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National Prep School Invitational Day 2: Wenyen Gabriel, Lauri Markkanen, Travis Atson
CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 8: Hamidou Diallo during the 2015 Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 8, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour) (Ned Dishman)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The second day of the National Prep School Invitational continued as planned despite a six-inch snowfall.

The day was highlighted by the improved play of the Helsinki Basketball Academy as they rebounded from an opening day loss to defeat Wilbraham & Monson, 97-66. Lauri Markannen, a 7-foot Arizona signee pictured above, continued his strong play in leading the Finland squad with 24 points. He hit one three-pointer, had a nice block on Kentucky signee Wenyen Gabriel (17 points) and showed a very versatile game. Markannen will be an interesting complement with Dusan Ristic in next year's Wildcat lineup.

Helsinki has one of the tallest teams seen at the event recently with seven players 6-8 or taller. 6-9 Samuli Nieminen (6 points) committed to play at Stephen F. Austin while 6-8 senior Joonas Tahvanainen is injured and will not play at the event. 6-10 senior Remu Raitanen is thin and may need some time to contribute at a mid-major level but showed nice point forward skills in scoring 16 points. Fiifi Aidoo (9 points) is a 6-3 combo-guard has high major talent with a 6-10 wingspan. Of the underclassmen 6-2 soph PG Edon Maxhuni has scored in double figures in both games (22 and 10) and looks to be a solid prospect. Fellow sophomores 6-7 Elias Valtonen (11 points) and 6-11 Hannes Polla (10 points) both look to have a potential to be high major players. 6-11 Tuukka Jaakkola is only a freshman, shows some skill already and is still growing.

6-5 Tulsa recruit Tyler Atson showed a nice all around game in leading Notre Dame Prep to an exciting 60-58 win over IMG with 21 points. DiMitrik Trice led IMG with 17 points while Florida State signed Jonathan Isaac added 16. Coastal Academy's Dachon Burke continued to show well with 17 points in a 65-52 win over Lee Academy. Burke had 21 in yesterday's game against Notre Dame and shows mid-major skills despite drawing no offers yet. 5-11 Fard Muhammed (26 points), 6-2 MaCio Teague (24) and 6-7 Australian Kouat Noi (16) led a strong Montverde Prep to a 91-43 romp over Canada's Orangeville Prep. All seniors, Muhammed and Teague both have low major offers and can do somewhat better than that while Noi can excel at a MM+ level with LSU, Wichita State and VCU expressing interest.

5-10 PG Marcus Floyd helped Sunrise Christian to a 84-77 win over Cushing Academy with 22 points. Idaho and Maine have expressed the most interest in Floyd. ESPN Top 100 recruits Miles Powell (#79-Seton Hall, 20 points) and Matthew Moyer (#57-Syracuse, 16 points) led South Kent over New Hampton 63-59. 5-11 G Tremont Waters (#34, 2017 recruit) added 17 points for the winners and was named the player of the game.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie and three assistants were on hand to watch recruits 7-2 2017 commit Zach Brown and 6-8 2016 commit Mamadou Diarra of Putnam Science. Brown scored 12 points and Diarra 11 in Putnam's 79-75 win over Hill Academy (Canada). 6-5 Hamadou Diallo #14 ESPN 2017) led the winners with 22 points. The UConn coaches also watched 2017 Cushing Academy PG Makai Ashton-Lankford.

The event continues with nine games Saturday.

Carl Berman is Managing Partner of NetScouts Basketball.

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Tags: Recruiting

Florida State Commit Jonathan Isaac Considering NBA Draft, But May Not Be Eligible
(Jon Lopez/Nike)

Florida State commit Jonathan Isaac of Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy is considering entering the NBA Draft this year, but it turns out he may not be eligible until 2017.

"Yes I am considering it," the 6-foot-10 forward told SNY.tv, confirming comments he initially made to SI.com. "I'm not 100 percent. I'm gathering information and will decide."

Since the one-and-done rule was adopted in 2005, no high school player has gone directly to the NBA.

Isaac turns 19 on Oct. 3 and would be eligible age-wise, but may not fufill all the NBA criteria.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com currently has Isaac projected at No. 12 in 2017 and said Isaac is not eligible for 2016 because he won't be a year removed from his graduating class.

Under a new rule adopted this year, players can test the waters by participating in the Chicago Combine and hold an NBA workout but still return to college if they're not deemed ready for the NBA.

Interestingly, IMG director Dan Barto told SI.com that Skal Labissiere's poor performance this year at Kentucky has figured into Isaac's thought process.

"I honestly think this is a game-changer," Barto said. "The high school kids are going to have to make a decision. Do I go to college and be exposed like Skal Labissiere at Kentucky or move down the draft charts like Dedric Lawson at Memphis and fall off the radar like a lot of the kids that graduated last year? Or should I be Emmanuel Mudiay and go to China or go to an IMG and be the seventh pick?"

As it turns out, Isaac may have to wait until 2017 to get drafted.

"He is a senior," IMG coach John Mahoney told SNY.tv. "I just asked him. He will be at Florida State."

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Tags: NBA Draft , Florida State University , Adam Zagoria

Postseason Ban Unlikely to Impact NBA Stock for Louisville Players
Damion Lee's NBA Draft stock won't likely be impacted by Louisville's self-imposed postseason ban. (Michael Thomas Shroyer / USA Today)

Louisville's self-imposed postseason ban is unlikely to impact the NBA Draft stock of its top players, several experts told SNY.tv on Friday.

"Not at all," Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com told SNY.tv. "Playing in the ACC, everyone has seen them against the best competition in college basketball."

The same sentiment was echoed by one NBA executive.

"They have played enough and have 9 games remaining to help solidify their draft status," the executive said.

Chinanu Onuaku, a 6-foot-10 sophomore with two years of eligibility remaining, is projected as the No. 39 pick in the 2016 Draft by DraftExpress.com, while 6-6 small forward Damion Lee, a graduate transfer who won't get to play in the postseason after coming over from Drexel, sits at No. 55.

"Lee is a prospect if he continues like he played scoring 24 against the No. 2-ranked team [North Carolina]," one veteran NBA scout said. "He will be fine. He has had a very good season to date."

A Baltimore native, Lee is averaging 17.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists for the Cardinals (18-4).

Onuaku is averaging 10.2 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Trey Lewis, a 6-2 graduate transfer from Cleveland State, is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists but is not considered an NBA prospect.

"Lee is a possible 2nd-rounder," the NBA exec said. "Lewis is probably not getting drafted."

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Lee and Lewis told him before the season began that they had dreams of "going far" in the NCAA Tournament.

Now they won't get to play a single game in it.

"Damion and Trey have nothing to look forward to right now." Pitino said Friday. "They were hit over the head with a sledgehammer."

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Tags: NBA Draft , University of Louisville , Adam Zagoria

Louisville Self-Imposes a Postseason Ban
Louisville will self-impose a postseason ban. (Jamie Rhodes / USA Today)

Louisville has announced a one-year postseason ban for its men's basketball team amid ongoing investigations into a sex scandal in which an escort alleged that a former staffer paid her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players.

University President James Ramsey said Friday at a news conference that an investigation by the school has revealed that some violations did occur. Ramsey said the ban is for all postseason tournaments, including the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments.

Ramsey said he received the latest results of the investigation on Thursday, but noted the review of the allegation is continuing.

"We found out yesterday that we had a problem," said athletic director Tom Jurich, adding that university wanted to deal with the findings as quickly as possible.

Men's basketball coach Rick Pitino was stunned by the university's decision.

"This is a punishment I never thought would have happened this season," said Pitino, who also attended the news conference with Ramsey, Jurich and former NCAA investigator Chuck Smrt. "This is as harsh as anything I've ever seen in college basketball."

The Cardinals (18-4, 7-2 ACC) are currently are ranked No. 19 and scheduled to play Boston College on Saturday. They would have been a lock for a tournament berth if they had not won the league title.

The 63-year-old Pitino has denied knowledge of allegations in a book by Katina Powell that former director of men's basketball operations Andre McGee paid $10,000 for 22 shows performed by her and other strippers, including three of her daughters.

Powell's allegations in her tell-all book rocked the Louisville community and led to four separate investigations into Pitino's program.

Louisville notified the NCAA about the allegations in late August and immediately launched its own investigation. The athletic department hired Smrt of The Compliance Group to look into the allegations.

Smrt said Friday that the action taken by the university is "a very significant step" considering the investigation is ongoing.

Within a week following the book's initial release, campus police chief Wayne Hall announced that his department would work with Louisville Metro Police and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to review the allegations for possible criminal conduct. The University of Louisville Foundation announced the hiring of a law firm to review the allegations two days later.

Powell's book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen" was released online Oct. 3 and in hardcover 17 days later. On Oct. 20, Powell said in interviews with ESPN's "Outside The Lines" that she had no proof that Pitino knew about the shows that took place in the players' Billy Minardi Hall dormitory from 2010-14.

But Powell said that with "a boatload" of recruits and dancers, "loud music, alcohol, security, cameras" in a campus dormitory, "how could Rick not know?"

The NCAA hasn't accepted coaches' explanations that they didn't know about violations or illegal activities. The sports' governing body has at times viewed ignorance as a sign of lack of institutional control in penalizing programs.

College athletics' governing body has recently cited Hall of Famers such as Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and SMU's Larry Brown, suspending both coaches nine games each for violations they contended occurred outside of their view.

Powell has said many of the shows took place in the players' Billy Minardi Hall dormitory, which Pitino named after his late brother-in-law who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Powell wrote that McGee paid her $10,000 plus tips during that period for her and dancers to strip and have sex with Louisville recruits and some of their fathers, along with some Cardinals players.

Pitino said McGee denied the allegations when brought to his attention in August, and he said other assistants weren't aware of the activities described in the 104-page book.

As successful as the defense-minded Pitino has been at winning college basketball games, he has also been at the center of some embarrassing episodes of sexual misconduct.

The first occurred in 2010 when Karen Sypher, the ex-wife of former assistant Tim Sypher, was convicted of trying to extort money from Pitino to keep secret their 2003 tryst on a restaurant table. She is serving a seven-year sentence for the crime in a Florida prison.

Last February, Pitino dismissed senior guard Chris Jones from the team just before his arrest for rape and sodomy of two women in a campus dorm. A grand jury declined to indict Jones and two other men in the incident.

The same year that Sypher was convicted, McGee allegedly had begun hiring Powell to dance for recruits. McGee left the program in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City, which placed him on paid administrative leave on Oct. 2.

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press

Tags: University of Louisville

CSNGJAgWcAAmT31 PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Suffield Academy's Miye Oni set the National Prep School Invitational scoring record on the first day of action at Rhode Island College.

The 6-foot-7 Yale commit, an obvious recruiting steal, scored 52 points breaking Shabazz Napier's previous record of 41 points set in 2010 for Lawrence Academy. Oni scored 34 points in the second half and connected on 12 three-pointers in the contest, another event record.

Oni's team, Suffield topped Wilbraham & Monson 88-65 despite 30 points from Kentucky signee, 6-9 Wenyen Gabriel. Gabriel displayed his varied skills in the loss, scoring from all three levels, and on one play ran full speed and chased down and blocked a lay-up at the rim. The NBA scouts in attendance were impressed.

Micah Potter, a 6-9 forward, was impressive in Montverde Prep's 68-65 win over the Masters School. The Ohio State commit scored 20 points, was solid rebounding on both ends and displayed strong passing skills. Jonathan Isaac, the 6-10 Florida State recruit and top-rate 2016 recruit at the event (#13 ESPN), showcased his length and athleticism in IMG's 78-67 win over Spire Institute. Isaac scored 25 points, mostly inside and in transition. He'll contribute immediately for the Seminoles. 6-3 Tyrell Gumbs-Frater, who has interest from Kansas State, was impressive in defeat with 28 points.

Villianova-bound 6-10 Omari Spellman was the MOP of last year's NPSI after he outplayed Orangeville Prep's Thon Maker. This year Spellman once again led his team, this time St. Thomas More, to a 71-67 victory over Orangeville Prep. Spellman, who scored 20 points, showed a greater skill variety than Orangeville's 6-9 Khalif Young. Young, who sports offers from USC, Texas, Providence and other high majors scored 16 points, all inside, while Spellman showcased an improved step-out game.

The NPSI, due to its association with NetScouts Basketball, has been in the forefront in bringing international teams to the event. This year is no different with four Canadian teams, GB Academy from Prague, Czech Republic and the Helsinki Basketball Academy of Finland participating. The Helsinki club, run by ex-NBA player and Utah Ute Hanno Mottola, feature 7-foot Lauri Markkanen. Markannen, headed to Arizona and viewed by Wildcat Associate Head Coach Joe Pasternak, scored 19 points in a 85-76 loss to St. Andrew's, Markkanen needs to get stronger but showed a variety of skills including ball skills, shooting with range and passing. 6-10 uncommitted 2016 recruit Terrell Brown showed an improved game in leading the winners with 20 points.

Prague's GB Academy earned a 64-56 win over St. John's NW Military Academy (WI) behind 22 points from 6-4 Milos Jovic, a 2016 recruit from Serbia.

The NPSI continues on today, with ten games, and is on schedule despite the snow.

Carl Berman is Managing Partner of NetScouts Basketball.

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Tags: Carl Berman , Omari Spellman , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

Adam Zagoria and Josh Newman deliver a fresh episode The 4 Quarters Podcast, covering college hoops, recruiting, and the NBA for SNY.tv.

