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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.

Big East Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big East Player of the Year: Josh Hart, Villanova

Josh Hart confirmed what was almost unanimously believed¬†in November: he was the best player in the Big East. The senior wing averaged a conference-leading 18.7 points — shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three — to go along with his 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game for first-place Villanova. One of the best two-way players in the nation also had some of his best single-game performances outside of the conference slate.

Big East Coach of the Year: Ed Cooley, Providence

Two days before Christmas, Providence closed out the non-conference slate with a loss at Boston College. The Friars followed by dropping the first two conference games. All three losses were by a dozen or more points. Yet, this team — without Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil — is in possession of another 20-win season, and tied¬†the highest finish Providence has had since the conference’s relaunch. This is a competitive race, especially when you consider what Chris Holtmann and Steve Wojciechowski has done. And that doesn’t include Jay Wright’s continued dominance. But Cooley took a young roster with all the makings of a rebuild and turned it, in all likelihood, a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

First-Team All-Big East

  • Josh Hart, Villanova
  • Andrew Chrabascz, Butler: The statistics don’t jump off the page, but the senior forward impacts the game in so many different ways for a Butler team that was projected to finish sixth, but ended as the No. 2 seed.
  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova: Taking the full-time ball handling duties this season, the sophomore averaged 14.8 points per game, shooting 54 percent from the field. He also registered a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: The nation’s leading rebounder (13.1 RPG) has recorded 24 double-doubles this season. He’s also improved his offense, posting 15.7 points per game.
  • Marcus Foster, Creighton: The transfer guard is second in the conference in scoring at 18.5 points per game. He’s taken on a bigger role since Watson’s season-ending injury.

Second Team All-Big East:

  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
  • Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
  • Kyron Cartwright,¬†Providence
  • Kelan Martin,¬†Butler
  • Justin Patton, Creighton

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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Villanova brought the Big East the national championship in 2016,¬†ending critcism of the program’s shortcomings in March and providing the league with an added level of legitiamcy it yearned for since its relaunch in 2013.

So, what will the Big East do for an encore? The conference might send 70 percent of its members to the NCAA Tournament.

Like the previous three seasons, the league was dominated by Villanova, which won its fourth consecutive regular season championship. Butler finished second, and spent much of the year in the top-20. Creighton looked every part of a Final Four contender until Maurice Watson Jr. tore his ACL in mid-January. Xavier, which began the season ranked, has struggled since Edmond Sumner suffered the same season-ending injury. Marquette, Providence and Seton Hall have all made late pushes for at-large bids, resulting in a wild finish to the regular season. Four days in New York should be eventual, to say the least.

The Bracket

When: March 8-11

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Final: Saturday, March 11 5:30 p.m.

Favorite: Villanova

This should come as a surprise to no one. This reigning national champions enter the World’s Most Famous Arena as the top seed for the fourth straight¬†season. Villanova has at its disposal the conference’s player of the year, another unanimous first-team selection, a national coach of the year candidate and the athleticism and versatility not many teams can brag about. Depth is a concern, with Phil Booth out for the season and Darryl Reynolds, the only true big man in the rotation, recently returning from injury. It’s also worth noting that two of three Big East losses came against the same opponent.

And if they lose?: Butler

The Bulldogs have twice defeated the Wildcats. They did so in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 4, handing Villanova its first loss of the season. Butler went for the sweep by knocking off the Cats on Feb. 22, the only time they lost at the Pavilion this season. In both contests, Butler made the key plays down the stretch for hard-fought victories. Butler has an improved defense from last season to compliment with its always-efficient offense. With a big like Andrew Chrabascz, the Bulldogs are more equipped to match up with Villanova. Also, Kelan Martin, since his move to a reserve role, has caught fire in the last five games of the regular season.

Kelan Martin (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Providence: The Friars have won six straight, with wins over Butler, Xavier, Creighton and Marquette.¬†Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock may not be Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, but they are anchoring a hot team that could give Providence its second postseason championship in four years.
  • Marquette:¬†The Golden Eagles are the only Big East team team other than the Bulldogs to defeat Villanova. They have a nice balance with a deep roster. Five players average double-digits in points, and Andrew Rowsey, the Big East Sixth Man of the Year, and Katin Reinhardt have been¬†huge in the second unit.

