Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Five ranked teams in action

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Georgia Tech at Georgia (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3) 

On a night that lacks national buzz, the annual rivalry game between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs is an important one for both programs. Georgia Tech, with their returnees including guard Marcus Georges-Hunt and center Daniel Miller, has the look of a team capable of improving its standing with the ACC this season. As for Georgia, on the heels of losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope they certainly can use a win over the state’s other major basketball program. Nemanja Djurisic led the way with 12 points in Georgia’s season-opening win over Wofford, and balance will be the key for them in 2013-14.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Utah (by UC Davis) 

Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes are 1-0 on the season, with a 128-44 victory over Evergreen State being the lone result. It’s safe to say that Evergreen State doesn’t have a player the caliber of UC Davis junior guard Corey Hawkins, who averaged 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 2012-13. Utah does have some talented pieces, most notably forwards Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright, but the Aggies play an entertaining brand of basketball and return both Ryan Sypkens (14.1 ppg) and J.T. Adenrale (12.6, 5.9) along with Hawkins. One night after UC Irvine won at Washington, don’t be surprised if there’s another “Big West over Pac-12” result.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Nevada at San Francisco (10:00 p.m.) 

The Dons look to remain undefeated, but they’ll be tested by a Wolf Pack squad that features senior point guard Deonte Burton. Burton’s a high-scoring floor general who’s one of the best at the position in the country. But USF has a very good veteran point guard of its own in senior Cody Doolin. The difference-maker: that could be San Francisco senior forward Cole Dickerson, who was one of the nation’s best rebounders last season. If Nevada struggles inside as they did last year, Dickerson could be in line for a big night.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) Amongst the winners on the recruiting trail today just one is in action tonight: No. 4 Duke, which hosts a Florida Atlantic team they’ll be expected to soundly defeat (7:00 p.m.). The thing to watch: whether or not the Blue Devils come out a bit sluggish after their tough game against Kansas on Tuesday. Come out aggressive and in sync, and this game’s over before halftime.

2) Oakland will be without the services of Duke Mondy and Dante Williams when they take on California in Berkeley (11:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), as the two were sent home by head coach Greg Kampe. The Golden Grizzlies will still have high-scoring guard Travis Bader, but they’ll have their hands full with Justin Cobbs and company.

3) Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski enters tonight’s game against Idaho State (9:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network) five blocked shots away from passing Mario Bennett as the school’s all-time leader in blocks. Plus, it’s another chance to watch the electric Jahii Carson as well.

4) Two old rivals who are expected to contend in their respective conferences meet in Las Cruces, as UTEP visits New Mexico State (9:00 p.m., ESPN3). Redshirt freshman center Matt Willms received high praise during the preseason, and he’ll have to hold his own with NMSU’s Sim Bhullar and Tshilidzi Nephawe if the Miners are to pick up the road victory.

5) Three days removed from a solid comeback victory over West Virginia, Virginia Tech hosts Western Carolina (7:00 p.m., ESPN3) in a game that could be dangerous for the Hokies. Trey Sumler was on fire in the second half of the Catamounts’ loss to No. 18 Oregon earlier this week, and he has the potential to do the same to Virginia Tech.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Columbia at No. 2 Michigan State (9:00 p.m.; BTN)
  • Cornell at No. 3 Louisville (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at No. 8 Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m.)
  • Holy Cross at No. 12 North Carolina (8:00 p.m.; ESPNU)

NOTABLES: 

  • Wagner at St. John’s (6:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
  • Samford at Indiana (7:00 p.m.; BTN)
  • Georgia Tech at Georgia (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Stephen F. Austin at Texas (8:00 p.m.; LHN)
  • Lipscomb at Vanderbilt (8:00 p.m.)
  • Morehead State at Xavier (8:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
  • UTEP at New Mexico State (9:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Oakland at California (11:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network)

Chimezie Metu cleared to play by USC

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USC has cleared junior forward Chimezie Metu as he’ll be allowed to play on Saturday against Utah, the school announced.

The 6-foot-11 Metu is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Trojans this season as he was one of the players named in the Friday reports that linked him to NBA agent Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins.

The Trojans are the latest school to allow their player to play after the reports as they follow schools like Duke and Kentucky, as they also did the same with allowing Wendell Carter Jr. and Kevin Knox Jr. to play.

It’s also noted in the release that USC is reviewing Bennie Boatwright’s eligibility as well even though he’s out for the season with a knee injury.

On Friday, Yahoo Sports reported a wide-scale payment operation from Miller and Dawkins in order to recruit players for Miller’s agency. The records allege that Bennie Boatwright Sr. received about $2,000. The records also allege that Metu or his advisor, Johnnie Parker, also got $2,000.

Although the allegations look serious, Dawkins has also proven to be untrustworthy in many instances and it’s hard to tell what might be real and what might be a cover for another expense. It’s hard to prove a lot of these things presented in a business expenses spreadsheet. USC is backing Metu by saying he never received anything that would harm his eligibility as they try to make a final push at Arizona before the postseason.

Bubble Banter: There will be some NCAA tournament bids determined today

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

YET TO PLAY

MARQUETTE
PROVIDENCE
SETON HALL
BAYLOR
TCU
LOUISVILLE
VIRGINIA TECH
SMU
MIAMI
LSU
TEXAS
USC
UTAH
MISSISSIPPI STATE
TEXAS A&M
WASHINGTON
ALABAMA
KANSAS STATE
OKLAHOMA
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
ST. BONAVENTURE
FLORIDA

Marvin Bagley III returning to Duke lineup against Syracuse after knee injury

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Duke star freshman Marvin Bagley III will be available for the Blue Devils on Saturday when they play Syracuse in an ACC home game.

Bagley missed the past four games due to a knee strain that he suffered in the Feb. 8 game against North Carolina. During Bagley’s absence, the Blue Devils went 4-0 as their defense looked very good and senior Grayson Allen became an aggressive scorer.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of changes Duke makes with Bagley’s return. Watching Bagley’s health and seeing how many minutes he plays will be another subplot to watch against the Orange.

Kentucky responds to recent reports from FBI investigation

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Kentucky has officially responded to recent reports that some of its players, notably freshman Kevin Knox, could be involved in the fallout from NBA agent Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins’ FBI investigation.

Knox is one of the players mentioned in a Yahoo Sports report on Friday that included documents for how Miller and Dawkins recruited players to the agency. In the report that Dawkins sent to Miller, it is noted that Knox or a family member of Knox allegedly had a meal with Dawkins.

Kevin Knox Sr. said he didn’t know Miller or Dawkins in a report on Friday. Kentucky also seems to be backing Knox entering Saturday’s SEC clash with Missouri. The Wildcats haven’t found anything wrong while reviewing the matter internally as it looks like Knox will play.

Kentucky seems to be following Duke’s path with Wendell Carter Jr.

Both are still allowed to play, despite being listed in the report, because there are a lot of factors still at play here. It should be noted that the evidence against all of these players in the Dawkins case looks bad.  It’s also hard to prove whether an actual encounter occurred. Dawkins doesn’t have the greatest history of being honest as CBT’s Rob Dauster noted.

Dawkins could have been misleading about some of these encounters with his boss to make himself look good. It’s also difficult to tell who truly paid for the meal, as it is conceivable that some of these players or their families paid for themselves.

Regardless of the nuances of this case, Knox looks like he will continue to play for a recently resurgent Kentucky team that has won two straight games. It’ll be interesting to see if this case hovers over Knox and Kentucky or if they can continue to power through and play well.

Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin out for the season with broken left foot

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The University of Memphis announced on Friday that junior point guard Jeremiah Martin will miss the rest of the season with a broken left foot.

The leading scorer in the AAC this season, the 6-foot-3 Martin injured his foot in the first half of the Tigers’ win over Houston on Thursday night. Martin did not return to the game as he left the arena in a protective boot. Martin is expected to have surgery to repair the foot on Tuesday as he’s expected to miss four-to-six weeks with the injury.

While the Tigers will be significantly worse without its best offensive player, Memphis did come back to beat the Cougars without Martin on Thursday night, as they’ll still be a tough out in the American. Martin was putting up 18.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as he was in the midst of a breakout junior campaign.

If Martin returns to school for his senior season, he’ll be under heavy consideration as one of the top 100 players in college basketball next season.