Saturday’s Pregame Shootaround: More auto bids decided as conference tourney play keeps rolling

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: UCLA vs. No. 4 Arizona, 5:30 p.m.

While the schedule in the Pac-12 this season only allowed for one game between UCLA (24-8, 12-6) and No. 4 Arizona — the league’s two best teams — the Bruins will get a chance at revenge on Saturday in Las Vegas when they play the Wildcats (30-3, 15-3) for the Pac-12 Tournament title. The Bruins cruised to wins over Oregon and Stanford to get to Arizona and their offense is really rolling right now. Arizona, meanwhile, had big wins of its own against Utah and Colorado. The league’s best offense (UCLA) faces the league’s best defense (Arizona) for a title and both teams are playing well and winning by double-digits so far in the tournament.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 22 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin, 4:05 p.m.,

Can Sparty get revenge after their two-point loss in Madison earlier this season on February 9th? Michigan State (24-8, 12-6) certainly hopes so and although Michigan State won’t be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll still be one of the most dangerous teams in the field, if they’re healthy. Wisconsin (26-6, 12-6) actually is playing for a No. 1 seed and the Badgers might have fallen at Nebraska last weekend, but Bo Ryan’s team has still won nine out of its last 10 entering Saturday’s Big Ten Conference Tournament semifinal.

THE OTHER OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT No. 20 New Mexico vs. No. 8 San Diego St., 6:00 p.m., CBSSN

This should be a good rubber match for the Mountain West Tournament title as these teams have played each other twice in the last few weeks. New Mexico (26-6, 15-3) took down San Diego State (29-3, 16-2) at home on February 22nd, but the Aztecs returned the favor with a March 8th home win. San Diego State has won six straight games since losing to New Mexico on the road while the Lobos are winners of eight of their last nine games with the only loss coming to the Aztecs.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Baylor vs. No 16 Iowa State, 9:00 p.m., ESPN

Would you wanna face Scott Drew’s team right? After Friday’s 86-69 throttling of Texas, Baylor (24-10, 9-9) has won six consecutive games and they’ll be looking for a Big 12 Tournament title with a win over Iowa State. The Bears beat the Cyclones, 74-61, earlier in the month on March 4th, so Baylor has had the recent upper-hand on Iowa State (25-7, 11-7) and they’re offense is firing on all cylinders lately. Baylor has shot 50 percent from the three-point line the last two wins over Oklahoma and Texas, so if they’re shooting well from the perimeter they’ll keep the winning streak alive.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Interested to see how North Carolina State (21-12, 9-9) and No. 21 UConn (26-7, 12-6) fair in their respective Saturday games after suffering blowout losses to their opponents earlier this season. The Wolfpack lost, 95-60, at No. 7 Duke (25-7, 13-5) on January 18th, while UConn was swept by No. 5 Louisville (28-5, 15-3), including an 81-48 dismantling last weekend. Can N.C. State bounce back to make it to the ACC Tournament finals and can UConn make a game of the AAC Tournament title game?

2) Should be a fun rubber match in the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden as Providence (22-11, 10-8) takes on No. 14 Creighton (26-6, 14-4). These teams each won at home in the regular season, including Doug McDermott’s jaw-dropping 45-point display last week in a home win over the Friars. This is Providence’s first trip to the Big East title game since 1994, but do the Friars have enough in the tank thanks to their six-player rotation?

3) While No. 1 Florida (30-2, 18-0) will be looking for its third win over the year against Tennessee (21-11, 11-7), will Kentucky continue to look like a dangerous threat in its SEC Tournament semifinal game against Georgia (19-12, 12-6)? The Wildcats (23-9, 12-6) looked great in their Friday quarterfinal win over LSU and Kentucky looks like they have their confidence back, but will it sustain?

4) Before the SWAC Tournament got underway at the Toyota Center this week there were concerns that the conference title game might be overrun by any of the four SWAC teams that were deemed ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, but still allowed to enter the conference tournament. Thankfully, that won’t be the case when Texas Southern (18-14, 12-6) takes on Prairie View A&M (11-22, 6-12) in a battle of two teams that are eligible for the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers will be the heavy favorite and they’re led by Aaric Murray, a senior post, who has transferred out of LaSalle and West Virginia during his well-traveled college career. Murray averages 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season.

