Shane Larkin

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_

VIDEO: University of New Orleans aids area flood victims

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After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.

I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”

That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.

“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”

The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.

UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.

“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”

Rutgers land 7-foot grad transfer from UNC Wilmington

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket as he is defended by C.J. Gettys #23 of the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks in the second half of their game 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)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Rutgers landed a commitment from seven-footer C.J. Gettys on Monday night.

Gettys is a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, where he averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 blocks for a team that reached the NCAA tournament. Gettys is a slow-footed back-to-the-basket player, however, and that didn’t exactly fit with the way that UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts likes to play; think Shaka Smart’s VCU teams.

So Gettys opted for Rutgers, picking the Scarlet Knights over Dayton, Purdue and Chattanooga.

He is the fifth member of new head coach Steve Pikiell’s first recruiting class.

VIDEO: Seventh Woods dunks on UNC student

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Some poor UNC student decided that he was going to try and block Seventh Woods, a freshman point guard for the Tar Heels, on a dunk attempt.

What ended up happening was that he got windmilled on.

To quote Samuel L. Jackson, as portrayed the great philosopher Dave Chappelle, “You ain’t never seen my movies?” Woods was doing this as a freshman … in HIGH SCHOOL.

Former National Player of the Year Michael Brooks dies at 58

Brooks for All-American Brochure
Courtesy La Salle Athletics
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A Philadelphia basketball legend and a former National Player of the Year passed away on Monday night.

Michael Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward who was named the NABC National Player of the Year in 1980, died in Switzerland on Monday night due to a massive stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was just 58 years old.

Brooks finished his career with 2,628 points and 1,372 rebounds. He never averaged less than 20 points in his four seasons in college. (Think about that for a second.) He was the No. 9 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and averaged double-figures for four years before season-ending knee injuries sent him to Europe to play. Brooks was also named the captain of the 1980 Olympic team that missed out on the Moscow games due to the USA’s boycott.

Brooks, according to the Inquirer, had aplastic anemia, which required him to receive a bone marrow transplant last week. His body rejected the marrow, which resulted in the strokes that ended his life.

UCLA cruises in opener on Australian tour

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
AP Photo/Michael Baker
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UCLA, who will be the most interesting team in all of college basketball this season, played their first game of an Australian tour on Tuesday morning, and they won in pretty impressive fashion.

The Bruins had triple digits on the board early in the fourth quarter, eventually beating a club in Sydney by the score of 123-76. For comparison’s sake, Washington and potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz beat the same team 101-80 a couple of weeks ago, so the win and the margin of victory is somewhat impressive.

Also worth noting: None of UCLA’s freshmen started. Steve Alford rolled with Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter — Holiday and Hamilton combined for 27 points, 18 assists and 11 boards while Alford had 17 points on just 10 shots — with G.G. Golomon and Thomas Welsh up front.

But the noteworthy performances here were from the McDonald’s All-Americans that Steve Alford brought into the program. In his first game in the blue and gold, Lonzo Ball, a potential top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was just OK. He finished with nine points and four assists while shooting 3-for-9 from the floor. Leaf, however, was terrific, as he led the team with 21 points to go along with nine boards and three assists.

The first exhibition game is hardly a great way to predict how a season is going to play out, but given the pressure and expectations currently surrounding the program, everything the Bruins do this season is going to be scrutinized.

This isn’t a bad way to start.