2014 center Chinanu Onuaku verbally commits to attend Louisville

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Another of the nation’s top interior prospects in the 2014 class is off the board, as 6-foot-10 center Chinanu Onuaku verbally committed to attend [school] during a press conference held at Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Md. Onuaku, the younger brother of former Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku, chose Louisville over Georgetown and Miami.

Onuaku averaged 8.2 points and more than ten rebounds per game as a junior last season, and his recruitment gained steam during the spring/summer due to his play with the D.C. Assault grassroots program. Louisville was the first of the three finalists to host Onuaku on an official visit, with the center taking that trip in late-August.

Riverdale Baptist head coach Lou Wilson stated earlier this week in the Washington Post that he believed Louisville was the favorite to land Onuaku, citing the factors such as academics and the program’s run of success under Rick Pitino.

Wilson reiterated his prior belief that Louisville stands as the front-runner among Onuaku’s choices, citing the school’s strong academics, prestigious coach in Rick Pitino and the Cardinals’ recent success as 2013 national champions.

“From our conversations, it seems he feels like he’ll have an opportunity to play at Louisville, get a good education and be on a winning team,” Wilson said. “He seemed to enjoy being around the coaches and players down there for his visit.”

Onuaku joins forwards Shaqquan Aaron and Jaylen Johnson in Louisville’s 2014 class, and with if players such as Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell are as successful as many believe they’re capable of being this season Onuaku would be another valuably front court option for coach Pitino to have at his disposal. Louisville also has centers Akoy Agau and Mangok Mathiang on their current roster, and they’re one of the two finalists (rival Kentucky being the other) for the services of 2014 power forward/center Trey Lyles.

Here are a few clips of Onuaku in action at this summer’s NBPA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, Va.

Syracuse, Georgetown close to renewing acquaintances?

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Many likely remember the drama surrounding the meetings between old rivals Georgetown and Syracuse this past season, with all the dramatics surrounding it being “the last time these two will play” as members of the Big East. Well it seems as if the two programs are close to agreeing to a ten-year contract, with Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross saying on his radio show that Syracuse has already signed the contract.

Syracuse Athletic Director Daryl Gross said Wednesday night on his radio show on TK99 that there is a 10-year basketball contract on the table that would bring Syracuse and Georgetown together on the hardwood.

Gross said Syracuse signed the contract and is waiting for Georgetown to sign off on it. There was no mention of when the games would be played.

Of course there are many moving parts to be considered when it comes to non-conference series, whether it’s television arrangements or the other games the programs have on their respective schedules. And on Thursday Gross stated that there are still details to be worked out, especially when considering how quickly Georgetown had to move in regards to it’s conference situation. But it’s always good for rivals to continue to play each other, regardless of what’s happened due to conference realignment.

In this current era of conference realignment (going from 2003 to present) some of college athletics’ best rivalries have been cast aside over hurt feelings and anger. But in the end, what’s gained from such actions? The fans ultimately lose out, and it can be argued that the players lose out as well when considering the history of games such as Kansas/Missouri.

Syracuse leads the all-time series 49-41, with their 58-55 overtime win in the Big East tournament semifinals being the most recent meeting between the two schools. Led by Otto Porter Jr. the Hoyas won both regular season meetings, one of which being a 61-39 conquest in the regular season finale for both.

If Georgetown and Syracuse can finalize the contract that’s a good move for both schools. Sure, it won’t be the same since they’re no longer conference rivals. But this would be far better than if the two programs would have gone with the “we’re mad so we’re taking our ball and going home” approach that some other schools have taken in recent years.

Georgetown-Syracuse Big East rivalry closes in fitting fashion

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NEW YORK — Georgetown already beat Syracuse.

In fact, they did it twice. And in devastating fashion.

Georgetown defeated the Orange by 11 in front of a record crowd at the Carrier Dome. They then followed it up by dismantling the Orange by 22 in the regular season final. The Hoyas had sent Syracuse off into the sunset in the best way possible, a season sweep of their bitter rivals in embarrassing fashion.

But that’s not how a rivalry should end, let alone one that laid the foundation for the very conference that is coming to a close this weekend.

Sure Hoya fans would disagree, but the college hoops game deserved better. The Big East deserved better. This rivalry needed to end at Madison Square Garden. This rivalry needed to close with a postseason show down with Championship implications. This final game needed to be decided in overtime, on the final shot of the game.

