After playing about as poorly as he possibly could for 30 minutes on Saturday night, Marcus Smart turned in as dominating of a performance as you will see to close out Oklahoma State’s season-changing win over No. 5 Kansas. Smart scored 12 of his 21 points in those final 10 minutes, hitting all four of his field goals, making the only three he shot and handing out three assists without a turnover. That’s before you factor in the plays he made that won’t show up in the stat-sheet, including drawing an offensive foul on Perry Ellis and grabbing an offensive rebound between two Jayhawks as he was flying out of bounds, saving the ball to a teammate.
Therein lies the key to success for both Smart and Oklahoma State. He’s still doing all of the little things that made him so special, but in those final 10 minutes, Smart finally — finally! — played like a guy that accepted the fact that he hurts his team when he fires away from three and makes headlong drives into the paint.
If he plays the way he did in those final ten minutes — distributing, picking his spots to attack, strictly shooting open, rhythm jumpers — the Pokes are going to be a nightmare for whichever No. 1 or No. 2 seed draws them in the Round of 32.
They were good, too:
Will Sheehey, Indiana: Sheehey averaged 24.5 points in Indiana’s wins over Iowa and Ohio State this week. All of a sudden, Indiana is back in the bubble conversation. Beat Nebraska and Michigan next week, and things get real.
Delon Wright, Utah: Wright won you your college hoops fantasy league this season. In wins over Colorado and Arizona State, Wright is averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 boards, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals while shooting 14-for-16 from the floor.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 boards in two wins last week, shooting 11-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three. When he’s hitting threes, Florida becomes a different team.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: Robinson had 17 points and the game-winning bucket in overtime at Purdue, following that up with 12 points in a win over Minnesota. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 boards in his last three games.
Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime of UNC’s win at N.C. State. He’s been the best player in the ACC the last month and a half.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats
Arizona blew out Cal by 28 points. Then they took a 25 point second half lead on Stanford. This came after beating Colorado by 27 points in Boulder. Arizona’s back, baby.
What’s changed is that Sean Miller has opened up the floor. The Wildcats are running more. They are taking advantage of the myriad of athletes Sean Miller has at his disposal — Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — and allowing them to make plays on both ends of the floor instead of playing grind-it-out half court games where his group struggles to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end in the half court.
Is Arizona the favorite to win the national title right now? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say, however, is that Arizona is playing better than anyone else in the country right now.
They were good, too:
Oregon: The Ducks swept their LA road trip, beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in double-overtime. Mike Moser led the way, averaging 16.0 points, 16.0 boards and 4.5 assists in the two wins.
UConn: After slogging their way through a win at South Florida, UConn knocked off Cincinnati at home. They’re still a game out of all-important third place in the American.
VCU: The Rams bounced back from three losses in four games, picking off Fordham on the road and following that up with a win over Saint Louis in Richmond. Shaka Smart’s crew is still two games out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament by sweeping Cal and Stanford at home. Win at Oregon and Oregon State next week, and Herb Sendek will have steered his team into third-place in the Pac-12.
James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.
Hampton was 17 years old.
In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.
The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.
“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”
RIP James Hampton.
Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft
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.
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
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 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.
“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.