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No. 1 Villanova once again smacks around No. 10 Xavier

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PHILADELPHIA – Phil Booth led the way with 21 points and four assists while Jalen Brunson chipped in with 17 points and five assists and Mikal Bridges added 15 points as No. 1 Villanova pasted No. 10 Xavier, 89-65.

Xavier joined the Big East prior to the 2013-14 season, and in the five trips that the Musketeers have made to Philadelphia, the closest they have managed to keep a game has been 13. They lost by 23 points the first time they played as league foes. They lost by 13 the following year, by 31 points the season in which the Wildcats won the national title and by 25 last season.

Wednesday night was more of the same.

Villanova was up 18-6 just six minutes into the game and never looked back. The Wildcats took a 12-point lead into the break and lead by 20 less than five minutes into the second half.

The only thing the Musketeers had going all night long was Kerem Kanter, who finished with a team-high 16 points.

Here are three things that we can takeaway from this game:

1. IF THERE WAS ANY CONCERN ABOUT VILLANOVA’S DEFENSE, THEY ERASED IT

The last two games that the Wildcats played prior to Wednesday night were somewhat worrying.

The issue was on the defensive end of the floor. The Wildcats gave up 101 points in their only loss of the season at Butler, a game that could somewhat be explained away by the Bulldogs making a ridiculous 15-for-22 from beyond the arc. But just a week later, Villanova gave up 90 points at Marquette, and that doesn’t even include the 85 points that Villanova gave up to DePaul in their Big East opener.

Prior to their blowout win over the Musketeers, Villanova was dead last in defensive efficiency in Big East play, according to KenPom.

Those doubts … well, they are no longer doubts, at least not in the moment. Xavier shot just 42 percent from the floor. They were 3-for-16 from three and turned the ball over 14 times. If you’re into the analytic angle, Xavier scored less than 1.0 points-per-possession, the first time Villanova held an opponent below that mark since Dec. 22nd.

And it’s probably worth noting here that, entering Wednesday, Xavier was ranked 13th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric.

“We’ve been struggling defensively,” head coach Jay Wright said, “and our guys really stepped up.”

The issue, according to Wright, has been complacency. It started on that Dec. 22nd game against Hofstra, and it continued into the start of Big East play. The problem? Villanova didn’t get in the practices they needed to in order to solve the problem. After the Hofstra game it was Christmas. Then they had to travel to Chicago to play DePaul. Next, they made a trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 30th.

“We saw it coming, we just didn’t have the time to practice,” Wright said.

It wasn’t until after the Butler game that they were able to take a week to really iron out some of the kinks, and the Wildcats still struggled with an admittedly awesome Marquette offense.

“We just kind of lost it,” Wright said. “We can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re going to play defense now’ when we haven’t been doing it or three weeks. You have to get back to your habits.”

“The older guys get it, a guy like [Dhamir] Cosby-Rountree or Omari [Spellman], even Donte [DiVincenzo], they’re looking at you like, ‘we scored 100, we’re winning, what’s the big deal?”

And that’s where Villanova’s veterans come in.

They’re the ones that set the tone in practice. Hell, they’re the ones that set the example for the entire program. The term that gets tossed around is “culture”, and the culture at Villanova is one for improvement and hard work even when the Wildcats are winning games.

That’s where Wright started.

“When we weren’t doing well defensively or rebounding, we didn’t focus on Omari or Dada,” he said. “We focused on Jalen, Phil and Mikal. They had to show those young guys how to do it first.”

They did.

And the result was the performance you saw Wednesday.

2. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN XAVIER AND VILLANOVA CAN BE SEEN IN THE SUPPORTING CAST

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are the stars for Villanova, and while they got their numbers on Wednesday, they weren’t Wednesday’s stars.

Phil Booth was.

He scored 11 of Villanova’s first 18 points. He finished with 21 points and five assists. He was the spark for this team at the start of the game, the guy that led the run that buried Xavier before they were able to work their way into the game. We’ve seen nights where Donte DiVincenzo was that guy for Villanova. Omari Spellman has been that guy. Eric Paschall finished with 14 points on Wednesday and buried a pair of threes.

The blessing for Villanova is that Bridges and Brunson – especially Brunson – are annoyingly consistent. They don’t really have off nights.

Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura do, Xavier doesn’t necessarily have guys that can pick them up on those off-nights. Kerem Kanter was good on Wednesday, but he did most of his damage in the second half, once the lead was too big for Xavier to really have a shot at making a comeback; if Kanter was better defensively Chris Mack might have more confidence in using him when the game is on the line. Naji Marshall had 13 points, but that’s his second-highest scoring output of the season.

