Pregame Shootaround: Michigan State faces test in Austin during a loaded day of hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m., CBS)

A banged-up Spartans team travels to Austin for its first true road game of the season on Saturday as Rick Barnes and Texas hope to continue to surpass preseason expectations. Texas has a big chance at home to capitalize on an already strong week after the Longhorns won on the road at No. 14 North Carolina earlier in the week.

The Spartans lone loss on the season is to that same North Carolina team — at the Breslin Center — that Texas outplayed earlier this week, but Michigan State should be more concerned with the health of its own roster over anything else.

Gary Harris (ankle), Matt Costello (mononucleosis) and Travis Trice (foot blister) all missed Tuesday’s win against North Florida and seniors Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) both played but have missed practice time as they deal with injuries of their own.

One thing to monitor in this one: The battle on the glass.

Texas crashed the glass hard against North Carolina and it led to 21 second-chance points for the No. 7 rebounding team in the country, while Michigan State teams under Tom Izzo are traditionally strong rebounding the ball and the Spartans are also top 50 (No. 41) in rebounding despite all of their injuries.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)

If you’re up late on the east coast, you’ll want to flip this on to see the matchup of former Big 12 foes in Las Vegas that is led by a strong matchup at guard between All-American candidates Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado).

The second game of a doubleheader in Las Vegas that follows Marquette and New Mexico, this matchup of top-25 teams will mean something for both teams.

Oklahoma State is off to a strong 10-1 start this season, but after a loss to Memphis on December 1st at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the Cowboys have now lost three straight games to ranked opponents on neutral floors. If Travis Ford’s bunch wants to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year, that will be a trend that will have to change.

Colorado, meanwhile, also sits at 10-1 and is riding the program’s first 10-game win streak since the 1961-62 season after losing its opener this season to Baylor. After a win over Kansas at home earlier this season, the Buffaloes would also love another top-ten victory to add to their resume.

Although Smart leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 18 points a game, he has played more of a facilitating role since the Memphis loss as LeBryan Nash has stepped up in that time to average 17.9 points a game in the Cowboys’ three wins while shooting 57 percent from the field.

CBT’s own Raphielle Johnson will be at this doubleheader and will have more on it later.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 22 UMass at Florida State (2 p.m.)

Unbeaten UMass (10-0) travels to Tallahassee for a tough Saturday afternoon tilt with the Seminoles. Chaz Williams is one of the most dynamic point guards in the country for UMass and the 5-foot-9 senior is averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 assists (second in the nation) a game but Williams and the Minutemen will face a Florida State team that has played pretty well against ranked opponents this season.

The Seminoles (7-3) thrashed VCU earlier in the year when the Rams were highly ranked and Florida State also lost to Michigan and Florida by a combined total of three points.

Florida State is also coming off of a strong overall effort against Charlotte earlier in the week, as they beat the 49ers 106-62 in a game that the Seminoles dominated in nearly every facet.

This will also be the first major road test for UMass, as they’ve only faced Eastern Michigan and Ohio on the road this season.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: USC Upstate at Charlotte, (7 p.m.)

I just mentioned Charlotte’s 106-62 loss to Florida State from earlier in the week, and the 49ers have an interesting home game against USC Upstate on Saturday as they try to improve upon Tuesday’s effort.

Charlotte (7-3) will host the Spartans (6-5) as USC Upstate is fresh off of a big road win at South Carolina on Thursday and USC Upstate has three players that can really score for them.

Senior 6-foot-6 forward Torrey Craig (17.7 points, seven rebounds per game) leads the Spartans in scoring and rebounding and the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year candidate is joined by junior guard Ty Greene (14.5 points per game) and senior 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Glenn (12.5 points per game) as double-digit scoring threats. All three players averaged double-digits in scoring this season and last.

Charlotte will look to bounce back, led by a balanced group that features five players currently averaging 11 or more points per game.

Perimeter shooting could be a factor in this one as well. USC Upstate is shooting a dreadful 30 percent from beyond the are this season and Charlotte has struggled in that area at times as well, including going cold during the second half of the Florida State loss.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) When Rick Byrd’s Belmont squad plays at Rupp Arena today against No. 19 Kentucky, they certainly won’t be scared of the talented Wildcats and Big Blue Nation. Belmont already owns a road victory at North Carolina this season and won’t be afraid of the big-time atmosphere as a smaller conference team.

2) A tremendous matchup in the backcourt is the focus of Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State as the two teams face in New York at the Gotham Classic. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott might be the best defensive backcourt in the country early this season and they’ll have their hands full with Irish guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

3) Start the college hoops day off right with the 12:00 p.m. clash of traditional college basketball powers Georgetown and Kansas. The Hoyas visit Phog Allen Fieldhouse unranked, but still pose a major threat thanks to their talent and experience. The No. 18 Jayhawks continue their demanding non-conference schedule and it’ll be interesting to see how their point guards play against the experienced backcourt of Georgetown.

4) The Braggin’ Rights between Illinois and Missouri is one of the top rivalries in the Midwest in college hoops and this year Illinois (9-2) and No. 23 Missouri (10-0) clash in St. Louis in what should be a fun contest. Missouri has won four straight games in the series as the two teams will play in front of a sold-out crowd that will be split between the two fan bases.

5) Oregon will be an interesting team to track today in a home game against BYU as the No. 13 Ducks still work Dominic Artis and Ben Carter back in the lineup following their nine-game suspensions for selling University-issued apparel earlier in the season. Artis and Carter made their season debuts in a Tuesday win over UC Irvine and Artis saw 26 minutes of action as head coach Dana Altman looks to work those two into an already deep rotation. Also, if BYU’s offense gets back on track from a recent mini-slide, this game could turn into a shootout very quickly.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • No. 6 Louisville at Florida International, 6:00 p.m.
  • Rider at No. 8 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Southeast Louisiana State at No. 15 Memphis, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Fresno State at No. 16 Florida, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • McNeese State at No. 24 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.

NOTABLES:

  • East Carolina at North Carolina State, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Middle Tennessee at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Youngstown State at St. John’s, 2:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Butler at Evansville, 3:05 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UAB at LSU, 5:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • VCU vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
  • Texas Tech at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Xavier at Alabama, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UTEP at Washington State, 8:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Marquette vs. New Mexico, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.