(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Unselfish Nigel Hayes leads No. 17 Wisconsin past No. 22 Syracuse for easy win

Leave a comment

Wisconsin looked like a veteran team with an efficient offense as they easily beat No. 22 Syracuse, 77-60, on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

The No. 17 Badgers showed tremendous patience moving the ball and they took a lot of good shots as they were able to pick apart Syracuse’s 2-3 zone by moving it from side-to-side.

This was the kind of Wisconsin that looked like it could hang with anyone in the country as they shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

And it’s all because senior forward Nigel Hayes didn’t hunt his own shot.

Hayes has been criticized the last two seasons for taking too many three-pointers and showing poor shot selection as he’s transitioned from role player to go-to guy. The last two seasons he’s shot 29 percent from three-point range but he’s still attempting over 3.8 per game.

But the version of Hayes we saw against Syracuse was a major reminder of why he’s considered one of the Big Ten’s best players. Playing at the elbows against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, Hayes showed his gifted passing ability while also taking smarter shots. Hayes finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists — missing a triple-double only because he was 4-for-11 from the field.

Although he didn’t shoot a great percentage, Hayes was able to move the ball from side-to-side or get it down low to sophomore Ethan Happ as Syracuse’s defense had no response. Happ is Wisconsin’s most productive and efficient player on most nights and he finished with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting with 13 rebounds.

And Hayes didn’t shoot a three-pointer for the second consecutive game.

After going 1-for-7 from three-point range in the Maui Invitational loss to North Carolina, clearly, Hayes received the message — if you can’t hit three-pointers on the soft rims of Maui, it might be time to re-evaluate your shot selection.

Hayes has taken better shots since returning to the mainland and if he continues to get Happ more touches while not hunting threes then it could be huge for Wisconsin’s offensive efficiency. This version of Wisconsin’s offense looked really balanced and strong.

Because the Badgers can also put Vitto Brown at the top of the key — or anywhere on the floor since he can pass and hit threes — their guards could attack from the wings against Syracuse’s zone with good side-to-side movement. This enabled senior Bronson Koenig to finish with 20 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting as he had an outstanding game on the offensive end.

Syracuse was led by Andrew White’s 14 points while senior center DaJuan Coleman finished with 12 points. The Orange’s 2-3 zone still has a lot of room for improvement, and since it’s a bigger lineup with three forwards, they have trouble with some quicker lineups.

Offensively, the Orange also don’t have a true identity right now and some guys are trying to do too much on their own. Sophomore Tyler Lydon also seemed content to hang on the perimeter as a catch-and-shoot option as he finished with nine points on 4-for-9 shooting. Lydon was only 1-for-6 from three-point range.

The Orange had to battle foul trouble in the first half and struggled to catch up once they fell behind in the first half. Syracuse didn’t appear prepared for this kind of road test and they’ve now dropped two straight after falling to South Carolina in Brooklyn this weekend. Syracuse still has plenty of talent but they have to fix some things quickly before ACC play.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

Leave a comment

This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

Jamie Squire/ESPN/Getty Images
1 Comment

Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

Leave a comment

Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

Leave a comment

North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.

Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
7 Comments

Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.