Associated Press

Josh Hart, defense deliver in No. 11 Villanova’s win at No. 18 Butler

Leave a comment

Entering Sunday’s game against No. 11 Villanova, No. 18 Butler was already 1-2 in Big East play and in need of a win to keep close to the top half of the conference standings. Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs were competitive throughout, but they ultimately fell short for two reasons: Villanova’s work on the defensive end, and the continued emergence of Josh Hart in Jay Wright’s offensive attack.

Hart scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading the Wildcats offensively in their 60-55 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Hart’s made strides throughout his time at Villanova, going from role player as a freshman to the Big East’s best sixth man (and Big East tournament MOP) as a sophomore. As a junior Hart has been Villanova’s most efficient offensive option, entering Sunday’s game averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game and shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from three.

On a team loaded with guards who can hurt teams off the bounce, the 6-foot-5 Hart can score on multiple levels. While their efficiency numbers on the season are slightly lower than what last season’s team produced, Hart’s continued growth is a key factor for Villanova as they look to win a third consecutive Big East title.

Sunday night he was the player entrusted with getting the Wildcats key baskets on multiple occasions, and more often than not Hart delivered as he scored 14 of his 22 in the second half.

Villanova’s win wasn’t solely about Hart, however. Playing against a Butler team that also ranks among the ten most efficient offensive teams in the country, Villanova was able to limit the Bulldogs to 35.8 percent shooting from the field. With their perimeter depth Villanova can make defensive switches and not find themselves in mismatches. Add in a senior big man in Daniel Ochefu who can be a deterrent in the post as well as move his feet well enough to keep opposing guards from turning the corner in ball screen actions, and the Wildcats have the pieces needed for a quality defense.

Villanova was able to keep Tyler Lewis in check, as he finished with two points and one assist. And while Roosevelt Jones did score 20 points he didn’t have a single assist, which is rare given his ability to create for others in Butler’s offense. Villanova was able to keep Butler’s best creators from doing just that, and as a result they were able to short-circuit a potent offensive attack.

Butler assists on nearly 53 percent of their made baskets on the season; against Villanova the Bulldogs managed a total of six assists on 19 made baskets.

No 4-0 in Big East play, Villanova sits atop the Big East standings as they did in each of the last two seasons. And if they continue to defend as they have, and Josh Hart continues his development into one of the Big East’s best players, the Wildcats can win another Big East title.

High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

Jon Lopez/Nike

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.