No. 19 Oklahoma State needs to move the ball to break its slump

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Although No. 19 Oklahoma State had some recent concerning losses entering Monday night’s Big 12 home game against No. 16 Iowa State, the Cowboys still had plenty of games against top-25 teams left on the schedule to right the ship.

But after Monday’s 98-97 triple overtime loss to Iowa State, should Oklahoma State be concerned? The Cowboys have lost four out of five games and dropped to 4-5 in a very tough Big 12, and their four wins have come against Texas and TCU at home while sweeping West Virginia. Winning against Texas is a solid win, but Oklahoma State hasn’t won many tough games since the loss of Michael Cobbins to a torn ACL right before the conference slate began.

The biggest concern for Oklahoma State has to be the way they move the ball and how poor shot selection can really hurt them at times. The Cowboys can’t control their lack of depth after the loss of Cobbins and the Monday dismissal of freshman guard Stevie Clark, but they can control what kinds of shots they take and how they utilize their talent.

The Cowboys still have multiple McDonald’s All-Americans on the floor. Talent isn’t the question.

I questioned Marcus Smart’s shot selection on Saturday after Oklahoma State’s home loss to a struggling Baylor team — and it was a little bit better on Monday — but he is only part of the problem.

Markel Brown is prone to his fair share of hero ball looks and Le’Bryan Nash can have some black hole tendencies when getting the ball in the mid-post as well. Oklahoma State, as a team, just doesn’t move the ball very well sometimes.

Need proof? In this thrilling triple-overtime contest against Iowa State most of the team stats were pretty similar but one stat in particular sticks out: Iowa State had 22 assists on 34 field goals while Oklahoma State only had nine assists on 34 field goals.

Nine assists in 55 minutes of basketball.

The Cowboys just don’t have someone willing to set up all of their scoring threats if they get stagnant on offense. This isn’t about a lack of scoring balance because Oklahoma State has multiple double-figure scoring threats and all of those guys get shots. It’s the shots they’re taking that are questionable from time-to-time.

Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash can all score buckets on isolations against most of America, but in tight games against good teams like Iowa State, the bad looks that those players took instead of working the ball around ultimately haunted them.

DeAndre Kane passed up a shot to get it to Naz Long for the game-tying three-pointer in the second overtime and Long made another extra pass to an open Monte Morris in the corner for a critical three-pointer in the third overtime.

While the Cyclones made the extra pass to find the open man in key situations, Oklahoma State relied on isolations in those same situations and their guys fell short.

Markel Brown forced a contested mid-range fadeaway with the Cowboys leading by three with under 30 seconds left in the second overtime. Marcus Smart was given the ball on an isolation in the mid-post to take the potential game-winner in the third overtime. Both players missed tough looks and because the Cowboys lacked ball movement on those plays, Iowa State’s defense heavily contested both looks.

Players as talented as Brown and Smart will make those shots sometimes, but Oklahoma State has to do a better job of moving the ball and taking smarter shots throughout the game.

A lack of depth is certainly hurting Oklahoma State right now, but the Cowboys are also shooting themselves in the foot with so many poor possessions on the offensive end.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.