College Basketball’s 32 Most Important Transfers

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Recruiting the transfer market has become as important to building a successful college basketball program as recruiting the next crop of high school freshmen.

And this season is the perfect example.

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 will likely feature a leading scorer that spent last season redshirting after transferring from Memphis, and three of the top four teams in the country will features transfers prominently in their rotation.

It’s the way the business works these days.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the most important, influential and impactful transfers for the 2018-19 season.



1. Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore, Kansas (via Memphis and Cal): For the second consecutive year, the Jayhawks top the transfer list with three impact players. The Lawson brother coming from Memphis was the big coup. Dedric has the chance to be an All-American while K.J. was also a double-figure scorer during his final season with the Tigers. Although freshmen like Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson have a ton of hype, Moore is the most experienced option at point guard after a strong freshman season at Cal.

2. C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels, Blake Harris, Eric Lockett, Wyatt Walker, N.C. State (via UNC Greensboro, Utah, Missouri, FIU and Samford): After a surprising NCAA tournament appearance in his first year, head coach Kevin Keatts brought in tons of reinforcements. Bryce and Daniels have a chance to make a huge impact in Keatts’ guard-heavy lineup as both sat out last season and practiced with the team. Harris received a waiver to play right away, as he should help at point, while Lockett adds some scoring pop off of the bench. Walker provides N.C. State with an experienced body on the interior as he adds rebounding to the equation.

3. Brandon Clarke and Geno Crandall, Gonzaga (via San Jose State and North Dakota): Gonzaga has title aspirations this season as they’re hoping this pair of transfers can help. Clarke sat out last season with the Bulldogs as the freakishly athletic forward put up big numbers during his time at San Jose State. If Clarke shows more perimeter skill than the past then Gonzaga will have one of the nation’s best frontcourts. Crandall adds to Gonzaga’s wealth of riches as he gives the team another experienced backcourt presence. The North Dakota transfer has started 90 games in his career as he was a double-figure scorer.

Reid Travis (Chet White/UK Athletics)

4. Reid Travis, Kentucky (via Stanford): John Calipari usually reloads his roster with five-star freshmen. For this offseason, he also used the grad transfer market. Kentucky ended up with Travis, a former McDonald’s All-American and the best player available during this offseason transfer market. A double-double threat and potential All-American, Travis gives Kentucky veteran experience on a pretty young roster. The big questions will be how Travis acclimated with a deep Wildcat frontline and how he handles the big-game pressure of playing at Kentucky.

5. Mario Kegler and Makai Mason, Baylor (via Mississippi State and Yale): The Bears desperately need a go-to scorer as they’re hoping this duo can provide huge production. The 6-foot-7 Kegler is trying to revitalize his career as the former top-50 recruit never found his footing in the SEC. If Mason can stay healthy after two straight seasons of injury, then he’ll give a big lift to Baylor’s perimeter group. The Bears are hoping for many games like the 31 points Mason dropped on Baylor during the 2016 NCAA tournament.

6. Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow, Marquette (via Fordham and Nebraska): Expectations are high for the Golden Eagles this season as these two transfers are part of the reason why. After losing high-scoring guard Andrew Rowsey, Marquette reloads with Chartouny, as the grad transfer should be better on the defensive end. Morrow sat out last season after coming in from Nebraska as he gives the Golden Eagles a versatile frontcourt player who can score, rebound and defend the rim. A sluggish defensive team a season ago, Chartouny and Morrow should help in that department.

7. Mikey Dixon, Mustapha Heron and Sedee Keita, St. John’s (via Quinnipiac, Auburn and South Carolina): This ranking is contingent on Heron being immediately eligible to play this season as he was one of the premier transfers to pop up this offseason. With Heron, St. John’s is a potential NCAA tournament team, as his scoring would make the Red Storm a potentially dynamic offense. Dixon in another promising perimeter piece as he was the MAAC Freshman of the Year when he last played. Keita has Final Four experience with South Carolina as he’ll help on the interior.

8. Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens, Texas Tech (via South Dakota and St. John’s): The Red Raiders lost a lot from an Elite Eight team but these two grad transfers should provide a lift. Likely starting on the interior, Owens led the Big East in blocked shots last season as he can produce on both ends. Mooney was one of the most sought-after players on the transfer market after averaging 18.7 points per game last season. Like Owens, Mooney should find himself in a role with heavy minutes.

Chase Jeter (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

9. Justin Coleman, Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther, Arizona (via Samford, Duke and Pitt): With the FBI scandal shaking up Arizona’s excellent recent high school recruiting, they needed to turn to the transfer market more than usual. Jeter sat out last season, as the former McDonald’s All-American will be asked to help replace Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic. Luther has had difficulty staying on the floor, but when he’s healthy, he’s a double-double threat who already achieved success in the ACC. Coleman gives Arizona a veteran floor leader who should help set up others while providing overall stability.

