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Guard Wally Ellenson leaves Marquette program

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Normally when a player who averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in just under nine minutes per game leaves a program, his name simply goes onto the “available transfers” lists on the internet without much thought. But when that player is the older brother of a freshman expected to be selected in the NBA Draft lottery, not to mention also has a great deal of potential in another sport, it grabs attention.

That’s the case of Marquette redshirt junior guard Wally Ellenson, who on Thursday left the program according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A two-sport athlete who began his college career in basketball and the high jump at Minnesota, Wally’s departure comes just over two weeks after younger brother Henry announced his intentions to forego his final three years of eligibility and enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

So why is this situation a head-scratcher? Ellenson’s mother quoted a report from ESPN.com on Twitter, adding the words “smoke and mirrors” to the post. And earlier this week the Paint Touches website did some looking into the situation before it had been learned that Wally would be leaving the program.

With the late additions of USC grad transfer Katin Reinhardt and reclassified freshman guard Markus Howard (he was in the class of 2017 before moving to 2016), Marquette had used all 13 of its scholarships for the 2016-17 campaign. With the additions and departures, Marquette has just two players taller than 6-foot-7 on the (at this time) roster for next season: Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt.

Ellenson’s departure opens up a scholarship for Marquette to use, in all likelihood on a player who can add depth in the post. The Journal-Sentinel reported that Ellenson can remain on scholarship should he decide to stay at Marquette, with the four-time All-American in the high jump receiving that grant-in-aid for track as opposed to basketball.

However, it should be noted that as an “equivalency” sport, men’s track and field gets a total of 12.6 scholarships that can be handed out at the coach’s discretion (full or partial scholarships). Would Ellenson receive a full scholarship despite the fact that he’d be competing in just one event? For that reason, along with the questions as to how this situation came to be, this is something worth monitoring moving forward.

No. 5 Xavier advances to Big East semis with a 90-72 win

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NEW YORK (AP) Trevon Bluiett matched his career high with 24 points and No. 5 Xavier dominated from start to finish in a 90-72 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Musketeers took advantage of foul trouble by Marquette star center Henry Ellenson to have a big advantage in points in the paint early and finished with a 42-32 difference.

Xavier (27-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of third-seeded Seton Hall and sixth-seeded Creighton.

It will be the Musketeers second straight trip to the semifinals. They lost to Villanova in last season’s championship game.

JaJuan Johnson had 19 points to lead the Golden Eagles (20-13), who have reached the semifinals twice (2008, 2010) but they have never made it to the championship game. They beat St. John’s 101-93 in the opening round.

This was the third time Xavier beat Marquette this season with the first two both decided by eight points.

Xavier opened on an 11-2 run with Ellenson, the conference’s freshman of the year and its leading rebounder, picking up his second foul just 3 minutes into the game. He was taken out of the game but when Xavier started having its way inside and took a 15-4 lead, he was back with 14:20 left in the half. The Golden Eagles went to a 2-3 zone to try and keep him from picking up another foul but it didn’t work.

Ellenson, who finished with 14 points and three rebounds, scored eight straight points for Marquette as the Golden Eagles drew within 26-21. With 2:44 left in the half Ellenson and Bluiett got tangled up near midcourt and both went down to the court. An official review found that Ellenson tripped Bluiett and he was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul – his third.

Bluiett’s free throw and J.P. Macura’s 3 on the ensuing possession were part of a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers a 43-25 lead and Macura hit a long 3 with 4 seconds left to give Xavier a 46-30 lead.

Xavier shot 59.4 percent (19 of 32) in the half while the Golden Eagles were 11 of 32 (34.4 percent).

The Musketeers opened the second half on a 10-3 run and the rout was on with Xavier leading by as many as 28 points. The closest Marquette got was 17 points.

TIP-INS:

Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the game first in the conference in steals (7.8) and they are second in assists (16.3). … The 101 points against St. John’s in the opening round was the first time the Golden Eagles broke the century against a Big East opponent. They joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game first in the conference in assists (16.4) and they are second in steals (7.2). … Myles Davis leads the Big East in free throw shooting percentage (85.9). … Seven players have led the Musketeers in scoring in at least two games this season. … Chris Mack was named national coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

UP NEXT:

Marquette: good enough for an NIT bid.

Xavier: faces the winner of Creighton-Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win

BIG EAST CONFERENCE RESET: Can anyone dethrone Villanova?

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big East.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kris Dunn, Providence

This decision was made somewhat difficult by the combination of Dunn missing some games due to illness and other players excelling in non-conference play. But it’s hard to overlook his influence on a team that enters Big East play ranked 12th in the AP poll after being projected as a bubble team in the preseason. Dunn’s averaging 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Friars, and his turnovers (2.9) are down more than one per game from last season’s average (4.2).

ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM

  • Kris Dunn, Providence
  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
  • Josh Hart, Villanova
  • Ben Bentil, Providence
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. The Big East is one of the nation’s best leagues: The preseason conversations regarding the best conference in college basketball centered on the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten, but through non-conference play the Big East has stepped forward into that discussion. Xavier’s been one of the most impressive teams in the country to this point, two-time defending champion Villanova’s lone defeats came against two Top 10 teams in Oklahoma and Virginia, and Butler is 10-1. Joining those contenders has been 12-1 Providence, and both Marquette and Seton Hall are off to good starts as well.
  2. Xavier’s depth and talent make it Villanova’s biggest threat: The biggest question for the Musketeers entering the season was how they’d fill the hole left by the graduation of Dee Davis at the point. Would Edmond Sumner be ready to take the reins after redshirting last season? To this point Sumner has indeed been the answer Chris Mack needed at the point, giving the Musketeers an athletic finisher who continues to improve as a floor general. And he’s surrounded with a host of experienced options, including Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds, who can put points on the board. That makes Xavier the team best equipped to challenge reigning Big East champ Villanova.
  3. To look at Providence as “Kris Dunn and some other dudes” would be a big mistake: While Dunn was a preseason favorite for National Player of the Year honors, many didn’t know what to make of the rest of Ed Cooley’s team. Heading into their conference opener against Butler the Friars are ranked in the top ten, and this has been no one-man operation. Sophomore Ben Bentil has been one of the nation’s most improved players, Rodney Bullock’s given them another quality front court option, and role players such as Junior Lomomba have been productive as well. Will the Friars be a top ten team throughout league play? That remains to be seen, but this has been an impressive group worthy of Big East contender status.

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American]

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. Villanova’s perimeter shooting: For a team loaded with quality guards, the Wildcats’ shooting in non-conference play was a surprise. Jay Wright’s team is shooting just 31.1 percent from three on the season, with nearly 52 percent of their field goal attempts being three-pointers. Josh Hart (39 percent) and Ryan Arcidiacono (37 percent) have been the best of the bunch, and they’ll need players such as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Kris Jenkins to raise their perimeter accuracy moving forward.
  2. Does Georgetown have what it takes to rebound: With two of their first three losses coming against very good Maryland and Duke teams, not too many worried about the Hoyas’ 1-3 start after a five-game win streak made John Thompson III’s team appear to be okay. But after dropping games to Monmouth and UNC Asheville and escaping with a win at Charlotte, there are some significant issues to be addressed. Paul White’s struggled with health, and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera hasn’t been the player many envisioned him being when he changed course and decided to return for his senior year. Can they turn things around and be the contender many expected them to be?
  3. Marquette, Seton Hall looking to make NCAA tournament push: Both the Golden Eagles and Pirates put together quality records in non-conference play, which sets them up for run at NCAA tournament bids as conference play begins. And the strength of the Big East can help both in the quality wins department, with Seton Hall’s best win coming against Wichita State and Marquette’s being at the expense of Arizona State. Marquette’s Henry Ellenson has been one of the nation’s best freshmen, but their tournament hopes may hinge on the development of their perimeter rotation. As for the Pirates, this sophomore-laden group will lean on Isaiah Whitehead and Desi Rodriguez as they look for their first tournament bid since 2006.
Xavier's Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Xavier’s Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

[NEW PODCAST | NEW TOP 25]

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: On Monday’s podcast, my colleague Rob Dauster said that he believed that Villanova was the fourth-best team in the conference, that their issues shooting the ball combined with their question marks in the front court left them susceptible to being picked off. Jay Wright’s club has their issues, but they also have a total of four losses in Big East play the last two years.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: On paper, Marquette looks like the real deal. They have a slew of highly-regarded guards surrounding a pair of NBA-caliber big men in Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer. And as good as they’ve looked in bursts this season, their best wins are over a depleted LSU, Arizona State and a Wisconsin team that has already lost five games. They were also embarrassed on their home floor by Iowa and lost to Belmont in Milwaukee. I want to believe in Marquette, but they need to beat one of the top four teams in the league for me to get there fully.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Georgetown has been by far the most disappointing team in the Big East and one of the most disappointing teams in the country. They have top 20 talent on the roster, but they’ve lost at home to Radford, UNC Asheville and Monmouth, the latter of which was a blowout. Given who his father is, it’s going to be very hard for the program to jettison John Thompson III, but if he can’t turn this thing around, he’s going to be a name that pops up on hot seat lists.

