Week in Review: Reggie Hamilton and Florida are honored

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Player of the Week: Reggie Hamilton, Oakland

You should know who Reggie Hamilton is by now. He’s one of the most dynamic guards in the country and the star of a team that could legitimately win a game in the NCAA Tournament if they are able to get there. He went for 35 points in a nationally televised win over Tennessee and followed that up with 28 points in a tough loss to Michigan. The 5’11” Hamilton averages 22.0 ppg and 4.2 apg on the season, but he had the best game of his career on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton went for 41 points in a win over Valporaiso. He made 14-24 shots from the floor, hitting five threes and added four assists, four steals and three rebounds. More impressive, however, was the fact that the Grizzlies were down by as much as 17 points in the second half, but Hamilton lead the charge back. He scored the first 12 points during an 17-1 run that trimmed the lead to 61-60 and kept Oakland in the game. It was Hamilton’s final shot of the game that truly made the difference, as he went the length of the court in the final five seconds and banked in a runner as time expired:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nbdJOsKSa8%5D

The Summit League is going to be exciting to follow this season. With South Dakota State (who just beat Washington by double figures at Washington) and Oral Roberts (who won by 22 at Xavier) being joined by teams like IUPUI this season, the battle for the Summit’s regular season title will be a fun one to watch.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too team:

G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters played well in his first game of the week, going for 24 points, six boards and five assists in a win over North Dakota, but it was his play in SDSU’s 92-73 win over Washington that earned him his spot on this list. Wolters had 34 points, seven assists, five boards and no turnovers.

G: Michael Dixon, Missouri: The Tigers have a terrific back court, but the guy that is often overlooked in that group is Dixon. That’s not necessarily a knock on him, either, as much as it is a sign of how good Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon and Kim English. But Dixon can play, and he showed it this week. He averaged 24.0 ppg, 3.0 apg and 3.0 spg in a 2-0 week, including a 30 point performance against William & Mary.

F: DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas helped Buckeye fans forget that Jared Sullinger has been banged up this season. Thomas had 23 points in a win over USC-Upstate and followed that up with 30 points and six boards against South Carolina. On the week, Thomas was 23-31 from the floor.

F: Ian Hummer, Princeton: Hummer had a terrific all-around week. He averaged 20.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 6.5 apg and 4.5 spg while leading the Tigers into a 2-0 week with wins over Rider and Boston U.

C: Andre Drummond, UConn: Drummond is finally starting to grow into the player that we all expected him to be when he entered college. Granted, it came against Holy Cross, but Drummond had easily the best game of his collegiate career, finishing with 24 points, eight boards and five blocks on 11-12 shooting form the field.

Bench: Julian Boyd, Long Island (29 pts, 17 rbs vs. St. Peter’s); Keith Clanton, Central Florida (23 pts, 16 rbs, 4 blks vs. Old Dominion); Gorgui Dieng, Louisville (14 pts, 14 rbs, 6 blks vs. Memphis); Drew Gordon, New Mexico (13 pts, 20 rbs, held LeBryan Nash to 2-15 shooting); Jorge Gutierrez, Cal (24 pts, 5 rbs, held Damian Lillard to 4-17); Elias Harris, Gonzaga (18.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Bernard James, Florida State (13.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.0 bpg); Perry Jones, Baylor (28 pts, 8 rbs vs. BYU); Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (31 pts, 10 rbs, 2 stls vs. Houston); Herb Pope, Seton Hall (24 pts, 17 rbs vs. Mercer); John Shurna, Northwestern (32 pts, 9-12 3’s vs. EIU); Russ Smith, Louisville (24 pts, 7 stls vs. Memphis); Antwaine Wiggins, Charleston (21.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg); Tony Wroten, Washington (25.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (31 pts, 10 rbs)

Team of the Week: Florida Gators

The Gators are a team that is being undervalued right now. Heading into their weekend tilt with then-No. 22 Texas A&M, Florida was ranked 13th in the country largely due to their two losses on the season. Those losses came on the road against Syracuse and Ohio State, the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams in the country, by a grand total of 11 points. Yes, a loss is a loss, but at some point being competitive in a tough road environment is worth something. Duke, who was ranked No. 4 in the country, lost by 22 at Ohio State. Florida lost by four.

The reason that I bring this up is because the Gators spent the weekend proving themselves to their doubters. The Aggies have had their struggles early in the season, but that is partly the result of Khris Middleton’s injury. Where Texas A&M thrives is on the defensive end of the floor, particularly on the perimeter. And that is precisely where Florida dominated them. The Gators hit 11 threes and got a combined 54 points out of Erving Walker, Brad Beal and Kenny Boynton.

