Pregame Shootaround: Big matchup in Big Ten and Big 12 lineup is strong

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 10 Michigan at No. 17 Iowa (2 p.m., ESPN)

CBT’s own Rob Dauster broke down both of our day’s top games yesterday:

Just how good is Iowa? That’s the question that everyone has on their mind at this point in the season. Looking at the numbers, the Hawkeyes look like a top 10 team. Looking at their roster, that theory is more or less confirmed. They are deep, they have lineup versatility, and Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are two of the best players you don’t hear talked about.

The problem? Iowa hasn’t beaten anyone this season. Their best win is against an Ohio State team that collapsed after playing them. But here’s the thing: they haven’t lost to anyone that’s not really good. Their six losses are all against teams that are ranked in the top 20 on KenPom, including Ohio State.

We know what Michigan is at this point. They’ve been the best team in the Big Ten during league play, currently sitting in a tie for first place with a Michigan State team that they’ve beaten. The Hawkeyes are just two games behind them. Are they really going to be a contender in this conference, or is Fran McCaffery’s club nothing but a pretender.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 23 Gonzaga at No. 24 Memphis (9 p.m., ESPN)

Gonzaga probably needs this win more than Memphis. The Zags have eight top 100 RPI wins this season, but just one of them against a team in the top 50. That was BYU. So while Mark Few’s club has once again put up an impressive record, how many people are going to think back to last season’s gaudy record and NCAA tournament collapse with this year’s Gonzaga. Memphis was smacked around by SMU and lost to UConn at home, but at least they already own wins over Oklahoma State, LSU and Louisville.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 7 Cincinnati at SMU (7:30 p.m., ESPNU)

SMU (18-5, 7-3) is hosting AAC unbeaten Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0) but the Mustangs are destroying opponents at the newly renovated Moody Coliseum. Since re-opening the facility in early January against UConn, the Mustangs are 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 17 points. They’re not just winning there, they’re throttling people. Cincinnati has a tough time getting consistent scoring besides Sean Kilpatrick and they could be susceptible to a road loss to an SMU team that is long and athletic and balanced on offense and playing very well at home.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 4 Wichita State at Northern Iowa (9 p.m., ESPN2)

This might be the last chance for a Shockers loss before the NCAA Tournament, which would be the first time that’s happened since UNLV pulled it off in ’91. Wichita State would obviously need to get past Arch Madness in St. Louis, as well, which is never an easy task, and Northern Iowa is a tough out at home. The Shockers already won at Indiana State earlier in the week, can they continue their unbeaten run?


1) How about No. 15 Texas at Kansas State in a battle of Big 12 NCAA Tournament teams? Texas owns a home win against Kansas, but a road win at a tough place like Kansas State would be a great win for the Longhorns tournament resume. Kansas State would greatly benefit from another ranked opponent.

2) Speaking of the Big 12, Baylor needs a win in the worst way at No. 21 Oklahoma. If the Bears can get a sweep through the state of Oklahoma on the road in the conference after last weekend’s surprising win in Stillwater, they have a chance of getting into the tournament.

3) San Diego State is still unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference at 9-0 and they host Nevada, who would love a road win over a top-five opponent at 7-3 in the conference.

4) Can West Virginia pull off the unlikely and win at No. 8 Kansas? The Mountaineers have won four out of five games and are playing very good ball in a tough Big 12. The trio of Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Juwan Staten is balling during Big 12 play. Can Embiid, Wiggins and Kansas hold home court?

5) Oklahoma State really needs a win against Texas Tech on the road. The No. 19 Cowboys have not been able to string together sustained periods of solid play as they are prone to defensive lapses and bad shot selection. Can they bounce back against the Red Raiders?


  • Alabama at No. 3 Florida, 12:00 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 11 Duke at Boston College, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 13 Saint Louis at LaSalle, 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • TCU at No. 16 Iowa State, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 18 Kentucky at Mississippi State, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 20 Virginia at Georgia Tech, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Virginia Tech at No. 25 Pittsburgh, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3


  • Nebraska at Northwestern, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Florida State at Maryland, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Providence at Xavier, 3;00 p.m., FS1
  • Arkansas at Vanderbilt, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine, 4:00 p.m., Root Sports
  • Missouri at Ole Miss, 5:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • IPFW at North Dakota State, 5:00 p.m.
  • Oregon at Arizona State, 5:00 p.m., FS1
  • Purdue at Ohio State, 6:00 p.m., BTN
  • VCU at Saint Joseph’s, 8:00 p.m., CBSSN
  • Indiana at Minnesota, 8:15 p.m., BTN

Conference USA Preview: Look out for UAB this year

Georges Niang, William Lee
UAB's William Lee (AP Photo)
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Conference USA.

This version of Conference USA is not as strong as the Conference USA of old, the one that featured the likes of Marquette, Memphis, Cincinnati and Louisville, but while much of the league falls under the ‘mid-major’ label these days, there’s still enough talent at the top of the conference to throw a scare into some of the big boys.

Take, for example, UAB. The Blazers last season finished just a game above .500, but after a dreadful start to non-conference play, Jerod Haase’s group turned it on in the league. They went 12-6 in CUSA, won the league’s tournament title and knocked off Iowa State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Oh, and they return everyone from last year’s group, including leading scorer Robert Brown and William Lee, who will be one of this season’s break out stars.

