Pregame Shootaround 12.21.12: BYU visits Baylor and Stanford looks to rebound

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: BYU at Baylor (9 PM) 
After watching the Bears walk out of the Marriott Center with an 86-83 victory last season, BYU looks to return the favor in the best matchup of the day. The Cougars have won three straight since getting whipped by 21 at Iowa State. Since that loss Dave Rose’s club has held their opponent below 40% shooting in two of three games, but repeating that feat will be tougher against Pierre Jackson and company.

If BYU is to win they’re going to need a big night from Matt Carlino, who has to remain under control. And the battle in the paint featuring BYU’s Brandon Davies and Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin will be entertaining to say the least. With both teams rebounding at least 32% of their missed shots, the team that controls its defensive glass will win.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Maryland (vs. Stony Brook; 8 PM) 
The Terrapins have taken full advantage of their schedule (as good teams tend to do), winning nine straight after losing the season opener to Kentucky. But the Seawolves pose an interesting challenge despite not having a player in their rotation taller than 6-9 Anthony Mayo. Guards Anthony Jackson, Jameel Warney and David Coley lead the way offensively for Steve Pikiell’s squad, and in forward Tommy Brenton the Seawolves have one of the most versatile players in America East. If Stony Brook can harass Alex Len and Dez Wells into off nights they’ve got a puncher’s chance. But given the talent of those two, that’s far easier said than done.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Montana at Sacramento State (10:05 PM)
Both teams enter tonight’s game 1-0 in Big Sky play, with the Grizzlies’ Will Cherry playing his third game of the year after returning from a broken foot. After playing 13 minutes in a loss to South Dakota State, Cherry played 35 (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) in Montana’s 62-56 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday night. And it will be interesting to see how Cherry responds to playing two games (both on the road) in three days. But he will have help from Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward, and they’ll need to perform well against a Sacramento State team that has four players averaging double figures. Forward John Dickson leads the way and point guard Dylan Garrity is a solid on-court leader.

Five Things to Watch

1) Given UConn’s rebounding issues tonight’s contest against Fordham could be one to keep an eye on, especially with the Rams now having the services of All-Atlantic 10 forward Chris Gaston. The Huskies are being out-rebounded by nearly six rebounds per game, and opponents are rebounding 38.3% of their missed shots (worst in the Big East).

2) Just one undefeated team is in action tonight, as 11-0 Wyoming hosts UCSB in Laramie. The individual matchup between UCSB’s Alan Williams and Wyoming’s Leonard Washington will be fun.

3) Stanford looks to rebound from their loss at No. 25 NC State with another road game, this time taking on Northwestern in Evanston. While the loss in Raleigh was an opportunity the Cardinal failed to grasp, tonight’s game is one that neither Stanford (nor the Pac-12) can afford to lose from an NCAA tournament resume standpoint.

4) Already having beaten Ole Miss this season, Kermit Davis’ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will look to pick up another win over an SEC opponent as they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville. Middle Tennessee has been one of the nation’s best when it comes to defending the three, as opponents are shooting just 27.7% from beyond the arc. Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller will need to be on their game for Vandy if the Commodores are to win.

5) No. 22 Notre Dame should be able to take care of Niagara in South Bend, but they’d better be careful with Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason. Green, MAAC Rookie of the Year last season, and Mason are averaging a combined 35.1 points per game with Mason’s 19.2 average currently ranking third (behind Iona’s Lamont Jones and Sean Armand) the MAAC.

The Top 25 

FIU at No. 6 Indiana (7 PM)

Niagara at No. 22 Notre Dame (7 PM)

Other Notable Games

Fordham at Connecticut (7 PM)

Stanford at Northwestern (9 PM)

Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee (in Nashville; 9 PM)

SMU vs. Wagner (Cable Car Classic; 9 PM)

Cal State Northridge at Utah (10:30 PM)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Osun Osunniyi picks St. Bonaventure over Syracuse, Georgetown

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St. Bonaventure has made something of a late splash on the recruiting trail.

Osun Osunniyi, a 6-foot-10 from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, signed with the Bonnies, the school announced Monday.

It’s a bit of a recruiting coup for coach Mark Schmidt, who won the services of Osunniyi over offers from Syracuse and Georgetown, both of whom hosted the prospect on official visits this spring.

“Osun oozes with potential. His ceiling is extremely high. He has so much God-given ability,” Schmidt said in a statement. “And, he’s a great kid, a character kid who is level-headed. He has a great wingspan, he runs well, he has a natural talent for blocking shots and is a very good rebounder. He can score around the basket.

“Osun wants to get better, like all of our players. We saw how he developed at Putnam, which is a credit to coach Espinosa and the staff there. He’s come a long way to become a kid who was highly recruited. We’re thrilled to have him come to St. Bonaventure.”

Osunniyi, who previously committed to La Salle before taking a prep year, becomes the fourth member of the Bonnies’ 2018 freshman class. He averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game while Putnam won a national prep championship.

The Bonnies made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed last year after going 26-8.

Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.