Pregame Shootaround: Big Saturday of games highlighted by UCLA at Missouri

1 Comment

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 UCLA at Missouri (12:30 p.m., CBS)

A matchup of 8-0 teams headlines Saturday’s improved slate of college basketball games thanks to the end of the college football regular season. The Bruins are 8-0 under new coach Steve Alford and have yet to face an opponent the caliber of Mizzou as the Bruins own early-season wins over Drexel (when fully healthy), Nevada and Northwestern. Missouri will welcome the Bruins after a win over West Virginia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge earlier this week. Both of these teams can really score at times, so this one could turn into a shootout if both teams elect to play fast.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Kansas at Colorado (3:15 p.m., ESPN2)

Kansas faces another nonconference test as they travel to former Big 12 conference opponent Colorado for a game with the 8-1 Buffaloes. Colorado has won eight straight games after losing its opener against Baylor and hasn’t faced a truly quality opponent since then, except for some decent wins over Harvard and on the road at a new-look Colorado State. But while the Buffaloes haven’t faced great competition lately, they have the talent to run with the Jayhawks. Spencer Dinwiddie is averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting at very good percentages (45%, 87% FT, 40% 3PT), and Josh Scott averages 12.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as well.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? BYU at No. 21 UMass (1:30 p.m. CBSSN

This wouldn’t be a major upset as UMass is just appearing in the top 25 and BYU is a very strong opponent. This is another game that could quickly accelerate into triple digits, although UMass has slowed it down and kept it in the 60s in their last two wins over Clemson and Eastern Michigan. BYU, however, has a prolific offense at times and has the shooters to space the floor around their bigs like freshman Erik Mika. This will be an interesting matchup for both teams, especially if it gets really uptempo.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: New Mexico State at No. 19 Gonzaga, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU

I’m not sure which New Mexico State team to expect against their biggest test of the season at Gonzaga. Will we see the Aggies that beat UTEP twice or the team that has dropped two straight to Colorado State and New Mexico? Again, New Mexico State doesn’t have many chances to face competition like Gonzaga heading into the WAC and these next two games for them — Arizona follows — could determine how good they can be come March.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) UNLV is off to a sluggish start at 3-3, but they have enough talent to scare No. 2 Arizona if they so desire. Or this game could get ugly if UNLV doesn’t show up. Can this Runnin’ Rebel team figure things out?

2) The Marquette and Wisconsin rivalry is one of the most underrated rivalries in the country and although the Golden Eagles struggle for points, if they can slow down Wisconsin’s potentially potent offense then they’ll make this a game.

3) An interesting slate of games in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic as No. 17 Iowa State takes on Northern Iowa and No. 23 Iowa takes on Drake in a doubleheader in Des Moines. The Iowa in-state rivalries on neutral courts between high-major and mid-major programs is great for the fans and should make for some good games.

4) It was awfully tempting to put North Carolina’s home game against UNC Greensboro in the “Who’s getting upset?” column, after the Tar Heels bookended losses to Belmont and UAB following their upset of Louisville. Now that North Carolina knocked off No. 1 Michigan State at home, will they overlook another mid-major opponent?

5) Texas is off to a solid 7-1 start in a year where many media members — myself included — listed Rick Barnes on the hot seat. The Longhorns and their young nucleus will face a tough road test today at Temple for a chance at an 8-1 start.

THE TOP 25:

  • UNLV at No. 2 Arizona, 5:15 p.m., ESPN2
  • Binghamton at No. 4 Syracuse, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Central Connecticut State at No. 5 Ohio State, 4:30 p.m., BTN
  • No. 6 Kansas at Colorado, 3:15 p.m., ESPN2
  • LA-Lafayette at No. 7 Louisville, 1:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Marquette at No. 8 Wisconsin, 2:15 p.m., BTN
  • Oral Roberts at No. 11 Wichita State, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 14 Villanova at St. Joseph, 6:00 p.m., CBSSN
  • Northwestern State at No. 16 Memphis, 1:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 17 Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa, 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 UCLA at Missouri, 12:30 p.m., CBS
  • New Mexico State at No. 19 Gonzaga, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • BYU at No. 21 UMass, 1:30 p.m., CBSSN
  • Houston Baptist at No. 22 Michigan 12:00 p.m., BTN
  • No. 23 Iowa vs. Drake, 8:30 pm, BTN2
  • No. 25 Dayton at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m., ESPN3

NOTABLES:

  • Texas at Temple, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Tennessee Tech at Tennessee, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Eastern Michigan at Purdue, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • New Orleans at Minnesota, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Marshall at Penn State, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Virginia at Green Bay, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • UNC Greensboro at North Carolina, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Alabama at South Florida, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
1 Comment

On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
4 Comments

North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
3 Comments

Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
1 Comment

August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”