Pregame Shootaround 12.9.12: West Coast match-up highlights Sunday’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. 21 UNLV vs. California

California has one of the best scoring duos in the nation in Allen Crabbe (22.4 ppg) and Justin Cobbs (18.7 ppg), but no other players average double figures. This lack of balance plays to UNLV’s favor Sunday, as they can try to key in on those two, while limiting production from elsewhere.

The Rebels have won four straight games since losing to Oregon, but had to survive a battle from Portland on the road this week. Anthony Bennett will be the most important piece for Dave Rice’s team Sunday, along with Anthony Marshall, who had 16 points vs. Portland. They’ll be looking to push the tempo, as usual.

Who’s getting upset?: DePaul against Milwaukee

Oliver Purnell is still building his program at DePaul, amidst the Big East turmoil and an injury report that doesn’t help his teams progress. With a relatively light Sunday slate of games, the Blue Demons could be on upset alert against mid-major Milwaukee. Paris Gulley and Jordan Aaron combine for close to 36 points per game for Milwaukee.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Akron vs. No. 16 Creighton

Doug McDermott and the Bluejays will take part in what is the only other game Sunday featuring a Top 25 team. Expect points in bunches, as both teams are ranked in the Top 20 in the country in points per game. The advantage for Creighton, though, is its efficiency in scoring those points. The Bluejays are second in the country in field goal percentage, helped along by McDermott, Ethan Wragge, and Gregory Echenique.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Anthony Bennett leads No. 21 UNLV against California, averaging 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The Rebels are young, which will be the criticism all season, but they are also very talented.

2) California lost its first game of the season to Wisconsin last Sunday, and now comes back a week later to face the first of two straight ranked teams. The Golden Bears have one of the highest-scoring duos in the country with Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs

3) Semaj Christon has been one of the most impressive freshmen in the country so far this season, leading Xavier with 15.4 points and 6.0 assists per game. The Musketeers take on Kent State Sunday afternoon.

4) After the departure of Royce White, Iowa State is still putting up stats. The Cyclones are in the Top 15 in the country in both scoring and rebounding, and in the Top 40 in assists. They take on Nebraska Omaha.

5) Florida State began the season as a fringe Top  25 team. Now, they’re 4-4 and riding a three-game losing streak. They’ll try to break that trend against Maine.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 16 Creighton vs. Akron (See above)

No. 21 UNLV vs. California (6:00 p.m., See above)

Other Notable Games 

Fresno State vs. Washington State (3:00 p.m. ET)

Maine vs. Florida State (4:00 p.m. ET)

Kent State vs. Xavier (4:00 p.m. ET)

Nebraska Omaha vs. Iowa State (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_

Shareef O’Neal decommits from Arizona

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Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has decommitted from Arizona following the latest in the FBI scandal.

Considered a five-star prospect on Rivals, the 6-foot-9 Shareef becomes one of the best available prospects in the country in the Class of 2018.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of freshman Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, who is a focal point in the FBI’s investigation.

Recruiting has taken a major hit for Arizona over the last several months as the program lost five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and now O’Neal due to scandal.

Sean Miller’s contract with Arizona pays him $5 million more if he’s fired for cause

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Following a bombshell report from ESPN on Friday night that Sean Miller is caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for superstar recruit Deandre Ayton, the Arizona head coach will not be coaching the Wildcats on Saturday night when they play at Oregon.

It seems as if Miller’s tenure in Tucson is coming to an end, which puts the University into a weird position. According to ESPN, the way that Miller’s contract is written, if he is fired for cause, he will receive twice as much money in a buyout — $10.3 million vs. $5.15 million — as he would receive if he was not fired for cause.

The reason for this?

According to Forbes, it appears to simply be a mistake that was made by Arizona when drafting the contract. In a section titled “Termination by University Without Cause; Liquidated Damages”, the contract states clearly that he’ll be entitled to receive 50 percent of his base salary for each year left on his contract. But in the section discussing what happens if Miller is fired FOR cause, the contract reads that “the University’s sole obligation to Coach shall be the payment of his Base Salary” for each year left on the contract.

His full base salary.

No agent in their right mind is going try and sneak something like that into a contract with a school because no school is going to be dumb enough to agree to put a clause like that in the contract. It is, quite literally, an incentive to break rules in order to get fired for cause.

What does that mean?

Well, Miller is probably not going to be fired for cause.

And if he is, he’ll double the amount of money that he’ll have to toss into his bank account while he figures out what the next move for him will be.

No. 19 Tennessee tops Ole Miss 73-65

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OXFORD, Miss. — Admiral Schofield scored 23 points, Jordan Bowden scored 15, Lamonte Turner scored 13 and No. 19 Tennessee earned a 73-65 win over Mississippi on Saturday.

The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) jumped out to a 29-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and held off a rally by Ole Miss in the second half to earn the key road victory.

Neither team shot well from the floor with Tennessee shooting 39 percent and Ole Miss shooting 34 percent.

The Rebels (12-17, 5-11) struggled from long distance. Ole Miss shot 4 percent (1-for-23) from three-point range. Terence Davis, who was 1 for 7 on 3s, connected in the second half.

Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 17 points, Bruce Stevens scored 14 and Davis finished with 13.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: With Saturday’s win, the Vols remained behind No. 12 Auburn and in second place in the league.

Mississippi: The Rebels enter the final week of the season with an attempt to grab momentum heading into the SEC Tournament and the offseason.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will travel to Mississippi State on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at home against Georgia next Saturday.

Mississippi: Ole Miss travels to Kentucky on Wednesday and will host Vanderbilt on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Michigan State clears Miles Bridges to play

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Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges has been cleared to play, the school announced on Saturday.

Bridges was one of the players named in the Yahoo Sports report on Friday that linked numerous players to NBA agent Andy Miller and former runner Christian Dawkins. In the report, Bridges’ mom allegedly received $400, according to an expense report filed by Dawkins, while Bridges’ parents had a meal with Dawkins listed at $70.05.

Even though the report looks bad, a number of programs, including Duke, Kentucky and USC are allowing their players named in the report to continue to play.

“After learning of the allegations in yesterday’s Yahoo! Sports article, our compliance office conducted a thorough internal review. Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward, beginning Sunday at Wisconsin,” Beekman said.

In the midst of an 11-game winning streak, Michigan State has been one of the best teams in the country over the next several weeks. But now the Bridges case adds another complicated matter that this program has to deal with heading into the Big Ten Tournament next week.

Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach Saturday night

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Arizona head coach Sean Miller is not expected to be on the sidelines coaching for Arizona on Saturday night as they play at Oregon, according to multiple reports.

Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of potential No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

There is no word yet on whether or not Ayton will be playing on Saturday night.

Arizona is already playing without Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for a PED for for the second time in his career. He was suspended prior to Thursday night’s game at Oregon State.

Richardson was fired by Arizona after he was caught up in the original FBI complaints in September. He had worked for Miller for 10 years at Xavier and Arizona. He was alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes to steer players to Dawkins and another financial advisor.

Ayton committed to Arizona in September of 2016. He is currently averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 boards for No. 14 Arizona and is considered by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Miller denied any knowledge of a scheme to pay recruits to enroll at Arizona in October.

There has been speculation all season long that Arizona’s ties to this investigation could cost Miller his job.