No. 5 Xavier beats No. 1 Villanova, displays tools needed for deep tourney run

2 Comments

Since joining the Big East in 2013 No. 5 Xavier amassed a record of 34 wins and 16 losses against teams other than No. 1 Villanova. Their record against the Wildcats: 0-6, with an average margin of defeat of 17.2 points per game. For as much as was made about the impact of Wednesday’s game on NCAA tournament seeding, this was more about Chris Mack’s team getting over the hump against the program that has set the standard in the Big East since realignment.

Xavier got the job done at the Cintas Center, winning 90-83 in a game that changed when reserve guard JP Macura checked into the game.

Macura provided the Musketeers a spark on both ends of the floor, going on a personal 7-0 run in a contest that went back and forth for the game’s first eight minutes. Xavier’s ability to attack offensively from multiple areas, be it from the guard spots, the wings or the post, proved problematic for a Villanova team that’s been better defensively this season than they were in either of the two seasons prior.

Edmond Sumner and the rest of the Xavier guards took better care of the basketball than they did in the first meeting, a 31-points Wildcat victory (Sumner left that game after just two minutes due to injury). Sumner’s had issues with turnovers at times this season, but that wasn’t the case against a Villanova perimeter rotation that can get after teams with its 3/4-court pressure. Sumner turned the ball over just three times, and with nine assists (not to mention 19 points and six rebounds) to his credit that’s a good number for the redshirt freshman.

As a team Xavier committed just ten turnovers, nearly half the number they racked up New Year’s Eve (19). Overall the Musketeer guards outplayed Villanova’s backcourt, with Macura adding 19 points and Myles Davis 16 as Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono got off to slow starts. Villanova received a high-level performance from forward Kris Jenkins, who scored 19 points in the first half. But once he ran into foul trouble in the second stanza, by way of having to deal with the likes of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr inside (Daniel Ochefu struggling didn’t help, either), Villanova lost the one player who managed to make things happen offensively.

Some may look to use this result as an “I told you so” opportunity in regards to Villanova. Sure they won’t be able to do much about the recently formed perception of their program, which is viewed with skepticism as their last two NCAA tournament appearances have taken precedence over Jay Wright’s past achievements (Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2008, Elite 8 in 2006 and Final Four in 2009), until the NCAA tournament. But this is still a team, especially in this particular season, capable of playing deep into March given their experience and talent.

Wednesday night was more about Xavier, which showed the attributes of a team capable of going where no prior group of Musketeers have gone before. Chris Mack’s team is talented, and it is deep as well. Xavier played unselfishly against Villanova, with 24 of their 30 made field goals being assisted and six players scoring in double figures. Add in a defense that took away many of Villanova’s primary scoring options, thus forcing the Wildcats to call upon Jenkins, and Xavier managed to do enough to not only make a statement of its national capabilities but also keep their Big East title hopes alive.

And even though Xavier didn’t need much of a confidence boost, if there’s a “Round 3” at Madison Square Garden in a couple weeks they now have concrete evidence that they can get over the hump that is Villanova.

NCAA makes Johnny Juzang eligible at UCLA for next season

johnny juzang eligible
Getty Images
2 Comments

LOS ANGELES — Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang can play basketball for UCLA this winter.

The NCAA on Wednesday approved a transfer waiver of the year in residence requirement, which typically forces a transfer to sit out one season before becoming eligible. As a result, Juzang is eligible to play what will be his sophomore season in 2020-21.

“We’ve very excited that Johnny will be able to play for us next season,” coach Mick Cronin said. “Johnny is a talented player who can definitely make an impact for us.”

Juzang started two of 28 games for Kentucky as a freshman. He averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. At Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake as a junior, he averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

Juzang joins fellow guard Jaylen Clark from Rancho Cucamonga, California, in next season’s recruiting class. Clark averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a high school senior, leading Etiwanda to a 30-4 record and a berth in the CIF-SS Open Division regional final.

The Bruins recently lost out on guard Daishen Nix from Las Vegas. He had signed a national letter of intent with UCLA in November, but decommitted in April to sign with the G League. He was Cronin’s first signing since being named the Bruins’ coach a year ago.

Bobby Hurley accused Arizona State AD in booster scandal

bobby hurley booster scandal
Getty Images
1 Comment

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley sent an email to Ray Anderson about a booster scandal last season alleging the Arizona State athletic director minimized sexual harassment allegations by the wives of three athletic staff members in response to allegations made against Bart Wear.

In the email obtained by Yahoo Sports, Hurley accused Anderson on Dec. 8 of disregarding the safety of and showing no sensitivity toward the women.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Bobby Hurley wrote in regards to the booster scandal.

Hurley also accused Anderson of coming up with a numeric scale to judge the harassment claims by the women, including Hurley’s wife, Leslie.

“You have chosen to create your own numeric scale on what sexual assault mean(s) which is disturbing,” Hurley wrote.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft

Anderson responded by telling Hurley his email includes false and baseless allegations.

“Your approach here is puzzling,” Anderson wrote.

In a statement released by the program on Wednesday night, Hurley said, “my relationship with Athletic Director Ray Anderson today is strong. We will work together, alongside my outstanding coaching staff, toward the continued success of Sun Devil Men’s Basketball.”

Arizona State previously had an outside investigation conducted into the school’s booster scandal that determined booster Bart Wear subjected the three women to unwelcome comments and physical contact. In February, the school acknowledged to Yahoo that the situation could have been handled more quickly after waiting months to investigate.

The school canceled Wear’s season tickets and warned him security may remove him from the premises if he attends any future Arizona State events.

Houston’s White out for year after injuring knee in workout

Getty Images
Leave a comment

HOUSTON (AP) Houston forward Fabian White Jr. will have knee surgery this week and miss this season after injuring himself in a workout.

