2/14 – College Hoops Week in Review: I hope you remembered Valentine’s Day

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Game of the Week: Wisconsin 71, Ohio State 67

Jordan Taylor provided us with the most exciting 13 minutes of basketball this season on Saturday. With Wisconsin down 47-32 after Ohio State went on a 21-6 run, the no-longer-underrated Taylor caught fire. He scored on a tough drive. Two possessions later, he knocked down a three to get the lead to ten. On Wisconsin’s next possession, he buried another three to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. After two Mike Bruesewitz free throws and another jumper from Taylor, the Badger’s point guard found freshman John Gasser for a three that tied the game with 9:46 left.

All told, the nation’s slowest team had erased a 15 point deficit on the nation’s No. 1 team in 3:30. Aaron Craft did his best to keep Ohio State in the lead, scoring six of the Buckeye’s next eight points as they opened up a four point lead, but Taylor had the answer. He hit a three, found Mike Bruesewitz for a three, and found Keaton Nankivil for a jumper to put Wisconsin ahead, then he capped the run with a three pointer of his own with 5:34 left in the game as the Badgers went up 60-55.

Taylor finished with 27 points and seven assists, accounting for all but six points and three assists in the final 13 minutes of the game. The court was stormed, Ohio State suffered their first loss of the season, and Taylor was Rudy’d.

Florida 61, Tennessee 60: It seems like every game played in the SEC East is a close game with an exciting finish. Florida, however, has proven to be the best in the conference at winning those close games, which is why they are currently sitting at 9-2 in the league with a two game lead. In this one, the Gators overcame a 35-29 half time deficit, winning on a tough, driving layup by Erving Walker with 14 seconds left.

Duke 79, UNC 73: Like the Wisconsin-Ohio State game, Duke-UNC didn’t have a great finish, but it was quite entertaining nonetheless. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 43-27 lead in the first half, but Duke led an entertaining rally in the second half, as Seth Curry and Nolan Smith combined for 40 points after the break.

Wild finishes:

  • Colorado 58, Kansas State 56: Down by two with 1.1 seconds left, Rodney McGruder hit what appeared to be a game-winning three at the buzzer. But after the refs reviewed the shot, it was obvious it came after the buzzer:
  • Pitt 57, Villanova 54: Villanova had the same thing happen. The Wildcats managed to force a couple of turnovers to get back into the game, finally cutting the lead to just three on an Antonio Pena three. After another Pitt turnover, Dominic Cheek missed a three, but the rebound was kicked out to Maalik Wayns, who hit a three one second after the buzzer expired and about thirty seconds after McGruder’s three was waved off.
  • Rutgers 77, Villanova 76: That wasn’t the only tough loss that Villanova suffered this week. Against Rutgers, the Wildcats blew a 13 points lead with five minutes left and an eight point lead with 1:50 of the block. But thanks to some hot shooting by the Scarlet Knights, they were able to get back into it. Down three, Jonathon Mitchell hit a three and was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
  • Rhode Island 71, Charlotte 70 OT: The Rams overcame a 40-23 second half deficit to force overtime, and in the extra frame Jamal Wilson, who had 11 points on the season coming in, scored on a put back at the buzzer to win the game.
  • Green Bay 63, Illinois-Chicago 61 OT: Robo Kreps hit a floater at the buzzer to win a Horizon League game back on Thursday, but wait for the 1:10 mark and listen to the announcer’s reaction. You’ll laugh.

Players of the Week: I don’t generally like giving out ties with the Weekly Awards, but four players this week gave such impressive performances, I really had no choice:

Norris Cole, Cleveland State: Cole had the line of the year so far this season, going for 41 points, 20 boards, nine assists, and three steal in a win over Youngstown State. The only other player in the last 15 years to have a 40-20 games was Blake Griffin, who had 40 points and 23 boards against Texas Tech. In a loss on Monday, Cole added 27 points, six assists, and seven boards.

