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

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.