Elite 2014 recruit cites religion as a major deciding factor

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FORT WAYNE, In. — High school basketball recruits usually have a few specific traits in mind as they sift through scholarship offers trying to decide on a school. Most players will cite similar things like a relationship with the coach, the style of play, or the chance to play for a league or national title.

But for elite class of 2014 forward Leron Black, a native of Memphis and the No. 16 prospect in the class of 2014 according to Rivals, he has a very important and specific factor in mind when he chooses his future program: Religion.

While religious beliefs have been in a factor in the recruitment of other players before, it is rare to hear a player cite religion as a main reason for deciding on a program.

“The main thing I’m looking for is I’m big on my Christianity, so I want to be somewhere where I can express that and spread it around and the coaches won’t have a problem with it,” Black explained to NBC Sports.

Black went on to explain his reason for using religion as the primary factor in his basketball future. The 6-8 forward from White Station High School currently claims scholarship offers from Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Baylor, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.

“(My Christianity) plays a big role in my life, I pray and read my Bible every day,” Black said. “It’s really big in my household and important to me and my family.”

While Black is still early in the recruiting process and not intent on making any visits anytime soon, he is still fielding calls from coaches and going through the process at his own pace. Interestingly enough, Black was once committed to Baylor, but decommited after he felt he wasn’t ready to decide his future.

“I still love the coaching staff and everybody over there, I just thought I committed too early,” Black said of the Baylor situation. “I wanted to take some time and I wanted to make sure that (the school) was the place God wanted me to be.”

The focus for Black right now is to get healthy after missing most of the spring with an ankle injury. While Black’s trademark lift and explosiveness is noticeably down at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam, he is playing his way back into shape with Team Thad.

“I hadn’t played in like three weeks so this is my first time playing in awhile. I just have to get my feel back,” Black said. “I hurt my ankle and I had past ankle injuries to the same ankle so the doctor just told me I needed some time to rest and heal.”

WATCH: No. 16 Seton Hall beats No. 21 Butler at the buzzer

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Seton Hall’s two-game skid came to an end in dramatic fashion Wednesday.

Sandro Mamukelashvili converted on a baseline-out-of-bounds play with 0.6 seconds left as the No. 16 Pirates defeated No. 21 Butler in Newark.

Quincy McKnight led the way for Seton Hall with 18 points while Myles Powell added 16. Mamukelashvili and Romaro Gill both had 15. Kamar Baldwin had 20 for the Bulldogs.

Seton Hall keeps its one-game lead in the Big East standings with the victory.

CBT Podcast: The Fifth Annual Why Your Team Sucks podcast ft. Brian Snow

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Rob Dauster was joined, once again, by the indefatigable Brian Snow of 24/7 Sports for the fifth annual Why Your Team Sucks podcast. If you can’t figure it out, we talk through every one of the good teams in college basketball are not, in fact, good and why they do, actually, suck.

In order:

Baylor (open)
Gonzaga (5:00)
Kansas (10:30)
SDSU (16:30)
Dayton (20:00)
Duke (26:15)
Michigan State (32:00)
Maryland (36:18)
Kentucky (42:20)
Louisville (48:00)
Villanova (52:05)
Auburn (56:00)
Oregon (58:40)
Penn State or Florida State? (1:02:00)
Which Big East team do we trust? (1:05:00)
Michigan or Texas Tech? (1:08:00)

Bubble Banter: Florida the lone winner on the bubble on Tuesday

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

FLORIDA (NET: 35, NBC: 9): At this point, Florida is pretty comfortably in the NCAA tournament after beating Arkansas (48) on Tuesday night. They are 7-9 against the top two Quads with wins over Auburn (25), Xavier (39) and at South Carolina (65). Their worst loss on the season in a road loss to Missouri (88). They should be in as long as they don’t do anything dumb down the stretch.

… AND LOSERS

VCU (NET: 52, NBC: Off the bubble): VCU lost at home to Dayton (5) on Tuesday, which essentially eliminates them from being in bubble contention this season.

PURDUE (NET: 33, NBC: First four out): After the Boilermakers lost at Wisconsin (33) on Tuesday night they are sitting at 14-13 on the season. They do actually have a pretty strong resume in regards to the number of good wins that they have, but the biggest issue currently facing Purdue is the number of losses, including a pair of Quad 3 losses. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 3-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-10 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.

ARKANSAS (NET: 48, NBC: Next four out): The Razorbacks lost at Florida (35) on Tuesday night, meaning that they have now lost four straight games and are sitting with a 4-10 record against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (36) and at Indiana (63). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back, but it might be too little, too late by the time he returns.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 47, NBC: 9): You can’t knock Oklahoma for losing at home to Baylor (2) too much. There is a reason that the Bears have not lost since November 8th. The Sooners now get Oklahoma State (71) on the road before hosting Texas Tech (21) and paying a visit to West Virginia (10). The Sooners do have a bit of a weird profile in the sense that they are 9-10 against the two top Quads, but only two of those wins are Quad 1 wins. That does, however, include a home win over the Mountaineers. I think they should be fine if they go 3-2 down the stretch, but picking up a win over Texas Tech or WVU would certainly help quite a bit.

