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Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: UConn visits Cincy

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 22 UConn at No. 7 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.

Cincinnati has played like one of the best teams in the country over the last month and change, taking firm control of the AAC race in the process. Their strength is on the defensive end of the floor and their ability to get to the offensive glass. UConn doesn’t have much size inside, but they do have Shabazz Napier and on the nights where Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright play well, they’re dangerous.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Oregon at No. 2 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.

Arizona’s first game without Brandon Ashley. How will the Wildcats respond without him in the lineup? How will they react to playing an Oregon team in desperate need of a win? The Ducks have the talent to pull off the upset, but they are also the most disappointing team in the Pac-12. Which Oregon shows up?

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Murray State at Belmont, 9:00 p.m.

The two powers that be in the Ohio Valley will square off tonight in what is becoming a delightful little rivalry between in-state, mid-major rivals. Isaiah Cannon and Ian Clark may be off to the professional ranks, but Belmont’s brought enough back to win at North Carolina while Murray State is relying on a trio of newcomers to try to lead them back to the NCAA tournament.


1) Adreian Payne will be making his return to the court as Penn State visits No. 9 Michigan State. While we’re here, read the profile that Jason King wrote about him.

2) Is LSU an NCAA tournament team? They looked like it in a pair of wins last week. But how will they handle the road in the SEC? They’re at Georgia tonight.

3) VCU has looked like Saint Louis’ biggest contender in the A-10 the last couple of weeks. They’ll host URI tonight.

4) SMU has looked like an NCAA tournament team in recent weeks. They get a visit from Temple tonight in a game that could do serious their bubble dreams.

5) You want a sneaky mid-major to watch come March? How about Georgia State, with R.J. Hunter and Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow. They’ll visit Arkansas-Little Rock tonight.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.