Indiana v Purdue

10 tidbits to know: Saturday night showdown in Bloomington, the A-10 and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. It doesn’t get much better than No. 1 Michigan at  No. 3 Indiana this weekend. Not only can this be a preview of the Big Ten Championship Game — it can also be a possible preview of the Sweet 16, Elite 8 or Final 4. If you’re not watching live at 9:00 pm ET Saturday night…you better have a good excuse.

2. Speaking of the Big Ten, remember when Illinois was one of the top 15-20 teams in the nation? It’s amazing what a few weeks of conference play reveals. Illinois is 3-7 in their last 10 games and is currently 2-6 in Big Ten play.

3. The A-10 has taken the slogan ‘middle of the pack’ to another level. After VCU and Xavier as the top 2 teams, Butler, Charlotte, St. Louis, UMass, George Washington and La Salle all own a 4-2 conference record. And St. Joe’s and Temple are currently at 3-3 in league.

4. I thought the leader in Blocked Shots conversation would always be between Chris Obekpa from St. John’s and Jeff Whithey from Kansas. But freshman Nerlens Noel from Kentucky now leads the nation in rejections. Noel’s school record 12 blocks in the win over Ole Miss helped his cause.

5. Speaking of St. John’s, Steve Lavin’s Red Storm are rolling right now. After losing back to back games to Rutgers and Georgetown, St. John’s has now won 5 straight conference games. It was a great stretch of the schedule for Lavin – the 5 games were DePaul twice, Rutgers, Seton Hall and an upset home win vs Notre Dame. 3 of the next 4 are on the road for St. John’s – and those road wars are at Georgetown, at Louisville and at Syracuse. The Red Storm are in 3rd place by themselves in Big East standings.

6. After good non-conference wins vs Western Michigan and West Virginia, the reality of how much rebuilding needs to actually be done has hit Jim Ferry at Duquesne. The Dukes are the only A-10 team that hasn’t earned a conference win. But expect Ferry’s program to make a significant jump the next few years.

7. Do you think Marshall Bjorklund from North Dakota State gets and takes high percentage shots? The 6-8, Bison Junior leads the nation in Field Goal Percentage – shooting 70.7% from the floor this season.

8. The CAA didn’t forecast the season well at all this year. Northeastern was picked to come in 5th — they are 8-1 in 1st place. Townson was picked 10th — they are tied for 5th. Drexel was picked 1st — they’re in 7th. Old Dominion was picked 4th — they’re in last place at 0-8.

9. MAAC Coach of the Year right now has to be Joe Mihalich from Niagara. The Purple Eagles are 10-1 in MAAC play and sit at 1st place all by themselves. The scary part for MAAC opponents is how many young players Mihalich has. The future is bright in Niagara Falls.

10. Take Belmont in your March Madness brackets when the time comes. The Bruins are 18-4 overall and undefeated in Ohio Valley conference play. The year started with Belmont winning at Stanford and they haven’t looked back. Rick Byrd’s team is currently 14th in RPI rankings.

Follow Vin on Twitter @VinParise and check him out in studio for NBC Sports Network and SNY.

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.