Pregame Shootaround: The Battle for Kansas headlines a busy Saturday slate

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Kansas State at No. 18 Kansas (2 p.m., ESPN)

Saturday’s only matchup between ranked opponents is also a tremendous in-state rivalry between the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Kansas has probably played the most difficult schedule in the country, so they’ll be prepared when another ranked team visits Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Wayne Selden showed flashes of brilliance on the offensive end of the floor in Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma, scoring 24 points and knocking in five three-pointers and the Jayhawks have won seven straight home games against Kansas State. Marcus Foster is playing tremendous ball for Kansas State and the freshman guard looks mature beyond his years as the season goes on. But will Foster have enough help to topple the Jayhawks?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 10 Florida at Arkansas (1 p.m., ESPN2)

The No. 10 Gators will be missing leading scorer Casey Prather when they travel to face the Razorbacks in an SEC clash on Saturday. Florida is also dealing with an ankle injury to guard Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young missed Thursday’s practice with sore knees while Michael Frazier II was limited in that same practice with a calf injury. So will the banged-up Gators have enough firepower to stay with Arkansas? The Razorbacks won this contest at Bud Walton Arena last season and average an SEC best 87 points a game. Florida’s health is a major concern entering this contest, but they have overcome adversity at other times this season when facing injuries and suspensions.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Wichita State at Missouri State, (8 p.m., ESPN3)

Don’t worry, Shocker fans, I didn’t forget about you guys after previewing the matchup of Kansas’ other two ranked college basketball teams — the Wildcats and Jayhawks. Unbeaten Wichita State (16-0, 3-0) travels to Missouri State (12-3, 2-1) in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup that could serve as a solid test for the Shockers. Missouri State has an 8-0 home record on the season and does a good job limiting turnovers — 10.6 per game, second in the MVC to Wichita State. For the Shockers, can sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet go his fifth consecutive game without a turnover?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) If you’re a fan of high-scoring basketball, be sure to tune in to see the Big 12 contest between No. 9 Iowa State and Oklahoma. Both teams average 87 points a game, good enough for sixth in the country, as the unbeaten Cyclones (14-0, 2-0) travel to visit the Sooners (12-3, 1-1). The difference in this one could come down to defense, an area that Oklahoma has struggled with. The Sooners have given up 85 or more points in three straight games.

2) Which North Carolina team will we see when they travel to No. 2 Syracuse: the Tar Heels that have beaten Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville or the Tar Heels that own five losses to unranked opponents. Thanks to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and North Carolina’s struggles from the perimeter, it is likely that the Orange will win the ACC contest at home, but with the way North Carolina has played against elite competition, can you really count them out?

3) Can Jabari Parker break out of his shooting slump and can Rodney Hood stay hot against one of the nation’s best defenses in Clemson (10-4, 1-1)? The Tigers host the No. 16 Blue Devils (12-3, 1-1) in an ACC battle and Clemson’s defense has allowed a Division I-low of 53.5 points per game while holding opponents to 36 percent shooting from the field.

4) Will No. 19 UMass (13-1, 1-0) look better after a sluggish opener in Atlantic 10 play? The Minutemen escaped with a 66-62 win over St. Joseph’s in a game in which they trailed by nine points with 6:23 remaining. UMass will need to play better to get past St. Bonaventure (11-4, 1-0), which will be on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m.

5) How will No. 21 Missouri (12-2, 0-1) respond from losing its SEC opener at home against Georgia? The Tigers travel to Auburn (8-4, 0-1) on Saturday and they’ll need a better offensive output than their two losses this season in which Missouri was held to 64 points.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Minnesota at No. 5 Michigan State, 2:15 p.m., BTN
  • TCU at No. 7 Baylor, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Villanova at St. John’s, 1:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 11 Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 14 Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m., CBS
  • No. 24 Memphis at Temple, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2

NOTABLES:

  • Saint Louis at Dayton, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • Wake Forest at Pitt, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Virginia at North Carolina State, 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Central Florida at UConn, 6:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Texas A&M at Tennessee, 6:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Cal at Oregon State, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU

Oklahoma sophomore Doolittle to miss first semester

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Oklahoma’s non-conference schedule just got a little more challenging.

