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Creighton lands Duke transfer Alex O’Connell

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Creighton got a commitment from Duke transfer Alex O’Connell on Wednesday.

The junior guard announced his decision on Twitter. O’Connell spent the past three seasons as a role player with the Blue Devils. The former top-75 consensus recruit might finally have a chance to earn consistent minutes. This will be a fresh start for O’Connell in the Big East.

O’Connell received, at most, 14 minutes per game at Duke. That came as a sophomore. O’Connell never cracked the main Duke lineup because talented freshmen often took opening spots. This past season, O’Connell lost confidence as a perimeter shooter. The 6-foot-6 wing put up 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest in 13.3 minutes of action per game. But O’Connell’s shooting numbers dipped. He was only at 40 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three-point range. That’s a huge drop from the 48 percent he shot from three as a freshman.

With Creighton, O’Connell gets a new opportunity. And his addition to the Bluejays could be an interesting fit. In head coach Greg McDermott’s offense, O’Connell could see a lot of open perimeter looks. Creighton often has a number of floor-spacing options on the floor. That should enable O’Connell to step in and play his part right away. If O’Connell can find his confidence again, he’s another dangerous weapon to space the floor with.

Although O’Connell never got going with Duke, he has a chance to finish his college career on a high note. And with Creighton coming off a Big East title, Alex O’Connell could be a strong fit as they try to stay among the league’s top teams.

AAC, Big East, Pac-12, SEC among leagues to ban fans from conference tournaments

Conferences cancel tournaments
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Conference tournaments across college basketball will feel empty this week.

Coronavirus continues to grow as a public safety concern. As a result, conferences across college basketball are taking unprecedented steps. Fans will be banned from the AAC, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC conference tournaments beginning on Thursday.

These four power conferences follow the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC, as well as numerous others across college basketball, amid growing public health concerns. Once the NCAA announced the 2020 NCAA tournament would be without fans on Wednesday, conferences aggressively followed suit.

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It comes as no surprise that additional leagues are starting to go the empty arena route. Some conference tournaments will allow some family and close team personnel. Others will maintain as much of a closed-door atmosphere as possible.

Coronavirus changing conference tournaments might only be the first step in how postseason plans could be altered. As coronavirus updates come through with every hour, it’s difficult to grasp how college basketball’s postseason will look the next several weeks.

No. 11 Creighton claims share of Big East title with win over No. 8 Seton Hall

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OMAHA, Neb. — Marcus Zegarowski made all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 23 points to lead No. 11 Creighton to a share of the Big East Conference regular-season title with a 77-60 victory over No. 8 Seton Hall on Saturday.

The Bluejays (24-7, 13-5) claimed all or part of their first conference title since winning the Missouri Valley outright in 2012-13. They joined the Big East the next season.

Creighton has won 11 of its last 13 games and, because it swept the season series against the Pirates, will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament in New York next week.

The Bluejays finished the game on a 21-6 run, with the sellout crowd of more than 18,000 at CHI Health Center growing louder as the clock wound down. Students stormed the court after the final buzzer, and a Big East banner was unfurled from the rafters moments later.

Seton Hall (21-9, 13-5) lost its last two games and will be the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Villanova also won a share of the regular-season title and is the No. 2 seed.

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Denzel Mahoney came off the bench to score 16 points for the Bluejays, and Ty-Shon Alexander had 15 points along with playing a superb defensive game against Seton Hall star Myles Powell.

Powell and Quincy McKnight each scored 15 points for the Pirates and Jared Rhoden added 12.

Seton Hall controlled the pace of the game against the Big East’s highest-scoring team, but the Bluejays were able to pull away late.

Billed by local media as the biggest home game in Creighton program history, fans showed up early and the student section was vocal, chanting “Let’s Go Jays” as the Bluejays ran onto the court before pregame introductions.

Alexander got the crowd on its feet right away, stealing the ball from Powell on the opening possession and converting a fast-break pass from Damien Jefferson into an easy layin. Then, after Powell appeared to shed Alexander on a ball screen, Alexander caught him from behind to block his layup try.

The half ended tied 32-all, and it was close until the Bluejays began taking control midway through the second half. Zegarowski drove the length of the court and snaked his way through the lane for a finger-roll layin to break a 50-50 tie, and the Bluejays never surrendered the lead.

Tension spilled over late when Jefferson and Sandro Mamukelashvili were chest to chest in the final 2 minutes. Mamukelashvili tried to shove Jefferson, Creighton coach Greg McDermott sprinted across the bench to calm matters and the players were given double technicals.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season, and Powell, averaging 27 points in road games, was never able to take control offensively.

Creighton: The Bluejays ride momentum of the Big East title into the conference tournament after finishing 17-1 at home and improving to 7-2 against Top 25 opponents.

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Seton Hall plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.

Creighton plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.

No. 15 Creighton takes down No. 19 Marquette

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Creighton earned a massive Big East road win by holding off No. 19 Marquette 73-65 on Tuesday night.

Ty-Shon Alexander fought through an early-game throat injury to finish with a team-high 22 points to pace Creighton. The Bluejays did an admirable job defending Marquette star Markus Howard as well. Holding the nation’s leading scorer without a point in the first half, Howard struggled to 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting on the night.

The win keeps the No. 15 Bluejays firmly in the Big East title race. Creighton remains one game behind Seton Hall in the loss column with two weeks to go in the regular season. And with four games left on the schedule, Creighton only plays one game away from home — a winnable game at St. John’s. The regular season closes in Omaha with the Bluejays facing a Pirates team they just beat on the road last week.