Sleeper: Seton Hall

The Pirates played strong basketball down the stretch last season to win the Big East Tournament championship. Isaiah Whitehead is playing in a different borough now, but Seton Hall is rolling, winners of seven of nine. The defense isn’t as strong as it was during last year’s run, but Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez are capable of a repeat performance.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Xavier: The Musketeers lost six of seven to close out the season. They have two wins in the past five weeks: both against DePaul. A loss to the Blue Demons on Wednesday night could¬†burst Xavier’s bubble.
  • Marquette: The Golden Eagles¬†should be safe at this point. Sure, they earned a come-from-behind win against Villanova, but that won’t stop critics from poking holes in their resume on Sunday, especially when four wins against Xavier and Creighton came after injuries to Edmond Sumner and Mo Watson.
  • Providence:¬†A six-game winning streak and a third-place finish should mean the Friars are safe, but most bracket projections have them as one of the last at-large four¬†bids.

Defining moment of the season: Marquette, down 17 points, comes back to stun No. 1 Villanova, starting a run for the NCAA Tournament.

CBT Prediction: Villanova

DePaul lands well-traveled shooting guard

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DePaul added a perimeter option to its future rotation Monday afternoon, as NBCSports.com confirmed that former Ohio State shooting guard Austin Grandstaff has decided to join the Big East program. DePaul represents the third Division I program that the Texan has been a part of, as he decided to transfer from Ohio State to Oklahoma back in December.

Grandstaff was due to sit out until the end of the fall 2016 semester after making that move, but he decided in the spring to leave Lon Kruger’s program. With the decision to transfer once again, Grandstaff will need to apply for a waiver that would get him on the court after the upcoming fall semester. If a waiver were to be denied, he’d have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2017-18 campaign.

The 6-foot-5 Grandstaff played in ten games at Ohio State, averaging 4.4 points in 11.5 minutes of action per contest. His high point total came in a home loss to Louisiana Tech, as he scored nine points in 12 minutes of playing time that night.

Grandstaff shot 39 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, with 36 of his 41 field goal attempts being three-pointers. When he signed with Ohio State in May 2014, Grandstaff was ranked 44th in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.com, with his shooting ability being one of the key reasons why.

DePaul will lose four perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season, led by Billy Garrett Jr., so the addition of Grandstaff will help the Blue Demons from a depth standpoint.

Jenkins and No. 3 Villanova romp over DePaul 83-62

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) No longer at the top of the national poll, Villanova is still No. 1 in the Big East.

Stitch another year on the championship banner, the Wildcats are again the class of the conference – a familiar regular-season coronation they can only hope doesn’t produce the same old early March exit.

Kris Jenkins scored 14 straight points and a career-high 31 overall, leading No. 3 Villanova to an 83-62 romp over DePaul on Tuesday night and the outright Big East championship.

The Wildcats (26-4, 15-2) are Big East champs for the third straight season and had already clinched the top seed for the conference tournament next week in New York. The Wildcats won the tournament in 2015.

“It’s something at the end of the year, we will take great pride in,” coach Jay Wright said. “We really do take pride in the regular season. We evaluate our program by what we do in the regular season. That’s how we make all our decisions.”

But the ultimate jury is in March, where the Wildcats haven’t advanced out of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2009. The Wildcats were eliminated three times over that span as a No. 1 or 2 NCAA seed.

“We know that we get judged publicly by how you do in the tournament,” Wright said.

Maybe Jenkins can help change the tourney ending. He scored 20 points by halftime and opened the second with consecutive 3s, topping his previous best of 23. The Wildcats shot 68 percent in the first half and proved they are still a force at any ranking.

The Wildcats slipped to No. 3 in the Top 25 after three weeks at No. 1. The Wildcats went 5-1 at No. 1 and lost last week at Xavier.

Jenkins, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, averaged 11.9 points in his first full season as a starter and stuffed a game’s worth of production in 3:31. With Villanova leading 11-10, Jenkins buried four straight 3-pointers. He forced a steal and went in for a layup that made it 25-10 and capped his outburst.

“My teammates do an unbelievable job of making the right play,” Jenkins said. “Recently, the right play has just been to catch and shoot.”

Jenkins came out for a breather and Ryan Arcidiacono promptly buried a 3 that stretched the lead to insurmountable for DePaul (9-20, 3-14).

