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Louisville lands local four-star 2019 guard

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Louisville continued its hot stretch on the recruiting trail on Saturday as local four-star Class of 2019 guard David Johnson pledged to the Cardinals.

Johnson is the third top-100 prospect to commit to Louisville in the past two weeks as he joins a four-man 2019 recruiting class that should be among the best groups in the country. The 6-foot-4 Johnson is regarded as the No. 98 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2019 national rankings as he comes from nearby Trinity High School.

Previously committed to the old staff at Louisville, head coach Chris Mack and his staff were able to retain Johnson’s commitment, as he joins a potentially loaded recruiting class. With an ability to play both perimeter spots, Johnson should be able to get others involved when he’s playing on the ball while also being able to pick his own spots as a scorer.

Johnson joins four-star guard Josh Nickelberry, four-star wing Samuell Williamson and four-star forward Jae’lyn Withers in the Louisville Class of 2019 recruiting haul. With Mack and his staff getting three top-100 prospects in the past two weeks, Louisville is currently one of the hottest programs in the country when it comes to landing quality commitments.

And even though Louisville has been in the midst of recruiting scandals over the past few years, they still have all of the necessary check marks for a school to consistently recruit elite players. Now that Mack is providing stability at head coach, Louisville plays in an elite conference with elite facilities with one of the best fanbases in the country. We’re quickly finding out that recruits only care about what will help them over the next few years.

Xavier extends Chris Mack’s contract

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On the eve of Chris Mack’s becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach, Xavier has tacked on another year to his contract

Mack and the Musketeers announced a one-year contract extension Tuesday, keeping Mack under contract with the school through 2022-23.

“I am excited about the future of our program and proud to be the head coach of my alma mater,” Mack said in a statement released by the school. “Xavier is a special place. It is especially gratifying to receive the support from the entire Xavier Community and my hometown of Cincinnati.

“We have lofty goals for our basketball program and that ongoing support will be a big key to reaching our goals.”

Xavier is coming off an Elite Eight appearance in the seventh NCAA tournament berth in Mack’s eight seasons at the helm. He enters 2017-18 just 17 wins shy of taking the top spot in Xavier’s record book for most wins. He’s currently 186-91 overall at Xavier.

“There is plenty to celebrate, especially coming off of an Elite Eight season,” Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher said in a statement, “and the future looks even brighter. Chris is clearly the right leader for Xavier and I know that he and his staff are not satisfied. Chris has proven himself as one of the elite coaches in college basketball.”

Without a raise or a change in buyout language or dollars, the extension is pretty standard operating procedure for a coach with the ties to a university and the success that’s been achieved by Mack. He’s going to continue to be floated as a potential candidate to midwestern blue bloods – like he was with Ohio State and Indiana this year – but it keeps negative recruiting about his future to a minimum. Mack has the chops to win anywhere, but if he keeps doing it at this high level at his alma mater, it’s hard to picture anything but the most desirable of jobs prying him away sometime in the future.

Xavier lands grad transfer forward Bernard

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While many of the key contributors to a team that was Villanova’s greatest threat in the Big East return, Xavier has some holes to fill in the rebounding department. With James Farr and Jalen Reynolds both moving on, the Musketeers will have to account for the loss of their top two rebounders as the 2016-17 season approaches. Trevon Blueitt, who averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last season, is back, but others including Norfolk State transfer RaShid Gaston and Sean O’Mara will have to step forward for Chris Mack’s team.

Another option is 6-foot-5 forward Malcolm Bernard. Bernard, who played last season at Florida A&M after spending his first two seasons at Charleston Southern, announced Monday that he will join the Xavier program as a graduate student. He’ll be eligible to compete immediately as a result, with one season of eligibility remaining.

