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.

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.