1/10 – College Hoops Week in Review: And we’re going to overtime

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Game of the Week: UConn 82, Texas 81 OT

With all due respect to Georgetown and Missouri, I think we have a new favorite for Game of the Year. This one was wild. Kemba Walker didn’t score until there was 2:32 left in the first half. He had just five points at the break, but despite that the Huskies were only down 37-32 at intermission. Walker was still cold in the second half, but Texas couldn’t put the Huskies away. Down 48-41 with with 15 minutes left, UConn went on a 27-11 run sparked by Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith. Once again, UConn did it without much help from Walker, who had five points during that stretch.

Texas had an answer, however. Tristan Thompson sparked a 12-2 run with six points, and with 1:33 left in the game, a short jumper by J’Covan Brown gave Texas the lead. (The Longhorns would have been ahead earlier if it wasn’t for this blunder by Jordan Hamilton, which wasn’t even the dumbest play of the game.) At the other end, Walker came through in the clutch — something that would become a familiar theme here — with a gorgeous, and-one, reverse layup to put UConn up 73-71. After two J’Covan Brown free throws and a missed Walker jumper, Texas had a chance to win it it in regulation. Johnson had his shot blocked with 14 seconds left. Smith gathered the ball and threw it 85 feet at the basket with 10 seconds left in the game.

Texas had another shot to win it, but Brown missed a short jumper in the lane. In overtime, UConn took the lead on three separate occasions, the third of which was a 40 foot prayer by Kemba Walker to beat the shot clock. Texas had an answer every time, and after Walker’s 40 footer, Cory Joseph and Hamilton both knocked down midrange jumpers to give Texas the lead with under a minute left. After both teams had empty possessions, UConn ended up with the ball with time winding down, setting up these heroics from Walker:

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Triple Overtimes: We had three of them this weekend. Believe it or not, both St. Bonaventure and Ohio — who played a four overtime game earlier in the season — were involved in one.

  • UAB 100, UTEP 97: Randy Culpepper scored 30 of his 34 points in regulation, but it was a Christian Polk three as time expired that forced the first overtime. In the first extra frame, it was Culpepper’s turn for some heroics, and he drained a three — his second attempt in the last five seconds — from the corner to force a second overtime. Claude Britton, who scored all of his 14 points after regulation, scored to give UTEP a 97-94 lead with over a minute left, but a three from Preston Purifoy followed by a three from deep in the corner by Cameron Moore (who had 29 points and 14 boards, 26 coming after halftime) with five seconds left gave the Blazers the win. Culpepper missed a 35 foot prayer that would have forced a fourth OT. Of note — Aaron Johnson had 26 points, 14 assists, and 7 boards in the win.
  • St. Bonaventure 92, Charlotte 88: Andrew Nicholson had 34 points for the Bonnies, who took a 40-28 lead at the half. Charlotte would storm back to take a 68-66 lead, but Da’Quan Cook hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to force overtime. In the first and second overtimes, both teams had a multiple chances to win the game late, missing each time. Then in the third OT, the Bonnies finally built a lead, hitting nine of their 10 free throws to knock off Canisius.
  • Miami OH 92, Ohio 88: One of the most underrated rivalries in the country had a wild second half. After the game was tied at the break, Miami went on a run to take a 47-39 lead. Ohio answered with a 19-7 run, and Miami answered that by scoring nine of the next 11 points. The end of regulation was anti-climatic, but after DJ Cooper had given Ohio a three point lead to start overtime, he had to hit a three with 39 seconds left to tie the game and force a second OT. The Redhawks eventually pulled away in the third overtime, as 26 points and 12 boards from Ivo Baltic was more than Cooper’s 27 points and 11 assists could overcome.

Player of the Week: Jimmer Fredette, BYU

BYU went 2-0 this week, beating UNLV and a better-than-expected Air Force team to start MWC play. Against UNLV, Fredette had one of the most dominant individual performances of the season. BYU was down 25-15 with under six minutes to go in the first half when Fredette finally caught fire, sparking a 37-13 run over a 12 minutes span. When the run started, Fredette was just 1-7 from the floor and 0-3 from three with three points. By the time the night was over, Fredette had 39 points on 12-25 shooting and 7-13 from three and BYU had won 89-77 in a game that wasn’t that close. You want a sense of how hot Fredette was? Check out where he hit this three from:

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That kid of game had to feel very good for Fredette considering some of the comments made by Tre’Von Willis during the week. It is because of performances like the one he had against UNLV that when Fredette had 22 points against Air Force it seems pedestrian. Think about that for a second. You can legitimately say that Air Force played well because they “held” Fredette to 22 points.

