NCAA

Indiana expect another top recruiting class

201211081519551949035-p2.jpeg

Indiana expect another top recruiting class

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Devin Davis likes being No. 1.

He was the first player to commit to Indiana in this year's recruiting class, the first to send in his national letter-of-intent Wednesday and he hopes to be the first to hang more than one national championship banner during his career in Bloomington.

The 6-foot-6 forward was one of five players expected to sign with the Hoosiers on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. School officials were waiting for the last player in the six-man class, which has been rated in the top five nationally, to sign before talking about the incoming freshmen.

Davis couldn't wait to start talking.

``I'm really excited, just playing in front of all of those fans and playing for Coach (Tom) Crean, you couldn't ask for much more,'' said Davis, who plays at Warren Central in suburban Indy. ``And now that they're ranked No. 1, it makes it even better.''

There's only one problem: In a group this talented, Davis isn't going to Bloomington as the top-ranked recruit.

That honor belongs to 6-9 forward Noah Vonleh, who has been rated in the top 10 nationally. The New Hampton (N.H.) Prep star announced last week he had chosen the Hoosiers over Syracuse, Ohio State, Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgetown.

The rest of the group doesn't trail by much.

Troy Williams, a 6-6 forward from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and Stanford Robinson, a 6-4 shooting guard from Henderson, Nev., have both been ranked in the top 60. Luke Fischer of Germantown, Wis., is considered one of the nation's top centers. And Crean got two of the state's best prep players, Davis and Collin Hartman, a 6-6 forward from Indianapolis Cathedral.

The question isn't how good this class will be, it's how Crean intends to fit them in.

Indiana (2-0) has only three seniors on the roster - Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Adding six freshmen next fall would put them over the NCAA's scholarship limit. If 7-foot center Cody Zeller left early for the NBA, as some believe he will, that would open a fourth roster spot but would still leave Indiana two over the limit.

Crean faced a similar situation earlier this year until Ron Patterson enrolled in prep school after Indiana announced he had not met the school's academic requirements. It could happen again, though Davis and Hartman have big plans for their college careers.

``Obviously I want to go in and contribute right away. That's my goal right now is to get myself set up for that,'' Hartman said. ``I really just want to come in and hang banners. I just want to be part of that and contribute to it. I think they're going to do big things.''

Purdue (1-1) signed three players Wednesday morning - guard Bryson Scott and forward Basil Smotherman, both Indiana natives, and forward Kendall Stephens, an Illinois native with strong Indiana ties.

The 6-1 Scott averaged 25.2 points and .6.5 rebounds at Fort Wayne Northrop last season, while Smotherman averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds at Lawrence North, another suburban Indy school.

``Bryson gives us a lead guard and we think we can play two point guards together. I think when you look at teams that play two point guards together, it's really hard to defend,'' coach Matt Painter said. ``Smotherman is a kind of a combo forward that has the size to play the three and the four. We think he can be a matchup type of guy.''

The most intriguing signee, though, might be Stephens. He averaged more than 24 points as a junior at St. Charles East High School and 17.1 points as a sophomore and comes from a lineage of scorers.

Like Scott, Stephens is considered a Top 100 recruit, and Stephens made it clear that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Everette, who scored more than 1,000 points during his career at Purdue.

``Any time someone wants to be at your place and be at your Purdue because of his mom and dad, you're going to recruit those guys,'' Painter said. ``He's a great person and a great player.''

While the Indiana and Purdue men stole Wednesday's headlines, as usual, they certainly weren't alone in signing players.

Notre Dame signed forwards V.J. Beachem and Austin Torres and guard Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia. Beachem, Torres and Jackson all played high school ball in northern Indiana. Vasturia is from New Jersey and played was the Philadelphia Catholic League's MVP at St. Joseph's Prep.

``We felt that we needed to strengthen our perimeter game with this year's class and I really think that we accomplished that,'' coach Mike Brey said.

Butler, a two-time national runner-up, signed three recruits in its first recruiting class since joining the Atlantic 10. Coach Brad Stevens said the Bulldogs (1-1) received letters from 6-10 Nolan Berry, a Missouri native; 6-7 Andrew Chrabascz of Cushing, Mass.; and 6-2 Rene Castro of Worcester, Mass.

``One of the things that we've really tried to prioritize in the class of 2013 was recruiting kids with competitive maturity, guys who have won and guys who we think are mature beyond their years and will have an impact sooner, rather than later,'' Stevens said in a statement.

Indiana State signed Brenton Scott, who averaged 16.3 points at Fort Wayne Northrop and is the twin brother of Bryson Scott, who is headed to Purdue.

