Duke Miami

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_

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.

College career over for Nevada’s Hallice Cooke due to heart issue

DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Hallice Cooke #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates after hitting a three pointer in the second half against the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 19, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The college basketball career of Nevada guard Hallice Cooke is over, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-3 native of New Jersey will stay with the program as a volunteer assistant as a heart issue will force Cooke to end his career prematurely.

Cooke started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Iowa State and eventually ending up at Nevada. During the 2015-16 season, Cooke was a role player for the Cyclones as he averaged 10 minutes per game off the bench.

Obviously it’s unfortunate to see someone’s career end early, but it’s also good that Cooke is still going to be involved with the game as an assistant. This could be the type of thing where Cooke eventually ends up coaching in college basketball and it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to stay in the game and get serious about coaching.

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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Kelly Kline/adidas
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.