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No. 22 Creighton makes statement with win at No. 16 Butler

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Maybe it was too soon to write off Creighton.

Many did it after Creighton gave up 102 points to Marquette in Omaha last weekend. I did it after the Bluejays were smoked by Georgetown last Wednesday night. It was hard not to. The Bluejays had lost their engine – Mo Watson Jr., an all-american candidate – to a torn ACL and proceeded to get run out of the gym in two games they otherwise would have no business losing.

Saturday’s win over DePaul didn’t do much to change that sentiment.

Tuesday’s win at No. 16 Butler?

That will.

Justin Patton scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, adding seven boards and a pair of blocks, as No. 22 Creighton went into Hinkle Fieldhouse and beat the Bulldogs, 76-67. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas both added 15 points for the Jays, who shot 13-for-21 from three in the win.

The story of the game, however, were Watson’s replacements. Greg McDermott scrapped the idea of using senior Isaiah Zierdan at the point guard spot and, instead, turned the keys over to freshman Davion Mintz and walk-on Tyler Clement, and they were both good. Mintz had eight points and three assists without committing a turnover, hitting a pair of big threes early in the second half to help push Creighton’s lead out to double-figure.

But it was Clement that really availed himself. He looked overwhelmed at Georgetown, like he wasn’t ready to handle the responsibility that came with running this show. Who could blame him? On Tuesday, however, you never would’ve guessed that he entered the season as the third-string, emergency point guard, the guy whose job was mostly to run the offense at the end of blowout wins.

He handed out six assists, including a pair of beautiful pick-and-roll dimes to Patton, but more importantly, he was able to get the Bluejays into their offense. Sometimes that required leading the break, sometimes all it took was him getting the ball over half court and initiating the set that McDermott called.

If there is anything that McDermott’s teams have developed a reputation for, it’s been their execution in the half court. Creighton is always going to be able to get good looks on the offensive end of the floor because of it. What we saw on Tuesday was less reliance on a point guard to make things happen and more crisply-run offensive sets. Lots of movement, lots of motion, plenty of screens to get Patton touches in the paint.

The fact that Creighton can do that takes some of the pressure off of the point guard spot.

But this group still needed a presence out there, some to take charge, pull the ball out, call a play.

Mintz and Clement were those guys on Tuesday.

And as a result, there’s reason to be hopeful that Creighton’s dream season is not a lost cause.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

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For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.