Oakland Tennessee Basketball

Pregame Shootaround 1.4.13: Memphis visits Knoxville in a game both teams need

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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: Memphis at Tennessee (8 PM) 
Remember a few years ago when these two teams met at FedEx Forum in a matchup of the top two teams in the country? Circumstances are far different this time around, as both the Tigers and Volunteers could use a solid non-conference win on their resume before beginning conference play. Looking at it from that perspective it can be argued that Memphis needs this game more, as they play in a Conference USA that’s looking like a one-bid league right now while Tennessee will have a shot at the likes of Florida, Kentucky and Missouri in the SEC.

The Tigers have been the better offensive team of the two this season, and how effective they are will hinge on the play of Joe Jackson. When he’s engaged Memphis is a tough team to beat, as they also boast players such as Adonis Thomas and Geron Johnson. Tennessee counters with Jarnell Stokes inside and Jordan McRae and Trae Golden on the perimeter but they’re shooting just 42% from the field on the season. This will be an emotional slugfest, and maybe by the end of it we’ll know once and for all the status of this series.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Georgia (vs. George Washington; 7 PM) 
Not sure if this would qualify as a true “upset” since the Colonials are 6-6 while Georgia enters the game with a 5-7 mark. But with this being their final game before the start of SEC play it would be in the Bulldogs’ best interest to defend Stegeman Coliseum. To do so they’ll need to keep Isaiah Armwood under wraps, as he’d reached double figures in five straight games before George Washington’s win over Sacred Heart on December 30. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is averaging 17.5 points per game to lead Georgia, but who’s his sidekick? Mark Fox needs a player to step up tonight, especially when looking ahead to conference play. But since that has yet to happen, expect George Washington’s Lasan Kromah to be the difference.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Cleveland State at Valparaiso (7 PM) 
The Horizon League race has the makings of being a really good one, with Valparaiso and Detroit leading the way. With that in mind this is a big game for the Crusaders, who enter tonight 0-1 in conference play. Cleveland State enters with an 8-6 record but Gary Waters’ team has struggled defensively, as opponents are averaging 70.1 points per game and shooting 46.3% from the field. Taking on Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk, the Vikings can’t afford to defend at that level tonight. Defensive issues are one reason why CSU is 1-5 on the road this season, and losing Anton Grady back in November (knee injury) certainly didn’t help matters.

Five Things 

1) “The record’s very misleading. There’s five or six of the games that (were) very winnable, so I really don’t think we can worry about our record right now.” Those were the words of Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro earlier this week in regards to the Saints’ 2-11 record. His players have a chance to prove him right and end their six-game losing streak tonight as they host Iona (7 PM).

2) How many three-pointers will Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson attempt tonight? The Rebels will look to run against a Fordham (9 PM) team that can be drawn into such contests, but the Rams do have some talented pieces (Branden Frazier and Chris Gaston leading the way). Fordham’s allowing opponents to shoot 33.3% from beyond the arc, which could mean more openings for Henderson.

3) Having already beaten Providence, Brown looks to pick up a win at Rhode Island (7 PM) to move to 2-1 against in-state opponents this season (they lost to Bryant). Matt Sullivan leads four Bears in double figures with an average of 14.4 points per game but it was Tucker Halpern who hit eight three-pointers last week. Dan Hurley’s young Rams will counter with guards Xavier Munford and Andre Malone.

4) Tulane looks to move to 12-3 on the season as they host a dangerous Wofford team in New Orleans (8 PM). One thing about the Green Wave: their strength of schedule ranks 338th nationally, so there are questions about the strength of their 11-3 mark. If the Terriers can turn this into a slugfest they can win.

5) The SWAC is the busiest conference tonight as there are four conference games on the slate. Texas Southern visits Alcorn State led by high-volume shooter Omar Strong, and these games will offer the answer to the question of which SWAC team has grown the most from the many guarantee-game beatings they took in non-conference play.

No Top 25 games scheduled

Other Notable Games 

Brown at Rhode Island (7 PM)

Rider at Loyola (MD) (7:30 PM)

Wofford at Tulane (8 PM)

Fordham at Ole Miss (9 PM)

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

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.