Jabari Brown, Laurence Bowers, Mike Muscala

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 9 Preview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Wednesday.

Game of the Night:Cincinnati vs. Providence
While this match-up may not have all the makings of an epic Big East tournament classic, it pits two teams heading in opposite directions. Cincinnati has lost six of their last nine and is squarely on the bubble after spending much of the early portion of the season ranked in the top-25. Providence on the other hand, has won seven of their last nine and might actually be able to sneak into the NCAA tournament if they can pull off an impressive run in New York City. It all starts tomorrow at noon.

Player to Watch: Mike Muscala, Bucknell
Muscala is arguably the best player you’ve never hear of. The senior forward averages 19ppg and 11rpg and despite playing in the Patriot League, may earn himself an All-American nomination or two. Muscala has already scored 2,007 points in his storied career, and a win tonight in the Patriot League finals would cement his legacy as one of the top-5 best Patriot League players of all time.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Today is the final chance for Grambling to avoid a completely winless 2012-2013 campaign. The Tigers are 0-27, but because so many SWAC teams are ineligible to compete in postseason play, Grambling got the call up. They face an Alabama A&M team that beat them by 25 and 27. If we’ve learned anything from this season, it’s that Grambling can absolutely get their first win of the season today.

Wednesday Schedule:

Big East Conference Second Round
Noon – Cincinnati (9) vs. Providence (8)
2 p.m. – Seton Hall (12) vs. Syracuse (5)
7 p.m. – St. John’s (10) vs. Villanova (7)
9 p.m. – Rutgers (11) vs. Notre Dame (6)

Big 12 Conference First Round
7 p.m. – Texas Tech (9) vs. West Virginia (8)
9:30 p.m. – Texas Christian (10) vs. Texas (7)

Conference-USA First Round
4:30 p.m. – SMU (10) vs. UAB (7)
7 p.m. – Rice (11) vs. Houston (6)
9:30 p.m. – Marshall (9) vs. Tulane (8)

Mid-American Conference Second Round
6:30 p.m. – Buffalo (8) vs. Ball State (5)
9 p.m. – Miami-OH (11) vs. Eastern Michigan (7)

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
6 p.m. – Bethune-Cookman (8) vs. Norfolk State (1)
8 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (7) vs. North Carolina Central (2)

Mountain West Conference Quarterfinals
3 p.m – Air Force (6) vs. UNLV (3)
5:30 p.m. – Fresno State (7) vs. Colorado State (2)

Pac-12 Conference First Round
3 p.m. – Arizona State (9) vs. Stanford (8)
5:30 p.m. – Oregon State (12) vs. Colorado (5)
9 p.m. – Utah (10) vs. USC (7)
11:30 p.m. – Washington State (11) vs. Washington (6)

Patriot League Finals
7:30 p.m. – Lafayette (2) at Bucknell (1)

Southeastern Conference First Round
7:30 p.m. – Mississippi State (13) vs. South Carolina (12)
10 p.m. – Auburn (14) vs. Texas A&M (11)

Southland Conference First Round
6 p.m. – McNeese State (8) vs. Nicholls State (5)
8:30 p.m. – Central Arkansas (7) vs. Sam Houston State (6)

Southwestern Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
9 p.m. – Grambling (7) vs. Alabama A&M (6)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Iowa State lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Lindell Wigginton

GREENVILLE, SC- July 9, 2016:  adidas Gauntlet Finale at Upward Stars Center (Jeff Hinds/adidas)
GREENVILLE, SC- July 7, 2016:  adidas Gauntlet Finale at Upward Stars Center (Jeff Hinds/adidas)
Jeff Hinds/adidas
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Iowa State has its point guard of the future as four-star Class of 2017 prospect Lindell Wigginton pledged to the Cyclones on Friday.

The 6-foot-1 Wigginton is regarded as the No. 40 overall prospect on Rivals.com as the Canadian has spent the last few seasons at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. With an ability to play both guard spots and defend a few spots, Wigginton is a valuable addition to head coach Steve Prohm’s ballclub as Wigginton could help replace Monte Morris after he exhausts his eligibility.

Wigginton is going to need to improve his consistency on his perimeter jumper, but he’s a good pull-up scorer who can make plays for himself or others off the bounce. Iowa State’s Class of 2017 recruiting haul now includes Wigginton, four-star wing Terrence Lewis and three-star guard Darius McNeill.

This commitment is huge for Prohm as Wigginton is the most highly-regarded recruit that he has landed with the Cyclones. With Prohm’s point guard history with guys like Isaiah Canaan at Murray State and Monte Morris now with Iowa State, Prohm did a nice job of finding his next young guard to mold for the future.

Davidson star Jack Gibbs to miss a few weeks with shoulder injury

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11:  Jack Gibbs #12 of the Davidson Wildcats celebrates a basket against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies during the Quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 11, 2016 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Davidson senior guard Jack Gibbs is one of the most under-the-radar players in college basketball as he will be among the nation’s leading offensive threats this season if he’s healthy.

But health is going to be a question for the 6-foot-1 guard as Gibbs is dealing with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for 2-to-3 weeks, according to head coach Bob McKillop. McKillop told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that tests came back negative for Gibbs and he’s expected to be back for the Wildcats’ season-opener. The injury for Gibbs occurred during Thursday’s Davidson practice.

As a junior, Gibbs averaged 23.5 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as he became one of the nation’s premier offensive players.  Gibbs is going to be a huge key for Davidson this season as he needs to be healthy in order for the Wildcats to make it back to the NCAA tournament.


VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. electrifies N.C. State fans at team’s scrimmage

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(Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. excited fans with some absurd plays at the team’s Primetime with the Pack event last night.

The highly-touted, five-star prospect is the most electric prospect to come to the Wolfpack in years and Smith had the crowd buzzing with some highlight-reel dunks during the team’s 20-minute scrimmage.

Smith made one teammate look silly by putting it between his legs and throwing down a vicious dunk during one play while he also threw an alley-oop to himself to finish another break.

(h/t: Ball is Life)

VIDEO: Kentucky freshman Malik Monk throws down vicious dunks during scrimmage

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15:  West Team MVP Malik Monk (L) (Bentonville, AR) in action during the 15th iteration of the Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center on April 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Jordan Brand )
(Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Jordan Brand )
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Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is going to be one of the newcomers to keep an eye on this season as the 6-foot-3 Arkansas native is an explosive scorer who packs vicious athleticism.

Monk showed Big Blue Nation some of what they can expect to see during Friday night’s Blue/White Scrimmage as he unleashed a ferocious dunk in some traffic and also had another good dunk in transition. While Monk has great lift off the floor, he also isn’t afraid to cock the ball back and put some authority on his dunks. He’s going to be a ton of fun to watch this season.

Xavier loses Kaiser Gates to a knee procedure

Xavier head coach Chris Mack directs his team against Wake Forest in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Xavier announced on Friday that Kaiser Gates underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee and will be out for about a month.

“Kaiser had a scope procedure to remove small particles of cartilage in his left knee,” said Xavier Associate Head Athletic Trainer David Fluker. “We are optimistic that he can be back on the court in four weeks.”

Gates is a 6-foot-8 sophomore that played just 10 minutes per game last season. But with the Musketeers losing a handful of key front court pieces in the offseason, Gates was one of the guys expected to play a bigger role this year. We are currently less than four weeks removed from the start of the season, which means it’s likely that Gates will miss some time.