First up, Fox Sports 1 Analyst Tarik Turner returns to the show for a full chat about everything going on in the Big East, including a surging Seton Hall and a struggling St. John's. Then, Archbishop Stepinac coach Pat Massaroni calls in to discuss the recruitment of Jordan Tucker and Aundre Hyatt.

Later, Adam and Josh cover college storylines out of Kansas, Rutgers, and the Ivy league, and then wrap it up with a recruiting round up and an SNY Invitational recap.

Rundown:

1st Quarter: Tarik Turner (01:05)
2nd Quarter: Pat Massaroni (10:20)
3rd Quarter: College Storylines (17:40)
4th Quarter: SNY Invitational and Recruiting (23:50)

Tags: 4 Quarters Podcast , Adam Zagoria , Josh Newman

Oklahoma Now the Favorite to Win NCAA Title; Buddy Hield Favorite for Player of the Year
Feb 2, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) reacts after a made three point shot against the TCU Horned Frogs during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports (Mark D. Smith)

Oklahoma is now the favorite to win the NCAA Championship and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield is the favorite to win Player of the Year honors.

 

Odds to win the 2015-16 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship (Teams in red have longer odds, teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)         

1/7/16               Current Odds (2/2/16)

Oklahoma                     9/1                    6/1

North Carolina               10/1                 15/2                 

Iowa                             50/1                  12/1

Kansas                         15/2                  12/1

Maryland                       16/1                  12/1

Michigan State              17/2                  12/1

Duke                            12/1                  14/1

Louisville                      16/1                  14/1

Villanova                       22/1                  16/1

Kentucky                      14/1                  20/1

Xavier                           14/1                  20/1

Iowa State                     28/1                  25/1

Purdue                          16/1                  25/1

Virginia                         14/1                  25/1

Wichita State                 75/1                  25/1

Miami FL                       28/1                  28/1

Texas A&M                   50/1                  28/1

West Virginia                 75/1                  28/1

Arizona                         28/1                  33/1

Indiana                          50/1                  33/1

LSU                              16/1                  33/1

Texas                           100/1                33/1

Oregon                         100/1               40/1                      

Providence                   33/1                  40/1     

UConn                          33/1                  40/1

Syracuse                      150/1                50/1

 

Odds to win Naismith College Player of the Year

Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)                        1/2

Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)           13/4

Ben Simmons (LSU)                              15/2

Grayson Allen (Duke)                             10/1

Kris Dunn (Providence)                          10/1

Jakob Poeltl (Utah)                                20/1

Tags: Buddy Hield , Oklahoma , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

St. John's Lands German Forward Richard Freudenberg

St. John's added to its 2016 recruiting haul on Thursday when it landed a pledge from Richard Freudenberg, a 6-foot-9, 195-pound German forward who visited St. John's in August.

"Playing with a lot international and European guys and playing for one of my biggest idols [St. John's coach Chris Mullin] was a huge factor," Freudenberg told SNY.tv on Thursday. "I will bring a versatile skillset with good shooting and a little bit of everything."

Freudenberg said he plans to play the European Championships and then come to New York after that.

St. John's already has two commits in the Class of 2016 in Brooklyn Thomas Jefferson guard Shamorie Ponds and Hutchinson (KS) Community College wing Bashir Ahmed. They remain involved for Word of God (N.C.) Academy guard Rawle Alkins, who took his official visit this past weekend, and 7-footer Thon Maker of Athlete Institute in Ontario.

ESPN international basketball expert Fran Fraschilla believes Freudenberg, who averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in the 2015 European U18 Championships, can help St. John's.

"He's a top-50 level recruit with a good 6-foot-8 athletic frame and ability to shoot the ball," Fraschilla said Thursday. "He still has to physically mature but should play right away."

Fraschilla said he could play at Duke or Kentucky "the way Derek Willis has at Kentucky."

"He has some NBA potential," he added of Freudenberg.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com also believes Freudenberg is a pro prospect.

"He's got great size for the position," Givony told Scout. He's grown. I think he's 6-9 now. His body has filled out. He's on the skinny side. It's going to fill out and it's going to take a few years and I think that's something they can really help him with. Also he's very athletic. He can really get up and down the floor. He can get up around the rim. He moves well and he's got a beautiful stroke that is absolutely picture perfect. He can come off screens, gets it off quick and can shoot off the dribble."

"He competes on defense and he's going to have to get stronger and more experienced playing against better competition. But I consider him a NBA prospect. I don't know how quickly it'll happen for him, but I'll be watching very closely."

Fraschilla also recently said he likes injured St. John's freshman big man Yankuba Sima and believes they have a nice nucleus going forward with guys like Sima, Federico Mussini, Kassoum Yakwe, Malik Ellison, Marcus LoVett and their incoming recruits.

"It's the equivalent of an NBA expansion team," Fraschilla said of St. John's. "They have already put a number of pieces together and it looks like it will be a much improved roster a year from now."

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Tags: Recruiting , St. John's , Adam Zagoria

Blair Academy's Turner, Pugh, Gak Drawing Plenty of High-Major Interest

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Blair Academy's talented Class of 2017 trio of point guard Matt Turner, wing Kodye Pugh, and big man Deng Gak checked in to provide a recruiting update Wednesday night fresh off of a hard-fought 54-41 loss to undefeated St. Anthony's, the No. 4 team in the nation according to USA Today.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy was in the house, along with assistants from Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Monmouth, Wagner and FDU.

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Turner, a transfer from Trumbull (CT) High School, said Maryland, Providence, Georgetown, and Virginia have all expressed interest lately.

"I've been to Georgetown," said Turner, who finished with 11 points against St. Anthony's despite being hampered with foul trouble. "I plan on going to Maryland. I plan on going to Providence. I'm just getting the process started."

Turner also has a visit scheduled for Rutgers in two weeks and for Providence sometime in March.

Pugh, the smooth 6-7 lefty who transferred to Blair from The Boys' Latin School of Maryland, took a visit to Florida just last weekend.  

"It was a fun experience, and it was nice being down there," Pugh said of his time in Gainesville. "It's a family-oriented place, and they really care about each other. I saw when I went to the girls' game [Sunday vs. Kentucky] that everybody there is like one big happy family."

Pugh has been on Georgetown's campus multiple times, too.

"I love their style of play," Pugh said of the Hoyas' program. "They have a long leash, so they like to get up-and-down the floor. And they play hard, I like that. They grind."

In addition to Florida and Georgetown, Pugh has recently heard from Georgia Tech and Stanford. He has a visit set for Stanford over spring break.

Pugh exploded for a personal 5-0 run on Wednesday midway through the second quarter, nailing a three-pointer from the right wing before catching a fast-break alley-oop from Turner the next trip down the floor. The spurt forced St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley to call a timeout immediately, though Pugh was relatively quiet the rest of the game.

"I kind of slowed down a bit [after that]," the junior admitted. "I was less aggressive in the second half…Overall, for myself, I just need to be more aggressive. That's just something I need to get over."

As for the 6-11 Gak, he has been in touch with Duke lately and is looking forward to a visit to Durham, though no date has been set.

Gak was born in Egypt, grew up in Australia, and came over to Blair Academy just this season. The center, who showcases elite skills as a rim protector, said that Providence is the latest school to extend an offer.

He also holds offers from SMU, Minnesota, Seton Hall and Cincinnati.

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Tags: Blair Academy , Deng Gak , Kodye Pugh , Matt Turner , Mike McCurry , Recruiting , St. Anthony's

Rutgers, St. John's Both Lose to Fall to 0-10 in Conference
Freshman guard Corey Sanders went for 39 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the loss to Xavier. (William Hauser / USA Today)

Rutgers and St. John's both lost on Wednesday night and both teams are now 0-10 in their respective conferences -- the Big Ten and the Big East.

Neither team has won since 2015.

Playing at home, Rutgers lost a triple-overtime thriller to Illinois, 110-101, despite Corey Sanders going off for 39 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in 51 minutes.

Rutgers (6-17, 0-10 Big Ten) has now dropped 24 straight conference games dating to a win over Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2015.

"I'm proud of my guys," Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan said, according to the Asbury Park Press. "From individual performances, we were magnificent. We said we needed everyone, all of our top seven guys to play at a high level, and we didn't get that again. For us to get a win in this league, all seven guys have to play at the highest talent level that we have."

***

In Cincinnati, St. John's fell to No. 6 Xavier, 90-83.

St. John's (7-16, 0-10) hasn't won since Dec. 13. The Red Storm's 13-game losing streak matches Delaware for the longest active one in Division I.

"That was a winning performance," coach Chris Mullin said. "It's not going to show in the win-loss column, but that's winning basketball. I'm proud of my team."

Read the game story here.

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Coach K back at Work 1 Day After Missing Duke-Ga Tech game

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was back at work one day after missing his first game in more than 20 years.

School spokesman Jon Jackson said Wednesday night that the Hall of Fame coach worked earlier that day, is feeling better and expects to resume his normal schedule Thursday.

Krzyzewski wasn't with the Blue Devils for their 80-71 victory at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, staying in Durham on the advice of Duke University Hospital doctors who checked him out after he felt ill following the team meal Monday night. Associate head coach Jeff Capel coached the Devils in that game.

"To be honest, I was nervous," Capel said, according to Duke. "It was great. Our staff was great and we gave the players confidence to do what they needed to do."

Krzyzewski - the winningest men's coach in Division I history - turns 69 on Feb. 13. It marked the first Duke game he had missed since he was out for the final 19 games in 1994-95 due to back surgery and exhaustion.

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Unbeaten in Ivy League, Columbia Shooting for First NCAA Tourney Berth Since 1968

NEW YORK -- There may come a day when the Ivy League basketball championship is settled with a postseason tournament.

And when that day comes, Columbia head coach Kyle Smith will be a happy man.

"I just think it would be a great event to showcase our guys that pay their way to go to school," Smith told me Wednesday at practice at Columbia's Levien Gym. "It would be a great event."

But until that time comes, the Ivy League remains the only conference in Division 1 that doesn't determine its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a playoff, making every contest in the league's 14-game schedule critical.

On Friday, Columbia (15-6, 4-0 Ivy League) will play one of its biggest games in nearly 50 years when it visits Yale (13-5, 4-0) in a game that will be shown on Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m. Yale has won eight straight, while Columbia is riding a six-game winning streak.

The Lions, who are 4-0 for the first time since 1994, haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1968. On the wall in Smith's office hangs a framed New York Times clipping from March 6, 1968 with the headline, "Columbia Trounces Princeton, 92-74, for Ivy Title and Berth in N.C.A.A."

Jim McMillan, a 6-foot-5 forward out of Brooklyn Thomas Jefferson who went on to become the 13th pick in the 1970 NBA Draft, went for 37 points in Columbia's victory in that game.

"The great thing about [Friday's game] is you have two undefeated teams, both 4-0 in the Ivies and it's a great venue," said former Fordham and Hofstra coach Tom Pecora, who will call the game for FSI. "Yale's one of the cathedrals of college basketball. Five o'clock tip on Friday, I think the place will be jumping and a good number of Columbia people will be coming up to enjoy the game as well. So I think it's going to be a great atmosphere."

There's still a long ways to go, but Columbia stars Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg would love to help New York City's Ivy League school make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly 50 years.

"Definitely, yeah, that's the goal every team has and my individual and personal goal as well, to play in the NCAA Tournament before I graduate," said Lo, a 6-3 senior from Berlin averaging 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Lo, whose mother is German and father is from Senegal, was recruited to Columbia out of Wilbraham & Monson Academy (MA), a prep school that currently features 6-10 Kentucky commit Wenyen Gabriel.

Lo had offers from Siena and Coastal Carolina coming out of prep school, but chose Columbia because it "was most interested."

Now several NBA scouts have come through the Morningside Heights campus to check on Lo, who scored 14 points against the Spanish National Team while playing for Germany last summer at the World University Games.

"Of course, that's the goal, that's the dream [to play in the NBA]," Lo said.

Still, for now Lo is just enjoying the ride.

On Saturday, he and the other seniors experienced their first win at Harvard when fellow senior Alex Rosenberg drained a buzzer-beating jumper to give Columbia a 55-54 win over the Crimson.

"People kind of look at me [on campus] and stare but nothing too different," said Rosenberg, a 6-7 native of Short Hills, N.J. who is really enjoying this season after sitting out all of last year with a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Rosenberg withdrew from Columbia for the year because if he had stayed in school, he would've lost a year of eligibility because Ivy League rules do not allow players to redshirt. He interned at a wealth management firm in Midtown Manhattan.

Entering this season, Rosenberg could've transferred and spent his fifth year somewhere else, but instead opted to return to Columbia.

"He could've done that but he wanted to come back here so I'm always appreciative," Smith said. "It really didn't pop into his head, he wanted to finish his career as a Columbia guy."

Now Rosenberg, like Lo, has visions of the NCAA Tournament.

"It's something you always want to think about in the back of your mind but this game is everything on Friday," Rosenberg said. "We're treating it like we have one game this weekend. We know that this first game means a lot. Once we're done with that, then we'll move on to the next one, but Yale's a tough opponent and obviously they're 4-0 as well."

The two teams are slated to meet again on March 5 -- the final day of the season -- at Levien.

And because there is no conference tournament, it could end up coming down to that final game for a spot in the tournament.

A place Columbia hasn't been since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

"Gotta win the league," Smith said. "Gotta find a way to win the league. It's a 14-game tournament, as they say."