5) Besides the SWAC Tournament final, there are a number of autobids being decided today:

  • America East: Albany (17-14, 9-7) vs. Stony Brook (23-9, 13-3), 11:30 a.m.
  • Conference USA: Tulsa (20-12, 13-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (27-6, 13-3), 11:35 a.m.
  • MEAC: Morgan State (15-15, 11-5) vs. North Carolina Central (27-5, 15-1), 6:00 p.m.
  • MAC: Toledo (27-5, 14-4) vs. Western Michigan (22-9, 14-4), 6:30 p.m.
  • Big Sky: North Dakota (17-15, 12-8) vs. Weber State (18-11, 14-6), 8:00 p.m.
  • Southland: Sam Houston (23-9, 13-5) vs. Stephen F. Austin (30-2, 18-0), 8:30 p.m.
  • WAC: Idaho (16-17, 7-9) vs. New Mexico State (25-9, 12-4), 10:00 p.m.
  • Big West: Cal Poly (12-19, 6-10) vs. Cal State Northridge (17-17, 7-10), 10:30 p.m.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

    • Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Virginia, 1:00 p.m.
    • No. 24 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Michigan, 1:40 p.m.
    • George Washington vs No. 23 VCU, 4:00 p.m.

Mizzou-Kansas benefit game raises nearly 2M for charity

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While there’s still a demand that longtime rivals Missouri and Kansas resume their basketball series at some point, Sunday’s exhibition game in Kansas City helped whet the appetites of many in attendance. But more important than the series and the opportunity for head coaches Cuonzo Martin and Bill Self to get an early evaluation of their teams against outside competition was the cause.

The rivals, separated by conference realignment that led Missouri to the SEC and the Big 12 to the brink of collapse, got together to raise money for hurricane relief. Multiple hurricanes hit the United States, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and other portions of the Caribbean earlier this fall, with some areas still in the early stages of getting things back in order.

The Showdown for Relief came about to help those in need, and it sparked a movement across college basketball as well.

It was announced at halftime of Sunday’s exhibition that the schools and their supporters managed to raise an impressive $1.75 million for hurricane relief.

According to Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star more than $600,000 of the money raised came by way of pay-per-view sales for the game, which cost $40 for those unable to get to the Sprint Center.

“It doesn’t happen with Nike,” Boeheim says of FBI investigation

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One of the prevailing thoughts regarding this opening salvo of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball is that while it’s currently adidas’ turn in the barrel, whatever malfeasance may be occurring is unlikely to be just isolated to that single shoe company.

When the FBI says they “have your playbook” in regards to alleged corruption,  it would seem they’re indicating at a systemic issue in college basketball rather than a single apparel company like adidas, which had two executives arrested amid the probe that shaken the hoops landscape.

Jim Boeheim, though, does not share those sentiments.

“It doesn’t happen with Nike,” Boeheim said at Syracuse’s media day, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Nike has about 80 schools. The guys we’re recruiting, we’re recruiting against three or four Nike schools most of the time. (Nike) isn’t going to help one of those schools.”

Well, that settles it. Nike and its schools are in the clear. Even if the apparel giant’s grassroots hoops division was reportedly served a subpoena last month. And that Merl Code, one of the adidas executives arrested, worked for Nike previously.

Of course, there may be issues with some of the logic Boeheim employs here. While, as he says, Syracuse may often being going against other Nike schools in recruiting, there are surely times when adidas or Under Armour schools are in the mix. What happens then? Or even if it’s multiple Nike schools competing, the hypothetical money changing hands is illicit, and thereby under the table and unofficial, so it’s not like there wouldn’t be plausible deniability if a coach on the losing end of a recruitment  ever went to express his displeasure at any particular rumors. And how hard – or publicly – is a coach going to complain when his school is securing millions from Nike in cash and gear each year?

It’s also worth noting that not all schools are created equal, even if they’re under the same apparel umbrella. Ohio State’s contract is worth $16.8 million a year while someone like Kansas State’s is worth $1.9 million, according to Forbes. Nike may have an interest in helping one school over the other, theoretically.