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: Jenkins was terrific in Vandy’s two big wins over Alabama and Kentucky. On Tuesday against the Crimson Tide, he finished with 20 points on 5-11 shooting, but his better performance came on Saturday. With Jeff Taylor struggling, Jenkins picked up the slack, going for a career-high 32 points on 11-17 shooting while hitting six threes, many of them closely contested.

Nolan Smith, Duke: Smith has been a catalyst for the Blue Devils all season long, but never was that more evident than this week. He sparked Duke in the second half of their 81-71 road win over Miami on Sunday, finishing with 18 points and five assists despite sitting out a long stretch of the first half after being poked in the eye. On Wednesday, he scored 22 of his 34 points in the second half as Duke rallied from 16 down to knock off North Carolina.

Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: We’ve already talked plenty about Taylor’s play against Ohio State, both in this post and from the write-ups on Saturday. Taylor averaged 21.5 ppg and 7.5 apg in two wins this week, including 21 points and four assists during Wisconsin’s comeback from 15 points down in the last 13 minutes against Ohio State.

The all-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy has been on fire of late, and it continued this week. The senior guard has scored at least 25 points in three of his last five games, including a 33 point outburst in the Johnnie’s win over UConn. He followed that up with 18 points in a win at Cincinnati. Hardy was 9-15 from three on the week.
  • G: Ramone Moore, Temple: Moore has become Temple’s start, averaging 15.0 ppg on the season. This week, he led the Owls to two wins, including a 12 point win at Dayton, by averaging 24.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 3.5 apg.
  • F: Draymond Green, Michigan State: Have the Spartans finally turned a corner this season? The optimists say yes, and Green is a big reason why, as he notched a 15 point, 14 rebound, 10 assist triple-double in an 18 point rout of Penn State.
  • F: Justin Harper, Richmond: In wins over GW and St. Louis this week, Harper averaged 21.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg, while shooting 14-21 from the floor and 6-10 from three.
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson averaged 19.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg in two wins this week for the Boilermakers.
  • Bench: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota (20.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg in two games this week); Reggie Jackson, Boston College (29.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 22-36 FG, 8-16 3PT); Kyle Kuric, Louisville (25.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 18-29 FG, 9-14 3PT); Malcolm Lee, UCLA (22.0 ppg in a 2-0 week); Erving Walker, Florida (20.5 ppg, game-winner versus Tennessee)

Team of the Week: Xavier Musketeers

The Muskies did a lot this week. They took over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10. They put themselves into prime position for an at-large berth. And they did it by winning on the road despite not getting great performances out of Tu Holloway.

On Tuesday, X went into Athens and knocked off Georgia 65-57. Holloway led four players in double figures with 18 points, but he didn’t score until there were five minutes gone in the second half. Instead, it was the play of Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson that kept Xavier in it until Holloway was able to take the game over. On Sunday, Xavier got 20 from Holloway, 19 out of Dante Jackson, and 12 points and 12 boards from Kenny Frease as they went into Pittsburgh and knocked off Duquesne, who they were tied for first place in the conference with.

Xavier still has some work to do this season. A couple of ugly early losses on their resume hurt, and the Muskies have shown they are plenty capable of losing to a team like Charlotte in league play. But it seems as if Xavier is, once again, peaking at the right time. Give credit where credit is due — this coaching job by Chris Mack, overcoming the injuries and ineligibilities that he has had to deal with, is as good as any in the country.

Also impressive this week:

