Tourney Preview: Khalif Wyatt, Nova-UNC, McBuckets highlight the day

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GAME OF THE DAY: 1:40 PM: (9) Temple vs (8) North Carolina State — TBS

NC State wants to do nothing other than get out and run the floor. They don’t defend. They don’t even really execute in the half court. They want to run and they want to get their talent in a position to score. That’s a fun style of play to watch, especially when you have the number of really good basketball players that Mark Gottfried does.

But the Owls are pretty entertaining in their own right. Let’s move beyond, for a second, their versatile and dangerous trio of big men — Jake O’Brien, Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson — as well as the dangerous Scootie Randall. Temple has Khalif Wyatt, and if you’ve never seen him play, you won’t want to miss this. He won’t blow you away with speed or athleticism, but he’s a crafty veteran that hits really tough shots and plays his best when the lights are the brightest. I’m expecting a huge game out of Wyatt on Friday.

Three more games you cannot miss

  • 7:20 PM: (9) Villanova vs (8) North Carolina — TNT: Does anyone really think they know what to expect here? Villanova has a ton of good wins and bad losses. North Carolina doesn’t really have either. The Heels spread the floor, the Wildcats pressure on the perimeter. Jay Wright and Roy Williams. This has “final possession” written all over it.
  • 9:20 PM: (10) Oklahoma vs (7) San Diego State — TBS: SDSU has really good guards and a talented swingman in Jamaal Franklin. Oklahoma has some versatile big men that matchup with well with SDSU. And Lon Kruger used to coach UNLV, SDSU’s rival.
  • 9:45 PM: (10) Iowa State vs (7) Notre Dame — CBS: If you like guard play, there are a lot of them in this game.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: 3:10 PM: (13) La Salle vs (4) Kansas State — tru TV

I don’t have this in my bracket, but after watching the Explorers handle Boise State on Wednesday night, I got to thinking: How is Kansas State going to matchup with La Salle’s guards? I still haven’t come up with an answer. I think Ramon Galloway goes off and John Giannini advances to the round of 32.

WHO’S NOT GETTING UPSET: 9:57 PM: (11) Minnesota vs (6) UCLA — tru TV

I know the thinking. UCLA is without Jordan Adams, they are allergic to rebounding and all Minnesota can do offensively is rebound the ball. I see it, I promise. But I also know that Minnesota is 5-11 in their last 16 games. Are we really supposed to just assume that this team can simply turn it back on for the postseason?

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: 7:15 PM: (15) Iona vs (2) Ohio State — CBS

Momo Jones is a talented basketball player and a blessed scorer. The Arizona transfer is now a member of the Iona Gaels. He’ll be locking horns with Aaron Craft, arguably the best on-ball defender in the country. That should be fun, and I fully expect Jones to be locked down.

INTRIGUING MATCHUP: 2:45 PM: (10) Cincinnati vs (7) Creighton — CBS

Creighton has a ton of scoring and arguably is the best three-point shooting team in the country, but they can’t defend all that well. Cincinnati is as tough and as physical on the defensive end as anyone in the country, but they cannot score. What wins out? And more importantly, if you took Cincinnati’s defense and Creighton’s offense, would that team win the national title?

 

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

12:15 PM: (15) Albany vs (2) Duke — CBS
12:40 PM: (12) Ole Miss vs (5) Wisconsin — tru TV
1:40 PM: (9) Temple vs (8) North Carolina State — TBS
2:10 PM: (15) Pacific vs (2) Miami (FL) — TNT
2:45 PM: (10) Cincinnati vs (7) Creighton — CBS
3:10 PM: (13) La Salle vs (4) Kansas State — tru TV
4:10 PM: (16) James Madison vs (1) Indiana — TBS
4:40 PM: (10) Colorado vs (7) Illinois — TNT
6:50 PM: (15) Florida Gulf Coast vs (2) Georgetown — TBS
7:15 PM: (15) Iona vs (2) Ohio State — CBS
7:20 PM: (9) Villanova vs (8) North Carolina — TNT
7:27 PM: (14) Northwestern State vs (3) Florida — tru TV
9:20 PM: (10) Oklahoma vs (7) San Diego State — TBS
9:45 PM: (10) Iowa State vs (7) Notre Dame — CBS
9:50 PM: (16) Western Kentucky vs (1) Kansas — TNT
9:57 PM: (11) Minnesota vs (6) UCLA — tru TV

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 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.