Pregame Shootaround 2.23.13: Classic Syracuse-Georgetown Big East rivalry ends Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Georgetown (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The story lines are not in short supply Saturday. No. 11 Georgetown and No. 8 Syracuse meet at the Carrier Dome for the final time as Big East members. The two teams are tied atop the conference standings. A record-breaking on-campus crowd is expected to be in attendance. The fire of the rivalry has been stoked by some inflammatory comments by Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams.

The spirit of Big East basketball, a spirit that so many have eulogized with the onset of conference realignment, will be showcased Saturday.

James Southerland has been a big boost to the Orange lineup since returning to the lineup, scoring in double digits in each of the four games he has played in and helping to extend defenses out toward the perimeter. Georgetown’s biggest obstacle will be avoiding the offensive woes that plagued it early in the season, those of which have mostly disappeared in the past 11 games.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Kentucky (-2) vs. Missouri (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

In two games without Nerlens Noel, Kentucky was blown out by Tennessee and came together as a team to beat Vanderbilt and avoid a bad loss. Against Missouri Saturday at home, the biggest concern will be in the backcourt and on the glass. Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin played well against Vanderbilt, but will be tested against Phil Pressey and Jabari Brown. If Harrow slips back into the slump we saw in his two games previous to that, when he went scoreless, it affects the rest of the offense for the Wildcats.

On the glass, Willie Cauley-Stein is now tabbed with picking up the slack without Noel. He had his biggest game of the year against Vanderbilt with 20 points and seven rebounds, but meets an experienced Alex Oriakhi in the frontcourt Saturday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 16 New Mexico vs. No. 22 Colorado State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Simply put, Colorado State is tough to beat at home. The Rams have won 27 straight games at Moby Arena, good for the third-best active streak in the country. On Saturday, the battle begins down low. Colorado State is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, even owning a +18 rebounding margin in a loss to New Mexico earlier in the year. To combat that, New Mexico will need production from big man Alex Kirk, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds just two games ago against UNLV.

In the matchup earlier this season between these two teams, the Rams struggled with turnovers and shot just 37 percent from the floor, which contributed to the loss. On Saturday, that will mean getting guard Dorian Green more involved and efficient.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 9 Kansas suffered one of the ugliest losses of the season for any national title contender when they went on the road Feb. 6 and lost to TCU. Since that loss, the Jayhawks have two dominating wins and a hard-fought double OT victory over Oklahoma State. Expect Bill Self’s team to be back in stride on Saturday.

2) Arkansas blew out No. 5 Florida when the Gators traveled to Fayetteville on Feb. 5. The problem is, the Razorbacks are a different team on the road. They are 1-5 on the road in SEC play, as compared to 7-0 at home. Arkansas tips off in Gainesville at 7 p.m. ET.

3) Two of the best players in mid-major basketball and in the country as a whole face off Saturday when Doug McDermott and Creighton meet Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary’s. McDermott has the Bluejays back on the right track after a three-game losing streak, but Dellavedova and the Gaels will try to show what the second-best team in the WCC can do.

4) Villanova sits in the bubble conversations with a pair of big wins over Top 5 teams. The Wildcats would go a long way toward helping their NCAA tournament hopes if they could get a win over No. 17 Marquette at home on Saturday.

5) California got a big win over No. 23 Oregon on Thursday when Justin Cobbs hit a last-second jumper. That win put them squarely in the race for the top of the Pac-12. Nothing would be worse than following up that big victory with a letdown loss to Oregon State.

The Top 25

No. 2 Miami vs. Wake Forest (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. San Diego (7:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 5 Florida vs. Arkansas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Georgetown (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Kansas vs. TCU (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 10 Louisville vs. Seton Hall (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 12 Arizona vs. Washington State (3:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 13 Kansas State vs. Texas (8:00 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)

No. 14 Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 16 New Mexico vs. No. 22 Colorado State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 17 Marquette vs. Villanova (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 21 Memphis vs. Southern Miss (1:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 23 Oregon vs. Stanford (8:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth vs. Xavier (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

Iona vs. Indiana State (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Canisius vs. Vermont (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Eastern Kentucky vs. Valparaiso (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Montana vs. Davidson (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

NC State vs. North Carolina (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Tennessee vs. Texas A&M (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Detroit vs. Wichita State (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Baylor vs. Oklahoma (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Nevada vs. San Diego State (6:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

California vs. Oregon State (6:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Creighton vs. St. Mary’s (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Missouri vs. Kentucky (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Illinois State vs. Utah State (9:00 p.m. ET)

Ohio vs. Belmont (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Washington vs. Arizona State (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.