Pregame Shootaround 12.6.12: Nebraska looks to make a statement

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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. 16 Creighton at Nebraska (8 PM) 

Thursday’s schedule may be light, but that allows for even more attention to be given to this battle in Lincoln. Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers are 6-1 on the season (5-0 at home) and coming off of a solid win over USC on Monday, but the Bluejays are an entirely different animal. Greg McDermott’s team has little trouble scoring points, which means that Nebraska will have to be even better defensively tonight than they were on Monday.

The home team has won the last seven meetings in the series, with Creighton’s 50-48 win in 2004 being the last time the visitor came out on top. With Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique leading the way inside the Bluejays will be a tough matchup for burly Nebraska center Andre Almeida, and guards such as Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley will need to be at their best if the Huskers are to win.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (7 PM) 

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats had better not overlook the Trojans, who arrive at Fifth-Third Arena with a 7-3 record (2-0 Sun Belt). Steve Shields’ Trojans allowed 57.0 points per game in wins over Troy and ULM to begin Sun Belt play 2-0, and they’ve been one of the league’s best defensive teams in regards to both scoring and field goal percentage defense. Will Neighbour (12.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg), a preseason All-Sun Belt selection, leads the way offensively for UALR. The Trojans will have their hands full with Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and the rest of the Bearcats, but if they can make this a half-court game UALR has a puncher’s chance.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UCSB at No. 17 San Diego State (10 PM)

No San Diego State is not a mid-major, but with tonight’s slate why not show UCSB forward Alan Williams some love. Williams is averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Gauchos, who are 3-4 on the season (replacing Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally). If Williams can give SDSU fits in the paint (DeShawn Stephens will be a key figure for them) the Aztecs will be in for a battle. This game will also feature two solid freshman wings in San Diego State’s Winston Shepard and UCSB’s Taran Brown.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) Freshman Kris Dunn won’t make his debut for Providence just yet but there is a chance that Bryce Cotton will be able to play as the Friars take on rival Rhode Island. Two depleted teams led by coaches many feel are capable of turning around the fortunes of these Ocean State programs.

2) Michael Carter-Williams was outstanding in Syracuse’s 84-48 blowout of Eastern Michigan, tallying 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. What can he do for an encore? Long Beach State’s Mike Caffey will offer up a challenge tonight.

3) Xavier looks to move to 7-1 on the season with a young Vanderbilt squad visiting the Cintas Center. Freshman Semaj Christon has been one of the best freshmen in the country to this point in the season, and the Musketeers have shown themselves to be better than expected in the aftermath of their many personnel issues.

4) One of the most underrated guards in the nation will be in action as Tennessee Tech hosts Green Bay. That player: Tennessee Tech senior Jud Dillard, who leads the Golden Eagles in scoring (20.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) and is second on the team in assists (2.9 apg). While Isaiah Canaan and Kerron Johnson get the majority of the attention, Dillard will be a factor in the OVC Player of the Year race.

5) Cal State Fullerton looks to rebound from their tough loss at Washington on Sunday night when they host Cal State Bakersfield. With D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn leading the way the Titans certainly are capable of doing so, but they’ve lost the last three games in the series (including two last season).

The Rest of the Top 25: 

Long Beach State at No. 4 Syracuse (8 PM)

Other Notable Games:

Rhode Island at Providence (7 PM)

Vanderbilt at Xavier (7:30 PM)

Green Bay at Tennessee Tech (8:30 PM)

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

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.