Weekend Preview: Five Storylines

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Who is the third best team in the ACC?: I think that it’s pretty safe to say that Duke is the best team in the conference, followed by NC State. Those two will square off at noon on Saturday. But that’s not what’s important heading into this weekend. We already know what we’re going to get out of those two teams this season, and any result that comes with Ryan Kelly sidelined will have an asterisk next to it.

Who is the best of the rest? Is it Miami, who just went into the Dean Dome and beat North Carolina but also lost to Florida-Gulf Coast? Is it Florida State, who has losses to Mercer and South Alabama and a win at Maryland this week? Is it UNC or Maryland after all? At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Heels visit Tallahassee, where they were embarrassed a season ago. At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, Miami plays host to the Terps. I think we’ll know a lot more about all four teams come Monday morning.

Some Pac-12 clarity: UCLA is playing their best basketball of the season right now, sitting at 3-0 in the conference and finally getting the kind of production out of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson that we all expected. But they will be visiting Colorado on Saturday afternoon in a game that should be able to tell us two things: Is Colorado a serious contender in the conference? And is UCLA tough enough to win on the road?

We should also get a good gauge on both Arizona State and Oregon. The Ducks are still unbeaten in the league after handing Arizona their first loss of the season on Thursday night, but Arizona State is also without a loss. The Sun Devils went into Oregon State and knocked off the Beavers on Thursday. They will play Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

Shaking out the Big East: There are two games early on Saturday that will help clear some things up about the conference. The first is Georgetown’s 11:00 a.m. tip at St. John’s. The Hoyas have had all kinds of issues scoring the ball this season, but now those struggles are starting to seep into the defensive side of the ball. This is the kind of thing that JT III needs to fix immediately if Georgetown wants a real chance at being competitive in the league. But both Marquette and Pitt are looking for answers as well. The Golden Eagles are 2-0 in the league, but they won two close games at home. Pitt is 1-2 in conference play, but the ‘1’ was an undressing of Georgetown in which the Hoyas simply rolled over and died.

First place in mid-majors on the line: There are a pair of games on Saturday afternoon that will determine who will be sitting in first place. Northeastern and Towson, surprisingly enough, are both 3-0 in the CAA right now. They square off at noon. When that one is over, Hartford will trek down to Stony Brook to put their undefeated America East record on the line.

Bob Huggins takes on his old team: At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Huggy Bear and West Virginia will be taking on No. 18 Kansas State in Morgantown. The matchup itself should be interesting enough — WVU used a 13-0 run at the end of regulation to force overtime at Texas and keep their tournament hopes realistic — but don’t forget about the importance of KSU to Huggins’ career. They gave him a chance after he was fired by Cincinnati.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedΒ 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.