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PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: No. 15 Oregon, UNLV take center stage

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 15 Oregon vs. UNLV, 11:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

For the second straight day the college basketball schedule is relatively light, and there’s no denying that the matchup between the Ducks and Runnin’ Rebels is the most intriguing contest. While the game will be played in Las Vegas it will be played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as opposed to the Thomas & Mack Center, which is being used for the National Finals Rodeo.

The Ducks, despite not having Jordan Bell or Dylan Ennis, have played well and have the look of a Pac-12 contender thanks to players such as Dylan Brooks, Elgin Cook, Chris Boucher and Tyler Dorsey. On the other side UNLV has just one loss, and with a Mountain West POY candidate in sophomore guard Patrick McCaw leading the way this group has the the depth and talent needed to get back to the NCAA tournament. This game will provide a nice résumé boost for the winner.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Pittsburgh vs. Duquesne, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

The Panthers will look to rebound from their loss to No. 11 Purdue with a win against the 6-1 Dukes, who are off to their best start since the 2007-08 season. Guards Derrick Colter and Micah Mason are combining to average nearly 37 points per game to lead the way for Jim Ferry’s team, which will need strong efforts on the glass from L.G. Gill and Darius Lewis if the Dukes are to beat Pitt. Pitt has won all five games in the series that have been played at the CONSOL Energy Center, and their rotation led by forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis and point guard James Robinson will be a test. Look for this edition of the “City Game” to be tight one.

SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 2 Maryland returns to action for the first time since their loss at No. 9 North Carolina, hosting Saint Francis (PA) in College Park. If there’s one player the Terrapins would like to get going its senior forward Jake Layman, who struggled in Chapel Hill. He’s still adjusting from being a mismatch at the four as he was last season to spending most of his time at the three, but he’s talented enough to make the transition.

2. The celebrations put forth by the Monmouth bench have been great, but don’t ignore the fact that King Rice’s Hawks are a pretty good team. Monmouth opens MAAC play with a game at Canisius, and a deep team led by point guard Justin Robinson will need to be at its best against the Golden Griffins. Jim Baron’s team has lost two straight, but they have five players scoring in double figures led by high-scoring guard Malcolm McMillan (23.6 ppg). The western New York swing can be a tough one in MAAC play, so Monmouth’s focus will be key.

3. Wake Forest hosts Arkansas in a matchup of teams hoping to work their way into the conversation in their respective conferences. The Demon Deacons managed to finish third at the Maui Invitational, and they’re off to a 5-2 start despite not having injured guard Codi Miller-McIntyre. Freshman Bryant Crawford has played well in Miller-McIntyre’s absence, and forwards Dinos Mitoglou and Devin Thomas can be a tough matchup in the front court. Arkansas had a lot to replace from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and while they’re still turning teams over the half-court defense has been a struggle.

4. Two of the best players whose highlights don’t garner major attention amongst casual fans will be on the same court in New York City, as DeAndre Bembry leads Saint Joseph’s up against Maodo Lo and Columbia. But this won’t be a one-on-one kind of game, with the Hawks boasting an improved Isaiah Miles (who is leading the team in scoring) and Columbia having three other players averaging double figures led by guard Alex Rosenberg.

5. Northern Illinois hasn’t played the most rigorous of schedules to this point, but they’ll put their 7-0 record on the line at Missouri. Mark Montgomery’s team has been successful thanks in part to their offensive balance, with five players averaging at least eight points per game (Aaric Armstead leads at 13.0 ppg) and forward Marin Maric (10.6, 7.9 rpg) having posted double-doubles in each of the last two games. That balance will be key on the road against a Missouri team led by freshman Kevin Puryear.

6. After managing to hold off UT-Arlington in overtime earlier this week Texas hosts 6-2 Samford. Scott Padgett’s team opened the season with a loss at No. 24 Louisville but have won six of their last seven with the lone defeat being by just one point at Austin Peay. Texas hasn’t been all that good on the defensive glass, as opponents have grabbed more than 42 percent of their misses, and it’s an area Shaka Smart’s team needs to address. Samford’s ranked 301st in adjusted offensive efficiency, which should benefit Isaiah Taylor and company.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Iona at Marist, 7:00 p.m.
  • Manhattan at Siena, 7:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Georgia, 7:00 p.m.
  • San Francisco at Montana, 9:00 p.m.
  • UC Davis at Saint Mary’s, 10:00 p.m.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.