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No. 14 Notre Dame uses red-hot second-half shooting to run past DePaul

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CHICAGO — Notre Dame used red-hot second-half perimeter shooting to run past DePaul for a 72-58 nonconference victory on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 14 Fighting Irish (1-0) started the second half shooting 8-for-10 from the three-point line to blow the game open as sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs paced Notre Dame with a career-high 21 points. Preseason All-American forward Bonzie Colson also contributed a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Irish while senior point guard Matt Farrell got hot in the second half to finish with 15 points. Notre Dame shot 14-for-25 in the second half as their offense looked very solid after a bit of a sluggish start.

While we certainly expected Colson and Farrell to be among the best players in the country after the way they played last season, the offensive emergence of Gibbs is the big story for the Fighting Irish. With Notre Dame needing to replace double-figure scorers like V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia from last season, Gibbs looked like he might be the consistent third scoring option the Irish were looking for.

“He’s been great in practice. He stats out right behind Bonzie Colson a lot of times. But he’s a fearless guy,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said of Gibbs.

“He’s been unbelievable and he’s been a lot of fun to play with,” Farrell said of Gibbs. “We’ve been saying since the summer that he’s going to have a big year. Strong driver. He shoots it way better than people think and I think you saw that tonight. He’s confident.”

Gibbs never played more than 25 minutes in a game last season as he logged 38 minutes on Saturday. The increased minutes over the course of the season will be something to monitor with Gibbs as Notre Dame’s staff acknowledged that he started to hit the wall towards the end of last season. But Notre Dame’s staff was also confident that Gibbs might be a breakout player when he got in tremendous physical shape this summer. The Fighting Irish don’t seem to have a lot of depth once again this season, so Gibbs will likely need to play heavy minutes and continue to score on a nightly basis for Notre Dame to maximize its potential.

“I just think his mental attitude has really been at a high level. He’s always been a hard worker. He came in the program as a freshman and he was in the gym every day,” Notre Dame assistant coach Ryan Ayers said. “Now he knows he’s a starter and he doesn’t have people backing him up and he’s comfortable in his role. The last couple of weeks he’s been making shots in practice and he has teammates who believe in him.”

Another new starter for Notre Dame, junior guard Rex Pflueger, didn’t find his rhythm on the offensive end but he was a big presence on the defensive end, holding DePaul three-point threat Max Strus (11 points) to a miserable 3-for-13 shooting day. Pflueger also added nine rebounds.

“Me and him talked at halftime. Our shots weren’t falling too well but we talked about how well we were defending and how we could come out in the second half and it was a brand-new half,” Farrell said of Pfluger. “He did an unbelievable job defending and we’re gonna need him to do that all year.”

Freshman wing D.J. Harvey also chipped in seven points in 16 minutes off of the bench as he could be a key reserve to a Notre Dame team that is looking for reliable depth.

If Gibbs can keep scoring like this, it will alleviate a lot of the defensive pressure that Colson faces as he drew constant double-teams against the Blue Demon defense on Saturday. Notre Dame might not have an offense that is as potent as last season’s ridiculous group, but this team might be a notch better defensively thanks to Pflueger’s relentless energy chasing shooters. Pfluger should also be able to improve as at least a catch-and-shoot three-point threat as the Irish once again look like one of the toughest teams in the ACC this season.

“I think it’s safe to say we have a different kind of team this year, a different look,” Farrell said. “We think we can be better defensively, which really showed tonight in the second half.”

DePaul (0-1) opened up its brand-new Wintrust Arena with a feisty first 24 minutes until Notre Dame’s barrage of three-pointers ultimately did them in. Senior forward Tre’Darius McCallum and junior wing Eli Cain paced the Blue Demons with 14 points each. Sophomore point guard Devin Gage looked much-improved from last season as he scored 10 points, doing a good job of attacking the rim with downhill drives.

The Blue Demons look like they’ll be more competitive than in season’s past but they still need more out of their frontcourt in order to be truly competitive in the Big East this season.

Big East Conference Preview: Villanova looks to hold off challengers

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big East Conference.

Since the Big East’s reconfiguration in 2013, Villanova has served as the standard bearer with four straight regular season titles, two Big East tournament titles and a national title in 2016.

Jay Wright’s team has enough talent and experience to extend the streak to five, but the 2017-18 campaign sets up as one in which there are multiple teams poised to challenge the Wildcats.

Seton Hall, Xavier and maybe even Providence have the goods to push the Wildcats this season.

With the middle of the pack getting stronger and two head coaching changes, one of which being a Big East legend returning to his alma mater, this should be a fun year in the Big East.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Villanova looks to replace three starters and remain atop the conference: With the end of the 2016-17 season came the end of three collegiate careers, with Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds all out of eligibility. All three provided key intangibles for Villanova, with Hart and Jenkins also being two of the team’s top three scorers from a season ago. The question: how will the Wildcats account for those losses, with regards to both production and leadership?

