Pregame Shootaround 12.13.12: Shockers’ trip to Knoxville headlines slate

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will 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. 23 Wichita State at Tennessee (7 PM) 

Just two Top 25 teams are in action tonight and the Shockers have the far tougher matchup of the two as they visit Tennessee. Gregg Marshall’s squad, while expected to contend in the Missouri Valley when the season began, has been a pleasant surprise to this point in the season. Forwards Cleanthony Early (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Carl Hall (13.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) have led the way offensively and three other Shocker players are averaging between 7.4 and 7.9 points per game.

As for the Volunteers it’s been a struggle offensively, as they’ve failed to reach 40 points in either of their last two games (losses to Georgetown and Virginia) and on the season Tennessee is shooting just 42% from the field. Jarnell Stokes will need to lead the way for Tennessee, and their guards need to hit shots consistently if they’re to beat Wichita State.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Washington (at Seattle; 10 PM) 

This is a game the Huskies should win, even though the Redhawks are the home team at Key Arena. But the season hasn’t been a smooth one for Lorenzo Romar’s squad, as they’ve already lost to Albany and Nevada while also getting soundly whipped by Colorado State at home. Will Washington have enough scoring to supplement C.J. Wilcox’s 19.9 points per game? That’s the big question for Washington as they approach the start of Pac-12 play, and if the answer is “no” tonight Seattle has a shot at the upset. Forwards Clarence Trent (who began his college career at Washington) and Deshaun Sunderhaus need to play well if the Redhawks are to pull it off.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Middle Tennessee at Belmont (7 PM)

This would be an excellent matchup of mid-majors even if it didn’t fall in the middle of finals. The Blue Raiders are coming off of a win over Ole Miss and have been solid defensively for much of the season, but they’ll have their hands full with Rick Byrd’s Bruins. Belmont is shooting 48.4% from the field and 43.6% from three, with senior guards Ian Clark (19.4 ppg) and Kerron Johnson (13.9 ppg, 4.8 apg) leading the way. For the winner this will be a good game to have on their resume when March rolls around, even if it’s simply to improve their NCAA tournament seeding.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 20 UNLV will be without Mike Moser (dislocated elbow) tonight when they take on La Verne, but the weak opponent gives Dave Rice the opportunity to ease freshman point guard Daquan Cook into the rotation. Cook was originally expected to redshirt, but not only is that no longer the case but he will get minutes too. If Cook performs well in these weeks leading into Mountain West play, that would allow Anthony Marshall to play more off the ball.

2) Florida Gulf Coast looks to move to 6-0 at home when they host FIU in Fort Meyers. Andy Enfield’s Eagles are led by guards Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson, who average a combined 30.0 points per game.

3) How many will Brock Motum score tonight? Motum’s averaging 19.7 points per game for Washington State, and with 0-6 Jackson State in town the senior could be poised to go off. He’s scored at least 23 points in each of the last four games, which includes a season-high 29 in a 72-60 win over Portland.

4) Speaking of Jackson State, they’re one of two winless SWAC teams in action tonight. The other is 0-7 Alabama State, which hosts Troy. The Hornets are playing just their second home game of the season, but getting off the schneid will be tough when considering the fact that they’re giving up 77 points per game.

5) Cal State Fullerton looks to end a three-game losing streak when they host Idaho State. The Titans have lost those three games, including a loss at Washington, by a total of eight points.

The Rest of the Top 25:

La Verne at No. 20 UNLV (10 PM)

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

PHOTOS: Miami, Syracuse wear shirts honoring Florida shooting victims

Photo via Mike Waters, Syracuse.com
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Syracuse is playing in Miami on Saturday, the first game that the Hurricanes have played at home since the shooting at Parkland, Florida’s, Stoneman Douglas High School.

Both teams wore warmup shirts honoring the victims of the shooting prior to the game:

Parkland and Coral Gables are about 50 miles apart, but both towns are suburbs with the same Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area.

St. John’s guard Lovett to leave school, turn pro

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Marcus Lovett announced on Saturday morning that he will be leaving St. John’s to pursue a professional career.

This decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Lovett, who averaged 14.9 points through the first seven games of the season, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury despite reports that he was healthy enough to play.

According to the New York Post, Lovett was not even enrolled in school for the spring semester.

Lovett spent three seasons in New York with the Johnnies and played less than a year and a half.

Yale’s Makai Mason expected to play vs. Harvard

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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For the first time since the 2016 NCAA tournament, Yale basketball fans are going to have a chance to see Makai Mason play for the Bulldogs.

A star point guard that is already committed to play for Baylor as a grad transfer in 2018-19, Mason missed all of the 2016-17 season and the 2017-18 season to date with a series of foot injuries.

As a sophomore, Mason averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists for the Bulldogs as they won the Ivy League and knocked off Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. He had 31 points in that win.

The Elis are currently 5-4 in the Ivy League after beating Dartmouth on Friday night. With Mason back in the fold, they seem like a safe bet to get to the Ivy League tournament and a contender to win it all.

The way that Ivy League rules are written, players are not allowed to redshirt, even if they are injured for the season. Since Mason was in classes as a junior, during the season that he missed, this year is the last year that he would be allowed to play for an Ivy League program.

Bubble Banter: Texas, Syracuse land massive wins

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Longhorns landed a massive, massive win for their NCAA tournament chances on Saturday afternoon when they went into Norman and picked off Oklahoma. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and put them into a position where a 2-2 finish to Big 12 play keeps them at 8-10 in the league. That’s relevant because no team more than two games below .500 in league play has reached the NCAA tournament since the early 90s. The Longhorns are now 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents with some elite wins in that mix — Texas Tech, at Alabama, a sweep of Oklahoma Butler on a neutral — and no losses worse than Quadrant 2. Texas is going to have a very real chance to be an NCAA tournament team with 14 losses this season.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): The Orange hold their bubble future in their own hands, and they got started in the right direction on Saturday by going into Coral Gables and picking off Miami. That’s their third Quadrant 1 win — assuming that Buffalo, who is currently 30th in the RPI, remains top 30 — but a Quadrant 3 loss and the lack of a truly marquee victory is a glaring hole in their résumé. The good news? This is the remaining schedule for the Orange: UNC, at Duke, at Boston College, Clemson. Go 2-2 in that stretch and they will enter the ACC tournament in pretty good shape.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 59, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 9): The Hokies beat the breaks off of Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, meaning they finished their three game road trip at 2-1 with a win at Virginia. Not bad. The rest of VT’s schedule looks like this: Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami. With a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 325, I still think the Hokies need to win two of these games.

BUTLER (RPI: 40, KenPom: 26, NBC seed: 10): The Bulldogs added another Quadrant 2 win to their profile on Saturday with an impressive win over Providence at home. Butler is 3-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents with three Quadrant 1 games left on their schedule: Creighton, at St. John’s, at Seton Hall. I think they’ll probably be in if they win one of those three games, but I would recommend winning two.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: 8): Losing at Butler doesn’t exactly hurt Providence’s profile. Quadrant 1 road losses are what they are. The Friars are interesting because they have five Quadrant 1 wins but two Quadrant 3 losses and a hideous, Quadrant 4 loss to DePaul at home. I think they need two more wins (Seton Hall, at Xavier, at Georgetown, St. John’s) to lock up their at-large bid.

YET TO PLAY

KANSAS STATE
LSU
BOISE STATE
ARKANSAS
N.C. STATE
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
BAYLOR
WASHINGTON
TCU
LOUISVILLE
MARQUETTE
UCLA
USC

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure’s LaDarien Griffin blocks shot, saves ball missing a shoe

Screengrab via News 4 Buffalo
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One of my favorite plays of the season to date.

With St. Bonaventure down 72-69 with just over three minutes left of their win over No. 16 Rhode Island, LaDarien Griffin lost a shoe and was forced to play a defensive possession in just a sock.

What did he do?

Well, he blocked a shot, corralled the loose ball and threw the ball off of a URI player who was standing out of bounds to stop play. Check this out:

That wasn’t the only big play that he made.

He also blocked a shot with 4.2 seconds left that helped preserve the win for the Bonnies.