Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: 11 ranked teams in action tonight

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 18 Kansas at Oklahoma, 7:00 p.m.

The Jayhawks are coming off of an ugly loss against a San Diego State team that was big, burly and pounded Kansas in the paint. The Jayhawks will have a decided advantage in the paint against Oklahoma, but will that help? The Sooners can spread the floor and essentially play with four guards with Cameron Clark at the power forward spot. The Sooners are good enough to beat anyone in the Big 12 on the right night.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 23 Illinois at No. 4 Wisconsin, 9:00 p.m.

The only game of the night between two ranked teams. Illinois has a talented back court in Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice, but the Badgers guards are a nightmare defensively. Wisconsin did not look great in their win over Iowa at home on Sunday, so this will be a good chance for us to get a feel on whether or not Illinois is truly a team that can compete atop the Big Ten.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Harvard at UConn, 7:00 p.m.

I don’t even know if this should qualify as an upset. Even with Kenyatta Smith still injured, Harvard might actually be a better basketball team that UConn. The key, as always, is going to be slowing down Shabazz Napier, but the Crimson have routinely proven to be a solid defensive team. On the flipside, I’m not sure how the Huskies will deal with Wesley Saunders. This game is all the more important for Harvard because it’s the last chance they’ll have to beat a marquee team in the non-conference. They need to win it if they really want a chance to earn an at-large bid should they miss out on the Ivy title.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Boise State at No. 13 San Diego State, 11:00 p.m.

I don’t think this actually qualifies as mid-major, but I still wanted to highlight it. Boise State is a perimeter oriented team built around a slew of talented wings and three-point shooting. San Diego State has a big, talented front line that can matchup with anyone in the country. What wins out? SDSU’s defense or BSU’s offense?

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) No. 11 Oklahoma State is coming off of a loss at Kansas State. They’ll look to bounce back against Texas in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

2) No. 14 Kentucky has been out of the news since knocking off Louisville in Rupp ten days ago. They’ll host Mississippi State to kick off SEC play tonight.

3) No. 19 UMass kicks off Atlantic 10 play with a visit from St. Joseph’s.

4) No. 6 Wichita State puts their undefeated record on the line as Illinois State pays a visit. Tip is at 8:00 p.m.

5) Pac-12 play kicked off last weekend and Utah put together a couple of impressive performances against the Oregon schools at home. What can they do on the road? They head to Washington tonight.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 8 Villanova at Seton Hall, 7:00 p.m.
  • South Carolina at No. 10 Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 15 Colorado at Washington State, 9:00 p.m.
  • Georgia at No. 21 Missouri, 8:00 p.m.

NOTABLES

  • Wake Forest at Virginia, 7:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at Providence, 7:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota at Penn State, 7:00 p.m.
  • Miami at North Carolina, 9:00 p.m.
  • New Mexico at Wyoming, 9:00 p.m.

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 averagedΒ 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.