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_

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

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Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.