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Weekend Preview: St. Mary’s traveling to USF highlights the mid-major slate

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Mid-major matchups: Sat. St. Mary’s @ San Francisco, 11 p.m. (Comcast Sports Net)

St. Mary’s has a chance to do something that no one has done is well over a decade — win the WCC’s outright regular season title and be named something other than “Gonzaga”. All the Gaels have to do is go into San Francisco and knock off the Dons. Simple enough, right? Ask the Zags. They lost at San Francisco last week. BYU can vouch for them as well. The week before that, the Cougars needed a last-second bucket from Matt Carlino to beat USF. The Gaels looked like they may have gotten past their losing streak with a 70-43 win at Portland on Thursday night, but there are no guarantees on the road in college basketball.

Five more mid-major games to keep an eye on

Fri. Butler @ Valparaiso, 7 p.m. (ESPNU): Valpo is the Horizon League champ, but they have been playing less-than-perfect basketball down the stretch. With Cleveland State looking like a different team without D’Aundray Brown, the surging Bulldogs are all of a sudden a trendy pick to win the league’s automatic bid, which they will need if they want to go dancing.

Fri. Fairfield @ Iona 9 p.m. (ESPNU): Fairfield and Iona were the two overwhelming favorites in the MAAC heading into the season, so it makes sense that the Stags will be the team that can keep the Gaels from winning the outright MAAC title. Iona currently holds a one game lead over both Fairfield and Manhattan. A win all but locks up the regular season title, assuming they can beat St. Peter’s at home. A loss and things get interesting. Both of these teams are talented enough to win a game in the NCAA Tournament should they get that far.

Sat. George Mason @ VCU, 6 p.m. (ESPN2): I’m mad at George Mason. I really am. The Patriots had to go and lose on Wednesday, which means that this game is nearly meaningless; the winner gets the two seed in the CAA Tournament and the loser gets the three seed. If Mason had won, they would have had a shot at winning the CAA regular season title as current leader Drexel is playing at Old Dominion on Saturday. Throw in the fact that the last time these two teams got together we had one of the best games of the college basketball season, and we were all set for a classic. It should still be a good one, but without everything at stake, it becomes less dramatic.

Sat. Penn @ Harvard, 7 p.m. (ESPN3): Harvard will all but lock-up the Ivy’s automatic bid with a win over Penn at home on Saturday night. Penn currently sits a game behind them in the loss column. If the Quakers lose, they will be tied with Princeton and Yale two games behind the Crimson without anyone that can knock off Harvard left on their schedule. If you have yet to see Penn’s point guard Zack Rosen play, check this game out. He’s the real deal.

Sat. No. 14 Murray State @ Tennessee Tech, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3): Murray State has already locked up the Ohio Valley Conference title, but playing in the conference they play in, the Racers cannot afford to take a game off to rest up for the conference tournament. A loss here and failing to win the league’s automatic bid would only give the committee an excuse to do the unthinkable. Tennessee Tech has a player by the name of Kevin Murphy, who scored 50 in a game this season. I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Isaiah Canaan trade buckets for 40 minutes.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Top-25 guard trims list to six

Trae Young , Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
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One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.