Eli Cain led DePaul with 14 points.

“He’s become our most consistent player because his mindset has been tremendous and he’s just trying to do the right things to help our team be successful,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said of Cain.

The outcome was never in doubt, Villanova has won 12 straight against the perennial Big East cellar dwellers.

With all the hype on freshman guard Jalen Brunson, and senior stalwarts Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu carrying a bulk of the scoring load, Jenkins went a bit unnoticed until the past month.

He averaged 9.6 points through Jan. 10 before he scored 20 points against Marquette on Jan. 13. In 13 games since, he averaged 14.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. He shot 33 of 81 from 3-point range over that span.

Jenkins was 11 of 18 from the field and was the first Wildcat this season to top 30. He is a big reason why the Wildcats enter the Big East Tournament as the top seed for the third straight season. The Wildcats will play Thursday against the 8-9 winner from Wednesday night.

Win it all in New York and the Wildcats will surely enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.

But for a few days, there’s a Big East title to savor.

“I’ll love that accomplishment at the end of the season,” said Josh Hart, who scored 18 points. “Right now, it’s something cool. But we’re not focused on it.”

TIP-INS:

DePaul: The Blue Demons shot a solid 12 of 22 (55 percent) in the first half and made 6 of 9 3-point attempts. … DePaul made a 3 for the 705th straight game. … DePaul fell to 2-6 this season against ranked teams. … DePaul had 17 turnovers. “A lot of it was their gap defense and their hands being in good position, a lot of it was just our ineptitude of making point-to-point passes,” Leitao said.

Villanova: Villanova has 12 seasons of 25-plus victories in program history, six since 2006. … The Wildcats won their 39th straight game at the Pavilion and had their 169th consecutive sellout. … 76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor was at the game. … Villanova held a moment of silence for Mike Daly, who played on the 1971 NCAA Final Four team, and died last week.

WHAT’S NEXT

DePaul hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.

Villanova hosts Georgetown on Saturday.

Bluiett helps No. 7 Xavier cruise past DePaul 86-65

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ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Trevon Bluiett scored 15 points and No. 7 Xavier used an impressive burst spanning the halves to put away DePaul for an 86-65 victory on Saturday.

The Musketeers trailed 32-25 before they ripped off 29 of the next 34 points to grab control. J.P. Macura made a 3-pointer and two free throws during a 17-1 run over the final 3:43 of the first half, and Bluiett had two layups and a jumper to help Xavier open a 54-37 lead with 16:13 remaining.

Macura and Larry Austin Jr. had 12 points apiece for the Musketeers (19-2, 7-2 Big East), who have won three in a row since their 81-72 home loss against Georgetown on Jan. 19.

DePaul (7-14, 1-8) lost for the eighth time in its last nine games.

The Blue Demons struggled to score after Xavier switched to a 1-3-1 zone late in the first half and never recovered.

Tommy Hamilton IV scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, and Billy Garrett Jr. finished with 18 points. But DePaul committed 15 turnovers and its reserves finished with just 12 points, compared to 42 for Xavier’s backups.

The Blue Demons also were hurt by a pair of costly fouls on Joe Hanel late in the first half. The sophomore forward was called for over the back while going for a rebound, and then went chest to chest with Jalen Reynolds, drawing a technical.

The result was a pair of free throws for Myles Davis and Reynolds and a 40-32 lead for Xavier with 1:14 to go. Edmond Sumner tacked on a jumper for the Musketeers with 22 seconds left, and the Blue Demons trailed by nine at the break after leading by as many as nine in the early going.

Reynolds and Davis each scored 10 for Xavier, which led by as many as 26 on its way to its five win in the last six games in the series. The Musketeers also beat the Blue Demons 84-64 on Jan. 12.

TIP-INS

Xavier: Bluiett had two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the first half. … The Musketeers earned their fourth consecutive Big East road win. They also improved to 9-1 away from Cintas Center this season. … Xavier missed its first nine shots of the game and 11 of its first 12 overall.

DePaul: Women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno was recognized during the first half with a commemorative ball in honor of his 600th career win on Jan. 15 at Butler. … Hamilton fouled out with 5:35 left.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts St. John’s on Wednesday night.

DePaul hosts No. 10 Providence on Tuesday night.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap