Shabazz Napier, Wesley Saunders

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 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

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.