Eight midseason additions who’ll impact college hoops

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Jon Kreft committed to Florida State in August of 2004.

That’s all of six years and four months ago. Kreft was preparing for his junior year in high school at the time, which would put him in the class of 2006. That’s the same class as guys like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, and Ty Lawson. Every member of that class that graduated or left school within four years has become a professional, be it to the NBA, overseas, or, like those NCAA commercials love to tell us, in something other than basketball.

While the rest of his high school class is cashing paychecks, Kreft was finally granted eligibility at Florida State today. Tonight against Stetson, Kreft will suit up as a Division I basketball player for the first time in his life.

As you might imagine, it has been a long road for Kreft.

In May of 2006, he was arrested with a friend in a car with 15 grams of weed and a digital scale. He also admitted to hiding 1.7 grams of cocaine in his buttocks. He served almost a year in jail, but by the time he got out, Kreft’s scholarship offer from Florida State was gone. He found himself at Chipola College, spending the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons there. He had hoped to enroll at FSU for the 2009-2010 season, but he still needed to finish some course work.

So after clearing all of those hurdles, Kreft, now 24 years old but a junior in terms of his eligibility, will finally have the chance to play for the Seminoles.

It may be difficult for him to earn minutes initially. Florida State already has a deep and talented front line.

But that isn’t the story here.

The story is that Kreft turned around his life. And now he’ll have a chance to get an education. That is, after all, the purpose of collegiate athletics.

Kreft is far from the only player joining his team midway through the season. Here is a list of eight players that have yet to play a game, but could end up having a huge impact on the outcome of the season.

Josh Selby, Kansas, Fr.

We all know the story of Josh Selby by now. A Baltimore native, Selby had a relationship with Bay Frazier, Carmelo Anthony’s business manager, that the NCAA determined was based on his athletics abilities. He was suspended by the NCAA for nine games, and will become eligible to play on Saturday against USC.

What Selby’s impact will be is unclear. Most expect him to become a starter before long, but Bill Self is playing the part of the politician perfectly, requiring Selby to earn his spot in the starting lineup. He was considered just as good, if not better, than Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving coming out of high school, so it shouldn’t be an issue of if he will have an impact, but rather what that impact will be. He has needed the ball in his hands throughout his high school career, but Kansas runs a system that thrives on ball movement and runs through the Morrii, twin big men Marcus and Markieff. That said, a back court featuring Selby and Tyshawn Taylor will be talented, dynamic, and incredibly entertaining to watch.

If Selby can accept the fact that he will play a role, albeit an important one, for the Jayhawks, it shouldn’t be long before Kansas rivals Duke as the best team in the country.

Drew Gordon, New Mexico, Jr.

Gordon was arguably UCLA’s best player in the season and a half he spent in Westwood. But the talented power forward was never quite able to accept his role for Ben Howland, or the system that the Bruins ran, and left the school after six games last season.

With all due respect to the front line of San Diego State, Gordon could step in and immediately become the best big man in the Mountain West Conference. He’s big, hes athletic, and he is versatile. He can score with his bask to the basket, he can get out and run the floor in transition, and he can rebound the basketball. New Mexico already has a solid front line, but freshman Alex Kirk is more of a pick-and-pop player while AJ Hardemann and Emmanuel Negedu and big and physical, but more athlete than basketball player at this point. Gordon is on another level talent-wise.

It will be interesting to see what the Lobos look like with Gordon in the fold. Right now, they are probably the fourth best MWC team behind SDSU, BYU, and UNLV, who are all top 25 teams. The MWC will be that much better with a dangerous Lobo team. His first game will be Sunday against the Citadel.

Renardo Sidney, So., and Dee Bost, Sr., Mississippi State

Both of these kids had to wait for NCAA clearance to return to the Bulldogs, but for very different reasons. Sidney enrolled at Mississippi State prior to last season, but as a result of improper benefits he received and the NCAA’s belief that his family profited off of his athletic ability while he was in high school, Sidney was declared ineligible for last season and 30% of this season. He’ll play his first game on Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Bost, on the other hand, entered the NBA Draft back in April and took too long to withdraw his name. In a bit of an unexpected move, the NCAA cleared Bost while suspending him nine games. Since he was academically ineligible after last year, Bost’s suspension won’t kick in until the first semester is over.

Thanks to some tricky scheduling by Rick Stansbury, both Bost and Sidney will be available for the entirety of SEC play. And, there seems no doubt, these two will make the Bulldogs much better. They should immediately become the favorites in the dismal SEC West, but with losses to Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State already on their resume, will the Bulldogs be able to do enough to earn an NCAA bid this season?

Jio Fontan, USC, Jr.