10. Akoy Agau, Christian Cunningham, Steven Enoch, Khwan Fore, Louisville (via SMU, Samford, UConn and Richmond): With new head coach Chris Mack needing bodies quickly, he was able to land three grad transfers while also retaining Enoch — who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Enoch and Agau will help an inexperienced frontcourt while Cunningham and Fore provide some stability on the perimeter. Being a young team, Louisville needs these transfers to provide leadership as much as production.

11. Kyle Castlin, Zach Hankins and Ryan Welage, Xavier (via Columbia, Ferris State and San Jose State): With Chris Mack leaving for Louisville, and Travis Steele inheriting the reigns to the program, Xavier needed some additional bodies for next season. The Musketeers did a great job in landing three quality grad transfers. Hankins comes from the DII ranks, but don’t be fooled by the lower level of ball — he worked out for multiple NBA teams during the draft process before pulling his name out. Welage put up big scoring numbers for a bad San Jose State team as his floor-spacing at 6-foot-10 should help Xavier. And Castlin provides some additional perimeter help as he was a double-figure scorer during his final season at Columbia.

12. Quincy McKnight and Taurean Thompson, Seton Hall (via Sacred Heart and Syracuse): The Pirates lost a strong senior core that helped them make three straight NCAA tournament appearances. They’ve reloaded with two key transfers who sat out for them last season. A high-scoring guard who thrived during his sophomore season at Sacred Heart, McKnight can help replace Khadeen Carrington. Thompson had some strong moments during his freshman season with the Orange as his motor and scoring ability will help offset Angel Delgado’s production.

OTHER NAMES TO KNOW

Ehab Amin, Oregon (via Texas A&M Corpus-Christi): Originally at Nevada before the Martin twins made a surprising return, Amin was college basketball’s leader in steals when he last played two seasons ago. The do-it-all guard should give Oregon more of a defensive presence with its perimeter rotation.

Paris Austin, Cal (via Boise State): A true point guard who can score in double-figures or set up others, Austin will likely take the lead guard responsibilities for the Bears this season. Austin can attack the paint at will, but he’ll need to shoot better from the perimeter.

Kavell Bigby-Williams, LSU (via Oregon): Replacing an entire starting frontcourt, LSU has a lot of new pieces coming in. While top-30 freshmen like Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams have received most of the attention, Bigby-Williams is a shot-blocking fifth-year senior who gives Final Four experience to a young rotation.

Ryan Boudreaux, Purdue (via Dartmouth): The rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility left, Boudreaux was a huge coup for the Boilermakers after he decommitted from Xavier. A double-double threat who can also space the floor in the front court, Boudreaux should help replace Vincent Edwards.

Carlton Bragg and Vance Jackson, New Mexico (via Arizona State and UConn): The Lobos made a splash with some high-profile transfers from power conferences. Bragg has already made stops at Kansas and Arizona State as the former Burger Boy has an immense amount of talent that hasn’t shown through at the college level. Jackson is a floor-spacing forward who should be more comfortable playing in the Mountain West. New Mexico was also hoping for JaQuan Lyle to help at guard, but he’s been lost to a season-ending injury.

Carlton Bragg Jr. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds, Oklahoma (via Maine and Pacific): Now that Trae Young has moved on, the Sooners desperately need help on the perimeter as they brought in two grad transfers. Calixte should handle the main point responsibilities while Reynolds is an experienced combo guard.

Tre Campbell, South Carolina (via Georgetown): South Carolina’s sticky situation at point guard should improve with Campbell at the helm as the Gamecocks could not find any stability at the position last season. Campbell’s play at point should also allow Hassani Gravett to play more off the ball.

Connor Cashaw and Damien Jefferson, Creighton (via Rice and New Mexico): Since the Bluejays lost so much from last season, they needed some help. Cashaw played heavy minutes the past three seasons at Rice as he’ll be counted on to provide some scoring. Jefferson sat out last season as he helps with athleticism and positional versatility.

Zylan Cheatham and Rob Edwards, Arizona State (via San Diego State and Cleveland State): Both of these transfers should make an impact immediately for the Sun Devils. Thin in the frontcourt a year ago, Cheatham is a mega athlete who can score and rebound. While Arizona State can’t replace the scoring and senior leadership of their departed backcourt, Edwards is a natural scorer at the two who should get plenty of chances to shoot.

Jalen Coleman-Lands and Femi Olujobi, DePaul (via Illinois and North Carolina A&T): A former top-50 prospect, Coleman-Lands gives the Blue Demons a talented perimeter scorer who should compliment Max Strus and Eli Cain well. For the second straight season, DePaul turns to the grad transfer market for a big man the second straight year as Olujobi led North Carolina A&T in scoring and rebounding last season.

Joe Cremo, Villanova (via Albany): Once Villanova lost so many weapons to the NBA draft, they needed to reload. Cremo, a grad transfer guard who put up 17.8 points per game while shooting 45 percent from three last season, should be a major addition.

