Jim Valvano

Jimmy V Classic Preview: Four teams with different 2012-13 seasons meet in NYC

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Four teams travel to New York City Tuesday night, having taken different paths to get there and holding different outlooks for their respective 2012-13 seasons:

– No. 25 NC State was dubbed a Final Four contender in the preseason, but two early losses have the Wolfpack as a fringe Top-25 team one month into the season.

– No. 15 Georgetown has been one of the most quickly rising stocks in the country after a strong performance at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, but the Hoyas hope an unimpressive 37-36 win over Tennessee last week is just a fluke.

– Connecticut, under the direction of new head coach Kevin Ollie, is playing with house money after being disqualified from postseason play this season, but is off to a strong start. An early win over Michigan State helped the cause.

– And Texas, without point guard Myck Kabongo as he continues to sort out NCAA eligibility issues, had a disappointing trip to Maui, but enters the Jimmy V Classic on a three-game winning streak.

Check out NBCSports.com’s preview of the Jimmy V Classic below:

Player to Watch: Otto Porter, Georgetown

Georgetown coach John Thompson III has had nothing but praise for Porter since he fully returned from injury in the Legends Classic in mid-November. Porter has been the type of versatile player that the Hoyas need to fill in the gaps in the stat sheet. He is averaging 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He was just 4-of-11 from the field against Tennessee, but look for Texas to key in on him Tuesday night.

Match-up to Watch: Lorenzo Brown vs. Shabazz Napier, NC State vs. Connecticut

Napier weathered the storm of transfers and NCAA issues that plagued the Huskies in the offseason and has responded by having the best season of his career so far in 2012-13. Averaging 18.6 points per game, he’ll have met his match Tuesday night against NC State’s Brown.

Many would argue that Brown is a Top 10 point guard in the country, and for good reason. His scoring and field goal percentage is down from last season, but he continues to distribute the basketball with six assists per game.

Predictions: No. 15 Georgetown over Texas, No. 25 NC State over Connecticut

With Texas still missing Kabongo, it’s difficult to take the Longhorns over a team like Georgetown that is so steadily on the upswing. Yes, Georgetown had an ugly, ugly 37-36 win over Tennessee last week, but Porter, along with Greg Whittington and Markel Starks, should be able to get back to Legends Classic form Tuesday night.

NC State’s two losses this season have come to teams that are currently ranked nationally—Oklahoma State and Michigan. I really like what freshman T.J. Warren has been able to bring to the table (15.3 points per game), especially considering the fact that he was overshadowed in the offseason by talks about fellow freshman Rodney Purvis.

Connecticut is solid, but their lack of rebounding could come to bite them against NC State and inside presences like Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie. Napier and Boatright will have to continue to be the engine behind the Huskies’ attack if they want to get the win.

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

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

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.