Fontan is a talent. As a freshman at Fordham, he averaged 15.1 ppg and 4.7 apg. But the Rams were terrible, and the St. Anthony’s product wanted out. He left the school five games into his sophomore season after a long battle with the athletic department, finally settling on USC has his destination.

Last year, USC’s season turned when they added redshirt senior Mike Gerrity to the mix. Can Fontan have that same impact this year? Kevin O’Neil has said that Fontan is their best player right now, and that carries some weight, considering Nikola Vucevic is playing great and freshman point guard Maurice Jones has impressed early in the season playing a whopping 38.4 mpg.

The Trojans already have losses to Rider, TCU, and Bradley, but if Fontan can change the course of the season, the NCAA Tournament committee may look past those losses. Fontan will make his Trojan debut opposite Josh Selby on Saturday.

Mike Holmes, Coastal Carolina, Sr.

Coastal Carolina was one of the best mid-major programs in the country last season, winning 28 games. This season has been a bit of the same, as they are currently 8-2 on the year with their lone losses coming to Georgetown and the College of Charleston in the Charleston Classic.

Holmes gives them an entirely new dimension. He’s a legitimate, high-major big man. He averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.7 rpg as a sophomore at South Carolina, but was dismissed midway through his junior season due to repeated violations of team rules. Holmes will have a shot at redemption this season, and he is already making good on that opportunity. He had 14 points and 10 boards off the bench in the Chanticleer’s 78-69 overtime win at LSU on Monday.

Roberto Nelson, Oregon State, Fr.

Its been a long wait for Nelson, the best recruit to head to Corvallis since Gary Payton, as he’s had to deal with a year and a half of NCAA scrutiny of his academic eligibility. But the time is finally here, as Nelson had four points in 15 minutes off the bench for the Beavers in a win on Sunday over Texas Pan-American.

Craig Robinson has made it clear that he wants to bring Nelson along slowly, but he may not have the choice. Oregon State is not Kansas. They do not have a roster full of high school all-americans. They are one of the worst high-major teams in the country, and any kind of infusion of talent at this point in the season is incredibly important if this team wants to be competitive in a weak Pac-10 this season.

Gregory Echinique, Creighton, Jr.

Echinique may have played for Rutgers, but that doesn’t change the fact that the kid was a hell of a player in the Big East. As a freshman, he averaged 8.4 ppg and 8.4 rpg. Before transferring out of the New Jersey school as a sophomore, he was averaging 12.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg.

And now he is headed to the Valley, which may as well be known as Death Valley this season. For a league that is generally considered one of the best mid-majors in the country year in and year out, this is certainly a down season. Creighton hasn’t been great either, losing to both Nebraska and Iowa State already this season.

But with Echinique joining forces with the Blue Jay’s talented big man Kenny Lawson, Creighton all of a sudden has a front line that can compete with the high-majors. We’ll get out first look at the Venezuelan on Saturday against Iowa State.

Indiana’s late-run beats No. 11 Michigan State 67-63

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Joey Brunk scored 14 points, including a key layup with 1 minute left to play, and Jerome Hunter made two late free throws Thursday night to close out Indiana’s 67-63 victory over No. 11 Michigan State.

The Hoosiers (15-4, 5-3 Big Ten) have won two straight and four of their last five. It was coach Archie Miller’s 50th win since taking the job three seasons ago.

Cassius Winston had 13 of his 17 points in the second half to lead the Spartans (14-5, 6-2), who lost their third straight in the series.

Michigan State had a chance to force overtime after forcing a turnover, calling timeout and sending Winston through the lane. He flipped the ball to Xavier Tillman for a layup, but the ball rolled off the rim and Hunter grabbed the rebound.

His free throws sealed the win.

The Hoosiers needed everything they had to earn this one after blowing a seven-point halftime lead.

Michigan State rallied by making its first six 3-point attempts in the second half and finally took a 51-48 lead on Rocket Watts’ 3 with 11:05 to go.

It remained a one-possession game the rest of the way.

But Aljami Durham finally gave Indiana what it needed – a 3 with 1:52 left – to break a 60-60 tie. Brunk’s layup made it 65-62.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Trips to Indiana just haven’t been kind to the Spartans lately. On Jan. 12, they were routed at Purdue. This time, they got beat in the closing minutes. Clearly, Michigan State performed closer to expectations than it did at Purdue. But another slow start cost them another game. They will return to Indiana for the conference tournament in March.

Indiana: It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Hoosiers struggled to make shots. But they’ve figured out how to limit the 3s and take advantage of their size and athleticism inside, and it’s made a huge difference. If Indiana’s offense stays in sync this weekend, they just might crack the Top 25 for the first time.

