Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Plenty of important bubble matchups

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 16 Iowa State at Baylor, 7:00 p.m.

Baylor is coming on strong of late, having won five of their last six games after starting the Big 12 season by losing eight of their first ten games. They are probably on the right side of the bubble at this point, but a win over a top ten RPI team like Iowa State would come close to locking up a bid for Scott Drew’s team. The interesting matchup here is going to be on the front line. Baylor’s got a ton of size with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, but Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim are going to be difficult matchups given their perimeter ability.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Arizona State at Oregon, 11:00 p.m.

The Sun Devils and the Ducks are both on the verge of making the NCAA tournament this year. Both teams have made a late run which has gotten them into a positive position as we get towards the end of the Pac-12 regular season. Oregon has won five straight games and will be looking to avenge its road sweep in the state of Arizona as they close out with the Sun Devils and Wildcats at home. Arizona State, meanwhile, should feel alright, but at 2-5 on the road in the Pac-12, a road win against a good team never hurts the old resume.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 12 Michigan at Illinois, 7:00 p.m.

Illinois may not be in position to compete for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, but John Groce has the Illini playing tremendous defense in the later part of the season. Illinois has held four consecutive opponents under 50 points — including Saturday’s stunning road win at Michigan State — and the Illini will look to do the same against Michigan. If Michigan struggles to get perimeter production from Nik Stauskas they could be in trouble on the road here.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Georgia State at Arkansas State, 8:05 p.m.

Georgia State is 15-1 in the Sun Belt and they’ll look to pick up another road victory in league play against Arkansas State (17-10, 9-6). Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter make for a potent 1-2 punch and Georgia State is one of those mid-major programs that nobody wants to potentially face in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas State will look to avenge the one-point loss that they suffered at Georgia State on January 16th.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Florida will look to make it 22 consecutive wins as the Gators travel to South Carolina. The Gamecocks don’t have much to play for, but that won’t stop Frank Martin’s group from playing hard, as evidenced by Saturday’s home win over Kentucky. Billy Donovan’s team better come prepared.

2) Can No. 3 Syracuse bounce back from Saturday’s loss at Virginia? The Orange host Georgia Tech and they’ll look to get back on track as they continue to play for a potential No. 1 seed.

3) Also looking to bounce back from a road loss is No. 13 Creighton. The Bluejays fell at Xavier and will travel to D.C. to face Georgetown, who is desperate for wins to stay relevant in the at-large conversation. CBT’s own Rob Dauster will be at this one.

4) How will No. 25 Kentucky and John Calipari respond to Saturday’s horrible loss at South Carolina? The Wildcats host Alabama in a home game they should win.

5) Providence and Marquette battle on Tuesday in a matchup of Big East team. Providence is doing everything they can to stay in the bubble picture and a home win over Marquette before Saturday’s game at Creighton could be huge.

NOTABLES:

  • Florida State at Boston College, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.