jaspers

Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: MAAC showdown, two Big East games on slate

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Manhattan at Canisius, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

The preseason favorite to win the MAAC, the Manhattan Jaspers currently find themselves two games behind first-place Canisius in the race to win the regular season title. With that being the case, it’s safe to say that this one is of high importance to Steve Masiello’s squad. Individually speaking two of the best scoring guards around will be on display, with Manhattan’s George Beamon (18.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Canisius’ Billy Baron (23.7, 4.8, 4.7 apg) both having the ability to light up the scoreboard.

The same can be said of the teams, with both averaging just over 77 points per game and having an affinity for getting out and running. The key: turnovers. Manhattan’s forcing nearly 16 per game, and at times the Golden Griffins have struggled with turning the ball over. If Manhattan’s to make a run at the MAAC title, this is a game they need to win.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: Princeton (-8) vs. Columbia, 7:00 p.m.

Yes, a team that’s 0-3 in Ivy League play is the pick here thanks to the lines makers. Princeton was at one point expected to be Harvard’s greatest threat in the Crimson’s quest to make a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but three losses to start the year have likely ruled the Tigers out. Tyler Bray’s leading the way offensively with an average of 17.8 points per game, but the problem for Mitch Henderson’s team has been its defense. Opponents are shooting 45.4% from the field, and this is an issue Columbia’s Alex Rosenberg (14.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Maodo Lo (14.0, 4.1) can take advantage of.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) No. 6 Villanova hosts Seton Hall (7:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1), with the Pirates looking for their first win at Villanova since February 26, 1994. A good individual matchup to watch: Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin vs. Villanova’s James Bell.

2) No. 12 Creighton is also in action, with the Bluejays hosting DePaul (9:07 p.m., Fox Sports 1). Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge are tough match-ups for any team, and Creighton may welcome back guard Grant Gibbs (knee) back as well. Gibbs injured his knee in the first meeting between the Bluejays and Blue Demons.

3) At this point in the season Brown may be Harvard’s biggest threat in the Ivy League, and the 3-1 Bears get their shot at the 4-0 Crimson tonight in Cambridge (7:00 p.m.). Brown’s limiting opponents to 38.3% shooting, and they’ll need to defend well if they’re to beat Tommy Amaker’s talented squad.

4) Southern Miss looks to keep pace with UTEP atop the Conference USA standings, with the Golden Eagles needing a win over Marshall (9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network) in order to do so. Guard Neil Watson leads three Southern Miss players in double figures with an average of 12.2 ppg, and they could be in line for a big night against a team allowing opponents to shoot better than 44% from the field.

5) Mercer’s looking to remain atop the Atlantic Sun standings with a win at Kennesaw State (7:00 p.m., ESPN3). The Bears are currently tied with FGCU at 9-2 in league play, and in order to move to 10-2 they can’t afford to take the 4-20 Owls lightly.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE: 

  • Iona at Niagara, 7:00 p.m.
  • Yale at Dartmouth, 7:00 p.m.
  • Charlotte at Tulane, 8:00 p.m.
  • Detroit at Valparaiso, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

rp_primary_Linder_Jeff_Action_vs_Dayton_031815_2_
Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.