A major reason for UAB’s late-season surge was Lee, who did not truly get healthy until late-January. A 6-foot-9 combo-forward, Lee can block shots, score around the rim and make plays on the perimeter. He’s got a chance to be a star this season, and he makes UAB a really dangerous mid-major.

But he may not even be the best player in the conference, as Old Dominion returns reigning CUSA Player of the Year Trey Freeman. Freeman was a major reason that the Monarchs were able to beat LSU, VCU, Richmond and Georgia State last year in addition to reaching the semifinals of the NIT. The Monarchs also return Aaron Bacote, and while they lose their starting front line, there will be some promising big bodies available. East Carolina transfer Brandon Stith could post double-double numbers while Denzell Taylor was sixth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage last season.

The consensus from those around the league is that UAB and ODU, in some order, will be the team to beat this season. But there are a number of teams that will have a shot at finishing in that No. 3 spot.

Middle Tennessee State returns the majority of their roster from a season ago. The team’s leading returning scorer is power forward Reggie Upshaw, but the name to watch out for is Perrin Buford. Buford, a JuCo transfer, scored in double-figures in 10 of his last 12 games and averaged 14.1 points over his final eight.

UTEP returns just one healthy player from their top six from last season — Earvin Morris — but it’s who they add that keeps Tim Floyd’s club in the mix for the top five. Oregon transfer Dominic Artis will likely take over point guard while top 100 freshman Brodericks Jones and JuCo addition Lee Moore will be counted on for big years.

If Aaron Cosby can return to being the player he was as a sophomore at Seton Hall, Western Kentucky should have a chance to finish in the top six. But that was three years and two teams ago. Louisiana Tech not only lost ‘Speedy’ Smith and Raheem Appleby, but head coach Mike White left for Florida as well. New head coach Eric Konkol will be relying heavily on Alex Hamilton this year.

The two x-factors will be Marshall and Rice. The Owls returns a veteran back court and adds a key transfer in Egor Koulechov as they will look to build on the momentum from a strong close to the season. Head coach Mike Rhoades is a Shaka Smart disciple.

The same can be said for the Thundering Herd, who started the year 2-15 against Division I opponents but, in league play, won seven out of ten at one point. Dan D’antoni, Mike’s brother, plays an uptempo, gun-slinging style, adds a number of shooters and brings back Ryan Taylor.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Most will say UAB because they’re coming off of that tournament win, but I like Old Dominion, too. They have best guard group in the conference. Defensively, they’re really hard to score on and physically tough. Trey Freeman is the best point guard and leader in the league. It will come down to whether [Brandon Stith] can replace what they lost up front.”
  • Sleeper: “Rice. I think they have a chance to finish in the top couple spots. Marcus Jackson and Max Guercy are a veteran back court, and with the addition of Egor Koulechov from Arizona State, if he’s really good they’ve got a chance to be really good. Mike Rhoades has done a really good job, and last year they got better as the year went on. If they continue that momentum, look out.”
  • Star to watch: “UAB’s William Lee. He’s the best NBA prospect. The last month of the year, he was as good as anyone in the league. He’s a 6-foot-9 combo-forward that’s athletic and has three-point range. Given his versatility and his talent level, he could have a breakout year.”


Freeman was the best player in the conference last season, and after a full offseason of improvement, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything other than the same this year. Freeman is a scoring point guard that can breakdown a defense, but he’s also capable of making plays for his teammates. He’s the reason ODU has a real shot at unseating UAB at the top of the league.


  • William Lee, UAB: Lee, a 6-foot-9 combo-forward, averaged 11.9 points, 8.1 boards and 2.3 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from three over the last 12 games. He wasn’t healthy until February, either.
  • Robert Brown, UAB: Brown was UAB’s star in March, averaging 18.2 points in five postseason games. The fifth-year senior is the engine that makes their offense run.
  • Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: The lone returnee from last season’s dynamic back court, Hamilton should see an uptick in his total numbers this year.
  • Ryan Taylor, Marshall: Taylor averaged 14.1 points, 8.6 boards and 2.8 assists for the Thundering Herd last season playing the Draymond Green role in their uptempo offense.



1. UAB
2. Old Dominion
3. Middle Tennessee State
5. Western Kentucky
6. Louisiana Tech
7. Rice
8. Marshall
9. Florida Atlantic
10. Florida International
11. Charlotte
12. North Texas
13. UTSA
14. Southern Miss

Iowa State lands three-star SG Jakolby Long

Steve Prohm
Associated Press
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Iowa State received its fourth verbal commitment in the Class of 2016 Friday morning, as 6-foot-4 shooting guard Jakolby Long made his pledge to Steve Prohm’s program. A native of Mustang, Oklahoma, Long attends Mustang HS and played for the Athletes First grassroots program this summer.

In Nike EYBL play for Athletes First, Long averaged 16.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

According to Cyclone Fanatic, Long was also considering Georgia, Texas and Utah before deciding that he’ll play his college basketball at Iowa State. Long will join junior Matt Thomas, sophomore Hallice Cooke and transfer Nick Babb in the competition for minutes off the ball when he arrives on campus next year. According to Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune, Long could be a in a position where he sees solid playing time immediately.

Long joins junior college products Donovan Jackson and Emmanuel Malou, and 2016 forward Solomon Young in Iowa State’s 2016 class to date. And the Cyclones, who won’t use all 13 scholarships this season, still have room for a couple more additions for next season.

Iowa State has four seniors (Naz Long, Abdel Nader, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay), and junior point guard Monte’ Morris is considered by some to be a candidate to enter the 2016 NBA Draft.