Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine

Pregame Shootaround 2.6.13: Another B1G battle, Arizona at risk, UNM vs. AFA

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Game of the Day: No. 18 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ho-hum, just another battle of top 20 teams taking place in the Big Ten.

The Spartans will be out for revenge in this one. Back at the start of league play, Tom Izzo’s team went into the Barn and gave the Gophers a fight, but Minnesota used a late 22-4 run to close out MSU and send them back to East Lansing with a 13 point loss. Michigan State has steadily gotten better this season while Minnesota has hit a bit of a rough stretch. They lost four in a row — which, frankly, did include single digit losses to Michigan, Indiana and at Wisconsin — and escaped Iowa at home in a game they probably should have lost.

The Gophers are at their best when they can get to the offensive glass, and that’s one thing that the Spartans are actually pretty good at preventing. With size, strength and athleticism at every position on the floor, this should be a treat for those of you that like physical, hard-nosed hoops. And Andre Hollins vs. Keith Appling won’t be too shabby, either.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Stanford at No. 7 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stanford was a team that a lot of people thought had a chance to win the Pac-12 back in the preseason, and over the last three games, they’ve finally started to play that way. Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright have finally started hitting from three after a rough start to the season while Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell look like one of the nation’s more underrated front courts. That said, I’m not as high on Arizona as a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinal combat the presence of Solomon Hill.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 16 Creighton at Indiana State (7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Creighton now owns a two games lead over Wichita State and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley, but with the recent three-game slide by the Shockers, the Sycamores look like they may be the second-best team in the Valley. ISU pushed Creighton the first time these two teams met, and the Bluejays can struggle on the road at times. It should be a dandy.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Air Force and No. 15 New Mexico square off tonight for first place in the Mountain West Conference in what is one of the more intriguing matchups of the year in the league. New Mexico is perennially underrated, while Air Force is rarely even good enough to be “rated”. Andy Glockner wrote about it for SI here, so I won’t go into too much detail. Just tune in. Trust me. (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

2) The Big 12 suddenly looks like it could end up being competitive this season, as Kansas continues to struggle to find a way to score. Tonight, the team with the most raw talent in the league (Baylor) squares off against the team that actually knocked off the Jayhawks (Oklahoma State). (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3) Four teams are tied for first in the loss column in the A-10: VCU, Butler, St. Louis … and Charlotte? The 49ers, without Demario Mayfield, head to Philly to take on Temple and Khalif Wyatt tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET)

4) San Diego State may be digging themselves into trouble this season as they continue to try and figure out how to operate without a healthy Xavier Thames (back) and Chase Tapley (wrist). Boise State finally has Jeff Elorriaga back. The Broncos are legit. Watch out. (11:00 p.m. ET)

5) Memphis is the team that everyone talks about in Conference USA, but they are currently tied for first place in the league with Southern Miss at 7-0. The Golden Eagles will have one of their tougher road tests of the season tonight as they visit tourney ineligible Central Florida, who will be looking to play the role of spoiler. (7:00 p.m. ET)

The Top 25

  • No. 5 Kansas at TCU (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Stanford at No. 7 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 11 Louisville at Rutgers (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 18 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • St. Bonaventure at No. 14 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Air Force at No. 15 New Mexico (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • No. 16 Creighton at Indiana State (7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Cincinnati at Providence (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Baylor at  No. 22 Oklahoma State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 24 Marquette at South Florida (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

 

Other Notable Games

  • Delaware at Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Charlotte at Temple (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Southern Miss at Central Florida (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • St. Joseph’s at Dayton (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • UConn at St. John’s (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Alabama at Auburn (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • St. Louis at Fordham (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • Memphis at SMU (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa at Wisconsin (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • Mississippi State at Ole Miss (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • UNLV at Fresno State (9:00 p.m. ET)
  • Colorado State at Nevada (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • Boise State at San Diego State (11:00 p.m. ET)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

rp_primary_Linder_Jeff_Action_vs_Dayton_031815_2_
Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.

Duke’s Azura Stevens transfers to UConn

Duke's Azura Stevens (11) steals the ball from North Carolina A&T's Kenya Hailey, right, as Duke's Ka'lia Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
(AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.

Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.

She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.

Beachem says he’ll be back at Notre Dame for senior season

Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Forward V.J. Beachem has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

Beachem made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter, writing that he was thankful for the opportunity to experience the NBA draft process and invitations to work out for teams, “but now I’m ready to lead [Notre Dame]. #IMBACK.”

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Irish finished 24-12. He was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 17.5 points as the Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight year.

Coach Mike Brey sent a Tweet saying he was thrilled Beachem will return.