Prior to this week, Saint Mary’s season had been defined by a slump at the most inopportune time.
The Gaels lost to both Washington State and Georgia in the Wooden Legacy, the only two non-conference games they played against relevant opponents, and it put the program behind the eight-ball when it came to trying to earn bid to the NCAA tournament.
What Saint Mary’s needed to do was win at least won – and quite likely two – games against Gonzaga during the WCC regular season. Consider the first step complete. Landale finished with 24 points, 12 boards, three assists and two blocks on Thursday night as Randy Bennett took his team into Spokane and picked off the No. 13 Zags. Saint Mary’s followed that up with a tougher-than-expected win over Pacific where Landale finished with 32 points and seven boards.
All told, Saint Mary’s is now in sole possession of first place in the league and in the midst of a 14 game winning streak, the final four of which all came on the road.
And Landale, who has quietly been one of the most productive and efficient big men in college basketball, led the way once again. He’s now averaging 22.4 points and 10.2 boards for a team that should get ranked in the top 25 this week. He’s very much in consideration for an All-American team now, and I’m not sure that would have been the case without that win on Thursday night.
THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- SHAKE MILTON, SMU: Milton played the best game of his career in the most important game of the season for the Mustangs, putting 33 points on 11-for-14 shooting and five assists on No. 7 Wichita State and Landry Shamet in a road win. He followed that up with 20 points, five boards and five assists in a win against Tulane.
- JAMES PALMER, Nebraska: Palmer scored 24 points and hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three against Illinois, following that up with 19 points, four boards and a pair of assists in a blowout win over No. 23 Michigan.
- DEAN WADE, Kansas State: The Wildcats put themselves firmly in the NCAA tournament picture with a pair of wins over ranked teams this week, beating No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU. Wade, in those two games, averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 boards and 6.5 assists with four steals and two blocks.
- J.P. MACURA, Xavier: Macura scored 16 points on Wednesday night to help Xavier put away St. John’s before leading the Musketeers with 27 points and five boards in a 73-64 win at No. 19 Seton Hall. The Musketeers had lost their previous two games on the road.
- PARKER JACKSON-CARTWRIGHT, Arizona: Jackson-Cartwright has gotten plenty of stick this season for his issues on the defensive end of the floor, and it’s not necessarily unfair. But in a game at Stanford with first place in the Pac-12 on the line, Jackson-Cartwright made two massive defensive plays down the stretch to help seal the win.
The transformation is complete.
On Friday afternoon, Precious Achiuwa, a top 15 prospect in the Class of 2019, announced that he has committed to play his college basketball at Memphis, joining one of the best recruiting classes in the country and affirming that Penny Hardaway will enter the 2019-20 season with a preseason top 10 team.
Achiuwa, one of the top combo-forwards in the class and the kind of athlete that will make him an attractive player to NBA GMs, joins No. 1 player James Wiseman and fellow four-star prospects D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis, Damion Baugh and Malcolm Dandridge in Penny’s first real recruiting class as Memphis head coach.
The Tigers also add Rayjon Tucker, arguably the nation’s top grad transfer and a potential NBA player in his own right.
As we wrote earlier this week, Penny is building an absolute monster in Memphis.
Grant Williams announced on Friday morning that he will be staying in the NBA draft after an All-American junior season with Tennessee.
Williams averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 boards, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals this past season, helping lead Tennessee to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and on a run to the Sweet 16, where they lost in overtime to Purdue.
This is probably the right decision for him to make. While he is somewhat undersized and limited athletically, Williams is such a smart and savvy players. He really understands how to pass, he can defend multiple positions and, most importantly, he has a skill-set that should allow him to be able to contribute as a role player at the next level, particularly if his three-point stroke is as good as it has looked in postseason workouts.
Williams is slotted in at No. 19 to San Antonio in the most recent NBC Sports mock draft.
Tennessee will now have to play the waiting game with Jordan Bone, who is still undecided on his status. The Vols currently sit 22nd in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.
Clemson is adding a former top-50 recruit to its roster.
Texas Tech transfer Khavon Moore has pledged to coach Brad Brownell and the Tigers, he announced Thursday.
The 6-foot-7 Moore, a former four-star recruit, played just 2 minutes last season for the Red Raiders and saw his season shutdown amid medical concerns due to lingering issues from a broken leg he suffered in high school. The plan was for him to seek a medical hardship redshirt for last season, which could allow him to still have four years of eligibility remaining at Clemson after sitting out the upcoming season as a transfer.
The Tigers went 20-14 last season and missed the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in nine seasons under Brownell.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, continues to build a monster even with departures like former high-profile recruit.
John Beilein isn’t the only loss Michigan sustained this week.
Jalen Wilson, a top-50 guard in 2019, has requested out of his National Letter of Intent with the Wolverines, he announced Thursday.
“Due to the sudden head coaching change, I have requested my release from The University of Michigan, and will re-open my recruitment,” he wrote on social media.
Beilein’s decision to leave Michigan for the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the college basketball world earlier this week, and there’s little surprise to see it shake the Wolverines’ recruiting class as the head coaching position remains vacant and Michigan conducting a search of its next coach.
Wilson, a 6-foot-8 forward, is now considering Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Florida along with the Wolverines, according to 247Sports. The Texas native suddenly becomes one of the most desirable players left available ahead of the upcoming season.
Cole Bajema, a top-150 wing from Washington, is the lone remaining signee in Michigan’s 2019 class.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Former Tennessee forward Derrick Walker is transferring to Nebraska.
Nebraska announced Wednesday it has added Walker to its roster. Nebraska officials said Walker will sit out the 2019-20 season before playing for the Cornhuskers. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Walker entered the NCAA transfer portal after averaging 0.8 points, 1.1 rebounds and 5.3 minutes for Tennessee this past season. The 6-foot-8 Walker averaged 1.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 8.8 minutes as a freshman in the 2017-18 season.
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said in a statement, “Derrick is a physical player who gives us skill and versatility in the post.”