The Dagger

  • The best player on the reigning national champions is coming back.

    Josh Hart announced via Twitter on Tuesday night that he is withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to Villanova for his senior year. The shooting guard had entered the draft last month without hiring an agent, preserving the opportunity to pull out by Wednesday's deadline.

    Had Hart stayed in the draft, he had a good chance to be selected in the second round after averaging 15.5 points last season and showcasing toughness and versatility during Villanova title run. A lack of length and explosiveness limits his chances of cracking the first round next year, but he'd have a chance to improve his stock with a Malcolm Brogdon-esque All-American-caliber senior season.

    Hart's decision solidifies

    Read More »from Reigning champion Villanova will get its best player back
  • It took three simple words for Nigel Hayes to put a smile on the face of Wisconsin basketball fans across the country.

    "I'm coming back," the standout forward told the Wisconsin State Journal via text message on Tuesday evening.

    Wisconsin later confirmed that Hayes is withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to school. The senior-to-be had entered the draft without hiring an agent last month, leaving himself the option of pulling out by Wednesday's deadline.

    Although Hayes once had every intention of staying in the draft, his performance the past six months forced him to reconsider. He almost certainly would not have been a first-round pick and he might have gone undrafted altogether.

    Hayes endured an erratic junior season in which he averaged 15.7 points per game but struggled with the transition to go-to threat, shooting an inefficient 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the arc. Then he faded to the background in two games at the NBA draft combine, scoring a

    Read More »from Nigel Hayes' return solidifies Wisconsin as a Big Ten contender
  • ESPN announced the schedule for next season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday. Here's a look at each of the games ranked from most to least compelling.

    1. Michigan State at Duke (Nov. 29): One of the first challenges for presumed preseason No. 1 Duke will be a Michigan State team with a loaded freshman class but not much in the way of veteran leadership. The Spartans will have to hope that freshman Miles Bridges makes a quick transition to the college level if they're going to keep it close against a Blue Devils team that returns All-American candidate Grayson Allen, adds a star-studded freshman class and gets Amile Jefferson back from injury.

    2. North Carolina at Indiana (Nov. 30): This rematch of a Sweet 16 game won by North Carolina will feature only a few of the players who starred in that game. While the Tar Heels say goodbye to senior standouts Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, they'll build around familiar names like Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks. Indiana could be a

    Read More »from Ranking the Big Ten-ACC Challenge games from most to least compelling
  • A rematch between powerhouses Kansas and Kentucky highlights the newly announced slate for next year's Big 12-SEC Challenge. All 10 games will take place Jan. 28. Here's a look at the matchups ranked from most to least intriguing:

    1. Kansas at Kentucky: These blue bloods will both appear the preseason top five in most polls, but they'll also field vastly different rosters than they did at Allen Fieldhouse last January when Kansas edged Kentucky 90-84 in overtime. The Wildcats will lean on another loaded freshman class headlined by guards Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, while the Jayhawks will turn to heralded freshman wing Josh Jackson and veteran guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham.

    2. Texas A&M at West Virginia: While the Big 12 has dominated this series since its inception, West Virginia has been the exception to that rule. The Mountaineers are 0-3 with losses to Missouri in 2013, LSU in 2014 and Florida last January. West Virginia's next chance to finally earn a victory will come

    Read More »from Ranking the Big 12-SEC Challenge games from most to least compelling
  • In his first two seasons at San Diego State, Malik Pope has displayed sporadic flashes of immense skill and talent.

    The 6-foot-10 junior-to-be is returning to the Aztecs in hopes of showing NBA scouts he can make a more consistent impact.

    Pope announced Monday night that he has withdrawn from the NBA draft after entering last month without hiring an agent. He was not invited to the NBA's draft combine, but he reportedly did work out for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz.

    Credit Pope for making a wise decision because it once no doubt wasn't in his plans to be in college for more than two years. He is the most highly touted prospect San Diego State has landed under Steve Fisher, however, a series of leg injuries late in his high school career prevented him from making a smooth transition to the college level.

    Pope made his San Diego State debut in January of his freshman year and showcased a smooth 3-point shot for a man his size, sinking 40.8

    Read More »from Malik Pope makes a wise decision to return to San Diego State
  • The most improved player in college basketball this past season believes he's ready for the NBA.

    Providence forward Ben Bentil announced Sunday evening in an Instagram post that he will forego his final two years of college eligibility and remain in the NBA draft.