Dayton beats VCU to stay atop Atlantic 10

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RICHMOND, Va. — Jalen Crutcher scored 18 points and No. 5 Dayton held off a late challenge and beat VCU 66-61 on Tuesday night, the Flyers’ 15th consecutive victory.

Obi Toppin added 12 points and Trey Landers 11 for the Flyers (24-2, 13-0 Atlantic 10). They were the highest ranked team ever to play on VCU’s home floor.

VCU (17-9, 7-6) closed to within one possession several times in the last seven minutes, the last on Vince Williams’ putback with 27 seconds left, but Dwayne Cohill made a pair of free throws with 22.4 seconds left and the Flyers held on.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY

Nah’Shon Hyland led VCU with 18 points and Marcus Santos-Silva had 12 points and 17 rebounds, but VCU lost for the fourth time in its last five games.

The Rams used an 8-1 run to get within 52-50 with 6:18 left, but Dayton converted six of eight free throws to rebuild the lead to 58-51. Malik Crowfield’s 3-pointer and a free throw by De’Riante Jenkins pulled the Rams within 58-55, but Toppin scored inside and added a free throw.

BIG PICTURE

Dayton: The Flyers were shooting well about 50% for most of the game before a dry spell in the second half that included a pair of ill-advised 3-point tries by Crutcher and Landers. They finished 19 for 42, 45.2%.

VCU: The Rams played without point guard Marcus Evans, their top passer and No. 3 scorer. Evans aggravated a left knee injury in VCU’s loss to Richmond last Saturday.

UP NEXT

The Flyers are at home against Duquesne on Saturday.

VCU is on the road at Saint Louis on Friday.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Creighton, Kentucky, Illinois earn big road wins

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College basketball saw some big results in the Big East and Big Ten on Tuesday night. Road wins from Illinois and Creighton left a big impression. Kentucky, meanwhile, kept the strong road-win theme of the night going with a strong win at LSU in the SEC.

No. 15 Creighton takes down No. 19 Marquette

Perhaps the night’s biggest win went to No. 15 Creighton. The Bluejays held off No. 19 Marquette for a crucial Big East road win.

Ty-Shon Alexander shook off a first-half shot to the jaw to finish with 22 points. And Creighton did a strong job of defending Markus Howard. The nation’s leading scorer was limited to 13 points in the loss.

The win gives Creighton a legitimate shot to win at least a share of the Big East title. I examined more on the Bluejays here.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY

Ayo Dosunmu’s return lifts Illinois over No. 9 Penn State

The night started with Illinois snapping a four-game Big Ten losing streak. Sophomore Ayo Dosunmu’s return fueled a critical 62-56 road win for the Illini at No. 9 Penn State.

After a scary knee injury against Michigan State last Tuesday, Dosunmu missed the Illinois loss to Rutgers over the weekend. The guard looked healthy in his return to the Illinois lineup. Dosunmu paced the Illini with 24 points. With the shot clock winding down with under a minute left, Dosunmu buried a runner to help seal the win.

Dosunmu’s return also helped Illinois immensely on the defensive end. Penn State only shot 36 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three-point range. The Illini threw length at the Nittany Lions on the perimeter. And the size of Kofi Cockburn (15 points) enabled Illinois to defend Mike Watkins (eight points) one-on-one. Life was also tough for Lamar Stevens during a 3-for-11 night. In a grind-it-out game where both teams went scoreless for minutes at a time, Illinois looked like a top-30 defense in a huge road game.

At this point in the season, Illinois is still a full three games out of the Big Ten lead. It’s unlikely the Illini can jump four or five teams to vault into first. But this is also a very dangerous team if they can get hot.

Starting Big Ten play at 8-2, Illinois already showed they’re capable of running off six or seven wins in a row in the deepest conference in the country. Although one win at Penn State doesn’t put Illinois back in contention it gives a dangerous team confidence.

The next two for Illinois are winnable games against bottom feeders in Nebraska and Northwestern. From there, it’s a three-game sprint to the finish with Indiana, at Ohio State and Iowa. With only one road game against a top Big Ten team, Illinois will be a fascinating team to track the next few weeks.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCOREBOARD

No. 10 Kentucky gets past LSU

In the SEC, the Wildcats kept their lead with a strong road win at LSU. The win gives Kentucky a two-game lead in the loss column on LSU. Auburn remains in second in the league at a game behind Kentucky.

The road win also gives the Wildcats another quality win. Winners of nine of their last 10 games, Kentucky looks like a team that is figuring things out down the stretch. Sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley has turned into the team’s most consistent scorer the past several weeks.

Quickley led Kentucky with 21 points on Tuesday night to lead the Wildcats. Establishing Nick Richards on the interior is still Kentucky’s best route to earning a win. But Quickley scoring at least 12 or more points in 14 straight games is something to track going forward.

Richards dominating on the inside and Quickley’s consistent scoring on the perimeter has given the Wildcats more of an established identity during the stretch run.