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With Addition of Trey Lyles, Kentucky Has 6 Players in All-Star Weekend
(Jeffrey Swinger / USA Today)

With the addition of Trey Lyles to the Rising Stars Challenge over All-Star Weekend, Kentucky now has six former players participating in the weekend.

No college has more than two representatives in the NBA All-Star Game.

Lyles, the 12th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, will replace injured World Team selection Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls in the Rising Stars Challenge in Toronto.

Mirotic, a second-year forward from Montenegro, is sidelined after having an appendectomy and a hematoma removal.  

Lyles is averaging 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 18.1 minutes in 45 games. 

The 6-10 Lyles becomes the third Canadian on the World Roster, joining Dwight Powell of the Dallas Mavericks and Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Former Kentucky players DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and John Wall were selected for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game as reserves, while Karl-Anthony Towns and Nerlens Noel were already named to the Rising Stars Challenge.

Towns, the New Jersey native, was also named NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January, and is a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, along with Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.

"Our goal is not just to help guys get in the league," Wildcats coach John Calipari said last year. "We want guys to become All-Stars. ... Our goal would be to say, 'Hey, half the NBA All-Stars started with us.'"

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5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas Says There's a Place in the NBA for 5-foot-9 Tyler Ulis
Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas believes there's a place in the NBA for his fellow diminutive guard Tyler Ulis. (Randy Sartin / USA Today)

NEW YORK -- At 5-foot-9, Isaiah Thomas knows a thing or two about being considered too short for the NBA.

Thomas was the "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2011 NBA Draft, when he went 60th to the Sacramento Kings.

Among the 59 guys taken ahead of Thomas that year were Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall pick; Jimmer Fredette at No. 10; Josh Harrelson at No. 45; and Josh Selby at No. 49.

Five years later, Thomas went for 20 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in a 97-89 Celtics win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Thomas entered the game averaging team-bests of 21.5 points and 6.6 assists.

Williams, now a reclamation project with the Knicks, managed 6 points and 2 rebounds in the loss.

Thomas' career arc could be instructive for another 5-foot-9 guard currently in college.

Kentucky sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard, is also under-sized and will probably get overlooked by some NBA franchises.

He's currently projected at No. 48 in 2016 by DraftExpress.com.

"They probably will, they sleep on all small guards," Thomas said of Ulis. "But whenever you get that opportunity and that chance, you gotta take full advantage of it."

Anybody watching college basketball on the regular knows about Ulis. He's averaging 16.1 points, 6.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds on the season. In Tuesday's 84-77 loss at Tennessee, Ulis went for 20 points, 5 assists and 1 turnover.

Asked if he thinks Ulis' game will translate to the NBA -- whether he goes this year or another -- Thomas said he has no doubt.

"For small guys, I think it translates even better in the NBA than college just because the floor's more open," he said. "It gives you more space to create and if he could driblbe-drive and shoot the ball, l think he's going to have a spot in this league."

Thomas said Kentucky coach John Calipari asked him to reach out to Ulis before he pledged to Kentucky to offer encouragement.

"I spoke to him before he got to Kentucky," said Thomas, who played at Washington. "Coach Calipari wanted me to reach out to him though text and I talked to him a little bit."

And his message?

"Just don't back down from anybody," Thomas told Ulis. "Take what's yours and outwork everybody and have fun with it."

Ulis has done just that at Kentucky, emerging as the team's top player regardless of size.

And whether he heads to the NBA this year or later, Thomas believes Ulis will thrive.

"Yep, all the small guys stick together," he said. "So hopefully he's the next one."

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Coach K to Sit Out Georgia Tech Game

One day after Duke fell out of The Associated Press top 25 for the first time since 2007, the Blue Devils were dealt some more bad news.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will miss Tuesday's game against Georgia Tech and associate head coach Jeff Capel will run the show.

"After the team meal last evening, he was feeling under the weather and stayed back in Durham, where he was evaluated at Duke University Hospital and directed by his doctors to remain home," the school said in a statement. "Associate head coach Jeff Capel will coach the team in tonight's game at Georgia Tech. Coach Krzyzewski is expected to return to the team soon."

Capel went 175-110 (.614) as the head coach at VCU and Oklahoma.

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Knicks' Porzingis, Wolves' Towns Named NBA Rookies of the Month

The Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in January. 

Twe two players,heavy favorites for Rookie of the Year honors, earned the award for the third consecutive month.

Porzingis ranked fourth among all first-year players in scoring (15.3 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.2 rpg) in January. He also tied Towns for the rookie lead in blocked shots (1.63 bpg) and paced the East's first-year players in three-point field goal percentage (37.5). Porzingis posted four point-rebound double-doubles, including a 28-point, 11-rebound performance in a 100-99 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 8. He scored at least 12 points in 13 straight games from Jan. 3-26.

Towns, the former No. 1 pick out of Kentucky and St. Joe's-Metuchen (N.J.), was the only first-year player to average a double-double in January, with 16.9 points (third among all rookies) and 10.9 rebounds (tops among all rookies), and he shot 53.5 percent from the field and 87.2 percent from the free throw line. In the final seven games of the month, Towns recorded six double-doubles and averaged 22.7 points and 12.6 rebounds. On Jan. 20, Towns finished with 27 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks in a 106-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the only NBA player to reach those totals in a game this season.

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At 0-9, Rutgers and St. John's Both Seeking First League Win
(Anthony Gruppuso / USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK -- The calendar has flipped to February and Rutgers and St. John's both still find themselves searching for their first conference victories.

Will either or both get at least one league win this year? Or will one or both limp the rest of the way before bottoming out at 0-18?

Let's start with Rutgers, which is 6-16 overall and 0-9 in the Big Ten in coach Eddie Jordan's third year as head coach.

The Scarlet Knights are down to seven scholarship players and haven't won since a Dec. 28 game against UMass-Lowell. That was way back in 2015.

Next up for Rutgers is Wednesday's home game with Illinois (10-12, 2-7), a team that has lost four of five.

After that the Scarlet Knights visit Nebraska (12-10, 4-5), host Ohio State (14-9, 6-4), visit Illinois and host Penn State (11-11, 2-7).

They play two of their final four games against Minnesota, which is actually worse off than Rutgers at the moment at 6-16, 0-10 in the league.

If Rutgers can't take out Illinois or Penn State at home, it may come down to that March 5 game against Richard Pitino's Gophers on the last day of the regular season.

Looking ahead, Rutgers did just land its third pledge in the Class of 2016 in European forward Issa Thiam, but it should be noted that the New Jersey papers have already discussed the possibility of Rutgers buying Jordan out, which would cost $2.065 million before April 23.

At St. John's, first-year coach Chris Mullin has struggled this season without point guard Marcus LoVett and recently lost big man Yankuba Sima to a hand injury.

Utilizing virtually an entirely new roster, the Red Storm are 7-15 overall, 0-9 in the Big East and have lost 12 straight.

Like Rutgers, their last victory came back in 2015 when they beat Syracuse on Dec. 13 at the Garden.

The Storm's next four games are at Xavier (19-2, 7-2), home to Butler (14-7, 3-6), at Georgetown (13-9, 6-3) and at Villanova (18-3, 8-1) -- none of which looks like an impending win.

Their best chance may come during a three-game stretch after that when they host DePaul (7-14, 1-8), host Seton Hall and then visit DePaul.

The future appears to be brighter, though.

St. John's expects to get LoVett next season along with incoming guard Shamorie Ponds, wing Bashir Ahmed and likely German small forward Richard Freudenberg.

The Johnnies are also in the mix for Word of God (N.C.) guard Rawle Alkins, who took his first official visit to St. John's this past weekend, and 7-footer Thon Maker of Athlete Institute (Ontario), who may take an official to St. John's.

For now, though, the two local schools are just trying to get a league win.

And there's no guarantee either will be able to make it happen.

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Billy Preston Looking to Cut List Soon
(Ned Dishman / Under Armour)

BARTOW, Fla. - Coming off of API's 73-72 overtime win over Victory Rock Prep at the Mosaic Shootout on Saturday, Billy Preston spoke briefly about his recent unofficial visit to Arizona.

"It was a great visit," the 6-foot-10 power forward said. "Coach Sean (Miller) and Coach Book (Richardson), they're great. I know most of the players on the team, so it was good. The campus is beautiful, especially the McKale Center. It's the best I've seen so far."

Arizona has been a consistent presence in Preston's recruitment, dating all the way back to the live periods in July.

"After this year, I think a lot of schools will start to press hard," Preston said in a previous interview with SNY.tv. "Arizona is showing a lot of interest, but besides that, everyone is about the same."

The No. 6 ranked player in the class of 2017 by 247 Sports, Preston insists that no schools are working the hardest right now and that all schools are on an even playing field.

Still, he will be focusing on cutting his list down relatively soon.

"They're all the same right now," Preston said. "I will probably cut my list in the beginning of March. Just go play hard this summer, knock out my senior year and head off to college."

As for what's next with Preston, he says he is looking to take visits to the schools that are working hard, with two schools in particular.

"I'm not sure right now," Preston said. "I want to take an official visit to Kansas. I already went on an unofficial there with Terrance (Ferguson), but I want to go on an official. I want to take an official to Arizona. I just want to take all of my officials to see what it's like."

Preston says that playing alongside top 2017 point guard Trevon Duval, Ferguson, the Alabama commit, Baylor signee Mark Vital and Cincinnati signee Nysier Brooks has been a great move in the long run.

"Yeah, I knew that it was going to help my stock rise going into the summer, and that's really it, I knew that I was coming to a good situation no doubt," Preston said.

Preston currently holds offers from Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, SMU, UCLA, Arizona State, Baylor, Connecticut, Oregon, Texas, Utah and USC.

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Recruiting Roundup: Rutgers Lands European Forward; Updates on Naz Reid, Jordan Tucker

Issa Thiam, a 6-9 small forward from the Canarias Basketball Academy, committed to Rutgers, sources confirmed to SNY.tv.

Known as a shooter, Thiam joins Brooklyn Lincoln wing Jahlil Tripp and Beachwood (OH) guard Maishe Dailey in Rutgers' 2016 recruiting class.

Greg "Shoes" Vetrone was the lead recruiter on Thiam.

Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com first reported the commitment.

 

FREE THROWS

Florida State became the latest school to offer 6-5 shooting guard Brandon Randolph of The Westtown (Pa) School. Randolphs's stock is taking off and he's recently added offers from Louisville, St. John's and Xavier, among others...Syracuse associate head coach Mike Hopkins will watch Naz Reid on Wednesday at Roselle (N.J.) Catholic practice. Syracuse assistant Adrian "Red' Autry also watched Reid on Saturday when RC played St. Patrick's, as did Cincinnati assistant Darren Savino. The 6-foot-9 Reid is a sophomore big man who can shoot the 3 and appears to have pro potential. He holds offers from St. John's, Seton Hall, Kansas and numerous other schools...On Friday, Autry will also watch 2018 point guard Aaron Clarke and small forward Louis King of Pope John XXIII...Also on the Pope John front, head coach Jason Hasson says Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon calls regularly on Moustapha Diagne, the 6-8 power forward now at Northwest Florida State. Diagne was ruled ineligible at Syracuse....Following his visit to Madison Square Garden on Sunday for the Villanova-St. John's game, 2017 Archbishop Stepinac wing Jordan Tucker will visit Maryland for the Michigan on Feb. 21, his father confirmed to SNY.tv...After picking up MVP honors at the SNY Invitational, the stock of 6-2 Cardozo senior guard Aaron Walker has risen. St. Joe's, DePaul, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Delaware, St. Bonaventure and Canisius have all expressed interest... Onyeka Okongwu, a 6-9 freshman from Chino Hills (CA), picked up offers from UCLA and USC. Chino Hill has the three Ball brothers who have all signed or committed to UCLA...St. John's offered 2019 guard Bryan Antoine and 2-19 wing Scottie Lewis from the Ranney School (NJ), sources confirmed to SNY.tv.

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Rawle Alkins Sees Steph Curry, Klay Thompson & Steve Kerr on New York Visit
Rawle Alkins took his first official visit to St. John's this past weekend and met a few current and former NBA players along the way. (Kelly Kline)

It looks like Rawle Alkins had a quite a visit to New York this past weekend for his official visit to St. John's.

The 6-foot-4 Brooklyn native and Word of God Academy (N.C.) guard visited with Golden State Warriors stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as head coach Steve Kerr during his trip to Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Alkins attended the day-night doubleheader at the Garden, watching St. John's lose to Villanova and the Knicks fall to the Warriors. During the St. John's game, fans chanted, "We want Rawle" and "Raw-le Alkins"

St. John's pitch to Alkins includes the fact that head coach Chris Mullin is the only coach recruiting him to have played his position in the NBA, and on this trip Alkins was pictured both with current and former NBA players, including Mullin.

Alkins is also considering North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and UNLV.

He took an unofficial to Arizona last week and still has four officials remaining after the St. John's trip.

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Duke Drops From AP Poll For First Time in 8-Plus Years

For the first time in eight-plus years, Duke is not ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The defending national champion Blue Devils tumbled out of the poll after losing at No. 15 Miami, 80-69, last Monday night. They were No. 24 in the poll released last week, and many felt they didn't deserve to be ranked then.

Duke had been ranked for 167 straight weeks dating to the final poll of the 2006-7 season. Kansas now holds the longest current streak at 136 weeks.

