Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Syracuse, No. 18 Kentucky win Saturday’s showdowns

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 Kentucky 73, No. 6 Louisville 66

The home team won both of Saturday’s games matching ranked teams, with the young Wildcats beating their in-state rival despite not having Julius Randle for much of the second half. The Harrison twins and James Young grew up in the second half, and that certainly bodes well for the Wildcats down the line. As for Louisville, they need to get more from guys other than Chris Jones and Russ Smith

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 2 Syracuse 78, No. 8 Villanova 62

After a hot start by the visiting Wildcats the Orange found their groove, winning the matchup of former Big East rivals behind the point guard play of Tyler Ennis. Villanova attempted 31 three-pointers, allowing themselves to be seduced into taking those shots by the Syracuse zone. And while those shots fell early, they didn’t fall with the same regularity as the game progressed. 

2) No. 25 Missouri 68, N.C. State 64

Jordan Clarkson scored 21 points and Jabari Brown added 17 as the Tigers beat the Wolfpack in their first true road game of the season. Another important development for the Tigers moving forward was the play of freshman Johnathan Williams III, who accounted for ten points and seven rebounds. T.J. Warren led N.C. State with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but he didn’t score in the game’s final 11 minutes. 

3) No. 23 UMass 69, Providence 67

A Derrick Gordon putback with just over a second remaining proved to be the difference as the Minutemen beat the Friars by two points for the second consecutive season. UMass was able to win despite the fact that starting point guard Chaz Williams fouled out late in regulation. 

STARRED: 

1) J.J. Avila (Colorado State) 

33 points (14-for-17 FG), eight rebounds and four assists in the Rams’ 86-71 win over Lamar. 

2) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) 

28 points (10-for-16 FG), seven rebounds and three assists in the Fighting Illini’s 74-60 win over UIC. 

3) Trevor Releford (Alabama) 

34 points (11-for-15 FG) and five steals in the Crimson Tide’s 75-67 loss at UCLA

STRUGGLED: 

1) Akron

The Zips’ road trip came to an end at South Carolina and it’s a good thing it did, as they shot 32.5% and committed 21 turnovers in a 78-45 loss to the Gamecocks.

2) Tulane

The Green Wave scored ten points in the first half and shot 28.6% from the field in a 72-41 loss to Kansas State.

3) Boston College

The Eagles shot 3-for-18 from beyond the arc and committed 23 turnovers in their 69-50 loss to VCU. 

NOTABLES: 

  • BYU is in trouble when it comes to the NCAA tournament. The Cougars lost their WCC opener 87-76 at Loyola Marymount, with Evan Payne leading the victors with 27 points. 
  • In its first game without Mitch McGary, Michigan beat Holy Cross 88-66. Glenn Robinson III led the way offensively with 23 points.
  • No. 24 Gonzaga was also without a starting big man, as Sam Dower missed the Bulldogs’ 74-60 win over Santa Clara. David Stockton accounted for 21 points and four steals. 
  • Chris Perry (18 points) led USF to a 61-57 win at Bradley, with the game being the eighth straight contest decided by five points or less for the Bulls (h/t Ray Curren).
  • Justin Jackson tallied 15 points, ten rebounds and four blocks in Cincinnati’s 74-59 win over Nebraska. 
  • Kyle Cain scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds to help lead UNCG to a 55-52 win at Virginia Tech. 
  • Jake Odum finished with 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals to lead Indiana State to an 86-73 win over Belmont. The Bruins won the first meeting of the season between the two teams last month in Nashville. 
  • Jabari Parker tallied 23 points and eight rebounds and Andre Dawkins hit six three-pointers in No. 9 Duke’s 82-59 win over Eastern Michigan. Also of note: Amir Jefferson grabbing 14 rebounds in the win. 
  • Kareem Jamar (26 points, eight rebounds) hit four free throws in the final 13 seconds to give Montana a 72-71 win at Idaho. 

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 4 Wisconsin 80, Prairie View A&M 43
  • No. 5 Michigan State 101, New Orleans 48
  • No. 15 UConn 82, Eastern Washington 65
  • No. 17 Memphis 75, Jackson State 61
  • No. 21 Colorado 84, Georgia 70

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.