Pregame Shootaround 2.8.13: Harvard, Princeton look to remain undefeated in Ivy League

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Game of the Night: Harvard at Cornell (7:00 p.m.) 

This has the potential to be a big night in the Ivy League, with Harvard (4-0) and Princeton (3-0) two games up on their closest conference foe in the loss column. If both win their games and Yale beats Penn in Philadelphia the Crimson and Tigers would be up three games and essentially make the Ivy a two-team race. But that will be easier said than done for Harvard, who visits Cornell and needs to be wary of the Big Red. Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers have led the way for Harvard, who had four starters reach double figures in a double-overtime win over Brown last Saturday.

The key for Cornell? Defending the three-point line. Big Red opponents shoot 37.0% from beyond the arc and Harvard enters tonight’s contest hitting 41.5% of their attempts. Shonn Miller (10.1 ppg) is the lone Cornell player averaging double figures but with seven players averaging at least six points per game the Big Red will look to rely on their offensive balance.

Who’s Getting Upset? Utah State (at San Jose State. 10:00 p.m.)

The Spartans lost by just six at Utah State on January 11 and that was without the services of James Kinney (suspension) while Preston Medlin (25 points) and Kyisean Reed were both available for the Aggies. With Medlin (broken wrist) and Reed (torn ACL) out, San Jose State is capable of ending its seven-game losing streak. One thing they have to do is account for Utah State forward Jarred Shaw, who has averaged 21.3 points and 10.0 rebounds over the last three games. D.J. Brown and Chris Cunningham performed well in the Spartans’ 66-63 loss to Idaho but shooting 8-of-24 from the foul line as a team will result in a loss more times than not.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: UNC-Asheville at VMI (7:00 p.m.; ESPNU) 

Two Big South contenders meet in Lexington, with the Bulldogs leading the North Division and VMI a half-game out of first in the South. Forward Stan Okoye (20.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg) leads the way for VMI, who averages 74.2 possessions per 40 minutes according to statsheet.com. UNC Asheville isn’t far behind (70.3 possessions/40), with guards Jeremy Atkinson and Keith Hornsby (the son of Bruce) leading the way offensively. Keep an eye on the second-chance points in this one. VMI grabs 13.3 offensive rebounds per game but allows opponents to rack up 14.0 per contest, and this is an area that UNC Asheville may be able to take advantage of.

Five Things to Watch

1) Princeton looks to extend its 20-game Ivy League home win streak tonight when they host Brown (7:00 p.m.) at Jadwin Gym. This is the fifth time in the history of Jadwin that the Tigers have run off a streak of at least 20 straight Ivy home victories.

2) Siena will once again be shorthanded, as they take on Loyola (MD) without forward Brett Bisping (illness). And starting point guard Evan Hymes was dealing with a sinus infection in the days leading up to this contest, which will feature a front court battle between the Saints’ O.D. Anosike and the Greyhounds’ Erik Etherly.

3) Winter Storm Nemo has already resulted in one schedule change, as Harvard will visit Columbia on Sunday afternoon as opposed to the traditional Friday/Saturday night Ivy League weekend.

4) Northern Kentucky looks to move into a four-way tie for third in the Atlantic Sun tonight when they visit Lipscomb. The Norse are in their first season as a Division I member, and they’ve performed well in their new conference to date.

5) Columbia looks to rebound from an 0-2 weekend, in which they lost games at Penn and Princeton by a total of ten points. The Lions host Dartmouth, who is just 1-8 on the road this season.

Other Notable Games 

Brown at Princeton (7:00 p.m.)

Northern Kentucky at Lipscomb (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)

Siena at Loyola (MD) (9:00 p.m.; ESPNU)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.