Pregame Shootaround 3.2.13: Duke-Miami rematch is Saturday’s centerpiece

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Game of the Day: No. 3 Duke vs. No. 5 Miami (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Perhaps this game lost a bit of its luster after Duke lost to Virginia Wednesday night, but we still have a battle Saturday between two Top 5 teams with a history between them this season. After the Blue Devils were trounced by 27 points in Coral Gables earlier this season, they will be out for revenge at Cameron Indoor this time around.

It is unclear whether Ryan Kelly will return for Duke. A report from Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com said Kelly was leaning toward returning against Miami. If he does return, will he be back to 100% and ready to make as big of an impact as Duke would like? That’s even more unclear than if he will actually be in the lineup.

There are matchups on both the inside and the perimeter to watch Saturday. Miami point guard Shane Larkin has proven to be one of the more impressive lead guards in the country throughout the season, which will amplify the importance of Duke’s Quinn Cook. In their first meeting, Cook was 1-of-12 from the floor for five points. Larkin had a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The other matchup to watch will be Mason Plumlee vs. Reggie Johnson on the block. Johnson returned from injury for the first Miami-Duke go-around, but played just 16 minutes. He has since gotten back into the groove. Plumlee, on the other hand, continues to produce like an All-American. The Blue Devils will need him to be dominant, though his job is made harder if Kelly cannot play or is not 100%.

Who’s Getting Upset?: USC (-2) vs. Arizona State (3:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Arizona State lost a heartbreaker to UCLA at home in overtime this week. Though they are the underdogs on the road, they’ll be looking for a win to avoid falling further away from the top of the Pac-12. That will again be the job of Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix for the Sun Devils, both of whom had big games in the loss to UCLA. USC is no team to underestimate, though. Interim coach Bob Cantu has done a good job with the Trojans and a win would pull them to a respectable 9-7 in conference play.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Wichita State vs. Creighton (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Along with Duke-Miami, Wichita State-Creighton is the other game Saturday that features two teams each with 23 or more wins. It only seems to be par for the course when it comes to the Missouri Valley, which has finally created some separation and sees the Shockers and the Bluejays as the two teams who have emerged from the pack. Both teams are 12-5 in the conference, making Saturday’s game (the last of the regular season) that which will decide the regular season conference champion.

Five Things to Watch For

1) With No. 1 Indiana losing earlier in the week, will No. 2 Gonzaga take over the nation’s top spot? They will need to avoid a bad loss to 11-19 Portland, then the No. 1 ranking could be theirs.

2) No. 7 Georgetown has been one of the nation’s most impressive teams in the country over the past five weeks. The Hoyas escaped with a double-overtime win over Connecticut Wednesday and now meet Rutgers Saturday.

3) In a weak SEC this season, Alabama has played well enough to linger near the top of the conference. That being said, it seems crazy that with a win Saturday over No. 8 Florida, the Crimson Tide would have a share of the SEC lead with two games to play in the regular season.

4) Besides Miami-Duke, No. 10 Louisville vs. No. 12 Syracuse is the other eye-catcher Saturday. Look for a battle of the point guards between Louisville’s Peyton Siva and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams.

5) Memphis raised a lot of eyebrows when it left conference play for a non-conference matchup against Xavier and lost. They return to the friendlier confines of the C-USA Saturday against UCF.

The Top 25

No. 1  Indiana vs. Iowa (7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 2 Gonzaga vs. Portland (5:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 5 Miami (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Kansas vs. West Virginia (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 7 Georgetown vs. Rutgers (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Florida vs. Alabama (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 10 Louisville vs. No. 12 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 11 Arizona vs. UCLA (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 13 Kansas State vs. Baylor (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 14 New Mexico vs. Wyoming (5:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. Texas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 18 Saint Louis vs. George Washington (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 19 Memphis vs. UCF (1:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 20 Butler vs. Virginia Commonwealth (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 22 Marquette (2:00 p.m. ESPN)

No. 25 Louisiana Tech vs. San Jose State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Maryland vs. Wake Forest (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

George Mason vs. Delaware (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Wichita State vs. Creighton (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Connecticut vs. Cincinnati (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Massachusetts vs. Xavier (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Arizona State vs. USC (3:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Penn State vs. Minnesota (3:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Kentucky vs. Arkansas (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

LSU vs. Missouri (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

UNLV vs. Nevada (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Colorado vs. California (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Nebraska vs. Illinois (5:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Harvard vs. Pennsylvania (6:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

St. John’s vs. Providence (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Santa Clara vs. St. Mary’s (10:00 p.m. ET)

BYU vs. Loyola Marymount (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_

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.