota, which beat Portland State 79-63. Davion Berry (Weber State) and Troy Huff (North Dakota) on the same court should be fun to watch.
  • Big Ten: Did No. 12 Wisconsin punch Minnesota’s ticket to the NIT?
    That’s the question some Minnesota fans may ask themselves in the aftermath of the Badgers’ 83-57 pasting of the Golden Gophers, and that may turn out to be the case. Next up for Wisconsin is No. 22 Michigan State, who took care of Northwestern. The first semifinal matches No. 24 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan, with the Wolverines beating Illinois 64-63 in the first game of the day.
  • Big West: Cal Poly picks off UC Irvine
    One day after eliminating two-seed UCSB the Mustangs were at it again, this time beating top-seed UC Irvine 61-58. The opponent for the seven-seed in Saturday’s title game: five-seed Cal-State Northridge, which beat Long Beach State 82-77 in the nightcap. Given both teams’ records the winner is almost a lock to be headed to Dayton for the First Four.
  • Conference USA: Louisiana Tech rolls over Southern Miss
    The semifinals matched the four teams that finished tied atop the C-USA standings, and the game between Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss wasn’t very close with the Bulldogs winning 88-70. Louisiana Tech will take on Tulsa for the league’s automatic bid, with the Golden Hurricane holding on to beat Middle Tennessee in the other semifinal.
  • MAC: Top two seeds advance to title game
    Western Michigan (beat Akron in overtime) and Toledo (beat Eastern Michigan) took care of business Friday night in Cleveland, meaning that the top two seeds will play for the league’s automatic bid. What it also means is that the West Division will represent the MAC in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, when Western Michigan beat Kent State in the final.
  • MEAC: North Carolina Central one win away
    Levelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad moved one step closer to its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament with a 68-45 win over Norfolk State. Next up for the Eagles is Morgan State, which beat Coppin State 79-64 in the other semifinal.
  • Mountain West: Round three set up for Saturday night
    With No. 8 San Diego State and No. 20 New Mexico splitting the regular season series, a third meeting to determine the league’s tournament champ isn’t a bad deal at all. SDSU held off UNLV 58-51, with the Lobos hanging on to beat Boise State 70-67 in the other semifinal.
  • Pac-12: No. 4 Arizona, UCLA roll into title game
    For some reason there was just one regular season meeting scheduled between the Wildcats and Bruins. Luckily fans will get to see a second meeting, as both Arizona and UCLA coasted into the title game with commanding wins Friday night. Arizona clamped down on Colorado in the first game, with UCLA blitzing Stanford right out of the gates in the nightcap.
  • SEC: Top four seeds advance
    Missouri had a chance to enhance its profile with a win over No. 1 Florida, but a 12-0 second half run sparked by Scottie Wilbekin put an end to that drama. The Gators will face Tennessee in one semifinal, with Kentucky and Georgia meeting in the other. Florida/Kentucky, round three? Maybe, but the Volunteers have played well recently.
  • Southland: Stephen F. Austin wins 27th straight game
    It was close down the stretch but the Lumberjacks made the plays they needed to make late in order to hold off Northwestern State, 85-78. Standing in between SFA and a trip to the NCAA tournament is Sam Houston State, which beat two-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the other semifinal.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M advance to title game
    The best team in the SWAC eligible for postseason play, Mike Davis’ Tigers are one win away from the NCAA tournament after beating Alabama State 73-61. Next up for Aaric Murray and company is eight-seed Prairie View A&M, which upset Alabama A&M 55-49 in the other semifinal.
  • Sun Belt: Xavian Rimmer leads Louisiana past UT Arlington
    Xavian Rimmer scored 24 points and dished out three assists in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 91-85 win over the Mavericks, setting up a semifinal matchup with two-seed Western Kentucky. The other semifinal will match top-seed Georgia State and four-seed Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves coming off of a four-overtime win.
  • WAC: Idaho eliminates top-seed Utah Valley
    Stephen Madison scored 25 points as five-seed Idaho beat the regular season champions 74-69. Idaho will meet preseason favorite New Mexico State in the title game, with the Aggies beating Bakersfield 69-63.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

Eric Espada/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.

Book titled ‘The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino’ set to be published in September

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals looks on in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There is another book coming out about Rick Pitino, but this one does not seem to be one that will make the former Louisville head coach all that excited.

Written by Michael Sokolove, the author of two books that were written with John Calipari, “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino” is a story about the scandals that have rocked college basketball over the course of the last seven months.

The book, according to a promotional materials sent out by publisher Penguin Random House, is meant to take down the scam of amateurism in big time college athletics, something that people reading this space have heard me rant on and on about. Pitino is the central figure in this story, as the one coach that has actually lost his job and, potentially, seen his career derailed as a result of the revelations in the FBI’s investigation.

