Tourney Preview: Burke vs. Wolters, Marquette’s upset watch, how many 11s lose?

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GAME OF THE DAY: 7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS

I’m not sure if South Dakota State has the horses to run with Michigan for 40 minutes, but what I’m sure of is that regardless of how long they hang around, the Jackrabbits are going to keep things interesting. By now, you should have heard the name Nate Wolters before. Wolters is the point guard for SDSU, and while his style of play is quite different than that of Trey Burke, the way that he is used and is productivity is quite similar.

Both the Wolverines and the Jackrabbits spread the floor with shooters, putting the ball in the hands of their point guards, allowing them to create. Neither plays much defense, and both can put up points in a hurry. This should be fun. And hopefully it will come down to the final possession.

Three more games you cannot miss:

  • 1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8) – TBS: This won’t be a pretty basketball game, but these are two big, physical teams that can grind it out with the best of them. It may look like a rugby match, but it’ll be close.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS: They might play the same position, but I’m not sure there are two point guards that more different than Joe Jackson and Matthew Dellavedova. They’ll be going head-to-head as Josh Pastner tries to win his first career NCAA tournament game.
  • 7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT: Belmont is legit. They have arguably the best back court in their region with Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark. Can Mark Lyons and company be enough to slow them down?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: 3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV

I picked this one in my bracket. Davidson is a veteran team that’s been together for a while. This is the same team that went into Kansas City last season and knocked off a Kansas team that went to the national title game. They can play with the big boys. Davidson’s two best players are De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen, two forwards that will be tough for either Chris Otule or Davante Gardner to matchup with.

WHO’S NOT GETTING UPSET: 12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV

I just don’t see this one. Bucknell’s star is Mike Muscala, but Butler not only has the best game-planner in the country this side of Tom Izzo in Brad Stevens, but they also have a 6-foot-11 center named Andrew Smith that’s just as big and even more physical than Muscala. I don’t see the Bulldogs losing this one.

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: 9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

The best individual matchup is Trey Burke and Nate Wolters, but since we already talked about that, I’ll go with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar squaring off against Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. A lot of people have picked Montana to pull the upset, and it will take a big game from the Grizzlies back court to make that happen.

EXPLOITABLE MATCHUP: 9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS

It works both ways here. Colorado State has been lit up by scoring points guards of late, and Missouri has a kid by the name of Phil Pressey. I don’t know if you heard of him. But Missouri’s front line has had their issues rebounding the ball and handling big, physical opponents. Colorado State is as big and as physical as anyone in the country. This will be interesting to watch play out.

THURSDAY’S FULL SCHEDULE

12:15 p.m. – Valparaiso (14) vs. Michigan State (3) – CBS
12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV
1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8)- TBS
2:10 p.m. – New Mexico State (13) vs. Saint Louis (4) – TNT
2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS
3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV
4:10 p.m. – Southern (16) vs. Gonzaga (1) – TBS
4:40 p.m. – Oregon (12) vs. Oklahoma State (5) – TNT
6:50 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (16) vs. Louisville (1) – TBS
7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS
7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT
7:27 p.m. – California (12) vs. UNLV (5) – Tru TV
9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS
9:45 p.m. – Akron (12) vs. VCU (5) – CBS
9:50 p.m. – Harvard (14) vs. New Mexico (3) – TNT
9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

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The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.