(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Beachem’s career day leads No. 15 Irish over Syracuse

Leave a comment

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) When V.J. Beachem gets to the rim, opportunities open up for him and No. 15 Notre Dame.

Midway through the first half Saturday against Syracuse, Beachem streaked along the baseline and threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk. Next trip down the court, there was Beachem again with another flush off a nifty behind-the-back pass from Matt Farrell.

Beachem decided to take it outside from there, banging home consecutive 3-pointers in a personal 10-2 run that broke things open for the Irish in an 84-66 victory over the Orange.

Beachem finished with a career-high 30 points for Notre Dame which snapped a four-game losing streak against Syracuse.

“The drive really opens up the outside shot for me,” Beachem said. “When you can get into the middle of the lane and make everybody look and collapse, that’s when the outside really opens up.”

Farrell added 15 points and nine assists for the Irish, who were coming off a three-point loss at No. 10 Florida State that stopped a seven-game winning streak.

“V.J. was fabulous,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “When we can get him flowing like that, it’s a confidence-giver to his teammates.”

On an unseasonably warm January day for Northern Indiana, with temperatures in the 50s, Notre Dame (17-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) was hot from outside, hitting 11 3-pointers against the Syracuse zone.

“We were really anxious to play against (the zone),” Beachem said. “The way we play offensively, we felt like we’d be fine against it.”

Beachem tied his career high with six 3s and added seven rebounds. He finished 12 of 22 from the field and his point total was the most by an Irish player since Bonzie Colson had 31 against Duke last season.

“Beachem, we just couldn’t get to him,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a tremendous shooter and we just didn’t get to him.”

Despite sitting much of the first half with foul trouble, Colson still finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Steve Vasturia added 11 points.

Tyler Lydon had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Syracuse (11-9, 3-4). Tyus Battle added 17 points and Andrew White III had 16.

“We can’t win with just three guys against anybody,” Boeheim said. “We have to have more guys. I can’t even describe how disappointed I am in a couple guys on our team.”

After being outrebounded by 20 in a loss to North Carolina on Monday, the Orange were again beaten on the boards, 39-28. Syracuse also struggled from deep, going just 6 of 19 from 3-point range.

“I think our defense was really the key today,” Brey said.

Notre Dame took a 16-point lead early in the second half with a 9-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way. Rex Pflueger’s 3 with just over 4 minutes left gave the Irish their largest lead of 22 points.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange are 0-5 on the road and have yet to beat a ranked team, after being ranked as high as No. 16 earlier in the season.

Notre Dame: The Irish have yet to lose consecutive games this season and figured out a response after dropping their first ACC game on Wednesday.

RING OF HONOR

Former All-America guard David Rivers was inducted into Notre Dame’s ring of honor at halftime. Rivers, who played from 1984-88, scored over 2,000 points in his career and was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988.

Rivers, who comes from a family of 15 children in Jersey City, NJ, nearly died in a car accident in 1986, but came back and averaged 22 points per game in his final season at Notre Dame.

Former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps has called Rivers the best player he’s ever coached.

“When I hear that, it’s humbling,” Rivers said before Saturday’s game. “I take it as one of the greatest compliments I could ever receive, and I just move on, because I’m familiar with some of these names that are up there (in the ring of honor) already. It’s just awesome company.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Following a close loss at No. 10 Florida State on Wednesday, the Irish don’t figure to slide much after keeping pace with the ACC’s top teams.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The Orange return home for two, starting with Wake Forest on Tuesday before No. 10 Florida State visits on Saturday.

Notre Dame: The Irish host three of their next four, beginning with No. 16 Virginia on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith returns to school after withdrawing from NBA Draft

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith will return for his senior season, the school confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the most intriguing athletes in college basketball as he’s been a double-figure scorer for the Red Raiders the past two seasons. As a junior, Smith put up 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as he shot 50 percent from the field.

Three-point shooting was something that Smith improved dramatically last season as he increased it to 39 percent in a small sample size. If Smith can continue to show that he’s a perimeter shooting threat then he could be an ideal three-and-d candidate at the pro level.

By returning to Texas Tech, Smith gives head coach Chris Beard a potential all-league candidate who should be counted on to be a double-double threat next season.

 

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

Leave a comment

Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
3 Comments

Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

YouTube
Leave a comment

Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.