There will be some adjustments to make, but simply put the pieces are there for Villanova to remain atop the Big East. Jalen Brunson, one of the nation’s best point guards, is back for his junior season as are wing Mikal Bridges and forward Eric Paschall. Sophomore guard Donte DiVencenzo, who earned a spot on the Big East’s All-Freshman team and was also the Big 5 Newcomer of the Year, is back for his sophomore season, and Phil Booth is healthy after sitting out most of last season with a knee injury.

Add in freshmen Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree inside, and Jermaine Samuels Jr. on the wing, and Villanova will not lack for talent. And in Spellman, who sat out last season, they have a big who can get them points on the block on a consistent basis. For that reason this team will be different from last year’s group, which may make the Wildcats even tougher to defend.

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Khadeen Carrington (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all worthy challengers: Due to its track record and combination of returnees and newcomers, Villanova has earned the right to be preseason favorites. But this season may provide the best group of challengers to the throne since the reconfiguration of the Big East.

Xavier brings back an experienced group led by an All-America candidate in senior forward Trevon Bluiett, and the experience gained by Quentin Goodin as a result of Edmond Sumner’s injury could pay off for the sophomore in 2017-18. Add in a talented freshman class led by wing Paul Scruggs, and grad transfer Kerem Kanter, and it would not be a surprise if Chris Mack’s Musketeers won the Big East.

A similar argument could be made for Seton Hall, as Kevin Willard has a squad led by four tough, talented seniors. Angel Delgado is the nation’s best rebounder, a big man who was near automatic when it came to racking up double-doubles last season. Wing Desi Rodriguez can get hot offensively on a moment’s notice, and forward Ismael Sanogo deserves more respect nationally for his abilities as a defender. The key for the Pirates: how Khadeen Carrington, a talented guard who can make plays off the bounce as well as hit perimeter shots, adjusts to the shift to the point. If he handles it well, Seton Hall can be a major factor.

As for Providence, Ed Cooley has a senior point guard in Kyron Cartwright to trust with the offense. Cartwright averaged nearly seven assists per game last season, and that number could be even higher given the improvements made by the other options on the roster. Rodney Bullock has the potential to be an all-conference player if he becomes more efficient offensively, and forward Alpha Diallo appears poised to take a significant step forward. Makai Ashton-Langford is one of the key pieces in a good recruiting class, but the key may be the health of senior big man Emmitt Holt.

Holt’s been dealing with an abdominal issue during the preseason, and if he’s limited even more will be asked of freshmen Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens.

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Khyri Thomas (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

3. The conference’s “midsection” should be improved: Given the fact that seven teams reached the NCAA tournament last season, this may feel like a weird thing to read. But with the combination of newcomers and returnees at many of the Big East schools that populated the middle portion of the standings last season, those matchups are going to be even tougher this season.

Creighton welcomes back guards Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas, and they’ll add a transfer at the point in former Syracuse guard Kaleb Joseph. The key for Joseph will be to regain the confidence that he seemingly lost during his two seasons at Syracuse, but the combination of sitting out a year and being in a system that gives guys the freedom to make plays should help.

Marquette, which won 19 games and reached the NCAA tournament last season, has a very good perimeter tandem in Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard, with the latter being one of the best shooters in the country as a freshman. The question mark for the Golden Eagles is how productive their big men will be, with SMU transfer Harry Froling set to join the likes of junior Matt Heldt and freshman Theo John in December.

Butler will be led by senior forward Kelan Martin, sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin and a new head coach in LaVall Jordan (more on the Bulldogs below), and St. John’s may be the ultimate “wild card.” Guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett Jr. return, and the additions of transfers Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon will help immensely. If the pieces mesh, Chris Mullin has a roster that could turn heads in the Big East.

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Kamar Baldwin (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

4. LaVall Jordan looks to build upon the “Butler Way”: While the Brad Stevens era was critical with regards to the growth of the Butler basketball program, which reached the national title game two consecutive years and moved from the Horizon League to the Big East, the “Butler Way” began well before that point. Among those who played a role in the success is LaVall Jordan, who played on three NCAA tournament teams between 1998 and 2001 for Barry Collier and Thad Matta.

After brief stay at Milwaukee that was preceded by a six-year stint on John Beilein’s staff at Michigan, Jordan has returned to his alma mater to fill the vacancy left by Chris Holtmann’s move to Ohio State. Jordan won’t be operating with an empty cupboard either, as Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Kamar Baldwin (10.1, 3.7) return from a team that won 25 games a season ago. Butler did lose three starters from that team, most notably forward Andrew Chrabascz, but do not expect this program to simply fall off of a cliff.

