Tuesday’s Shootaround: Syracuse and Kansas win, Iona blows another lead


No. 4 Syracuse 60, Cincinnati 53: Coming off of an embarrassing, 76-67 loss to Notre Dame — a loss that was no where near as close as the final score indicates — Syracuse was looking to make a statement on Monday night. People have begun to speculate that the Bearcats may actually be the second best team in the Big East, and while that may end up proving to be true in the long run, the Orange made a statement on Monday night as they went into Fifth Third Arena and left with a win.

There were a few things to take note of in this game. For starters, it was nice to see Kris Joseph go into take over mode for a while. I’m not one of those people that harps on the fact that they don’t have a go-to player (I think they do, but that’s another post for another time), but I do believe that if they are going to make a run to the Final Four, they need Joseph to be more assertive offensively. His combination of size, athleticism and slashing ability makes him a difficult cover for anyone, and he showed that tonight as he finished with 17 points on 8-11 shooting from the floor. Scoop Jardine also deserves credit as he finished with 13 points and six assists without turning the ball over.

The other good sign was the play of Rakeem Christmas. After a pitiful showing against Notre Dame, he finished with nine boards (four offensive), three blocks and simply was a presence in the paint. True, Yancy Gates finishes with 16 points and 10 boards, but they didn’t come easy and, frankly, Gates should be putting up double-doubles against a freshman.

With or without Melo, Syracuse is head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in this conference, regardless of what happened in South Bend.

No. 5 Kansas 64, Texas A&M 54: I’ll have a lot more coming from this game, but there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning that I probably won’t get to in the writeups.

For starters, has there been a more surprising performance from anyone in the country this season than the play of Jeff Withey? He went from a question mark heading into the season to a defensive centerpiece. He’s arguably the best shot blocker in the country, and that includes that lanky freshman from Lexington. Perhaps his most valuable attribute is that Bill Self can use him to defend an opposing team’s best low-post scorer, which allows Thomas Robinson to save his legs for the glass and the offensive end of the floor.

I was also impressed with Dash Harris. I’ve been as critical of Harris as anyone in the country, and based on what this Texas A&M team has on their roster right now, I think it’s a fair assessment. Look, Harris can wreak havoc defensively. He can break down a defense off the dribble and create for his teammates. He does some good things on a basketball court. The problem is that, with the team that Billy Kennedy currently fields, he just doesn’t fit. There are not enough offensive weapons on the floor, particularly with Kourtney Roberson and Khris Middleton injured. The Aggies need a guy that can score when the offense breaks down. That ain’t Dash.

Siena 65, Iona 62: For the second time in the span of 11 days, the Gaels blew a big lead and ended up losing to a league foe. In this game, Iona jumped out to a 20-2 lead just four minutes into the game, but the Saints locked down defensively. The high-powered Gael offense managed just 42 points the rest of the way. With nine minutes left, they still held on to a 57-46 lead, but Kyle Downey capped a 12-0 with a three at the fine minute mark to give Siena their first lead. After trading baskets for four minutes, Downey hit another jumper with 51 seconds left to give the Saints their final lead.

Iona is now in a three-way tie for first in the MAAC with Manhattan and Loyola (MD). If they could hold on to double-digit leads, however, they would own a two-game lead. Of note: Scott Machado had as many turnovers (three) as he did assists.

Of more note: Siena’s OD Anosike has a double-double in 15 straight games. He’s had one game this season where he didn’t get double figure rebounds, and that was when he went for 13 points and nine boards in the fourth game of the year. What makes this stretch all the more remarkable is that in the first three games of the season, he scored a total of nine points. That’s just … wow.

Loyola Marymount 74, Santa Clara 62: The Lions kept themselves relevant in the WCC by going into Santa Clara and beating the Broncs. At 5-2 in the league with a win over BYU and no bad losses, this is a group to keep an eye on since they are finally healthy. They host St. Mary’s on Thursday in a game that will allow us to gauge just how much of a menace this team can be.

The CAA: There was quite a bit of notable action in the CAA last night. Ryan Pearson went for 20 points and 12 boards as George Mason survived an ugly start to improve to 8-1 in the league with a 67-61 win over UNC-Wilmington. The Patriots now own a one game lead over VCU, who beat Hofstra 61-49, and Drexel, who won 64-48 against William & Mary. Georgia State is two games back, bouncing back from consecutive losses to knock off James Madison.

The Atlantic Sun: There is still a tie atop the conference as Belmont beat East Tennessee State handily and Mercer knocked off Jacksonville.

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

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.