3. XAVIER NEEDS TREVON BLUIETT TO GET RIGHT

Bluiett is one of the best players in college basketball, but he has not played like it in the last month. In Xavier’s last eight games, he is shooting 34.2 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Xavier has lost twice during that span, needed to come back from 22 points down at home against East Tennessee and 16 points down at home against DePaul. They struggled at Northern Iowa, the MVC’s cellar-dweller, and barely held off Marshall at home.

Hell, when Xavier was blown out by Arizona State, Bluiett was 4-for-10 from the floor and finished with 11 points.

When he’s right, Xavier’s right.

And he has not been right for a while.

VIDEO: Former Michigan athletes Austin Hatch and Abby Cole tie the knot

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The life of former Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch has not been without its challenges, as during his pre-college years he survived two separate plane crashes that took the lives of his parents, a stepmother and two siblings.

Hatch’s scholarship offer to Michigan was honored by head coach John Beilein despite the impact that the crashes had on Hatch physically, and Hatch would go on to earn his degree and land a job at the corporate office for Domino’s. This past spring, Hatch was honored during the team’s Senior Day festivities.

By that point Hatch was already engaged to Abby Cole, who played volleyball at Michigan from 2013 to 2016. And over the weekend, the two tied the knot in what was a highly emotional day for all involved. Below is a video of their wedding day, which was chronicled by Derek Postma.

Congratulations and best wishes to Abby and Austin on their marriage.

Arizona lands Cornell forward Stone Gettings for 2019-20 season

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Arizona landed its first addition for the 2019-20 season on Monday, as an Ivy League power forward revealed his intention to join Sean Miller’s program as a graduate student.

6-foot-9 forward Stone Gettings, who averaged 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game at Cornell last season, picked Arizona over Stanford and Vanderbilt according to Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. A second team All-Ivy selection, Gettings is on course to graduate from Cornell in December. Instead of using his final season of eligibility at Cornell, Gettings will sit out this season before playing at Arizona.

Gettings does have a connection to the Arizona program, as one of his high school teammates was former point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The addition of Gettings will give Arizona a front court player who can score around the basket and from the perimeter, as he shot nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Gettings isn’t the first Ivy League player to make his decision regarding a new school well in advance of his being able to move as a grad transfer, as former Yale point guard Makai Mason took a similar approach. Mason, who missed the entire 2016-17 season with a torn ACL, announced prior to last season that he be joining the Baylor program as a grad transfer for the 2018-19 campaign.

Not counting Gettings, Arizona has four scholarship front court players on its current roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019-20, in current junior Chase Jeter, sophomores Emmanuel Akot and Ira Lee and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Bill Self: Silvio De Sousa’s eligibility not in jeopardy ‘at this stage’

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One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2018-19 season for the Kansas Jayhawks is the eligibility status of Silvio De Sousa.

If you’ve forgotten, a player that is believed to be De Sousa was referenced in a second round of indictments handed by the FBI. In those documents, De Sousa’s guardian is alleged to have asked an Adidas rep for at least $20,000 to repay a rival apparel company for a payment that was made to secure De Sousa’s commitment to another school. Prior to a surprise commitment to Kansas, De Sousa was long considered a Maryland lean. His AAU program and high school team were both sponsored by Under Armour, whose flagship program is Maryland.

According to Kansas head coach Bill Self, at this point De Sousa is still eligible.

“Nobody at this stage has given us any information that he could be in jeopardy at this stage,” Self said.

This is not surprising.

The way that I would expect this to play out is similar to the way it played out for players that were referenced in the indictments that came down last fall. Kansas is going to string this thing along until we get to a point in time close to the start of the season, when they will announce that De Sousa is being held out of competition. It is better for Kansas to bite the bullet and play without De Sousa than it would be for them to risk knowingly suiting up a player that can be retroactively ruled ineligible.

That sucks for De Sousa.

The good news for Kansas, however, is that Udoka Azubuike is back, as is Mitch Lightfoot, while both Dedric and K.J. Lawson will be eligible as they add freshman David McCormack. There is more than enough frontcourt depth to withstand the loss of De Sousa.

VIDEO: The #ShiggyChallenge has reached college hoops with Loyola’s coach showing his skills

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New Loyola-Maryland head coach Tavaras Hardy became the first college basketball head coach to get in on the Shiggy Challenge, as he posted this video to twitter on Tuesday morning:

What is the #ShiggyChallenge?

