Pregame Shootaround 2.16.13: San Diego State-UNLV is nightcap to watch Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Pittsburgh began its Big East schedule with two straight losses. Since then, though, the Panthers have gone 8-2 and have quality wins over Syracuse and Cincinnati. One team they have yet to beat, though, is Marquette, who won in overtime on Jan. 12. In that game, Tray Woodall played just four minutes after suffering a concussion. With him in the lineup Saturday, his 10.9 points and 5.4 assists per game could make the difference.

For Marquette, Davante Gardner has struggled over the last five games. In that January meeting with Pittsburgh, he was 6-of-6 from the floor for 13 points. Another night like that from him would have the Golden Eagles on the right track for a win Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: North Carolina (-6) vs. Virginia (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

North Carolina does well when it is able to get out in transition and score when the defense is scattered. Against Virginia, those opportunities will be limited because the Cavaliers take care of the basketball and shoot a solid percentage from the field (46% FG, 40% 3pt FG).

Joe Harris will again be the key for Virginia on the road. If he continues to hit shots as he has for much of ACC play, it will open up opportunities for complementary scorer Akil Mitchell toward the interior. With limited possessions, North Carolina can’t afford to turn the ball over, and will need James Michael McAdoo to bounce back after shooting 4-of-12 from the floor vs. Duke.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saturday night’s matchup sees two of the Mountain West’s best players (and likely the two top contenders for the conference’s Player of the Year award) face off. The Rebels are in need of a win after dropping three of their last four, including losses to Boise State, Air Force, and Fresno State.

San Diego State, on the other hand, has won two of its last three but fell on Wednesday to Colorado State. In that game, Frankling struggled to shoot just 4-of-13 from the floor for 11 points. He needs to return to his typical 17 points and nine rebounds for the Aztecs to get a win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 2 Duke has responded with six straight wins after getting blown out by Miami on Jan. 23. We’ll see one of the better individual big man matchups Saturday as the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee meets Maryland’s Alex Len. The Terrapins will be without Pe’Shon Howard because of suspension.

2) No. 8 Michigan State finds itself in a trap game Saturday against Nebraska. With a brutal four-game stretch waiting over the next two weeks (No. 1 Indiana, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 20 Wisconsin), the Spartans need not overlook the Cornhuskers on the road. Don’t expect any problems, but it’s something to keep in mind.

3) No. 15 Kansas needed a big win over Kansas State to try to return to equilibrium after three straight losses. They got it. Now they face a Texas team that has gotten a lift from the return of guard Myck Kabongo.

4) No. 11 Butler has a chance to bounce back after a loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. The Bulldogs travel to 6-19 Fordham, though they could be without center Andrew Smith, who was cleared to practice but is a game-time decision. Expect Rotnei Clarke to find his groove again after being quiet until late vs. Charlotte.

5) Both UCLA and Stanford need a win Saturday. The Cardinal are fresh off a loss to USC on Thursday, and the Bruins started off their road trip to the Bay Area with a loss to Cal that same day. Stanford will look to the interior with Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, while UCLA hopes Shabazz Muhammad finds his shooting touch again after going 4-of-13 from the floor vs. Cal.

The Top 25

No. 1 Indiana vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 2 Duke vs. Maryland (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Gonzaga vs. San Francisco (4:30 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 6 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Florida vs. Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Michigan State vs. Nebraska (8:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 10 Kansas State vs. Baylor (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 11 Butler vs. Fordham (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 14 Kansas vs. Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 New Mexico vs. Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Providence (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 22 Memphis vs. Marshall (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 23 Oregon vs. Washington State (7:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

No. 24 Colorado State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Kentucky vs. Tennessee (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Other Notable Games

Villanova vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Virginia vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Joseph’s vs. La Salle (1:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

NC State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Army vs. Navy (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Creighton vs. Evansville (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Missouri vs. Arkansas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Stanford vs. UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Temple vs. Massachusetts (6:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Detroit vs. Valparaiso (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Princeton vs. Harvard (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Charlotte vs. Saint Louis (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saint Mary’s vs. Loyola Marymount (7:00 p.m. ET)

Georgia vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Arizona State vs. Colorado State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

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

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.