Pregame Shootaround 2.20.13: CO St. visits UNLV, a Big 12 showdown

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Game of the Night: No. 9 Kansas at No. 14 Oklahoma State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Big 12 has turned into a three-team race for the league title, and with Kansas State beating West Virginia at home last night, the Wildcats have taken a half-game lead (in the win column) over both the Jayhawks and the Cowboys. The winner of tonight’s game will move into a tie with KSU, a game ahead of the loser. This is significant because all three teams have an easy schedule down the stretch, with the exception of Kansas State’s trip to Stillwater in the regular season finale.

In other words, if Oklahoma State wins and there are no surprises throughout the rest of Big 12 play, KSU and OSU will play on the final day of the regular season for the Big 12 title. Kansas has won at least a share of the Big 12 title in each of the past eight years, and a lost tonight would mean that they no longer control their own destiny in that regard.

Gallagher-Iba Arena is one of the best college basketball atmospheres with the arena is full, and with Kansas in town, it should be packed. The Jayhawks will be looking to exact revenge for a loss they suffered in Phog Allen earlier this month.

Who’s Getting Upset? No. 22 Colorado State at UNLV (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

The Rebels have their issues this season, but the one thing that we know for sure is that UNLV is a tough team to beat at the Thomas & Mack Center. I also think that UNLV will be able to matchup with the Rams well. The biggest issue that Dave Rice has run into this season is that Mike Moser gets lost in the shuffle thanks to the play of Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch, but given CSU’s size and their ability to hit the glass, Moser may be a viable weapon tonight.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Santa Clara at No. 3 Gonzaga (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Santa Clara is a fun, dangerous team this season. Kevin Foster is as dangerous of a shooter as you are going to find in the country, Marc Trasolini has the kind of size to be create matchups problems and Evan Roquemore is a hidden gem at the point. Gonzaga is a tough team to beat at the Kennel, but there should be plenty of scoring and a lot of threes fired up tonight.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Providence has won four straight games and is playing the best basketball the program has seen in recent memory. They visit Syracuse tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

2) Ohio State really needs a win to turn around some of the skepticism of their resume. They host Minnesota, a team that has been sputtering as well, tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten)

3) I guess we shouldn’t have been too surprised that Kentucky got smacked in their first game without Nerlens Noel. It was on the road against a tough, solid Tennessee team. Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt tonight. We should get a better gauge of whether or not it’s time to pack in the season for Wildcat fans. (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

4) The sneaky-good game of the night: Iowa State at Baylor. Athletes, threes, zero conscience, bubble implications. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

5) Is Joel Smith healthy? When he is, Northeastern is far and away the best team in the CAA. But he’s missed time the last two games — he sat out against Delaware and only managed to play 16 minutes against UNC-Wilmington. The Huskies lost both games, and they host James Madison tonight. (7:00 p.m.)

Top 25

  • Santa Clara at No. 3 Gonzaga (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Providence at No. 8 Syracuse (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 9 Kansas at No. 14 Oklahoma State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • DePaul at No. 11 Georgetown (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Washington at No. 12 Arizona (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Minnesota at No. 18 Ohio State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • No. 19 Wisconsin at Northwestern (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • Houston at No. 21 Memphis (9:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 22 Colorado State at UNLV (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

  • Ole Miss at South Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • South Florida at St. John’s (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Oklahoma at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Charleston at Western Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Air Force at Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.