Championship Week recap: Day 11’s best game, top player

Leave a comment

Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11,  this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Game of the Night: Marshall 105, Tulsa 100 3OT
DeAndre Kane played 54 minutes and scored a career-high 40 points in the first triple-overtime game in the history of Conference-USA. Neither team led by more than seven points, nine players fouled out, and the two teams combined to go 68-of-101 from the charity stripe. Kane scored seven points in the final 31 seconds of the second overtime after Tulsa had taken a four point lead. The game featured 21 ties and 19 lead changes. Eric McClellan led the way for the Golden Hurricanes with 25 points and Steven Idlet chipped in with 20 as well.

– They were good too: Cincinnati 72, Georgetown 70 2OT
The Bearcats trailed by double-digits with less than ten minutes left in the game, but rallied back on the broad shoulders of Yancy Gates, who finished with a game high 23 points. The battle down low between Gates and Henry Sims was terrific, as the big-man traded baskets on several possessions. Hoya freshman Otto Porter sent the game into overtime thanks to a tough jumper with 3.6 seconds left. Gates continued to dominate in overtime, and Sims responded by sending the game into a second overtime with a nice running floater that beat the buzzer. Cashmere Wright won the game in the second session thanks to a nice drive from the top of the key. The Hoyas had a chance to win the game, but a Sims 3-point attempt caromed off the rim.

Player of the Night: Perry Jones III, Baylor
Jones’ toughness and willingness to take over a game has been questioned for the past few months. But the sophomore sensation showed his toughness and determination, scoring a career-high 31 points to lead the Bears over Kansas State 82-74 in the Big-XII quarterfinals. Jones scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half alone, and was the main reason the Bears were able to enact some revenge on the Wildcats, who beat Baylor 57-56 three weeks ago. in that meeting, Jones fouled out with just four points and four rebounds.

– He was good too: Jamal Franklin, San Diego State
Jamal Franklin finished with 19 points, including the game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Boise State in the MWC quarterfinals. Nearly everybody in the arena knew Franklin would be the guy to take the final shot, yet the Broncos could do very little to stop him, as the sophomore hit a high-arching 3-pointer over a double team. This was the second buzzer-beater Franklin has made this year, has he drained a 3-pointer to defeat UNLV back in January

Team of the Night: Alcorn State Braves
The No.6-seed in the SWAC Tournament defeated No.3-seed Prairie View A&M 103-79 despite committing a season-high 26 turnovers. Four Alcorn State players scored 15 points or more, and the Braves led 50-17 at the end of the first half. The Braves only took eight 3-point attempts and connected on five of them. Ken McDonald led the way with 26 points on 11-of-12 shooting and Matrevious Sanders added 12 points, seven assists and six steals.

Thursday Results

Atlantic Coast Conference First Round
#10 Virginia Tech 68, #7 Clemson 63
#8 Maryland 82, #9 Wake Forest 60
#6 Miami 54, #11 Georgia Tech 36
#5 North Carolina State 78, #12 Boston College 57

Big East Conference Quarterfinals
#7 Louisville 84 #2 Marquette 71
#4 Cincinnati 72, #5 Georgetown 70 2OT
#3 Notre Dame 57, #6 South Florida 53 OT
#1 Syracuse 58, #9 Connecticut 55

Big-Ten Conference First Round
#10 Minnesota 75, #7 Northwestern 68 OT
#8 Iowa 64, #9 Illinois 61
#6 Purdue 79, #11 Nebraska 61
#5 Indiana 75, #12 Penn State 58

Big-XII Conference Quarterfinals
#6 Texas 71, #3 Iowa State 65
#4 Baylor 82, #5 Kansas State 74
#2 Missouri 88, #7 Oklahoma State 70
#1 Kansas 83, #9 Texas A&M 66

Big West Conference Quarterfinals
#7 UC-Irvine 65, #2 Cal State-Fullerton 59
#4 Cal Poly 66, #5 UC-Riverside 54
#3 UC-Santa Barbara 72, #6 Pacific 52
#1 Long Beach State 80, #8 UC-Davis 46

Conference-USA Quarterfinals
#6 Marshall 105, #3 Tulsa 100 3OT
#2 Southern Mississippi 81, #10 East Carolina 78 OT
#4 Central Florida 64, #5 UAB 54
#1 Memphis 65, #8 UTEP 47

Mid-Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
#4 Kent State 76, #8 Western Michigan 72
#3 Ohio 65, #7 Toledo 57

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
#11 Florida A&M 65, #3 Delaware State 55 OT
#4 Bethune-Cookman 60, #5 North Carolina Central 59

Mountain West Conference Quarterfinals
#4 Colorado State 81, #5 Texas Christian 60
#3 UNLV 56, #6 Wyoming 48
#2 New Mexico 79, #7 Air Force 64
#1 San Diego State 65, #8 Boise State 62

Pac-12 Conference Quarterfinals
#9 Oregon State 86, #1 Washington 84
#6 Colorado 63, #3 Oregon 62
#4 Arizona 66, #5 UCLA 58
#2 California 77, #7 Stanford 71

Southeastern Athletic Conference First Round
#11 Georgia 71, #6 Mississippi State 61
#8 Louisiana State 70, #9 Arkansas 54
#7 Ole Miss 68, #10 Auburn 54
#5 Alabama 63, #12 South Carolina 57

Southland Conference Semifinals
#4 McNeese State 92, #1 UT-Arlington 72
#3 Lamar 55, #2 Stephen F. Austin 44

Southwestern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
#6 Alcorn State 103, #3 Prairie View A&M 79
#5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 60, #4 Alabama State 56 OT

Western Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
#6 Hawaii 72 #3 Idaho 70
#5 Louisiana Tech 72, #4 Utah State 70
#2 New Mexico State 65, #7 Fresno State 49
#1 Nevada 54, #8 San Jose State 44

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

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
1 Comment

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.