It’s the latest viral dance, which started just two weeks ago when an online personality named Shiggy posted himself dancing to Drake’s “In My Feelings” on Instagram:

#Mood : KEKE Do You Love Me ? 😂😂😂 @champagnepapi #DoTheShiggy #InMyFeelings

A post shared by Shoker🃏 (@theshiggyshow) on

From there, it took off, with everyone from Odell Beckham Jr. to James Harden trying to prove themselves capable of taking down the #ShiggyChallenge.

And now Tavaras Hardy is doing it.

The end.

Takeaways from the UAA Challenge: Nico Mannion and Josh Green are must-see, Anthony Edwards tops 2020

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EMERSON, Ga. — Although the Peach Jam was huge focal point of the first evaluation period, Under Armour had themselves a solid event with the UAA Challenge just north of Atlanta. With plenty of signature matchups and five-star talents, there were a lot of things to watch during a brief stop there during the first live evaluation period.

Here are some things to watch with the UAA, when they’ll be the focal point during the third live evaluation week as they host the UAA Finals in Las Vegas next week.

NICO MANNION AND JOSH GREEN aRE THE BEST 1-2 PUNCH IN THE UAA

Over the last few years, the duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis have built a big reputation in the UAA. Deservedly so. But, over the next few weeks, the West Coast Elite duo of point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green will be more fun to watch.

While the duo of Antoine and Lewis could end up being better long-term prospects (that’s a debate for another time), the duo of Mannion and Green have a unique chemistry playing with each other that Antoine and Lewis can lack at times since they play such similar positions.

Both Mannion and Green made major waves this weekend in the UAA Challenge.

Confirming to NBCSports.com that he intends to reclassify into the Class of 2019 from the Class of 2020, Mannion looked like he was ready to make the leap into college hoops. Second in the event in assists per game, Mannion had 38 of them over a six-game span (6.3 per game) and only had four turnovers in 164 minutes of action.

Also shooting 59 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line on his way to 15.8 points per contest, Mannion was incredibly efficient. He showed court savvy, athleticism and a solid perimeter jumper. Mannion has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Oregon and USC hard after him as he will be an intriguing point guard to watch during July.

Green, a 6-foot-6 two-way wing, was also incredibly efficient as he shot 71 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range on his way to 18.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. With four or more assists in four games, Green has natural floor vision and passing ability to go along with his scoring prowess. After showcasing a shaky perimeter jumper at times in the past, Green has worked with a trainer the past few months to become more consistent from deep. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, USC and Villanova are some of the schools that Green mentioned to NBCSports.com as being in the mix.

Both Green and Mannion are already five-star prospects. It’ll just be interesting to see them close out the live period the next two weeks because they have a chance to make some major noise.

ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS A CHANCE TO BE 2020’S BEST

The Class of 2019 doesn’t have a lot of star power in terms of No. 1 quality players — my colleague Rob Dauster went over that yesterday — but there seem to be a few worthy contenders in the Class of 2020.

Among them includes 6-foot-5 shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native was one of the must-see players of the first evaluation period. Playing in a high-profile matchup against five-star 2020 guard Jaden Springer, Edwards displayed a natural scoring ability thanks to his ridiculous athleticism and acumen for putting the ball in the basket; he’s what hoopheads will call a “bucket-getter”.

Although his jumper wasn’t falling from three-point range (5-for-22), Edwards still shot 57 percent from the field while putting up 22.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the weekend.

Displaying more vision and passing ability with his Atlanta Xpress team than in the camp setting, Edwards looked like a more complete guard at the UAA Challenge. He also defended to the tune of an event-leading 2.4 steals per game as Edwards has long arms and a quick first step to jump into passing lanes.

There is plenty of competition for the top spot in 2020, but Edwards is going to be among the major contenders with his summer play.

JEREMIAH EARL-ROBINSON IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS ANYONE IN THE CLASS

This summer has seen Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produce everywhere he has played. The 6-foot-8 Class of 2019 forward helped the USA U18 team win a gold medal while also leading the UAA Challenge in rebounds the first week of July.

A double-double machine who is improving his perimeter skill, Robinson-Earl is a hard-playing and intriguing combo forward who should join a high-level college rotation immediately. He has great secondary leaping ability that enables him to be a menace on the offensive glass as he’s particularly adept at putbacks.

If Robinson-Early can show an improved perimeter jumper and an ability to attack off the dribble, then he’ll have a chance to be a top-ten player in the class. He has the motor and production to rise if he fixes his flaws and he’ll have plenty of time to be a showcase player at IMG Academy next season.

Kansas is a perceived favorite with Robinson-Earl, as Bill Self coached him on the U18 team over the past several weeks before the live period. North Carolina and Arizona are among some other schools also trying to stay in the mix for Robinson-Earl as they try to pry him away from the Midwest.