Weekend Preview: ‘Sterling’ reason to think Illinois gets upset at Wisconsin

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Who’s Getting Upset?: Sat. 2:15 p.m.: No. 12 Illinois at Wisconsin (Big Ten Net)

This was a fairly easy pick for me to make for three reasons:

1. Wisconsin is so tough to beat in the Kohl Center. I don’t care if this is a down year for the Badgers. I don’t care if they have point guard issues or if they are still a year away from truly being a contender. None of that matters to me, because the Kohl Center doesn’t differentiate. It’s as good of a home environment as you will find in the Big Ten.

2. The Badgers are always going to be the kind of team that is tough to get into a rhythm against because they are so good at controlling the pace and so good at frustrating you defensively. They don’t force a ton of turnovers, but they box out, they are disciplined and they challenge jump shots.

3. Illinois is a three-point shooting team. Wisconsin uses Sterling basketballs. They are the only major conference program to use that brand. Shooters are very particular about the kind of basketball they like. That’s a factor that cannot be ignored.

Who else is on upset alert?:

  • Fri. 8:05 p.m.: No. 13 Creighton at Missouri State (ESPN3): I know this sounds weird. The No. 13 team in the country on upset alert against a team that had exactly zero Division I wins in non-conference play? Well, Missouri State has won three out of four since league play started. The Bluejays better come to play.
  • Sat. 11:00 a.m.: No. 19 Georgetown at St. John’s (ESPN2): Would this even count as an upset? This is as intriguing of a game as any on the schedule this weekend. Can the Hoyas ever solve their scoring issues? Given their level of confidence right now, my men’s league team — Webb Construction, the Wisconsin Badgers of the Northern Virginia suburbs — might be able to beat them.
  • Sat. 3:00 p.m.: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (ESPN2): Oklahoma has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country for me this year. I thought the Sooners had a chance to make some noise in the Big 12 this year. They have a good front line and some scorers in the back court. The Pokes are such a tough matchup, however, because Markel Brown, Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash are all big, physical scoring threats on the perimeter.
  • Sat. 4:00 p.m.: No. 11 Florida at LSU (ESPNU): LSU isn’t great, but they are probably better than you think. Florida’s beat up right now — Will Yegeute and Erik Murphy have nagging injuries — and on the road. That’s never a good sign.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 21 Cincinnati at Rutgers (ESPN3): Has Cincinnati figured out their issues yet? Going on the road after losing three of four at home isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 10 Missouri at Ole Miss (ESPN3): Marshall Henderson actually said this: “I never lose confidence. I could go 0-for-25 and it’s still going up.” That’s amazing. Missouri, who will be without Laurence Bowers for this game, better not let him get hot. Ole Miss only gets so many chances at big wins in league play. This would be huge for their bubble hopes.
  • Sun. 4:35 p.m.: No. 23 Wichita State at Evansville (ESPN3): I have the utmost respect for what Gregg Marshall has done, but eventually someone is going to catchup with those injuries.

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 averaged 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.