  • Wisconsin and Purdue: As we mentioned earlier, the Badgers handed Ohio State their first loss of the season. They also knocked off Iowa on the road earlier in the week. The Boilermakers had an impressive win of their own on Sunday, going into Champaign and beating Illinois. They also knocked off Indiana on Tuesday in a rivalry game. It sets up a battle for second place in the conference on Wednesday, as these two teams are tied for second place, two games behind Ohio State.
  • St. John’s: On Thursday, the Johnnies once again proved their home court dominance with a 17 point win over UConn, their fourth impressive home win in the last five week. Then on Sunday, they went into Cincinnati and knocked off the Bearcats, landing a huge bubble victory and proving themselves capable of winning on the road.
  • Vanderbilt: The Commodores went a long way towards asserting themselves as the second best team in the SEC East. Not only did they hand Alabama their first loss against the SEC East on Tuesday, they outlasted Kentucky 81-77 at home on Saturday afternoon.
  • Pitt: Playing without the injured Ashton Gibbs, the Panthers notched two very tough road wins, knocking off West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl and then beating in state rival Villanova. The Panthers are looking more and more like the best “team” in the country.
  • Georgetown: If you didn’t know yet, the Hoyas are the hottest team in the country and officially back from the slump they had to start Big East play. On Wednesday, they went into the Carrier Dome and beat hated-rival Syracuse before coming home to knock off a scrappy Marquette team. The Hoyas are doing it with defense, as they have now won eight in a row.
  • Duke: The Blue Devils are well on their way to erasing all memories of the humiliating defeat they suffered at the hands of St. John’s. Since that loss, Duke has won four straight, including road wins at Miami and Maryland and Wednesday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina.
  • Kansas: There is not a team in the country playing better basketball on the offensive end then Kansas. On Monday, they beat Missouri by 17 despite the Tigers scoring 86 on points on 51.7% shooting, putting all five starters in double figures, and turning the ball over eight times. Then on Saturday, the Jayhawks beat Iowa State by 23 despite allowing the Cyclones to knock down 14 threes.
  • Old Dominion: The Monarchs won two road games this week to remain two games behind George Mason in the CAA standings, beating William & Mary and VCU, who was tied for first with the Patriots.
  • Murray State: The Racers claimed sole possession of first place in the OVC with wins over Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State this week.
  • Valpo: The Crusaders can now claim a one game lead in the loss column of the Horizon League thanks to wins over Wright State and Detroit and a loss by Cleveland State to Detroit.
  • Montana: After losing to Weber State and Northern Arizona last week on the road, the Grizzlies came home to knock off Sacramento State and then pull into a tie for first with Northern Colorado thanks to a win on Saturday.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 2/14 – 7:00 pm: West Virginia @ Syracuse
  • 2/14 – 9:00 pm: Kansas @ Kansas State
  • 2/15 – 7:00 pm: GMU @ VCU
  • 2/15 – 9:00 pm: Michigan State @ Ohio State
  • 2/16 – 6:30 pm: Wisconsin @ Purdue
  • 2/16 – 7:00 pm: Georgetown @ UConn
  • 2/17 – 7:00 pm: Richmond @ Temple
  • 2/18 – 9:00 pm: UConn @ Louisville
  • 2/19 – 12:00 pm: Pitt @ St. John’s
  • 2/19 – 1:00 pm: Notre Dame @ West Virginia
  • 2/19 – 6:00 pm: Washington @ Arizona
  • 2/19 – 9:00 pm: Utah State @ St. Mary’s
  • 2/20 – 1:00 pm: Ohio State @ Purdue
  • 2/18-2/20: Bracket Busters

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

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.

Report: One-and-Done rule could be eliminated for 2021 NBA Draft

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The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of ending the infamous one-and-done rule that forces many potential professional basketball players to head to college for at least one season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, citing a league memo sent to NBA teams late this week, the league office is indicating that “eligibility rules” for the NBA draft could change as soon as 2021 or 2022 — but not earlier. The league is currently trying to figure out how the FBI’s investigation into college basketball will play out while also trying to navigate the player development changes that would be needed for high school players to once again potentially enter the NBA. Recently, the NBA has started to allow its teams and front-office personnel to attend elite summer high school events as the Pangos All-American Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp both had an NBA presence to watch elite Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects.

Lowe’s report mentions that the one-and-done rule is not mentioned directly by name, but the NBA is trying to warn its teams before the 2018 NBA Draft. These future changes could be on the horizon and teams need to understand what they are doing with future draft picks in potential trades.

The scenario of a 2021 NBA Draft in which high school players might be eligible is a fascinating subplot for college basketball, and the sport at-large, over these next few years.

