Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Michigan travels to Ames in a matchup against Iowa State

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Michigan at Iowa State, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Michigan welcomed UMass Lowell to Division I, outscoring the River Hawks 46-19 in the second half. The Wolverines followed that opening night win with A 34-point beatdown — thanks to 15 3-pointers — of South Carolina State. Iowa State began the season with two wins by a margin of 30 points or more against the likes of UNC-Wilmington and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After a pair of easy wins for each squad, Michigan travels to the Hilton Coliseum in an early season test between Big Ten and Big 12 programs.

This will be a sophomore-heavy game with Michigan’s Mitch McGary, Caris LaVert, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III while Iowa State features Georges Niang and Naz Long. The matchup to watch though will be DeAndre Kane vs. Derrick Walton in the back court.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Long Beach State at Kansas State, 4:00 p.m.

Long Beach State is one of the favorites in the Big West this season, but has put together a tough non-conference schedule. The 49ers lost the last two to No. 6 Arizona and Loyola Marymount. Up next after K-State are games against No. 7 Michigan, Washington, Creighton, USC, and North Carolina State before Long Beach State kicks off conference play with UC-Irvine. The 49ers are looking to be the second team to knock off the Wildcats in Manhattan this season after Northern Colorado did so on opening night.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Valparaiso at Ohio, 2:00 p.m.

Valparaiso and Ohio meet up in a Horizon League-MAC matchup after each team had battled with Big Ten programs. The Crusaders cut it close in the second half against Illinois only to lose 64-52. The Bobcats were also trying to pull the upset late in the game, but in-state rival Ohio State took care of business in a 79-69 win.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) Rivalry game in Rupp Arena tonight? Well, not really. But you can imagine that Big Blue Nation wants to hand Robert Morris a beating after the Colonials upset the Wildcats in the first round of the NIT last season. Sure, Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins were still in high school when the Cats when down in Coraopolis, Pa., but this will be their first game after Tuesday’s loss to No. 2 Michigan State at the Champions Classic.

2) Boston College looks for first win of the season against Florida Atlantic. The Eagles enter the contest at 0-3 after losing to short-handed Providence, followed with a loss to UMass two days later and then a loss at home to Toledo on Thursday. Steve Donahue put together a tough conference schedule and so far it has backfired. Rebounding has been the issue in all three games for BC.

3) Towson is looking to take down another Philly powerhouse after improving to 3-0 — the first time in four decades the Tigers started 3-0 — after taking down Temple at home on Thursday night. Towson will look to move to 4-0, but it will have to do so at Villanova.

4) Indiana State gave up 63 second half points to Belmont on Thursday night, blowing a 16-point halftime lead. The Sycamores, a team a that figures to contend in the Missouri Valley Conference, now has to turnaround and take the floor against No. 21 Notre Dame in South Bend. (12:00 p.m.)

5) Oregon State will travel to Maryland to take on the Terrapins on Sunday evening. As reported earlier in the week, President Obama will be the most notable fan in attendance. Beavers head coach Craig Robinson is the older brother of First Lady Michelle Obama.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Robert Morris at No. 1 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m.
  • Belmont at No. 12 North Carolina, 4:00 p.m.
  • Oakland at No. 15 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
  • Boston University at No. 19 UConn, 12:00 p.m.
  • Indiana State at No. 21 Notre Dame, 12:00 p.m.
  • Charleston Southern at No. 22 New Mexico, 6:05 p.m.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 23 Baylor, 5:00 p.n.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.