Pregame Shootaround 12.1.12: Getting you ready for Saturday’s lineup 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:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published at 12 p.m. ET.

Game of the Day: Baylor vs. No. 8 Kentucky (12:30 p.m. ET)

In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari had never lost two games in the month of November. That changed this season. The Wildcats come into their match-up with Baylor after a double-digit loss to Notre Dame on the road. They now return home to face another team that was upset in its last game, Baylor, who lost to College of Charleston last week.

This game will feature a full ensemble of talented freshman to keep an eye on. For Kentucky, Archie Goodwin needs to bounce back from a cold 1-of-7 shooting performance vs. the Fighting Irish and Alex Poythress needs more shots after just one in 23 minutes in his last outing. Baylor looks to Isaiah Austin, who has been one of the country’s best freshmen so far, averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Creighton against St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton was upset by Boise State on Wednesday and the road gets no easier for them against St. Joe’s. I picked Phil Martelli’s squad as a mid-major that could shake things up in March, and they feature one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway combine to average over 30 points per game and forward Ronald Roberts is averaging a double-double so far this season.

The biggest key for the Hawks, as it is with every team that faces Creighton, is to limit the impact of Doug McDermott. If St. Joe’s center C.J. Aiken is up for the task, we might have an upset brewing in Omaha Saturday afternoon.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Belmont (7:00 p.m. ET)
Virginia Commonwealth showed in the Battle 4 Atlantis that Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense allows them to hang with anyone, but they’ll have their hands full Saturday night against a tough Belmont team. Belmont already has a win over a BCS-conference school, Stanford, and will look to the combination of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson for scoring against the Rams.

If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, perhaps a 16-point, 13-rebound stat line against Duke will force an introduction. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect VCU to deviate from its typical gameplan: turn the opponent over and score points off their mistakes.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) Aaron Craft was just 3-of-15 from the floor in Ohio State’s loss to Duke on Wednesday. He’ll have an easier match-up Saturday against Northern Kentucky, so can he get back on track?

2) In the battle of high-level freshman between Baylor and Kentucky, who will win out? Archie Goodwin struggled against Notre Dame and how will Alex Poythress respond after getting just one shot in that game? Kentucky runs into a tough match-up with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus Pierre Jackson running the show.

3) Freshman Marcus Smart has been the engine behind Oklahoma State’s early-season success. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for the Cowboys. They take on an undefeated Virginia Tech team Saturday.

4) Now that Michael Dixon’s career at Missouri is officially over, how will Frank Haith and the Tigers reshape their team? They’ve been able to play without him and get to 5-1 so far, but does knowing that he is definitively out actually end up bringing some stability to the rotation?

5) UCLA has been one of the most heavily criticized teams in the country so far this season. Center Josh Smith left the program this week and the team responded with a blowout win over Cal State Northridge. They face a stiffer challenge Saturday against No. 23 San Diego State.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 1 Indiana vs. Coppin State (7:30 p.m. ET)

No. 2 Duke vs. Delaware (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 3 Michigan vs. Bradley (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 4 Ohio State vs. Northern Kentucky (4:30 p.m. ET)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Illinois State (1:00 p.m. ET)

No. 8 Kentucky vs. Baylor (12:30 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 9 Arizona vs. Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Creighton vs. St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET) (See Above)

No. 12 Gonzaga vs. Pacific (8:00 p.m. ET)

No. 13 Michigan State vs. Nicholls State (12:00 p.m. ET)

No. 14 North Carolina vs. UAB (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 16 Missouri vs. Appalachian State (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 17 Cincinnati vs. Alabama (3:00 p.m. ET)

No. 19 Colorado vs. Wyoming (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Minnesota vs. North Florida (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 San Diego State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Hawaii (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Indiana State (2:05 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games:

Xavier vs. Purdue (2:15 p.m. ET)

Southern Methodist vs. Hofstra (4:00 p.m. ET)

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET)

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

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Terance Mann scored 18 points and No. 9-seed Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night.

The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

Kansas State on to Elite Eight after beating Kentucky

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The South Region has officially gone bananas.

Ninth-seeded Kansas State defeated No. 5 Kentucky, 61-58, on Thursday to set up a showdown with 11th-seeded Loyola on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Nine vs. 11. Just like we all expected.

Kansas State got a clutch layup from Barry Brown in the last minute, and then held Kentucky without a basket to hold on to the lead and its spot in the Elite Eight.

Kansas State had three players foul out and were without Dean Wade (foot) for the entire second half, but got 22 points from Xavier Sneed and 13 from Brown. KSU shot just 35.5 percent from the field but were aided by 15 Kentucky turnovers.

PJ Washington scored 18 points lead Kentucky.

Sister Jean: “I don’t care that you broke my bracket.”


As Missouri Valley Conference player of the year Clayton Custer came off the floor after Loyola earned its spot in the Elite Eight after beating Nevada, he had to make a quick apology.

He had to tell the Ramblers’ star fan Sister Jean he was sorry. She, of course, had picked Loyola’s Cinderella run to end in the Sweet 16 in her bracket before the start of the tournament.

The apology was quickly accepted.

“I said I don’t care that you broke my bracket,” Sister Jean said. “I’m ready for the next one.

“For a nice little school like ours, we are just so proud of them.”

Michigan rolls past Texas A&M into Elite Eight

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Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 24 points, seven assists and five boards for Michigan. Mo Wagner chipped in with 21 points — 14 of which came in the first 15 minutes of the game — while Zavier Simpson added 11 points, five boards, five assists and five steals. Charles Matthews had 18 points. Duncan Robinson busted out of his slump with 10 points, including a couple of threes and a dunk to boot.

Put another way, the Wolverines were firing on all cylinders.

And that should terrify everyone on the left side of the bracket.

Entering this weekend’s games, Michigan was the best defensive team left in the tournament. They ranked third-nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and that’s not a fluke or a flaw within KenPom’s formula. The Wolverines can absolutely grind teams down defensively. They are so much more athletic on the perimeter than they have been in past seasons, and with Simpson playing as the point man for them on that end of the floor, they’ve simply overmatched everyone that has gotten in their path on that end of the floor.

That’s why they were able to win two games in the first weekend of the tournament despite scoring a total of just 125 points.

At some point, you knew they were going to find a way to be better on the offensive end, and the Aggies were the team they needed to see.

Texas A&M’s strength in their front line. Tyler Davis, Robert Williams, D.J. Hogg. They have so much size along that front line that it can overpower just about anyone this side of Duke. But what those big, burly dudes bring in the paint they lack on the perimeter, and Michigan was able to spread them out and beat them down the floor in transition. It didn’t help matters that the Aggies struggled with the idea of passing the ball to the guys in maroon instead of the guys in yellow during the first half, and the end result was a Michigan team that found their confidence.

At one point, they were 9-for-12 from three. They made 10 of their 14 threes in the first half. The score at one point was 52-23. It was a three-point avalanche of Villanovian proportions.

And here’s the kicker: The Aggies actually did manhandle Michigan inside. Tyler Davis and Robert Williams combined for 36 points on 17-for-25 shooting.

It didn’t matter.

Michigan will advance to face the winner of No. 4-seed Gonzaga and No. 9-seed Florida State tonight, and regardless of who they end up getting in the Elite 8, they will be taking on a team that is much, much, much better suited to matching up with Michigan’s spread attack.

But Michigan has their confidence back.

I don’t expect that we’ll be seeing them shoot 28 percent from three on Saturday.

And that defense?

It’s not going anywhere.

And the Wolverines won’t have to face a team seeded higher than them until the national title game.

This run may not be close to over yet.