Pregame Shootaround 1.19.13: Louisville-Syracuse highlights loaded Saturday slate

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

It all begins at the point guard spot for these two teams. Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams both change the complexions of their team’s respective offense when they are on the floor. Siva is the backcourt complement to the emerging Russ Smith and the senior leader the Cardinals need, while Carter-Williams is one of the best facilitators in the country and a force with his passing skills with his long 6-6 frame.

Syracuse will be hurt by the absence of forward James Southerland, who is academically ineligible. As one of the team’s best three-point shooters, the Orange become more limited on the perimeter without him. Louisville will likely force Carter-Williams to score the basketball, as Temple did in its upset victory over the Orange earlier this season. This will set up Louisville center Gorgui Dieng on the interior, one of the better shot-blockers in the country.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 7 Arizona (-6.5) against Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Freshman point guard Jahii Carson has reinvigorated the Arizona State offense this season and he’ll be matched up in the backcourt with the transfer who has been one of the senior leaders on an otherwise young Arizona team, Mark Lyons. Lyons will lead the young Wildcats on the road to a place where composure will be key. Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski is one of the best shot-blockers in the conference and the country, averaging 4.5 blocks per game, and he will test the young Arizona frontcourt of Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Brandon Ashley.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

This might not be a “mid-major” matchup in the purest sense, but UNLV-Colorado State is without a doubt the non-BCS matchup of the day. The Mountain West is shaping up to be one of the toughest conferences in the country and the pairings on the interior in this one show why. UNLV’s Anthony Bennett has been one of the most impressive freshman all season, while transfer Khem Birch came in mid-season for the Rebels and has added depth and bulk in the paint. Add those two to already established forward Mike Moser, and the Rebels have one of the best front lines in the conference.

But Colorado State will look to counter that Saturday with some size of their own. Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson combine to average over 19 rebounds per game and will look to give the Rams second-chance opportunities off offensive rebounds. If Colorado State can force UNLV into bad shots, as the Rebels have a tendency to do, they’ll be in a good spot for a solid conference win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Gonzaga travels to Butler for perhaps the best non-conference matchup of Saturday’s loaded slate. The Bulldogs will miss having Rotnei Clarke in the lineup, but big man Andrew Smith will have to do all he can to limit the Zags’ versatile seven-footer Kelly Olynyk.

2) With Kentucky continuing to gather itself, it looks more and more like the SEC will come down to two teams who play Saturday, Florida and Missouri. Florida will need to battle the nation’s No. 1 rebounding team to keep it close on the backboards, but the matchup in the backcourt may be most interesting–Phil Pressey vs. Kenny Boynton. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they will be missing one of Pressey’s favorite targets, Laurence Bowers.

3) Ohio State took down the No. 2 team in the country on Sunday, but it showed one clear weakness. Deshaun Thomas is the Buckeyes’ only go-to scorer in crunch time. This team is built around defense and Ohio State needs to thrive by playing to its strength. They face Michigan State.

4) UCLA has won 10 straight games since falling to San Diego State on Dec. 1. They face an Oregon team that proved its worth with a win over then-undefeated Arizona earlier in the season.

5) Just two weeks ago, Wyoming stood as one of the nation’s undefeated teams. Now they’ve suffered losses to Fresno State and Boise State and are without the services of leading scorer Luke Martinez after his involvement in a bar fight. They face no easy task Saturday against No. 16 San Diego State.

The Top 25

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Texas (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 7 Arizona vs. Arizona State (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Butler (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 10 Florida vs. No. 17 Missouri (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 18 Michigan State (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Creighton vs. Wichita State (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 15  San Diego State vs. Wyoming (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 20 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 Oregon vs. No. 24 UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth vs. Duquesne (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Marquette vs. Cincinnati (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Other Notable Games

Maryland vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Harvard vs. Memphis (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

West Virginia vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Columbia vs. Cornell (3:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Florida State vs. Virginia (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Boise State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

California vs. Stanford (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

George Mason vs. Hofstra (5:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgetown vs. South Florida (6:00 p.m. ET,  ESPN3)

Texas A&M vs. Alabama (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

UNLV vs. Colorado State (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Kentucky vs. Auburn (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Mary’s vs. Portland (10:30 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Arizona State will have more size, lineup options this season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State was one of college basketball’s biggest surprises during the 2017-18 season, rising to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.