As a redshirt junior at Florida A&M Bernard averaged 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, doing the majority of his damage inside of the arc despite playing at a listed weight of just 195 pounds. Bernard also averaged 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Rattlers in 2015-16. Adding a capable rebounder on the wing will help the Musketeers as they look to not only chase down the reigning national champions but also go further in the NCAA tournament than they did last season.

Xavier will return four starters from a team that won 28 games, and went 14-4 in Big East play, before losing to Wisconsin at the buzzer in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Xavier reserve guard Larry Austin Jr. to transfer

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Thursday morning Xavier head coach Chris Mack announced that sophomore guard Larry Austin Jr. has decided to transfer from the Big East program. The 6-foot-2 guard becomes the second player to decide to transfer since the end of the season, with forward Makinde London being the first.

Austin played just under ten minutes per game this season, averaging 1.8 points and 1.1 assists per contest in a backcourt that included Edmond Sumner, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura. And with all three due to return next season, Austin likely would have found the going tough with regards to earning more playing time.

Xavier is awaiting the decisions of Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds, with both currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process without hiring an agent. Should both return, the Musketeers will be viewed as the biggest threat to reigning national champion Villanova atop the Big East.

Seton Hall beats No. 5 Xavier 87-83 in Big East semifinal

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NEW YORK (AP) Khadeen Carrington had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead Seton Hall to an 87-83 win over fifth-ranked Xavier for the Pirates’ first Big East Tournament title game appearance since 1993, 2 1/2 years before he was born.

Fellow sophomore Isaiah Whitehead added 20 points and eight assists in Friday’s semifinal as third-seeded Seton Hall beat the Musketeers for the second time in less than two weeks.

The Pirates face third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Seton Hall led by as many as 17 points in the first half, beating the Musketeers to loose balls and converting steals into easy baskets. And when Xavier made a second-half run, Whitehead kept answering with big plays.

Angel Delgado scored 15 points for Seton Hall (24-8). Edmond Sumner led the second-seeded Musketeers (27-5) with 21 points.

With the score tied 13-13 just over seven minutes in, Derrick Gordon scored on two straight fast-break layups to spark a 21-4 Seton Hall run. After Carrington hit a jumper, the Pirates got two offensive rebounds on their next possession, with Michael Nzei slamming home the second. Moments later, Gordon’s steal led to a fast-break layup by Carrington, who then hit two consecutive 3-pointers.

Xavier went scoreless for three minutes during the spurt as Seton Hall, which is headed to its first NCAA Tournament in a decade, built a 34-17 lead.

Seton Hall scored 15 points off takeaways in the first half. The Musketeers had more turnovers (12) than field goals (nine) at the break.

Xavier had nine field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half and started to fluster the Pirates with its 1-3-1 zone. But the Musketeers never got within one possession thanks to Whitehead. He hit a 3-pointer after they pulled within five with more than 12 minutes left, and two possessions later, after Xavier had climbed within four, he spun through the lane for another clutch basket.

He then blocked the shot of Sean O’Mara, who is 6 inches taller, as Seton Hall started to pull back away, aided by missed four missed free throws by the Musketeers.

Xavier shot 8 of 30 on 3-pointers.

The Musketeers made a late run and had a chance to pull within four with 21 seconds left, but Kaiser Gates hit 1 of 2 free throws. They then nearly got a steal, but Gordon was able to corral the ball and was fouled.

Double technical fouls were twice called in the second half.

TIP-INS

Seton Hall: Gordon, the Pirates’ lone senior, is their only player who was born before their last Big East final appearance. He had 10 points and three steals Friday. … Seton Hall had a whopping 25 turnovers but shot 51.8 percent from the field and held Xavier to 34.9 percent.

Xavier: Myles Davis went down hard when he got his layup blocked early in the second half, but he came back in after a brief rest. … Actor Bill Murray, whose son Luke is an assistant coach for the Musketeers, again sat behind the bench in an “X” cap. … Xavier was seeking to reach the final for the second straight season.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall faces third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Xavier appears headed to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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.