East Carolina Memphis Basketball

Pregame Shootaround 2.26.13: Three ranked teams on the road

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Game of the Night: No. 19 Memphis at Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Xavier is in a tough situation here. They desperately need to pick up this win if they are going to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid, especially after blowing a 17 point second half lead against VCU on Saturday.

The problem, however, is that Memphis isn’t exactly safe as an at-large bid, either. Yes, they have a 24-3 record and have won a billion games in a row, but look at who they’ve beaten this season: Southern Miss and … Southern Miss again. Tennessee is the only other team the Tigers have beaten that sits in the top 70, although feasting on the likes of Ohio, Harvard, and East Carolina has netted them a grand total of nine top 100 wins.

A couple of losses down the stretch could hurt the Tigers. Given that it’s been a while since Memphis has been on national TV, this is an opportunity that the Tigers need to capitalize on. Like it or not, there is always going to be an “eye test” influence, a human element, in tournament selections. Make a statement, feel a bit more comfortable with were you’ll end up being seeded.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 1 Indiana at Minnesota (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Minnesota is reeling. They lost two in a row last week (both games by more than 20), four of their last five and eight of their last 11. All of a sudden, this looks like a team that may be playing their way off the bubble. Tubby Smith’s job is in jeopardy. It’s difficult to stress just how important this game is for the Gophers. They won’t have another shot at a marquee win. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that their season is on the line tonight.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Towson at George Mason (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN)

This should be a fun game in Fairfax tonight, as the Tigers and the Patriots are two of the more talented teams in the CAA. Towson is tied for second with Delaware, sitting a game in front of GMU in the CAA standings.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Alabama lost in triple-overtime to LSU on Saturday, which was yet another in a string of bad losses for the Crimson Tide this season. Combine that with a really week league schedule, and Anthony Grant’s club is in a ways from being in the NCAA tournament. Losing to in-state rival Auburn tonight could kill those hopes. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

2) Valpo currently holds a one game lead on Detroit in the Horizon League standings with just two games left to play. The Crusaders can clinch a share of the league title tonight against Youngstown State.

3) Tennessee has slowly but surely started to gain some momentum late in the year, winning their last five games. They have a lot of work to do to get into the conversation for an at-large bid, but knocking off No. 8 Florida at home would be a good start. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

4) No. 17 Wisconsin hosts Nebraska. There may not be 80 points total scored in this one. Be sure to check the box score tomorrow. (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

5) Wake Forest scored a huge upset on Saturday as they knocked off No. 3 Miami in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons have been good at home this year. Can they pull off a road win against Florida State? A strong finish to the season may be what it takes to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Top 25

  • No. 1 Indiana at Minnesota (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 8 Florida at Tennessee (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Nebraska at No. 17 Wisconsin (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • No. 19 Memphis at Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.