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.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky