Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Another doubleheader in Dayton

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Midwest No. 11 Iowa vs. Midwest No. 11 Tennessee, 9:10 p.m. (truTV)

The end of the season has been tough for Iowa both on and off the court, with the Hawkeyes having lost six of their last seven games and Fran McCaffery’s 13-year old son having to undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his thyroid. McCaffery, who was with his family Wednesday morning, is expected to be on the sideline of this First Four matchup.

As for the game itself the Hawkeyes and Volunteers are two of the better rebounding teams in the country, but they get the job done in different ways. While Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes (10.3 rpg) and Jeronne Maymon (8.2 rpg) are the clear leaders on the glass for Cuonzo Martin, Iowa has six players averaging between 3.3 (Roy Devyn Marble) and 6.9 rebounds per contest (Aaron White). The question for Iowa is a simple one: can they defend well enough to enjoy success in the NCAA tournament? That’s been a major issue down the stretch, and with Stokes and guard Jordan McRae both capable of punishing Iowa offensively the Hawkeyes have to defend well. If it’s a track meet Marble and company will be at an advantage, but if it’s a “grind it out” affair that benefits Tennessee.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Midwest No. 16 Cal Poly vs. Midwest No. 16 Texas Southern, 6:40 p.m. (truTV)

The first half of the doubleheader in Dayton matches two teams playing the right to play Midwest No. 1 seed Wichita State on Friday. Texas Southern won the SWAC tournament title with forward Aaric Murray leading the way, and for his efforts throughout the season Murray was named SWAC Player of the Year. As for Cal Poly, the Mustangs managed to win three straight at the Big West tournament despite entering the event with a 10-19 record. Forward Chris Eversley and wing David Nwaba lead the way offensively, but the key for Joe Callero’s team will be their ability to control tempo. Cal Poly averages 60.8 possessions/game, and that’s when the Mustangs are at their best.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) The NCAA tournament isn’t the only postseason event being played, with the NIT, CBI and CIT all in play on Wednesday night. One of the better contests on the NIT slate is Iona’s trip south to take on Louisiana Tech, with both teams being automatic qualifiers. Iona’s Sean Armand and Louisiana Tech’s Alex Hamilton will be two of the better guards on display for teams that don’t lack for perimeter depth.

2) Another quality NIT matchup is LSU taking on San Francisco. Much was made about LSU’s talented front court, with Johnny O’Bryant III leading the way, but the Tigers will have to contend with San Francisco’s Cole Dickerson (14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg).

3) A CIT matchup that should be entertaining is Cleveland State taking on Ohio in Athens. Ohio’s Nick Kellogg and Maurice Ndour lead the way offensively for the Bobcats, who are scoring nearly 72 points per game. Cleveland State’s a slightly better offensive team, and guard Bryn Forbes is averaging 15.4 points per game for a team that has lost just two games since January 22.

4) SMU was a team many felt deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, but their non-conference resume resulted in the Mustangs landing in the NIT. How motivated will Larry Brown’s team be? They need to come out focused against Big West regular season champ UC Irvine, a team many expected to win the league’s automatic bid.

5) Despite being a two-seed in its NIT region Illinois will hit the road due to their home arena undergoing renovations. The Fighting Illini will visit Patriot League regular season champ Boston University, and their young guards will have their hands full with BU’s Maurice Watson Jr.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

  • Toledo at Southern Miss, 8:30 p.m. (NIT)
  • Wyoming at Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m. (CBI)
  • Fresno State at UTEP, 9:00 p.m. (CBI)
  • Towson at USC Upstate, 7:00 p.m. (CIT)
  • Murray State at Missouri State, 8:05 p.m. (CIT)

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedΒ 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.