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College Hoops Today: Let the Madness Begin

March 6, 2024 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Ryan Conwell has played very well for the Indiana State Sycamores.
Ryan Conwell (right) is racking up the double-doubles. (Indiana State University Athletics)

UNC has clinched at least a share of the ACC regular season title; Purdue has taken the Big 10 regular season title for the second straight season; and Shaka Smart expects Tyler Kolek (oblique) to return very soon.

Ryan Conwell Steps Up for Sycamores

The Missouri Valley Conference tourney kicks off Thursday, and with the winner likely being the only team to make March Madness, no team can afford to let up.

The team to watch here is the Indiana State Sycamores, who enter the tourney on a four-game win streak that helped them clinch their first regular season title since 1999-2000. The last time Indy State made it to the NCAA tourney was 2010-11, when they were kicked out in the second round.

He’s only the Sycamores’ third-leading scorer, but sophomore guard Ryan Conwell has really caught our eye with his recent play. He went off for 24 points (including 15 in the second half) and 12 boards in the season finale on Sunday, giving him two double-doubles in the last three games.

After transferring from South Florida, Conwell took a massive leap forward this season, becoming a full-time starter and playing huge minutes while dramatically improving his shooting. His play has earned him MVC Newcomer of the Week honours a whopping five times this season (check out the video below for highlights from the third time he won this).

Combo guard Conwell has the wingspan to be a solid defensive player, but is a longshot to play pro ball at this point. However, a big showing in the tournament and another improved season as a junior could change that outlook.

Darius Johnson Shows Progress

It’s been a rough first year in the Big 12 for the University of Central Florida Knights (15-13 overall, 6-10 within the conference) and things don’t get any easier Wednesday as they’re 8.5 points underdogs against No. 1 Houston as per odds at FanDuel.

Maybe it’ll take a miracle for the Knights to punch a ticket to March Madness for the first time since 2018-19, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been some bright spots this season. For instance, the continued development of junior guard Darius Johnson has been a real positive.

He had a rough go last game (six turnovers), but had been rolling before that, scoring at least 15 points in five straight. Johnson leads UCF in assists and steals while ranking second in scoring this season. His bucket count is up (as are his touches) and he’s once again improved his shooting touch.

We love the fact that Johnson came up big against the best, scoring 17 points with six assists in the Knights’ win over Kansas in mid-January, and then posting 16 and five as UCF knocked off Texas Tech late last month.

A solid perimeter defender and offensive facilitator, he really racks up the steals, but needs to work on his ball control as he doesn’t have the size to play as a two-guard and all those turnovers will make it difficult for him to stay at the point as a pro. Johnson can’t really be considered a pro prospect at this stage.

RotoRob Tune of the Day

Reinventing visual style was at the heart of what made David Bowie so brilliant. Here’s the first single from 1973’s Aladdin Sane, “The Jean Genie,” co-produced by Ken Scott, who worked with a who’s who of British rock including the Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Supertramp and Procol Harum.

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