Sooner sophomore Kristian Doolittle has been suspended for the first semester of this upcoming season due to academic reasons, the school announced Wednesday.

“I didn’t meet the academic standards and I apologize to my teammates, coaches, fans and the university,” Doolittle said in a statement released by the school. “I take full responsibility for my actions and will use this time away from the team to learn from my mistakes. I am committed to bettering myself throughout this process and look forward to earning a chance to compete with my teammates after the fall semester.”

The 6-foot-7 forward should be back in time for Oklahoma’s most important part of the season – Big 12 play – but the Sooners have a rather challenging non-conference slate for which he’ll be sidelined. Oklahoma is in the loaded field of the PK80 tournament in Oregon with Arkansas its first-round opponent and then North Carolina potentially waiting in the second round. The Sooners also play USC in Los Angeles and at Wichita State before welcoming Northwestern into Norman.

“We’re disappointed for Kristian,” OU coach Lon Kruger said in a statement. “He made some poor decisions that resulted in his suspension from the university. We will provide support and encouragement as he works to earn the opportunity to rejoin the team at the conclusion of the fall semester.”

Doolittle averaged 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season, starting 25 games in Oklahoma’s 20-13 campaign.

SMU hires father of five-star recruit

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SMU just seemingly positioned itself to land one of the top recruits of the Class of 2019.

The Mustangs have hired Tyrone Maxey, the father of top-25 2019 forward Tyrese Maxey, as their new director of scouting, according to Scout.com.

It’s a move that’s sure to raise eyebrows given that Maxey is the father of a five-star recruit that SMU would likely otherwise not be in play for on the recruiting trail, but the elder Maxey does have nearly 20 years experience coaching at the high school level and played at Washington State in the 1990s, so it’s not as though his resume is completely barren. Also, and this probably should be taken with some skepticism, Maxey said his employment wouldn’t change his son’s recruitment.

“It doesn’t affect him at all,” Maxey told Rivals. “I tell people this is an opportunity for me. This is not going to affect him one way or another. In my household, we support him and this is all about him in this recruiting process. Wherever he wants to go, that is what we support wholeheartedly. It is not one of those kind of deals.”

Even if you take that statement at its word, it’s hard to believe that employing a high-level recruit’s father isn’t going to bolster a program’s chances to land a game-changing recruit. There doesn’t even have to be a wink-wink, handshake deal. The implicit pressure of making a decision that can alter the course of your father’s career and employment is probably plenty significant for a teenager.

And it’s certainly not a move without precedent. Michael Porter, Sr. has gotten hired twice, first at Washington and then at Missouri, largely on the strength of having a potential No. 1 draft pick as a son. And would Keelon Lawson have been brought on to Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis if his sons weren’t all high level recruits? There’s a long history of this practice in college hoops.

The NCAA did try to curb this move not too long ago by forcing programs to hire those close to prospects to coveted full-time coaching positions, as if they’re hired to support staff jobs – such as Maxey’s director of recruiting position – there’s a two-year moratorium on bringing on the related recruit. Given that Tyrese Maxey, who has offers from the likes of Michigan State, UCLA and Oregon, is still two years away from joining a college program, the Mustangs probably wouldn’t have an issue there.

That is, should the Garland, Texas native choose to follow his father a few miles down the road to Dallas.

“I love my son,” Tyrone Maxey told Rivals, “and am going to support him wherever he wants to go and that it what it is. He has worked hard and whatever he deserves and wherever he wants to go with the recruiting process is on him.”

