Pregame Shootaround 1.30.13: Bubble-heavy docket tonight

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Game of the Day: Iowa State at Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Up until a couple of weeks ago, Oklahoma State was ranked nationally. A sluggish start to Big 12 play has changed that, but it hasn’t changed the roster makeup of the Cowboys. They still have Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash. They still have one of the nation’s best dunkers in Markel Brown. They still have Phil Forte, who is starting to shoot the ball better.

But Iowa State has been one of the most surprising teams in the conference. In addition to coming within a banked-in Ben McLemore three of knocking off Kansas in Phog Allen, the Cyclones also knocked off Kansas State at home. Toss is a loss to Texas Tech, and the Cyclones have been thoroughly unpredictable this season.

The best individual matchup of the night may be Will Clyburn going toe-to-toe with Nash.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 3 Indiana at Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)

Indiana’s biggest game of the year to date is on Saturday. They’re hosting No. 1 Michigan. Between then and now they have to go into Mackey Arena and beat a tough — and tougher at home — Purdue team that’s itching for a win over their rival to boost an NCAA tournament resume that, frankly, needs the boost.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UMass at La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)

You like up-and-down basketball? You like watching talented guards? Well, La Salle has four of them, and UMass point guard Chaz Williams just may be the best guard on the floor tonight.

Five Things to Watch For

1) At this point in the season, we’re still trying to figure out who the second best team in the Big 12 is. Baylor is 5-1, but they’ve feasted on cupcakes early on in league play. The Bears will get a test tonight against a good — and still improving — Oklahoma team. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) VCU takes the court for the first time since losing their second straight league game on Saturday. They’ll visit Rhode Island, who knocked off St. Louis on the road early this month. (7:00 p.m. ET) That won’t be the most interesting Atlantic 10 game of the night, as Richmond, one of the teams to beat VCU, visits Temple, who may be the single most confounding team in the country this year. (7:00 p.m. ET)

3) The score may not make it out of the 50’s, but there may not be more riding on a game than Wyoming has riding on tonight as No. 20 New Mexico visits. The Cowboys have struggled without Luke Martinez, but they have a chance to steal a game from a New Mexico team that managed 34 points against San Diego State on Saturday. (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

4) Three teams will put an undefeated record in league play on the line tonight. Northeastern hosts Georgia State (7:00 p.m. ET), Memphis visits East Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET), and Akron heads to Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. ET).

5) It’s still too early in the season to get too excited about bubble talk, but tonight there are what feels like 30 games with bubble implications on the docket. From Northwestern and Purdue trying to knock off Michigan and Indiana, respectively, to the middle of the Atlantic 10 and Big East trying to shake themselves out, to the myriad of bubble-battles — Villanova at Notre Dame, Maryland at Florida State, Iowa State at Oklahoma State — happening tonight, it feels the kind of night that is going to give us a lot to talk about on Thursday morning.

The Top 25

  • Northwestern at No. 1 Michigan (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)
  • No. 3 Indiana at Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)
  • South Carolina at No. 4 Florida (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 5 Duke at Wake Forest (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 10 Oregon at Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • No. 14 Miami at Virginia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Missouri at LSU (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Texas at No. 18 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 20 New Mexico at Wyoming (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Missouri State at No. 21 Creighton (8:00 p.m. ESPN3)
  • Rutgers at No. 24 Cincinnati (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

  • Valparaiso at Youngstown State (7:05 p.m. ET)
  • Maryland at Florida State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Boise State at Colorado State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Dayton at Xavier (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • St. Mary’s at San Francisco (10:00 p.m. ET)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.