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Monday’s Pregame Shootaround: Preseason NIT starts, SMU heads to Arkansas

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: SMU at Arkansas, 8:00 p.m. ET

Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs have been quite intriguing early on this season, as they are sitting pretty at 2-0 with a dominating win over Rhode Island. They’ll get a real test tonight, however, as they make the trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. The Razorbacks aren’t exactly expected to be great this year, but they do have a tremendous home court advantage and they play a style that is difficult to prepare for. This will be a good gauge for us: should we take SMU seriously?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Southern Miss at North Dakota State, 8:00 p.m. ET

Do we consider Southern Miss a high-major program still? Even in this new, watered down Conference USA? I’ll go with yes just so that I can say that NDSU will pull off the upset when they beat them at home tonight. The Bison, led by Taylor Braun, are good.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Drexel vs. Elon at Rutgers, 5:00 p.m. ET

Elon is one of the better mid-major teams in the country this season, as they are the favorite to win the Big South this season. But Drexel is a scrappy, physical group that is finally healthy and gave UCLA a fight in Pauley Pavilion earlier this season.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) The Preseason NIT kicks off tonight, with the regional being held at Rutgers, Alabama, No. 6 Duke and No. 5 Arizona. That’s what Drexel and Elon will be taking part in. So not only will Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon be in action tonight, but Ryan Harrow — the Kentucky transfer now at Georgia State — will launch his campaign to get to MSG.

2) No. 1 Michigan State will look to have a bit of a better performance against Portland tonight than they did against Columbia this weekend.

3) Canisius heads to Rutgers tonight, where we will get a chance to see Billy Baron go up against a high-major program again.

4) Miami FL has not been overly impressive early on this season. They’ll head to Charleston tonight to take on the Cougars who trailed Louisville by just three points with seven minutes left in the game in their opener.

5) Mercer just knocked off Seton Hall in double overtime at home on Saturday. They’ll head to Indiana to take on Evansville on Monday night.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Southern at No. 16 Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • St. Francis NY at No. 9 Syracuse, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Sacramento State at No. 22 UCLA, 11:00 p.m. ET

NOTABLES

  • Vermont at Providence, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • The Citadel at Tennessee, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Houston Baptist at Texas, 8:00 p.m. ET
  • Arkansas State at Colorado, 9:00 p.m ET
  • Southern Utah at Cal, 11:00 p.m. ET

D.J. Harvey cuts list to ten schools

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With the July Live Period coming to an end, it’s time for schools to starts deciding who they’re going to target, who they’re going to offer a scholarship to and who they’re going to cut bait with.

At the same time, we’re going to see a flurry of players starting whittling down the number of schools they’re actually considering.

D.J. Harvey was once considered a top ten prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the DeMatha product has seen his stock slide a bit in the last year, he’s still a top 50 player that has a number of power programs knocking on his door.

Over the weekend, he announced that he has cut his list to ten schools: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Louisville.

Rick Pitino: ‘We’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed’

Louisville coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team during the first half of its NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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Rick Pitino hopped on the air with 93.9 in Louisville recently and discussed the stuff you expect to hear a coach discuss on the radio in July.

He talked about the players that are improving (Jaylen Johnson). He talked about how he’s worried about how his team is going to score next season. He talked about the glut of big men on his roster and how none of them have done much to separate themselves from the pack.

It was all fairly typical.

But this line did catch my eye:

“Defensively, we’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed,” Pitino said. “We’ve pressed a lot in the past but this team is very long, very athletic. I’m very bullish on this basketball team.”

Pitino’s teams have always pressed but he hasn’t been mentioned with the likes of Shaka Smart (Havoc) or Bobby Huggins (Press Virginia) because it isn’t an all-out press. Typically, the Cards run a 2-2-1 zone press that drops back to a half-zone/half-man amalgam that’s designed, in part, to confuse opponents as much as it is to force turnovers.

Is that going to change this year?

It would make some sense. This team is as athletic, long and versatile as any that he’s coached in recent memory. Think about the kind of physical tools that Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel have. Think about what Donovan Mitchell can do if he’s allowed to ball-hawk the way Peyton Siva and Russ Smith did in the past.

This group can cause a lot of problems if they’re allowed to fly around the floor, and it sounds like Pitino may let them do just that.

Malik Williams cuts his list to eight schools

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Yesterday, when we released our July Live Period Superlatives, we listed Malik Williams as being the biggest stock riser in the country.

He went from being a kid that wasn’t playing in a shoe-company affiliated league in the spring to a five-star lock that has a bright future and NBA potential.

And on Monday, he announced that he has trimmed his list to eight schools:

N.C. State, Georgetown, Louisville, UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana.

Former Southern Miss forward Jonathan Mills shot and killed

Southern Mississippi forward Jonathan Mills (24) reacts at the buzzer in Memphis' 60-58 win in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)
AP Photo/Lance Murphey
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In two seasons as a member of the Southern Miss basketball program from 2011-13, forward Jonathan Mills made an impression based on how hard he played the game. Monday afternoon it was reported that Mills was shot and killed in Chicago, not too far away from his alma mater of North Lawndale High School.

Before attending Eastern Utah CC and Southern Miss, Mills plied his trade at North Lawndale where he helped the school win a state title in 2008 and the Chicago Public League title as a senior in 2009. North Lawndale HS coach Lewis Thorpe told the Chicago Tribune that he and Mills had plans to work out at the school Monday afternoon, only for Thorpe to receive a phone call from his nephew informing him of Mills’ death.

Mills was going through workouts with his high school coach in preparation for a move overseas to play professionally.

The coach said he heard from witnesses at the scene that Mills had gone to a corner store with some friends and, when they came out, a car drove up and someone inside shot him.

“I’m so messed up. I am so shocked,” he said. “When I say he was well liked…everybody loved him.’’

Thorpe said Mills called him “Pops” when he coached him in high school.

After word of Mills’ death made the rounds many paid tribute to him via social media including Donnie Tyndall, who coached Mills at Southern Miss.

Richmond announces change to European trip itinerary

Chris Mooney - UR
AP Photo/Skip Rowland
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With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.

The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.

“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”

It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.

Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.