Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: New Year’s Eve hoops!

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GAME OF THE DAY: Marquette at Creighton, 10:00 p.m.

Creighton kicks off their tenure as a member of the Big East as they host Marquette, who entered the season as the favorite to win the league. The Golden Eagles have struggled this season, however, as they have spent much of the first two months looking for someone to provide a consistent perimeter scoring punch. The key to this matchup will be in the front court. Can Creighton handle Marquette’s size inside? Can the Golden Eagles keep up with Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott on the perimeter?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 11 Villanova at Butler, 7:30 p.m.

Yeah, I’m calling it. And I like Villanova, too. But there’s just something about this Butler program, isn’t there? Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall have made the jump this season, and even though the Bulldogs are missing Roosevelt Jones, this is still a team that is good enough to win some games. It will be Butler’s first as a member of the Big East conference, and they will be playing the game in Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve. Magic is in the air.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Kent State at Princeton, 12:00 p.m.

Kent State is perennially one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, but Princeton has been one of the biggest surprises this season. The Tigers look like they might actually have a chance at contending with Harvard in the Ivy League.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. I mentioned two of the games above, but the Big East will be featuring five games today as all ten league members take the court. The third-best game of the day? St. John’s heading to Xavier at noon.

2. League play kicks off in the American today as well as two ranked teams take to the road. No. 14 Louisville heads to Orlando to play their first game since Chane Behanan got the boot (that tips at 5:00 p.m.) and No. 17 UConn is in Houston to take on the Cougars in a 9:00 p.m. tip.

3. No. 5 Michigan State heads to State College to square off with Penn State. The Nittany Lions picked off Michigan at home last season, and this group that Pat Chambers has assembled is better than most people realize. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are the truth.

4. That’s not the only Big Ten game on the schedule today. Illinois and Indiana kick off their conference schedule today in a game at Illinois that could have some bubble implications down the road.

5. George Washington has been quite impressive this season. They head to Manhattan, KS, to take on Kansas State at 2:30 p.m.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Eastern Michigan at No. 2 Syracuse
  • No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue
  • No. 7 Duke at Elon
  • Northern Illinois at No. 13 Iowa State
  • No. 18 Memphis at South Florida
  • UNC-Wilmington at No. 19 North Carolina

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.