Pregame Shootaround 12.15.12: Two top-10 teams square off

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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. 5 Florida vs. No. 8 Arizona (10 PM)

Finals ended this week in the classroom. On the basketball court…Florida and Arizona each have their biggest test of the year in tonight’s late game.

Both the Gators and Wildcats enter tonight with identical 7-0 records. Two of the top teams in the country go head-to-head with talented guards on the perimeter and big bodies down low. Arizona is led by the guard play of Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons. The Arizona backcourt is going up against one of the toughest perimeter defenses in the country. Florida has forced teams to struggle from behind the arc, while the Gators have held four opponents to under 50 points this season.

Florida will be looking to it’s all-around efforts from guards Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin. On the frontline, the Gators are facing a very versatile group of Arizona bigs. Kaleb Tarczewski, at 7-feet, is a load inside to go along with fellow-freshman, Grant Jerrett’s ability to step out and hit from behind the arc and Brandon Ashley’s athleticism. The Gator will counter with Patric Young and Erik Murphy inside. Murphy will be also be a tough matchup for the Arizona freshmen trio, as well as Solomon Hill, with his ability to play the pick-and-pop so well.

Two storied programs, two great coaches, and one exciting environment makes for a good game tonight

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: La Salle vs. Bucknell (7 PM)

Both teams are to its best start since the 2005-2006 season when La Salle started 7-0 and Bucknell began the year 9-1. The Explorers (6-1) have won five straight including a pair of wins over in-state foes, Villanova and Penn State. The Bison (8-1) have won three consecutive after a three-point loss to Penn State back on Nov. 23. Less than a month before conference play begins, Bucknell’s record is up there with Lehigh’s (8-2).

For La Salle, it’s going to be difficult to hold down Bucknell’s Mike Muscala. The 6-foot-11 senior center is averaging 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The Explorers don’t have great size inside, so Steve Zack, La Salle’s 6-foot-11 big, will need to avoid foul troube. La Salle does add Tyrone Garland to today’s game. Garland makes his debut for the Explorers after spending a year and a half at Virginia Tech.

Four Things to Watch

1. Following one of the more odd suspensions in college basketball, the nation’s No. 1 team, Indiana, goes full strength. Freshmen Peter Jurkin and  Hanner Mosquera-Perea are eligible today against Butler, following a nine-game suspension. The two freshmen impermissible benefits, according to the NCAA, from an IU booster. The booster was the two players’ AAU coach, who donated $185 over a six-year period. Regardless of the ridiculous suspension, the Hoosiers add more size to a frontcourt that features, Cody Zeller. The nation’s best team has gotten considerably better today against Butler.

3. Kentucky can continue to get back on track. The Wildcats have won two straight, after dropping two straight and falling out of the rankings. Kentucky takes on Lipscomb – only two games before a Dec. 29 meeting with rival, Louisville.

2. Jim Boeheim can inch closer to that milestone 900th victory today against Canisius. The Orange are 8-0 and if they win today, set up Boeheim for his 900th victory on Monday night against Detroit. Today’s game won’t be as easy as it looks. Canisius is one of the early surprises this season under first-year head coach Jim Baron. The Golden Griffins are 6-1, led by 17.7 points per game by Baron’s son, Billy, who transferred from Rhode Island last season.

4. Creighton has another chance to knock off a big-conference opponent, when the Bluejays meet California today. Creighton has bounced back from a loss to Boise State on Nov. 28 with three convincing victories. The Bears on the other hand, were blown out by Wisconsin and lost by one to UNLV. It’s another talk order for Cal, having to stop preseason All-American, Doug McDermott, who is averaging 26.7 points per game during the three-game winning streak.

Other Notable Games 

West Virginia vs. No. 3 Michigan (8 PM)

No. 6 Louisville vs. Memphis (2:30 PM)

Belmont vs. No. 9 Kansas (7 PM)

Kansas State vs. No. 14 Gonzaga (9 PM)

Purdue vs. No. 22 Notre Dame (4:30)

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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.