Forward Nikola Vujovic won’t be joining Monmouth program

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In the aftermath of having four players decide to leave his program just a couple weeks after the 2013-14 season came to an end, Monmouth head coach King Rice put the finishing touches on a solid recruiting class. One of the players in that class was 6-foot-8 forward Nikola Vujovic, a native of Serbia who attended Notre Dame Prep last year. Unfortunately for Vujovic and the basketball program, it was reported Thursday by Josh Newman of the Asbury Park Press that the forward will not be a member of the program this season.

The issue, as told to Newman by Monmouth athletic director Dr. Marilyn McNeil, was that Vujovic struggled with the test that European students attempting to enroll at Monmouth have to take in order to show that they’re proficient enough in the English language to handle the coursework.

Indications are Vujovic got through the NCAA Eligibility Center with a GPA approaching 3.0.

“Yes, his admission was denied based on our standards, the metrics for international students,” McNeil said at the Charlotte Marriott Center City. “He’s gone back to Serbia. I think the opportunity for him to improve his English there is strained, but he’s a young man that doesn’t come from a wealthy family and he probably needed some more tutoring. It’s not good.”

Vujovic being denied admission drops Monmouth to 13 scholarship players in 2014-15, with that number representing the maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Among the newcomers added to the program is Providence graduate transfer Brice Kofane, and while he didn’t play a high number of minutes as a Friar his experience can help the Hawks inside.

The Hawks, who finished their first season as a member of the MAAC with an 11-21 record (5-15 MAAC), return their top two scorers from last season in guards Deon Jones (15.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Andrew Nicholas (14.2, 3.3) with both being seniors in 2014-15. Overall, Monmouth returns its top six scorers from last season, which should serve the Hawks well as they look to move up the MAAC standings.

PHOTOS: Miami, Syracuse wear shirts honoring Florida shooting victims

Photo via Mike Waters, Syracuse.com
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Syracuse is playing in Miami on Saturday, the first game that the Hurricanes have played at home since the shooting at Parkland, Florida’s, Stoneman Douglas High School.

Both teams wore warmup shirts honoring the victims of the shooting prior to the game:

Parkland and Coral Gables are about 50 miles apart, but both towns are suburbs with the same Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area.

St. John’s guard Lovett to leave school, turn pro

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Marcus Lovett announced on Saturday morning that he will be leaving St. John’s to pursue a professional career.

This decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Lovett, who averaged 14.9 points through the first seven games of the season, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury despite reports that he was healthy enough to play.

According to the New York Post, Lovett was not even enrolled in school for the spring semester.

Lovett spent three seasons in New York with the Johnnies and played less than a year and a half.

Yale’s Makai Mason expected to play vs. Harvard

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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For the first time since the 2016 NCAA tournament, Yale basketball fans are going to have a chance to see Makai Mason play for the Bulldogs.

A star point guard that is already committed to play for Baylor as a grad transfer in 2018-19, Mason missed all of the 2016-17 season and the 2017-18 season to date with a series of foot injuries.

As a sophomore, Mason averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists for the Bulldogs as they won the Ivy League and knocked off Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. He had 31 points in that win.

The Elis are currently 5-4 in the Ivy League after beating Dartmouth on Friday night. With Mason back in the fold, they seem like a safe bet to get to the Ivy League tournament and a contender to win it all.

The way that Ivy League rules are written, players are not allowed to redshirt, even if they are injured for the season. Since Mason was in classes as a junior, during the season that he missed, this year is the last year that he would be allowed to play for an Ivy League program.

Bubble Banter: A wild Saturday is on tap

John Weast/Getty Images
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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

TEXAS (RPI: 57, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Longhorns landed a massive, massive win for their NCAA tournament chances on Saturday afternoon when they went into Norman and picked off Oklahoma. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and put them into a position where a 2-2 finish to Big 12 play keeps them at 8-10 in the league. That’s relevant because no team more than two games below .500 in league play has reached the NCAA tournament since the early 90s. The Longhorns are now 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents with some elite wins in that mix — Texas Tech, at Alabama, a sweep of Oklahoma Butler on a neutral — and no losses worse than Quadrant 2. Texas is going to have a very real chance to be an NCAA tournament team with 14 losses this season.

YET TO PLAY

SYRACUSE
VIRGINIA TECH
PROVIDENCE
BUTLER
KANSAS STATE
LSU
BOISE STATE
ARKANSAS
N.C. STATE
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
BAYLOR
WASHINGTON
TCU
LOUISVILLE
MARQUETTE
UCLA
USC

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure’s LaDarien Griffin blocks shot, saves ball missing a shoe

Screengrab via News 4 Buffalo
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One of my favorite plays of the season to date.

With St. Bonaventure down 72-69 with just over three minutes left of their win over No. 16 Rhode Island, LaDarien Griffin lost a shoe and was forced to play a defensive possession in just a sock.

What did he do?

Well, he blocked a shot, corralled the loose ball and threw the ball off of a URI player who was standing out of bounds to stop play. Check this out:

That wasn’t the only big play that he made.

He also blocked a shot with 4.2 seconds left that helped preserve the win for the Bonnies.