It’s official: The Gavitt Tipoff Games are happening

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The Gavitt Tipoff Games became official on Monday, as the two conferences confirmed the news that broke on Sunday night with a press conference at Madison Square Garden.

Dave Gavitt, who the event is named after and who passed away in 2011, was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Big East.

“This all started with friendship and it ends with competition,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said at a news conference at Madison Square Garden. “This shows Dave’s spirit is with us today as much as when he was with us.”

“Dave was about events and he was always talking about the start of the season,” said Mike Tranghese, the Big East’s first employee hired by Gavitt and his successor as commissioner. “He would be so happy about this, not only the great games but especially with the relationships between the conferences.”

“Dave created the Big East-ACC Challenge, the first of all the early-season challenges. Even back then he talked about getting the season started with a bang. He wanted everybody in the country to have that one opening day. He would have a smile today about this, but if he were here he’d be thinking about getting everybody in the country involved.”

The way it works is that during the first full week of college basketball’s regular season, the Big East and the Big Ten will play eight games, with two each coming on that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Each Big East team will get at least six games during the course of the eight-year deal, which is slated to begin in 2015-2016, while the Big Ten teams will all play at least four times.

This is a great idea for an event for a number of reasons.

To begin with, getting intriguing matchups this early in November is not usual, particularly getting the games to be played on campus. As entertaining as it is to see Duke play Kansas at the United Center or to get eight top 50 programs on a tropical island to play in front of crowds where media outnumber actual fans, what makes college basketball special is just how energized a game and a campus can be. We need more of that early in the season.

The better part is that these games will be played during the week, meaning that they won’t be competing with football on the weekends for eyeballs. Throw in the fact that there are some potentially juicy matchups — Xavier vs. Ohio State and Georgetown vs. Maryland immediately come to mind — and this is precisely the kind of event that we’ve been needing to see early in the season.

Report: Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft, according to reports.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll reportedly end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.