Miami fans chanted "Over-rated" at Duke (15-6, 4-4 ACC), which seemed somewhat counterintuitive considering Miami was ranked nine spots higher than the Blue Devils.

"I'm glad that the students were yelling overrated, I didn't know we were rated," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said with a smile. "Thank you. We got six guys. I don't know, were we rated? Were we No. 1 now? Or whatever."

The Blue Devils have lost four of five entering Tuesday's game at Georgia Tech.

Duke is listed as a No. 7 seed in the latest mock draft by ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

AP TOP 25:

1. Oklahoma

2. North Carolina

3. Villanova

4. Maryland

5. Iowa

6. Xavier

7. Kansas

8. Texas A&M

9. Virginia

10. Michigan State

11. Providence

12. SMU

13. Iowa State

14. West Virginia

15. Baylor

16. Oregon

17. Miami

18. Purdue

19. Louisville

20. Kentucky

21. Wichita State

22. Indiana

23. Arizona

24. Dayton

25. South Carolina

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Ulis, Dunn, Trimble Headline Bob Cousy Finalists
Providence's Kris Dunn is one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award. (Mark L. Baer / USA Today Sports)

Kentucky's Tyler Ulis, Providence's Kris Dunn and Maryland's Melo Trimble headline the list of 10 finalists for the 2016 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. Named after Hall of Fame guard Bob Cousy, the annual honor recognizes the top point guard in Division I men's basketball.

A national committee comprised of top college basketball personnel determined the initial watch list of 20 candidates in October. The final five finalists will be presented to Cousy and the Hall of Fame's selection committee in March, and the winner will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 8.

2016 Bob Cousy Award Finalists:
Kyle Collinsworth, Brigham Young University

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Monte Morris, Iowa State

Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Melo Trimble, Maryland

Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

Khalil Felder, Oakland

Gary Payton, Jr., Oregon State

Kris Dunn, Providence

Nic Moore, Southern Methodist

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Bracketology: Iowa Now a 1 Seed, Kansas Moves to a 2
(Jeffrey Becker)

It's a big day for Iowa and not just because of Monday's Iowa Caucus.

The Hawkeyes are now a No. 1 seed, along with Oklahoma, North Carolina and Villanova, in Joe Lunardi's latest Mock NCAA Tournament Bracket.

Kansas is now a 2 seed alongside Xavier, Texas A&M and Virginia.

The 3 seeds feature Maryland, Iowa State, Michigan State and Oregon.

The 4s are Providence, Purdue, West Virginia and Miami.

Kentucky and Louisville both slipped to 5 seeds, with defending champion Duke a 7.

The ACC leads the way with 9 teams in the Big Dance, with the Pac-12 getting 8 and the Big 12 and the Big Ten getting 6 apiece.

LSU and projected No. 1 pick Ben Simmons remain in the field as a 10 seed following Saturday's 2-point loss to No. 1 Oklahoma and would meet Virginia in the first round.

From the tri-state area, UConn, Seton Hall, Yale, Monmouth, Wagner and Stony Brook are all in the field, with Seton Hall facing a play-in game as an 11 seed.

Syracuse would also be in a play-in game as a 12 seed.

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UConn-Bound Brown Could Reclass to 2016
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Zach Brown, the 7-foot-2, 265-pound big man who recently committed to UConn, could potentially reclass and land on campus in 2016 instead of 2017.

Still, Putnam Science Academy (CT) coach Tom Espinosa thinks it's doubtful.

He told Dave Borges of the New Haven Register there's "a very slim chance" that will happen. "I think he'll be back here next year."

"I think he would benefit a lot more coming back," Espinosa said. "He's got a lot of work to do. In Miami, he put up big numbers, but he wasn't playing against the highest competition that he's gonna play here, at a prep school in New England."

Brown committed to UConn on Jan. 20 and then announced his transfer to Putnam Science, which also features 2016 UConn commit Mamadou Diarra and 2017 target Hamidou Diallo.

"Defensively, he's kind of way behind, I believe," Espinosa said of Brown. "But offensively, he's very quick, he keeps the ball high, he's got great up-and-under moves. The last two days of practice, he's dominated."

UConn's four-man 2016 recruiting class of Diarra, point guard Alterique Gilbert, small forward Vance Jackson and power forward Juwan Durham is ranked No. 6 nationally by Scout.com.

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Alkins, Tucker Sit Courtside for St. John's Loss to Villanova
John McEnroe sat courtside for the Villanova-St. John's game, as did Yankees GM Brian Cashman and several recruits, including Rawle Alkins and Jordan Tucker. (Anthony Gruppuso / USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK --- Word of God (N.C.) senior guard Rawle Alkins and Archbishop Stepinac junior wing Jordan Tucker would potentially have been the two best scorers on the floor for St. John's on Sunday against Villanova.

With Alkins, Tucker and a handful of other notable prospects sitting courtside -- as well as tennis legend John McEnroe and Yankees GM Brian Cashman -- the Red Storm were thrashed by the No. 6 Wildcats, 68-53, at Madison Square Garden, extending the St. John's losing streak to 12 games.

"As a collective group, we know we played good but it's just being consistent," Red Storm redshirt junior Christian Jones said. "To bring that into the second half."

After being held to just 28 first-half points by the Red Storm's aggressive defense, Villanova blitzed the Johnnies with a 20-7 run, including a quartet of threes, over the course of the second stanza's first eight minutes, silencing the St. John's faithful in the nearly sold-out crowd.

"We just have to find a way to finish games, to close games," said graduate student Ron Mvouika, who went for 11 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat. "Not playing for 30 minutes or 25 minutes, we've got play for 40 because those eight minutes today killed us."

Even with leading rebounder Daniel Ochefu missing the contest due to a concussion suffered in practice, Villanova had no problem on the glass as the Wildcats outrebounded St. John's 48-35. Offensively, Josh Hart (16), Kris Jenkins (14) and Mikal Bridges (13) finished in double figures for Villanova (18-3, 8-1 Big East), who fell to Providence 82-76 in overtime on Jan. 23rd.

The Red Storm (7-15, 0-9 Big East) have yet to win a game since they knocked off Syracuse 84-72 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13.

After scoring just nine points in Wednesday's loss to Seton Hall, St. John's point guard and leading scorer Federico Mussini was held in check as he scored just 3 points on 1-8 shooting in 26 minutes.

Durand Johnson led all Red Storm scorers with 13 points, but fellow starters Felix Balamou and Kassoum Yakwe provided little in the way of offense, combining for just four points and eight rebounds in the blowout.

As a team, the Red Storm turned the ball over 21 times, shot 33 percent from the field and gave up 18 points off turnovers compared to their four.

"I thought our defensive effort was really good, especially in the halfcourt. But we didn't capitalize," Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said. "We got really careless and I thought their press lulled us into making mistakes."

Despite the Johnnies' lackluster effort in the second half capping off a winless month of January, Villanova coach Jay Wright said few coaches could do what Mullin is doing in his first year in Queens.

"Those guys play really hard for Chris. They really do," Wright said. "I don't know if there's a Division 1 team in this situation. His ability to get them to play hard every night and never quit is amazing. He's done a great job keeping a great perspective and I think it shows everybody that guys are going to want to come here."

"It's really impressive," he added, "and all of us coaches are looking at him that way."

While Mullin admitted to thinking "bad thoughts" during his team's 12th straight loss, he believes the program he's building from the ground up will be rewarded for its patience in the near future.

"I want to win every single game but I also know if you want to win, you have to pay the price. It's not a short term fix," he said. "When this thing turns around, it's going to be a lot sweeter. I know it will."

The loss comes one day after Alkins, the uncommitted 2016 former Christ the King star took an official visit to St. John's, one of nine schools on his list along with North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and UNLV.

"I know the life that I want to choose, I'm going to be away from home regardless," Alkins told SNY.tv at the Big Apple Basketball Invitational. "College, I'm going to travel everywhere. I'm not even going to be home if I go to a local school. I'm not even going to be home, so location is not a factor."

Sources said the staff's pitch focused on pointing out that Mullin is the only coach recruiting him to have played his position in the NBA.

The five-star guard visited Arizona on an unofficial visit on Thursday, taking in their 83-75 loss to Oregon.

He was sitting courtside next to Tucker, who has offers from schools such as Arizona, Connecticut and Syracuse, and one row in front of 2017 St. Raymond's junior Sidney Wilson, who's been offered by St. John's, Providence and VCU among others.

The Red Storm student section chanted both Alkins' and Tucker's name throughout the entire game, with the players often cracking smiles in response.

Elsewhere on the recruiting front, St. John's offered 2017 Westtown (Pa.) School Brandon Randolph on Sunday.

 

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Carolina Offers Sophomore Jairus Hamilton

Jairus Hamilton, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from the Concord (N.C.) Cannon School, became the latest sophomore to pick up a scholarship offer from North Carolina.

The offer was reported by Scout.com.

"This offer is testament to how hard Jairus has worked, to the kind of person he is and to his obvious long-term potential," Che Roth, Head Coach at Concord (N.C.) Cannon School, told Scout. "I've said it before, he's a check-all-the-boxes kid and they don't recruit any kids that aren't. It's a testament to Coach [Roy] Williams and his staff, doing their homework and building the relationship early. Certainly Assistant Coach (Steve) Robinson has a done one hell of a job leading the efforts to recruit him. They've put a premium in the class of 2018 and keeping the best talent in the state, which is going to be the best talent in the nation, here in North Carolina."

Hamilton is the third sophomore to commit or be offered by UNC this year,.

Rechon "Leaky" Black, a 6-foot-7 point guard from Concord (N.C.), committed earlier this month and Devon Dotson, a 6-2 point guard from Charlotte Providence Day also holds an offer.

Sophomore offers had been a rarity for North Carolina, raising speculation that he is feeling some pressure after missing out on the top in-state recruits last year. Uncertainty over potential NCAA sanctions following the UNC academic-athletic scandal may also be forcing Williams to offer earlier than he's accustomed to.

North Carolina high schools do seem to have an unusually good crop of players in the class of 2018, however, so the early offers could pay off for UNC, which also has a impressive recruiting class for 2017.

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Cardozo Wins SNY Invitational for second straight year 00:01:22
Highlights of the championship game of the eighth-annual SNY Invitational between Cardozo and Christ the King.

NEW YORK - It was déjà vu all over again. 

Aaron Walker made another game-winning play. Cardozo beat Christ the King for the second time in as many weeks. And Cardozo is the SNY Invitational champion for the second straight year. 

Cardozo defeated Christ the King 66-63 at the SNY Invitational Championship at City College of New York behind Walker's 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals. A week ago Friday, Cardozo edged Christ the King, 67-65, on a last-second tip-in by Walker.

Walker's heroic MVP performance Saturday included a breakaway dunk down the stretch and 1-of-2 free throws in the final seconds. It helped salvage his team's 10-for-24 shooting from the line, an issue that almost cost Cardozo a victory against Mount Vernon in the semifinals on Friday.

In that game, Walker went for 25 points, nine rebonds and three assists.

"I tell college coaches that I've been doing this for a long time, and they're supposed to respect my opinion," said Cardozo's Ron Naclerio, who's coached for over 40 years. "And I've told coaches - don't come and watch [Walker] play. Just walk over and offer him a scholarship."

Manhattan is the only school to offer Walker a scholarship and head coach Steve Masiello was sitting courtside, while coaches from VCU and Iona were also on hand.

"I don't know too much about [Manhattan]," said Walker, a 6-foot-1 senior guard. "I hear they're really good. Their coaching staff is really good."  

He said St. Bonaventure, DePaul and Nevada have also showed interest. 

Walker was matched up against Christ the King's Jose Alvarado, whose nifty passes sparked multiple crowd reactions throughout the weekend. Alvarado finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists after nearly posting a triple-double Friday night in the win over Brentwood. Holy Cross-bound guard Tyrone Cohen added 18 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alvarado's list includes St. John's, Seton Hall, VCU, Miami (Fla.) and Indiana, to name a few.

Tareq Coburn, a 6-5 left-hander, added 21 points for Cardozo, including 5-for-11 from deep. He went for 10 straight points from the second quarter into the third, to give his team a 10-point lead early in the third quarter.  

Coburn was planning to visit St. Bonaventure Sunday, but said they cancelled so he could visit for a week after the season ends. The senior also received offers from Fairfield, Drexel, Monmouth, Fordham, St. Francis (N.Y.) and St. Peter's. He said Iona has also shown interest, and that he'll wait until the spring to decide. 

Cardozo has now defeated Christ the King twice this season, but a potential third matchup in the New York State Federation tournament in Glens Falls, N.Y., may be the pivotal one.  

Naclerio said he and Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello joked about a potential third matchup.  

"I said, 'You know what, I hope you beat me today and I win the city championship,'" Naclerio said of his halftime conversation with Arbitello. "He said, 'No, you beat me today. I want to win city championships.' So, I said, 'let's call it a tie, and hopefully we see each other in states.'"


BRENTWOOD WINS CONSOLATION GAME

Jamel Allen scored 16 points in the second half as Brentwood came from behind to defeat Mount Vernon 70-67 in the consolation game of the SNY Invitational.

Allen, an uncommitted 6-6 senior, finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, including 15 points in the third quarter. 

"We got punched [Friday night]," Allen said about the 16-point loss to Christ the King. "We needed this win. Last night we had a quick meeting, and we talked on the bus a little bit how we wanted this game, so we came out and played hard."

Allen said his team spoke about not letting the crowd and referees affect the way they played, an issue that may have got the best of them against Christ the King. 