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. Xavier: Chris Mack’s team, which reached the Sweet 16 a season ago, has everything a team needs to not only reach that point but go further. And if Edmond Sumner continues to develop at the point, Houston is possible.
  • 2. Villanova: The Wildcats do have to shoot better from the perimeter than they have, and with players such as Arcidiacono, Brunson and Hart they’re capable of turning things around on that front. But do they have enough in the post to play deep into March?
  • 3. Butler: The Bulldogs don’t defend as well as they did in years past, but they’re better offensively thanks to the presence of two playmakers in Tyler Lewis and Roosevelt Jones.
  • 4. Providence: Dunn and Bentil have been excellent, but Ed Cooley’s had many other contributors step forward as well. And their play with Dunn out of the lineup can only help the confidence of those supplementary players moving forward.
  • 5. Marquette: The Golden Eagles’ best wins have come over teams likely to land on the bubble (Arizona State, LSU, Wisconsin). They’ve got an extremely talented front court tandem in Ellenson and Fischer, but the key moving forward: the guards keeping the turnovers (19.6 percent turnover rate) to a minimum.

NIT teams

  • 6. Seton Hall: The progress made by Desi Rodriguez has been huge for the Pirates, who have wins over Ole Miss and Wichita State on their résumé. Kevin Willard’s team will go as far as their sophomore class, led by Rodriguez, Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado, can lead them.
  • 7. Georgetown: The Hoyas have NCAA tournament talent, but they haven’t played to that level on a consistent basis thus far. The biggest issues have been on the offensive end, but they need to be better on the glass as well (7th in defensive rebounding percentage).
  • 8. Creighton: With Maurice Watson Jr. on the leading a balanced offensive attack, the Bluejays could surprise some people in league play. But in order to do so, they’ll need to improve defensively (last in field goal percentage defense, ninth in three-point percentage defense).

Autobid or bust

  • 9. DePaul: The Blue Demons did manage to knock off a ranked George Washington squad, but they’re unlikely to make a major move up the Big East pecking order.
  • 10. St. John’s: This is a rebuilding year for the Red Storm, who still hope to add Marcus LoVett Jr. at some point in the near future. That being said, they compete and are capable of pulling off some upsets in league play.

Marquette grants 2015 commit release from National Letter of Intent

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Nick Noskowiak, one of four commits in Steve Wojciechowski’s inaugural recruiting class, was granted his release from his National Letter of Intent on Friday night.

“We support Nick’s request to be granted a release from his letter of intent,” Wojciechowski said in a statement. “After a discussion with Nick, we decided it was best for our program, and for Nick personally, to explore other options and wish him the best of luck as he continues his basketball career.”

While no coach likes to see a four-star recruit back away from a commitment, Wojciechowski still has to be pleased with his first recruiting class. The incoming class consists of five-star power forward Henry Ellenson and four-star shooting guard Haanif Cheatham headline the class along with center Matt Heldt.

This isn’t the first time Noskowiak has decommitted from Marquette. After Buzz Williams left for Virginia Tech, the 6-foot-2 point guard briefly reopened his recruitment only to pledge to the Golden Eagles once again.

Noskowiak has offers from Illinois, Iowa State, Green Bay, Northern Iowa and Milwaukee.

He recently returned to his Sun Prairie High basketball team after a two month absence for personal reasons. The initial report was Noskowiak was dealing with depression, however, that was later refuted by Noskowiak, saying he needed to leave an abusive household.

Marquette lands commitment from 2015 center Matt Heldt

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The July live recruiting period is days away, but one 2015 recruit was ready to make the call. On Tuesday, Neenah High (Wisconsin) rising senior decided to stay in-state, giving his verbal commitment to Marquette.

“Ecstatic to be committed to Marquette! Thanks to everyone who has helped me on my journey so far,” he tweeted.

The 6-foot-10 center had offers from Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Marquette’s Big East foe, Xavier. According to Rivals, Heldt had visited Xavier back in January. Steve Wojciechowski, who took over the program in early April, extended an offer to one of the best rising seniors in Wisconsin later that month.

The addition of a big man is important for Wojciechowski’s first recruiting class. Marquette graduated its top three rebounders in Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and Chris Otule. Luke Fischer, the Indiana transfer, is eligible to make his debut with the Golden Eagles after the fall semester this season.

Heldt becomes the second commit in Marquette’s Class of 2015, both hailing from Wisconsin. Sun Prairie High point guard Nick Noskowiak had originally committed to Buzz Williams. Once Williams left for Virginia Tech, the four-star guard decided to reopen his recruitment, only to recommit to the Golden Eagles on May 1.

Marquette has three scholarships still available.