Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Time to recharge after Tuesday’s ‘marathon’

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Florida State at UCF (7:00 p.m.; ESPN News) 

These two programs have met nine times prior to tonight’s meeting, with none of those games being played on the UCF campus. That should be enough to get the fans going, and in senior guard Isaiah Sykes the Knights have one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference. UCF returns four starters from last season’s squad, and they’ll definitely challenge Devon Bookert and the Seminoles. Okaro White led five FSU players in double figures with 18 points in their win over Jacksonville, but they’ll need to clean up the turnovers (20, with White racking up seven) tonight.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Kent State at Seton Hall (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2) 

Two nights after winning at Temple the Golden Flashes look to pick up another road victory, and in order to do so Rob Senderoff will need to slow down Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin. Foul trouble limited the versatile wing on Saturday, and it tough to see Edwin struggling with that problem for the second consecutive game. Sterling Gibbs led The Hall past Niagara with 23 points, and he’ll need to be at his best again tonight. Devareaux Manley and Dexter Jackson scored 17 points apiece to lead Kent State past Temple, with the Golden Flashes shooting 11-for-22 from beyond the arc.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Buffalo at Niagara (7:00 p.m.) 

Two of the best scorers you don’t see on national television every week will be on the same floor, with Buffalo’s Javon McCrea and Niagara’s Antoine Mason being the feature attractions. Mason scored 34 points against Seton Hall on Saturday, and while McCrea struggled in Buffalo’s loss at Texas A&M he’s coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Buffalo’s a team many believe should factor into the MAC East race, and while the Purple Eagles did lost Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley they can still put a high number of points on the board.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

1) Colorado’s looking for some payback tonight, as they host a Wyoming squad that knocked them off in Laramie last season (9:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network). Josh Scott’s played well for the Buffaloes through two games and fellow forwards Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson played well on Sunday, but the Buffs really need shooting guard Askia Booker to get untracked. Larry Nance Jr. will lead the way for Larry Shyatt’s Cowboys.

2) Devon Collier returns to the court for Oregon State, and given how the Beavers performed on Sunday against Coppin State it’s clear that Roberto Nelson needs some options to step up alongside him. OSU host Portland (9:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network), and while the Pilots aren’t a contender in the WCC they do have one of the league’s best interior players in senior Ryan Nicholas.

3) Kansas State looks to rebound from their season-opening loss to Northern Colorado, but that won’t be easy as Oral Roberts is the visitor in Manhattan (8:00 p.m.). Forward Shawn Glover was a preseason All-Southland selection, and in their win over city rival Tulsa the Golden Eagles grabbed 17 offensive rebounds (43.6% OR%) and out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane 45-28.

4) Bucknell visits Penn State (7:00 p.m.) in what should be an interesting affair. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill stood out in the Lions’ win over Wagner on Saturday, but they need to be careful as the Bison nearly took out Stanford on Friday. Ben Brackney led a balanced attack with 13 points, and Steven Kaspar dished out nine assists in the 72-68 defeat.

5) How will No. 18 Oregon, the only ranked team in action, build on their solid win over Georgetown? The Ducks host Western Carolina (11:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network), and while Dana Altman’s team should win the Catamounts have a very good guard in senior Trey Sumler. And with five starters back, WCU won’t be intimidated.

OTHER GAMES ON TV:

Mount St. Mary’s at Villanova (7:00 p.m.; CBS Sports Network)
Wright State at Georgetown (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 1)
Brown at Providence (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
Valparaiso at Illinois (7:30 p.m.; Big Ten Network)
Cal State Fullerton at Seattle (10:00 p.m.; ROOT Sports)

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
2 Comments

Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.