Rutgers Scarlet Knights Kadeem Jack and Villanova Wildcats Mouphtaou Yarou battle for a rebound during their NCAA men's championship basketball game at the 2012 Big East Tournament in New York

One to watch: Rutgers forward Kadeem Jack

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Kadeem Jack was one of Mike Rice’s first big recruiting triumphs at Rutgers. The top-rated forward out of Queens was coveted by the likes of Arizona, Kentucky and UNC, but chose to play close to home for a coach who was a relative unknown. Quite aside from his obvious talent, Jack’s commitment signaled that the Scarlet Knights could become a force to be reckoned with on the local recruiting scene — dipping into the thriving talent pool in the five boroughs.

Jack, a relatively slender 6’8″ specimen, took a redshirt season and appeared to be ready to start his career last year. Then the injury bug bit, putting him on the shelf for several months while recovering from foot surgery. When Jack got back on the floor, just in time for Big East play, he was rusty and ineffective, averaging just eight minutes per game, and barely registering in terms of points and rebounds.

According to an interview with the New Jersey Hoops Haven blog, head coach Mike Rice expects this season’s results to be markedly different.

“Kadeem (Jack) and Derrick (Randall) have improved,” he told the blog. “They had a longer way to go, but if you ask me who has improved the most since last year, I would say Kadeem and Derrick. Their bodies have completely changed. Their understanding, their decision-making have gotten better). Really they all improved. This group had a tremendous offseason in the gym.”

So, Jack is bigger and better, which is a plus. More importantly, the addition of former K-Stater Wally Judge will allow Jack to exploit matchups more suitable to his abilities. Rice again:

“When I watched the film of last year’s games, a lot of nights we were getting manhandled. We would work hard, scratch and claw, but sometimes we were just overmatched. With Wally there, Kadeem will not have to defend the biggest guy (on the other team) and that should help him.”

What helps Jack should help the team. We’ll watch the Scarlet Knights with interest this season.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.

AP POLL: Villanova climbs to No. 1 in the country.

Jay Wright
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Like the Coaches Poll, Villanova found themselves No. 1 in the AP Poll during the regular season for the first time in the history of the program.

And like the Coaches Poll, there isn’t much in the way of a consensus when it comes to who is the No. 1 team, as there are six teams that received No. 1 votes in the poll this week.

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[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

The biggest shock to me?

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just 11 first place votes and is ranked fourth in the AP Poll.

They were ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Can we get Fran McCaffery the love they deserve?

Here is the rest of the AP Poll:

1. Villanova (20-3, 32 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 13)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 7)
4. Iowa (19-4, 11)
5. Xavier (21-2)
6. Kansas (19-4, 1)
7. Virginia (19-4, 1)
8. Michigan State (20-4)
9. North Carolina (19-4)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Oregon (18-4)
12. Miami (FL) (18-4)
13. Louisville (19-4)
14. Iowa State (17-6)
15. Texas A&M (18-5)
16. SMU (20-2)
17. Arizona (19-5)
18. Purdue (19-5)
19. Dayton (19-3)
20. Providence (18-6)
21. Baylor (17-6)
22. Kentucky (17-6)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Texas (16-7)
25. Wichita State (17-6)

DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Indiana, No. 25 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 24 Texas