Rotnei Clarke

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_

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.