Josh Pastner

Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Jimmy V Classic highlights a solid slate

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Florida vs. No. 15 Memphis, 9:30 p.m.

The nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic is one of the more intriguing games left before we get into league play. Both Florida and Memphis has enough talent on their roster to be considered a top ten team and a challenger to make the Final Four. But the narrative with these two teams couldn’t be more different. Florida has a reputation for being a team that wins big games, particularly in the NCAA tournament where Billy Donovan is perpetually outperforming his seed. Josh Pastner, on the other hand, finally picked up a “big” win earlier this season when his Tigers got revenge for a beatdown they took at the hands Oklahoma State.

Honestly, there is so much intrigue in this matchup it’s hard to put it all in a few paragraphs. The key to Florida’s team is how their back court plays, while it’s the Memphis back court that is one of the most talented in the country. On the other hand, Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols are the difference-makers for Memphis and they’ll have their hands full with the massive front line of the Gators.

I’ll be there tonight. I’m pumped. Obviously.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 11 Wichita State at Alabama, 9:00 p.m.

Let me get this out of the way off the bat: I am as big of a fan of the Shockers as you’ll find in the media. Ron Baker as firmly entrenched himself on my all-Man Crush team, and the combination of Fred Van Vleet, Tekele Cotton, Cleanthony Early and a handful of serviceable big men makes WSU, in my mind, as legitimate as anyone. That said, they’re heading on the road to take on an SEC team with a talented, senior point guard and a desperate need for a marquee win. Hopefully, Baker’s ankle is healthy.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Denver, 10:00 p.m.

This is the kind of game that make junkies like me salivate. Two thoroughly well-coached teams, two completely contrasting styles of play, two excellent mid-major programs. Neither team may be destined to reach the Sweet 16, but this will be a good basketball game.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Pittsburgh is undefeated in mid-December, which isn’t a surprise for anyone that follows the college basketball. The Panthers have a rep for not playing anyone before league play. They’ll get Cincinnati in the Jimmy V opener tonight.

2) Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for the first nine games of the season for selling shoes. They return tonight, although they’ll come off the bench. UC-Irvine isn’t a pushover, either. They went into Seattle and whipped up on Washington earlier this season.

3) You like rivalry games? Check out New Mexico State at New Mexico tonight.

4) Charlotte has been one of the more impressive teams in Conference USA this season. They head to Tallahassee tonight to take on Florida State.

5) Three top ten teams take the floor tonight, as No. 5 Michigan State hosts North Florida, No. 6 Louisville gets a visit from Missouri State and No. 7 Oklahoma takes on Delaware State.

NOTABLES:

  • Florida-Gulf Coast at South Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • Manhattan at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
  • Elon at Georgetown, 7:00 p.m.
  • Wofford at VCU, 7:00 p.m.
  • UT-Arlington at Oklahoma, 8:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Creighton, 8:00 p.m.
  • Ball State at Marquette, 9:00 p.m.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.