Game of the Weekend: No. 11 Georgetown at No. 8 Syracuse (Sat., 4 p.m. ET, CBS)
The best rivalry in the prestigious history of the Big East will come to a close this season, as Syracuse is headed to the ACC while Georgetown will, eventually, become a member of the new Catholic 7 conference, whatever form it ends up being. The two teams will play again in a couple of weeks and John Thompson III has said that the two sides will try to keep the rivalry going when they are in different leagues, but this could end up being the last time the Hoyas visit the Carrier Dome. That’s why there will be a Syracuse record 35,000 people in attendance.
As far as the game itself is concerned, first place in the Big East will be on the line. Georgetown is the hottest team in the country right now. They can defend, they have enough length to match up with Syracuse, and their back court of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (who went for 33 points against DePaul this week) has been playing great basketball. Otto Porter has a chance to be the Big East Player of the Year after the way he has played down the stretch of the season, but Syracuse looked like they finally found a rhythm on Wednesday with James Southerland back in the lineup.
Five more games you need to watch:
- No. 16 New Mexico at No. 22 Colorado State (Sat., 4 p.m. NBC Sports Network): This is the biggest game in the Mountain West this season, as New Mexico has a chance to go into Fort Collins and all-but lock up the MWC regular season title. The Lobos currently hold a one-game lead over CSU, but winning on the road in the MWC is borderline impossible.
- No. 4 Michigan State at No. 18 Ohio State (Sun. 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS): An ailing Michigan State teams heads into Columbus to take on Ohio State, who finally turned things around as they picked up a 26 point win over Minnesota on Wednesday night. The Spartans are a game behind Indiana in the Big Ten standings, and a loss would all but end any chance they have of getting the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
- St. Louis at No. 15 Butler (Fri. 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): I love when great basketball gets played on a Friday night. It’s been a bit uncommon this season. The Billikens have taken control of the Atlantic 10 with dominating wins over Butler and VCU this month, but the Bulldogs have a chance to get their revenge on Friday night. Butler is tied with VCU a game behind St. Louis in the league standings, and a loss would pretty end any chance they had of winning the league outright.
- Illinois at No. 7 Michigan (Sun. 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Illinois is the most confusing team in the country. They were dominant for stretches in the non-conference. They struggled to beat some mid-majors clubs as well. They blew out Ohio State to kick off conference play, then lost eight of their next 11. They beat Indiana and Minnesota, then struggled to hold off Penn State at home. Michigan has been reeling themselves, losing three of four in one stretched and getting manhandled by Michigan State. Expect a lot of threes in this one.
- Creighton at St. Mary’s (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Both Creighton and St. Mary’s have high-powered, efficient offenses paired with defenses that have their issues getting stops. The Bluejays don’t have anyone in the back court to match up with Matthew Dellavedova, while SMC will likely have to put Beau Levesque, who would be playing out of position, on Doug McDermott. This should be an entertaining watch.
Because I have to mention them:
- South Dakota State at Murray State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Nate Wolters vs. Isaiah Canaan. Need I say more?
- Ohio at Belmont (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Two of my favorite teams in the country. DJ Cooper vs. Kerron Johnson will be worth the price of admission, while Ian Clark will actually be the best guard on the floor. Both teams can get up and down the floor and both teams play an entertaining style of basketball.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.
The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.
Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.
With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.