Otto Porter Jr., John Thompson III

Pregame Shootaround 2.15.13: Cincinnati looks to bolster NCAA tournament resume

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Game of the Night: No. 15 Georgetown at Cincinnati (9:00 p.m.; ESPN) 

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are in good shape to return to the NCAA tournament, but a win over the visiting Hoyas would not only add to their resume but also keep Cincinnati in the Big East title race. Georgetown arrives in Cincinnati with an opportunity to move into sole possession of first place, something that few people would have expected when conference play began.

Otto Porter Jr. is one of the nation’s best wings but guard Markel Starks will be just as important given the strength of Cincinnati’s backcourt. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright lead the way offensively for Cincinnati with the steady Jaquon Parker being a solid third option on the wing. Keep an eye on Cincinnati’s offensive rebound total, as the Bearcats manage to rebound nearly 40% of their missed shots.

Who’s Getting Upset? Iona (-2.5) at Manhattan (7:00 p.m.; ESPNU) 

After a loss at Siena dropped the Jaspers to 4-7 in MAAC play, Steve Masiello’s team has won three straight and have a legitimate chance of avoiding finishing in the bottom four of the conference standings (those teams have to play in the first round of the MAAC tournament). Manhattan’s had to change how they play due to injuries, most notably losing leading scorer George Beamon for the year back in December, so while they will pressure defensively don’t look for the Jaspers to actively try to play at a high tempo.

The opposite can be said for Iona, who looks to run at every opportunity with guards Sean Armand and Lamont Jones leading the way and David Laury controlling things inside. If Manhattan can control the tempo, look for them to upset their rival at Draddy Gymnasium.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Vermont at Stony Brook (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3) 

Stony Brook (9-2) leads Vermont (9-3) by a half-game in the America East standings, but given the fact that the Catamounts won the first meeting the Seawolves need this one for tiebreaker purposes. Clancy Rugg was outstanding for Vermont in their 81-73 victory on January 18, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. That helped make up for an off night from Brian Voelkel, who accounted for five points, six assists and four rebounds before fouling out. Stony Brook will counter with veterans Tommy Brenton and David Coley, and freshman forward Jameel Warney is one of the best freshmen in the conference.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Harvard hosts Princeton on Saturday night in a game that will go a long way towards determining the Ivy League champion. Both have business to attend to tonight, with the Crimson taking on Penn and Princeton visiting Dartmouth.

2) The middle of the Atlantic Sun standings could get a lot tighter tonight if North Florida wins at Jacksonville. The Dolphins need a win to move into a tie for third with Stetson at 8-6, but a loss would drop them into a three-way tie for fourth.

3) Green Bay finds itself in a situation similar to that of Jacksonville, as a win would move the Phoenix into a tie for third in the Horizon League and keep them from dropping into the middle of the pack. Green Bay visits Cleveland State, who has struggled offensively for much of the season due to the season-ending injury suffered by Anton Grady.

4) Niagara looks to remain atop the MAAC standings as they visit Marist, but this game could be trickier than it looks to be on paper. Chuck Martin’s team beat both Iona and Loyola (MD) last week, and they’re capable of doing the same to the Purple Eagles.

5) Which team has the best shot of catching Harvard and Princeton in the Ivy League race? The chances are minuscule for both Cornell and Yale but the winner of their meeting in New Haven will give the winner a sliver of hope.

Other Notable Games 

7:00 p.m. Penn at Harvard

7:00 p.m. Princeton at Dartmouth

8:00 p.m. Niagara at Marist (ESPN3)

9:00 p.m. Green Bay at Cleveland St. (ESPN3)

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

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.