The Sun Devils’ run came a year ahead of their coach’s schedule.

“I looked at it like this was going to be the year,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said Wednesday. “Maybe before last season, I had a pretty good suspicion we would exceed expectations of what people thought, but really deep down this was the year with having the size in the front court and having a high-level recruiting class.”

Led by senior guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice, Arizona State knocked off Kansas and Xavier while putting together the first undefeated non-conference schedule in school history. The Sun Devils had a little more trouble when the Pac-12 season started, but their resume was good enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Syracuse in the first round.

The senior trio is gone to graduation, but there’s plenty left in the cupboard at Arizona State.

Dynamic point guard Remy Martin is back after a stellar freshman season, ready to take the reins of Arizona State’s offense. The big men who complemented the senior guards also return, led by Romello White and De’Quon Lake. The Sun Devils also will have forwards Mickey Mitchell and Kimani Lawrence for the entire season.

Arizona State should get a big boost from transfers Zylan Cheatham (San Diego State) and Rob Edwards (Cleveland State), who know Hurley’s system after practicing with the team while sitting out last season.

Add to it a stellar recruiting class by Hurley, led by five-star forward Taeshon Cherry, and the Sun Devils should be in position for the program’s first consecutive NCAA Tournaments since 1978-80.

“We lose three guys that were critical to what we did, very key players to what we’re building, but we’re replacing them with six guys that are very capable,” Hurley said. “Last year we were under the radar, especially initially … but the secret’s out. We have good players, we had a great season last year and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to do it again.”

Out of necessity, Hurley played a guard-oriented style his first few years in Tempe, often with four guards on the court at the same time. It worked when Holder, Evans and Justice were making shots, but a lack of size inside limited what the Sun Devils could do and led to matchup problems.

The additions of White and Lake last season helped even things up for Arizona State inside, but there were still size issues once the Pac-12 season started.

Next season’s roster will give Hurley more lineup options.

The Sun Devils will be bigger, not just inside, but at the guard spots. Martin is 6-foot, but Edwards and Canadian freshman Luguentz Dort are 6-4, and Finnish freshman Elias Valtonen is 6-6. And Uros Plavsic, an active 7-footer from Serbia, gives Arizona State the type of inside presence it hasn’t had in years.

“The way our roster is constructed and built this year, we’re going to be bigger even at the guard positions,” Hurley said. “We have real good size at the wing positions. We’re just going have more options, more depth.”

With that size may come a change in the way the Sun Devils play.

Holder, Evans, Justice and Martin played a high-energy, sharpshooting game, so Hurley tailored the offense to their skills. Arizona State took 41 percent of its shots from 3-point range, making 36 percent.

Now that the Sun Devils have size inside, Hurley may go to more of an inside-out offense rather than the other way around.

“This year’s roster gives me a ton of options to play a lot of different ways,” Hurley said. “I could see scenarios where there’s five guys 6-7 or bigger, which I’ve never had.”

The Sun Devils will have a new look, but appear to be ready to take another step in Hurley’s rebuilding project.

Former UConn assistant levies serious accusations at Kevin Ollie

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On Thursday, after a Freedom Of Information Act request filed by local newspapers, UConn released more than 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the investigation that led to the decision to fire of Kevin Ollie.

In those documents were the fairly innocuous NCAA violations that were allegedly committed by Ollie that UConn used as “just cause” for firing him and digging themselves out of the $10 million that he was owed on that contract.

But that is just the beginning of where this thing gets interesting, because there are more accusations levied at Ollie than what UConn was able to confirm.