As Lowe pointed out in his report, whenever the rule is eventually opened up, it will create one large mega draft in which two elite classes of high school players would be draft-eligible in the same year. With potentially double the lottery-level and first-round talent of a typical NBA draft, it would force a lot of elite college recruits to exam the possibility of reclassifying up in order to get ahead of that mega draft and be in a pool with fewer elite prospects.

It also gives the high school players themselves a unique decision with regard to their potential college futures. If an elite high school prospect is one year away from entering the NBA draft out of school, would some go to college or would they try to go for a postgrad year and follow in the footsteps of players like Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons?

The expanding presence of the NBA’s G-League is also a factor in all of this as salaries for the league are increasing and becoming more respectable — giving high school players a viable professional option in the United States instead of college for one year before moving on to the draft.

There are still way too many moving parts to truly speculate how this will all go down. But at least we know that the NBA appears to be viewing 2021 or 2022 as the potential change to the one-and-done rule. We’ll have to see how elite high school prospects start potentially adjusting to reclassify while colleges also might have to adopt some new and unique recruiting strategies if they rely on one-and-done players to fill out their roster.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

Villanova lands late commitment from four-star prospect

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Villanova made a late addition to their 2018 recruiting class on Friday afternoon as they landed a commitment from four-star prospect Saddiq Bey.

Bey was originally committed to N.C. State, but he asked out of his Letter of Intent in mid-May as the Wolfpack ended up over the scholarship limit. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward is a good fit for the way that Villanova likes to play, as he can guard different positions, plays with the toughness you expect out of a kid from Washington D.C. and is a capable scorer.

Bey is also a product of Sidwell Friends, the same high school that produced former Villanova star Josh Hart.

He will joined a recruiting class that also includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, four star prospects Cole Swider and Brandon Slater and Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo.

The news was first reported by 247 Sports.

Marvin Bagley III, a ‘Nike kid’, to sign endorsement deal with Puma

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Marvin Bagley III will reportedly sign an endorsement deal with Puma in the NBA.

It’s a five-year deal, according to reports, that will pay Bagley and his family quite a bit of money and will allow them to fund an AAU program for Bagley’s younger brother. That program will be coached by Marvin Bagley Jr., and that gets to the heart of what makes this decision so surprising.

Bagley III has always been considered a “Nike kid”. He played for Nike AAU programs throughout his high school career. The last two years, his father ran the program that he played for, originally called Phoenix Phamily but eventually changed to Nike Phamily. That meant that Nike was able to legally pay Bagley Jr. a significant amount of money to fund that program. Eventually, Bagley would up enrolling at Duke, one of Nike’s flagship college basketball programs.

This is not the way that it is supposed to go for a shoe company like Nike. The reason they spend as much money as they do in the youth ranks is to keep as many kids as possible loyal to the brand. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will end up having a chance at being an NBA player as early as 15 years old, but what’s harder to do is to predict who will actually be able to move product. Did anyone think James Harden or Damian Lillard would be worth a signature shoe? So these shoe companies will spend a relatively small amount of money to fly those kids around the country during their high school years, keep them decked out in their gear and hope that lottery ticket eventually pays off.

What is a couple hundred thousand dollar investment when the payoff is hundreds of millions of dollars in shoe sales? All you need to do is land one Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to make the math work.

But that isn’t all that the shoe companies are looking for here.

With the amount of money that they have invested in sponsorship deals with these schools, they need to protect that investment. We saw it with Adidas and Louisville. They funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen, a Nike kid, to get him to an Adidas school not because they thought he would end up being an uber-profitable spokesman but because they needed to protect their investment at the college level.

So while it’s easy to look at this and same that Bagley’s time spent at Duke helped him get a big, fat shoe contract, I think it’s the other way around. He helped Nike — without getting his market value — during his one season at Duke, and what it got him was a shoe contract worth roughly $1 million a year, according to Oregon Live.

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Bagley’s value to these brands is no different now than it was when he was playing for the Blue Devils.

Why is it only now that he’s allowed to cash in on it?