Saturday’s Pregame Shootaround: Villanova and Iowa Battle 4 Atlantis

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: Villanova vs. No. 23 Iowa (9:30 p.m., NBCSN)  

Saturday’s best game features two undefeated teams as the No. 23 Hawkeyes (7-0) will face the Wildcats (6-0) for the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Villanova upset Kansas last night to make the championship game while Iowa knocked off UTEP. It appears as though Villanova head coach Jay Wright has some of the grit and toughness of past Wildcat teams and it will be interesting to see how they matchup with a deep Iowa team that has a lot of experience.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: UTEP vs. No. 2 Kansas (7:00 p.m., NBCSN)

In the third-place matchup of the Battle 4 Atlantis, UTEP (4-3) meets up with the No. 2 Jayhawks (5-1), who suffered their first defeat of the season in Friday night’s semifinal loss to Villanova. Although UTEP fell to Iowa in the other semifinal, they will surely get a boost knowing that they get to face the No. 2 team in the country, so although Tim Floyd’s team won’t win the Battle 4 Atlantis, they can at least get a shot at playing a top team tonight. The Miners have the size to matchup with the Jayhawks at most positions, but Kansas has superior athleticism.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Eastern Kentucky vs. North Carolina State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

There aren’t many games going on tonight, but one to keep an eye on for a potential upset is Eastern Kentucky visiting North Carolina State. The Colonels are a potent 6-1 team without a true road test, but with four double-digit scorers led by guard Glenn Cosey. Cosey has scored 20 points in four straight games and is averaging 19.6 points a game this season while he would also act as Eastern Kentucky’s closer, having going 41-for-44 from the free throw line this season. The Wolfpack have a lot of talent, but lost at home earlier this season in overtime to North Carolina Central, so they can slip-up from time-to-time. North Carolina State rebounded nicely after that loss with a 20-point win over Dunk City, but Eastern Kentucky can score enough to potentially upset the Wolfpack on the road if North Carolina State gets to a slow start.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: New Mexico State vs. Colorado State 6:00 p.m. (ROOT)

The Aggies have won seven straight games since dropping their season opener to Western Michigan and they’ll be tested today as they face host Colorado State in the Colorado State Challenge. With the WAC being down this season after conference re-alignment completely changed the look of the conference, New Mexico State has a chance to test itself in the next four games as they face the Rams, in-state rival New Mexico, Gonzaga and Arizona in their next four games. Colorado State finds itself at 5-2 on the season and is hoping to win their own challenge as they continue to figure out their rotation after last season’s Round of 32 appearance.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: 

1) After a surprising 6-1 start, Penn State faces Ole Miss (5-0) in the Barclays Center Classic today. The Nittany Lions knocked off St. John’s in overtime to advance to face Ole Miss and will look to build on their strong start.

2) Virginia had a nice win over SMU last night in the Corpus Christi Classic and now they face undefeated Missouri State. The Bears knocked off Texas A&M and are 6-0 this season as they’ll be a team to watch in the always tough Missouri Valley Conference.

3) BYU and Utah State will square off tonight in a neutral site contest in Salt Lake City in what should be a really good game. The Cougars have lost two of their last three games — to Top 25 teams Iowa State and Wichita State — and will look to right the ship against 5-0 Utah State. Utah State started the season with a solid victory over USC and also own a big win over Mississippi State early this season.

4) If you’re up for some late-night hoops, TCU and Harvard will meet for the Great Alaska Shootout title tonight. TCU has made a nice run to the title game with a win over host Alaska Anchorage and Tulsa after starting the season 0-2. Harvard is one of the premier mid-major teams in the country and a win at the Great Alaska Shootout would look positive for potential seeding purposes in the NCAA Tournament.

5) In the consolation of the Corpus Christi Challenge, nonconference in-state rivals SMU and Texas A&M meet. This game doesn’t have many implications on the floor except for being a solid match-up of high-major teams at this point in the season. Texas A&M hasn’t had a lot of tests this season, but blew a halftime lead over Missouri State yesterday, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back.

THE TOP 25: 

  • UTEP vs. No. 2 Kansas, 7:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
  • North Dakota vs. No. 14 Oregon, 6:30 p.m. (PAC 12)
  • Villanova vs. No. 23 Iowa, 9:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

NOTABLES: 

  • Lipscomb vs. Georgetown, 12:00 p.m. (FSN)
  • Xavier vs. USC 1:00 p.m. (AXS)
  • St. John’s vs. Georgia Tech 2:00 p.m.
  • San Diego vs. New Mexico 3:00 p.m. (ROOT)
  • Tennessee vs. Wake Forest 3:30 p.m. (AXS)
  • Rhode Island at George Mason 4:00 p.m.
  • Penn State vs. Ole Miss 4:30 p.m.
  • New Mexico St. vs. Colorado State 6:00 p.m. (ROOT
  • SMU vs. Texas A&M 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • BYU vs. Utah State 9:00 p.m.
  • Virginia vs. Missouri State 9:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • TCU vs. Harvard 12:30 a.m. (CBSSN)

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

Leave a comment

Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

Baylor Athletics
Leave a comment

Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.