Let’s start with this one: Former assistant coach Glen Miller said that Ollie paid $30,000 to the mother of a recruit to allow her to afford an apartment and move to Connecticut to be closer to her son. He didn’t have any first-hand information — his wife had befriended the mother of the player and opened up about it while they were on a road trip together — but that’s not the only bomb that Miller tried to drop. He also alleged that Ollie fired his former agent because he wouldn’t help him to recruit, which Miller implies is the agent paying players to go to UConn.

Again, none of these allegations are corroborated. This is Miller, a long-time UConn assistant that was fired — and is clearly still bitter about it — passing along things that he had heard second-hand. One story was from his wife, the other was from one of the most powerful agents in the business. There’s no proof those conversations actually happened, let alone that what was discussed is actually true.

But this is a good example of just how ugly this thing has a chance to get.

There is $10 million on the line for a school and a state that is not exactly overflowing in cash, but is there a larger cost that could be associated with this decision? Could fighting to save that $10 million eventually turn up major violations within the UConn program?

As it stands, Ollie has not technically been fired by UConn yet. He is only suspended with pay as of now. The process to fire him included a hearing with athletic director David Benedict in April and a hearing with school president Susan Herbst last month. Both Benedict and, as of yesterday, Herbst supported the decision to fire Ollie with cause, meaning that he will now be forced to face arbitration. If that ruling goes against him, he will have the option to take UConn to court, which, it seems, he will be willing to do.

Which is where the headache for UConn comes into play.

Do they really want to have a case that has already had these accusations come to light get discussed in a court of law? If this is what a FOIA turns up, what happens during depositions? For a program that has already dealt with their share of NCAA scandals — which, mind you, did not get Jim Calhoun fired — is it really worth the money to risk having even more turn up?

The worst kept secret in college basketball is that UConn is grasping at straws with this decision. They want anything they can find that will allow them to get out from underneath what, in hindsight, was a terrible contract.

And in the end, that could cost them more than just money.

Report: Alleged NCAA violations against former UConn coach Kevin Ollie revealed

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie allegedly committed multiple NCAA violations that led to his dismissal last spring, according to a report released Wednesday by the Hartford Courant.

Ollie was dismissed from the position after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign as he’s been in a battle with the school over the remaining $10 million on his contract. Since Ollie was fired for just cause, the school is trying to withhold that remaining money as the case will proceed to arbitration. UConn president Susan Herbst upheld the school’s decision to terminate Ollie for just cause on Tuesday as he is still, technically, suspended without pay.

According to documents obtained by The Courant under a Freedom of Information Act request, Ollie and his staff committed multiple violations, including an impermissible phone call between Huskies legend Ray Allen and a recruit. Multiple UConn players were also sent to work with an outside trainer on campus, and later, in Atlanta. Another violation occurred when Ollie shot baskets with recruit James Akinjo during an official visit as the video was posted by Akinjo’s guardian on Twitter. The video was later deleted.

Among the 1,355 pages of documents that The Courant obtained, it includes the NCAA’s transcripts from their investigation as well as UConn’s case to terminate Ollie as head coach.

Perhaps the worst violation includes the alleged involvement of the trainer, as Ollie allegedly had a friendship with Derrek Hamilton. During the 2015-16 season, Hamilton allegedly worked out UConn players after hours during on-campus workouts as well as off-campus workouts. Three players also allegedly traveled to Atlanta to train with Hamilton as the players were fed, transported and housed for free — all of which are NCAA violations.

The NCAA has yet to proceed with any action against UConn as 900 pages of the report were based on the NCAA’s interviews and findings. Former UConn coach Glen Miller was also granted immunity in exchange for his testimony to the NCAA regarding the violations.

These alleged violations are a new step in the Ollie case, as the case does not look great for him to receive the remaining $10 million on the contract. Ollie and UConn still have to go through arbitration, but the release of these documents, and alleged violations, is very hurtful to Ollie’s case.

Harvard captain Chris Egi opts for Wall Street instead of pro basketball dreams

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Harvard forward and team captain Chris Egi is opting to skip potential professional basketball options in order to pursue a career on Wall Street.

