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?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

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?

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • 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

NOTABLES:

  • 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

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?

Top 100 Players Countdown

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Starting on Monday morning and continuing throughout the week, we will be counting down the top 100 players in college basketball on the College Basketball Talk twitter account.

Check back to this page – or to the CBT twitter account – throughout the week to get caught up on the rankings.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team
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