Pregame Shootaround 1.25.13: Atlantic Sun, MAAC battles headline light slate

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Game of the Night: Canisius at Rider (7:00 p.m.)

There are just six games on the schedule tonight but the matchup between Canisius and Rider is one of Friday’s best. After a rough start to the season Kevin Baggett’s Broncs are playing their best basketball of the season as they’ve won five straight games and sit just a game out of first place in the MAAC. Rider features four players averaging double figures with guard Anthony Myles (12.5 ppg) leading the way, and forward Daniel Stewart has been of the MAAC’s best front court players.

Jim Baron’s Golden Griffins can be a tough team to slow down given weapons such as Billy Baron and Harold Washington, and senior guard Isaac Sosa has scored 43 points in Canisius’ last two games (both wins). With first-place Niagara visiting a reeling Siena this game becomes even more important for both teams, especially Canisius (two games back).

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Stetson at Florida Gulf Coast (7:05 p.m., ESPN3) 

Belmont’s departure to the OVC led to many believing that the Atlantic Sun race would be a wide-open affair and that’s certainly  been the case. The top five teams in the standings are separated by just one game in the loss column with Stetson in a first place tie with Jacksonville. Senior center Adam Pegg leads four Hatters averaging double figures while also grabbing a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game, and his matchup with FGCU forward Chase Fieler will go a long way in determining the outcome. FGCU guard Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson combine to average nearly 29 points per game, and if the Eagles can take advantage of Stetson allowing opponents to shoot 46.9% from the field they stand a good chance of defending their home floor.

Who’s getting upset? Loyola (MD) (at Manhattan, 7:00 p.m. ESPNU) 

This season’s been a rough one for Steve Masiello’s Jaspers due in large part to the injury bug. Manhattan’s been without George Beamon for much of the season and Michael Alvarado has also missed time, and the end result has been a team that’s had to play slower than it would like. But Manhattan still has forward Rhamel Brown, who is averaging 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’ll have his hands full with Loyola’s Erik Etherly, but don’t sell Manhattan short at home especially with Loyola’s Dylon Cormier out with food poisoning. If they can turn this into a sloppy contest Manhattan can pull off the upset.

Five Facts 

1) One of the nation’s highest scoring guard tandems will be in action as Niagara visits Siena. Juan’ya Green (16.2 ppg) and Antoine Mason (18.4) are averaging more than 34 points per game, and given how fast the Purple Eagles like to play this one could get ugly for Mitch Buonaguro’s squad.

2) The good news for Siena is that Rob Poole (flu) is expected to return to the floor after missing the Saints’ last four games, and they also regained the services of Trenity Burdine (academic suspension). But given the Saints’ luck this season, of course Imoh Silas (ankle), Rakeem Brookins (back) and Ryan Oliver (knee) will all miss tonight’s game.

3) Iona enters tonight’s game against Saint Peter’s averaging 81.5 points per game and they’ll be looking to bounce back from a poor offensive performance in their loss at Rider last Sunday. The Gaels shot 5-of-24 from three and 33.9% overall in the loss to the Broncs.

4) There’s also a Horizon League rivalry game on the docket as Green Bay visits Milwaukee. The Panthers have struggled offensively, shooting 37.6% from the field, and that’s a big reason why Rob Jeter’s team is 1-5 in league play.

5) Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown lead the way offensively for Green Bay, who is 0-8 on the road this season. Currently tied for third in the Horizon League standings, the Phoenix can’t afford to lose a game like this if they’re to grab the highest seed possible for the conference tournament.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.