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.

Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.