So when Jabril Trawick’s desperation heave caromed off the iron to give Syracuse a 58-55 overtime victory, Hoya fans languished, Orange fans celebrated and the legacy of the classic Big East shined through one final time.

“This is big time, the Big East Tournament, Georgetown versus Syracuse” said forward James Southerland, who finished with 13 points, including four key 3-pointers. “Everyone was eager to go out there and prove to everybody what we could do.”

Syracuse was not about to let their bitter rivalries embarrass them for a third time, especially not in Madison Square Garden, in an event that the two schools had help put on the map.

“Just us losing last time by 20, that meant a lot for us to even get to play against them again, said Brandon Triche, who scored the final field goal of regulation and the final point of overtime. “Just reading comments from them, talking trash about us, it made it even more important to win a game like this.”

Jim Boeheim agreed that this was a big tournament for his team. Not just because the Orange had been slumping, losers of four of their last five regular season games, but because this was the final trip to Madison Square Garden for postseason play.

“This is a monumental tournament for us to get our confidence back and what we can do and what’s ahead of us. We fully got that back. So that’s why this tournament is so valuable for us this year. We really needed to have this kind of a tournament.”

This is how the Big East was meant to go out.

This is how the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry was destined to finish.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

No. 19 Syracuse outlasts No. 5 Georgetown in OT to advance to Big East final

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NEW YORK — Like the third edition of title fight between two heavyweight contenders, Syracuse-Georgetown III had the makings of the kind of Big East classic that has defined this conference. It had the venue: Madison Square Garden in New York City. It had the history: one that has been built over the past 30 years in the Big East. And it had the stakes: a chance to advance to conference championship game.

Despite blowing a nine-point halftime lead and allowing No. 5 Georgetown to force overtime, No. 19 Syracuse pulled away in the extra period to win, 58-55, and earn the right to play for Saturday’s Big East championship.

“This was just a great win,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “We didn’t shoot that well, we didn’t score that many, but we scored just enough.”

With seven seconds to play, Georgetown’s Otto Porter was fouled on a drive toward the left corner of the court while the Hoyas were in the bonus. He sunk both free throws to tie the game at 51-51. Porter finished with 12 points. On the ensuing possession, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams took a pull-up jumper that missed, sending the game into overtime. Carter-Williams finished with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and had six assists and six turnovers.

Syracuse’s defense locked down in overtime, allowing just one Georgetown basket. The Hoyas were within one basket, 55-53, with 2:07 to play when C.J. Fair drove across the lane and dunked on Porter, igniting the Syracuse-friendly crowd at Madison Square Garden and swinging momentum in favor of the Orange.

Fair had struggled up to that point and finished just 3-of-16 from the floor on the night. He stole a pass from Porter on Georgetown’s potential game-tying possession, but missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining that allowed Georgetown to attempt one final half-court heave for the tie, but it was off.

“It’s hard to win three [games against one team in a season], but they’re a really good team,” said Boeheim. “These guys were really gritty and they hung in there and made plays.”

James Southerland continued his impressive three-point shooting run in New York City with 13 points, which included 4-of-10 from three-point range. Through three games in the Big East tournament, Southerland has gone 16-of-25 from behind the arc and has been the one player most consistently able to stretch an opposing defense with his shooting range. He has tied the conference record for three-pointers in a single tournament, also held by current Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara.

“First of all, I just want to apologize to G-Mac. Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to do it,” Southerland said with a laugh.

This is the way many will remember the Big East as it was. With shifts motivated by factors other than what we saw Friday night at Madison Square Garden, something Boeheim acknowledged after the game.

“This has got nothing to do with basketball. This is about football,” Boeheim said. “It’s where everything is going. Just wait a few more years. Everybody will be gone.”

There will still be a Big East and its tournament will still be at Madison Square Garden, but this feels a lot like starting back at the beginning. Syracuse and its football motives will move on, as will Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and the others. Will the same magic be around next season, sans the interlocking rivalries and story lines that the Orange will leave behind in pursuit of the ACC? We’ll see next March.