Maybe Boeheim is correct, but it’s clear the entire system – and all the entities its made up of – are going to be under scrutiny. So the FBI probably isn’t going to exempt Nike, or any other apparel company, from its ongoing investigation, regardless of what a coach at a Nike school says. It’s also worth noting, in deference to full disclosure, that Nike has long outfitted Syracuse, and Boeheim has been very active as a part of Team USA basketball, where Nike is quite influential

“First of all, I think the FBI could do a lot better investigating criminals and terrorists than they can investigating college basketball,” Boeheim said. “In my opinion. I’m a tax-payer. There’s a few tax-payers here. I’d sure as hell rather have them looking into terrorism and not spending three years investigating AAU programs or shoe companies. That’s the least of our concern.”

 

Watch list released for Abdul-Jabbar award

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Twenty players were announced as members of the preseason watch list for the Karee Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award.

Among the 20 are Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis, Texas’ Mohamed Bamba, St. Mary’s senior Jock Landale and Purdue’s Isaac Haas.

“I would like to thank the Basketball Hall of Fame for the honor of being the namesake of this award,” said Abdul-Jabbar, a 1995 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and six-time NBA Champion, said in a release. “The student-athletes recognized have worked tirelessly to earn their spots on this list and I look forward to seeing how their hard work will pay off this season.”

Previous winners include Przemek Karnowski (2017), Jakob Poetl (2016) and Frank Kaminsky (2015).

The group of 20 (though players not included in the preseason watch list can be later included) will be trimmed to 10 in February and five finalists in March. The winner will be announced April 6.

2018 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award Candidates

Dusan Ristic Arizona
Austin Wiley Auburn
Kingsley Okoroh California
Tacko Fall Central Florida
Marques Bolden Duke
John Egbunu Florida
Jessie Govan Georgetown
Ben Lammers Georgia Tech
Nick Richards Kentucky
Omer Yurtseven NC State
Isaac Haas Purdue
Jock Landale Saint Mary’s
Angel Delgado Seton Hall
Michael Humphrey Stanford
Vladimir Brodziansky TCU
Mohamed Bamba Texas
Tyler Davis Texas A&M
Thomas Welsh UCLA
Chimezie Metu USC
Ethan Happ Wisconsin

 

Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin regain the throne?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southland.

The Southland finally saw Stephen F. Austin‘s dominant run end last season as New Orleans claimed the regular season title and NCAA tournament autobid. Although the Lumberjacks finished in second place in head coach Kyle Keller’s first season, expectations are in place for another potential conference title in 2017-18. Stephen F. Austin returns eight of their top nine producers from last season including Player of the Year candidate T.J. Holyfield on the interior. If Stephen F. Austin’s offense can get a boost then they could be in for another dangerous season.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has to replace the scoring punch of forward Rashawn Thomas but do-it-all senior Ehab Amin is back to lead the charge. Amin led the nation in steals last season while filling up the box score in many other ways as he’s flanked by guards Kareem South and Joseph Kilgore. Lamar made a leap last season as they won 19 games and made a CIT appearance. Senior forward Colton Weisbrod is a throwback undersized frontcourt presence while the backcourt of point guard Joey Frenchwood and shooter Nick Garth is among the league’s stronger returning duos.

Returning most of last season’s contributors, Abilene Christian is hoping to make a major leap up the Southland standings. Sophomore big man Jalone Friday is a promising player to build around while junior guards Jaren Lewis and Jaylen Franklin both put up double-figures in the scoring column last season. Incarnate Word is going to put up points but the Cardinals will need to figure things out on the defensive end. Jalin Hart, Simi Socks and Shawn Johnson are all returning upperclassmen who averaged at least 14 points per game each last season.

Southeastern Louisiana has a chance to make noise as junior point guard Marlain Veal and junior forward Moses Greenwood are a solid 1-2 punch. With a deep bench returning, the Lions have a lot of upperclass experience and could be a surprise team. The return of Jalan West for a seventh season is a major story for Northwestern State. The former Player of the Year candidate has to stay healthy but he’s joined by junior big man Ishmael Lane and senior guard Devonte Hall to form a solid nucleus.