5. Patrick Ewing, arguably the most important player in Big East history, makes his return to Georgetown: To say that Ewing was “arguably” the most important player in league history may be an understatement; as the crown jewel of a 1981 class that included the likes of Chris Mullin (St. John’s) and Villanova’s “Expansion Crew,” Ewing helped usher in an era of dominance for the Big East in the 1980’s. The Georgetown teams he led were both feared and respected, and with his return to The Hilltop as head coach the goal is the bring back those glory years.

Ewing, in his first head coaching job after spending well over a decade as an assistant in the NBA, has some talent to work with inside as Marcus Derrickson (8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Jesse Govan (10.1, 5.0) both return. But there are a lot of holes to fill on this roster, especially on the perimeter with the losses of Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak. Look for freshman wing JaMarko Pickett to get plenty of opportunities in his debut season, one that could be difficult for the Hoyas once they begin conference play.

Angel Delgado (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

Only one player in college basketball (Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan) had more double-doubles than Delgado last season. The senior big man averaged 15.2 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season, shooting 54.3 percent from the field. On a team expected to contend in the Big East, Delgado will once again be a focal point for the Pirates. And if he can improve on the turnover count (3.0 tpg last season) Delgado will be even tougher to slow down.

THE REST OF THE BIG EAST FIRST TEAM

  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova: One of the best point guards in college basketball, Brunson will have more leadership responsibilities on his plate in 2017-18.
  • Marcus Foster, Creighton: Foster’s first season in a Creighton uniform was a productive one, as he averaged 18.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
  • Trevon Blueitt, Xavier: Bluiett should be heard from with regards to both Big East Player of the Year and All-America honors. Last season he averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
  • Rodney Bullock, Providence: Butler’s Kelan Martin would be a solid choice here as well, but if he can be a more efficient player offensively Bullock will have a good shot at a first team spot as well.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Kelan Martin, Butler
  • Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
  • Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges, Villanova
  • Marcus LoVett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
  • Khyri Thomas, Creighton

BREAKOUT STAR: Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova

DiVincenzo is the biggest reason that I’m not that worried about Villanova trying to replace Josh Hart this season. I don’t know that he turns into the player Hart was this year, but he’s already proven that he had the ability to be an explosive scorer – he reached double-figures 14 times and scored at least 19 points four times coming off the bench – and he has the kind of toughness and defensive intelligence that he fit in with Villanova seamlessly on that end of the floor as well.

The only real concern about having DiVincenzo on this list is how good Villanova will be. They’re quite deep on the perimeter and return Phil Booth from injury. He could end up being a much-improved player with a markedly better season and end up with numbers that don’t look all that dissimilar from this season’s.

Donte DiVincenzo (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Chris Mullin, St. John’s

With John Thompson III being replaced at Georgetown during the spring, there really isn’t a coach in the Big East that’s truly on the proverbial hot seat. The pick here is Mullin, whose teams have improved in the win column in each of the last two seasons. So why Mullin? Because with the talent on this season’s roster, expecting the Red Storm to at the very least challenge for an NCAA tournament berth would be reasonable.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

Four teams have credible hopes of reaching the Final Four.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT

the impact that Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II can have for St. John’s. The Red Storm can be an NCAA tournament team this year.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • November 13, Minnesota at Providence
  • November 22-24, Villanova at Paradise Jam
  • November 28, Baylor at Xavier
  • December 3, Seton Hall at Louisville
  • December 5, Gonzaga vs. Villanova (in New York City)

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @BigEastTourney

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: The Wildcats are once again favored to win the Big East, thanks to the combination of newcomers and returnees. The return of Phil Booth, and the additions of Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, will certainly help matters for Jay Wright’s team.
2. Seton Hall: With four senior starters, the Pirates are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball. And if new point guard Khadeen Carrington can balance scoring with getting other guys the ball in good spots, look out.
3. Xavier: Trevon Bluiett will once again lead the way, with J.P. Macura being another senior capable of making an impact on a game. If the talented recruiting class, led by Paul Scruggs, is ready and Quentin Goodin takes another step forward the Musketeers can win the league.
4. Providence: In Kyron Cartwright the Friars have a special point guard. He’s surrounded with talented offensive option, including Rodney Bullock, and the arrival of Makai Ashton-Langford should give Cartwright the occasional respite. The Friars will certainly be head from this season as they look to make a 5th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
5. Creighton: In Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas the Bluejays have one of the top perimeter tandems in the country, much less the Big East. If Kaleb Joseph is ready to run the show at the point, Creighton is capable of contending.
6. Marquette: With Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard among the returnees, it’s known that Steve Wojciechowski’s team can put points on the board. But can they be more effective defensively? If so, the Golden Eagles should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
7. St. John’s: The Red Storm are the “wild card” in this race. With the additions of Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II, St. John’s has the talent needed to make waves in the Big East race. But will this be a cohesive unit when the games truly matter?
8. Butler: LaVall Jordan has some talent to work with in his first season leading his alma mater, including guard Kamar Baldwin and forward Kelan Martin. What may make things more difficult for Butler are the loss of three starters and the improvements made by other teams in the league.
9. DePaul: Will the Blue Demons escape the Big East cellar for the second time in the last three seasons? Yes, thanks to the return of Eli Cain and the additions of Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus.
10. Georgetown: Patrick Ewing’s return as head coach will be a difficult one, given the strength of the Big East and his team’s lack of perimeter shooters. That being said, having Jesse Govan and Marcus Derrickson back in the front court should help matters.

