Pregame Shootaround 12.21.12: BYU visits Baylor and Stanford looks to rebound

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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: BYU at Baylor (9 PM) 
After watching the Bears walk out of the Marriott Center with an 86-83 victory last season, BYU looks to return the favor in the best matchup of the day. The Cougars have won three straight since getting whipped by 21 at Iowa State. Since that loss Dave Rose’s club has held their opponent below 40% shooting in two of three games, but repeating that feat will be tougher against Pierre Jackson and company.

If BYU is to win they’re going to need a big night from Matt Carlino, who has to remain under control. And the battle in the paint featuring BYU’s Brandon Davies and Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin will be entertaining to say the least. With both teams rebounding at least 32% of their missed shots, the team that controls its defensive glass will win.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Maryland (vs. Stony Brook; 8 PM) 
The Terrapins have taken full advantage of their schedule (as good teams tend to do), winning nine straight after losing the season opener to Kentucky. But the Seawolves pose an interesting challenge despite not having a player in their rotation taller than 6-9 Anthony Mayo. Guards Anthony Jackson, Jameel Warney and David Coley lead the way offensively for Steve Pikiell’s squad, and in forward Tommy Brenton the Seawolves have one of the most versatile players in America East. If Stony Brook can harass Alex Len and Dez Wells into off nights they’ve got a puncher’s chance. But given the talent of those two, that’s far easier said than done.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Montana at Sacramento State (10:05 PM)
Both teams enter tonight’s game 1-0 in Big Sky play, with the Grizzlies’ Will Cherry playing his third game of the year after returning from a broken foot. After playing 13 minutes in a loss to South Dakota State, Cherry played 35 (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) in Montana’s 62-56 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday night. And it will be interesting to see how Cherry responds to playing two games (both on the road) in three days. But he will have help from Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward, and they’ll need to perform well against a Sacramento State team that has four players averaging double figures. Forward John Dickson leads the way and point guard Dylan Garrity is a solid on-court leader.

Five Things to Watch

1) Given UConn’s rebounding issues tonight’s contest against Fordham could be one to keep an eye on, especially with the Rams now having the services of All-Atlantic 10 forward Chris Gaston. The Huskies are being out-rebounded by nearly six rebounds per game, and opponents are rebounding 38.3% of their missed shots (worst in the Big East).

2) Just one undefeated team is in action tonight, as 11-0 Wyoming hosts UCSB in Laramie. The individual matchup between UCSB’s Alan Williams and Wyoming’s Leonard Washington will be fun.

3) Stanford looks to rebound from their loss at No. 25 NC State with another road game, this time taking on Northwestern in Evanston. While the loss in Raleigh was an opportunity the Cardinal failed to grasp, tonight’s game is one that neither Stanford (nor the Pac-12) can afford to lose from an NCAA tournament resume standpoint.

4) Already having beaten Ole Miss this season, Kermit Davis’ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will look to pick up another win over an SEC opponent as they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville. Middle Tennessee has been one of the nation’s best when it comes to defending the three, as opponents are shooting just 27.7% from beyond the arc. Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller will need to be on their game for Vandy if the Commodores are to win.

5) No. 22 Notre Dame should be able to take care of Niagara in South Bend, but they’d better be careful with Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason. Green, MAAC Rookie of the Year last season, and Mason are averaging a combined 35.1 points per game with Mason’s 19.2 average currently ranking third (behind Iona’s Lamont Jones and Sean Armand) the MAAC.

The Top 25 

FIU at No. 6 Indiana (7 PM)

Niagara at No. 22 Notre Dame (7 PM)

Other Notable Games

Fordham at Connecticut (7 PM)

Stanford at Northwestern (9 PM)

Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee (in Nashville; 9 PM)

SMU vs. Wagner (Cable Car Classic; 9 PM)

Cal State Northridge at Utah (10:30 PM)

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

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?

Top 100 Players Countdown

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Starting on Monday morning and continuing throughout the week, we will be counting down the top 100 players in college basketball on the College Basketball Talk twitter account.

Check back to this page – or to the CBT twitter account – throughout the week to get caught up on the rankings.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team
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