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.

LaVar Ball having ‘zero’ interaction with UCLA team bodes well for next season

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With the NBA Draft looming in less than a month, the biggest talking point has been just how much of an impact LaVar Ball is going to have on his son, Lonzo’s, NBA career.

It’s a question worth asking given the, ahem, outspoken nature of the eldest Ball.

But in the collegiate ranks, that’s a question that’s been asked about UCLA regarding next season. While Lonzo and LaMelo, who is finishing up his sophomore season in high school, are the stars that get the majority of the attention, there is another Ball brother that will be enrolling at UCLA next season: LiAngelo.

LaVar has already said that he expect Gelo to be a one-and-done player, which may not jibe with how good Gelo actually is. He’s not Lonzo and he’s not LaMelo. He’s not a dynamic athlete or a lead guard. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200 pound shooter with limitless range but limited upside. There’s a reason Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect.

What’s going to happen when UCLA, a top 15 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, doesn’t give Gelo Lonzo-esque minutes or shots next season? How will LaVar handle it if his second son is coming off the bench for the Bruins?

Steve Alford doesn’t seem concerned about it, telling a reporter from the LA Times that LaVar was “never at practice, never called me” and was around the team “zero.”

“I think all parents probably should know that moving on to the collegiate level anyway,” Alford said. “It’s not high school, it’s not AAU. Your son’s on scholarship; your son’s at UCLA getting an incredible opportunity academically and athletically.

“Playing time, shots, that kind of stuff — we don’t entertain some of those phone calls anyway. I never had any issues at all with LaVar.”

It will be interesting to see if that continues next season.

The Bruins have a chance to be pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as last season, maybe not a Pac-12 title favorite or even the best team in LA — USC is loaded — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them end up as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning and Jaylen Hands headlining the recruiting class.

Will LaVar be able to handle UCLA’s success if it comes at the expense of his son’s?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.