Jamie Dixon

Pregame shootaround 2.18.13: A Top 25 tilt in the Big East, Huggins returns to K-State

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Game of the Day: No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 20 Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I’m sure that Jamie Dixon is ready for this run to end for the Panthers. The Fighting Irish will be the fifth ranked team Pitt has faced in the last six games. They’ve gone 3-2 in that span, holding their own, but I’m sure the wear and tear isn’t good for guys like Steven Adams and Tray Woodall, who are going to be necessities come tournament time.

For Notre Dame, they really need a good win to reassure the team that the five overtime thriller over Louisville didn’t drain them. Since the victory, the Fighting Irish barely beat Big East bottom-feeder DePaul in overtime and then took an L at Providence.

It’s really a battle of mental (Notre Dame) versus physical (Pittsburgh). The winner might get more than just a victory from this one.

Who’s Getting Upset? Norfolk State at Hampton (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Spartans are 11-0 in the MEAC, best in the conference. Hampton sits at 7-3 in the conference and has won five in a row — four of them road games — including a win over conference contender Savannah State on Feb. 7. They’ll be fired up and looking for revenge after Norfolk State beat them 74-67 on the road on Jan. 21.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Bucknell at Lehigh (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

So what there’s no C.J. McCollum? This game demands your attention anyway. Both teams sit at 8-2 in the Patriots League and the Bison have already reached the 20-win plateau (21-5). The Mountain Hawks still have the regular season title in their sights. This one should still be a conference game of the year candidate.

Five Things to Watch For

1.) West Virginia makes their first visit to Bramlage Coliseum tonight as a member of the Big 12 Conference. Guard play will rule this one, with Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling, Shane Southwell and Angel Rodriguez going up against Aaric Murray, Juwan Staten, Jabari Hinds and Eron Harris. Oh, then there’s the whole Bob Huggins making his return to Manhattan thing.

2.) Drexel takes on Hofstra at home tonight. The last time those two teams got together, this happened.

3.) North Carolina Central took their first conference loss on Saturday to Savannah State. They’ll be looking to get back to chasing Norfolk State with a victory at 1-9 in-conference South Carolina State tonight.

4.) After losing their first five games in-conference, Fairfield has won six of their last seven to get back to respectability in the MAAC. They take on Iona tonight, who still have dreams of a high seed in the conference tournament with their 9-6 conference mark.

5.) Arkansas-Pine Bluff is having the best season of a postseason-banned team not named UConn. They’re 11-3 in the SWAC, 12-14 overall and take on Prarie View A&M tonight on the road.

The Top 25
West Virginia at No. 13 Kansas State (9:00 p.m., ET, ESPN)

Other Notable Games
Rutgers at Villanova (9:00 p.m., ET, ESPNU)

Iona at Fairfield (7:00 p.m., ET, check listings)

North Carolina A&T at Savannah State (7:00 p.m. ET, check listings)

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.