White was working out on his own this week when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees, an injury a spokesman for the school said was confirmed by an MRI on Tuesday.

White was one of two players on the team to start all 31 games last season, and he averaged 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.

White will redshirt this season and have one year of eligibility remaining to play in the 2021-22 season.

“I feel badly for Fabian,” coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He had worked really hard to have a great senior season. Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we will do all we can to help him recover and have a great senior season in 2021-22.”

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Georgetown transfer Mac McClung commits to Texas Tech

mac mcclung texas tech
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Texas Tech landed a commitment from Mac McClung on Wednesday.

McClung is a transfer from Georgetown where he averaged 15.7 points and 2.4 assists in 21 games during an injury-plagued sophomore season. He was considered one of the best available transfers on the market.

“It was a number of events that made me feel I had no choice but to transfer from Georgetown,” McClung said when he opted to leave Georgetown. “I really wanted to stay, but things throughout my career made me realize that I couldn’t. I’m looking for a place I can call home. A place I can be part of a family and help them succeed.”

That statement is important. McClung is going to be applying for a waiver to get eligible immediately, and nowhere in there is a reference to actual basketball when it comes to McClung’s decision to leave the Hoya program. The last year has been a dramatic one for Georgetown. In November, two players – James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc – left the program hours before NBC broke the news that LeBlanc and teammates Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner had restraining orders filed against them by a pair of female Georgetown students. McClung spent the season in and out of the lineup with a foot injury that was sustained in practice in February.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft

The goal for Texas Tech is to use McClung — in 2020-21, not 2021-22 — in large part to replace what they lost when Italian native Davide Moretti made the decision to sign with an agent and turn pro in Europe.

And despite what some critics will tell you, it makes sense.

On both sides.

McClung can get a bucket. That’s what he does better than anything else. He broke Allen Iverson’s Virginia state scoring record. He can go, and Texas Tech badly needs players that can go out and get a bucket.

His issue is on the defensive end of the floor. He barely tried to play defense for the Hoyas, and outside of Virginia, there is not place in the world where playing passive defense is more unacceptable than at Texas Tech.

Put another way, if McClung wants to be anything more than a YouTube channel, he needs to learn to guard. At Texas Tech, he won’t play unless he does. And Texas Tech needs someone that can get them buckets.

How can any place be a better fit than that?

‘Voluntary’ workouts are normal for college athletes

Conferences cancel tournaments
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last week, the NCAA announced that basketball and football players would be able to return to campus on June 1st, pending conference and state approval, to participate in voluntary offseason workouts with teammates.

It’s spawned a conversation about the return to normalcy and how college sports can make their COVID comeback. Our Corey Robinson made the point on All Things on Friday that the voluntary workouts that he participated in while a member of the Notre Dame football team were “mandatory optional,” meaning that they were voluntary in name only. The players were expected to be there and participate, even if it cut into their summer vacation.

How this plays out in the coronavirus era is an entirely different conversation, one with too many caveats to for people that are suffering from quarantine brain. For example, while the NCAA is pulling back on their restrictions, the schools and their athletes are still subject to conference rules — the SEC will be opening things up on June 1st, while the Pac-12 is waiting until June 15th — and state laws. Ohio has re-opened, while New Jersey is still very much limiting what can and cannot open. A return will be different for Ohio State and Rutgers, who are both part of the Big Ten.

And that’s only part of the complications involved.

New York City is the epicenter of the outbreak in a country that has been hit the hardest by this virus. Will coaches want to bring players that live in the city during the offseason back onto campus and risk infection? Will players that live with at-risk relatives be forced to return home?

The other side of it, however, is that as states open up, as local gyms open up, these athletes are going to want to get back to their routine. They are going to want to get back into shape. If you think that you have taken lockdown hard, imagine being a finely-tuned athlete that is told to stay out of the gym and off the basketball courts for two months. Those guys are going to jump at the chance to start playing again, and if the option is to workout at the local Lifetime Fitness or have them back onto campus, where access to weight rooms is monitored and sanitizing can be done more often, the answer is clear.

Allowing athletes to workout on campus during the summer may actually be the safer option.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: Moving towards a return to sports is a good thing for our country. We need signs that we can get back to a regular life at some point. We need hope. We need something to look forward to, and for many, that is watching — or playing — college athletics. There are so many unknowns that a slow, cautious return might be what works.

That said, the number of questions that are still left unanswered is mystifying.

For starters, who is going to play to test all of these college football and college basketball players? Who is going to pay to test all the people they come into contact with on a daily basis? All the professional sports teams that have returned or are preparing to return have rigorous testing procedures in place. College sports doesn’t. Those pro athletes will be kept in a bubble. They are going to be quarantined. College athletes will be on campus. All it takes is for one member of a football or basketball team to decide that it’s OK to hit a party where someone is asymptomatic to mess everything up.

And what happens when they do? Will that player go into quarantine? Will everyone that he or she has been practicing against go into quarantine? Will the teams they played in recent days go into quarantine? Will they be allowed to play road games if someone in the program tests positive? Will other campuses want to risk an outbreak just so they can get the ticket revenue from a 1/3-full stadium?

What about the coaches that are 70-plus years old?

Hell, what about all of the college basketball players from overseas? Are we ever going to see them in a college hoops uniform again?

Here’s the biggest question, however: College campuses have started to announce their new schedules for classes, and many of them are starting early and ending early, right around Thanksgiving, due to concerns about a second wave coming this winter. November is when college basketball season is supposed to start. Are we going to play a full season in the throes of a second wave?

The question of whether or not these workouts are actually voluntary is hardly the question I would be asking if I’m a college sports fan right now.