STAT PACK

Michigan State: Aaron Henry had 12 points, while Gabe Brown had 10 points and four 3s. Xavier Tillman finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. … The Spartans had 13 turnovers, but only gave up six points off those turnovers. … Michigan State started the game by missing its first nine 3s. It wound up 9 of 21 from beyond the arc.

Indiana: Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12 points and four rebounds, while Durham finished with 11 points and four 3s. … Race Thompson had four points, two blocks and two steals before leaving the game late in the first half after a hard foul. He sat on the bench the entire second half. … Nine of the 10 Hoosiers who appeared in the first half scored. Only Jerome Hunter, who logged four minutes, was shut out. … NBA star Victor Oladipo attended the game. The two-time All-Star is expected to make his season debut with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: plays two of its next three on the road, including Sunday’s stop at Minnesota.

Indiana: hosts another ranked opponent, No. 17 Maryland, on Sunday.

Three Things To Know: Marcus Carr beats Ohio State, Indiana wins, Yoeli’s back

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There were no brawls, but there is still plenty to talk about after a full slate of games on Thursday night.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. THE BIG TEN STAYS WILD

It was another bonkers night in the toughest conference in the country on Thursday.

Let’s start with the early game.

Ohio State lost for the sixth time in the last seven games, blowing an 11-point second half lead after Marcus Carr, who finished with 21 points, his a three with 3.3 seconds left on the clock to give the Gophers a 62-59 win.

Daniel Oturu added 11 points and six boards, all of which came in the second half, as he shut down Kaleb Wesson to give Minnesota the season-sweep of the Buckeyes.

Minnesota is now 5-4 in the Big Ten and 11-8 on the season, and while this loss drops Ohio State into 12th place in the Big Ten standings, the work that they did in the early part of the season combined with the depth and strength of the conference they play in means that, as of now, this is still a Quad 1 win for Minnesota.

The late game was just as crazy.

No. 11 Michigan State trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before storming back to take a lead in the final four minutes. But Indiana responded, and caught a lucky break as Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open tip-in with less than a second left on the clock that would have forced overtime.

The Spartans are now 6-2 in the Big Ten, putting them in a tie for first place with Illinois, while Indiana an absolutely enormous win for Archie Miller and this program. With No. 17 Maryland coming to town on Saturday, this was critical for Archie Miller, whose lack of success has gotten the locals riled up.

This should give him some breathing room.

2. YOELI CHILDS IS BACK

It hasn’t really been discussed much nationally to this point, but BYU is a really good, really dangerous team this season when they are at full strength.

The problem has been that they’ve barely been at full strength.

Their best player is Yoeli Childs, a 6-foot-9 center with all the tools that make him an intriguing NBA prospect and, in turn, an absolute monster in the WCC. But he missed the first nine games of the season because of a paperwork issue withdrawing from last year’s NBA draft, and then had to sit out the last four after injuring his finger.

But he’s back now.

And he put everyone on notice with a 26 point, nine rebound outburst in a 74-60 win at Pacific.The Cougars are a very real at-large candidate with the size and shot-making to threaten Gonzaga. Keep an eye on them.

3. HOUSTON SURVIVES UCONN

In one of the weirdest end-of-game sequences I can remember seeing, No. 25 Houston managed to find a way to survive UConn’s upset bid.

Here’s what happened: The Cougars, who trailed for the entire game, finally took the lead late in the second half. They had pushed the lead out to six points, when UConn’s Jalen Gaffney scored with 7.3 seconds left to cut it to four. But after he scored, Houston’s DeJon Jarreau said something to Danny Hurley and was given a technical foul. After Gaffney made both free throws, Jarreau then committed a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds.

UConn ball.

But this is the strangest part: Since UConn was in foul trouble, they brought in a walk-on — Temi Aiyegbusy — to commit a foul. But no time went of the clock on the turnover, so he had to remain on the court for the UConn possession. The ball ended up in his hands in the corner, and he passed up on a three took a pull-up that missed.

Houston grabbed the rebound, made their free throws, and that was that.

Three Things To Know: Memphis embarrassed; Luka Garza shows out again

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The story of the night in hoops was Zion Williamson’s return to the basketball court.

But there was plenty of action in the college ranks that is worthy of talking about.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. No. 20 MEMPHIS LOST BY 40 TO TULSA

That is not a typo.

The 20th-ranked team in the country went into Tulsa, Okla., and lost to the Golden Hurricane, 80-40. Tulsa was up 40-17 at halftime. This was a butt-whooping that was so bad that all Tulsa needed to do was score a single point in the second half and they would have been able to get the win.

