Pregame Shootaround 3.5.13: Bubble battles, and IU’s Senior Night

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Game of the Night: No. 14 Ohio State at No. 2 Indiana (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I’m still of the mindset that Indiana is the best team in the country, regardless of where they are ranked in relationship to Gonzaga. Why? Well, because they currently hold a two-game lead in the toughest league in the country with two games to play. Winning the Big Ten is quite impressive. Doing so while leading the four teams tied for second-place by two games is a very difficult thing to do.

Tonight, the Hoosiers host Ohio State, who is one of those four teams currently sitting in second place in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes made a statement last Sunday when they knocked off Michigan State at home despite getting a 4-16 shooting performance out of Deshaun Thomas. To be Indiana, however, OSU is going to need Thomas to play much better while having guys like Craft and Lenzelle Smith step up the way they have in recent games.

Winning in Bloomington is a tough thing to do on any given night. Tonight is senior night for the class that put Indiana basketball back on the map. There is going to be a lot of emotion in that building. I have a feeling the Buckeyes are going to be running into a buzzsaw.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Boise State at UNLV (10:00 p.m. ET)

This isn’t technically a mid-major matchup, but work with me here. Boise State, for now, seems to have strengthened their at-large profile enough that they should feel pretty good about getting a bid. One surefire way to lock that bid up, however, is winning in the Thomas & Mack Center, where UNLV is a completely different team. One thing to watch for: Anthony Bennett’s injury status. He’s played just 21 minutes the last two games and shot 0-5 from the floor while dealing with a shoulder problem.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 25 Memphis at UTEP (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Ranked teams on the road. It’s always a problem. Ask Memphis what happened when they went to Xavier last Tuesday. That said, UTEP, while talented, isn’t quite as good as Xavier. And their head coach apparently is already talking publicly about the interviews he’s accepting for other jobs.

Five Things

1) The Big South tournament kicked off this afternoon. Here’s our preview of it. The Horizon holds their three first round games tonight as well. Here’s our preview for that tournament.

2) Two games in the MAC to make not of. Ohio will be visiting Buffalo, who handed Akron their first loss of league play on Saturday. And the Zips will be hosting Miami OH. An Akron loss and an Ohio win will mean that there is a tie atop the MAC standings.

3) Alabama visits Ole Miss in what could be a play-out game for the two SEC teams, which is, frankly, amazing. Ole Miss has lost to South Carolina and Mississippi State in the last two weeks, while the Crimson Tide have losses to Tulane, Mercer, Dayton, Auburn and LSU. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

4) Mike Anderson will be making his first visit to Missouri since leaving the Tiger program to take over at Arkansas. The Razorbacks might have a shot at an NCAA tournament bid if they can win on the road, although that’s easier said than done for them. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

5) Iowa’s chances for an at-large bid are gone, but beating Illinois and heading into the Big Ten tournament with some positive momentum would be a good thing.

Top 25

  • Virginia Tech at No. 3 Duke (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • TCU at No. 9 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 14 Ohio State at No. 2 Indiana (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 15 Marquette at Rutgers (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • St. John’s at No. 24 Pitt (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 25 Memphis at UTEP (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.