Will Clyburn, Tyrus McGee, Chris Babb

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.

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.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson