Jamaal Franklin

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.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.