Pregame Shootaround 1.24.13: West Coast action heats up Thursday night

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Game of the Day: UCLA vs. No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

In the night’s biggest game, the Bruins head down to Tucson to take on an Arizona team in a game that is crucial to UCLA’s hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season title. Both the Bruins and the Wildcats have lost their only game against Oregon this season, and a loss on Thursday would drop them two games behind the Ducks in the league standings.

The good news for Arizona, however, is that the Wildcats match up very well with UCLA. They have the size on the wings — with Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom — to negate the advantages that Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad have grown accustomed to. Specifically, Hill should be able to take away Muhammad’s post-up game. Arizona also has the kind of size up front that can overwhelm the Bruins. What cost UCLA against Oregon was the Wears’ inability to deal with Tony Woods and Oregon’s big front line.

That said, trusting Arizona at this point in the season is not the easiest thing to do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to watc this game while listening to Bill Walton rant about whatever is it that Bill Walton rants about.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

Richmond does not matchup all that well with VCU. They turn the ball over too much, and no one in the country is as good at forcing turnovers as VCU is. They don’t rebound the ball all that well defensively, and VCU can crash the offensive glass really well. One thing that Richmond does well, however, is chase their opponents off the three-point line. The Rams love to shoot threes. If the Spiders can keep Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels from getting hot, this is a rivalry game. The kind of game where you can throw the records out the window. We’ll see what happens.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Belmont at Morehead State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Morehead State likes to press and press and press some more. They are coached by Sean Woods, who makes Frank Martin look docile and calm. Rick Byrd, on the other hand, isn’t afraid of getting up and down the floor and like to use a press as well. Bruins’ guard Ian Clark has been as hot as anyone in the country over the last two weeks, and Belmont enters this game undefeated in the OVC. Can it last?

Five Things to Watch For

1) UNLV hosts Wyoming at 9:15 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Net) tonight, after the Cowboys knocked off San Diego State on Saturday and UNLV lost to Colorado State on the road. The Pokes are trying to figure out how to play without Luke Martinez — they previously lost to Boise State and Fresno State — but the Rebels are not an easy team to beat in Vegas.

2) The WCC will provide some quality hoops on Thursday night, with a pair of games tipping off at 11:00 p.m. ET tonight. BYU visits No. 10 Gonzaga, a team that the Cougars actually matchup pretty well with. They have some size inside to matchup with with the Zags’ massive front line. St. Mary’s will also be taking on San Diego, two teams that are currently sitting at 4-1 in WCC play.

3) Colorado and Stanford are probably the two most disappointing teams in the Pac-12. Both were expected to compete for the league title; neither of them are above .500 in league play.

4) Bryant has been the nation’s biggest surprise this season, as they currently sit at 6-0 in the NEC this year. They will take on Sacred Heart tonight on the road.

5) Belmont-Morehead State isn’t the only good game tonight in the OVC. Tennessee State will be taking on Eastern Kentucky in a battle for second place in the Eastern Division.

The Top 25

  • Purdue at No. 2 Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • UCLA at No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ESPN2)
  • BYU at No. 10 Gonzaga (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • Tennessee at No. 23 Ole Miss (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.