Losing four starters will be tough for Sam Houston State but junior point guard John Dewey III is back to lead the team’s offense. Senior big man Chris Galbreath has a chance to be a breakout player. Central Arkansas has the Southland’s returning leading scorer in senior guard Jordan Howard but the Bears have to make major strides on the defensive end and controlling turnovers.

New Orleans has a lot of new pieces after last year’s run to the Big Dance as the Privateers need to replace three starters. Senior forward Travin Thibodeaux and senior big man Makur Puou are back along with a lot of question marks. After a CIT appearance, Houston Baptist loses five seniors and multiple transfers but senior center Josh Ibarra is an all-league threat.  

Nicholls lost seven seniors and needs to rebuild as senior point guard Jahvaughn Powell has a chance to have a big year. McNeese finished in last place a season ago but most of that group is back. Sophomore guard Kalob Ledoux has a chance to be one of the league’s better guards.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ehab Amin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

College basketball’s leader with 124 total steals last season (3.4 per game), this 6-foot-4 senior guard can also put up numbers all over the stat sheet. The Egyptian averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season while shooting 46 percent from the floor. If Amin improves his 28 percent three-point shooting then he could be in for a monster season.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SOUTHLAND TEAM

  • Colton Weisbrod, Lamar: Undersized at 6-foot-5 but great in the paint, this senior averaged 15.1 points and 8.1 boards per contest. Weisbrod shot 52 percent from the floor but only 16 percent from three-point range.
  • T.J. Holyfield, Stephen F. Austin: Versatile junior forward averaged 11.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
  • Jordan Howard, Central Arkansas: The senior has a chance to reach 2,000 career points after dropping 19.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season. Howard could stand to improve his shooting efficiency.
  • Jalone Friday, Abilene Christian: Intriguing sophomore big man had tremendous splits (52% FG, 45% 3PT, 82% FT) and put up 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last season in only 21.7 minutes per contest.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SouthlandSports

PREDICTED FINISH

  1. Stephen F. Austin
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  3. Lamar
  4. Abliene Christian
  5. Incarnate Word
  6. Southeastern Louisiana
  7. Northwestern State
  8. Sam Houston State
  9. Central Arkansas
  10. New Orleans
  11. Houston Baptist
  12. Nicholls
  13. McNeese

‘Border War’ exhibition to be streamed

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The 19,000 fans who secured tickets to the Sprint Center for the charity-inspired reignition of the Border War won’t be the only ones to be able to watch Kansas and Missouri play Sunday.

The exhibition game, whose proceeds will be used for hurricane relief, will be streamed live for those willing to spend $40, the schools announced Friday.

“Our first objective was to sell out Sprint Center,” the two schools said jointly in a release. “Once we achieved the sellout so quickly, our fans who could not get tickets expressed tremendous interest in having the game televised. We wanted to make sure that the charities we’ve identified would be the only entities to derive revenue from this game.  SIDEARM Sports has provided the platform to allow us to create a second stream of revenue via this telecast.”

The broadcast will feature Leif Lisec doing play-by-play and ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and Holly Rowe as the analyst and sideline reporter, respectively. The trio are donating their time for the broadcast.

The Jayhawks and Tigers haven’t played since 2012, when Missouri bolted the Big 12 for the SEC. There certainly has been resentment from the move, which has kept the two from scheduling a non-conference tilt. Now, though, they’re hoping the layoff has built enough anticipation to raise upward of $1 million for the Houston Harvey Relief Fund, the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Florida Disaster Fund, Juntos y Unidos Por Puerto Rico and the Fund for the U.S. Virgin Islands after a devastating hurricane season in the United States.

The game will pit the perennial powerhouse Jayhawks, expected to be a top-five preseason team and strong favorite to win the Big 12, against an ascendant Missouri, which has the potential 2018 No. 1 NBA draft pick Michael Porter, Jr. headlining the roster reboot under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for two schools to do something together for the better of the masses,” Kansas coach Bill Self said last week, “and be able to send a significant amount of money to people that are suffering right now. So that is going to come to fruition, and we’re real happy about it.”