Doug McDermott

Pregame Shootaround 12.6.12: Nebraska looks to make a statement

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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: No. 16 Creighton at Nebraska (8 PM) 

Thursday’s schedule may be light, but that allows for even more attention to be given to this battle in Lincoln. Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers are 6-1 on the season (5-0 at home) and coming off of a solid win over USC on Monday, but the Bluejays are an entirely different animal. Greg McDermott’s team has little trouble scoring points, which means that Nebraska will have to be even better defensively tonight than they were on Monday.

The home team has won the last seven meetings in the series, with Creighton’s 50-48 win in 2004 being the last time the visitor came out on top. With Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique leading the way inside the Bluejays will be a tough matchup for burly Nebraska center Andre Almeida, and guards such as Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley will need to be at their best if the Huskers are to win.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (7 PM) 

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats had better not overlook the Trojans, who arrive at Fifth-Third Arena with a 7-3 record (2-0 Sun Belt). Steve Shields’ Trojans allowed 57.0 points per game in wins over Troy and ULM to begin Sun Belt play 2-0, and they’ve been one of the league’s best defensive teams in regards to both scoring and field goal percentage defense. Will Neighbour (12.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg), a preseason All-Sun Belt selection, leads the way offensively for UALR. The Trojans will have their hands full with Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and the rest of the Bearcats, but if they can make this a half-court game UALR has a puncher’s chance.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UCSB at No. 17 San Diego State (10 PM)

No San Diego State is not a mid-major, but with tonight’s slate why not show UCSB forward Alan Williams some love. Williams is averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Gauchos, who are 3-4 on the season (replacing Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally). If Williams can give SDSU fits in the paint (DeShawn Stephens will be a key figure for them) the Aztecs will be in for a battle. This game will also feature two solid freshman wings in San Diego State’s Winston Shepard and UCSB’s Taran Brown.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) Freshman Kris Dunn won’t make his debut for Providence just yet but there is a chance that Bryce Cotton will be able to play as the Friars take on rival Rhode Island. Two depleted teams led by coaches many feel are capable of turning around the fortunes of these Ocean State programs.

2) Michael Carter-Williams was outstanding in Syracuse’s 84-48 blowout of Eastern Michigan, tallying 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. What can he do for an encore? Long Beach State’s Mike Caffey will offer up a challenge tonight.

3) Xavier looks to move to 7-1 on the season with a young Vanderbilt squad visiting the Cintas Center. Freshman Semaj Christon has been one of the best freshmen in the country to this point in the season, and the Musketeers have shown themselves to be better than expected in the aftermath of their many personnel issues.

4) One of the most underrated guards in the nation will be in action as Tennessee Tech hosts Green Bay. That player: Tennessee Tech senior Jud Dillard, who leads the Golden Eagles in scoring (20.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) and is second on the team in assists (2.9 apg). While Isaiah Canaan and Kerron Johnson get the majority of the attention, Dillard will be a factor in the OVC Player of the Year race.

5) Cal State Fullerton looks to rebound from their tough loss at Washington on Sunday night when they host Cal State Bakersfield. With D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn leading the way the Titans certainly are capable of doing so, but they’ve lost the last three games in the series (including two last season).

The Rest of the Top 25: 

Long Beach State at No. 4 Syracuse (8 PM)

Other Notable Games:

Rhode Island at Providence (7 PM)

Vanderbilt at Xavier (7:30 PM)

Green Bay at Tennessee Tech (8:30 PM)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.