Mike Cunningham, Curtis Jones, Michael Weathers, Oklahoma State (via USC Upstate, Indiana and Miami (Ohio)): This is a fascinating group of transfers that should play a big role in Oklahoma State’s season. Cunningham is a grad transfer point with an ability to score while Jones is a former top-100 prospect who is eligible in mid-December. Weathers could wind up being the Cowboys’ best player. The former MAC Freshman of the Year did it all for the RedHawks. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, Weathers is also suspended indefinitely for the moment.

Samir Doughty, Auburn (via Auburn): The Tigers have high hopes after last season’s success as Doughty should reinforce Auburn’s bench. A versatile guard who can play multiple spots, Doughty helps offset the loss of Mustapha Heron.

Juwan Durham, Notre Dame (via UConn): If the 6-foot-11 Durham can stay healthy and regain his former form as a top-50 prospect, then the Irish will have found themselves some major help inside. Durham played with Notre Dame during a summer exhibition tour, so that’s a positive sign.

Malik Ellison and Sidy N’Dir, Pitt (via St. John’s and New Mexico State): New head coach Jeff Capel desperately needed bodies (and experience) as he turned to Ellison and N’Dir. Ellison has already been named a team captain as he should do a bit of everything. N’Dir ran point for a 28-win New Mexico State team last season while playing stellar defense.

Brison Gresham and DeJon Jarreau, Houston (via UMass): The rare package deal who stuck together in recruiting (and transferring) these Louisiana natives give the Cougars athleticism and versatility. Jarreau, in particular, has a chance to make a major impact.

Elijah Hughes, Syracuse (via East Carolina): Lacking depth and offensive firepower last season, this 6-foot-6 wing shooter should help the Orange’s bench. Hughes has the reputation for being a decent shooter but needs to improve his percentages from his freshman season.

Tramaine Isabell Jr., Luis Santos and Dion Wiley, Saint Louis (via Drexel, South Florida and Maryland): Three transfers should help the Billikens as they attempt to make a major move in the A-10. Isabell put up big numbers at point guard for Drexel last season while Santos and Wiley help with rotational depth.

Michael Jacobson and Marial Shayok, Iowa State (via Nebraska and Virginia): The Cyclones add two veteran transfers from high-major programs. Jacobsen should help bolster a young frontcourt. Shayok has a chance to surprise as he plays in a more uptempo offense after three seasons at Virginia.

Jazz Johnson, Trey Porter, Tre’Shawn Thurman and Nisre Zouzoua, Nevada (via Portland, Old Dominion, Omaha and Bryant): Nevada shouldn’t have any issues with depth this season after they cleaned up on transfers. While last season’s team barely used the bench, now the Wolf Pack have more weapons than they know what to do with. Johnson and Zouzoua give Nevada additional perimeter shooting while Porter and Thurman help the frontcourt rotation.

Zach Johnson, Miami (via Florida Gulf Coast): Offsetting the loss of Bruce Brown, Ja’Quan Newton and Lonnie Walker will be next to impossible. Thankfully for the Hurricanes, they found help just North in the form of Johnson, a scorer who can help at both guard spots.

Tevin Mack, Alabama (via Texas): A former leading scorer at Texas, Alabama is hoping Mack can help with some of Collin Sexton’s lost production. The 6-foot-6 wing can put up big scoring totals. He also had discipline issues with the Longhorns as he was suspended multiple times.

Christian Mekowulu and Josh Nebo, Texas A&M (via Tennessee State and St. Francis (PA)): Gutted with frontcourt losses from last season, the Aggies did an admirable job of finding some suitable mid-major transfers. Mekowulu is the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year while Nebo was the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year when he last played in 2016-17. Nebo is the big man with more offensive upside of the duo as he could end up averaging double-figures.

David Nichols, Florida State (via Albany): With the loss of point guard C.J. Walker to transfer, the Seminoles needed help on the perimeter. Enter Nichols, a talented lead guard who put up numbers across the board the past two seasons with Albany.

Collin Smith, UCF (via George Washington): The Knights are hoping to make an NCAA tournament run this season as the 6-foot-11 Smith is another frontcourt depth piece. With UCF battling injuries to big man Tacko Fall last year, Smith also provides an excellent insurance policy.

Ryan Taylor and A.J. Turner Northwestern (via Evansville and Boston College): With the loss of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay, the Wildcats desperately needed an infusion of perimeter scoring. Enter Taylor and Turner, as both transfers should be able to put up points while giving Northwestern some size on the perimeter.

Jordan Tucker, Butler (via Duke): Eligible after the first semester, the former top-50 prospect is hoping to find more stable playing time with the Bulldogs. A perimeter shooter with size, Tucker’s style of play should fit in well at Butler.

Javan White, Clemson (via Oral Roberts): The Tigers add some muscle on the interior as the 6-foot-10 White was a major double-double threat at Oral Roberts last year. Elijah Thomas and Aamir Simms are both returning starters, but White gives Clemson some insurance.

Keyshawn Woods, Ohio State (via Wake Forest): After losing multiple starters on the perimeter, the ACC veteran steps in to fill some of the void. A 42 percent career three-point shooter, Woods gives a young Ohio State team a veteran presence.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.