Iowa State v Notre Dame

Will Pat Connaughton finish basketball career at Notre Dame, even if MLB Draft calls?

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Pat Connaughton has some decisions to make.

The 6-foot-5 junior just finished a strong year on the court and on the diamond for the Fighting Irish this season and now the right-handed starting pitcher could be drafted next Thursday in the three-day MLB Draft.

Connaughton is expected to be selected after a junior year in which he went 3-5 on the mound with a 3.92 earned run average. Connaughton was even better his sophomore season when he finished 4-2 with a 1.71 earned run average.

But there’s a catch: Connaughton wants to return to Notre Dame in the fall regardless of whether he is drafted to play baseball or not.

According to a story from Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated, Connaughton has 15 credit hours left that will give him his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, while he also hopes to play basketball for Notre Dame for his senior season.

Connaughton averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during the Irish’s 15-17 season in 2013-14.

Some Major League teams are willing to let him go along with his plan of completing his senior season, Connaughton told Prister. Notre Dame’s basketball program leaves for an August trip to Italy and Connaughton hopes to participate in that and his senior basketball season.

“There are some teams that aren’t willing to negotiate something like that,” Connaughton said to Prister.

Connaughton told Prister there are “10-to-15” MLB organizations that have indicated a willingness to let him play his senior season on the hardwood. The Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and California Angels have all reportedly expressed interest in Connaughton going through with the scenario of letting him play basketball.

“At the end of the day, it’s just like picking a college,” Connaughton said. “If the schools that were saying, ‘Yeah, you can do this but it’s going to be tough,’ you’re already stacking the odds against me before I get on campus. So why not pick a school where they were saying, ‘You can do it and we’re going to help you succeed at that.’”

In 2011, Connaughton was a 38th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres out of high school, but opted for a college career at Notre Dame. The pitcher’s fastball has been regularly clocked in the low-to-mid 90s while walking 40 batters and striking out 36 in 62 innings pitched this spring.

If Connaughton isn’t selected in the MLB Draft next week, he also can return to Notre Dame to play basketball and baseball for his senior season and the junior could also opt to strictly focus on his baseball career if he’s picked high in the draft next week.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.