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.


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.


  • 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)

VIDEO: Michigan State celebrates Tom Izzo’s 500th victory

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Thursday afternoon No. 3 Michigan State rolled past Boston College at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, winning 99-68 in Fullerton, California. The win was special for multiple reasons, as not only did senior Denzel Valentine post his second triple-double of the season (29 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists) but it was also Tom Izzo’s 500th victory as Michigan State head coach.

Above is video of the celebration, which includes former Michigan State great and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green giving Izzo a Rolex watch with the words “nice start” engraved on it. As you can tell Izzo got emotional over the entire ordeal, giving thanks to his players past and present for their efforts.

Video credit: Michigan State Athletics

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Fourteen ranked teams in action

Trevor Cooney
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse vs. No. 25 Texas A&M (ESPN)

The championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis matches two teams who arrived in the Bahamas looking to make a statement nationally, and both did so Thursday. The Aggies, who along with Vanderbilt are Kentucky’s greatest competition in the SEC, have experience on the perimeter and some good front court options as well. How Danuel House, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins navigate the Syracuse zone will be a key factor in this one. As for Syracuse, while seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney have led the way the contributions of Tyler Roberson and freshmen Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson should not be overlooked either.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 10 Gonzaga vs. No. 17 UConn, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Both teams lost thrillers in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals Thursday, with the Bulldogs falling by one to No. 25 Texas A&M and the Huskies losing by three to Syracuse. Now they look to avoid a second straight defeat in what should be an interesting matchup. Gonzaga’s front court size will be something UConn has to find an answer for, but it isn’t as if they don’t have options themselves. Shonn Miller’s matchup with Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer will be something to keep an eye on, as will Gonzaga’s guards taking on UConn’s talented and experienced group.

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: No. 11 Arizona (vs. Providence), 11:30 p.m. (ESPN)

By now we all know Providence point guard Kris Dunn, as he’s one of the nation’s best players. But what makes the Friars a dangerous team now, and moving forward, is the emergence of other options. Ben Bentil’s averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and Rodney Bullock’s been even better at 16.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg. While Dunn’s name may be on the marquee this isn’t some one-man band playing for head coach Ed Cooley. Add in the uncertain status of Arizona senior center Kaleb Tarczewski (left ankle) and the Wildcats’ shot selection in a “closer than it needed to be” win over Santa Clara, and this is a good opportunity for Providence to add a quality win to its early-season résumé.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Monmouth vs. Dayton, 9:30 p.m.

The Flyers aren’t a mid-major, but their opposition is the reason why this game is chosen here. King Rice’ Hawks have won three of their first four games to start the season, which includes wins over UCLA and No. 17 Notre Dame, and the strength of their schedule means that they won’t have any fear of Dayton. Both teams have talented perimeter rotations, with Justin Robinson leading the Hawks and Scoochie Smith doing so for the Flyers. The key will be how Dayton’s front court tandem of Kendall Pollard and Steve McElvene play; if they win their respective matchups Dayton will have the upper hand.


  • No. 1 Kentucky is back in action, this time taking on a USF team (5:00 p.m., ESPN) led by former John Calipari assistant Orlando Antigua. That fact may keep this contest between the high-powered Wildcats and rebuilding Bulls at a respectable margin.
  • No. 24 Cincinnati plays its second game away from home, as they take on Nebraska in Brooklyn. Farad Cobb’s played very well to start the season for the Bearcats, who are a bit underrated nationally. Not only will the Huskers have their hands full on the perimeter, but Cincinnati has both depth and experience in the post as well.
  • Illinois, having already lost three games this season, takes on a tough UAB squad at the Emerald Coast Classic in Florida (9:30 p.m., CBSSN). The Fighting Illini needed a Jalen Coleman-Lands three-pointer to beat Chicago State earlier this week, and the Blazers are an experienced group that reached the NCAA tournament last season.
  • West Virginia and San Diego State meet in the title game of the Continental Las Vegas Invitational (10:30 p.m., FS1) in a fun matchup of defensive-minded teams. “Press Virginia” will look to turn over the Aztecs in the open floor, and SDSU (which can extend its defense when needed) has one of the stingiest half-court defenses in the country.
  • No. 23 Xavier and USC meet in the other AdvoCare Invitational semifinal (2:30 p.m., ESPNU), with the Trojans looking to build on an early-season start that has surprised some people. But while Bennie Boatwright can be a matchup issue offensively as the four, how he competes with the likes of Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds will have a major impact on this game.
  • Boise State will look to do what no one’s been able to do thus far: keep Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine in check (5:30 p.m., ESPN2). The senior guard posted his second triple-double of the season, and he’s got the undefeated and third-ranked Spartans rolling right now. But keep an eye on Boise State’s James Webb III. While he was quiet in their win over UC Irvine, he went for 27 and nine in a loss at No. 11 Arizona last week.


  • Virginia Tech vs. No. 4 Iowa State, 7:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • Georgia Tech vs. No. 8 Villanova, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Richmond vs. No. 14 California, 8:00 p.m. (FS1)
  • Northeastern at No. 15 Miami, 4:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Iowa, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Alabama vs. No. 20 Wichita State, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Arkansas vs. Stanford, 12:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • UC Irvine vs. Boston College, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Southern Illinois vs. UTEP, 3:30 p.m.
  • FGCU at Florida, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • Winthrop at NC State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Texas vs. Michigan, 7:00 p.m. (AXS)
  • Ohio State vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Long Beach State at Oklahoma State, 8:30 p.m.
  • George Washington vs. Tennessee, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN3)