Atlantic 10 releases schedule, Dayton to visit VCU on February 28

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The Atlantic 10, which had six teams reach the NCAA tournament last season, released its full schedule on Wednesday and there are a number of quality games on the slate. Dayton, which reached the Elite Eight last year, and VCU are expected to be two of the teams battling it out for conference supremacy in 2014-15 and they’re scheduled to meet just once.

That game will be played on February 28 in Richmond, and the contest should have a major impact on the Atlantic 10 race. Conference play tips off with six games on Saturday, January 3 with three of those contests scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Among those games is Davidson’s inaugural game as an Atlantic 10 member, with Bob McKillop’s Wildcats hosting Dayton. The other games to be played on that day are Dayton hosting Duquesne and Rhode Island visiting reigning regular season champion Saint Louis.

Some other conference games that will be interesting to watch are:

– VCU at Rhode Island, January 13: URI’s received some attention this offseason, with the expectation being that Dan Hurley’s team will take a step forward in 2014-15. We’ll learn some things about E.C. Matthews and company when VCU visits the Ryan Center.

– Dayton at Massachusetts, January 29: The Minutemen lost Chaz Williams but they return some key pieces from last season, and West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds is now eligible to play. The combination of their style of play and Dayton’s depth should make for a good contest in Amherst.

– VCU at George Washington, February 14: There are some good college basketball matchups scheduled for Valentine’s Day and this is one of them. Mike Lonergan’s building a good program at George Washington, and the Colonials should be among the contenders in the Atlantic 10 this season.

– Saint Louis at Duquesne, February 25: The Billikens will have to replace a very successful senior class, a group that included Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans Jr. Can Jim Crews keep the momentum going? That’s one of the big questions hovering over the A-10 this offseason. This game will include a Duquesne team led by guards Micah Mason and Derrick Colter.

– La Salle at Saint Joseph’s, March 4: Both teams took some key personnel hits at the end of last season, but it doesn’t get much better than a battle between Big 5 rivals (not sure which of their two meetings will count in the Big 5 standings). And by this point in the season, Saint Joseph’s sophomore DeAndre Bembry could be regarded as one of the best players in the conference.

The NBC Sports Network Atlantic 10 schedule (conference games):

January 3: Duquesne at Dayton, 1:00 p.m.
January 3: Rhode Island at Saint Louis, 3:00 p.m.
January 3: Richmond at Davidson, 5:00 p.m.

January 8: George Mason at Richmond, 7:00 p.m.

January 10: George Washington at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

January 17: Saint Louis at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
January 17: Rhode Island at Massachusetts, 2:30 p.m.
January 17: George Mason at George Washington, 4:30 p.m.

January 18: Saint Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure, 2:30 p.m.

January 22: George Washington at Fordham, 7:00 p.m.

January 31: Davidson at Saint Joseph’s, 12:30 p.m.

February 5: Richmond at La Salle, 6:30 p.m.

February 7: VCU at St. Bonaventure, 2:00 p.m.
February 7: Saint Louis at Fordham, 4:00 p.m.

February 8: Rhode Island at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.

February 14: St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.

February 15: Saint Joseph’s at Fordham, 2:30 p.m.

February 21: Dayton at Duquesne, 2:00 p.m.

February 22: La Salle at Saint Louis, 2:30 p.m.

February 28: Rhode Island at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

March 7: Massachusetts at George Washington, 3:30 p.m.
March 7: George Mason at VCU, 5:30 p.m.

NBC Sports Network will also air the second round and quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, which runs from March 11-15 and will once again be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.