Memphis shot 28 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-21 from three. They finished the night with more turnovers (20) and fouls (22) than field goals (16). This was the worst loss that a top 25 team has suffered against a ranked team in 27 years, since UConn beat then-No. 12 Virginia by 41 points.

For Tulsa, this is a massive, massive win. They are currently sitting all alone in first place in the American standings, a half-game up on Houston.

So good for Frank Haith.

But the story here is Memphis, because the Tigers, considered title contenders before the season began, look anything-but right now.

“We let our defense dictate our offense,” head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters after the game. “We didn’t play any defense today. I think today was the first day we’ve done that ll year. I don’t know if guys overlooked Tulsa because of the name. We did our due diligence as a coaching staff to let them know what was going to happen with the matchup zone and how hard they play.

“It’s pretty embarrassing.”

2. LUKA GARZA WENT NUTS AGAIN

If it seems like Garza is putting up monster numbers every games, it’s because he is.

On Wednesday night, the Hawkeyes welcomed newly-ranked Rutgers to campus and sent them home with an entertaining, hard-fought, 85-80 win. And Garza was the star of the show. He finished with 28 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in the win, anchoring the paint as Iowa out-scored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half.

The big fella is now averaging 23 points and 10.5 boards.

Iowa has now won four straight games to move into a tie for third in the Big Ten standings — with Rutgers, among others — and they have won eight straight games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They are a third of the way through a three-game homestand as well.

3. VIRGINIA TECH TAKES DOWN NORTH CAROLINA

Virginia Tech kept up their push to finish as the fourth-best team in the ACC with a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The Hokies are now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but the more interesting story might actually be the Tar Heels.

They are 8-10 on the season and 1-6 in the ACC. They have been a disaster for the last month, but there may be some reinforcements on the way in the shape of Cole Anthony. If he returns and the Tar Heels, who are 2-7 in his absence but have wins over Alabama and Oregon with him, get things back on the right track, they are likely going to find themselves in an incredibly awkward situation on Selection Sunday.

Big 12 hands down Kansas-Kansas State fight suspensions

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The Big 12 handed down suspensions to four Kansas and Kansas State players for their role in the fight that occurred in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Silvio De Sousa, who tried to fight three different Kansas State players and picked up a stool during the melee, received a 12 game suspension from the conference. David McCormack, who went into the stands to confront James Love III, received a two game suspension. Love was given eight games for part in the fight, while Antonio Gordon, the freshman that turned a messy situation into a fight, was hit with a three game suspension.

“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”

In the final seconds on Tuesday night, after DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from him at halfcourt, De Sousa blocked Gordon’s shot and towered over him. That sparked an incident that turned into a full-fledged brawl, as De Sousa threw punches at three different players on Kansas State before picking up a stool as the fight spilled into the handicapped section of Kansas seating.

Self called the fight “an embarrassment” after the game, adding on Wednesday that “we are disappointed in [De Sousa’s] actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”

McCormack will be eligible to return for Kansas on Feb. 1st when they play Texas Tech at home. De Sousa will be available to play in the final game of the regular season at Texas Tech. Gordon can return on Feb. 3rd, when the Wildcats host Baylor, while Love will be out until late February. But he has played just one game and two minutes on the season, so there is no clear indication of when he will actually put on a Kansas State jersey again.

The four most important questions after Kansas-Kansas State fight

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Very other sport can treat brawls like comedy, and I think it’s about time that we did the same for basketball.

So let’s take a look at the four funniest moments from last night’s Kansas-Kansas State fight. Shouts to Jomboy:

1. IS THE KANSAS MASCOT OK?

Throughout the entire fight, the mascot is just in utter disbelief. He cannot believe what he just saw, and he certainly cannot be consoled:

2. CAN JEREMY CASE START AT LINEBACKER FOR KU’S FOOTBALL TEAM?

Case is the video coordinator for Kansas. He’s also a former Kansas point guard. He knows what this rivalry is all about, and he also is not going to be afraid to get in the middle of it.

Case starts out on the wrong side of the melee:

But when he sees De Sousa and Love squaring up and throwing punches, he intervenes by throwing himself into a player six inches taller than him:

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAMES LOVE III’S SHOE?

James Love the third has played in exactly one game this season. He has spent more time on the court fighting that he has actually playing, but he still found a way to get into the middle of this fight and, in the process, lost his shoe:

He’s not dressed for the game.

Did he bring an extra pair of shoes? Did he have to head back onto the bus without a shoe on this right foot? So many questions, so few answers.

4. WHO IS THE MAN IN THE ORANGE HAT?

He’s some kind of photographer.

He got his shot, that’s for sure: