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_

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.