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No. 4 Villanova, Mikal Bridges beat No. 12 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic

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NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges scored a career-high 28 points while Phil Booth added 20 for No. 4 Villanova as the Wildcats won the opener of the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, 88-72, over No. 12 Gonzaga.

Villanova’s resident All-American was quiet on Tuesday night, spending much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble and finishing with just 12 points and three assists. Generally speaking, that would be a problem for these Wildcats, but they certainly did not need him on this night, as Bridges put together one of the best performances of his career — more on that in a second.

The Zags battled foul trouble all night long. Johnathon Williams III, who was so impressive in Gonzaga’s overtime loss against No. 5 Florida, fouled out after managing all of three minutes in the second half while Killian Tillie, who was Gonzaga’s best player in a win over Creighton on Friday night, was glued to the bench for the first 20 minutes.

Tillie and Williams picked up their second foul less than a minute and a half apart midway through the first half, and Villanova immediately went on a 11-0 run to open up a 28-17 lead that would eventually balloon to 17 points. The Zags would make a couple of runs to cut into the lead, but Villanova was never seriously threatened in the second half.

Here are four things we learned from Tuesday night’s win:

1. VILLANOVA IS MORE TALENTED THAN THEIR 2016 TITLE TEAM

It’s true.

The knock on Villanova during what I’ll refer to as the Hart-Jenkins era — the last four years, where the Wildcats have won four straight Big East titles — is that they’ve had a roster that’s populated by good college players that are, essentially, just that. College players.

During those four years, Josh Hart was the only Villanova player to get picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, and he was the last pick in the first round of the NBA Draft. And that’s not a criticism, mind you, because a return to blue-collar roots, to recruiting players that fit the Villanova Way is what turned Villanova back into a national power.

And rest assured, Jay Wright still has a roster full of “Villanova kids,” but they just so happen to be Villanova kids with a shot at getting on an NBA roster. Bridges might end up being a top ten pick before it’s all said and done. Eric Paschall’s ability to defend and make a three will keep him on the radar of NBA teams. Omari Spellman was a McDonald’s All-American that has NBA upside now that he’s slimmed now. they beat out programs like Duke and Kansas for Jermaine Samuels, and Jalen Brunson is flat-out a top three point guard in college basketball at worst.

That’s what makes this team scary.

They still have selfless kids that will play a certain way, are switchable defensively and can all make shots and play on the perimeter, but instead of simply being good college players, they’re pros.

2. MIKAL BRIDGES FINALLY GONE FROM PROSPECT TO PLAYER, AND HE’S NOW VILLANOVA’S BEST PLAYER

That’s the biggest difference here, the biggest reason that I can confidently say this Villanova team is more talented — and probably better — than a team that won a national title.

For years we’ve been talking about how intriguing he is as a player. That length. That switchability. That perimeter skill. He was on everyone’s “Breakout Star” list after the way he played in the Final Four as a redshirt freshman.

And then he fizzled.

Or, perhaps more accurately, he didn’t have much of a chance to get his with Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins joining him in the front court. But now that those guys are gone, now that his role needs to be as a go-to scorer, he’s embraced it.

He’s thriving in it.

And he’s turned into quite possibly the best wing in college basketball.

3. GONZAGA’S YOUNGSTERS ARE PROMISING

The Zags did not have their best game on Tuesday night, and I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise. That’ll happen in college basketball, especially when a team from Washington state is traveling across the country to New York City to play a game against a team as good as Villanova.

So I’m not that worried about Gonzaga.

I am, however, intrigued by some of the younger guys that are on that roster. At this point, the secret is out on Killian Tillie, and Rui Hachimura’s performance in the U19 World Cup this summer let everyone know just how good he can end up being.

I did not, however, realize that Zach Norvell Jr. was ready to have the impact that he had on Tuesday; he went for 22 points and hit four threes against a top four team and is now averaging 20 points over his last three games. The injury to Corey Kispert – who is promising in his own right – was a blessing in disguise; I don’t know if Mark Few even realized what he had in Norvell.

Jacob Larsen got his chance to shine as well. With Williams and Tillie battling foul trouble, Larsen stepped up and had his best game as a collegian. He finished with 10 points, five boards and a pair of assists. He protected the rim, he moved his feet well.

I say all that to say this: As good as the present is for the Zags, the future may be even brighter.

4. VILLANOVA CAN PLAY BIG

Villanova was dealing with some foul trouble to their guards in the first half, and it forced them to play a different lineup that Jay Wright is used to — Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Bridges all on the floor at the same time.

And it worked!

That’s probably not a lineup that the Wildcats are going to use all that much, but knowing just how good and how big some of Villanova’s title competitors are, it has to be comforting to know that he can matchup that way.

Former LSU coach Johnny Jones hired by Texas Southern

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Johnny Jones is in charge of a college basketball program once again.

The former North Texas and LSU head coach will be the next head coach at Texas Southern, replacing Mike Davis, who left to take over at Detroit.

“I’m really excited about it,” Jones told Fox 26 in Houston. “This is a terrific opportunity with a great university in a great city.”

Jones went 90-72 in five seasons in Baton Rouge, but finished his final year, the 2016-17 season, with just a 10-21 record. He’s best-known for failing to get to the NCAA tournament with a team that featured Ben Simmons.

Coach K: ‘I have no plans to retire’

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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the greatest college basketball coach this side of John Wooden, said on Monday that he has given on thought to the idea of when he will call it quits.

“I have no plans to retire,” Krzyzewski said on the College Hoops Today Podcast. “I feel better than I have in a long time. I feel healthier than I have in a long time. There’s no end in sight.”

The question of whether or not Coach K will be around all that much longer has been something that has lingered over the sport given the numerous health issues that he has dealt with in recent years. He’s undergone surgery six times in the last two years and, at 71 years old, is at an age where most everyone is hoping to retire while working one of the most strenuous and time-consuming jobs imaginable.

Put another way, no one would blame Krzyzewski if he wanted to hang it up.

But instead, he is arguably at the top of his game. He’s churned out elite recruiting classes in each of the last four seasons, he’s won two National Titles in the last eight seasons and he has three of the nation’s top five prospects enrolling for the 2018-19 season.

He’s not slowing down.

So why would he thinking about leaving the game?

VIDEO: Mixtape for Duke commit R.J. Barrett, potential 2019 No. 1 pick

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Last week, after the NBA draft officially concluded, we posted a mock draft for the lottery in 2019.

At the top of that list was R.J. Barrett, a Duke-commit and Canadian-native that has NBA scouts wowed and intrigued. This mixtape should give you a good feel for why.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.