Pregame Shootaround 2.9.13: Peyton Siva, Russ Smith meet tough Notre Dame backcourt in South Bend

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Game of the Day: No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Louisville has won three straight games after losing three in a row as part of a bad stretch in late January. In hand with that turnaround has been Peyton Siva reemerging after struggling during the Cardinals’ losing streak. Since Pitino’s team has bounced back, Siva has affected the game either by scoring or working for others, including a 10-assist game in a win over Pitt and a 14-point game in a win over Marquette.

That Siva/Russ Smith backcourt meets its match Saturday against Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, two guards who average over 20 points and 10 assists between them. On the interior, Louisville will  need to contain Big East Player of the Year candidate Jack Cooley, who has had a double-double in five of his last six games.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Dayton (-4) vs. Temple (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Dayton has the advantage of being at home, but we the viewing audience will have the treat of a solid point guard matchup for brunch Saturday. Khalif Wyatt vs. Kevin Dillard is one of the better ones to follow not just among mid-majors, but in the country. Wyatt has had a flair for the dramatic this season, having put together stellar outings in a win over Syracuse and nearly pulling off an upset of Kansas.

Dillard, too, has had his moments. His 23 points against St. Joe’s lifted the Flyers to a key 60-54 win just this past Wednesday. Who would I take? It’s close, but I’ll take Wyatt and the Owls in the upset.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

The best non-BCS matchups somehow always happen to be in the Mountain West. We are gifted with another gem Saturday. The Lobos have bounced back with three straight wins after an embarrassing loss to San Diego State on Jan. 26. The three-point ball has been key in New Mexico’s last two wins and they will likely highlight that again Saturday.

For UNLV, they will need to look to Anthony Bennett, their talented Freshman of the Year candidate. If he gets into foul trouble, it could spell trouble for the Rebels. A loss to New Mexico on Jan. 9 saw Bennett score just 10 points and pick up four fouls. No Bennett likely means no key conference win for coach Dave Rice’s team.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Coming off perhaps the biggest upset loss of the season, No. 5 Kansas needs to turn things around–and fast. There are legitimate concerns about how the Jayhawks will handle their lack of a true, reliable point guard. Does that mean freshman Ben McLemore shifts it into another gear? Does it mean center Jeff Withey steps it up on both ends of the floor? We’ll see Saturday when Kansas meets Oklahoma.

2) Jim Larranaga is a real contender for National Coach of the Year. The Hurricanes are rolling and undefeated in ACC play. After North Carolina on Saturday, there is only a matchup with Duke remaining where they likely won’t be favored. Otherwise, this is beginning to look like Miami’s conference for the taking.

3) No. 19 Oregon has been without freshman point guard Dominic Artis as he sits with a foot injury. In that span, the Ducks are 1-3 and have struggled to control turnovers. There is reportedly no definitive timeline for his return, meaning he likely won’t be in the lineup when Dana Altman’s team meets Utah Saturday.

4) National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott was held to just eight points in Creighton’s loss to Indiana State on Wednesday. With that loss, the Bluejays fell to within one game of Wichita State and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley race. McDermott & Co. has a chance to get back on track Saturday vs. Illinois State.

5) Speaking of the Missouri Valley, Wichita State, a team that once climbed as high as No. 15 in the national polls, is on a bad losing skid in Missouri Valley play. The Shockers have lost three in a row and need Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early to step up as the scoring threats that they are in WSU wants to regain traction atop a crowded MVC. They take on Missouri State on Saturday.

The Top 25

No. 2 Florida vs. Mississippi State (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Wisconsin (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Kansas vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Gonzaga vs. Loyola Marymount (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 8 Miami vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 11 Louisville vs. No. 25 Notre Dame (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Michigan State vs. Purdue (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 13 Kansas State vs. Iowa State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 14 Butler vs. George Washington (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 Creighton vs. Illinois State (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 17 Cincinnati vs. No. 23 Pittsburgh (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (8:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Georgetown vs. Rutgers (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 22 Oklahoma State vs. Texas (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 Marquette vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Temple vs. Dayton (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Akron vs. Miami (OH) (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

St. Joseph’s vs. UMass (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Auburn vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stanford vs. Arizona State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Virginia Commonwealth vs. Charlotte (7:00 p.m. ET)

Wichita State vs. Missouri State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Wyoming vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Washington State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Saint Mary’s vs. San Diego (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.