Tuesday’s Shootaround: Baylor wins, Virginia survives

Leave a comment

No. 5 Baylor 61, Texas A&M 52: Given the way that the Aggies started this game — by digging themselves a 28-11 hole late in the first half — the way the game ended up wasn’t terrible. A nine point loss of the road to a top five team in the country is hardly a loss to be embarrassed by.

The issues that A&M has have nothing to do with the effort they give or the defense they play or the size they have on the interior. The Aggies are going to be nothing more than mediocre until they find a way to be able to consistently score points. Against Baylor, A&M shot a whopping 28.6% from the floor. They were 7-25 from three. They had all of nine assists to go along with their 13 turnovers. Khris Middleton, who is supposed to be Billy Kennedy’s best offensive weapon, was 4-17 from the floor.

Baylor wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Pierre Jackson had seven turnovers, Brady Heslip went scoreless and the Bears finished with more turnovers than assists, but when you hold a team to 28.6% shooting, you can play just about as poorly as you want and still win.

No. 23 UVA 57, LSU 52: It sounds weird saying this, but this is actually a solid win for the Cavs, their 11th in a row. LSU is probably not going to make the NCAA Tournament, but what they lack in talent they make up for in grit. Just ask Marquette, who lost a dogfight to the Tigers despite being up 13-0 in the first half. LSU had won seven in a row. Virginia got 17 points from Sammy Zeglinski and 12 points and nine boards out of Mike Scott as they used a late surge to take a lead and held LSU on a number of possessions down the stretch.

Robert Morris 70, Ohio 67: Bobby Mo put together one of the weirdest wins of the young season. Ohio had been on fire coming into this game, gaining some national recognition as one of the most impressive mid-majors early in the season. But what makes this win all the more impressive is the fact that they turned the ball over 31 times! And still won! Robert Morris shot the ball 53.2% from the field and held DJ Cooper and Walter Offutt to a combined 6-32 from the floor.

Rhode Island 78, Boston College 72 2OT: Jamal Wilson, who was averaging 16.4 ppg at the time, was kicked off the URI team two days ago. Rhody was 1-12 at the time. Since then, the Rams have won two in a row. Billy Baron had 25 to lead the way in this one.

Georgia State 58, Drexel 44: The Panthers have now won 10 straight games and are sitting at 2-0 in first place in the CAA.

Wofford 56, Wake Forest 52: Wake Forest was playing without CJ Harris, but that’s still no excuse for a team from the ACC to lose to a team from the SoCon, particularly when the SoCon is coming off of a season where they lost four starters and already have dropped games to High Point and UMKC. Travis McKie had 25 points and six boards for Wake in the loss.

Campbell 70, Coastal Carolina 65 OT: Campbell moved to 3-0 in the Big South, knocking off previously unbeaten (in the league) CCU. The Chanticleers didn’t make a field goal in overtime.

Other notable games:

– George Mason 70, William & Mary 56
– VCU 80, Hofstra 63
– Tennessee 76, Chattanooga 63
– Belmont 83, North Florida 53
– Vanderbilt 69, Miami OH 62
– Miami 99, UNC Greensboro 89
– LBSU 74, UC Irvine 60

Top performers:

Kenny Gabriel, Auburn: Gabriel had easily the most impressive performance of the night, going for 24 points, 13 boards, 10 blocks, four steals and three assists while shooting 11-13 from the floor in a 67-41 win over Bethune-Cookman.

Stan Okoye, VMI: Okoye probably had the second best game of the night, as he went for 25 points, seven boards, seven assists, four steals and three blocks in a 76-72 win over Gardner-Webb.

Keith Rendleman, UNC Wilmington: Rendleman had 24 points and 18 boards in an 80-75 win over Delaware.

Shay Shine, High Point: Its our first Shay Shine sighting of the season! The high-flying guard has 22 points in a win over Charleston Southern.

Chris Stephenson, UNC Asheville: Stephenson scored 33 points and grabbed 10 boards in a 66-56 win over Radford.

Kenny Kadji, Miami: Trevis Simpson had 36 points for UNC Greensboro, but Kadji and the Canes were too much. The big man finished with 30 points and 12 boards in a 99-89 win.

Trae Golden, Tennessee: Golden had 29 points in a 76-63 win over Chattanooga just three days after have facial surgery.

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

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

Getty Images
2 Comments

USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

AP Photo
Leave a comment

USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
3 Comments

The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.