1/17 – College Hoops Week in Review: Louisville comes back, Khris Middleton’s clutch

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Game of the Week: Louisville 71, Marquette 70

This game was over. Marquette was up 65-47 with jut 5:45 left on the clock. After beating Notre Dame by 22 at home, it looked like the Golden Eagles were finally putting together a string of impressive victories. And then Preston Knowles woke up.

Louisville’s leading scorer had just two points in the first half. In the final 5:45, he had 12 points on four threes and added two assists as the Cardinals came storming back. After a Knowles three made the score 65-62, Jaw Crowder snapped the 15-0 run with a bucket at the other end. Knowles hit another three on the ensuing possession, but again Marquette had an answer, this time in the form of a Dwight Buycks bucket.

Louisville would get Marquette’s lead down to 70-69 after four Terrence Jennings free throws surrounding one from Junior Cadougan, but 16 seconds left, Dwight Buycks challenged Jennings on a layup at the rim with the shot clock turned off. He was blocked, Louisville got the ball back, and it set up this ending:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/MMC_5K9HZbY?fs=1&hl=en_US]

Also deserving a mention:

  • Texas A&M 91, Missouri 89 OT: Once again, Missouri was involved in a a great game with an exciting finish. Both teams blew double digit leads in regulation, with the Tigers making a late run sparked by Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe to take a four point lead late. A&M answered, and the two sides proceeded to trade big shot after big shot for the rest of regulation and throughout overtime. In the extra frame, Khris Middleton — who had 11 of his 28 points in overtime and forced the OT with two free throws with 14 seconds left — stole the ball from Marcus Denmon with 40 seconds left and scored the go-ahead layup.
  • Portland 79, Loyola Marymount 78 2OT: This game was wild. Portland was up seven early, trailed by ten late in the first half, opened up their own ten point lead in the second half, and was still leading by seven with less than three minutes left on the clock. But LMU would go on a 9-0 run to take a 60-58 lead with five seconds left before Jared Stohl drew a foul and hit both free throws to force OT. In the first overtime, Luke Sikma answered an Anthony Ireland three with a jump hook to put Portland up 66-65, but Edgar Garibay hit one of two free throws to force the second OT. In that second overtime, Portland pulled away and opened a five point lead, but the Lions fought back and even had a good look at a three from Drew Viney that would have given them the lead. He missed, and Portland held on for a tough win.

Player of the Week: Draymond Green, Michigan State

For the first time seemingly all season long, Green played like we expected him too. Is it any surprise that the Spartans went 2-0 this week? Against Wisconsin, Green finished with 26 points, nine boards, and four assists, making seemingly every big play down the stretch. In a win over Northwestern, Grene had 16 points, eight boards, and two assists. He got an offensive rebound, drew a foul, and hit two free throws to force overtime. He jumped a passing lane and had a dunk in the extra frame with MSU down three. He found Keith Appling for the go-ahead three pointer. Green was attacking the basket, he was hitting the offensive glass, and he was making plays for his teammates. When he plays like this, he make the Spartans a much better team.

All they-were-good-too-team:

  • G: Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette had 47 points and six assists in the Cougars only game this week, beating rival Utah on the road.
  • G: Derwin Kitchen, Florida State: Kitchen averaged 16.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg in a 2-0 week for the Seminoles, including 22 points and 10 boards on 9-13 shooting in an upset of then-No. 1 duke.
  • F: Khris Middleton, Texas A&M: Middleton had 28 points in an overtime win over Missouri. He tied the game with 14 seconds left in regulation, then scored 11 points in overtime, making big shot after big shot, to lead the Aggies to a win.
  • F: Aaron Brackett, UNC-Greensboro: Bracket had a career-high 28 points and a career-high 15 boards (in fact, the 15 rebounds were more than his career high in scoring coming in) as the Spartans won their first game of the season at conference favorite Appalachian State despite trailing by 15 points.
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, SDSU: Leonard averaged 17.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg as the Aztecs beat UNLV and New Mexico.
  • C: Mike Muscala, Bucknell: Muscala averaged 28.0 ppg and 11.5 rpg in two games this week as Bucknell gave American and Holy Cross their first Patriot League losses. The Bison are currently sitting alone atop the conference standings at 3-0.
  • Bench: Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s (18.5 ppg, 8.5 apg); John Flowers, West Virginia (19.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 2.5 bpg); Isaiah Thomas, Washington (27 points, 13 assists in win over Cal); Kyle Weems, Missouri State (20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Derrick Williams, Arizona (31 points, 10 boards vs. Arizona State); DJ Gay, San Diego State (30 points, 7-11 3PT vs. New Mexico); Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota (26 points vs. Purdue); Diante Garrett, Iowa State (21.5 ppg, 8.0 apg); Gary Flowers, Southern Mississippi (20.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.5 bpg)