If this line from the press release doesn’t sell it, I’m not sure what will: “A Shakespearean drama of greed and desperation involving some of the biggest characters in the arena of sports, ‘The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino’ will be the definitive chronicle of this scandal and its broader echoes.”

The date the book is scheduled to be published is Sept. 25th, 2018, which is the day before the one-year anniversary of the FBI dropping their bombshell investigation.

The most influential ‘testing the water’ decisions

Chris Covatta/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The deadline to declare for the NBA draft has come and gone, which means we’re now waiting for the next deadline: When underclassmen have to pull their name out of the NBA draft if they are testing the waters.

That day is May 30th.

It is a full five weeks away, after the NBA draft combine and nearly a month before the draft itself.

So there is a long way to go with this process.

But as things stand today, here is a list of all the players that have signed with an agent and that are testing the waters.

There are more than 150 players on that list. So to help you parse it all down, here are the most influential Should-I-Stay-Or-Should-I-Go decisions that are going to be made over the course of the next five weeks.

OMARI SPELLMAN and DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova

Villanova already lost a pair of juniors to the NBA draft as both Mikal Bridges, a potential top ten pick, and Jalen Brunson, last year’s reigning National Player of the Year, declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Eric Paschall and Phil Booth both opted to return to school for their redshirt senior seasons where, along with returnees Jermaine Samuels, Collin Gillispie and Dhamir Cosby-Rountree and a recruiting class that is as good as any that Jay Wright had landed in his time on the Main Line, has Villanova’s program in a great place for the future.

And frankly, even with just that group of guys, the Wildcats are likely still going to enter the season as the favorite to win the Big East once again, although that might say more about the Big East than it does about Villanova.

But if they get Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman back, we could be looking at a situation where this is once again the best team in college basketball.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Let’s start with DiVincenzo, since I think he’s the more likely of the two to return. On the one hand, he might end up being a preseason first-team all-american if he makes the choice to play for Jay Wright for another season, and as such, he’ll likely end up taking over the lion’s share of Villanova’s offense as a result. But more importantly, at least when it comes to the draft, is that DiVincenzo still has some things that he can improve on that would make him a more palatable first round pick. As dynamic as he was this season, Divincenzo has always been a streaky scorer, a mixed bag as a decision-maker and a questionable ball-handler. Those are things that can be improved upon and, with a weaker draft coming up in 2019, the kind of thing that might be able to sneak him into the lottery.

Spellman is a different story. He’s something of a finished product in terms of an NBA prospect. There are things that he can improve on — his post game, for one, and his ability to drive left, another — but the weight loss that he went through in his two seasons as a part of the Villanova program is what turned him into an NBA player. Given his size, his ability to shoot from three, the way he attacks close-outs and the fact that he can protect the rim and rebound the ball now that he’s shed 50 pounds, there is likely a spot for him in an NBA rotation somewhere. And while DiVincenzo can improve where he’s picked by coming back, I think Spellman is always going to find himself in that range of being a late first rounder or an early second rounder.

The catch, however, is that I think Spellman’s return might be more important to Villanova as a team. His skillset is what brings everything together and makes that Villanova offense so difficult to guard.

As it stands, Villanova is currently the No. 2 overall team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25. With both players officially back, I’ll have to think long and hard about whether or not they should be No. 1.

(Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

CALEB MARTIN, CODY MARTIN and JORDAN CAROLINE, Nevada

Should Nevada get all three of these guys back for another season, the Wolf Pack are going to enter the 2018-19 season as a preseason top ten team.

But are they going to get all three of these guys back?

That, at this point, is a major question mark for one, simple reason: They are all staring down the barrel of a redshirt senior season, meaning that it will be the fifth year that the three — all of whom transferred into Nevada — will be in college. If they already have their degree, and they are all turning 23 years old in the next year, is a shot at making the Final Four enough incentive to return to school?

For Caroline it might be. As talented as he is, I’m not sure that he gets drafted if he turns pro. Both Martin twins have an actual chance to end up hearing their name called on draft night — Caleb as one of the best shot-makers in college basketball and Cody as a 3-and-D role player — but it would be as second round picks. If all three are gone, then I think we’re talking about Nevada as a team that is going to have to battle just to make the NCAA tournament.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

KEVIN HUERTER and BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland

There are so many teams in the Big Ten with so much on the line over the course of the next five weeks, but I’m not sure anyone has more at stake than Maryland, who is still waiting to hear what Huerter and Fernando are going to do.

Let’s pretend, for a second, that both return to school. Huerter — a 6-foot-7 wing that averaged 14.6 points and shot 42 percent from three — joins Anthony Cowan and Darryl Morsell to give the Terps one of the better backcourts in college basketball while Fernando, a native of Angola, would be in line for a breakout sophomore campaign. Throw in a recruiting class that includes transfer Schnider Herard and five-star Jalen Smith up front and promising four-star wings like Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith and Aaron Wiggins, and there is something here for Mark Turgeon to work with.

