Game of the Weekend: Saturday, 3:00 p.m.: St. Joseph’s at No. 11 Creighton (ESPN3)
This matchup lost some of its luster when Creighton lost to Boise State in Omaha earlier this week, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re just three weeks into the season and we’re getting a game between the favorite in the Missouri Valley and the favorite in the Atlantic 10. St. Joe’s enters this game at 4-1 on the season, with their only loss coming at the hands of Florida State in the Coaches vs. Cancer title game.
The Hawks have a much bigger and more athletic front line than the Bluejays, as their defacto small forward is 6-foot-9 shot blocker CJ Aiken, which could end up giving the notoriously defense-deficient Creighton trouble. But Creighton’s advantage will come in their versatility and execution offensively. Creighton is surgical when they have the ball. Doug McDermott cuts and seals as well as anyone in the country. Ethan Wragge and McDermott are two of the most dangerous shooters in the country, and they will draw those bigger St. Joe’s defenders out of the paint.
Best individual matchup: Grant Gibbs vs. Langston Galloway.
Five more games that you have to watch:
- Friday, 6:30 p.m.: Tennessee at No. 20 Georgetown (ESPN): Tennessee came into the season with more expectations than Georgetown, but thanks to an impressive performance against No. 1 Indiana at the Legends Classic two weeks ago, the Hoyas skyrocketed into the top 25. The Vols are still playing without Jeronne Maymon, which is a major loss for a team that prides themselves on their toughness, but this will still be a major test for the younger, weaker Hoyas.
- Friday, 8:30 p.m.: No. 6 Syracuse at Arkansas (ESPN): Syracuse has put up some impressive numbers this season, but the only time that they’ve been tested this season came when they played a San Diego State team that shoots threes on a boat. Not exactly a test. Arkansas has a star in BJ Young on the wing and runs Mike Anderson’s 40 Minutes of Hell defense. How will Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche handle it?
- Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Baylor at No. 8 Kentucky (CBS): Baylor is one of the most disappointing teams in the country this far into the season, as they lost to both Colorado and Charleston already this season. But it’s not like Kentucky has been a world-beater; they lost to Notre Dame on Thursday after losing to Duke in the second game of the season. The good news? There will be as much athleticism in this game as in any NBA game.
- Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Belmont at VCU: Everyone in the country knows about VCU at this point. They press, they shoot a lot of threes and they do everything they can to push the tempo and wear out their opponent. But Belmont does the same thing as well, and they have one of the most talented and experienced back courts at the mid-major level. This should be an entertaining, high-level basketball game.
- Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: Cal at Wisconsin (BTN): The Badgers are coming off of a home loss to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Cal, who won the DirecTV Classic, has a terrific perimeter attack — led by Allen Crabbe — but the question is whether or not they’ll be able to handle Jared Berggren inside.
And the mid-majors?:
- Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: Rider at Drexel
- Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: Wagner at Temple
- Saturday, 4:30 p.m.: Evansville at Colorado State
- Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Ohio at Robert Morris
- Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: Valpo at St. Louis
- Sunday, 5:00 p.m.: Wichita State at Air Force
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.