Pregame Shootaround 3.6.13: Six ranked teams head on the road

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Game of the Night: No. 5 Georgetown at Villanova (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The biggest game of the night pits two old school Big East programs and future Catholic 7 programs that could determine quite a bit come NCAA tournament time.

Here’s what’s on the line:

– For Villanova, they have a chance to lock up an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. As of today, the Wildcats should be able to feel pretty good about where they stand thanks to wins over Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette. But they enter this game on a two-game losing streak, and with the Big East tournament looming next week, a loss in the first round could mean that Jay Wright’s club enters Selection Sunday on a four game losing streak. Still deserving? Maybe not.

– For Georgetown, they have a chance to lock up a share of the Big East regular season title. with Syracuse visiting DC on Saturday afternoon looking to get revenge for a beat down last month and change the course of their season, a loss would put the Hoyas in danger of missing out on a chance to win a Big East title and to get the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. With a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament a legitimate possibility, that’s a lot riding on these last couple of games.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: No. 16 St. Louis at Xavier (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Read this story from Dana O’Neil on this year’s St. Louis team.

You done yet?

The Billikens have become one of the feel-good stories of the year, and they just so happen to be the best team in the Atlantic 10 and a group with a real shot at making a long run in the tournament. Which is why Xavier wants this win so badly. There is still a chance that, if the Musketeers can win out and pick off a couple more good teams in the A-10 tournament, they can sneak into one of the last at-large spots. The Cintas Center is always tough to play in.

Whoโ€™s Getting Upset?: No. 13 Oklahoma State at Iowa State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Iowa State is one of the most entertaining and dangerous teams in the country, and they just so happen to be awesome when playing at home. They desperately need this win if they are going to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large. I think they get it.

Five Things

1) Five conference tournaments start tonight: the WCC, the Ohio Valley, the Patriot League, the NEC and the Atlantic Sun.

2) There are four top 25 teams on the road against teams that have a real shot at pulling an upset. Three are listed above. The fourth? No. 7 Michigan at Purdue. The Boilermakers are coming off of a win at the Kohl Center over Wisconsin. (7:00 p.m ET, Big Ten Network)

3) No. 21 VCU and Richmond actually have a pretty healthy rivalry as the two biggest programs in the city of Richmond. Throw in the fact that the Spiders beat the Rams earlier this season, and this should be an intense matchup. (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

4) Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes are all but gone, but if they can beat a North Carolina team that is peaking at the right time tonight, they may still have a chance. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

5) Tennessee is on their last breath as well, and while beating Auburn isn’t going to do much for their profile, losing to the Tigers would be a monumental disaster. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Top 25

  • No. 5 Georgetown at Villanova (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Georgia Tech at No. 6 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 7 Michigan at Purdue (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • Vanderbilt at No. 11 Florida (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 12 New Mexico at Nevada (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 13 Oklahoma State at Iowa State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • No. 16 St. Louis at Xavier (9:00 p.m. ET)
  • DePaul at No. 17 Syracuse (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Richmond at No. 21 VCU (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 23 UCLA at Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

Notable Games

  • North Carolina at Maryland (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Temple at Fordham (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • George Washington at La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Tennessee at Auburn (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • UConn at South Florida (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Wake Forest at NC State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Minnesota at Nebraska (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • West Virginia at Oklahoma (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Colorado State at Wyoming (10:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Stanford at Cal (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Air Force at San Diego State (11:30 p.m. ET)
  • USC at Washington (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedย 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and Iโ€™m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment โ€“ both by our university and by Chris โ€“ allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.