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

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.