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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.