Team of the Week: Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies were an after thought in the preseason. They were losing so much senior leadership and scoring, few expected them to be in the thick of the Big XII race come mid-January, but that they are thanks to a 2-0 week. A&M beat Oklahoma State by 23 on Wednesday, and then on Saturday the Aggies knocked off Missouri in overtime to improve to 3-0 in Big XII play. We’ll have a better feel for just how good A&M is after the next ten days — when they play Texas twice and Kansas State once — but it is time to start discussing this team as a legitimate conference title contender. After those three games, A&M only has one more game against a ranked opponent (Kansas in February) and they only play Missouri, Kansas, and Kansas State once each.

Deserving of a shoutout:

San Diego State: Can we finally call the Aztecs legit? They may not be as good as Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, or Syracuse, but this is a team that truly deserves to be in the conversation for best of the rest. This week, they went 2-0 against fellow MWC contenders, beating UNLV at home and then manhandling New Mexico on the road.

Florida State: The Seminoles have a legitimate chance to be the second place team in the ACC. After beating No. 1 Duke and NC State this week, FSU is tied for first in the conference at 3-1. The Noles are going to be an inconsistent team all year long — when they are hitting offensively, you’ll get performances like this week; when they aren’t, they lose to Auburn.

West Virginia: The ‘Eers had quite a good week this week. They smoked Providence at home on Thursday before No. 8 Purdue came to town. WVU got a number of late, clutch buckets from John Flowers and Kevin Jones as they were able to land a marquee win they really needed on their resume. WVU had now won four in a row and seems to finally have gotten their season on track.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers had a terrific week, as they evened up their record in the Big Ten with wins over Purdue and Iowa. All three of Minnesota’s losses have come on the road to top 25 opponents — Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin. The top of the Big Ten is loaded, which means that Minnesota is going to need more wins like the one they got against Wisconsin if they are going to make a run at the top of the league.

Michigan State: Are the Spartans finally turning that corner? This week, they picked up a couple of nice wins in overtime, beating both Wisconsin and Northwestern at home in overtime. It was a turnaround the Spartans needed, as they were coming off of a loss to Penn State last Saturday.

Colorado: This Buffalo team is looking more and more like a team we are going to have to keep an eye on all season long. They are now 3-0 in the Big XII with wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma State this week.

Valpo: After a weekend that featured four games between the top four teams in the Horizon, Valpo came out 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the conference after winning on the road at Wright State and Detroit. The Crusaders also own a win over Cleveland State this season. For the first time is seemingly forever, it looks like the Horizon has more contenders than just Butler.

Belmont: The Bruins are playing at historic levels right now. They are 7-0 in the Atlantic Sun, and they are currently beating their opponent’s by an average of 28.8 ppg. By comparison, UNLV beat their opponents by an average of 29.6 ppg in 1990-1991. This week, they beat Lipscomb and Campell by a combined 71 points, holding Lipscomb’s Adnan Hodzic seven points and five boards.

Duquesne: After sweeping St. Louis and Duquesne this week, the Dukes are currently sitting tied for first a top the A-10 with Xavier and George Washington. They’ve now won six games in a row.

Matchups of the Week

  • 1/17 – 3:30 pm: Villanova @ UConn
  • 1/17 – 5:30 pm: Kansas State @ Missouri
  • 1/17 – 7:30 pm: Syracuse @ Pitt
  • 1/17 – 9:30 pm: Kansas @ Baylor
  • 1/18 – 7:00 pm: Michigan State @ Illinois
  • 1/18 – 7:00 pm: Tennessee @ Georgia
  • 1/19 – 7:00 pm: Memphis @ Southern Miss
  • 1/19 – 9:00 pm: Texas @ Texas A&M
  • 1/20 – 10:00 pm: Arizona @ Washington
  • 1/22 – 12:00 pm: Ohio State @ Illinois
  • 1/22 – 12:00 pm: Villanova @ Syracuse
  • 1/22 – 2:00 pm: Tennessee @ UConn
  • 1/22 – 2:00 pm: Kansas State @ Texas A&M
  • 1/22 – 3:00 pm: Temple @ Xavier
  • 1/22 – 4:00 pm: Texas @ Kansas
  • 1/22 – 9:00 pm: Michigan State @ Purdue

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.