Pregame Shootaround 2.17.13: Big Ten steals show Sunday with Ohio State-Wisconsin

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Game of the Day: No. 13 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Wisconsin (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Big Ten has routinely made for the best matchups on Sunday over the past few weeks and does not disappoint this time, either. Deshaun Thomas and the Buckeyes meet a Wisconsin team that has finally and deservedly cracked the Top 25.

The key for Ohio State offensively is getting Thomas help and keeping him from having to score more than about 25 percent of their overall points. This means Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Sam Thompson, Aaron Craft, and the emerging LaQuinton Ross need to contribute, or else Thomas is left to shoulder too much of the load.

It won’t be that simple on the road at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 179-17 in the past 12 seasons in that building. Even up three points in the final seconds, the lead is not safe. Just ask Michigan.

Expect it to be another bruising Big Ten matchup as the conference jockeys for postseason position.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Minnesota (-1.5) vs. Iowa (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Iowa has hung around until the final minutes with a number of quality Big Ten schools, including Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. For that reason, they’re a trendy upset pick. The biggest battle for the Hawkeyes Sunday will be on the glass, where both teams rank in the nation’s Top 20. A win would add to a postseason resume.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Wichita State vs. Illinois State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Wichita State has bounced back from a three-game losing streak with two straight wins, but they have no easy task Sunday against Illinois State. The entire Missouri Valley is a threat on any given night, as evidence by Indiana State’s loss to Bradley last night and Creighton narrowly avoiding a fourth straight loss by coming back to beat Evanville.

The Shockers need to get Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall involved. During that three-game losing streak, their failure to get into the offensive flow was perhaps the biggest problem. Illinois State will be looking to future pro Jackie Carmichael, who had a dominating 27-point, 13-rebound game against Bradley his last time out.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 3 Miami remains undefeated in ACC play and should be able to keep up its winning ways Sunday against Clemson. The Hurricanes had some trouble fending off Florida State in their last game before getting the win, but expect Shane Larkin to have another strong outing to follow his 22-point performance vs. FSU.

2) No.4 Michigan ran into a perfect storm in their big loss to No. 8 Michigan State on Tuesday. Take a very good Spartans team, put Michigan on the road, and put that game at the end of a brutal four-game stretch in the Big Ten, and double-digit losses like that can happen. They should bounce back Sunday against Penn State.

3) No. 9 Arizona has lost two games in a row and dropped from first in the Pac-12 into third at the moment. In those losses to Cal and Colorado, one key problem sticks out: three-point shooting defense. That means Arizona will have to keep an eye on the Utes’ shooters, including senior Jarred DuBois, who has a tendency to be hot and cold from behind the arc.

4) No. 12 Louisville responded to a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame with a good home win over St. John’s. Big East bottom dweller USF affords the Cardinals a chance to make it two straight wins. Despite the chance for a blowout, its worth watching Louisville guard Peyton Siva match up with South Florida guard Anthony Collins.

5) California has notched two straight quality wins, coming against Arizona and UCLA. They need to avoid a trap game loss to USC Sunday before they head to face No. 23 Oregon. The Bears Bay Area foes, Stanford, lost to the Trojans and hurt their NCAA tournament hopes this week. Cal hopes to avoid the same fate.

The Top 25

No. 3 Miami vs. Clemson (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 4 Michigan vs. Penn State (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 9 Arizona vs. Utah (3:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 12 Louisville vs. South Florida (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 13 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Wisconsin (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Other Notable Games

Minnesota vs. Iowa (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

James Madison vs. Delaware (7:30 p.m. ET)

Illinois vs. Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Wichita State vs. Illinois State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

California vs. USC (10:00  p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

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

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.