Pregame Shootaround 1.16.13: MWC action, and NC State visits Maryland

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Game of the Day: UNLV at No. 15 San Diego State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

Coming into the season, it was a consensus: UNLV and SDSU were the two teams to beat in the Mountain West. And while New Mexico has done their best to throw a wrench into those plans, it’s still a fair statement that the Rebels and the Aztecs are two of the favorites to take home a league title.

This game is quite important for the Rebels, who have had their share of struggles on the road in recents years. They already dropped a game at the Pit earlier this year and head to Ft. Collins this weekend to take on Colorado State. The biggest question I have with UNLV is that I’m not sure what they are beyond Anthony Marshall, and I’m not sure how all their pieces fit together just yet. Are they a team that thrives on their size up front? Are they a running team that thrives on the explosive-but-inconsistent scoring on the wing? Is Anthony Marshall the kind of ball-dominating point guard you want? How does Mike Moser factor in?

SDSU has significantly fewer questions from a personnel perspective, but they still have their issues. They don’t exactly have a dominating front court and their most talented player — Jamaal Franklin — may not be their best player — Chase Tapley?

The bottom line? This is a conference that is going to be so much fun to watch play out specifically because of matchups like this. Grab your popcorn, pop open a beer and buckle up for the ride.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 14 NC State at Maryland (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

NC State beat Duke on Saturday. I know this. Duke was also without Ryan Kelly — their most important player and a guy that could have taken away the CJ Leslie factor — and Seth Curry down the stretch. Maryland? They’re healthy, and they will be playing in front of a raucous crown in College Park tonight. I don’t think NC State is good enough to go on the road to a good ACC team and win.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 19 New Mexico at Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

I know this isn’t a mid-major matchup, but it’s not a BCS conference matchup and I really wanted the chance to spew some knowledge on the topic. I’m buying New Mexico with the way that Alex Kirk has been playing of late. He’s capable of being an absolute beast, and if he can keep that up — and stay healthy — he adds a dimension to the Lobos that many didn’t think they would have heading into the season.

But the Broncos are legit. They’ve won at Creighton this season. They won at Wyoming this season. They shoot a bunch of threes and just got their leading scorer, Derrick Marks, back from a suspension. UNM better show up ready to play.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Is the WCC a two-bid conference this season? I’m not sure of that just yet, but if it is going to be, it will be either St. Mary’s or BYU. They play tonight at 11:00 p.m. ET (ESPN).

2) Carl Hall is going to be back in the lineup for Wichita State tonight after breaking his thumb in December. That’s good news for the Shockers, as he’ll be matching with Illinois State big man Jackie Carmichael. The Redbirds have been a massive disappointment in league play, but they have too much talent to be this bad.

3) In one of the sneaky-good A-10 matchups this season, Kevin Dillard and Dayton visit Ramon Galloway and La Salle.

4) Washington is the most surprising team in the Pac-12, sitting at 3-0 after a trio of road wins. Colorado? They’re 1-3 in league play and visiting the Huskies at 11:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network).

5) Hofstra is 2-1 in the CAA this season after seeing almost half of their roster depart due to legal issues or injuries. They’ll be taking on Northeastern, who is 4-0 in the league. At the same time, 3-1 Towson will be visiting 3-0 Delaware. Can we make some sense of the CAA race after tonight?

The Top 25

  • Richmond at No. 13 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 14 NC State at Maryland (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • UNLV at No. 15 San Diego State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • No. 16 Kansas State at TCU (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Georgia at No. 17 Missouri (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 18 Michigan State at Penn State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • No. 19 New Mexico at Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Seton Hall at No. 25 Marquette (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

  • Miami at Boston College (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Memphis at Rice (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Pitt at Villanova (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

NCAA pushes up college hoops start date as Champions Classic will open the season

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The NCAA is pushing up the start of the college basketball regular season to begin on the Tuesday before the second Friday in November.

That means the Champions Classic will open the college basketball season in 2018-19 as announced in an official release on Wednesday. So now, we get Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to open the college basketball regular season?

Yes, please.

This is a very smart move for the NCAA as men’s and women’s basketball can now open the regular season a bit earlier. The made-for-TV, neutral-court spectacle of the Champions Classic is also the perfect programming to get casual sports fans to tune in for the opening night of college basketball.

There will also be a new level of intrigue for the Champions Classic with all four superpowers making their season debuts in the event next season. Instead of getting a regular-season tune-up to begin to campaign, all of these teams will get thrown straight into the fire.

Hopefully, the sport can continue to make moves like this to generate casual interest and develop more intriguing non-conference possibilities. College basketball’s regular season has suffered from too many lulls in the past. At least now the regular season will start with a bang.

Arizona State benefits from unusual timing in landing forward Taeshon Cherry

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Arizona State has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season as they’re off to a 14-3 start.

The Sun Devils are also rolling on the recruiting trail as they might have landed their signature recruit on Tuesday night. With high-end, four-star forward Taeshon Cherry pledging to the Sun Devils, it gives them a top-20 class and three different four-star caliber prospects coming in next season.

