Pregame Shootaround 3.9.13: High-major & mid-major action make for a big Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Otto Porter made his case for National Player of the Year when these two teams last met, scoring 33 points and carrying Georgetown in a big road win over the Orange. Now the Hoyas return home with a chance to claim at least a share of the Big East regular season title with a win. Syracuse has some concerned because of its recent slide, having lost three of its last four games and sliding back into the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Lafayette (-2) vs. Lehigh (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Lehigh will be without star C.J. McCollum again, as he has been ruled out for Saturday’s semifinal, but the Mountain Hawks still have plenty to work with. The key for Lehigh will be defending the Lafayette three-point shooters, who lit them up in the two previous matchups (21-of-51) between these teams. That includes the team’s leading scorer, Seth Hinrichs, who averages 14.6 points per game. Lehigh has the advantage in the frontcourt and that’s what it should look to exploit. That means Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner need to come up big Saturday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

In the first meeting between these two teams San Diego State blew a 17-point lead before Chase Tapley saved them with a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving the Aztecs a 63-62 win. This time around, the stakes are higher in the season finale. Boise State sits on the bubble and couldn’t get resume-building road wins over New Mexico and UNLV in recent weeks, but now returns home with another chance to solidify its spot. As for San Diego State, the Aztecs are cemented in the tournament but could use another win on the road to affect their seating.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) No. 3 Duke has not lost a game with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Kelly has put up astronomical numbers since returning from his foot injury. What does it likely mean when you consider those two factors for Saturday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina? A Duke win on the road. But don’t underestimate North Carolina. Since Roy Williams switch to a smaller, for versatile lineup, the Tar Heels have become a different team.

2) No. 6 Miami severely  hurt its chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a loss at the buzzer to Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have now lost three of their last four, including games to Wake Forest and that game against Georgia Tech. They try to get back on track Saturday against Clemson.

3) Indiana State escaped last night in the final moments to advance in the crazy Missouri Valley tournament. The Sycamores now meet Creighton, who they beat handily in their first meeting of the season. Expect Doug McDermott to come up big after his huge season finale to clinch the conference title.

4) Amidst all the drama in the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC, don’t forget about the Big 12. Kansas State is tied atop the conference with Kansas and a win Saturday, plus a Jayhawk loss, would give the Wildcats an outright conference title. They take on Oklahoma State.

5) Kentucky’s NCAA tournament hopes took another blow with its double-digit loss to Georgia this week. Because of that, it needs a big home win over No. 11 Florida and a run in the SEC tournament to stay alive.

The Top 25

No. 3 Duke vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Baylor (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Miami vs. Clemson (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Louisville vs. No. 24 Notre Dame (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Florida vs. Kentucky (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 12 New Mexico vs. Air Force (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Marquette vs. St. John’s (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Saint Louis vs. La Salle (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 18 Arizona vs. Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Pittsburgh vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 UCLA vs. Washington (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 25 Memphis vs. UAB (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

Providence vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Minnesota vs. Purdue (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ole Miss vs. LSU (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

NC State vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Lehigh vs. Lafayette (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Indiana State vs. Creighton (2:35 p.m. ET)

San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgia vs. Alabama (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Missouri vs. Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oregon State vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Canisius vs. Iona (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Cornell vs. Harvard (5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Fresno State vs. UNLV (6:00 p.m. ET)

Xavier vs. Butler (6:30 ET, CBS Sports Network)

Louisiana Tech vs. Denver (7:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

Nevada vs. Colorado State (8:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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 averaged 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 I’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 – both by our university and by Chris – 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.