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Florida State, SMU advance to Postseason NIT semifinals

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Wednesday’s two NIT quarterfinal contests came down to last-second shots, with one being missed and another being made. As a result of those outcomes Florida State and SMU advanced to the semifinals to be played Tuesday night in New York. The Seminoles, with George Clinton in attendance (he and FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton are friends), held on to beat Louisiana Tech 78-75 after nearly blowing an eight-point lead in the game’s final 38.9 seconds.

Aaron Thomas accounted for 21 points and nine rebounds and Okaro White added 20 points and eight rebounds for Florida State, which managed to limit the Bulldogs to 35.6% shooting from the field. What made things tougher than they needed to be for Florida State was their turnover count, with the Seminoles committing 15 against Louisiana Tech’s pressure defense. Next up for the Seminoles is Minnesota, which beat Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on December 3.

Kenneth Smith led Louisiana Tech with 16 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but he and fellow guard Alex Hamilton (nine points) combined to shoot 8-for-26 from the field.

SMU eliminated Cal 67-65, with Nic Moore’s three-pointer with 6.5 seconds remaining being the difference. Markus Kennedy paced the Mustangs, the last team left out of the NCAA tournament field, with 19 points to go along with ten rebounds. SMU won despite the fact that Cal shot 51.6% from the field due to their rebounding, as they managed to grab 51.5% of their misses on the night. SMU will face Clemson in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Cal once again played without senior center Richard Solomon, who missed his third straight game after suffering a concussion. Freshman Jabari Bird led the Golden Bears with 20 points and senior point guard Justin Cobbs added 18 along with seven assists in his final college game.

CBI: Siena, Fresno State advance to championship series

The three-game championship series is set, with Siena and Fresno State advancing with wins on Wednesday. Jimmy Patsos’ Saints defeated Illinois State 61-49 thanks to their solid defense and an standout performance from forward Brett Bisping. Siena limited Illinois State to 30% shooting from the field and 2-for-21 shooting from beyond the arc, and Bisping tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds. Siena will host games two and (if necessary) three of the series, which begins Monday at Fresno State.

The Bulldogs will host the opener, and they clinched their spot with a 71-64 win over Old Dominion. Marvelle Harris scored 20 points but the big difference was at the foul line, where Fresno State outscored the visiting Monarchs by 19 points (27-8). Four Bulldogs scored in double figures, and as a team Rodney Terry’s team shot 52.6% from the field.

CIT: Pacific, VMI and Yale reach semifinals

Three of the four spots in the CIT semis were determined Wednesday, with two of the games being decided by a total of five points. VMI held off Ohio 92-90, as Rodney Glasgow scored 30 points and D.J. Covington added 29 to go along with 11 rebounds to pace the Keydets. Nick Kellogg scored 30 points and Maurice Ndour added 26 to lead the way for the Bobcats. VMI’s opponent in Friday’s semifinal round will be Yale, which beat Ivy League rival Columbia 72-69 at Levien Gym. Javier Duren scored 33 points and nine rebounds to lead the visiting Bulldogs.

Pacific will play the winner of Thursday’s Murray State/Towson matchup as a result of their 75-60 win over WCC foe San Diego. Andrew Bock scored 23 points and Tony Gill added 18 and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, which lost to the Toreros by 15 points back on February 15 in Stockton (the road team won both regular season meetings). Duda Sanadze scored 16 points off the bench for San Diego.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.