In a great profile from Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada, the 6-foot-9 Egi will become an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs after his four-year career with the Crimson ended after this season.

At one point considered a top-100 prospect in his high school Class of 2014, Egi never found consistent footing on the Harvard basketball team as he played sparingly over the course of his four seasons. Injuries and a competitive roster forced Egi to re-evaluate his basketball ambitions as a concussion forced him to miss a lot of his senior season.

“I kind of made an agreement with myself that I’d put it all in for a final shot senior year. But chances were it wasn’t going to be basketball for me unless something great happened,” Egi said in the story.

“[Playing professionally] would be a great experience and part of me wants to do it. But part of me feels like this isn’t the path for me and there are a lot of opportunities here that aren’t about playing basketball and I want to take advantage of those and get started on this new journey.”

While Egi never got stable playing time with Harvard, he could have been an intriguing professional player thanks to his run-and-jump athleticism. Since Egi is also Canadian, he would not have fit under some international league policies that limit the number of American players on certain rosters. If healthy, Egi could have eventually morphed into a serviceable pro after a disappointing college basketball career.

In the classroom at Harvard, however, things were hardly disappointing for Egi. In fact, it appears he might have made the correct decision by going the Wall Street route. Selected to give a commencement speech at Harvard’s underclass graduation late in May, Egi shined as he told his family’s story and personal experiences at the Ivy League school he always dreamed of attending.

As Michael Porter Jr. joins Puma, will brand make splash into college basketball?

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As the 2018 NBA Draft approaches, Puma has made major headlines by signing a handful of lottery picks — including the potential top two picks in Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley.

Puma’s aggressive move to get back into basketball continued on Wednesday afternoon as ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. — another likely top-10 pick — will sign a multi-year deal with the apparel company.

Dormant in the basketball business since Vince Carter signed with the brand as a rookie in 1998, Puma has become one of the intriguing subplots of this year’s draft as they attempt to position themselves in a crowded basketball apparel market that includes heavyweights like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

But while Puma has made a splash by signing three potential top ten picks, and another potential lottery pick in Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith, the intriguing question becomes what the brand might do at the college and grassroots levels of basketball?

Besides targeting 2018 NBA draft picks, Puma has recently made a strong push as a lifestyle brand by forging partnerships with music icons like Jay-Z and Rihanna. The brand’s soccer division also received a boost when they opted to sign Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku to a roster that already included the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The company also has a longstanding partnership with 11-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.

So, even outside of professional basketball, Puma is trying to make major moves, while spending major money, over the last several months.

Having star NBA talents signed to apparel deals is one thing. Those same companies often attempt to align with as many college programs and high school programs as possible. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have also formed their own spring and summer grassroots basketball leagues over the last decade with the EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet and the Under Armour Association.

While Puma is undoubtedly spending enough to be seen by the masses, it’s hard to say if they have the monetary means, or the labor, to make a major push into smaller basketball levels like college and the AAU scene. Multiple basketball and apparel sources speculated to NBCSports.com that Puma’s sudden rise into the NBA doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to make the leap into college or high school basketball.

That’s been the natural progression of the other apparel companies who have made a major mark in basketball, as those brands value the long-term relationships and local credibility that comes with having top-notch college and high school players wearing their product.

Maybe Puma doesn’t see things that way as they try to align themselves with star professional players. And for all of the talk of Nike having long-term relationships with Ayton, Bagley and Porter, all three of them jumped at the chance to make the most money with the new(ish) kids on the block. Money will still be the ultimate factor in a lot of athletes signing with apparel companies.

If Puma does decide to enter the college athletics arms race, it would certainly make for a fascinating apparel company to enter the mix. Since Puma has credibility in sports like golf, tennis, soccer and track and field they could also make a splash signing larger schools to long-term apparel deals that go across all sports.

But it remains to be seen what Puma’s long-term goal is after signing four strong draft prospects. Puma is off to a great start re-entering basketball, but we have no idea what kind of end-goal they have in mind. Or if that even involves college basketball.