Having reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last five seasons, the Providence basketball program has begun its preparations for a run at a sixth straight appearance in Italy.
Ed Cooley’s team, which beat the Varese All-Stars by a final score of 113-46 on Thursday, was back in action Saturday with the Adriatic Sea Dragons serving as the opposition. And during one sequence freshman guard David Duke Jr., part of a highly-anticipated recruiting class, showed exactly why so many have been high on the Providence native since he made his commitment to stay home.
Duke stole a pass in the backcourt and then took off towards the basket, with a backpedaling defender serving as “resistance.” The end result was a lesson in what can happen when you wind up underneath the basket, and the man with the ball is a high-level finisher.
Much is expected from Providence’s four-member freshman class, but there’s plenty to expect from the returnees as well. Alpha Diallo is one of the Big East’s best wing talents, and contributors such as Kalif Young, Nate Watson and Makai Ashton-Langford appear poised to take a step forward in 2018-19.
Add in the return of Emmitt Holt, whose minutes are being limited in Italy after an abdominal issue sidelined him for all of last season, and Providence has the tools needed to not only make another NCAA tournament appearance but contend in the Big East as well.
While arch rival Duke is currently north of the border, playing three exhibition games in Canada as it gets prepared for the upcoming season, North Carolina has been in The Bahamas. Friday night the Tar Heels took on the Bahamas All-Stars, and despite some issues with turnovers Roy Williams’ squad picked up the win by a 112-91 final score.
The game’s best highlight came in the final seconds, as junior point guard Seventh Woods drove the lane and threw down an incredible one-handed dunk. Woods’ landing wasn’t great, as he was knocked off-balance while in mid-air, but he was fine health-wise.
Woods, who finished the game with 11 points, three assists and four turnovers, will be a key player for North Carolina this season. North Carolina has to account for the loss of its two best playmakers from last year’s group in Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, making the development of players such as Woods and freshman Coby White critical with regards to the Tar Heels’ hopes both within the ACC and nationally.
Woods missed 17 games last season due to a broken bone in his right foot, and he played sparingly once healthy, so these in-game opportunities are big for him regardless of the level of competition. It should be noted that the Bahamas All-Stars beat North Carolina four years ago, with a young Deandre Ayton starring for the home team.
As a team North Carolina turned the ball over 27 times Friday night, and taking better care of the basketball will be a point of emphasis for the Tar Heels in their second and final exhibition game of the trip Saturday afternoon.
Video credits: 10th Year Seniors, Inside Carolina
Creighton did not get off to the best of starts Tuesday night, trailing by as many as 20 points with Butler making eight of its first 12 three-pointers.
Junior guard Khyri Thomas did his best to provide a spark, driving the lane and then dunking on two Butler defenders.
Thomas’ dunk sparked a 12-4 run to end the half, trimming the Bluejays’ deficit to a slightly more manageable 12 points.
Having won its last five games entering Tuesday’s matchup with Maryland, Nebraska is looking to continue its run of good results and ultimately play itself into the NCAA tournament.
One of the standouts for the Huskers this season has been junior guard James Palmer Jr., and during the first half Tuesday night Nebraska’s leading scorer threw down a poster-worthy dunk.
Give Maryland’s Kevin Huerter credit for attempting to block the dunk attempt, but his missed swipe led to his being on the receiving end of an emphatic one-handed finish.
Coming off of a sophomore season in which he earned second team All-Southland Conference honors, Stephen F. Austin forward TJ Holyfield has been even better as a junior. Entering Tuesday’s game at Missouri, Holyfield was averaging 15.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, shooting 57.9 percent from the field.
Holyfield’s athleticism was on display during the second half of Tuesday’s game, as he threw down a powerful one-handed dunk on a late to rotate Terrence Phillips.
Give Phillips credit for making an attempt to block Holyfield’s dunk, but given the difference in height anything less than a foul was not going to suffice.
Playing without leading scorer Andrew Jones, who’s out of the lineup after suffering a fractured wrist, Texas got off to a slow start in the first half of its game against Michigan Tuesday night.
Freshman forward Jericho Sims did his best to provide a spark, as the 6-foot-9 Minnesota native rose above Michigan’s Duncan Robinson to throw down a vicious alley-oop dunk.
Sims has a couple inches on Robinson in the height department, and the running start Sims managed to get rolling to the basket didn’t help Robinson’s chances of stopping the dunk either.