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Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: BYU-Wichita State, Saint Louis-Wisconsin highlight the night

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GAME OF THE DAY: BYU vs. No. 12 Wichita St, 10:00 p.m. ET

You want to talk about a contrast of styles? BYU loves to run and loves to score, taking advantage of the talent in their back court — Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino — to light up scoreboards. Wichita State? They’re a physical team, one that would rather get into a streetfight than a foot race. The Cougars have looked good this season, but the issue is going to be whether or not they can score against Wichita State’s tough defense. And if they can’t, they will be in trouble, because if BYU proved anything last night, it’s that they are not going to be much of a defensive team this season.

Expect the Sprint Center in Kansas City, where this game is being played, to have a large contingent of Wichita State fans. It will be a tough environment for BYU to get a win.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Saint Louis vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. ET

Wisconsin is good, and while I’m struggling to come to terms with the idea that the Badgers are playing faster than they have in the past, this is a team that is quite potent on the offensive end, whether they are playing faster or slower. Saint Louis is undefeated, but they are also somewhat untested at this point. The Atlantic 10 is looking tougher and tougher by the day. Is this the Billikins’ chance to make a statement?

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Utah State at Weber State, 9:30 p.m. ET

Weber State entered the season as the favorite to win the Big Sky this season, but they are now sitting at 0-2 on the season after taking pretty solid beatings from Colorado State and BYU. Utah State isn’t on the same level as some of the best teams in the Mountain West, but with Preston Medlin and Jarrad Shaw, that team has the talent.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Dayton vs. No. 18 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. ET

Can we really bet against Dayton to pull an upset in Maui at this point? They are 6-1 in program history in the event, they are undefeated this season and they now own wins over Georgia Tech and Gonzaga. The key for the Bears will be taking advantage of their size inside. Few teams can handle the likes of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) The Maui Invitational semis take place today, and the best matchup of the bunch might actually be Cal taking on No. 8 Syracuse. The Bears are currently unranked this season, but they are 5-0 and have the kind of talent on their perimeter to attack the Cuse zone.

2) The final of the Legends classic takes place tonight and will pit Pitt against Stanford. This will be the first real test for the Panthers this season. Can they actually compete in the ACC?

3) Some exciting late-night hoops are on the docket as Illinois will square off with UNLV at 10:45 p.m. The Rebels are struggling this season, having lost at home to UC-Santa Barbara and BYU. Can Illinois take advantage?

4) Evansville was supposed to be in rebuilding mode this season, but the 5-0 Purple Aces will head to Assembly Hall to take on Indiana tonight.

5) Dylan Cormier is averaging 29.8 points this season for Loyola MD. The Greyhounds get UConn tonight.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 11 Gonzaga vs. Chaminade, 4:30 p.m.

NOTABLES

  • North Carolina A&T at Ole Miss, 4:00 p.m.
  • Longwood at St. John’s, 7:00 p.m.
  • UMass-Lowell at Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.
  • Florida-Gulf Coast at N.C. State, 7:00 p.m.
  • Sacred Heart at Boston College, 7:00 p.m.
  • Hampton at Virginia, 7:00 p.m.

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.