Pregame Shootaround 3.3.13: Michigan-Michigan State highlights Sunday’s slate

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Game of the Day: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The last time these two teams met, Michigan was at the tail end of a brutal four-game stretch in the Big Ten. The Wolverines had faced Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in succession and were subsequently blown out by Michigan State in East Lansing, 75-52. At the time, there were questions about how much of that was a matter of fatigue and how much was related to Michigan State as an opponent.

Now, almost three weeks later, they meet again and Michigan is fresh off a loss to lowly Penn State, while Michigan State is in its own brutal stretch of the Big Ten. The Spartans have losses to Indiana and Ohio State, will face Michigan Sunday, then welcome Wisconsin back at home.

Guard play is key in this one. Michigan’s Trey Burke is a National Player of the Year candidate and the player tabbed with containing Keith Appling. Appling has struggled of late, combining to go 2-of-14 for nine points in consecutive losses to Indiana and Ohio State. Whoever wins the battle of the point guards will go far to win this game, but continue reading below for the matchup that will decide this one.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 4 Michigan (-5) vs. No. 9 Michigan State

One of the biggest questions that faces the Michigan Wolverines is how they handle the interior. Few questions the potency of their offense or the play of point guard Trey Burke, but when it comes to depth in the paint, there are question marks. That’s why Sunday comes down to a matchup that Michigan State should use to its advantage. Can Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan handle Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne?

If Tom Izzo gameplans accordingly, they should be able to exploit that matchup and can use it as an engine to get a big road win.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Stony Brook vs. Albany (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stony Brook has already locked up the regular season title in the America East, but they’re worth watching Sunday because they could be dangerous if they make it to March. They are a very solid rebounding team, led by freshman Jameel Warney, and contrast that with help from do-it-all senior Tommy Brenton. Low majors always face a battle because, regardless of what happens in the regular season, the automatic bid is usually the only ticket to the Big Dance. We’ll see if the Seawolves can make a run.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 17 Wisconsin is fortunate to have one of the more favorable final stretches in the Big Ten, but Sunday against Purdue is a major trap game. The Badgers can’t be looking ahead to Michigan State on the horizon and must take care of this one at home.

2) Virginia scored an emotional upset win over Duke on Thursday and faces something similar to what Wisconsin is looking at here in the final three regular season games. The Cavaliers draw Boston College Sunday, then Florida State and Maryland. All three should be wins, but any one could also be a stumbling block before the ACC tournament.

3) Villanova is squarely on the bubble. With all the shifting going on yesterday, they have a chance to solidify their spot in the tournament with a win over No. 23 Pittsburgh. A loss would certainly hurt, but at least it can’t be on the level of Ole Miss’ loss to Mississippi State or Tennessee’s loss to Georgia.

4) Maryland popped its own bubble with a loss to Georgia Tech earlier this week. NC State is much more solidly in the NCAA tournament than the Terrapins, but they’ll need to avoid stumbling against the Yellow Jackets Sunday.

5) Close games have hurt Stanford’s chances in the Pac-12. This team has lost three games by two points or less this season and sit at the bottom of a crowded conference because of it. Regardless, they face Utah Sunday and want to finish out the regular season strong.

The Top 25

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Wisconsin vs. Purdue (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Florida State vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Washington State vs. Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Virginia vs. Boston College (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Utah vs. Stanford (5:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

NC State vs. Georgia Tech (6:00 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.