DePaul loses prized recruit Tyger Campbell as he re-opens his recruitment

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DePaul took a major blow to its recruiting efforts as Class of 2018 four-star point guard Tyger Campbell announced that he’s opening up his recruitment.

At one point a prized recruit, who was seen as a turning point in DePaul recruiting, the 6-foot-0 Campbell will now explore all of his options in the next few months. Regarded as the No. 66 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, Campbell helped national high school powerhouse La Lumiere to a national championship this past season as the team’s starting point guard.

DePaul hired former La Lumiere head coach Shane Heirman as an assistant coach this spring and it helped lead to the commitment of Campbell in early May. Now that Campbell has decommitted and the Blue Demons also lost out on five-star Class of 2017 wing Brian Bowen, it’ll be interesting to see if Heirman can rebound when it comes to bringing in worthwhile talent.

Heirman has done a nice job of securing some of his former La Lumiere players via the transfer market, as Northern Illinois big man Marin Maric and Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands both could be beneficial to DePaul, but it’ll be interesting to see how Heirman does recruiting high school talent to the Blue Demons since he has now whiffed on two key former players.

DePaul still has a commitment from three-star guard John Diener in the Class of 2018 as they’ll look to rebound from this disappointing news.

DePaul keeps La Lumiere pipeline going with Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands

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DePaul continued to dip into its La Lumiere pipeline during its rebuilding efforts as Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands committed to the Blue Demons on Sunday night.

The 6-foot-3 Coleman-Lands just completed his sophomore season with the Illini as he averaged 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range. Struggling to earn consistent minutes during his two years in Champaign, Coleman-Lands is hoping to be more consistent with a move to the Big East. Coleman-Lands will need to sit out the 2017-18 season before having two more years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands is the third La Lumiere product to commit to DePaul over the last few weeks since new assistant coach Shane Heirman was brought on board. A former head coach at the national high school powerhouse in LaPorte, Indiana, Heirman has helped lure high school four-star point guard Tyger Campbell, Northern Illinois graduate transfer big man Marin Maric and now Coleman-Lands to the Blue Demons since his hiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if this group can help jump-start a DePaul program that has gone over a decade without making the NCAA tournament, but they’re at least bringing in more highly-touted talent than before.

DePaul lands five-star point guard Tyger Campbell

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DePaul made some major moves for the future on Monday as the program landed a commitment from five-star point guard Tyger Campbell.

The 6-foot-0 Campbell is regarded as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2019, but a source told NBCSports.com that Campbell is attempting to move up to the Class of 2018 to get to campus a year earlier.

Earlier on Monday, DePaul also landed a commitment from Northern Illinois graduate transfer Marin Maric, a big man who should come in and potentially start next season. Both of these commitments are tied together by DePaul hiring assistant coach Shane Heirman, the former head coach at La Lumiere, last week.

Both Maric and Campbell spent time at La Lumiere, as the Blue Demons have formed a recruiting pipeline to the defending high school national champions.

Campbell is DePaul’s second commitment in the Class of 2018–if he opts to reclassify–as he joins shooting guard John Diener.

DePaul gets potential impact grad transfer in Northern Illinois center Marin Maric

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DePaul earned a commitment from graduate transfer center Marin Maric on Monday as the former Northern Illinois product pulled his name out of the NBA Draft process and committed to the Blue Demons.

The 6-foot-11 Maric put up a team-leading 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the Huskies last season as he shot 56 percent from the field. Maric also ended the season on a high note, as he had six consecutive double-doubles to close out the season.

This is a potentially important addition for DePaul since they desperately needed some quality size to go with its crowded backcourt rotation. Maric is the type of player who could start right away for DePaul and eat up minutes inside.

Entering a new stadium located in the city’s South Loop this season, the Blue Demons will have an intriguing roster that includes two transfer additions in Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus as well as freshmen like Jaylen Butz and Justin Roberts. This roster might not be good enough to make an NCAA tournament run next year, but it’s a solid core that could really help the program get out of the Big East cellar.