Saturday’s Pregame Shootaround: Arizona and Michigan highlight a huge day of college hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Arizona at Michigan (12 p.m., CBS)

The game of the day features the No. 1 team in the country, the Arizona Wildcats, traveling to Ann Arbor for a true road test against the Wolverines. Michigan has more size than many with Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford to give Arizona problems on the interior, but how will with length and athleticism of Arizona bother Michigan? Glenn Robinson III needs to get going this season and a big game against Arizona’s athletic and talented front court could go a long way in getting the sophomore going in Big Ten play.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Kentucky at No. 18 North Carolina (5:15 p.m., ESPN)

The Wildcats finally get a true road game this season as young-and-talented Kentucky go to Chapel Hill for a matchup with North Carolina. We have no clue which North Carolina team will show up, but with Kentucky, their key will be stabilizing their young guards and taking quality shots early in their first road test for many of these true freshmen. How will North Carolina slow down Julius Randle? Who on Kentucky defends Marcus Paige? This should be a tremendous matchup with a ton of talent on the floor.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Princeton at Penn State (2 p.m., BTN)

If Princeton can slow down the Penn State backcourt of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill and play more to their pace, they could make this a game this afternoon. The Tigers are off to a 7-1 start and guard T.J. Bray returned against Rutgers on Wednesday, as he scored 23 points and tossed out eight assists in the road win over the Scarlet Knights. This is Penn State’s only game in an 11-day stretch and poses as a potential trap game for them at home if they don’t come prepared.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: VCU at Northern Iowa (12 p.m., ESPNU)

Shaka Smart and the Rams get to test out their press on the road against a good Missouri Valley program in what should be an interesting clash of styles. Northern Iowa is currently 4-5 on the season, but has an overtime loss to Iowa State last week, and is never an easy out as Deon Mitchell, Seth Tuttle and Nate Buss are all juniors averaging double-figures this season for the Panthers. VCU has already faced a tough road test this season, winning at Virginia, and should be prepared to travel to the Midwest.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) The No. 12 Shockers should have their hands full when they host Tennessee today and they could be without the services of sophomore guard Ron Baker, as he’ll be a game-time decision with a sprained ankle according to ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes.

2) North Dakota State should be an interesting test for No. 3 Ohio State. The Bison are coming off a road win at Notre Dame on Wednesday and they are winners of five straight games coming into Saturday’s game at Columbus. The Buckeyes are playing very well early in the season, but North Dakota State is experienced enough to make this a tough game.

3) We should quickly see how good 9-1 Illinois really is tonight as they travel west to face No. 15 Oregon. The Illini haven’t faced many early-season tests this season, as they beat Auburn and UNLV but lost on the road at Georgia Tech. Oregon is probably just happy they don’t have to guard Marshall Henderson for the foreseeable future and the Ducks can put up points in a hurry.

4) Can the No. 13 Jayhawks bounce back with a win over New Mexico in Kansas City after losing three of their last four games? That is what Kansas is hoping, but they’ll face a tough “neutral-court” test with the Lobos. Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk are all averaging at least 18.6 points per game this season and those three upperclassmen shouldn’t feel intimidated by the pro-Kansas crowd at the Sprint Center.

5) Rivalry games to watch today include Cincinnati at Xavier and the state of Indiana has some great in-state rivalries going today as Notre Dame faces Indiana at 3:15 and Butler facing Purdue at 6 p.m. While none of the four Indiana schools are currently ranked, all four programs are off to solid starts on the season and these games are usually close and full of local intrigue. Cincinnati and Xavier is always a tremendous yearly matchup and is one of the most intense rivalries in college basketball.

THE TOP 25:

  • No. 1 Arizona at Michigan, 12 p.m., CBS
  • North Dakota State at No. 3 Ohio State, 8:15 p.m., BTN
  • Eastern Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 5 Michigan State at Oakland, 4 p.m., ESPN2
  • Western Kentucky at No. 6 Louisville, 12 p.m., ESPN2
  • No. 7 Oklahoma State at Louisiana Tech, 2 p.m., ESPNU
  • No. 11 Kentucky at No. 18 North Carolina, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
  • Tennessee at No. 12 Wichita State, 2 p.m., ESPN2
  • New Mexico vs. No. 13 Kansas, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • Illinois at No. 15 Oregon, 9 p.m., ESPN2
  • South Alabama at No. 20 Gonzaga, 10 p.m., Root Sports
  • Northern Illinois at No. 22 UMass, 3 p.m., NBCSN

NOTABLES:

  • VCU at Northern Iowa, 12 p.m., ESPNU
  • Youngstown State at Pittsburg, 12 p.m., ESPN3
  • Princeton at Penn State, 2 p.m., BTN
  • Notre Dame vs. Indiana, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
  • Middle Tennessee at Ole Miss, 5 p.m., ESPN3
  • Butler vs. Purdue, 6 p.m., BTN
  • Fresno State at California, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network
  • Saint Mary’s at Boise State, 6:05 p.m., Root Sports
  • West Virginia at Marshall, 7:30 p.m., Root Sports
  • Cincinnati at Xavier, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Louisiana-Monroe at LSU, 8 p.m., ESPN3
  • Prairie View A&M at UCLA, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network
  • BYU at Utah, 10 p.m., Pac-12 Network

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.