Russ Smith Peyton Siva

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_

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.