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Creighton has gone early-season afterthought to potentially winning one of the toughest top-to-bottom leagues in the country. It’s come with a roster that is continually evolving as the season moves along.

Once transfer forward Denzel Mahoney entered the mix for Creighton the Bluejays turned into a different team. Mahoney became eligible for Creighton after missing the first 10 games of the season after sitting out from Southeast Missouri State.

The 6-foot-5 junior isn’t recognized as one of Creighton’s most talented offensive players. Mahoney only scored nine points and collected five rebounds in the win over Marquette on Tuesday. Alexander, point guard Marcus Zagorowski and veteran shooter Mitchell Ballock are all more gifted offensive weapons than Mahoney.

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But Mahoney gives the Bluejays something they’ve greatly lacked in recent seasons: a junkyard dog who can defend up to all five spots on the floor. In the modern small-ball world of basketball, Mahoney is versatile enough to do damage without anything getting run for him. He’s the Big East equivalent to Draymond Green during the Warriors’ dynasty.

Greg McDermott is known for his offensive-minded approach as Creighton’s coach. The man tailored an entire college offense around his son. Doug McDermott became one of college basketball’s greatest modern scorers.

Creighton teams don’t often feature rugged and physical players like Mahoney. With Mahoney’s added edge, however, Creighton has been one of the best teams in the country after the first month of the season.

The Bluejays can bury you offensively at multiple spots. This team moves the ball as well as anybody in the country. And now Creighton has unique lineup versatility that is very tough to prepare for. Mahoney can play small-ball five and give the Bluejays all sorts of different combinations. It’s helped make Creighton one of the best teams in college basketball that nobody is talking about.

Very quietly, the Bluejays are in position to play themselves for a share of the Big East title with a final home game against Seton Hall.

Kamar Baldwin’s buzzer-beater lifts No. 19 Butler past No. 10 Villanova

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Kamar Baldwin knocked down a buzzer-beating three to lift No. 19 Butler past No. 10 Villanova for a 79-76 win on Wednesday night.

The senior put the game in his hands on the final possession. It worked out for Butler as Baldwin buried a stepback jumper to lift the Bulldogs to the Big East home win.

The win puts Butler firmly in the mix among the Big East’s second-tier group.

Seton Hall still maintains the Big East lead. But the Bulldogs are now a game back of Villanova for second place with Wednesday’s win. Butler is still tied with Creighton, Marquette and Providence in the conference standings. But this is a home win that Butler needed if they had any hopes of potentially claiming a Big East regular-season title.

Perhaps most importantly, this is a huge shot for the struggling Baldwin. The senior is a four-year double-digit scorer who has been a reliable offensive threat for Butler. Senior season has been a different story for Baldwin. Shooting a career-low 40 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range, things haven’t come easy for the Butler star over the past few weeks. The past six games, Baldwin is only shooting 2-for-23 from three-point range.

A buzzer-beating three is a huge confidence boost for one of the most dangerous players in college basketball. And for a Butler team that is trying to regain its footing after a hot start, it’s a great sign to see Baldwin take, and make, a huge shot to win a top-25 matchup.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Kansas and K-State Brawl, TCU’s signature win, Villanova beats Butler

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College basketball had plenty of action on Tuesday night.

But instead of a bevy of upsets and huge top-25 games, the action came in the form of a Kansas/Kansas State brawl and a new bubble team picking up a signature win.

There was also a top-25 matchup in the Big East as Villanova squared off against Butler. 

Kansas/Kansas State brawl erupts at end of rivalry game

The big story of Tuesday night involves Kansas and Kansas State.

This inner-state rivalry lost some steam with the Wildcats in rebuilding mode this season. But as we found out Tuesday, there is still plenty of intensity when these Big 12 rivals take the floor.

At the end of a Jayhawk blowout home win, a brawl started under a basket. Video came from all over the place as Kansas and Kansas State players took swings and even picked up a chair.

It overshadowed a rivalry win for the No. 3 Jayhawks. Suspensions will likely be handed out. These teams also have a return matchup at Kansas State to look forward to on Feb. 29. We’ll hear more about this fight throughout the week.

TCU picks up signature win against No. 18 Texas Tech

During a major season of turmoil where upsets are normal and road wins are nearly impossible, TCU has stayed in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid with a positive 11-5 start.

The Horned Frogs lacked a signature win though.

That changed on Tuesday night with TCU claiming a 65-54 win over No. 18 Texas Tech. Now with a Q1 win on the profile, TCU should make a move up the NET to get in respectable bubble territory.

TCU still has work to do if they want to secure a bid. Only one Q1 win, one Q2 win and a combined 2-5 record in those two quadrants isn’t going to cut it.

But with a 4-2 record in the Big 12, TCU is a team to keep tabs of the next several weeks. After getting absolutely destroyed by an average of 26 points per game the last two losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma, this is a quality bounceback win for the Horned Frogs. And the type of win that can jumpstart a postseason push.

No. 9 Villanova cruises past No. 16 Butler for Big East home win

Tuesday night’s only top-25 clash was in the Big East. Villanova ran past Butler for a 76-61 home win to keep pace with Seton Hall in the Big East standings.

Jermaine Samuels paced five double-figure scorers for Villanova with 20 points.

Big East brutality continued for Butler meanwhile.

The Bulldogs have lost three straight games in conference play. All three losses have come by at least eight points. It’s not only that Butler is losing but they’re playing poorly.

It feels like the Wildcats will once again remain in the Big East title picture this season. If Butler wants to say the same, they’ll need to figure things out quickly to fix its January swoon.