Bobby Hurley has something going here.

In Cherry, Arizona State gets a 6-foot-9 forward who was previously committed to USC but decommitted in late December. Reportedly “Player-8” in the FBI’s case of college basketball bribery, according to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Cherry’s relative allegedly met Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood at a restaurant in Los Angeles on Aug. 8. The group was joined by an undercover FBI agent posing as a financial advisor as the gathering was recorded.

Dawkins and Sood were attempting to get Player-8’s relative to use their financial services for when the player eventually went pro. The FBI’s complaint also said Dawkins was given an envelope of $4,000 to give to the relative from the undercover agent.

But with Cherry not being present for the meeting, and no firsthand account of the relative actually receiving the money, it’s uncertain how the NCAA might respond to this.

So Arizona State jumped right in the mix for Cherry and started recruiting him once he decommitted from USC. The Sun Devils brought Cherry in for an official visit to campus on Jan. 11 — only weeks after Cherry’s decommitment — and were able to secure the commitment days later as he canceled a trip to Texas A&M.

This commitment is no doubt a product of unusual timing and circumstances.

When Cherry pledged to USC right after the July live evaluation period, Trojans assistant coach Tony Bland hadn’t been involved in the FBI scandal and the Trojans had a top-25 team returning this season. Arizona State was only 30-35 in Hurley’s first two seasons and they hadn’t secured the two four-star commitments they would later get in October.

Now, the Sun Devils are a darkhorse Final Four team after its surprising start this season and they were able to land a highly-touted recruit merely weeks after he left a conference rival. Things have changed quickly in the Pac-12 recruiting race in the past few weeks. And Arizona State also benefited from the unusual circumstances surrounding Cherry and his recruitment.

With commitments in each of the next three classes as well — yes, Arizona State even has a commitment from a high school freshman in the Class of 2021 — the Sun Devils are starting to sustain a presence at every level of college basketball. Arizona State will have to replace some talented seniors when Tra Holder and Shannon Evans depart after this season. The program also seems like its heading in the right direction with all of the talent that is flocking to Tempe.

Four-star recruit Joey Hauser enrolls early at Marquette

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Marquette’s top recruit in the Class of 2018 is enrolling early. According to a release from the school, four-star forward Joey Hauser has enrolled at the school and will join the basketball program.

The younger brother of sophomore forward Sam Hauser, the younger Hauser will redshirt this season and have four years of eligibility remaining.

Suffering a few injuries the past few years, Hauser had surgery on his ankle in early December as he’ll get a chance to rehab on campus while also acclimating to the team and school.

“We are really excited to have Joey join us for the second semester,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said in a release. “It’s a unique opportunity for him to recover from his recent surgery while also becoming acclimated to our basketball program and university.

“He is without question one of the top players in the class of 2018 and for him to be able to get a head start on his career is a tremendous positive.”

Hauser is regarded as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, as he helped Stevens Point win three consecutive WIAA Division 1 state titles during his first three seasons.

While Hauser won’t be able to play and help Marquette this season, the Golden Eagles only have one senior on the roster in Andrew Rowsey. That means the entire roster gets a head start on being together for next season as Hauser should be a contributor by then.

Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey out four weeks with knee injury

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Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey will miss the next four weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Harvey, a 6-foot-6 wing, played only seven minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville on Tuesday night as he’s played 18.2 minutes per contest. With senior All-American candidate Bonzie Colson going down to injury, Harvey had been playing increased minutes for the Fighting Irish, including 37 minutes in Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina.

Harvey averaged 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before the injury. The Fighting Irish are fighting the injury bug right now with Colson and Harvey out as their rotation gets even thinner. Notre Dame has dropped three consecutive games as they are 13-6 on the season and 3-3 in the ACC. Another tough game looms for the Fighting Irish as they face Clemson on Saturday.

Texas fans helped raise over $100,000 for Andrew Jones and Family Support Fund

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Texas fans have helped raise over six figures in support of the Andrew Jones and Family Support Fund after the sophomore guard was diagnosed with leukemia last week.

The University of Texas helped launch the fund, with all donations heading towards the medical and necessary family-related expenses for Jones that are allowed within NCAA rules.

Although Jones’ diagnosis was tough for many around college basketball, the fund has helped raise over $104,000 in just over five days.  Over 1,300 people have donated towards the fund, which is the only family-approved way to help Jones and his family with medical costs.

The website for the Andrew Jones and Family Support Fund can be found right here.

A former McDonald’s All-American, Jones was in the midst of a solid sophomore season with the Longhorns before the public announcement last week. Jones averaged 13.5 points and 2.0 assists per game in 10 games this season.

Without Jones in the lineup, Texas won an emotional double-overtime thriller over TCU at home. After the win, Texas coaches and players honored Jones with signs of support. The Longhorns lost their lost Big 12 game by a point on the road at Oklahoma State as the Cowboys honored Jones before the game with special shooting shirts in his honor.