David Banks/Getty Images

No. 3 Xavier beats DePaul 65-62, secures outright Big East title

1 Comment

CHICAGO — Now that it’s tournament time, No. 3 Xavier appears poised to make a big splash.

Trevon Bluiett scored 22 points, and Xavier set a school record for regular-season wins while clinching the top seed in the Big East with a 65-62 victory over DePaul on Saturday.

The Musketeers (27-4, 15-3 Big East) hung on for their 12th win in 13 games after DePaul’s Eli Cain and Max Strus missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds. That ended Villanova’s four-year run of first-place finishes.

“I always want to be the little kid that flies up and jumps in the pool, doesn’t test the water like a 48-year-old would,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “Just jump right in. I’m a big believer in you get what you earn and you earn what you get and you go after things. You don’t play on your heels and play defensive and scared and have success. That’s how I want our team to play.”

The Musketeers come into the conference tournament with soaring expectations, a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs in sight and a big run looking like a strong possibility. Mack wants his team to embrace all of that.

Winning the Big East regular-season championship was an important step.

“We’ve been preparing for this since Day 1,” Bluiett said. “We knew this was a goal that was possible to reach. We stayed hungry throughout the process, and it turned out well for us.”

Bluiett became the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, making four to give him 310 in his career.

Brandon Cyrus led DePaul (11-19, 4-14) with a career-high 20 points. Cain scored 14 as the Blue Demons lost for the fifth time in six games.

“For us to win against a team of that stature, you have to bring you `A’ game,” coach Dave Leitao said. “We played very well in spurts. We hung tough.”

HANGING ON

The Musketeers had already clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title with a win over Providence on Wednesday. They took sole possession with a performance that was sloppy at times but just good enough to get past the struggling Blue Demons.

Xavier won despite committing 20 turnovers and scoring just two points in the final 4:47. The Musketeers led by 11 in the second half but couldn’t put away the Blue Demons.

Things got particularly tight after a three-point play by Cain and two free throws by Tre’Darius McCallum cut it to 63-62 with 1:58 remaining. That brought DePaul fans to their feet, but there wasn’t much for them to celebrate in the end.

The Musketeers’ J.P. Macura went backdoor for a layup to make it a three-point game. Najii Marshall blocked Cyrus’ layup with 45 seconds left, and Xavier hung on after Cain and Strus missed those 3-pointers just before the final buzzer.

SETTING RECORD

Bluiett made all but one of his 3’s in the second half while surpassing Romain Sato as Xavier’s all-time leader.

He hit his school-record 308th 3-pointer about 7 1/2 minutes into the half, when he nailed one in front of the Xavier bench. He answered a DePaul basket with another from long range to make it 50-39. And he struck again from the outside, hitting a 3 after DePaul cut it to 52-47.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers were bothered at times by DePaul’s length but did just enough to come away with the win. They’ll need to do a better job hanging onto the ball and make more shots if they’re going to capture their first Big East tournament title and make a big NCAA run.

DePaul: The Blue Demons once again came up a little short, losing by single digits for the ninth time. They struggled from the outside, making 6 of 25 3-pointers.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers play in the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday.

DePaul: The Blue Demons play Wednesday in the first round of the Big East tournament.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

AP
2 Comments

The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
1 Comment

NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.