Pregame Shootaround 1.26.13: Rotnei Clarke returns for Butler to highlight Saturday’s action

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

Rotnei Clarke has been cleared to return to the Butler lineup after spraining his neck vs. Dayton on Jan. 12. With him back in the lineup, it sets the table for a high-level matchup between the Arkansas transfer and Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, who has carried the Owls for much of the season.

Both are capable of taking over a game in different ways. Clarke’s scrappy, free-shooting style contrasts with Wyatt’s persistent, smooth, “old school” repertoire of skills.

On the interior, Andrew Smith carries much of the load for Butler, but the Bulldogs should be aware of Temple forward Anthony Lee. In Temple’s big win over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden earlier this season, Lee fought on the inside and outmuscled Syracuse in the paint for 21 points and nine rebounds.

Who’s Getting Upset?: UCLA (-2.5) vs. Arizona State

I took Arizona State in an upset over Arizona last weekend and that didn’t work out, but the Sun Devils get another shot at a signature win this Saturday. It is already tough for the Bruins to go on the road, but news came down yesterday that they would be without forward Travis Wear due to a concussion.

Wear has been a major spark for UCLA in its recent resurgence and without him in the lineup, it puts more of the scoring burden on Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams.

Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson will be a handful for Larry Drew II, but the biggest advantage for the Sun Devils will be on the interior. With Wear out, it makes an already thin front line even thinner. UCLA will need to find a matchup for Jordan Bachynski, one of the nation’s best shot blockers and a true seven-footer around the rim. That likely means more minutes for freshman Tony Parker and David Wear.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 15 New Mexico vs. San Diego State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Guard Tony Snell carried New Mexico in its win over Colorado State on Wednesday, due in part because an ill Alex Kirk was neutralized by the strong interior presence of Colton Iverson for the Rams. If Kirk is in the lineup and healthy Saturday, expect him to bounce back against San Diego State. If he can work in concert with Snell and Kendall Williams, the Lobos will be in business.

Defensively, New Mexico will key in, as every team does, on San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin. His versatility and ability to score from different spots on the floor makes him dangerous. If San Diego State shoots as it did in a loss to Wyoming (29 percent), the Aztecs are going to have trouble against the Lobos.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 1 Duke is still without Ryan Kelly, but they’ll have something to prove after getting trounced by No. 25 Miami earlier this week. This one features a great matchup on the interior between Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Maryland’s Alex Len.

2) No. 8 Florida has been absolutely dominant in SEC play so far this season Expect that to continue Saturday, as the Gators are a 20.5-point favorite over Mississippi State.

3) After a big win over No. 1 Duke, NC State has lost two of its last three, including a two-point defeat at the hands of Wake Forest after the Wolfpack blew a 12-point halftime lead. They face tough in-state rivals North Carolina on Saturday.

4) Coach Shaka Smart did not foul when his team led by three in the closing seconds of VCU’s OT loss to Richmond on Thursday. They face a team Saturday that is hot off a big upset win, La Salle, on Saturday at home.

5) No. 5 Louisville was sloppy in its loss to Villanova this week. If they continue to miss shots and turn the ball over, Saturday vs. Georgetown will be ugly. Need we mention Georgetown’s history with messy, low-scoring games?

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. Maryland (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 3 Syracuse vs. Villanova (11:0 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Louisville  vs. Georgetown (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Arizona vs. USC (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Florida vs. Mississippi State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 9 Butler vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 10 Gonzaga vs. San Francisco (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

No. 11 Kansas State vs. Iowa State (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 12 Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 14 Ohio State vs. Penn State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. San Diego State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 Oregon vs. Washington (7:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 18 North Carolina State vs. North Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth vs. La Salle (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 20 Wichita State vs. Bradley (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 22 Missouri vs. Vanderbilt (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPU)

No. 23 Ole Miss vs. Auburn (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 Notre Dame vs. South Florida (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Dartmouth vs. Harvard (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Providence vs. Marquette (2:00 p.m.ET, ESPN3)

UCLA vs. Arizona State (4:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

LSU vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Xavier vs. St. Joseph’s (6:00 p.m. ET)

Pepperdine vs. St. Mary’s (6:00 p.m. ET)

Colorado State vs. Fresno State (10:00 p.m. ET)

BYU vs. Portland (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

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.