    Bentil's decision is logical considering the feedback he received after a strong performance at the draft combine in Chicago earlier this month. He could be selected in the late first round and he'd still be a strong candidate to negotiate a guaranteed contract even if he falls to the top of the second round.

    Turning pro serves as the culmination of Bentil's year-long rise from role player, to Kris Dunn's co-star, to NBA prospect. The 6-foot-8 native of Ghana helped lead Providence to the second round of the the NCAA tournament in March, averaging 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore after contributing just 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds the previous year.

    What intrigues NBA teams about Bentil is his potential as a

    Read More »from Providence enters rebuilding mode with Ben Bentil staying in draft
  • Once he was not invited to participate in the draft combine or to work out for many NBA teams, Iowa guard Peter Jok made a rational decision.

    The 6-foot-6 senior-to-be realized he was unlikely to be selected in next month's NBA draft and opted to return to the Hawkeyes instead. 

    "I'm excited to be returning for my senior season and leading our team," Jok said in a statement released by the school. "This has been an invaluable learning experience for my career, and I appreciate all the support I have received from Coach McCaffery and the entire staff."

    The return of Jok is monumental for an Iowa team that won 22 games this past season and advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 32. Jok was one of the Big Ten's most improved players as a junior, averaging 16.1 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc.

    Iowa badly needed Jok back because its four other leading scorers — forward Jarrod Uthoff, guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons and center Adam Woodbury — each

    Read More »from Peter Jok's return gives Iowa a star to build around next season
  • Duke won the latest battle in its recruiting war with Kentucky on Thursday when the top unsigned prospect in the Class of 2016 chose the Blue Devils over the Wildcats.

    Marques Bolden, a 6-foot-11 center ranked No. 11 in the 2016 Rivals rankings, made his announcement on Thursday afternoon at DeSoto High School, unzipping a black jacket to reveal a Duke T-shirt underneath.

    The addition of Bolden bolsters a Duke team that likely would have been next year's preseason No. 1 team even if he had gone elsewhere. The Blue Devils return four of their top seven players from last year's Sweet 16 team, get senior forward Amile Jefferson back from injury and add a recruiting class widely considered to be the best in the nation. 

    A long, mobile post player who runs the floor well, protects the rim and scores effectively with his back to the basket, Bolden averaged 23.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this past season and led DeSoto High to a state title. The McDonald's All-American received

    Read More »from Marques Bolden's commitment adds to Duke's embarrassment of riches
  • Undecided prospects have only one week left before they must announce whether they're coming back to school or staying in the NBA draft. Here's a look at the eight schools with the most at stake during the next seven days:

    1. Oregon (G Tyler Dorsey, F Dillon Brooks): Oregon could have five of its top seven players back from a 31-win Elite Eight team if Dorsey and Brooks opt to return to school, a decision that might be wise for both of them after neither was invited to the draft combine. Brooks, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 16.7 points per game last season, but he could use another year to revamp his body and improve the consistency of his perimeter shot. Dorsey, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, averaged 13.4 points and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc, but he lacks prototypical size or length for an NBA shooting guard. If he returns to school, he could stand to improve his playmaking ability.

    2. Villanova (G Josh Hart): After a recent workout with the 76ers, Hart updated the

    Read More »from Eight schools with the most at stake entering the draft deadline
  • Twelve days after forward Kennedy Meeks elected to withdraw from the NBA draft, North Carolina received more good news.

    Forward Justin Jackson has pulled his name from draft consideration and opted to return to school.

    "After discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season," Jackson said Monday in a release from the school.

    “My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal, but I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season. It’s going to be a fun year. I will be another year closer to earning my degree and can continue to develop as a person and a player."

    Jackson started at small forward the past two seasons for a North Carolina team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and lost at the buzzer in the national title game last month. The 6-foot-8

    Read More »from Justin Jackson's return solidifies North Carolina as a top 10 team
  • With its top two big men both entering the NBA draft last month, NC State is in need of immediate frontcourt help next season. 

    Boy did the Wolfpack find some.

    Omer Yurtseven, a coveted 6-foot-11 center from Turkey, told Scout.com on Monday that he has committed to NC State. Yurtseven chose the Wolfpack over Utah and Syracuse among others. 