Allen posted back-to-back double-doubles after finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds Friday. The senior has only received an offer from St. Peter's along with some interest from Siena but his performance here should open some eyes.

Coaches from VCU and Iona were on hand Saturday afternoon to watch Brentwood-Mount Vernon. 

"I think he can play anywhere," Brenwood coach Anthony Jimenez said. "I really do. I have a lot of faith in him. I think he's just going to continue to become a better player and a more complete person, and it's going to play dividends for him later."

Allen's teammate Michael Almonacy - who will play at Stony Brook next season - finished with 11 points. 

For Mount Vernon, 6-8 junior big man Gregory Calixte finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds. Marco Morency - a 6-2 junior guard with offers from Monmouth and Iona - added 21 points. 

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Tags: Cardozo , Christ the King , Recruiting

Duval to Cut List Soon; St. John's in Good Shape for Freudenberg

OLDSMAR, Fla. -- After going for 10 points and 8 assists in Advanced Prep International's 74-61 win over nationally ranked Oldsmar Christian on Friday night, star point guard Trevon Duval he feels his team has started to figure out who it is.

"Right now we are on a run," the 6-foot-3 point guard said. "We haven't lost in a while. It feels like we are playing as a team, and we are on a roll." 

A Delaware native who transferred to API in Dallas from St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, Duval is the top-ranked point guard in the Class of 2017 and a possible future pro. He wowed NBA scouts at the Under Armour Elite 24 Game in New York in August.

Duval holds offers from Villanova, Arizona, Indiana, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, UConn, Kansas, Oregon, Oklahoma, UCLA, N.C. State, Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John's, among others.

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Tags: Jack LeGwin , Recruiting , St. John's , Trevon Duval , Adam Zagoria

GEICO SportsNite: Second semi 00:01:37
Highlights of the second semifinal game of the SNY Invitational between Benjamin Cardozo and Mount Vernon.

NEW YORK -- Ron Naclerio will get just what he wanted: a rematch with Christ the King.

Aaron Walker overcame his late-game free throw shooting woes and knocked down the game-winning free throw to give Cardozo a 70-69 victory over Mount Vernon in the SNY Invitational semifinals at City College. Cardozo will face Christ the King -- a team it defeated last Friday on a game-winning alley-oop layup at the buzzer -- in the SNY Invitational championship on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Cardozo will also get a chance to defend its SNY Invitational championship from last season.

"What's going to hurt us is tonight took so much out of us," Naclerio said about the rematch. "I hope the pride factor comes in for Christ the King. I'm sure they were cheering for us to win, but I think it's good for New York City. It's what people want to see."

The 6-foot-2 Walker struggled to make free throws down the stretch, but was able to make the deciding one on Cardozo's final possession to give his team the lead. Despite the poor foul shooting, two late offensive rebounds off missed free throws would salvage a 49-percent performance from the line for Cardozo. 

Walker finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while shooting just 3-for-10 from the charity stripe.  

"Oh man," Cardozo guard Tareq Coburn said. "I don't know what to say, man. I have no words for that. It was just so crazy. We shoot free-throws, miss them both, get it back. Shoot more free throws, get it back and then we hit the last two. It was great."

Walker has received offers from Manhattan, Fordham and Fairleigh Dickinson. He said St. Bonaventure, DePaul and Nevada have also showed interest. Walker said he plans to visit Manhattan next week.

"Aaron Walker is an all-city player," Naclerio said. "College coaches are starting to call, but I don't think they realize what a warrior he is."

Coburn added 12 points, behind a strong third quarter to bring Cardozo back from a nine-point deficit. Coburn will visit St. Bonaventure on Sunday. He's also received offers from Fairfield, Fairleigh Dickinson, Fordham, Robert Morris, St. Francis (N.Y.) and St. Peter's. 

Junior guard Marco Morency, who holds offers from Monmouth and Iona, led Mount Vernon with 22 points and 9 rebounds, and junior big man Gregory Calixte posted 15 points and 9 rebounds.

ALVARADO FINISHES WITH NEAR TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Video: GEICO SportsNite: Christ the King vs. Brentwood

NEW YORK -- Christ the King defeated Brentwood, 78-62, behind a near triple-double from Jose Alvarado to move on to the championship game at the SNY Invitational.

The Royals will face Cardozo on Saturday at 4 p.m in the championship game.

Alvarado finished with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in front of St. John's assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen.

"[St. John's] is great," Alvarado said. "Chris Mullin, Mike [Abdelmassih]. They got great coaches around them. They are a great look. They are just another college to me, and I'll make my decision in the fall."

The junior's list includes St. John's, Seton Hall, VCU, Miami (Fla.) and Indiana, to name a few. Coaches from Cincinnati and Fairleigh Dickinson were also on hand on Friday night.

The workload for Alvarado has increased after teammate Rawle Alkins left for Word of God Christian Academy in North Carolina. Alkins took an unofficial visit to Arizona this week and will take an official visit to St. John's beginning Saturday.

Brentwood's Michael Almonacy, who will attend Stony Brook next season, finished with just four points going up against Alvarado.

"He's a great player," Almonacy said of Alvarado. "He can shoot. He's crafty. He gets to the lane. He talks. He talks junk, and I like that."

Brentwood's Jamel Allen, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, also noted Alvarado's trash talking.

"He's a good player," Allen said. "He's funny, He talks a lot of trash. Once he learns to keep his mouth closed, he'll be alright." 

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Tags: Cardozo , Christ the King , Recruiting

Adam Zagoria and Josh Newman dish out another episode The 4 Quarters Podcast, covering college hoops, recruiting, and the NBA for SNY.tv.

First up, former Manhattan and St. John's coach and current ESPN Analyst Fran Fraschilla calls in to chat about the Top 25, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, St. John's, and Rutgers. Then, LSU assistant coach David Patrick joins the show to talk about Ben Simmons and the team's chances to make the NCAA Tournament. 

Later, Adam and Josh take a closer look at the local scene, including Iona, Manhattan, and St. John's, and then wrap it up with a recruiting round up and an SNY Invitational preview.


Rundown:

1st Quarter: Fran Fraschilla (01:00)
2nd Quarter: David Patrick (13:00)
3rd Quarter: Local College Storylines (21:45)
4th Quarter: SNY Invitational and Recruiting (23:45)

Tags: 4 Quarters Podcast , Adam Zagoria , Josh Newman

Rawle Alkins Taking First Official to St. John's; Slice Watches Trevon Duval
Rawle Alkins will take his first official visit this weekend to St. John's, his hometown school (Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Following an unofficial visit to Arizona for Thursday's Oregon game, Rawle Alkins will take his first official visit to St. John's beginning Saturday.

The Johnnies host Villanova on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

St. John's pitch will include the fact that head coach Chris Mullin is the only coach recruiting Alkins to have played his position in the NBA. Mullin is a former member of the Dream Team and a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Mullin, whose team is struggling this year at 7-14, 0-8 Big East, and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino watched the 6-foot-4 New York native on MLK Day at Baruch College, but Alkins did not play well, scoring just 11 points in a Word of God Academy (N.C.) loss against South Kent (CT).

On Friday night, however, Alkins went for 38 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in his Homecoming game at Word of God against Faith Assembly. He flies to New York on Saturday.

Alkins remains a major target for the Johnnies, who already have New York natives Shamorie Ponds and Bashir Ahmed committed for 2016. The Johnnies are also involved for 7-footer Thon Maker of Orangeville Prep (Ontario), who recently took an unoffiical to St. John's and may take an official as well.

St. John's staff and fans probably have to hope that Alkins gets homesick while in North Carolina for a year at Word of God.

"I know the life that I want to choose, I'm going to be away from home regardless," he said at the Big Apple Basketball Invitational. "College, I'm going to travel everywhere. I'm not even going to be home if I go to a local school. I'm not even going to be home, so location is not a factor."

As for Arizona, they are making a hard push, too.

After speaking with head coach Sean Miller and assistant Book Richardson, a New York native, Alkins recently added Arizona onto his list -- which now stands at nine schools. Arizona sees Alkins as being similar in body type to Stanley Johnson, a former lottery pick out of Arizona, and are pitching that comparison to Alkins.

Alkins told me on his recent trip to the Big Apple that Kobi Simmons texted him the day Simmons committed to Arizona and wanted to bring Alkins along.

"So before he committed, he texted me, he was like, 'Are you ready?' So I mean he's pretty cool. I played a lot with him over the summer, USA Basketball, adidas Nations, all of that stuff."

"I think [Simmons] is going to probably be the primary ball-handler, though, if I end up going there," Alkins added. "They're talking about getting Josh Jackson, too, so if they get [Simmons], Josh Jackson, me and imagine if Allonzo Trier stays another year, so who knows?"

Alkins is currently working with a list of nine schools: North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas, UNLV, St John's and Indiana.

 

SLICE VISITS TREVON DUVAL

In other St. John's news, assistant Barry "Slice" Rohrssen watched 2017 point guard Trevon Duval of Advanced Prep International on Thursday.

The Delaware native also picked up an Oklahoma offer this week after their staff watched him on Wednesday.

The St. Benedict's Prep transfer is the top point guard in the Class of 2017 and holds offers from Arizona, Indiana, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, UConn, Kansas, Oregon, UCLA, N.C. State, Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John's, among others.

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Tags: Rawle Alkins , St. John's , Trevon Duval , Adam Zagoria

Three Former Kentucky Players Chosen for NBA All-Star Game

John Calipari went on record last year with some ambitious goals for his former players.

"Our goal is not just to help guys get in the league," Calipari said. "We want guys to become All-Stars. ... Our goal would be to say, 'Hey, half the NBA All-Stars started with us.'"

Well, Kentucky isn't there yet but the school does have more players in the All-Star Game than any other school: three.

DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and John Wall - were selected for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game as reserves on Thursday night.

No college has more than two representatives in the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game is set for the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Feb. 14. The game will be televised by TNT. It's the third time Davis and Wall have been named NBA All-Stars, while Cousins will make his second straight appearance.

Cousins, who starred at Kentucky during Calipari's inaugural season as UK's head coach in 2009-10, is having a monster year. The Sacramento Kings' big man is averaging 27.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, the only player to rank in the top five in both categories in the league. He's coming off a historic 56-point outing on Monday night, the most in Sacramento history.

Davis, the No. 1 pick in 2012, has battled injuries (including a concussion) but will make his third straight NBA All-Star Game. He is currently averaging 22.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks - second in the NBA - for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Wall, the No. 1 pick in 2010, has cemented himself as one of the elite point guards in the NBA with his third All-Star appearance. He is averaging 19.6 points, 9.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds.

The trio has also posted a lot of double-doubles. Cousins ranks fourth in the league with 26 of them, Wall is seventh with 24 and Davis is tied for eighth with 23.

Karl-Anthony Towns, the former St. Joe's-Metuchen star who was Kentucky's third No. 1 draft choice in the last six years, leads all rookies with 23 doubles-doubles. He was named to the Rising Stars Challenge, which pits 10 of the best first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world. Towns, who will play on the U.S. Team, is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year with a 16.1 scoring average in addition to 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 boards per game.

Nerlens Noel will join Towns on the U.S. Team in the Rising Stars Challenge after a solid second season in the NBA (Noel did not play in 2013-14 as he recovered from knee surgery). He's among the league leaders with 1.6 blocked shots per game while posting 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Rising Stars Challenge will take place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Feb. 12 on TNT.

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Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/sports/college/kentucky-sports/ex-cats/article44605764.html#storylink=cpy
Tags: Kentucky , Adam Zagoria

Udoka Azubuike to Kansas
Udoka Azubuike, at left, committed to Kansas over Florida State and North Carolina. (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Kansas scored a huge commitment -- literally and figuratively -- on Thursday when Udoka Azubuike made a verbal pledge to the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-11, 280-pound Azubuike out of Jacksonville (FL) Potter's Christian is a newly-minted McDonald's All-American who also considered North Carolina and Florida State.

"This was a very tough decision, but I fell in love with the team when I saw them play," Azubuike told ESPN. "I was very comfortable with coach Bill Self, assistant coach Norm Roberts and the entire coaching staff on my visit."

Azubuike is Kansas' second pledge in the Class of 2016, following 6-8 Arizona power forward Mitch Lightfoot. The two recruits visited Kansas together in September.

Kansas now has the No. 14-rated recruiting class in 2016, according to ESPN.com.

Kansas loses bigs Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson to graduation and could lose freshman Cheick Diallo to the Draft. He's projected as the No. 21 pick by DraftExpress.com.

Azubuike nearly brought down the backboard with this two-handed dunk in a loss to Mohamed Bamba and Westtown (Pa.) at the Hoophall Classic. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and assistant Steve Robinson sat courtside, and Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard was also at the event.

Speaking recently with Zach Smart, Azubuike said of Kansas: "Kansas is interesting with all the history and all the basketball tradition. I've been there and experienced it. Bill Self, everyone knows what he has done. I mean, you can't go wrong with any of the three schools."

 

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Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield Set for Saturday Showdown
If the NCAA Tournament began today, Ben Simmons and LSU would be in, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. (Derick E. Hingle / USA Today)

Two of the top players in college basketball will meet on Saturday when Ben Simmons and LSU host Buddy Hield and No. 1 Oklahoma in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons is a freshman who appears to be a virtual lock as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, while the 6-4 Hield is a senior who remains the favorite for National Player of the Year honors.

