Pregame Shootaround 12.18.12: Stanford looks to get win over Top 25 team on the road

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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. 25 NC State vs. Stanford

The Wolfpack were chosen to win the ACC in the conference’s preseason media poll, but are standing in the shadow of Duke’s dominance so far. Despite that, there is still a core of players that make NC State a Top 25 team and a threat in March. Freshman TJ Warren has been impressive so far as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points per game. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell have been the anchors in the frontcourt, combining to average close to 27 points and 17 rebounds per game.

Stanford has been plagued by poor shooting this season, ranking 292nd in the country with a team shooting percentage of 39.8 percent. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle cannot carry the entire load offensively, so the Cardinal will look to Josh Huestis as a third option.

Who’s Getting Upset?: South Florida vs. Youngstown State

The Penguins have already upset Georgia early this season and are in the nation’s Top 75 in scoring and rebounding. South Florida, by contrast, does not shoot well from the field, does not score a lot of points, and does not rebound particularly well. This game will depend on which style of play prevails. If Youngstown State can speed Florida up and contain PG Anthony Collins, they have a chance to pull the upset. If the game settles to USF’s pace, Stan Heath and the Bulls know what to do from there.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Western Kentucky vs. Virginia Commonwealth (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Western Kentucky is coming off a close loss to Murray State and has another tough mid-major test against Virginia Commonwealth Tuesday night. Leading scorer TJ Price has missed the last two games due to injury and it is unclear when he will return. Jamal Crook, the team’s second-leading scorer, played sparingly against Murray State and it is unclear, too, if he will play vs. VCU.

If those two are out, the Hilltoppers must account for over 30 points of production per game, which they did against Murray State with a big performance from guard Brandon Harris, who had 23 points.

For Virginia Commonwealth, it’s business as usual. Push the tempo, create “Havoc” on defense, and flip turnovers into points. The Rams forced 16 turnovers in a blowout win over BCS opponent Alabama on Saturday to spoil Anthony Grant’s VCU homecoming. In that game, four players scored in double figures, include a solid 12 points in just 16 minutes from freshman back-up Melvin Johnson.

Five Things to Watch

1. Arizona was impressive down the stretch to defeat Florida last week and move up to No. 4 in the national polls. They face Oral Roberts Tuesday, which should give them an opportunity to remain undefeated and improve to 9-0 on the year.

2. Kansas’ Ben McLemore has been one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen, averaging 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Tuesday’s game against Richmond (9-2) will give him a mid-major test.

3. Having Gary Harris back is important for No. 20 Michigan State, as the Spartans move closer to Big Ten play. They meet Bowling Green on Tuesday.

4. Providence welcomes Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to the rotation, as Dunn debuts after surgery and Johnson is eligible after transferring from Arizona last season. The Friars haven’t had the benefit of depth yet this year, but now add two pieces to the lineup vs. Colgate.

5. UCLA was the most talked-about team in the early part of the season after some letdowns with Shabazz Muhammad in the lineup. The Bruins have won two in a row since losing to a ranked San Diego State team. They take on Long Beach State Tuesday.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 4 Arizona vs. Oral Roberts (9:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 7 Ohio State vs. Winthrop (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Networks)

No. 9 Kansas vs. Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 San Diego State vs. Point Loma (10:00 p.m.)

N0. 20 Michigan State vs. Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 25 NC State vs. Stanford (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) (See above)

Other Notable Games

Tennessee vs. Presbyterian (7:00 p.m. ET)

Miami (FL) vs. UCF (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

UC Santa Barbara vs. California (11:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.