The question that people are going to ask is whether this win is fool’s gold. Florida is at their best when they are getting Patric Young touches, and on Saturday he didn’t show up. The big man played just 20 minutes, finishing with five points and four boards, taking just two shots from the floor and committing four fouls. Florida was hot enough early in the game to build a 20 point lead before the Aggies realized what had happened, which is the benefit of having players that can as hot as Boynton and Walker. But they are streaky. Young is steady. Could this come back to bite them before the season is over?

Teams deserving a shout out:

Baylor: The Bears won two games this week, including a thriller against BYU at the Marriott Center in Salt Lake City. It was the first time this season that Baylor really showed how good they can be. Yes, they only won by three points, but anyone that has watched hoops in Utah will tell you that BYU is a difficult team to beat at home. Baylor overcame a 13 point deficit against a good team on the road. That’s impressive, even if the Bear’s had their defensive rebounding issues exposed.

Butler: I was ready to leave the Bulldogs for dead after their 4-6 start to the season. But Brad Stevens worked a little of his magic, as Butler overcame a second-half deficit that climbed as big as 15. With a second left on the clock, Andrew Smith tipped in the game-winner to beat Purdue. This certainly doesn’t erase the start that the Bulldogs have had this season, but it should show you just where this team can be as they continue to develop.

Cincinnati: We talked a bit about Xavier and how they struggled without their back court yesterday. The Bearcats are missing their starting front court to suspensions stemming from the brawl, but they have been winning. After beating Wright State 78-58 in the middle of the week, Cincinnati beat Radford 101-70 over the weekend. Granted, Wright State and Radford aren’t exactly mid-major powerhouses, but the Bearcats looked and played like a different team. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright have been terrific as Cincy’s pushed the pace and caught fire from three (24-53 from deep on the week).

College of Charleston: The Cougars picked up two wins this week, including their second straight against Tennessee. Bobby Cremins’ team is going to be a group to look out for come March. They have legitimate size in the front court and a talented perimeter attack, led by Andrew Lawrence and Antwaine Wiggins.

Indiana State: The Sycamores notched a big win as they went into Nashville and knocked off Vanderbilt at Memorial Coliseum. Jake Odum had 10 points, eight boards and seven assists while RJ Mahurin led the way with 14 points off the bench. ISU was no secret heading into the season, but their presence in the MVC was diminished early in the year due to the success that Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa have had. This win should get them back into the discussion.

Iona: The Gaels are a well-known quantity at this point, but picking up wins at Richmond and at Vermont will earn you mention here.

Kansas State: The Wildcats are a team that I am having trouble figuring out. They struggle at home against a team like North Florida, having to go to overtime to beat the Owls, and then easily dispatch one of the favorites in the SEC — Alabama — by 13 points. Is it an effort thing with Frank Martin’s club, or is this just going to be one of those teams that confuses us all year long.

Louisville: The Cardinals finally had the offensive explosion we’ve been waiting for in a win over Memphis. They posted 95 points, including a career-high 24 out of sophomore point guard Russ Smith. Gorgui Dieng was also impressive, notching 14 points, 14 boards and six blocks. When Louisville is getting those kind of performances from those players, Louisville becomes a better team offensively.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs picked up a couple of wins this week, including going into Detroit and knocking off a very good Detroit team that has been playing up to their potential since Eli Holman returned to the lineup. What was most impressive about that win wasn’t the play of the front court (33 points, 20 boards from Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney) or the emergence of Brian Bryant (17 points, six boards), it was the fact that MSU blew a 15 point lead on the road, but was able to regroup and hold on for the win.

Murray State: The Racers didn’t notch a win as impressive as knocking off Memphis on the road, but they did win two games and remain undefeated.

St. Joseph’s: How good can this St. Joseph’s team be? Top three in the Atlantic 10? Top four? Are they a top 25 team? All of the above? St. Joe’s has a talented back court in Tay Jones and Langston Galloway and some athletes on their front line. They can run the floor and are capable of putting on impressive displays of athleticism. And as Villanova and Creighton can attest, the Hawks can beat anyone at home. Now they have to prove they can do it on the road, too.

UNLV: Can someone figure this UNLV team out for me? They smacked North Carolina at home, got worked on the road by Wichita State and Wisconsin on the road, and now they beat Illinois in Chicago by 16 points? I don’t get it.

Five thoughts:

Terrence Jones vs. Will Barton: Terrence Jones missed a chance to prove his doubters wrong on Saturday afternoon. After scoring just six points in the last 60 minutes of basketball for Kentucky heading into their game against Chattanooga, Jones dislocated the pinky on his left hand early in the game. He tried to return, but he couldn’t. The injury furthered the questions surrounding Jones, and its not so much the result of another poor outing due to the injury as much as it is the fact that he didn’t have a chance to change the public’s mind. Personally, I won’t have my mind changed until Jones becomes a dominant presence in a game like the one that Kentucky will play on New Year’s Eve against Louisville. Be the best when the lights are the brightest.

