Doug McDermott

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.

Indiana roster dealing with handful of injuries as practice begins

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  A general view of  the SMU Mustangs game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on November 20, 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.

According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.

That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.

Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”

Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.

Texas lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Jase Febres

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Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.

The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.

Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.

The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.

 

VIDEO: Kentucky fans get married in the ticket line for Big Blue Madness

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Kentucky fans have unique ways of making their annual Big Blue Madness event the most chaotic tip-off event of the season. While Big Blue Nation is waiting in line for tickets to this year’s festivities in Tent City, one couple decided to go the extra mile.

After securing the first spot in line for tickets, Ray Branham and Vicki Harvey opted to get married. According to a post from Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio, the couple had already been talking about tying the knot, but decided to make the move once they had the top spot in line. As you can see by the wedding video, it was a very Kentucky-themed ceremony as the duo got married in front of friends and other Kentucky fans.

I can’t say I’m surprised two Kentucky fans decided to get married in line for something like Big Blue Madness and this (unplanned) wedding gives this year’s event something unique that we will always remember.

Penn State loses freshman on day practice starts

Patrick Chambers
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On the day that college basketball practice is to start, Penn State head coach Pat Chambers announced that his roster would be changing.

Joe Hampton, a 6-foot-8, 290 pound power forward from Maryland, will be leaving the program.

“Joe has made the decision to leave the program based on personal reasons,” Chambers said. “We wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.”

Hampton was a three-star prospect that missed his senior season at Oak Hill Academy with torn ACL, but he reportedly enrolled at Penn State in May, before the rest of the Nittany Lion recruit class.

Michigan State lands second Class of 2017 commitment

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Tom Izzo landed his second commitment in the Class of 2017 as big man Xavier Tillman announced that he will be attending Michigan State.

A 6-foot-7, 235 pound power forward, Tillman is a physical-if-undersized player that is rated as a three-star prospect. He’s not a one-and-done player, but he’s should be a good program guy for the Spartans.

“Tillman is another big and strong interior presence for Michigan State,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “What separates Tillman from a lot of big men his size is his passing ability. Tillman is an intelligent player on the offensive end and he rebounds his area well.”

Tillman joins Jaren Jackson, his AAU teammate for Speice Indy Heat, in Michigan State’s recruiting class.

He picked Michigan State over Purdue and Marquette.