Both players were born outside the United States, with Simmons coming from Australia and Hield from the Bahamas.

As of Thursday, 14 NBA scouts were expected at the game (5 p.m., ESPN), an LSU spokesman told SNY.tv.

"It's not about the Buddy Hield-Ben Simmons matchup, it's about Oklahoma basketball," Hield said Thursday on SportsCenter when asked if he wanted to look into the camera and give Simmons a message.

"I have a lot of great players and teammates on my team, so I can't win a game by myself. It's a team effort so we're just going to go out there [and] try to executive in Baton Rouge. I know it's going to be a hostile environment but I hope we get a win down there."

The projected No. 17 pick by DraftExpress.com, Hield is averaging 25.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists and has made 52 percent of his three pointers (79-151).

He dropped 46 points on Kansas earlier this month in a game in which he went 8-for-15 from deep, and is coming off a 30-point outing against Texas Tech in which he shot 5-for-8 from deep.

The projected No. 1 pick, Simmons averages 19.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He has attempted only three three-pointers on the season, making one of them.

He went for 43 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists in a December game against North Florida in which he didn't attempt a single three-pointer.

Hield has taken 148 more three-pointers than Simmons and made 78 more. They are vastly different players, with Hield gaining recognition as a shooter while Simmons is considered a point-forward who could help transform an NBA team almost immediately.

"He's a tremendous scorer," Simmons said of Hield on SportsCenter. "He can get to the rim, he can dish the ball. He's just really consistent. He's one of those guys you have to really focus on when playing a team like this but they have a lot of great players...They can all really shoot the ball well."

Hield said he's worked hard on his long-distance shot with Oklahoma assistant Steve Henson.

"Just all repetitions," he said. "I get up every morning with Coach Henson and shoot. Just tons of rhythm threes. It takes a lot of time so i just put a lot of time into it."

A left-handed point forward with incredible court vision, Simmons has drawn comparisons to everyone from Magic Johnson to LeBron James to Lamar Odom, but he says any of those comparisons are unfair.

"It's really hard to compare me to one of the greatest point forwards in the game, Magic Johnson," Simmons said. "He's done a lot for the game, he's one of the best players to ever play. For him, it's not fair because I'm still in college, I'm still playing. I try and learn things from them, whether it's LeBron or Paul George or Kevin Durant and Magic, just watch film on them. I don't think it's fair to them to compare [to] me because I feel like I have my own game."

Simmons -- who has a documentary film crew following his transition from high school at Montverde (FL) Academy to college to the NBA -- has drawn praise from Magic on Twitter, and texts and talks with LeBron for advice.

"He's been like a big brother to me," Simmons said of James. "He's looked after me whenever I've needed advice or just to talk to. If I'm just struggling through the day, he'll give me some good advice that I need."

While LeBron went straight from high school to the NBA, Simmons had to spend at least a year on campus, choosing LSU largely because of his relationship with LSU assistant David Patrick, his Godfather and a friend of the family's from his time in Australia.

Asked directly by ESPN about his plans for next season, Simmons hedged his bets.

"Well, you know, I gotta finish this season first and I got a few classes I need to finish too so make sure I get my grades and focus on that first," he said. "But we'll see what happens."

Barring something hugely unexpected, what will happen is he'll be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

But for now, it's time for Simmons vs. Hield, LSU against Oklahoma.

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Tags: Ben Simmons , Buddy Hield , NBA Draft , Adam Zagoria

Bill Self Calls Kentucky 'A Great Resume Game,' But Isn't Fired Up About Timing

Bill Self is calling Saturday's matchup between No. 20 Kentucky and No. 4 Kansas game "a great resume game," but he isn't exactly fired up about the timing of it.

The showdown between two of the most storied programs in college basketball takes place in the Big 12/SEC Challenge -- and right smack in the middle of their respective conference schedules.

"I do think it's a big game, but I don't know if John [Calipari] would feel the same as I do," Self said Friday on SportsCenter. "But this isn't the greatest time to play these games. You're in the middle of your conference grind and certainly you're stepping out. And it appears to be a bigger game to the fan base or maybe even the players than what it actually is in the real importance.

"But this is obviously a great resume game. It's the two winningest programs of all time. There's unbelievable history and tradition by both places. Both programs have been extremely successful of late, and of course they've been on an unbelievable run since Cal's been there the last six or seven years.

"So it will be a fun environment, but you go to plays like Kansas and Kentucky and Duke and Carolina, you go to places like that because there is pressure. You want to play in games that matter. You want to play where there's so much interest, and certainly both these places this weekend have that."

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Tags: Kansas , Kentucky , Adam Zagoria

Cardozo, Christ the King Could Reprise Classic in SNY Invitational

NEW YORK -- Ron Naclerio doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

The Cardozo coach knows that both his team and Christ the King must win their first games on Friday in the SNY Invitational at City College before they can envision a rematch of their instant classic from a week ago.

But if Christ the King knocks off Brentwood at 6 p.m., and defending SNY Invitational champion Cardozo takes care of Mount Vernon at 8, the two teams will meet on Saturday for the second time since Jan. 23. Last Friday, Cardozo beat Christ the King, 67-65, when Monmouth-bound guard Ray Salnave fed Aaron Walker for an alley-oop layup at the buzzer.

"I don't want to disrespect Brentwood and I don't want to disrespect Mount Vernon but after what happened here Friday night that would be fitting to get a chance to play them again," Naclerio said this week. "I know they have their version of what happened, we have our version of what happened. But I think it would be great for New York City basketball."

**For more info on the SNY Invitational, click here.**

With five seconds left in the game and the teams tied at 65, Salnave stole the ball from Tyson Walker and sprinted down the court. He was stripped as he attempted a layup to beat the final horn, but the officials put one second back on the clock, setting up his baseline inbounds pass to his teammate.

Aaron Walker penetrated from the left wing, soared over Christ the King's Tracy Cleckley and tipped the ball in with his right hand, sending the Judges bench and cheerleading squad storming onto the court to celebrate.

"I told him I wanted the shot," Salnave said of Naclerio's drawing up the winning play. "But he knew if I was on the court for the last play, they would have denied me as best they could. They didn't know what to expect.

"I said it's time to show that you're the best defender in the city and one of the top players in the city," he said of Walker. "And tonight he proved it. That play requires mental toughness, but he stayed focused and made sure he followed through."

As Cardozo celebrated, a stunned Royals team slowly trudged to the locker room while coach Joe Arbitello followed the referees off the court, screaming at them for a few moments.

"I'm not a big believer in rematches," Arbitello said this week. "I'm worrying about Brentwood, and then whether it's Cardozo or Mount Vernon" we'll go from there.

Still, Naclerio knows another matchup could be looming.

"If we could have a better game [with CTK], that would only be fitting," Naclerio said. "But we're not there yet. I'm not sleeping on Mount Vernon. I know Mount Vernon's real good, they got a lot of young kids that can play. They're going to play hard."

***

SNY INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONS

2015: Cardozo

2014: Bishop Loughlin

2013: St. Anthony's

2011: St. Anthony's

2010: Rice

2009: Mount Vernon

2008: Lincoln

 

SNY INVITATIONAL MVPS

2015: Ray Salnave - Cardozo

2014: Khadeen Carrington - Bishop Loughlin

2013: Hallice Cooke -St. Anthony's

2011: Kyle Anderson - St. Anthony's*

2010: Kadeem Jack - Rice

2009: Sherrod Wright - Mount Vernon

2008: Lance Stephenson - Lincoln*


* - Currently in the NBA.

Tags: SNY Invitational , Adam Zagoria

GEICO SportsNite: Seton Hall 00:01:25
Seton Hall defeated St. John's, 79-60, on Wednesday night and describes building off the win in the games ahead.

NEWARK -- If Seton Hall is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, it will need to win as many games as possible in the Big East Conference and probably finish at least 9-9.

After a rough stretch in which they faced four ranked teams -- Villanova twice and Providence and Xavier once each -- the Pirates returned home to face struggling St. John's on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.

Led by Angel Delgado's 15 points and 17 rebounds and Isaiah Whitehead's 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, the Pirates handled the Red Storm, 79-60, to improve to 14-6 and 4-4 in the Big East. St. John's (7-14, 0-8) dropped its 11th straight under first-year coach Chris Mullin.

"We've had three really brutal games, and sometimes it's tough to get guys to realize we can't look at their record," head coach Kevin Willard said about his team's play early on in the game. "They have good players and they're well-coached."

After leading 34-26 at the half, Seton Hall stepped it up, building a very comfortable double-digit lead just a few minutes into the second half that they would keep until the final buzzer.

"Sometimes it's hard to watch film and for your kids to appreciate how hard another team's playing when they're struggling," Willard said. "We came out a little bit too lackadaisical defensively, and I thought once we kind of just settled in and locked in a little bit defensively, I think we made them take some tough shots and we were able to get some easy buckets and get us going."

Whitehead has been Seton Hall's top scorer this season, averaging 15.5 points per game, but he struggled towards the beginning of the game. He had 10 at the half.

"Honestly, I'm not going to lie to you, we went out there, we saw the crowd and it was kind of light, real light," he said. "We really didn't have that energy that we usually get off of them. There was really heavy traffic so I just tried to keep [the team] together and just try to make plays and keep us in the game until they [the fans] got here."

Meantime, Delgado was a dominant force on the boards as St. John's could not box the sophomore big man out.

"I think his eyes kind of lit up halfway through the first half when he realized, you know, he wasn't getting worn down trying to battle the guys we've had to battle the last five games," Willard said.

"I just came here and play hard, try to make my team look good…" Delgado said about his effort.

The Pirates continue their season on Saturday at Creighton. After getting embarrassed by the Bluejays, 82-67, on Jan. 9, Delgado said the Pirates are ready for the upcoming rematch this weekend.

"We're going to their house," he said. "We don't care if we're in Alaska right now, we're just going wherever we've got to go and play hard."

Whitehead got right to the point when talking about the Pirates' matchup with Creighton.

"We really, absolutely, 100 percent got embarrassed by Creighton," he said. "So I mean, just seeing them is really going to bring a lot out of us and [we'll] really try to get that win that I think we deserve."

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Tags: Matt Citak , Seton Hall , St. John's

Marcus McClary Drops 20 as St. Pat's Handles Roselle Catholic; Syracuse to Watch Nick Richards

RAHWAY, N.J. -- Entering Wednesday's big tilt with Roselle Catholic, St. Patrick's junior guard Marcus McClary was averaging just 5 points a game.

Celtics coach Mike Rice said he'd be happy if the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard scored 10 a game.

On this night he went off for 20 points -- including his team's first 12 -- as St. Pat's took care of Roselle Catholic, 46-38, in front of a packed house at Rahway High School.

The two Union County rivals will meet for a second time on Saturday night at Roselle Catholic and could face off a total of four times this season if they were to face off in the Union County Tournament and the New Jersey state tournament.

"We usually play them four times," McClary said. "That's why today was a big game to start off on the right foot and give us some momentum for Saturday."

With Monmouth assistant Duane Woodward and St. Peter's assistants Serge Clement and Alex Stone on hand, McClary scored the game's first basket on a baseline drive and proceeded to score his team's next 10 points, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 12-6. The Celtics (11-3) led 16-6 after one quarter.

"He was awesome," Rice said of McClary, who holds offers from Monmouth and St. Peter's. "He hasn't had a breakout like that, a run like that, all year and that's what we're missing,"

"I give it up to my teammates, though," McClary said. "My teammates, they've been talking to me in practice, saying, 'You gotta have a big one,' and I just came through....It's a big win for us."

In a game filled with high-major recruits, the Linden, N.J., native was the star of the game, although St. Pat's also got 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists from Harvard-bound point guard Bryce Aiken.

After St. Pat's took a 25-16 halftime lead, McClary and Aiken both hit three-pointers in the third period to stretch the lead to 31-18.

Still, the Lions (10-4) closed to within 38-32 thanks to a 7-2 run that was capped by two foul shots from Leondre Washington, who scored a team-best 11 points.

"We knew that they were much better than they showed in the first half," Rice said. "They have some dynamic playmakers and we did some things in the second half where we were streched too far and we didn't stick to our forumla. They penetrated on us.

"They made it a game and that's what rivalries are about, taking the opponent's best punch and coming back and giving one yourself."

St. Pat's did respond, going on a 5-0 mini-run and getting a drive and a dunk from McClary to extend the lead to 43-32 in the fourth.

St. Pat's and arch-rival St. Anthony's, which beat the Celtics, 60-56, at the recent Dan Finn Classic, look like the prohibitive favorites to win the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title. But McClary believes his team can win its sixth TOC title.

"Yes, I do," he said. "I feel like we put in a lot of work over the summer and now I feel like it's our time."

On the recruiting front, Monmouth and St. Peter's would both like McClary to play in the MAAC.

"I like Coach [King] Rice," he said. "I like everything about Monmouth right now."

Asked about the bench mob, who will appear Thursday on SportsCenter, McClary said, "Hopefully they can carry that to the [NCAA] Tournament."

 

SYRACUSE TO WATCH RICHARDS

Nick Richards, the 6-foot-11 junior big man from St. Pat's, was held to just 2 points while matching up with Roselle Catholic sophomore big man Naz Reid, who scored 8.

Syracuse assistant Adrian "Red" Autry is expected to watch Richards on Saturday night in Round 2 against the Lions.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to that," the native of Jamaica said. "They've been recruiting me hard since summer and I'm very excited about that."

