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Pregame Shootaround 11.28.12: Getting you ready for Wednesday night’s slate of games

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Game of the Night: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Duke

Duke was impressive in the Battle 4 Atlantis and is certainly deserving of the No. 2 seed nationally. If it weren’t for the impressive performance by Indiana last night against North Carolina, one could even have made the case that they’re No. 1. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry are key tonight, as is the Quinn Cook-Aaron Craft match-up at the point guard spot.

Deshaun Thomas has put up some gaudy numbers so far this season, but we’ll see what he’s able to do against Duke. In the Buckeyes’ closest contest this season, a double-digit win over Washington, Ohio State turned the ball over 17 times. They’ll need to make sure to limit turnovers as they have in other games to put themselves in the best position Wednesday night.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 24 UNLV against UC-Irvine

It’s a combination of factors in this game that could make for an upset for UCI. Firstly, Irvine nearly beat then-ranked UCLA in regulation, but a few key missed free throws pushed the game into overtime, where the Bruins ultimately prevailed. Secondly, UNLV showed in its loss to Oregon and its near-loss in an exhibition to Dixie State that the supremely talented youth it features can sometimes be its downfall. We could have a competitive game in Vegas tonight.

Mid-Major Match-up of the Night: Tulsa vs. Wichita State

Wichita State is undefeated and showed its toughness in an early-season with over Virginia Commonwealth this month. The Shockers also have two wins over BCS-conference schools–DePaul and Iowa. The Shockers are favored in this one, but I’m interested to see Danny Manning’s team as he continues his first year as the head coach of the Golden Hurricane.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) The Aaron Craft-Quinn Cook match-up at point guard will be important for the winner of Duke-Ohio State. Read some more about it in CBT’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge preview. Click here.

2) Doug McDermott has been who we expected him to be this season (21 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) but they face a pesky Boise State team Wednesday that came within four points of beating Michigan State. Boise does not rebound the ball particularly well, so it is McDermott’s time to take over.

3) West Virginia is off to a disappointing 1-3. They face high-scoring VMI Wednesday night. We’ll see what adjustments Bob Huggins has made to make sure his team doesn’t start out 1-4 in their first season as members of the Big 12.

4) Penn State lost star guard Tim Frazier for the season after he tore his Achilles tendon against Akron. In their first game without him, they narrowly defeated Bucknell. Tonight they have a shot at Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

5) With UCLA quickly fading into the background, Arizona is looking stronger and stronger in the Pac-12. Sean Miller’s team is 3-0, having won its last two games in dominating fashion. Expect another big-time performance tonight against Northern Arizona.

The Rest of the Top 25:

Northern Arizona at No. 9 Arizona

Boise State at No. 11 Creighton

No. 13 Michigan State at Miami

Georgia Tech at No. 22 Illinois

Mercer at No. 25 New Mexico

Other notable games:

Virginia at Wisconsin

VMI at West Virginia

Purdue at Clemson

Boston College at Penn State

Cal State Northridge at UCLA

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.