Pregame Shootaround 12.5.12: Battle in Sunshine State highlights Wednesday’s action

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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 half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State

With the way Kentucky’s season is shaping up, those who chose Florida to win the SEC are looking pretty smart right now. The Gators are undefeated and have won their six games by an average of 25 points per contest. They feature a good backcourt/frontcourt balance between Kenny Boynton/Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young/Erik Murphy/Will Yeguete, which makes them difficult to defeat. Mike Rosario, the Rutgers transfer, has also been a key contributor.

Florida State entered the season as a fringe Top 25 team, but lost its opener to South Alabama and comes into Wednesday night’s game on a two-game losing streak after losses to No. 21 Minnesota and unranked Mercer. Guard Michael Snaer is key to the Seminoles’ success. In their wins, Snaer is averaging 17.5 points and shooting 46 percent from the floor. In their losses, he is averaging just 9.7 points and shooting just 27 percent from the floor.

Who’s getting upset?: Memphis against Ohio

Take one team that has fallen out of the Top 25 after a disappointing start the season and welcome a reigning Sweet 16 team and what do you get? The possibility for an upset at FedEx Forum tonight.

Guard D.J. Cooper is one of the most underrated playmakers in the country, averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 assists per game this season.The Bobcats’ biggest weakness this season has been on the boards, but they shoot a high percentage and are in the Top 60 in the country in scoring.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was criticized after his seven-turnover performance against VCU in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but, to his credit, has bounced back since. He is averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 assists in his past two games, both Memphis victories.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Penn State vs. La Salle (NBC Sports Network)

This is technically a mid-major vs. high-major match-up, but a few big wins for the Explorers make this one worth tuning in to. La Salle began its season with a win over a tough Delaware team, then followed that up with an overtime win over Villanova two weeks later. This game loses a bit of its intrigue because of the season-ending injury to Penn State guard Tim Frazier, but D.J. Newbill will still have his hands full with Explorer guards Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) The Battle for the Sunshine State is on Wednesday, as No. 6 Florida takes on Florida State. See above for a full preview. I’m most interested to see Michael Snaer against this strong Florida lineup.

2) Why is no one talking about New Mexico? The 18th-ranked team in the country is perhaps overshadowed by San Diego State and UNLV in the Mountain West, but is undefeated so far. They take on USC Wednesday

3) Gonzaga has likely been the most impressive mid-major so far this season. Ranked at No. 10 in the country, Elias Harris & Co. get a shot at Washington State Wednesday night.

4) Fran Dunphy has his Temple Owls off to a 5-0, but they have their first match-up against a BCS opponent Wednesday night against Villanova. Nothing like a Big 5 game in early December.

5) Boise State narrowly lost to Michigan State, then beat No. 11 Creighton. They carried some of that Bluejay momentum to beat Seattle, and now they take on Utah. Will the Broncos end up being a surprise team this season?

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State (see above)

No. 10 Gonzaga vs. Washington State

No. 18 New Mexico vs. USC

No. 19 Michigan State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

No. 23 Oklahoma State vs. South Florida

Other Notable Games:

Tennessee vs. Virginia

West Virginia vs. Marshall

Temple vs. Villanova

Colorado State vs. Colorado

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

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.