Report: Elite prospect Mitchell Robinson not expected to play in college in 2018

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It now appears as if college is off the table for Mitchell Robinson, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017 and a potential lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, as Yahoo! Sports is reporting that he has passed on the idea of playing for his hometown university, New Orleans.

Robinson was initially a Western Kentucky-signee, and he spent two weeks over the summer practicing and attending classes as a Hilltopper. But he left school earlier this summer, which puts him in a bind: He’s a one-and-done player, but if he spends that year in college, he’ll do so as a transfer that must sit-out as a redshirt.

There were three schools that Robinson was eventually considering: LSU, Kansas and UNO. LSU stopped recruiting him two weeks ago. Bill Self told reporters last week that Kansas would not be adding anymore players this season. And now, according to Yahoo!, he will not be attending UNO.

As we wrote on Monday, the options for Robinson are now simple: He can either sit out for a year, working out on his own to train for the 2018 NBA Draft, or he can head overseas, where there is a market for his services; Australia, where Terrence Ferguson played last season before getting selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, has been a place where Robinson has been linked.

Ball State forward Zach Hollywood found dead in off-campus apartment

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Zach Hollywood, a redshirt freshman on the Ball State basketball team, has died, the university confirmed to multiple local news outlets Tuesday.

Muncie police are investigating the death at Hollywood’s off-campus apartment, according to WTHR-TV. Multiple outlets are reporting that the death has been ruled a suicide.

Hollywood was 19 years old.

This is his final tweet, from 5:39 a.m. Tuesday morning:

Hollywood redshirted last season at Ball State after averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, Ill.

“On behalf of Ball State University, it is with profound sadness that we learned today of the passing of Zachary “Zach” Hollywood, a student from Bradley, Illinois,” the school said in a statement. “Zach has been a part of our family for the past year. During his time on campus, he was a member of men’s basketball team and made many positive impressions throughout campus.”

“This is a tragedy. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family, friends and teammates.”

Hollywood’s teammates reacted on social media:

Hollywood’s death is a tragic turn in an already devastating story for his family, which lost Zach’s mother, Susan, suddenly just over one year ago.

3-on-3 at the Final Four for $100,000? It’s happening

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The Final Four just got more exciting.

On Tuesday, Intersport announced a 3-on-3 tournament that they will be hosting at the Final Four with a $100,000 payout for the winners. The participants must be seniors that have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, the teams will be created based on conference and the rules will be standard, international 3-on-3 rules: one-point for a bucket inside the arc, two points for a bucket outside the arc, 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 points, or whoever has the highest score after 10 minutes. Each all-star team will feature four players, including one sub.

And, well, this is awesome.

I cannot express enough how much I love this idea.

One potential pothole here is that teams that are playing in the Final Four will, quite clearly, not have players eligible to participate.

It also should be noted that since “three-pointers” are now worth two points and “two-pointers” are now worth one, the value of long-range shooting is increased even more.

With all that in mind, why don’t we make a quick power ranking of the teams that can be created from the nine biggest conferences in college hoops:

  1. ACC: Grayson Allen (Duke), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Ben Lammers (Georgia Tech)
  2. Big East: Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Marcus Foster (Creighton)
  3. Big 12: Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Jevon Carter (West Virginia), Jeffery Carroll (Oklahoma State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech)
  4. AAC: Rob Gray (Houston), B.J. Taylor (UCF), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), Obi Enechionya (Temple)
  5. Pac-12: Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart (USC), George King (Colorado), Thomas Welsh (UCLA)
  6. Big Ten: Nate Mason (Minnesota), Scottie Lindsay (Northwestern), Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas (Purdue)
  7. Atlantic 10: E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell (Rhode Island), Peyton Aldridge (Davidson), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
  8. SEC: Yante Maten (Georgia), Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss), Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)
  9. WCC: Jock Landale and Emmett Naar (Saint Mary’s), Jonathan Williams III (Gonzaga), Silas Melson (Gonzaga)

I had way too much fun putting this together.

What did I miss?