Pregame Shootaround 2.21.13: Slow night, but big chance for Cal, Cincy

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Game of the Night: Cal at No. 23 Oregon (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Ducks will once again be without Dominic Artis tonight, which puts Cal into a wonderful position — the Bears, who have won five of their last six games to put themselves firmly into the bubble conversation, can grab their second marquee road win in the span of two weeks if they can beat the Dukes. To be perfectly fair, Johnathan Loyd has been playing some good basketball of late in Artis’ stead, but he’s not the same kind of talent. Oregon currently leads Arizona in the Pac-12 standings by a game in the loss column.

The Other Game of the Night: BYU at St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Neither BYU not St. Mary’s looks like they are for the NCAA tournament without locking down the automatic bid from the WCC, but that doesn’t mean that these two teams are boring to watch. The Cougars are one of the fastest paced teams in the country, and St. Mary’s is one of the top ten most efficient teams in the country. Matthew Dellavedova is as good as any point guard that you’ll find nationally, while Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies are as good as any 1-2 punch as you’ll find. Expect a lot of scoring.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: South Alabama at Middle Tennessee State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Middle Tennessee State may be the best mid-major team in the country, one of the few teams outside the major conferences with a chance (albeit it slim) to receive an at-large bid. South Alabama has already gone through a coaching change this season, but they are currently sitting in second place in the Sun Belt. MTSU will win clinch the Sun Belt outright tonight with a win.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Erick Green may be stuck playing for one of the bottom-feeders in the ACC, but he’s a first-team all-american talent. He’ll be hosting Duke with the Hokies tonight. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) UConn may not be eligible for the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a quality road win in the making. Cincinnati needs one of those. Should be interesting to see two teams that rely almost entirely on their talented back court. (7:00 p.m. ESPN)

3) Drexel and Delaware are two of the more disappointing teams in the CAA, but they are also two of the most talented teams. (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

4) La Salle looks like they are in position to be the fourth team from the Atlantic 10 to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they still have some work left to do. Winning at Temple in a Big 5 showdown would be a good way to start. (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

5) Colorado and Illinois host Utah and Penn State, respectively. Neither can afford a loss.

Top 25

  • No. 6 Duke at Virginia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Cal at No. 23 Oregon (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Drexel at Delaware (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
  • Cincinnati at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • La Salle at Temple (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • South Alabama at Middle Tennessee State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Penn State at Illinois (8:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • Utah at Colorado (10:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
  • BYU at St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.