For now, Syracuse has one last go around in the Big East final Saturday night.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Pregame Shootaround 3.9.13: High-major & mid-major action make for a big Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Otto Porter made his case for National Player of the Year when these two teams last met, scoring 33 points and carrying Georgetown in a big road win over the Orange. Now the Hoyas return home with a chance to claim at least a share of the Big East regular season title with a win. Syracuse has some concerned because of its recent slide, having lost three of its last four games and sliding back into the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Lafayette (-2) vs. Lehigh (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Lehigh will be without star C.J. McCollum again, as he has been ruled out for Saturday’s semifinal, but the Mountain Hawks still have plenty to work with. The key for Lehigh will be defending the Lafayette three-point shooters, who lit them up in the two previous matchups (21-of-51) between these teams. That includes the team’s leading scorer, Seth Hinrichs, who averages 14.6 points per game. Lehigh has the advantage in the frontcourt and that’s what it should look to exploit. That means Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner need to come up big Saturday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

In the first meeting between these two teams San Diego State blew a 17-point lead before Chase Tapley saved them with a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving the Aztecs a 63-62 win. This time around, the stakes are higher in the season finale. Boise State sits on the bubble and couldn’t get resume-building road wins over New Mexico and UNLV in recent weeks, but now returns home with another chance to solidify its spot. As for San Diego State, the Aztecs are cemented in the tournament but could use another win on the road to affect their seating.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) No. 3 Duke has not lost a game with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Kelly has put up astronomical numbers since returning from his foot injury. What does it likely mean when you consider those two factors for Saturday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina? A Duke win on the road. But don’t underestimate North Carolina. Since Roy Williams switch to a smaller, for versatile lineup, the Tar Heels have become a different team.

2) No. 6 Miami severely  hurt its chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a loss at the buzzer to Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have now lost three of their last four, including games to Wake Forest and that game against Georgia Tech. They try to get back on track Saturday against Clemson.

3) Indiana State escaped last night in the final moments to advance in the crazy Missouri Valley tournament. The Sycamores now meet Creighton, who they beat handily in their first meeting of the season. Expect Doug McDermott to come up big after his huge season finale to clinch the conference title.

4) Amidst all the drama in the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC, don’t forget about the Big 12. Kansas State is tied atop the conference with Kansas and a win Saturday, plus a Jayhawk loss, would give the Wildcats an outright conference title. They take on Oklahoma State.

5) Kentucky’s NCAA tournament hopes took another blow with its double-digit loss to Georgia this week. Because of that, it needs a big home win over No. 11 Florida and a run in the SEC tournament to stay alive.

The Top 25

No. 3 Duke vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Baylor (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Miami vs. Clemson (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Louisville vs. No. 24 Notre Dame (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Florida vs. Kentucky (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 12 New Mexico vs. Air Force (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Marquette vs. St. John’s (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Saint Louis vs. La Salle (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 18 Arizona vs. Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Pittsburgh vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 UCLA vs. Washington (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 25 Memphis vs. UAB (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

Providence vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Minnesota vs. Purdue (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ole Miss vs. LSU (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

NC State vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Lehigh vs. Lafayette (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Indiana State vs. Creighton (2:35 p.m. ET)

San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgia vs. Alabama (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Missouri vs. Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oregon State vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Canisius vs. Iona (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Cornell vs. Harvard (5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Fresno State vs. UNLV (6:00 p.m. ET)

Xavier vs. Butler (6:30 ET, CBS Sports Network)

Louisiana Tech vs. Denver (7:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

Nevada vs. Colorado State (8:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Villanova all but punches ticket to NCAA tournament with win over No. 5 Georgetown

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As bubble teams around them have fallen in recent weeks and after losing two games itself that it could have done without, Villanova got another victory over a Top 5 team Wednesday that all but punches its ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston scored 20 points and Villanova beat No. 5 Georgetown, 67-57, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The win moves the Wildcats to 19-12 overall and 10-8 in the Big East with quality wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, and now the Hoyas. Of the teams currently on the bubble, few if any boast the slate of victories that Villanova does. At the same time, though, the Wildcats have bad losses to Columbia and Seton Hall.

Villanova’s RPI (55) and SOS (29) will also help on Selection Sunday, barring an unlikely run in the Big East tournament that gets it the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Turnovers are still a concern for Villanova, though. The Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times on Wednesday, but were still +4 in that category by forcing an uncharacteristic 20 Georgetown turnovers. Looking ahead to the Big East tournament, that will likely be one of the stumbling blocks for this team.

In the absence of a consistently dominant scorer who can take over a game down the stretch, turnovers can lead to big deficits and early exits from the remaining tournaments this season. And the burden falls on the entire lineup. Every Villanova starter had at least two turnovers Wednesday and every player that saw the floor had at least one.

For more coverage, visit CSNPhilly.com.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_