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Saturday’s Conference Tourney Pregame Shootaround: OVC title day; can the Shockers stay perfect?

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America East: The quarterfinals are underway in the America East as top-seed Vermont takes on New Hampshire, second-seed Stony Brook battles Maine and Albany against UMBC and Hartford against Binghamton rounds out the day’s action. All games are being played in Guilderland, New York. At 15-1 in the America East, Vermont is the heavy favorite in this tournament.

Big South: An important day of action in the Big South Conference Tournament as two good semifinals take place in Conway, South Carolina. Winthrop and UNC Asheville face-off in the first semifinal of the day while VMI and Coastal Carolina close it out. Both games feature teams with identical conference records as Winthrop and UNC-Asheville were both 10-6 in the Big South while VMI and Coastal Carolina both finished 11-5.

CAA: Quarterfinal action tips off in Baltimore as top seed Delaware takes on Hofstra, two seed Towson locks horns with James Madison and Northeastern and Drexel and Charleston and William & Mary round out the day’s action.

RELATED: Our latest bracket projections — is your team in?

Horizon League: It’ll be an interesting day of semifinal action at the Horizon League Tournament in Green Bay’s arena as the top-seeded Phoenix host Milwaukee and Wright State takes on Cleveland State. Green Bay went 14-2 in the Horizon League this season, but its only home loss came to Milwaukee. Wright State and Cleveland State split the season series with each team winning on the road.

MAAC: The MAAC quarters are underway in Springfield, Massachusetts as No. 1 seed Iona faces Rider and No. 2 seed Manhattan takes on St. Peter’s. Canisius also takes on Siena and Quinnipiac battles Niagara.

Missouri Valley: Semifinal day at Arch Madness in St. Louis as No. 2 Wichita State looks to improve to 33-0 when they face Missouri State and Indiana State takes on Southern Illinois. Missouri State gave the Shockers their only overtime game of the season while Southern Illinois will look to continue to play the spoiler role after yesterday’s upset of Northern Iowa. Southern Illinois and Indiana State split the season series at one game apiece in the regular season.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

NEC: We’ve reached the semifinals in the NEC as Robert Morris faces St. Francis (Pa) and Wagner takes on Mount St. Mary’s. Robert Morris swept St. Francis during the season and they’ll be the heavy favorite over the 10-20 Red Flash while Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s split the season series with each team winning at home.

Ohio Valley: The OVC title game goes down at 7:00 p.m. as Eastern Kentucky takes on Belmont in Nashville with a spot in the NCAA Tournament at stake. The Bruins have won seven straight games heading into tonight’s title game but they’ll have to beat an Eastern Kentucky team that pulled off a mini-upset of Murray State in the semifinals. These two teams split the regular season series with each team winning at home. Can Belmont repeat as champs?

Patriot League: Semifinal action heats up in the Patriot League Tournament as Army takes on Boston and Holy Cross battles American. Boston swept the season series over Army, but both wins were incredibly close as the Terriers won in overtime on January 29th and by a single point on February 26th. The Eagles, meanwhile, swept the season series over Holy Cross.

RELATED: Conference Tournament schedules for every league

Southern: Quarterfinal action for the Southern Conference Tournament tips off in Asheville, North Carolina on Saturday as No. 1 seed Davidson battles Samford and No. 2 seed Chattanooga battles Georgia Southern. Elon also takes on Western Carolina and Wofford battles The Citadel in the other matchups of the day.

Summit League: IUPUI and IPFW is the only quarterfinal matchup being played today in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as the Mastodons look to make a run in the Summit League as the No. 2 seed. IPFW won both games in the season series by at least 15 points and should be the heavy favorite.

WCC: Vegas, baby, VEGAS! The WCC quarters begin on Saturday in Las Vegas as No. 1 seed Gonzaga takes on Santa Clara and No. 2 seed BYU takes on Loyola Marymount. San Francisco also takes on San Diego and Saint Mary’s battles Pepperdine.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.