John Groce

Villanova will now play Illinois in December’s Jimmy V Classic

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Just over a month after it was announced that Indiana/Louisville and Maryland/Villanova would be the match ups in next season’s Jimmy V Classic, there’s been a scheduling change.

While the matchup between the Hoosiers and Cardinals remains as is, Villanova will now play Illinois in the event on Tuesday, December 9 according to the Champaign News-Gazette. Maryland will play in the 2016 edition of the event. Interestingly enough the last time Illinois played at Madison Square Garden was in 2010, as they beat Maryland in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

Illinois finished the 2013-14 season with a 20-15 record, falling to Clemson in the second round of the Postseason NIT. John Groce’s Fighting Illini return their top two scorers from that team in guards Rayvonte Rice (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Tracy Abrams (10.7, 3.5, 3.2), but they’ll be inexperienced in the front court with Nnanna Egwu being the most experienced returnee.

Villanova returns four of its top five scorers from a team that finished the 2013-14 season with a 29-5 record and won the Big East regular season title. Jay Wright’s Wildcats were eliminated from the NCAA tournament by eventual national champion UConn in the Round of 32.

h/t VU Hoops

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.