Richards hasn't yet been to Syracuse, but listed Syracuse, UConn, Kentucky, Arizona and Indiana as the schools recruiting him the hardest.

"I'll probably wait till my senior year [to focus on recruiting]," he said.

Richards has only been playing organized basketball for three years and is still rather raw offensively, but his size and athleticism are obvious.

"I'm just relying on my athleticism right now, get rebounds, block shots, run the floor," he said.

Asked how much more he had to learn, he said, "There's always something you can learn from basketball. It's what Michael Jordan told everybody, there's always someting new to learn, always something to build on."

In the meantime, Richards and his teammates want to build toward winning a state title.

"Of course, the goal is to win everything," Richards said. "A state championship, we're probably going to win it."

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Tags: Nick Richards , Roselle Catholic , St. Patrick's , Adam Zagoria

Providence's Bentil Enters 2017 Mock Draft
(Bill Streicher)

Providence's Ben Bentil is the newest name to enter the 2017 NBA Mock Draft on DraftExpress.com.

The 6-foot-9 Bentil is a sophomore forward now slotted at No. 48.

The reigning Big East Player of the Week, Bentil went for 25 points and 6 rebounds on Tuesday night when No. 10 Providence lost at home to No. 7 Xavier, 75-68.

"He does not even need to think about coming out this year [2016]," one NBA executive said of Bentil. "He's a nice college player but an under-sized 4 with limited range. He has a long ways to go."

A second NBA scout was more optimistic: "Tougher, quicker [than his opponents] and coming on faster than just about everyone."

Bentil's teammate, junior guard Kris Dunn, is projected as the No. 4 pick in 2016 behind LSU forward Ben Simmons, Duke forward Brandon Ingram and international power forward Dragan Bender.

As for Oregon's Dillon Brooks, projected at No. 49, the Canadian is averaging 16.2 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Ducks, who visit Arizona Thursday.

One source said "practically the entire league' has been through Oregon to see Brooks and the team's other players.

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Tags: Ben Bentil , Dillon Brooks , NBA Draft , Providence , Adam Zagoria

Knicks' Porzingis, Wolves' Wiggins Headline Rising Stars Challenge
Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis will play in the Rising Stars Challenge over NBA All-Star Weekend. (Justin Ford / USA Today)

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins, last season's Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, and teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who has won two straight Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards, highlight the list of 20 players selected to play in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 12 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto during NBA All-Star 2016.

The Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis, who has earned two Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards in a row, joins Wiggins on the World Team. Minnesota's Zach LaVine, the dunk champion at NBA All-Star 2015, will play alongside Towns on the U.S. Team, giving the Timberwolves three players in the game, all 20 years old.

For the second consecutive year, the league's annual showcase of premier young talent will pit 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world. TNT will televise the game live at 9 p.m. ET, part of Turner Sports' 31st year of All-Star coverage. BBVA Compass is the Official Bank of the NBA in the U.S. and maintains its role as title partner for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge.

The World Team is anchored by Wiggins, who ranks 15th in the NBA in scoring (20.8 ppg), and Porzingis, who is third among rookies in scoring (14.0 ppg) and first in blocked shots (2.0 bpg). In last year's BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, Wiggins scored 22 points and earned MVP honors in the World Team's 121-112 victory over the U.S. Team.

Wiggins is one of two Toronto-born players on this year's World Team roster, along with Dwight Powell of the Dallas Mavericks. Rounding out the World Team are Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets, Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets, Mario Hezonja of the Orlando Magic, Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls and Raul Neto of the Utah Jazz.

Towns, the No. 1 overall pick in NBA Draft 2015 presented by State Farm, is one of three NBA players averaging at least 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks (Anthony Davis and Pau Gasol are the others). Towns and LaVine are joined on the U.S. Team by the Philadelphia 76ers' Jahlil Okafor, who leads all rookies in scoring (17.4 ppg), and Sixers teammate Nerlens Noel, the only NBA player averaging at least 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals. The U.S. Team also includes Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers, Rodney Hood of the Jazz, Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks, Elfrid Payton of the Magic and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics.

The NBA's assistant coaches chose the rosters for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, selecting four guards, four frontcourt players and two players at either position for each team. The coaches also picked a minimum of three first-year players and three second-year players for each team.

NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto will bring together some of the most talented and passionate players in the league's history for a global celebration of the game. Along with the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, Air Canada Centre will also host State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, Feb. 13 and the 65th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 14. Other events at NBA All-Star 2016 include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and the NBA Development League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire. This will be the first NBA All-Star held outside the U.S.


2016 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge Rosters

Below are the rosters for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge :

U.S. TEAM ROSTER

Player                            Team            Pos       Ht        Wt      School                              Experience

Jordan Clarkson             Lakers          G         6-5       194     Missouri                           1

Rodney Hood                Jazz              G         6-8       206     Duke                                1

Zach LaVine                  Timberwolves G       6-5       189     UCLA                             1

Nerlens Noel                  76ers             F/C      6-11     228     Kentucky                         1

Jahlil Okafor                  76ers             C         6-11     275     Duke                                R

Jabari Parker                   Bucks           F          6-8       250     Duke                                1

Elfrid Payton                 Magic           G         6-4       185     UL-Lafayette                  1

D'Angelo Russell           Lakers          G         6-5       195     Ohio State                       R

Marcus Smart                 Celtics          G         6-4       220     Oklahoma State               1

Karl-Anthony Towns     TimberwolvesC        7-0       244     Kentucky                         R

 

WORLD TEAM ROSTER

Player                            Team            Pos       Ht        Wt      School                              Experience

Bojan Bogdanovic         Nets             G/F      6-8       216     Fenerbahce/Croatia          1

Clint Capela                   Rockets        F/C      6-10     240     Elan Chalon/Switzerland 1

Mario Hezonja               Magic           G/F      6-8       218     FC Barcelona/Croatia      R

Nikola Jokic                   Nuggets        C         6-10     250     KK Mega Vizura/Serbia R

Nikola Mirotic                Bulls            F          6-10     220     Real Madrid/Montenegro1

Emmanuel Mudiay         Nuggets        G         6-5       200     Guangdong/Rep. of Congo R

Raul Neto                       Jazz             G         6-1       179     UCAM Murcia/Brazil      R

Kristaps Porzingis          Knicks         F/C      7-3       240     Cajasol Sevilla/Latvia      R

Dwight Powell               Mavericks    F/C      6-11     240     Stanford/Canada             1

Andrew Wiggins            Timberwolves G/F 6-8       199     Kansas/Canada                1

 

Tags: Kristaps Porzingis , Adam Zagoria

Rawle Alkins Taking Unofficial to Arizona
NEW YORK CITY - August 22, 2015: Under Armour Elite 24 game at Pier 2 in Brooklyn New York. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline)

Rawle Alkins will take an unoffiical visit to Arizona beginning on Wednesday, he Tweeted. The Wildcats host Oregon on Thursday.

After speaking with head coach Sean Miller and assistant Book Richardson, a New York native, the 6-foot-4 New York native recently added Arizona onto his list -- which now stands at nine schools. Arizona sees Alkins as being similar in body type to Stanley Johnson, a former lottery pick out of Arizona, and are pitching that comparison to Alkins.

Alkins told me on his recent trip to the Big Apple that Kobi Simmons texted him the day Simmons committed to Arizona and wanted to bring Alkins along.

"So before he committed, he texted me, he was like, 'Are you ready?' So I mean he's pretty cool. I played a lot with him over the summer, USA Basketball, adidas Nations, all of that stuff."

Alkins added: "I won MVP of those tournaments so it's not like he's going to steal my shine."

Arizona is two under the scholarship limit and will lose Gabe York to graduation and possibly freshman Allonzo Trier to the NBA Draft.

"I think [Simmons] is going to probably be the primary ball-handler, though, if I end up going there," Alkins added. "They're talking about getting Josh Jackson, too, so if they get [Simmons], Josh Jackson, me and imagine if Allonzo Trier stays another year, so who knows?"

The 6-foot-8 Jackson is considering Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas, among others. He is projected as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and is ranked as the No. 1 player in 2016 by 247Sports.com.

"Imagine that lineup," Alkins added of a recruiting class that included himself, Simmons and Jackson.

Alkins is currently working with a list of nine schools: North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas, UNLV, St John's and Indiana.

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Tags: Arizona , Rawle Alkins , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

NBA Draft Stock Up on Brown, Stone, Trimble, Hield
Maryland freshman Diamond Stone is now No. 10 on the latest DraftExpress.com Mock Draft. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

Jaylen Brown, Diamond Stone, Melo Trimble and Buddy Hield all saw their draft stock rise in the latest DraftExpress.com Mock Draft for 2016.

The 6-foot-7 Brown, a freshman small forward at Cal, is now at No. 5, trailing LSU's Ben Simmons, Duke's Brandon Ingram, Maccabi Tel Aviv's Dragan Bender and Providence's Kris Dunn.

Kentucky's Skal Labissiere is now at No. 6, followed by Marquette's Henry Ellenson, Utah's Jacob Poeltl, Kentucky's Jamal Murray and Maryland's Stone, a 6-10 freshman who was previously No. 11.

Cal freshman big man Ivan Rabb is now at No. 11.

Eight of those top 11 players would be one-and-dones, with Dunn and Poeltl the only upperclassmen and Bender a foreign player.

Trimble, a 6-3 sophomore point guard from Maryland, is up to No. 16 from 23, while the 6-4 Hield, a favorite to win National Player of the Year honors, is up to No. 17 from 22.

Kansas freshman forward Cheick Diallo, now out of the rotation for coach Bill Self, fell to No. 21 from 11.

Among Kentucky players, in addition to Labissiere and Murray, freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe is at 31, sophomore guard Tyler Ulis is 47, junior forward Marcus Lee is 56 and senior forward Alex Poythress remains off the board.

The Top 10 in 2017 goes in this order:

1. Jayson Tatum (Duke)

2. Harry Giles (Duke)

3. Josh Jackson (TBD)

4. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky)

5. Dennis Smith (N.C. State)

6. Markelle Fultz (Washington)

7. Isaiah Hartenstein (International)

8. Bam Adebayo (Kentucky)

9. Omer Yurtseven (International)

10. Malik Monk (Kentucky)

 

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Tags: NBA Draft , Adam Zagoria

Jersey Powers St. Patrick's, Roselle Catholic to Meet Twice in 4 Days
(MUSTAFA HOOTEN )

There are three heavy favorites to win the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title in March: St. Anthony's, St. Patrick's and Roselle Catholic.

Two of those "Big Three" will meet in the span of four days when St. Pat's (10-3) and Roselle Catholic (10-3) essentially play a home-and-home series on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m.) at Rahway High School (where St. Pat's plays its home games) and on Saturday night at Roselle Catholic (7 p.m.).

By Saturday night, fans of Garden State high school hoops may have a clearer picture of where the TOC favorites stand, although St. Anthony's already owns a 60-56 win over St. Pat's at the Dan Finn Classic and remains unbeaten on the season. The Friars are ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today.

"It's a good opportunity for both teams to see where you're at at pretty much the mid-season mark," said RC coach Dave Boff, whose team has won two of the last three TOC titles. "It's a great rivalry of ours. We're not particularly looking forward to [playing twice in four days], I think both teams would rather have the games separated by 10-plus days but that's just not the way that things worked out this year, so we'll go out and play them twice in four days and potentially see them at some point later."

The two teams were slated to meet Saturday at Kean University, which would've been a home game for St. Pat's, but the snowstorm pushed that game to Wednesday. This Saturday game is part of the Investor's Cup at Roselle Catholic.

"I think it's fine," St. Pat's coach Chris Chavannes said. "I think both teams will be prepared for the two games in four days. We know each other very well, even though we haven't played each other yet. I'm sure they do their scouting and we do our scouting. The kids are very familiar with each other."

Between them, the two programs feature a slew of Division I talent. St. Pat's is led by Harvard-bound point guard Bryce Aiken, uncommitted guard Jamir Harris, Rhode Island-bound power forward Cyril Langevine and uncommitted 2017 big man Nick Richards.

Roselle Catholic counters with talented sophomore big man Naz Reid, senior guard Matt Bullock, junior forward Andre Rafus, and junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis, all of whom are uncommitted.

After starting out in the Top 25 of several national polls, Roselle Catholic is now unranked by both USA Today and MaxPreps, while St. Pat's is currently No. 24 nationally according to MaxPreps and No. 6 in the East according to USA Today.

"We're about where we thought," said Boff, whose team graduated several key players in Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky), Chris Silva (South Carolina) and Pierre Saar (Monmouth). "I told everybody at the beginning of the season that I thought the rankings for us were high. The expectations were a little high, based more off the success of what we had done last year than looking at what we had to start this year because we're so young and we have a lot of new pieces. So I'm not really surprised at how the season started."

As for St. Pat's, their losses have all been to elite competition: Chino Hills (CA), the No. 1 team in the nation, in the finals of the City of Palms; St. Anthony's in the Dan Finn; and La Lumiere (IN) in the Hoophall Classic. Those three losses were by a combined 14 points.

"We're feeling pretty good," Chavannes said. "We have to find ourselves again. Once we got back from Delaware [Slam Dunk to the Beach] and Florida, some of the kids got a little distracted with outside sources telling them what they should or should not do. As a result we haven't played as well as we were. I think we're just now starting to get back to the level we were playing out of state, so we're feeling pretty good right now."