Will Barton has the opposite issue. Where Jones seems to struggle with his intensity and focus, Barton plays hard every second that he is on the floor for Memphis. He did it again as the Tigers lost to Louisville on Saturday, finishing with 28 points and 16 boards. On the season, Barton is posting all-american numbers, averaging 21.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg. The problem is that he is the only one on Memphis that plays that way. Until their entire team can put forth the kind of effort that Barton does on a nightly basis, Memphis will continue to underachieve.

The Pac-12 is awful: It just keeps getting worse out west. On Saturday, it was the drubbing that Arizona got when they went up to Seattle to take on Gonzaga. On Sunday, it was the beatdown that Washington took at the hands of South Dakota State. Oregon lost to Virginia by 13. USC lost to Georgia. Oh, and Arizona State lost to Northern Arizona, who fired their coach a week ago. Cal is probably the league favorite still, but after that? Is Stanford the second best team? What about Oregon State? Can Washington or Arizona figure it out?

Who is the third best team in the SEC?: Kentucky is No. 1 and Florida is No. 2. That much is, for the most part, inarguable. But who is the third-best team in the league? I’m ready to write off Vanderbilt, who lost to another mid-major program at home on Saturday, their fourth loss of the season. They also lost two games in overtime. But I don’t trust Alabama anymore, either. The Crimson Tide can defend like crazy and have some athletes up front, but they have now lost three of their last four games, including Saturday’s defeat at Kansas State.

So is it Mississippi State? The Bulldogs won at Detroit on Saturday, improving to 11-1 on the season and extending their winning streak to 10 games. They have proven that they can win on the road against a quality team on a night when their star guard, Dee Bost, is struggling to score the basketball. They have a big front line, they have scorers on the wing and they have three or four guys capable of scoring 15 points.

The Summit League is pretty good: And the conference race is going to be a lot of fun to watch. South Dakota State just knocked off Washington by 19 points on the road. Oral Roberts beat a depleted Xavier team by 22 on the road. Oakland owns a win over Tennessee and is coming off of a buzzer-beating win against Valparaiso on the road. The league has star power — Nate Wolters, Reggie Hamilton, Frank Gaines, Alex Young — and teams capable of beating anyone, anywhere.

So much for “Rick Barnes can’t coach”: Anyone notice what’s going on in Austin? After a disappointing showing in the Legends Classic, the Longhorns have won seven straight games. On Saturday, they beat a good Temple team 77-65. For the first time in recent memory, Barnes does not have a roster stocked with future pros and did not head into the season with the kind of hype normally reserved for the blue bloods. Instead, he’s put together a team that plays hard and embraces their underdog role. I still have question about J’Covan Brown being the leader of a team, but as Myck Kabongo and the rest of the youngsters on the Texas roster continue to develop, the Longhorns will only get better.

Game of the Week:

Butler 67, Purdue 65:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yIkd_sQbGE%5D

Miami 93, Florida Atlantic 90 2OT: Wild finish to this one. Down six with just under a minute left, FAU got a couple of buckets surrounding a turnover by Miami, and after the Canes hit 1-2 from the free throw line, Omari Grier buried a three from the corner at the buzzer to force OT. The first overtime was intense, including a wild sequence that saw five baskets made in the span of 1:45 — a Ray Taylor three gave FAU a 77-76 lead, but that was answered by a Kenny Kadji three. Kore White tied the game with a dunk, which was followed up with Rion Brown and Grier trading threes. Miami eventually took control in the second overtime, winning the game.

Matchups of the Week:

– Tue. 9:00 pm: Charleston @ No. 4 Louisville
– Tue. 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Arizona
– Tue. 8:00 pm: Ohio @ Northern Iowa
– Tue. 9:00 pm: Butler @ Gonzaga
– Wed. 7:00 pm: Texas @ No. 6 UNC
– Wed. 9:00 pm: Oklahoma State @ No. 21 Alabama
– Thu. 7:00 pm: Memphis @ No. 17 Georgetown
– Thu. 7:00 pm: Florida State @ No. 13 Florida
– Thu. 9:00 pm: No. 19 Illinois @ No. 8 Missouri
– Thu. 10:30 pm: St. Mary’s @ No. 7 Baylor
– Thu. 11:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 9 Xavier
– Fri. 9:00 pm: West Virginia @ No. 7 Baylor

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.