The All-they-were-good-too team

  • G: Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame: Hansbrough was fantastic in a 2-0 week for the Irish. He had 21 points and played 40 minutes chasing around Kemba Walker in a 73-70 win over the Huskies. He then went out and dropped 26 as Notre Dame beat St. John’s.
  • G: Charles Jenkins, Hofstra: If you haven’t seen this kid play yet this year, its about time you started to tune into the CAA. The Pride went 3-0 this week, winning at Drexel and Northeastern and also knocking off George Mason, to move into first place in the conference at 4-0. Jenkins was fantastic, averaging 25.0 ppg and 6.3 apg while turning the ball over just five times.
  • F: Alec Burks, Colorado: Burks averaged 28.0 ppg for the week, but it was his 36-point, eight-rebound performance in an upset of No. 8 Missouri that got him on this list.
  • F: Sam Muldrow, South Carolina: If you are in a college basketball fantasy league, I suggest you pick up Muldrow. He averaged 15.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 8.0 bpg this week, including notching a triple double — 16 points, 14 boards, 10 blocks — as the Gamecocks upset Vanderbilt in overtime.
  • C: Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson, USC: The Trojans starting front court combined for 33 points and 20 boards in a win over UCLA.
  • Bench: Justin Harper, Richmond; Casey Mitchell, West Virginia; Mike James, Lamar; Cameron Moore, UAB

Team of the Week: Missouri State Bears

After a 3-0 week in the Valley, Missouri State is now sitting all alone atop the MVC standings at 5-0. Making that record all the more impressive is that the Bears have already made their three toughest road trips of the season, going to Northern Iowa, Creighton, and Wichita State (the latter two both coming this past week and both now sitting at 4-1 in the league) and coming out with wins. The Bears likely won’t be getting an at-large bid this season — not with a non-conference schedule that features losses to Tennessee, Tulsa, and Oklahoma State and their best non-conference win coming against Oral Roberts — but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good basketball team. Anyone that can go into Northern Iowa, Creighton, and Wichita State in the span of 10 days and come out unscathed is a good basketball team. Kyle Weems (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Jermaine Mallet (10.3 ppg) led the way this week.

Teams that deserve a shoutout

  • UConn: Ranking teams is difficult to do, especially in the case of a team like UConn. After beating Texas on the road, UConn now has just two losses on the season — both to top 15 clubs on the road — and has beaten Kentucky, Texas, and Michigan State. But according to the all-encompassing eye test, this is not an elite team. Regardless of how you feel about UConn’s program, the one thing that their win at Texas does is but them the benefit of the doubt. They beat a top-15 team on the road a month and a half after they one the Maui, and they did it with Kemba Walker struggling most of the night. I still have my doubts, but until they prove otherwise, they deserve all the credit they get.
  • Austin Peay: Do we have a new favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference? The Governors went to Murray State on Saturday and knocked off the Racers, snapping a 25 game home winning streak. They are now 5-0 in conference play and hold a two game lead over both Morehead State and Murray State with a win against both. Did Fly Williams make a comeback?
  • Colorado: The Buffaloes were supposed to be a sleeper in the Big XII this season. When you have two talents like Alec Burks and Cory Higgins on your roster, that’s pretty much what is expected of you. But with losses to San Francisco and Harvard in non-conference play, it looked like this Colorado team would be reverting back to their old ways. That was until they knocked off Missouri on Saturday afternoon. Burks and Higgins combined for 54 points and 18 boards in the win. They are not going to be able to keep that up all season long, but the win is the confidence booster that this team needed. They will be an interesting team to keep an eye on.
  • Georgia: Like the Buffaloes, the Bulldogs were predicted by many to be a sleeper in the SEC. After starting the season off slowly — they only have two losses (both with Trey Thompkins slowed with an ankle injury) but their wins have been far from impressive against less than impressive competition — Georgia made a statement on Saturday by knocking off the visiting Kentucky Wildcats, who are ranked in the top 15. Trey Thompkins had 25 points in the win and finally looks like he is healthy. Expect quite a bit of noise to be made by the Bulldogs in SEC play.
  • USC: Its pretty obvious that Washington and Arizona are the two best teams in the Pac-10. After that, things get a little bit sticky. Washington State, UCLA, Cal, Arizona State, and USC are all in the mix, but two weeks into the season, it looks as if USC is the frontrunner for that gig. They are 2-1 in conference play after beating UCLA at home on Sunday night and look like a different team with Jio Fontan running the point. The problem? Those three games were at home. USC doesn’t play a real conference road game until Jan. 27th, and ends the season at Washington State and Washington.
  • Virginia Tech: I feel bad for Seth Greenberg, I really do. The year he finally puts together a brutish schedule for his team in non-conference play, he loses half of his team to injury and loses every big game he plays. Count me as one of the people pulling for this team to do well in ACC play. A win over Florida State on Saturday is a good place to start.

Matchups of the Week

  • 1/10 – 7:00 pm: Notre Dame @ Marquette
  • 1/11 – 7:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Michigan State
  • 1/11 – 9:00 pm: Florida @ Tennessee
  • 1/12 – 7:00 pm: Pitt @ Georgetown
  • 1/12 – 7:00 pm: Louisville @ Villanova
  • 1/12 – 7:00 pm: Syracuse @ St. John’s
  • 1/12 – 8:05 pm: Wichita State @ Creighton
  • 1/12 – 10:00 pm: UNLV @ San Diego State
  • 1/13 – 7:00 pm: Purdue @ Minnesota
  • 1/13 – 7:00 pm: Old Dominion @ Drexel
  • 1/14 – 11:00 am: Marquette @ Louisville
  • 1/14 – 12:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ Tennessee
  • 1/14 – 1:00 pm: Maryland @ Villanova
  • 1/14 – 3:00 pm: Illinois @ Wisconsin
  • 1/14 – 6:00 pm: San Diego State @ New Mexico
  • 1/14 – 8:00 pm: Dayton @ Xavier
  • 1/15 – 12:00 pm: Notre Dame @ St. John’s
  • 1/15 – 1:30 pm: Purdue @ West Virginia

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.