Cashmere Wright

Pregame Shootaround 12.19.12: Twelve Top 25 teams in action Wednesday night

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will 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. 11 Cincinnati  vs. Xavier

The Crosstown Classic is back this year after last year’s match-up was scarred by an ugly brawl that erupted in the game’s final seconds. NBCSports.com took a look at that earlier today, but both teams are looking to turn the page from last season’s blemish. The tables have turned in the poll since last season, too, with No. 11 Cincinnati facing the unranked Musketeers. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright will be important for the Bearcats. Keep an eye on freshman Semaj Christon for XU.

Despite not having one singular, dominant rebounder, the Bearcats rank No. 1 in the country in rebounding. That helps them toward averaging the sixth-most points per game in the country.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Temple against Canisius

With Billy Baron putting up a lot of points, the Golden Griffins have been an upstart in the MAAC this season. They score a lot of points as a team, too, and their weakness, rebounding, isn’t exactly Temple’s strength. I don’t know who I’d take in an actual fight between an Owl and a Golden Griffin, but I’m taking Canisius in this one.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: South Dakota State vs. Belmont

This isn’t the first time Belmont has been a part of the Mid-Major Matchup of the Day, and it likely won’t be the last. But the Kerron Johnson-Nate Wolters pairing Wednesday night is too good to pass up. Wolters has become something of a folk hero since the later part of last season, while Johnson still remains under the radar to many.

Both teams rank in the Top 75 in scoring nationally, so look for a lot of points Wednesday night.

Five Things to Watch

1. The Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry features contrasting backcourts. One, Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, is older and experienced, where Xavier’s in young, Semaj Christon and Dee Davis.

2. It’s a Pitino-Pitino match-up when No. 5 Louisville and Rick Pitino take on Florida International and first-year head coach Richard Pitino. The younger Pitino came to FIU after serving on his father’s staff at Louisville.

3. The No. 1 Duke Blue Devils return to the floor for the first time in over a week, 11 days after defeating Temple. They take on Ivy League foe Cornell at Cameron Indoor.

4. There is still no word from the  NCAA on Texas point guard Myck Kabongo, meaning that he likely won’t play when the Longhorns meet No. 23 North Carolina Wednesday night. Texas is 6-4, but ranks 270th in the country in points per game.

5. Very few people are talking about Iowa State. All I’m saying is, you ought to keep an eye on them. The Cyclones rank in the Top 10 nationally in scoring and rebounding, Top 30 in assists, and Top 85 in FG percentage. They take on UMKC Wednesday.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. Cornell (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Florida International (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 6 Indiana vs. Mount St. Mary’s (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 8 Florida vs. Southeastern Louisiana (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) (See Above)

No. 14 Gonzaga vs. Campbell (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

No. 16 New Mexico vs. New Mexico State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 17 Creighton vs. Tulsa (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 UNLV vs. Northern Iowa (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 22 Notre Dame vs. Kennesaw State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 23 North Carolina vs. Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 24 Oklahoma State vs. Texas-Arlington (8:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Virginia vs. Morgan State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Clemson vs. Coastal Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET)

Illinois State vs. Dayton (7:00 p.m. ET)

Oregon vs. UTEP (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Murray State vs. Arkansas State (8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

West Virginia vs. Oakland (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Pittsburgh vs. Delaware State (7:00 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. 22 Butler ruins No. 2 Villanova’s seniors’ perfect Pavilion record

Butler center Nate Fowler and Villanova forward Eric Paschall, right, vie for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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All Villanova players have known since they joined the program is winning at The Pavilion. Late into Wednesday’s game against No. 22 Butler, it looked like that would continue to be their only frame of reference for a group of seniors that were 45-0 in the building.

Then another ‘0’ turned that zero into a ‘1.’

The Bulldogs ripped off an 18-0 run in a 5-minute span to ultimately claim a 74-66 victory over second-ranked and defending national champion Villanova.

VIllanova looked like it was going to cruise to another home win when Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the Wildcats up 49-42.

They wouldn’t score again until nearly the 4-minute mark.

During that span, Butler made 7 of 11 shots, with three being 3-pointers, while the Wildcats went 0 of 6 from the field and turned the ball over twice.

A seven-point lead for Villanova became an 11-point advantage for Butler. Villanova would try to rally, but couldn’t pull it off as it saw its home winning run stopped, its seniors’ perfect Pavilion record blemished and its seven-game winning streak come to a halt.