It’s why Maryland is a top 20 team in our preseason rankings.

But Huerter has some second round appeal this season given his size, length and shooting ability while Fernando, who had some impressive moments as a freshman, is tangentially linked to the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. Fernando and Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa as childhood friends that both have the same American guardian. That guardian allegedly received a payout of at least $20,000 to get De Sousa out from under payments he already received from a rival apparel company when he committed to Kansas; De Sousa, who played for Under Armour sponsored high school and AAU teams, was considered a near-lock to head to Maryland, who is Under Armour’s flagship program.

Without those two, Anthony Cowan will take on the role of Melo Trimble, trying to carry the load for the Terps, and I’m not sure he’s cut out for it the way that Trimble was.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue

Edwards might end up being the best lead guard in college basketball next season. I would not be surprised to see him end up as a consensus preseason first-team all-american should he end up coming back to school, and if he does, I think Purdue is a borderline top 25 team that will be back in the NCAA tournament. Without him, however, and the Boilermakers will have to replace five starters on a team that really didn’t have much in the way of quality depth. Edwards is the difference between Purdue being a good team and Purdue being in a total rebuild.

ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin

Wisconsin just finished the worst season the program has had in two decades, snapping a 19-year NCAA tournament streak and a 16-year run of top four finishes in the Big Ten. And yet, I feel good about where this team is headed. Much of that, as I noted in this column, has to do with the promising crop of youngsters and the way that they finished last season despite being injured and, you know, young. But much more of it had to do with the idea that Happ, an all-american in 2016-17 and a preseason all-american heading into last season, would be back for his senior year. He is the anchor for this group on both ends of the floor.

JAMES PALMER JR. and ISAAC COPELAND, Nebraska

Palmer was one of the best players in the Big Ten last season, quietly putting together an incredible year that not enough people paid attention to. Copeland had his best season as a collegian last year, and the two of them, the two leading scorers for a team that tied for fourth in the Big Ten last year, are the reason why Nebraska looks like they have a shot to be even better next year. They are a borderline top 25 team that should get Tim Miles back to the NCAA tournament. They are also both transfers that might opt to turn professional with a degree in hand, and if that were to happen, the Cornhuskers are going to be heading back into rebuilding mode.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan

Michigan is the team that I’ve gotten the most pushback on for leaving out of the NBC Sports preseason top 25. I have them out right now because I’m not convinced that Matthews returns to school and, when combined with losing their two best offensive weapons — Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — to graduation, would leave Michigan very young and without the kind of offensive firepower that they had this year. Matthews coming back would change that outlook and make the Wolverines more of a finished product than they are without him. Matthews, individually, would be a potential all-american — and top 20 picks — if he were to return and show off an ability to shoot more consistently from three.

BRYCE BROWN, JARED HARPER, and AUSTIN WILEY, Auburn

I’m honestly not sure what to do with Auburn here. They are already losing Mustapha Heron to the draft, and it is hard for me to justify to myself ranking the Tigers in the top 15 of the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. They’ll be there so long as they get all three of these players back. If they decide to enter the draft, Auburn will look a lot more like they did in the first three years of Bruce Pearl’s tenure.

KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton

Thomas has a chance to have a nice NBA career. He only stands 6-foot-3, but his 6-foot-11 wingspan combined with the fact that he makes better than 40 percent of his threes makes him an intriguing 3-and-D prospect. I do think there’s a chance that he’ll be a first round pick this year should he opt to declare for the draft, and that should make his return to Creighton all that much more important. The Bluejays already lost Marcus Foster, and losing Thomas — who is the one elite defender on a roster that is built for space, pace and scoring — would be another major blow. With him in the fold and the return of a young core of Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock and Jacob Epperson, the Bluejays suddenly look like the second-best team in the Big East.

UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

Azubuike is on this list now because of the fact that Kansas will, more likely than not, be without the services of Silvio De Sousa following the latest reveal in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption. If Azubuike opts to remain in the draft, that means that the five-spot in the Kansas lineup will be manned by Mitch Lightfoot and freshman David McCormack. The reason that Azubuike is so low on this list is that, without him, I would fully expect Kansas to play a smaller, more versatile lineup, and that might actually make them more difficult to matchup with. Put another way, losing Azubuike would have a bigger impact on how Kansas plays instead of how good they actually end up being.

TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse

Battle is a borderline first round pick, a guy that could go anywhere between the 20s and the 40s, depending on which NBA organizations fall in love with him. If he’s back, Syracuse has to be thought of as a potential tournament team because, you know, they were this year without all that much around him. If he’s gone, things could get ugly.

MARCQUISE REED and SHELTON MITCHELL, Clemson

Clemson’s two best players down the stretch of the season, Reed and Mitchell back on campus would likely make the Tigers a tournament team for a second straight season. If they end up leaving school, then Brad Brownell is going to be happy that they were able to relieve the pressure on his him with a trip to the Sweet 16 this past tournament.