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_

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.