Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: Three marquee games, and an Atlantic showdown

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Arizona at UCLA, 9:00 p.m.

While Arizona cruises along as the nation’s best team, UCLA has been somewhat ignored in the Pac-12 race. Maybe it’s their lack of a notable win and maybe it’s their issues on the defensive end of the floor, but it seems like the consensus has become that the Bruins are currently sitting fourth in the Pac-12 power rankings, behind Oregon and Colorado. Well, this is their chance to change that narrative, although it won’t be easy to do. A 6:00 p.m. tip local time means that there may not be many fans in seats at the tip, and Arizona has a kid by the name of Aaron Gordon who should be able to hold his own against Kyle Anderson.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 24 Memphis at No. 12 Louisville, 7:00 p.m.

Remember when these two were thought to be the two favorites in the American? That was before Chane Behanan was booted off the team and Memphis put forth a disastrous performance in a loss to Cincinnati at home. Both the Tigers and the Cardinals really could use the win tonight.

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Cal at No. 17 Oregon, 11:00 p.m.

Remember how I said that UCLA is an afterthought in the Pac-12 race? Well, the Bears are basically non-existent in that race. The Ducks enter as one of the nation’s most-impressive teams this season while Cal has been just another team. It doesn’t help that they are banged up, playing without Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: UC-Irvine at Long Beach State, 11:00 p.m.

The Big West is going to be a fun race to follow, and these could end up being the two best teams. LBSU may be 4-10, but with Tyler Lamb eligible, they have beaten USC and won at Nevada, who is now 3-0 in the MWC. If you haven’t seen UC-Irvine’s 7-foot-6 center Mamadou N’Diaye, he’s worth watching.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) George Washington will be making the trip up to Philly to take on La Salle tonight. The game will tip at 8:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Network and can be streamed through the Live Extra app here.

2) No. 22 Gonzaga makes their first road trip in WCC play as they head down to Portland to take on the Pilots tonight at 11:00 p.m ET.

3) Northwestern pays a visit to No. 20 Iowa tonight, who tragically had to postpone Fran McCaffery bobble-head night when their head coach was suspended for a game for his tirade on Sunday.

4) You now who could really use a win tonight? Marquette. You know who else could really use a win? Xavier. They play in Cincinnati tonight at 9:00 p.m.

5) Might the two best teams in the Summit League be squaring off tonight as North Dakota State makes the trip to take on IPFW?

NOTABLES:

  • Florida State at Clemson, 7:00 p.m.
  • DePaul at Butler, 7:00 p.m.
  • George Mason at VCU, 7:00 p.m.
  • Manhattan at Quinnipiac, 7:30 p.m.
  • Arizona State at USC, 10:00 p.m.
  • Stanford at Oregon State, 10:00 p.m.

Memphis lands commitment from 2018 center Connor Vanover

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Memphis picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night as unique center prospect Connor Vanover announced his decision on Twitter.

At 7-foot-2, Vanover brings elite size to the interior for the Tigers and he’s also skilled enough that he was a 43 percent three-point shooter during his stint playing with Pro Skills in the Nike EYBL this spring. Although Vanover needs to add strength and athleticism to adapt to the college level, he simply has size that you can’t teach. Pair that size with an intriguing perimeter jumper and it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Tubby Smith is able to develop Vanover the next few years.

A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Vanover averaged 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during the spring. Originally from Arkansas, Vanover is spending his senior season of high school ball at prep school powerhouse Findlay Prep.

Bill Self unsure of how long he will continue to coach

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Kansas head coach Bill Self is one of the most decorated college basketball coaches of all time.

Recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month, Self has won a record 13 consecutive Big 12 regular-season championships while also claiming a national title for the Jayhawks during his storied career.

But while most legendary coaches in contemporary college basketball have stayed around to coach well into their late 60s or early 70s, the 54-year-old Self doesn’t necessarily see his career playing out that way.

Speaking with ESPN.com reporter Myron Medcalf on Wednesday, Self acknowledged that he’s thinking about potentially retiring once his next contract ends after the 2021-22 season. With five more years left on his current deal, that would mean that Self would be retiring before he would even turn 60.

“I’ve said all along that if I could go to my late 50s, that’d be good for me,” Self said to Medcalf. “Now that I’m getting close to my late 50s, I’m like, ‘Well…’ but my contract runs until I’m 59, so I’ve got five more years left. I definitely want to do that. Then whatever happens after that I’d be happy with whatever. But I don’t want to [coach too late].”

While Hall of Fame coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (72 years old), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (70 years old) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (67 years old) are showing no signs of slowing down, Self acknowledged to Medcalf that coach, and specifically recruiting, has started to take its toll on him.

“With recruiting the way that it is, it just wears you down,” Self said to Medcalf.

With Kansas pursuing so many potential one-and-done prospects over the past few seasons, it means that Self usually has to recruit sizable recruiting classes

Self is certainly entitled to do what he wants with his career and his life but it would be a shame to see one of the game’s greats hang it up at that point in his career. Potentially retiring at that age means that Self won’t chase 1,000 wins or any additional longevity records

Ohio State lands second pledge in two days with 2018 guard Duane Washington

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Ohio State stayed hot on the recruiting trail on Wednesday as the Buckeyes landed a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Duane Washington.

The 6-foot-3 Washington is the second commitment for Ohio State and new head coach Chris Holtmann in the last two days after four-star forward Jaedon LeDee pledged to the Buckeyes on Tuesday.

One of the better shooters in the Class of 2018, Washington averaged 14.9 points per game on tremendous shooting splits (48% FG, 87% FT, 45% 3PT) playing with The Family in the Nike EYBL this spring. A Michigan native who now resides in California, Washington gives Ohio State a much-needed guard commitment in the Class of 2018.

With the Buckeyes needing to fill a lot of scholarships due to roster turnover, Washington is a solid start to their perimeter class. While Washington isn’t likely to play point guard, he can play multiple perimeter spots and should be a solid addition to the Buckeye rotation.

Syracuse walk-on accused of sexual assault

Syracuse Post-Standard
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Dominick Parker, an 18-year old freshman who was added to the Syracuse roster as a walk-on just 12 days ago, was arrested last Friday and charged with sexual abuse in the first degree, reports Syracuse.com.

Parker is accused of having sexual contact with an 18-year old female student while she was incapable of giving consent. His name and picture have been removed from the Syracuse athletics website.

“Sexual and relationship violence is not tolerated at Syracuse University,” the school said in a statement. “We are now doing all that we can to support and provide assistance to those affected by the alleged incident. As this is an ongoing investigation, Syracuse University will not be providing further comment.”

Wichita State to sell beer at Koch Arena

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As if it wasn’t already hard enough to win games at Koch Arena.

Starting this season, Wichita State fans will be able to buy beer during games at their home arena, a fact that should ensure that the raucous home environs that have made the Shockers so difficult to beat in Wichita remains the same.

That’s not a bad thing to add to a home court advantage while making the move into a new conference, the American, for the 2017-18 season.

Once a rarity, beer at college sporting events in aΒ growing trend. Minnesota, Florida and Texas, among a number of others have added alcohol sales in recent years. Given the money that would seem likely to be generated, it’s a trend that will probably become even more pervasive in college athletics.

Let’s just make sure that everyone partakes in moderation.