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_

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

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Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.