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Pregame Shootaround 11.28.12: Getting you ready for Wednesday night’s slate of games

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and 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:

Game of the Night: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Duke

Duke was impressive in the Battle 4 Atlantis and is certainly deserving of the No. 2 seed nationally. If it weren’t for the impressive performance by Indiana last night against North Carolina, one could even have made the case that they’re No. 1. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry are key tonight, as is the Quinn Cook-Aaron Craft match-up at the point guard spot.

Deshaun Thomas has put up some gaudy numbers so far this season, but we’ll see what he’s able to do against Duke. In the Buckeyes’ closest contest this season, a double-digit win over Washington, Ohio State turned the ball over 17 times. They’ll need to make sure to limit turnovers as they have in other games to put themselves in the best position Wednesday night.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 24 UNLV against UC-Irvine

It’s a combination of factors in this game that could make for an upset for UCI. Firstly, Irvine nearly beat then-ranked UCLA in regulation, but a few key missed free throws pushed the game into overtime, where the Bruins ultimately prevailed. Secondly, UNLV showed in its loss to Oregon and its near-loss in an exhibition to Dixie State that the supremely talented youth it features can sometimes be its downfall. We could have a competitive game in Vegas tonight.

Mid-Major Match-up of the Night: Tulsa vs. Wichita State

Wichita State is undefeated and showed its toughness in an early-season with over Virginia Commonwealth this month. The Shockers also have two wins over BCS-conference schools–DePaul and Iowa. The Shockers are favored in this one, but I’m interested to see Danny Manning’s team as he continues his first year as the head coach of the Golden Hurricane.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) The Aaron Craft-Quinn Cook match-up at point guard will be important for the winner of Duke-Ohio State. Read some more about it in CBT’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge preview. Click here.

2) Doug McDermott has been who we expected him to be this season (21 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) but they face a pesky Boise State team Wednesday that came within four points of beating Michigan State. Boise does not rebound the ball particularly well, so it is McDermott’s time to take over.

3) West Virginia is off to a disappointing 1-3. They face high-scoring VMI Wednesday night. We’ll see what adjustments Bob Huggins has made to make sure his team doesn’t start out 1-4 in their first season as members of the Big 12.

4) Penn State lost star guard Tim Frazier for the season after he tore his Achilles tendon against Akron. In their first game without him, they narrowly defeated Bucknell. Tonight they have a shot at Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

5) With UCLA quickly fading into the background, Arizona is looking stronger and stronger in the Pac-12. Sean Miller’s team is 3-0, having won its last two games in dominating fashion. Expect another big-time performance tonight against Northern Arizona.

The Rest of the Top 25:

Northern Arizona at No. 9 Arizona

Boise State at No. 11 Creighton

No. 13 Michigan State at Miami

Georgia Tech at No. 22 Illinois

Mercer at No. 25 New Mexico

Other notable games:

Virginia at Wisconsin

VMI at West Virginia

Purdue at Clemson

Boston College at Penn State

Cal State Northridge at UCLA

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

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.