Opportunity knocks for improved St. Bonaventure squad Saturday afternoon

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After winning 20 games and finishing in a tie for third place in the Atlantic 10 in 2011-12 (and reached the NCAA tournament) Mark Schmidt’s St. Bonaventure Bonnies took a slight step back last season, posting an overall record of 14-15 with a 7-9 mark in conference play. That tends to happen when you bid farewell to a player as influential and talented as Andrew Nicholson, and while the Bonnies did have three players averaging double figures offensively their biggest issues came on the defensive end.

St. Bonaventure finished the 2012-13 season ranked 14th in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage defense, with opponents shooting 44.9% from the field, and they were also 14th in the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency. So even with the loss of their top three scorers from a season ago, it was clear that regardless of who steps up to account for the lost scoring St. Bonaventure needed to improve defensively if they were to make a move up the Atlantic 10 pecking order.

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Through 15 games the Bonnies have been better defensively, with opponents shooting 42.6% from the field and scoring an average of just 0.97 points per possession. Add to this a balanced led by senior guard Matthew Wright (16.5 ppg, 3.4 apg) and the result is an 11-4 record, with the Bonnies winning their Atlantic 10 opener against Richmond on Wednesday night.

But while that 84-70 victory was a good one, a lot more will be learned about the Bonnies on Saturday afternoon when they visit No. 19 UMass in the first game of a triple-header on NBC Sports Network. It’s the first of two A-10 games on the docket, with Rhode Island/George Washington (2:30 p.m.) being the other and Ivy League rivals Princeton and Penn (6:00 p.m.) completing the slate.

While that Princeton/Penn game is the league opener for both, Rhode Island and George Washington will look to avoid starting 0-2 in Atlantic 10 play. In addition to being broadcast on NBC Sports Network, all three games are available on the NBC Sports Live Extra app as well.

UMass, picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10’s preseason poll, is off to a 13-1 start with point guard Chaz Williams leading a talented group of players capable of attacking teams on both ends of the floor. The length of Maxie Esho and Raphiael Putney makes for tough match-ups, and center Cady Lalanne’s been one of the most improved players in the Atlantic 10.

Both teams have six players averaging at least nine points per game this season, but UMass has produced more of the attention-grabbing wins that have them in the national polls and on their way to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998. With that being the case, Saturday’s game in Amherst represents a great opportunity for St. Bonaventure, especially when it comes to earning some respect within the Atlantic 10. If they can hit the offensive glass as they have thus far (14.0 offensive rebounds per game), the Bonnies could have a “puncher’s chance” at the Mullins Center.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.