Pregame Shootaround 12.1.12: Getting you ready for Saturday’s lineup 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:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published at 12 p.m. ET.

Game of the Day: Baylor vs. No. 8 Kentucky (12:30 p.m. ET)

In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari had never lost two games in the month of November. That changed this season. The Wildcats come into their match-up with Baylor after a double-digit loss to Notre Dame on the road. They now return home to face another team that was upset in its last game, Baylor, who lost to College of Charleston last week.

This game will feature a full ensemble of talented freshman to keep an eye on. For Kentucky, Archie Goodwin needs to bounce back from a cold 1-of-7 shooting performance vs. the Fighting Irish and Alex Poythress needs more shots after just one in 23 minutes in his last outing. Baylor looks to Isaiah Austin, who has been one of the country’s best freshmen so far, averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Creighton against St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton was upset by Boise State on Wednesday and the road gets no easier for them against St. Joe’s. I picked Phil Martelli’s squad as a mid-major that could shake things up in March, and they feature one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway combine to average over 30 points per game and forward Ronald Roberts is averaging a double-double so far this season.

The biggest key for the Hawks, as it is with every team that faces Creighton, is to limit the impact of Doug McDermott. If St. Joe’s center C.J. Aiken is up for the task, we might have an upset brewing in Omaha Saturday afternoon.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Belmont (7:00 p.m. ET)
Virginia Commonwealth showed in the Battle 4 Atlantis that Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense allows them to hang with anyone, but they’ll have their hands full Saturday night against a tough Belmont team. Belmont already has a win over a BCS-conference school, Stanford, and will look to the combination of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson for scoring against the Rams.

If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, perhaps a 16-point, 13-rebound stat line against Duke will force an introduction. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect VCU to deviate from its typical gameplan: turn the opponent over and score points off their mistakes.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) Aaron Craft was just 3-of-15 from the floor in Ohio State’s loss to Duke on Wednesday. He’ll have an easier match-up Saturday against Northern Kentucky, so can he get back on track?

2) In the battle of high-level freshman between Baylor and Kentucky, who will win out? Archie Goodwin struggled against Notre Dame and how will Alex Poythress respond after getting just one shot in that game? Kentucky runs into a tough match-up with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus Pierre Jackson running the show.

3) Freshman Marcus Smart has been the engine behind Oklahoma State’s early-season success. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for the Cowboys. They take on an undefeated Virginia Tech team Saturday.

4) Now that Michael Dixon’s career at Missouri is officially over, how will Frank Haith and the Tigers reshape their team? They’ve been able to play without him and get to 5-1 so far, but does knowing that he is definitively out actually end up bringing some stability to the rotation?

5) UCLA has been one of the most heavily criticized teams in the country so far this season. Center Josh Smith left the program this week and the team responded with a blowout win over Cal State Northridge. They face a stiffer challenge Saturday against No. 23 San Diego State.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 1 Indiana vs. Coppin State (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 2 Duke vs. Delaware (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Bradley (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 4 Ohio State vs. Northern Kentucky (4:30 p.m. ET)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Illinois State (1:00 p.m. ET)

No. 8 Kentucky vs. Baylor (12:30 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 9 Arizona vs. Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Creighton vs. St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 12 Gonzaga vs. Pacific (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 13 Michigan State vs. Nicholls State (12:00 p.m. ET)

No. 14 North Carolina vs. UAB (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Missouri vs. Appalachian State (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 17 Cincinnati vs. Alabama (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 19 Colorado vs. Wyoming (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Minnesota vs. North Florida (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 San Diego State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Hawaii (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Indiana State (2:05 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games:

Xavier vs. Purdue (2:15 p.m. ET)

Southern Methodist vs. Hofstra (4:00 p.m. ET)

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET)

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

Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.