"We've seen them a few times," Boff said. "They're tremendously talented. They've had the same group together for a few years. I think that they're playing fantastic. I think the situation with Mike and Chris seems to be working out and they're playing as well as anybody in the state."

Mike and Chris would be former Rutgers coach Mike Rice and Chavannes, who are essentially co-coaching the Celtics.

"It works out great," Chavannes said. "We think alike in a lot of ways. Our philosophies are very similar, so I think that avoids any conflicts we might have in practice or in games. We collaborate quite a bit. Some practices he leads, some practices I lead. Certain games, he takes the lead, certain games, I might take the lead. So it's worked very, very well because we're so similar in our approach to games."

In the wake of his firing from Rutgers, it remains unclear if a college coach would take a chance on hiring Rice as an assistant going forward. But he could certainly help his stock if he leads St. Pat's to a successful season, possibly ending in a TOC title.

"I don't know what Mike's plans are, or what he's discussed with his family, but I think if the opportunity presented itself [in college] he probably would [take it] and I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be given an opprotunity," Chavannes said. "He's worked to correct some things from the past and he's a phenomenal coach."

That said, Chavannes could also envision Rice coaching at St. Pat's again next year.

"We're looking forward to having him back," he said.

Said Rice: "I'm just thankful that I'm coaching basketball. I''m having the time of my life representing The Patrick School and coaching these student-athletes so right now that's where my focus is."

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Tags: Andre Rafus , Mike Rice , Naz Reid , Nick Richards , Roselle Catholic , St. Patrick's , Adam Zagoria

Duke on Brink of Falling From Top 25
Duke will likely fall out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 167 weeks following Monday's loss at Miami. (Steve Mitchell / USA Today)

When the new AP Top 25 rankings come out on Monday, defending champion Duke likely will tumble out of the poll.

The Blue Devils, No. 24 in the poll released Monday, lost at No. 15 Miami, 80-69, on Monday night thanks to Angel Rodriguez's 13 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds.

Duke has been ranked for 167 straight weeks. Kansas, which also lost Monday at Iowa State, 85-72, holds the next-longest streak at 135 weeks. Arizona has been ranked for 71 consecutive weeks.

Miami fans chanted "Over-rated" at Duke (15-6, 4-4 ACC), which seemed somewhat counterintuitive considering Miami was ranked nine spots higher than the Blue Devils.

"I'm glad that the students were yelling overrated, I didn't know we were rated," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said with a smile. "Thank you. We got six guys. I don't know, were we rated? Were we No. 1 now? Or whatever."

The Blue Devils have lost four of five and in their next six games face Louisville twice and North Carolina and Virginia once apiece.

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Big East Breakdown: Three Teams in Top 10; Bentil, Ellenson Honored; Power Rankings
(Bill Streicher)

For the first time in the brief history of the new-look Big East Conference, the league placed three teams in the Top 10 of the AP Poll on Monday.

Villanova is No. 6, Xavier is No. 7 and Providence is No. 10.

Villanova saw its 22-game league winning streak snapped on Sunday at the hands of Providence. Before that, the Wildcats hadn't lost a league game since falling at Georgetown in January 2015.

On the Bracketology front, the Big East has four teams in the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

Villanova is a No. 1 seed, Xavier a 2, Providence a 5 and unranked Butler a 10.

BENTIL, ELLENSON HONORED

Providence forward Ben Bentil was named Big East Player of the Week and Marquette forward Henry Ellenson was tabbed Freshman of the Week. Bentil led the Friars to a pair of wins against ranked opponents, including an 82-76 overtime victory at fourth-ranked Villanova. Ellenson helped the Golden Eagles to a win at St. John's by scoring 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking four shots.

Bentil led Providence to a pair of victories against ranked Big East teams, while averaging 25.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He scored a game-high 31 points, including 10 in overtime, and pulled down 13 boards to help PC win at No. 4 Villanova 82-76 on Sunday. Earlier in the week, Bentil scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards in a 71-68 victory over then-No. 18 Butler. The sophomore leads the league in scoring with a 19.8 average.

Ellenson earns Freshman of the Week honors for the fourth time this season after averaging 13.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots in a 1-1 week. Ellenson had 16 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots in a 78-73 win at St. John's. He had 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks in a 57-56 loss to DePaul. For the season, Ellenson ranks fifth in the Big East in scoring with a 15.7 average and first in rebounding with a 9.9 mark.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova (17-3, 7-1) - The Wildcats saw their 22-game league winning streak come to an end on Sunday against Providence. Still projected as a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Joe Lunardi. Next up: At St John's, Sunday.

2. Xavier (17-2, 5-2) - Chris Mack's club got back 6-foot-5 point guard Edmond Sumner after he missed time with a hed injury. Next up: At Providence, Tuesday.

3. Providence (17-3, 5-2) - Sophomore forward Ben Bentil was named Big East Player of the Week and has emerged as a dangerous Robin to Batman Kris Dunn. Next up: Xavier, Tuesday.

4. Butler (13-6, 2-5) - The Bulldogs have lost three of four and five and seven, but are still a projected NCAA Tournament team by ESPN's Joe Lunardi. Next up: DePaul, WEdnesday.

5. Creighton (14-6, 5-2) - After being picked ninth in the 10-team league, the Bluejays are now in a four-way tie for second. Next up: At Georgtown, Tuesday.

6. Georgetown (12-8, 5-2) - The Hoyas have lost two of their last three to Villanova and former Big East foe UConn. Next up: Creighton, Tuesday.

7. Marquette (13-7, 3-5) - The Golden Eagles had dropped three straight before winning at St. John's on Sunday. Next up: Stetson, Wednesday.

8. Seton Hall (13-6, 3-4) - The Pirates have lost four of five, with two of those losses to Villanova. Next up: St. John's, Wednesday.

9. DePaul (7-12, 1-6) - Dave Leitao's club earned its first league win last Wednesday at Marquette, 57-56. Next up: At Buter, Wednesday.

19. St. John's (7-13, 0-7) - The Red Storm have dropped 10 straight overall and it seems to be all about the future in Queens. Next up: At Seton Hall, Wednesday.

 
Tags: Big East , Adam Zagoria

Bracketology: Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Villanova Remain No. 1 Seeds
If the NCAA Tournament began today, Ben Simmons and LSU would be in, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. (Derick E. Hingle / USA Today)

Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina and Villanova remain the No. 1 seeds in Joe Lunardi's latest Mock NCAA Tournament Bracket.

The 2 seeds include Xavier, Texas A&M, Iowa and Virginia.

The 3 seeds feature Michigan State, West Virginia, Miami and Maryland.

The 4s are Oregon, Iowa State, Kentucky and Louisville.

The Pac-12 and ACC lead the way with 8 teams in the Big Dance, with the Big 12 and the Big Ten getting 6 apiece.

LSU and projected No. 1 pick Ben Simmons enter the field as an 11 seed and would meet Cincinnati in a play-in game.

From the tri-state area, UConn, Yale, Monmouth and Stony Brook are all in the field

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Tags: Ben Simmons , Bracketology , Adam Zagoria

Oklahoma stays No. 1 in AP poll, North Carolina right behind
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger on the sidelines against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center. Oklahoma won 82-72. (Erich Schlegel)

Oklahoma, despite losing to Iowa State last week, remains No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll. Unlike last week, when the Sooners were a unanimous No. 1, North Carolina is a close second.

Oklahoma (16-2) received 36 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel on Monday, seven more than the Tar Heels (18-2), who remained second.

Iowa jumped from ninth to third, the Hawkeyes' highest ranking since January 1987. They were followed by Kansas and Texas A&M, which is at its highest ranking ever. Villanova, Xavier, Maryland, West Virginia and Providence round out the Top Ten.

Wichita State, Oregon and Notre Dame - all of whom have been ranked during the season - are the week's newcomers replacing Butler, Southern California and South Carolina.

AP TOP 25

1. Oklahoma

2. North Carolina

3. Iowa

4. Kansas

5. Texas A&M

6. Villanova

7. Xavier

8. Maryland

9. West Virginia

10. Providence

11. Virginia

12. Michigan State

13. SMU

14. Iowa State

15. Miami

16. Louisville

17. Baylor

18. Arizona

19. Indiana

20. Kentucky

21. Purdue

22. Wichita State

23. Oregon

24. Duke

25. Notre Dame

 


Kentucky's John Calipari not worried about freshman wall
(Mark Zerof)

Kentucky's much-ballyhooed freshman class has had differing levels of success this season. Most notably, highly-touted 6-foot-11 Haitian Skal Labissiere has struggled mightily.

With Labissiere and classmates like Canadian sensation Jamal Murray and Roselle Catholic alum Isaiah Briscoe playing such big roles, is Wildcats head coach John Calipari worried about his freshmen hitting a wall as February and the heart of the SEC schedule looms?

"Some of my freshmen have been my best players and the reality of it is, as the season goes on, that's when they get better," Calipari said Monday morning on the SEC teleconference as Kentucky prepares for Missouri on Tuesday and Kansas on Saturday. "If a guy has a freshman wall, it's probably more mental and he's not ready for the overwhelmingness of what he's dealing with."

"The issue here, when you come here, you understand we're everybody's Super Bowl," Calipari continued. "Every game is sold out, home and away. People watch to see if we're gonna lose, unless they're Kentucky fans, and that's what you deal with. If that overwhelms you, you're mentally gonna be fatigued and mentally be tired, but you shouldn't have come to Kentucky if that's the case."

To Calipari's point, all eyes will be on Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night when the Wildcats face Kansas in the main event of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The matchup will feature two of college basketball's blue bloods, both of whom are stalking a national championship. Yes, that includes Kentucky, which has, by its recent standards, struggled a bit at 15-4 overall.

The game will also feature some of the most hyped freshmen from the 2015 recruiting class. Aside from Labissiere, Murray and Briscoe, the Jayhawks have Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg, both of whom haven't been able to find much daylight in head coach Bill Self's rotation.

Labissiere is the highest-rated pro prospect at the moment, sitting at No. 6 in the 2016 NBA Draft, according to DraftExpress. Murray (No. 9), Diallo (No. 15), and Jayhawks sophomore guard Svi Myhkailuk (No. 24) are all projected first-rounders, while Briscoe is projected as the first pick in the second round at No. 31.

"I think, again, it's all of us here trying to convince these kids where they can go, but they have to earn it," Calipari said. "There's no gifts here, you have to work and your will has to be stronger than your mindset to cave in."

Tyler Ulis (No. 47), Wayne Selden (No. 55) and Marcus Lee (No. 56) are three more players projected to be picked come June. 

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Oak Hill Guard Matt Coleman Sees Recruitment Heat Up

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Matt Coleman, a 6-foot-2 Class of 2017 point guard Oak Hill Academy (VA), is being recruited by many of the top programs in the nation but is in no rush to make a decision.

"Oregon just offered [last Thursday] but I'm still open," he said at the Hoophall Classic. "I don't plan on cutting my list [any] time soon. Probably [during] AAU season but I'm still open to anybody willing to recruit me."

Coleman has interest from Cal and Kansas and thinks they might offer soon.

"I do see them offering at the end of the season or right before AAU," he said.

He holds offers from Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, VCU, Virginia, Memphis, UConn, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Arizona, Ohio State, N.C. State, Louisville, Baylor and Seton Hall, among others.

"Texas, I hear from every day," he said. "Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Seton Hall, N.C. State, on a consistent basis I hear from them."

Texas coach Shaka Smart was at the Hoophall for Coleman and several other players.

"I like Shaka," he said. "He's a player's coach. Very energetic, loving, caring type of person. He's doing a little something at Texas right now so that's good."

Smart began recruiting Coleman while at VCU and has continued to do so.

"That means he really truly wants me and likes my personality on and off the court and he wants to coach me," Coleman said.

Arizona is also in the mix.

"I talk to coach [Mark] Phelps and coach Book [Richardson] a lot, I hear from them at least three times a week," he said. "They said if I come they know they'll get at least two other guys in my class and probably have one of the best classes. He said, 'You come, we give you the keys to the car and you'll drive us to victory."

Virginia is also strongly recruiting Coleman.

"Me and Coach [Tony] Bennett have a great relationship, too," Coleman said. "He's been recruiting me since I was in eighth grade so we really grew. Most of the time he doesn't talk to me about basketball, he talks to me about school and family and stuff."

Coleman said Seton Hall associate head coach Shaheen Holloway "shoots me a text at least two times a week just making sure that we still stay in touch. He says, 'Matt, we need a lead guard like you. We get a guard like you, we could do something.'"

Coleman said he's looking for a place where he can get playing time right away.

"Will I be able to come in and have the ball in my hands?" he said. "And just how they develop players on and off the court. Do they get guys to the league, and how they develop from freshman to sophomore year."

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Tags: Matt Coleman , Oak Hill Academy , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

The 4 Quarters Podcast:Jay Bilas, Larry Brown and Recruiting

Adam Zagoria and Josh Newman are back with a brand new episode of the 4 Quarters Podcast.

The guys chat with two of the biggest names in college hoops. ESPN's Jay Bilas joins the show in the first quarter to talk about some of the good - not great - teams in D1. In the second quarter, SMU head coach Larry Brown calls in to discuss his undefeated squad, and the violations that have befallen the university.

Then, to round out the show, the guys touch on the Iona-Monmouth fight, the Rutgers "dumpster fire", and recruiting news from in and around the New York City area.

Tags: Adam Zagoria , Josh Newman
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