Pregame Shootaround 1.19.13: Louisville-Syracuse highlights loaded Saturday slate

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

It all begins at the point guard spot for these two teams. Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams both change the complexions of their team’s respective offense when they are on the floor. Siva is the backcourt complement to the emerging Russ Smith and the senior leader the Cardinals need, while Carter-Williams is one of the best facilitators in the country and a force with his passing skills with his long 6-6 frame.

Syracuse will be hurt by the absence of forward James Southerland, who is academically ineligible. As one of the team’s best three-point shooters, the Orange become more limited on the perimeter without him. Louisville will likely force Carter-Williams to score the basketball, as Temple did in its upset victory over the Orange earlier this season. This will set up Louisville center Gorgui Dieng on the interior, one of the better shot-blockers in the country.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 7 Arizona (-6.5) against Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Freshman point guard Jahii Carson has reinvigorated the Arizona State offense this season and he’ll be matched up in the backcourt with the transfer who has been one of the senior leaders on an otherwise young Arizona team, Mark Lyons. Lyons will lead the young Wildcats on the road to a place where composure will be key. Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski is one of the best shot-blockers in the conference and the country, averaging 4.5 blocks per game, and he will test the young Arizona frontcourt of Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Brandon Ashley.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

This might not be a “mid-major” matchup in the purest sense, but UNLV-Colorado State is without a doubt the non-BCS matchup of the day. The Mountain West is shaping up to be one of the toughest conferences in the country and the pairings on the interior in this one show why. UNLV’s Anthony Bennett has been one of the most impressive freshman all season, while transfer Khem Birch came in mid-season for the Rebels and has added depth and bulk in the paint. Add those two to already established forward Mike Moser, and the Rebels have one of the best front lines in the conference.

But Colorado State will look to counter that Saturday with some size of their own. Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson combine to average over 19 rebounds per game and will look to give the Rams second-chance opportunities off offensive rebounds. If Colorado State can force UNLV into bad shots, as the Rebels have a tendency to do, they’ll be in a good spot for a solid conference win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Gonzaga travels to Butler for perhaps the best non-conference matchup of Saturday’s loaded slate. The Bulldogs will miss having Rotnei Clarke in the lineup, but big man Andrew Smith will have to do all he can to limit the Zags’ versatile seven-footer Kelly Olynyk.

2) With Kentucky continuing to gather itself, it looks more and more like the SEC will come down to two teams who play Saturday, Florida and Missouri. Florida will need to battle the nation’s No. 1 rebounding team to keep it close on the backboards, but the matchup in the backcourt may be most interesting–Phil Pressey vs. Kenny Boynton. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they will be missing one of Pressey’s favorite targets, Laurence Bowers.

3) Ohio State took down the No. 2 team in the country on Sunday, but it showed one clear weakness. Deshaun Thomas is the Buckeyes’ only go-to scorer in crunch time. This team is built around defense and Ohio State needs to thrive by playing to its strength. They face Michigan State.

4) UCLA has won 10 straight games since falling to San Diego State on Dec. 1. They face an Oregon team that proved its worth with a win over then-undefeated Arizona earlier in the season.

5) Just two weeks ago, Wyoming stood as one of the nation’s undefeated teams. Now they’ve suffered losses to Fresno State and Boise State and are without the services of leading scorer Luke Martinez after his involvement in a bar fight. They face no easy task Saturday against No. 16 San Diego State.

The Top 25

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Texas (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 7 Arizona vs. Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Butler (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 10 Florida vs. No. 17 Missouri (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 18 Michigan State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Creighton vs. Wichita State (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 15  San Diego State vs. Wyoming (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 20 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 Oregon vs. No. 24 UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth vs. Duquesne (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Marquette vs. Cincinnati (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Other Notable Games

Maryland vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Harvard vs. Memphis (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

West Virginia vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Columbia vs. Cornell (3:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Florida State vs. Virginia (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Boise State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

California vs. Stanford (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

George Mason vs. Hofstra (5:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgetown vs. South Florida (6:00 p.m. ET,  ESPN3)

Texas A&M vs. Alabama (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Kentucky vs. Auburn (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Mary’s vs. Portland (10:30 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

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The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.