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St. John’s snaps 11-game losing streak, upsets No. 4 Duke in MSG


St. John’s entered Saturday sitting at 10-13 on the season, winless in all 11 Big East games that they have played this season.

The Johnnies will still be winless in the Big East on Super Bowl Sunday, but they added a nice little consolation prize into the mix, as they rode 33 points from Shamorie Ponds to an 81-77 win over No. 4 Duke in Madison Square Garden.

Ponds was the best player on the floor on Saturday, finishing with seven boards, four steals and three assists to go along with those 33 points. He lit up whoever was tasked with trying to guard him and made a pair of massive buckets down the stretch — a layup with just over a minute left to answer Duke after the Blue Devils re-took the lead, and a three on the ensuing possession to put the Johnnies up 77-73 with just over 30 seconds left.

“They made us look bad but then we made ourselves look bad. We didn’t play basketball the first 32 minutes worthy of our program,” Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “It was disgusting, really.”

He is a very, very good player and scorer. He doesn’t get much national attention because the Johnnies haven’t won this year, but it is not all that shocking to see Ponds go crazy in Madison Square Garden while carrying St. John’s to a big win over a good team.

And it’s also not all that surprising to see a lead guard slice up Duke’s defense. We’ve come to expect it at this point, right? Duke doesn’t guard, particularly dynamic, play-making ball-handlers.

Hell, I don’t even think it would be right to hammer Duke for losing this game. The fact of the matter is that St. John’s has the talent to be in the mix as an NCAA tournament team. They have been the most disappointing team in the Big East this season and one of the more disappointing teams in the counter. If the Johnnies were winning at the rate that they should be winning, this would just be another case of Duke losing a road game to an OK team that matched up well with them.

But none of that changes the fact that this Duke team just doesn’t seem to fit.

Grayson Allen was a total no-show again. He finished with just seven points on 1-for-7 shooting despite playing all 40 minutes. The only field goal he made came with less than a minute left, and if it wasn’t for two more threes that he missed on the final two possessions, he would have left the Garden having shot the ball just four times.

That said, I can appreciate what Allen is trying to do.

He’s trying to play a role. He’s trying to do what Quinn Cook did for the 2015 title-winning team. He’s trying to be the guy that sacrifices his numbers for the sake of winning. The problem is that the rest of these pieces just do not seem to fit.

Take Gary Trent Jr., for example. He’s really come on strong shooting the ball in ACC play, but he’s been such a liability on the defensive end of the floor, whether Duke is in zone or in man. Wendell Carter might be an all-american, but he essentially plays the same spot on the floor as Bagley, and hes not as good as Bagley is. Then there is Trevon Duval. No one respects his ability to shoot, which makes it that much easier to throw bodies at Duke’s bigs.

And then there is the issue of what happens when Bagley is off the floor. On Saturday, Duke’s offense went directly into the toilet. They were already the majority of the way through a slow start to the second half when Bagley picked up his fourth foul, but as soon as he went to the bench, Duke’s offense looked awful. I’m not sure they had one quality possession during the five or so minutes he was on the bench.

All told, the Johnnies used a 27-11 surge to open the second half and build a 59-50 lead.

“The basketball gods understand, in most cases, who should win,” Coach K said. “We got what we deserved.”

Oh, and Bagley?

He sat for seven minutes midway through the second half, the stretch when Duke has made a habit of digging themselves out of the holes that they create.

And to me, that right there is the most important part of this game.

Duke once again dug themselves a hole. Then Bagley got into foul trouble, and the Blue Devils didn’t have the horses to dig themselves back out.

The truth is, other than the game against Michigan State on the fifth day of the season, Duke has yet to really put in a complete performance against a team that looks like they can get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They needed to come storming back against Texas, and Florida, and Indiana. They rallied late against Miami and even trailed Virginia by 10 points at the half. Their best performance against a good team came at home against Florida State when they gave up 93 points.

And all of those comebacks more or less have one thing in common: Marvin Bagley III taking over.

It really isn’t hard to frame Duke’s season like this: They are a bad defensive team with incohesive talent that would be 15-8 on the season if Bagley wasn’t a super-human.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.