Shane Southwell, Angel Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder

Pregame Shootaround 2.11.13: Sunflower Showdown heats up

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Game of the Night: No. 10 Kansas State at No. 14 Kansas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We may still be more than a month away from the start of March Madness, but it’s hard to imagine much more riding on a game than there is tonight in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are coming off of a three-game losing streak, having their offensive issues supplemented with confidence issues that have put them in a position that we’ve rarely seen out of a Bill Self-coached team: second place in the conference standings. That’s right. Kansas, who has won at least a share of the last eight Big 12 regular season titles, is currently sitting a game behind in-state rival K-State for the Big 12 lead.

That should give you a sense of just how big tonight’s game is. With a win, the Wildcats would move two games up on Kansas with seven left to play. And those final seven games aren’t exactly a murder’s row. They get Baylor twice and have to make a trip to Oklahoma State. Beyond that? A lot of ‘meh’, which means that Kansas State is one win in Lawrence away from having the Big 12 title within their sights.

The Phog will be rocking tonight.

Mid-Major matchup of the night: Old Dominion at Delaware (7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSports)

Since firing head coach Blaine Taylor, Old Dominion has notched a win at Drexel and taken CAA leader Northeastern to overtime. Tonight, they visit Delaware. This Monarch team seems to have something to prove to the CAA. The Blue Hens better be ready for a fight.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) No. 15 Georgetown wil host No. 18 Marquette tonight in the Big Monday opener. There haven’t been ten coaches in the country that have consistently churned out winners like Buzz Williams. Every year, he loses a handful of pieces that make you think his program is ready for a rebuilding season. And by the time Big East play roles around, you realize that all he needs to rebuild in non-conference play. It will be interesting to see how the Golden Eagles handle Georgetown’s zone. They struggled with it the last time these two got together in Milwaukee, where Marquette survived when Greg Whittington missed a free throw with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.

2) Oklahoma will host TCU, who knocked off Kansas last week. The Horned Frogs then proceeded to lose by double-digits to West Virginia.

3) Don’t expect to see Sacred Heart visit Bryant of Central Connecticut State play Quinnipiac, as the northeast is still digging out from Winter Storm Nemo.

4) There are three teams sitting with two losses in the SWAC. All three — Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern, and Texas Southern — play tonight.

5) Norfolk State and North Carolina Central are both undefeated this season in the MEAC, but they won’t play unless they meet in the conference tournament title game. That said, both teams will take the court in league play tonight.

Top 25

  • No. 18 Marquette at No. 15 Georgetown (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 10 Kansas State at No. 14 Kansas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.