    The addition of Yurtseven puts NC State in far better position to thrive next season even if forwards Abdul Malik-Abu and Beejay Anya were to remain in the NBA draft. Neither has hired an agent, leaving open the possibility either could opt to return by the May 25 deadline.

    Most scouts consider Yurtseven to be a five-star recruit and a future NBA prospect because of his strong frame, good size and impressive skill set. He can score with his back to the basket in the post, via offensive boards or off pick-and-pop jump shots out to the 3-point arc.

    Yurtseven showcased his immense potential on Sunday when he erupted for 91 points and 28 rebounds in a

    Read More »from NC State gets frontcourt help by landing prized Turkish center
  • Before he's finished coaching Kentucky, John Calipari has a lofty goal he wants to reach.

    "Our next challenge is to chase UCLA’s 11 titles," he wrote on his website Monday.

    UCLA is the only college basketball program with more national championships than Kentucky. Calipari led the Wildcats to their eighth title in 2012 behind Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they still need three more championships just to tie the Bruins and four to overtake them.

    "This could take more than a decade, but so what? Let’s chase it," Calipari wrote. "Can we do it? Sure, but it’s going to be really tough. The tournament isn’t a best-of-seven series and the best team doesn’t always win the title. The trick is to always be one of those teams at the end of the season that’s right there. That’s the first step."

    Kentucky has won only won championship during Calipari's seven-year tenure, but it has consistently been a title contender thanks to his ability to land a bevy of top prospects every year

    Read More »from John Calipari takes aim at eclipsing UCLA's 11 national titles
  • When Tim Floyd spoke to reporters in El Paso on Tuesday afternoon, it began as a typical business-as-usual news conference.

    Only after El Paso sports radio host Steve Kaplowitz asked his first question did it become clear that Floyd's true purpose was an ambush.

    Floyd pounced on Kaplowitz immediately, first turning the radio host's question about why players transfer back around on him and then calling him "uninformed" and "irresponsible." Floyd then handed out copies of a 17-page document containing data that meant to show that UTEP's high transfer rate during his tenure mirrored the trend in college basketball nationally.

    What apparently upset Floyd is Kaplowitz's on-air criticism of UTEP's struggles to retain players in recent years. This offseason alone, UTEP's leading scorer Lee Moore turned pro with eligibility remaining and three other players chose to transfer.

    The public flogging might have stopped there except that Kaplowitz opted to respond. He further angered Floyd by

    Read More »from Tim Floyd blasts radio host during contentious press conference
  • At a time when his program is battling Duke for numerous elite prospects, Kentucky coach John Calipari has chosen to take the fight public.

    Buried in the middle of Calipari's latest blog post on his website is a thinly veiled shot at the Blue Devils and their typical sales pitch to top recruits.

    "I refuse to go in a home and paint a picture saying things like, 'If you come with us you’ll be taken care of for the rest of your life by the program and by our alums' even though you may only be in school for a year or two," Calipari wrote. "How preposterous does that sound? What if I say that same thing and the young man decides to transfer for one reason or another? Does that still hold true that we’re going to take care of them the rest of their lives?

    "Our approach is to give them the fishing rod and the lures to help them catch fish, not to just give you the fish. I want players to earn everything they get here and to feel that they’ve built their own self-esteem and confidence through

    Read More »from John Calipari's shots at Duke stoke an already smoldering rivalry
  • Nebraska coach Tim Miles flies with the Blue Angels (via Tim Miles)Nebraska coach Tim Miles flies with the Blue Angels (via Tim Miles)

    The day one of his friends called to ask if he wanted to fly with the Blue Angels, Nebraska coach Tim Miles approached his staff with a pressing question.

    Do you think I'll die?

    "They all unequivocally said, 'You will not die,'" Miles told Yahoo Sports on Monday. They said, 'You could pass out, you could puke or you could embarrass yourself,' but I can do all three of those things on a regular basis anyhow. So I said I'm doing it."

    Last Tuesday morning, Miles indeed soared through the Nebraska sky with the U.S. Navy's most renowned flight demonstration squadron. The Blue Angels filmed Miles' 42-minute flight and used footage to promote the airshow they held in Lincoln this past weekend. 

    The pilot who took Miles up in an F/A-18 Hornet exceeded 600 miles per hour in the air and did everything from flying upside down, to barrel rolls, to loops. At one point in the flight, Miles reached for a barf bag but only dry-heaved. Later he also did several breathing exercises to make sure he

    Read More »from Nebraska coach Tim Miles takes stomach-churning flight with Blue Angels
  • About five decades after Rick Barry starred at the University of Miami, the NBA hall of famer's youngest son has passed on the chance to follow in his father's footsteps.