It wasn't just the men bringing in new talent.

Purdue's women's team signed 5-9 guard Ashley Morrissette from Twinsburg, Ohio, and 6-2 swing player Bridget Perry from Indianapolis Roncalli.

2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

winthrop_unca_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

The Big South conference had a surprising start to their league play this year with preseason favorites UNC-Asheville and Winthrop losing two of their first three games.  Since, things have settled down in the Big South with those two squads separating themselves from the pack late in the season.

This 2017-18 season, the Big South is a single bid conference but does have opportunities to get a couple of teams into the NIT. Depending on how this tournament plays out, there may be two or three teams in the second biggest tournament in the country.

READ MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLE WATCH

Like always the tournament will be hosted at multiple sites. The first round will be on campus-sites with the No.7 and No. 8 teams hosting their respective games. From there, the remaining teams will head to Asheville, NC for two rounds as the Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed. The highest remaining team will then host the championship game.

Home-court advantage will clearly be a factor for which ever team hosts, but it has also been a theme of the Big South. Combined, the entire conference is 88-38 at their home court. Only Liberty has a winning record on the road at 5-4. The host of the quarterfinals and semifinals, UNC-Asheville, is 13-1 at Kimmel Arena. The lone loss being against Liberty.

Only one year in this format, Winthrop won the championship in 2016-17 as the hosts.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION:

When is the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be Tues. Feb 27, March 1-2, and the Big South championship is on March 4.

Where is the Big South Tournament?
The Big South tournament will primarily be hosted at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, North Carolina. The higher seeds will host the first round match-ups. The Big South Championship will also be at the highest seed’s home court.

How to watch the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be televised as a part of ESPN’s family of networks, excluding the first round. The first round can be seen on the Big South Network, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be streamed on ESPN3, and ESPN will televise the Big South Championship.

Who is the defending Big South Champion?

The Winthrop Eagles won the 2016-17 Big South Championship after hosting the main portion of the tournament. It was the Eagles 11th Big South Championship in their history, the most ever in the Big South.

2018 BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT BRACKET:

First Round – Tuesday, Feb. 27

No. 9 Presbyterian at No. 8 Charleston Southern 7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)
No. 10 Longwood at No. 7 High Point                     7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)

Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 1

7/10 Winner vs. No. 2 Radford                     1:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 6 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Winthrop   3:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
8/9 Winner at No. 1 UNC Asheville              7:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 5 Liberty vs. No. 4 Campbell                  9:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Semifinals - Friday, March 2

TBD vs. TBD                          6:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
TBD vs. TBD                          8:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Big South Championship - Sunday, March 4

TBD vs. TBD                          1:00pm, higher seed host (ESPN)

MORE NCAA: ALL THE TOP BRACKETOLOGISTS PICKS IN ONE PLACE

PREVIEW:

Even as the No. 3 seed and losers of their last two games, Winthrop is probably still the favorite heading into the tournament. Their offense is one of the highest scoring in all of college basketball (80.7 ppg), with Xavier Cooks scoring 17.6 ppg (3rd in Big South). However, the Eagles’ offense is not powered entirely behind three-point shooting, it is done with balance on both sides of the ball. They have the best two-point shooting percentage in the league (47.3 percent), lead the Big South in rebounding averages, blocks, and field goal defense. In addition, their guards’ three point shooting ability is pretty good too at 37.5 percent and making 9.5 deep balls a game.

However, when they go quiet from long range or another team matches their three-point shooting for a contest, they are susceptible. Also as defending champs, they have been here before and are motivated to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

As the Big South tournament hosts, UNC Asheville will have a leg up on the competition, but they have not been as dominant as a top seed should be. The Bulldogs are one of the most consistent teams in the conference with all five starters scoring in double figures each game. If one is betting, they are the safe bet to win it all based on what is mentioned above.

While Radford was a pleasant surprise throughout league play, do not anticipate that they will be a contender. They are eighth in scoring in the conference (68.2) and around the same mark when it comes to shooting. Their defense has bailed them out as probably one of the top defensive units in the league, but their leading scorer is a post player, Ed Polite Jr.  (13.6 ppg) and if shut down in the paint, there is no offense.

Liberty is the darkhorse in the Big South Tournament. The do boast the best defensive numbers in the conference (64.0 points against per game) and have a high-powered offense, although it is spotty.  Two players are shooting well above 40 percent or better from behind the arc. Dominating the boards, they limit other team’s second chance opportunities. Do not bet against the Flames in a one-on-one contest.

PICK: No. 3 Winthrop

Quick Links

Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

usatsi_10446977.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING