Cody Zeller

Pregame Shootaround 1.27.13: Big Ten battle between Indiana, Michigan St. reigns supreme

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Game of the Day: No. 7 Indiana vs. No. 13 Michigan State (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Michigan State did not take advantage of its frontcourt assets, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne nearly enough in its 49-47 win over Wisconsin earlier in the week. Now, against Cody Zeller and Indiana, they’ll need to. The Spartans cannot afford to shoot 38 percent as it did against the Badgers, especially not against the nation’s top scoring team and a team that shoots 50 percent from the floor itself.

For Indiana, the Hoosiers will look to Zeller and swingman Victor Oladipo, but a struggling bench remains a concern. Will Sheehey has not been producing at the rate he was earlier in the season and a game like this has the potential to highlight that major flaw. Indiana will have the benefit of a loud and likely sold out crowd at home in what is a good chance to pick up a win in the tough Big Ten conference slate.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Massachusetts (-3.5) vs. Richmond

Fresh off an upset victory over Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond has the momentum to go on the road and get a tough A-10 victory. Kendall Anthony was the catalyst for the Spiders in their win over VCU with 26 points, but he’ll run into one of the conference’s best point guards on Sunday when he matches up with UMass junior Chaz Williams. Both are low-to-the-ground, quick scoring point guards  and that fails to mention Richmond’s Darien Brothers. He’ll make himself known on Sunday, too.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Niagara vs. Canisius (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Niagara sits atop the MAAC standings at 8-1, but we know from the non-conference season what Canisius is capable of. Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green are perhaps the conference’s most lethal scoring duo, averaging 18.4 points and 16.4 points respectively, but they will be countered by Billy Baron and Harold Washington, both solid scorers in their own right.

Both teams will be looking to score, so look for a game in the 70s on Sunday, especially if the guards start finding their stroke.

Five Things to Watch For

1) With so many Top 5 teams losing this week, the nation’s No. 1 spot likely belongs to Michigan, if it can get a win over Illinois on Sunday. The Wolverines have lost just one game so far this season.

2) Doug McDermott was sick with flu-like symptoms in the second half of his team’s loss to Drake earlier this week and his performance struggled because of it. The Bluejays hope to have him fully healthy and back in the lineup on Sunday vs. Southern Illinois.

3) Fresh off its 27-point trouncing of No. 1 Duke on Wednesday, Miami looks to avoid a letdown vs. Florida State. Reggie Johnson will be looking to continue to work back to full game shape after returning from injury vs. Duke.

4) St. John’s has a Big East Rookie of the Year candidate in freshman JaKarr Sampson and one of the nation’s premiere shot blockers, Chris Obekpa. They’ve notched two impressive wins over ranked teams, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Lavin is building something solid in Queens. They take on Seton Hall on Sunday.

5) Northeastern remains undefeated in CAA play. George Mason looks to change that Sunday and get a big road win to pull within a game of the top spot in the conference.

The Top 25

No. 2 Michigan vs. Illinois (6:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 7 Indiana vs. No. 13 Michigan State (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

N0. 17 Creighton vs. Soutern Illinois (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 25 Miami vs. Florida State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Other Notable Games

Seton Hall vs. St. John’s (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Virginia Tech vs. Clemson (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Rutgers vs. Connecticut (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

California vs. Colorado (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Iowa vs. Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Niagara vs. Canisius (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

George Mason vs. Northeastern (8:00 p.m. ET)

Stanford vs. Utah (9:00 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_

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.

You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.

I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.

But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?

And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?

The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.

But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?

I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:

Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.

Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.

For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.

The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.

“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”

Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.

Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.

Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.

Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.

Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.

PODCAST: Boeheim’s non-controversy and the coaches we don’t want to fight

Jim Boeheim
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In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.

We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.