Late Night Snacks: Georgetown likely NIT bound following loss to DePaul

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Wednesday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: UCF 94, Temple 90 (2OT)

Outside of keeping their seasons alive there wasn’t much on the line in this contest, and that motivation proved to be enough in a game that needed two extra sessions. Isaiah Sykes scored 36 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the way for UCF, who will take on top-seed Cincinnati on Thursday night. Quenton DeCosey scored 28 points and Will Cummings 25 for the Owls, who finished its tough season with a record of 9-22.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) American 55, Boston University 36

Mike Brennan’s Eagles, picked to finish ninth in the Patriot League’s preseason poll, won the automatic bid thanks in large part to their stifling defense. Playing man for much of the first half, American’s 2-3 zone made life difficult for the Terriers in the second half. And in their three-game run to the Patriot League crown American allowed no more than 0.87 points per possession, with BU scoring 0.64 points per possession.

2) DePaul 60, Georgetown 56

John Thompson III’s Hoyas needed to make a run in New York City to feel good about their chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. That won’t be happening, as Billy Garrett Jr. and Forrest Robinson helped lead the Blue Demons to their first Big East tournament win since 2009. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks combined to score 38 points for the Hoyas but they didn’t receive much help offensively, resulting in the close loss.

3) Colorado 59, USC 56

For bubble teams avoiding bad losses is just as important as picking up quality wins, and that’s exactly what the Buffaloes did in Las Vegas. Askia Booker played well, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and Colorado also benefitted from USC shooting 5-for-22 from beyond the arc. The win sets up a very important matchup with Cal on Thursday, with the Golden Bears having defeated Colorado by a point in the regular season finale for both.

STARRED

1) Isaiah Sykes (UCF) 

Skyes scored 36 points to go along with nine rebounds and three steals in the Knights’ 94-90 double overtime win over Temple.

2) Jeremy Ingram (North Carolina Central) 

Ingram made nine of his 12 shots from the field, finishing the Eagles’ 92-46 win over Howard with 30 points, two assists and two steals.

3) Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)

Accounted for 18 points (6-for-10 FG), seven rebounds and seven assists in the Cowboys’ 80-62 win over Texas Tech.

STRUGGLED

1) D.J. Irving (Boston University)

Shot 1-for-10 form the field in the Terriers’ 55-36 loss to American in the Patriot League title game.

2) Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham (Butler) 

Combined to shoot 3-for-21 in Butler’s 51-50 loss to Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament.

3) Tahj Shamsid-Deen (Auburn) 

Made just one of his ten shot attempts in the Tigers’ 74-56 loss to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • American: Rutgers outlasts USF
    A missed box out with five seconds remaining allowed Rutgers’ J.J. Moore to grab a key offensive rebound in the final seconds, leading to the Scarlet Knights beating USF 72-68. Rutgers advances to take on two-seed Louisville in the quarterfinals.
  • Atlantic 10: Fordham’s Ryan Canty dominates the glass
    Ryan Canty’s struggled with foul trouble at times this season but that wasn’t the case in Fordham’s 70-67 win over George Mason. Canty grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked three shots in the win, and next up for the Rams is a game against five-seed Dayton on Thursday.
  • ACC: Georgia Tech ends Boston College’s season
    Brian Gregory’s Yellow Jackets beat the Eagles for the third time this season, winning 73-70 in overtime. Georgia Tech advances to play Clemson on Thursday, with Wake Forest (beat Notre Dame) and Miami (beat Virginia Tech) moving on as well. Wake will play Pittsburgh on Thursday, with the Hurricanes facing N.C. State.
  • Big 12: Baylor, Oklahoma State take care of business
    No surprises on day one in Kansas City, with the Cowboys coasting past Texas Tech and Baylor holding off TCU. Oklahoma State gets another shot at Kansas, which will be without Joel Embiid, on Thursday and Baylor plays two-seed Oklahoma.
  • Big East: Seton Hall hangs on to beat Butler
    Kevin Willard’s Pirates will play top-seed Villanova on Thursday afternoon thanks to a 51-50 win over Butler. The Bulldogs rallied late but fell just short, with guard Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow combining to shoot 3-for-21 from the field.
  • Conference USA: Host UTEP among winners on day two
    UTEP isn’t one of the top four seeds in the Conference USA tournament but having the event on their home floor makes the Miners a threat to win the automatic bid. Tim Floyd’s team beat East Carolina 77-68, advancing to play Southern Miss in one of Thursday’s quarterfinals. The other winners: Charlotte (over UAB), Old Dominion (over Marshall) and Tulane (over North Texas).
  • MEAC: Coppin State knocks off Hampton
    Top-seed North Carolina Central rolled in its opener but two-seed Hampton wasn’t as fortunate, as they fell 83-77 to Coppin State. The two winners advance to Friday’s semifinals, with NCCU taking on the winner of Thursday’s Savannah State/Norfolk State contest and Coppin State playing the winner of the Morgan State/Florida A&M quarterfinal.
  • MAC: Seeds hold to form on day two
    Just two games in Cleveland on Wednesday as the Mid-American Conference staggers its bracket to favor the teams who performed the best during the regular season. Ohio and Eastern Michigan advanced, setting up quarterfinals against Akron and Buffalo, respectively.
  • Mountain West: Utah State rallied to stun Colorado State
    Leading by nine with 1:35 remaining, Colorado State looked well on its way to meeting San Diego State in the quarterfinals. But Utah State had other ideas, storming back to win 73-69. In the other two first-round games Fresno State held off Air Force, and Boise State throttled San Jose State in a game they led 25-0 at one point.
  • Pac-12: Bubble teams go 3-0
    With Oregon (88-74 win over Oregon State) presumed to be safely into the NCAA tournament field, Utah and Stanford joined Colorado as teams needing to win on Wednesday. Utah made key plays late to hold off Washington, and Stanford managed to beat Washington State. All four winners will have the opportunity to strengthen their case on Thursday, with the top four seeds providing the opposition.
  • SEC: Two winners and one coaching change
    Both lower-seeded teams won on Wednesday, with Mississippi State beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina defeating Auburn. That loss was also the final game for Auburn head coach Tony Barbee, who was relieved of his duties shortly after the game’s end.
  • Southland: No surprises on opening day
    Five-seed Nicholls State and Six-seed Oral Roberts advanced, with Nicholls State beating Southeast Louisiana 71-64 and ORU holding off McNeese State 66-62. Next up for Nicholls State is a game against Northwestern State, and ORU will face Sam Houston State on Thursday.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern wins its opener
    Texas Southern beat Grambling State 79-54, with Aaric Murray scoring 18 points and blocking six shots to lead the way. In the other quarterfinal Prairie View A&M whipped top-seed Southern, 64-46. With the Jaguars and Tigers falling, just one team ineligible for postseason play (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) remains in the event.

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

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USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

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The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.