Pregame Shootaround 1.23.13: Miami tries to knock off No. 1 Duke at home

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Both teams will be without a key piece on Wednesday, Ryan Kelly for Duke and Reggie Johnson for Miami.

Without Kelly in the lineup the past two games, Duke has gone 1-1, including a loss to NC State. The major concern continues to be the ability of the Blue Devils’ offense to spread the floor in his absence. When the Duke offense is spread, it allows more opportunities for guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee.

Julian Gamble has been important for Miami in Johnson’s absence. He has averaged 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in eight games without Johnson. That production has helped to patch the offensive and rebounding hole, but the focus will still be on the guards Wednesday. Durand Scott and Shane Larkin must be the engines of the offensive attack against Curry, point guard Quinn Cook, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.

Who’s Getting Upset?: La Salle (-3) vs. No. 9 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)

It’s hard to believe that La Salle is favored against a team ranked in the nation’s Top 10, but the Bulldogs walk into a tough matchup on the road Wednesday. Butler will again be without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who sprained his neck in a win over Dayton. His absence didn’t seem to faze coach Brad Stevens’ team against Gonzaga, though it didn’t hurt that Roosevelt Jones had some heroics in store as the buzzer sounded.

Without Clarke in the lineup, La Salle guard Ramon Galloway will be the biggest backcourt scoring threat on the floor. The senior guard has scoring in double figures in 15 of the Explorers’ 17 games, including 26 points in an overtime win over Villanova, 24 in a win over Northeastern, and 21 in a win over Iona.

Butler will likely try to work the ball into the interior Wednesday, using center Andrew Smith and exploiting the rebounding advantage.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Colorado State vs. No. 15 New Mexico

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to call the Mountain West a “mid-major,” but this non-BCS matchup Wednesday is the best of the slate. New Mexico coach Steve Alford has been in the news this week talking about the lack of respect that the conference has gotten from poll voters and Wednesday night has the potential to be his “Exhibit A”.

New Mexico is the lone Mountain West team undefeated in league play, having knocked off UNLV and grinding out an overtime win against Boise State. Tony Snell came up big in that game against Boise by scoring 22 points, but the focus Wednesday will likely be on center Alex Kirk, who was neutralized for much of that game.

His importance will be amplified Wednesday when he matches up with Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, who is averaging 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Rams will try to use their advantage on the glass to get second-chance opportunities.

Iverson and forward Pierce Hornung (9.6 points, 10.1 rebounds per game) will be centerpieces, but Greg Smith will also be looking to carry momentum from the win over UNLV when he scored 16 points.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 8 Florida has been absolute dominant in SEC play so far. Through four games, the Gators have won by an average of close to 27 points per game. There is another chance for a blowout win Wednesday vs. Georgia.

2) No. 12 Minnesota hit a rough patch in the Big Ten schedule and has lost back-to-back games against Indiana and Michigan. They have a chance to bounce back against Northwestern.

3) No. 16 Oregon sits atop the Pac-12 and is the lone remaining undefeated team in conference play at 5-0. Washington State comes in with a 1-4 record in the league, making it likely that Oregon will move to 6-0.

4) Lehigh vs. Bucknell would have a lot more luster if C.J. McCollum had been able to play, but it still features two teams who are undefeated in Patriot League play. Winner gets sole ownership of the conference for now.

5) Towson won just one game last season and finished with an overall record of 1-31. He has worked wonders for the Tigers this year and has his team at 10-10. A win tonight against George Mason would put them at second in the CAA with a 6-2 mark in the conference.

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 7 Indiana vs. Penn State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 8 Florida vs. Georgia (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 9 Butler vs. La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 12 Minnesota vs. Northwestern (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 16 Oregon vs. Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 17 Creighton vs. Drake (8:05 p.m. ET)

No. 20 Wichita State vs. Missouri State (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

George Mason vs. Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)

Fresno State vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Texas A&M vs. LSU (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Iowa State vs. Texas Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. Nevada (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Washington vs. Oregon State (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

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

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

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.