    Coveted College of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry announced Monday that he has chosen Florida over the Hurricanes and a handful of other major-conference suitors.

    Barry, a 6-foot-6 rising senior, has one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play right away for the Gators next season. He is a significant addition for a Florida program looking to rebound after missing the NCAA tournament the past two years. 

    Before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final two months of the 2015-16 season, Barry was averaging 19.7 points per game for a College of Charleston team that was 9-4 with him in the lineup and defeated LSU last December. He never shot more than 40.2 percent from the field in his three seasons with the Cougars, however, his efficiency should improve at Florida since he will not have to shoulder

    Read More »from Florida bolsters its offense with addition of Canyon Barry
  • In addition to finishing just one game out of last place in the Big Ten this past season, struggling Minnesota has another problem on its hands.

    Its players can't seem to stay out of trouble.

    Reggie Lynch became the latest Minnesota basketball player to make headlines for the wrong reasons on Sunday afternoon when he was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct. The school subsequently released a statement Sunday announcing Lynch has been suspended from all team activities indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation.

    Lynch was taken into custody at around 1:30 on Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-9 center has not been formally charged but is being held without bail in Hennepin County jail.

    An Illinois State transfer who sat out all of last season, Lynch was expected to be a key contributor next season for a Minnesota team that lost top big man Joey King to graduation this spring. Lynch averaged 9.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game as a sophomore at Illinois

    Read More »from Minnesota's Reggie Lynch arrested on suspicion of sexual assault
  • He's from the San Diego area. He visited San Diego State last week. The Oceanside restaurant where he made his announcement was decorated with red and black balloons.

    All signs pointed to high-scoring San Francisco transfer Devin Watson selecting San Diego State on Sunday evening, and sure enough that's exactly what happened. The 6-foot-1 point guard unzipped a black warmup jacket to reveal an Aztecs basketball shirt underneath, a decision that inspired shouts and applause from the few dozen friends and family family members in attendance. 

    Watson elected to return home and play for San Diego State despite interest from the likes of Cal, UNLV and Kansas among other programs. He will sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining thereafter.

    The offer from San Diego State required patience from Watson. He initially committed to Oregon State during high school only to change his mind when the Beavers landed Gary Payton II out of junior college. By the time Watson

    Read More »from San Diego State lands coveted San Franciso transfer Devin Watson
  • Washington boosted its chances of landing one of the Class of 2017's top prospects on Friday when it hired his father as an assistant coach.

    Michael Porter Sr. will replace Brad Jackson on Lorenzo Romar's staff, he confirmed to Yahoo Sports via text message. Washington subsequently announced the news.

    “We’re extremely excited to have Mike and his family join us,” Romar said in a statement from Washington. “I’ve known him for many years and he will be a very valuable addition to our coaching staff. Mike has a very high level of experience in player development and also provides a network of recruiting in the Midwest that we have not really been able to tap into. There’s no doubt he will help our program continue to grow and be a great mentor to our guys."

    Porter is the father of two coveted prospects, skilled, athletic 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. (No. 2 in Class of 2017) and four-star 6-foot-8 power forward Jontay Porter (No. 45 in Class of 2018). Washington received a

    Read More »from Washington adds top recruit's father to its coaching staff
  • In the 13 years since the birth of Rivals.com, TCU's struggling basketball program landed only two top 150 prospects.

    The Horned Frogs matched that total in this year's class alone.

    Guard Josh Parrish, Rivals.com's No. 149 recruit, signed with TCU in November and did not renege on that commitment even after coach Trent Johnson was fired. Then new coach Jamie Dixon added to that haul on Wednesday when he landed Rivals.com's No. 55 recruit, guard Jaylen Fisher.

    Fisher is the highest rated recruit TCU has landed since the first edition of the Rivals rankings back in 2003. He had originally committed to UNLV but reopened his recruitment when the Rebels fired head coach Dave Rice and chose not to retain assistant coach Ryan Miller.

    While more than 20 schools offered Fisher a scholarship, TCU became an instant contender when Dixon added Miller to his staff last month. Fisher's bond with Miller made him take a

    Read More »from Jamie Dixon makes a big splash with his first recruit at TCU