Some ‘under the radar’ individual battles to keep tabs on tonight

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The season is finally here, and with that are some fun individual match-ups for college basketball fans to watch. One of the best duels will take place in Omaha as Creighton host North Texas.

A game featuring Doug McDermott and Tony Mitchell doesn’t qualify for “under the radar” status given how much we know about the two players. McDermott is one of the early favorites for National Player of the Year if you go off of the early straw polls, and Mitchell is considered by many to be a future lottery pick.

What makes this contest under the radar? The fact that there’s no television.

McDermott averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest last season, winning the Larry Bird Award that goes to the Missouri Valley Conference’s best player. Mitchell had to wait a while for his college debut but the moment he stepped on the floor at North Texas his presence was felt, and he helped lead the Mean Green to the Sun Belt tournament final with averages of 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

McDermott can score from anywhere on the floor, as evidenced by his 48.6% shooting from behind the arc last season, and while Mitchell may not shoot as often from the perimeter he’s no slouch himself. Both teams have plenty of talent, but it’s the two likely NBA Draft picks (whenever they decide to end their college careers) that will be the focus of the NBA scouts in attendance.

Here are a few other “under the radar” individual match-up to keep an eye on tonight:

Robert Covington (Tennessee State) vs. Brandon Davies (BYU)
Davies’ name has been well-known for quite some time, but it took an upset win at Murray State last year for Covington to receive some national pub. The thing is, that while Covington’s 17-point, eight-rebound outing in the Tigers’ 72-68 win was a solid showing he put together some masterpieces in other games (30 and 15 at Austin Peay being one example). Both are capable of posting double-doubles on a consistent basis, which should make for a fun battle in Provo.

Eric Ferguson (Georgia Southern) vs. Ryan Broekhoff (Valparaiso)
While Broekhoff (reigning Horizon League POY) had the better perimeter shooting and rebounding numbers of the two last season, Ferguson’s been hard at work to improve his ball-handling and perimeter skill set during the offseason. Valparaiso will once again be one of the favorites in the Horizon, but if Georgia Southern is to reach the point of contending with Davidson and Charleston it will be Ferguson who leads the way.

Frantz Massenat (Drexel) vs. Randal Holt (Kent State)
Both players averaged at least 30 minutes per game last season, with Massenat entering this season as the choice to win CAA Player of the Year. Massenat was the more productive of the two last season when factoring in assists (4.8 apg to 2.6 for Holt) and rebounds, but Holt has increased his number in each of his three seasons at Kent State.

Kareem Jamar (Montana) vs. Wes Eikmeier (Colorado State)
No Will Cherry (broken foot) for the Grizzlies, which means even more will be asked of Jamar given the youth of that lineup. Jamar, a first team All-Big Sky selection last season, averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. One of the CSU guards he’ll encounter is Eikmeier, who averaged nearly 16 points per game for a team that reached the NCAA tournament as well.

Warren Niles (Oral Roberts) vs. Julian Washburn (UTEP)
Oral Roberts is in a new conference (Southland) but one reason why many have made them the favorite to win the league is the presence of Niles (12.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), their leading returning scorer from last season. Washburn was one of Conference USA’s best freshmen last season, posting averages of 11.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest, and he should only get better as a sophomore.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.