Mike Montgomery

Pregame Shootaround 12.2.12: Getting you ready for Sunday’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 half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: Valparaiso vs. Saint Louis (4:30 p.m. ET)

This game won’t be about what happens on the court, but rather the circumstances surrounding the game itself. Former coach Rick Majerus passed away Saturday and the Billikens will have less than 24 hours before taking the floor against Valparaiso. Expect an emotional pregame and words from players and coaches postgame about their desire to play in Majerus’ memory after his passing.

The fact that the game takes place in St. Louis is likely another factor that could make for an especially emotional night Sunday.

Who’s getting upset?: California against Wisconsin (4:00 p.m. ET)

Considering that Cal has to visit the Kohl Center, this might not actually be an upset, were it to happen. But, with the Badgers at 4-3 and Cal at a perfect 6-0, this might be the only legitimate upset call we can make on a dry Sunday. Cal’s scoring is concentrated at the top with Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs (both averagin 20+ points per game), while Wisconsin has four players averaging in double figures.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Wichita State vs. Air Force (5:00 p.m. ET)

Wichita State showed that they are a legitimate threat when they beat Virginia Commonwealth earlier this season. They sit at 7-0, but face an Air Force team, led by Michael Lyons, that is 6-1. The frontcourt of Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall will provide a good chunk of the scoring for the Shockers, but keep an eye on what Lyons can do. The senior is averaging just over 20 points per game.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) It’s a slow day in college hoops, likely because many will have an eye on NFL football, but the few games above and below should be able to hold you over until Monday.

2) The Battle for South Carolina is the game today with the most significance, as Clemson takes on South Carolina. Clemson is coming off a loss to Purdue, while South Carolina dropped its last game to St. John’s.

3) Florida State was a borderline Top 25 team coming into the season, with help from guard Michael Snaer, but the Seminoles now sit at 4-2 after a loss to a tough Minnesota team. They’ll look to bounce back against Mercer.

4) Mike Montgomery has the Cal Bears off to a 6-0 start, but walking into the Kohl Center is no easy task. Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers will be waiting.

5) Boise State surprised many by beating No. 11 Creighton this week, and they’ll look to keep the momentum rolling against Seattle.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No Top 25 Games

Other Notable Games:

Clemson vs. South Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET)

George Mason vs. Maryland (2:30 p.m. ET)

California vs. Wisconsin (4:00 p.m. ET)

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

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.