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College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup

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source: AP
AP

Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Tennessee gets two commitments over Labor Day weekend, Glynn Watson’s big decision for Nebraska and a four-star guard is nearing a decision.

Tennessee lands two over Labor Day weekend

While the talk of college basketball recruiting for the last week or so has been Bruce Pearl’s commitment spree at Auburn, Pearl’s former program, Tennessee, added two additions on the wing over Labor Day weekend.

First came Admiral Schofield, a 6-foot-5 power wing from the suburbs of Chicago. Schofield is a late-bloomer and skilled, big-bodied wing who didn’t play for a shoe company team in grassroots season and was the second option on Zion-Benton’s High School team last season. But over the summer the light clicked and Schofield started going to work.

At AAU Nationals in Louisville, every high-major program in attendance was clamoring to see if Schofield was worth a scholarship offer and Tennessee was one of the programs to take a leap of faith.

Schofield’s commitment was followed by 6-foot-4 guard Shembari Phillips, an athletic back court player with some range on his jumper.

Although some will scoff at head coach Donnie Tyndall not landing a top-100 player in his first class, this is a weak class nationally and there aren’t as many difference-making players in the top 100 as usual. For Tyndall to get a pair of wings that he likes and feels comfortable with in his system — to go along with the players he recruited in the 2014 class in the spring — is not necessarily a bad start.

Tennessee has one more scholarship to give in 2015 but could have more available spots if players decide to leave the program. When you consider that Memphis transfer Dominic Woodson is also apart of this incoming group then Tennessee has three guys that could contribute in the SEC.

Nebraska gets its point guard

As has been stated numerous times on CBT, there just aren’t many good guards in the 2015 class, especially high-quality, pass-first point guards.

Which makes Nebraska’s verbal commitment from Illinois native and point guard Glynn Watson a big deal. The Cornhuskers and head coach Tim Miles are capitalizing on last season’s success and the hype surrounding their always-sold-out Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Now with a legitimate top-100 player and quality point guard in the mix, Miles and the Nebraska staff can sell other players in the 2015 class on playing with a guard that will make them better. The Cornhuskers winning games last year might have caught some people by surprise, but their success on the recruiting trail this year shouldn’t come as any sort of shock.

Miles knows how to land quality players and his charisma and all of the positives that Nebraska has to offer — a great arena, fan base and the Big Ten — are great selling points to recruits. Look for Nebraska to maintain some recruiting momentum heading into this season.

Four-star prospect to announce on Friday

Four-star guard Haanif Cheatham is scheduled to announce his decision on Friday at Pembroke Pines Charter in Florida.

The 6-foot-5 guard is the No. 68 overall prospect in Rivals‘ 2015 rankings and has Cal, Wichita State, Florida State, Georgia, Marquette, and Georgetown in his final six.

Cheatham has taken recent official visits to Cal and Marquette and the Golden Eagles are considered the favorite in this race at the moment.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.