Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Virginia survives, banged-up No. 20 VCU falls in double overtime

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 19 Maryland 68, Indiana 66

Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell had chances to both win and tie the game in the final seconds, but both shots missed the mark as Maryland moved to 15-1 at home this season. Ferrell led all scorers with 23 points but freshmen James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson struggled offensively, combining to score 13 points on 5-for-27 shooting. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble scored 18 apiece for Maryland, which also received 14 points and seven rebounds from Jake Layman. The Terrapins are now tied for second in the Big Ten with No. 23 Ohio State.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1. La Salle 74, No. 20 VCU 69 (2OT)

Shaka Smart has himself a banged-up team, with Briante Weber done for the season with a torn ACL and Treveon Graham dealing with an ankle injury. Graham didn’t play Wednesday night, and VCU missed his scoring ability in a five-point double overtime loss to the Explorers in Richmond. VCU shot 30.1% from the field and 3-for-23 from beyond the arc, and they struggled to take advantage of La Salle turnovers (13 points off of 17 La Salle turnovers) and second-chance opportunities (17 offensive rebounds, five second-chance points) as well.

Jordan Price was sensational for La Salle, as he finished with 34 points and 18 rebounds. As a result of the loss, VCU drops into a four-way tie for first in the Atlantic 10.

2. No. 2 Virginia 51, NC State 47

In their first game without the injured Justin Anderson, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers held off the Wolfpack in Raleigh. Malcolm Brogdon scored 15 points and Mike Tobey added 11 for the Cavaliers, who are now 22-1 on the season. Trevor Lacey, who missed a layup late that would have tied the game at 47, led the Woldpack with 14 points and Anthony Barber added 11. NC State missed out on what would have been an incredibly valuable win for their NCAA tournament resume.

3. St. John’s 86, DePaul 78

With Seton Hall going through tumultuous times, there could be room for the Red Storm to climb back into the NCAA tournament conversation. For that to be the case, Steve Lavin’s team has to win games they’re expected to win. St. John’s did that Wednesday night, taking care of the Blue Demons in Queens. D’Angelo Harrison snapped out of his slump, scoring 33 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbing ten rebounds. Four of their five starters scored in double figures, with Felix Balamou replacing the injured Chris Obekpa (ankle) in the starting lineup. The next two games are critical for the Red Storm if they’re to make a run at an NCAA bid: at Xavier on Saturday, and at Georgetown next Tuesday.

STARRED

1. Jordan Price, La Salle 

34 points and 18 rebounds in a 74-69 double overtime win at No. 20 VCU.

2. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Harrell scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Cardinals’ 69-56 win over Pittsburgh.

STRUGGLED

1. Corey Allen Jr., USF

Allen scored 15 points, but he did so on 6-for-21 shooting in the Bulls’ 73-62 loss at UCF.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Brandon Watkins scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench as No. 21 West Virginia beat Kansas State 76-72. The Mountaineers ended a two-game skid with the win.
  • Montrezl Harrell (28 points, 12 rebounds) and Terry Rozier (22 and ten) both posted double-doubles as No. 9 Louisville beat Pittsburgh 69-56.
  • Sam Thompson scored 22 points to help lead No. 23 Ohio State to a 75-55 win over Penn State.
  • Both ranked Missouri Valley teams took care of business at home, with No. 13 Northern Iowa beating Illinois State 83-64 and No. 15 Wichita State handling Indiana State 74-57. Both teams are now 12-1 in conference play.
  • Ryan Arcidiacono scored 20 points and Daniel Ochefu, who didn’t start the game for disciplinary reasons, added 19 and nine rebounds as No. 6 Villanova won 74-68 at Providence.

NOTABLES

  • This was a rough night for Atlantic 10 teams in the hunt for an at-large bid, as both George Washington (78-62 at Duquesne) and Rhode Island (65-64 at Saint Joseph’s) lost on the road. URI is now tied with VCU, Dayton and UMass atop the conference standings.
  • Rick Barnes picked up his 600th career win as Texas beat TCU 66-43 in Austin. Cameron Ridley went for 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
  • Greg Mays led four starters in double figures as Green Bay won 63-62 at Youngstown State. A Keifer Sykes shot with 25 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.
  • Joining GW and URI as teams who took road losses that won’t help their NCAA tournament hopes was Miami, which lost 72-70 at Wake Forest. Kostantinos Mitoglou led the Demon Deacons with 21 points and eight rebounds.
  • The Big South race has begun to (somewhat) sort itself out the last couple days after ending the weekend with seven teams tied for first place. Wednesday night, High Point, Radford and Charleston Southern moved to 9-4 with wins over Winthrop, Longwood and Coastal Carolina, respectively. The three winners join UNC Asheville atop the league standings.
  • Georgia picked up a solid road win, winning 62-53 at Texas A&M with Kenny Gaines scoring 15 points and Charles Mann adding 14, six rebounds and four assists.
  • Boise State won its eighth straight, beating Air Force 67-42. James Webb III scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win.
  • After Arizona and Utah there are some questions to answer re: who else from the Pac-12 will get to the NCAA tournament. Oregon avoided what would have been a bad loss Wednesday night, winning 80-75 at USC.
  • Josh Richardson accounted for 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists at Tennessee won 76-73 in overtime at Vanderbilt.
  • After Wyoming’s last two defeats, there should be no doubt that the injured Larry Nance Jr. (mononucleosis) is the most valuable player in the Mountain West. After getting blown out by Air Force Saturday, the Cowboys lost 67-41 at San Diego State. The Aztecs (9-3) are now in sole possession of first, with 8-3 Boise State on their heels.

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.