Late Night Snacks: No turkey hangover for Villanova, Arizona

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GAME OF THE DAY: Villanova 63, No. 2 Kansas 59

In a day full of great games, Villanova knocking off No. 2 and previously undefeated Kansas takes the cake. The game was hardly pretty, but that doesn’t much matter to Jay Wright. In fact, it seemed like Wright’s game plan against Kansas was to play in the mud — a physical, grind-it-out kind of battle. Ryan Arcidiacono hit only one shot all night, but it was a critical one as his three-pointer from the corner put Villanova on top 61-59 with ten seconds remaining.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) All five of Arizona’s starters scored in double figures as the Wildcats handed Duke their second loss of the season in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden. Aaron Gordon filled up the box score with ten points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and showed why he is in the same class as the other top freshmen across the country.

2) San Diego State acquitted themselves well when they played Arizona earlier this month — a 69-60 loss at home — but they confirmed they are a true contender in the Mountain West with an 86-80 victory over Creighton. There’s no doubting just how good Doug McDermott and the Creighton offense are, but their defense leaves much to be desired. Spotting the Aztecs a 19 point lead in the second half was too deep a hole to climb out of in the end.

3) It took three overtimes and delayed the start of the marquee game of the day between Arizona and Duke, but Drexel outlasted Alabama 85-83. The Dragons are now 4-2 with a good win over Alabama, and strong showings against UCLA and Arizona, despite both being losses. Chris Fouch was an absolute warrior today playing 54 minutes and willing Drexel’s way to the win. Bruiser Flint has a good group who will challenge for the CAA title.

STARRED

1) Mercer’s Jakob Gollon had a day. The senior forward entered Friday’s game against Valparaiso averaging 6.4 points, but exploded for 37 points in the Bears’ triple overtime win over Valpo. Dropping 37 points on 17 shots is remarkably efficient. To go along with the scoring effort, Gollon also dished out seven assists and pulled down seven rebounds.

2) There may not be another player in the country whose team missed him as much last season as Penn State did with Tim Frazier. Frazier demonstrated just how important he is to the Nittany Lions as he propelled his team to an overtime victory over St. John’s going off for 29 points. He didn’t shoot particularly well — just 5-14 from the field — but he got to the free throw line 20 times, making 17 of his attempts.

3) Langston Galloway filled up the stat sheet in a big way for St. Joseph’s in a 78-66 win over Siena. The senior guard poured in 27 points (6-10 3PT), had seven rebounds, three assists, and five steals.

STRUGGLED

1) It was a bad time for Southern Mississippi to play Louisville as this was the Cardinals first game following their loss to North Carolina. The Golden Eagles, who entered the game 6-0 and are one of the top teams in Conference USA, scored just 13 first half points and shot 29% as a team for the game en route to a 69-38 loss.

2) The transition to Division 1 hasn’t been a pleasant one thus far for Abilene Christian. Entering tonight they were 2-6 with their only wins coming against sub-D1 teams, and five of the losses being blowouts. Tonight, they suffered their seventh loss of the season to West Alabama, a sub-D1 team.

3) Chris Bolden has had a rough start to the season. He was suspended for the first three games of the season for a violation of team rules, and since he has rejoined the team he has been less than stellar shooting a combined 7-34 in four games. Against Mississippi, a 77-67 loss, Bolden was 1-8 from the field. Bolden will need to be better if Georgia Tech has any chance at have a good season.

NOTABLES

  • Missouri moved to 7-0 with an 83-70 win over Nevada. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, and Jordan Clarkson did nearly all the scoring as they combined for 73 points.
  • Tennessee bounced back with a 64-49 win over Xavier a day after losing to UTEP.
  • No. 5 Oklahoma State had a 44-30 halftime lead over Butler, but nearly gave it away in the second half. They ended up winning 69-67 and will meet No. 21 Memphis in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic.
  • Behind 19 points off the bench from Anthony Gill, Virginia defeated SMU, 76-73.
  • Cincinnati moved to 6-0 with a win over Kennesaw State, but the Bearcats’ schedule has been hardly challenging to date.
  • Denver lost to Pepperdine in the Great Alaska Shootout to move to 0-4. A tough start for a team looking to challenge for the Summit title.
  • Penn State earned a good win over St. John’s in overtime 89-82 at the Barclays Classic.
  • No. 15 Florida slipped by in-state rival Florida State, 67-66.
  • It wasn’t easy, but Texas squeaked past Texas-Arlington, who was 2-5 entering the game, 72-69.
  • In their first game playing without point guard Cody Doolin, San Francisco beat Vermont, 72-61.
  • Harvard beat Green Bay to advance to the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout where they will meet TCU.

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.