Beyond it probably being immensely annoying to the senior class, the loss probably doesn’t hurt Villanova too much as it looks to hold on to a No. 1 seed, preferably in the East region. The Wildcats’ resume is still as strong as nearly anyone in the country and they are, after all, the defending champs. They’ll be fine.

For Butler, it’s a signature win for a team that’s had a number of really good victories, but a few confounding losses, like St. John’s on the road and to Creighton (without Maurice Watson) and Georgetown at home. Beating Villanova – at the Pavilion, no less – could be worth a seed line.

Keelan Martin was fantastic for Butler, going for 23 points and eight boards, while Kamar Baldwin went for 15 points off the bench.

Jalen Brunson led the way for Villanova with 24 points while Josh Hart had 18 points and six rebounds. Kris Jenkins struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor while scoring eight points.

The Wildcats get a chance to start a new streak at the Pavilion on Saturday with Creighton coming to town.

 

No. 8 North Carolina stakes their claim to the title of ‘nation’s best’ with beatdown of No. 7 Louisville

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 22:  Theo Pinson #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play against the Louisville Cardinals during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 22, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina may not have anyone on their roster that sends chills down the spine of opposing coaches, and they may not have anyone on their roster that is going to be targeted by NBA franchises as lottery pick, and they may not be dominating the headlines like undefeated Gonzaga, reigning champ Villanova, winner of 13 straight Big 12 titles Kansas or even Tobacco Road rival Duke.

They’re not a sexy pick, they’re not the favorite in Vegas and they may finally crack the No. 1 seed line in all bracket projections after beating No. 7 Louisville 74-63 on Wednesday night, but at this point, I’m not sure that the Tar Heels aren’t the best team in college basketball.

‘The Best Team In College Basketball’ is not an easy title to earn this season, not because there are too many candidates but more because everyone of those candidates have some kind of glaring flaw that makes you wonder have they’ve made it to late-February with a winning record. Think: UCLA’s defense. Or maybe: Kansas’ total lack of front court depth. How about: Kentucky can’t shoot. And then there’s: Duke doesn’t have a point guard, or: Gonzaga doesn’t play anyone.

We can play that game with every team in the country.

In fact, I did, just last week on a podcast.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

North Carolina didn’t escape our wrath. There are question marks about Joel Berry II’s consistency, as he had a nasty habit of laying an egg every once in a while. Is that defense going to hold up for six games in a single-elimination tournament? Do they have enough consistent three-point shooting? Can Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson stay healthy?

Here’s the thing: I think the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’.

Justin Jackson has developed into a bonafide all-american and quite possibly the ACC Player of the Year. He’s a versatile scorer that is shooting the grip off the ball and has proven the ability to be the guy to take and make big shots for the Tar Heels this season. That’s taken some of the pressure off of Berry, who can spend more time as a secondary offensive weapon, facilitator and a leader than having to worry about carrying the team offensively. Theo Pinson’s return has opened some things up offensively, while UNC’s four-headed front court monster — Kennedy Meeks, Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye — have shown that they can score in the post or off of a missed shot, where they lead the nation on offensive rebounding percentage.

And as far as the defense is concerned, they’re ranked 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the pistol-whipping that was Gameday on Saturday night against Virginia, but Louisville, who was the third-best offensive team in ACC play, managed just 63 points in 73 possessions on Wednesday.

My point?

That defense doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be good enough, and it probably is.

But here’s the most important number to know: Two.

That’s how big North Carolina’s lead in the ACC is as of today. Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame have all lost five times this year. As long as the Tar Heels can go into Pittsburgh and get a win over the Panthers, they are going to clinch a share of the ACC regular season, and they can lock up the outright league title before the showdown with the Dukies on the season’s final night.

The margins are thin, yes, but after Wednesday, North Carolina has as much claim to the title of ‘Nation’s Best’ as anyone in college basketball.

VIDEO: UNC fan ejected after heated exchange with Rick Pitino

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A UNC fan sitting court side in the Dean Dome on Wednesday was ejected from No. 8 North Carolina’s win over No. 7 Louisville after getting in a heated verbal exchange with Rick Pitino.

Cell phone video posted by a reporter attending the game showed Pitino having to be held back by members of his staff. According to ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, who said she heard what the fan said, the line that set Pitino off was, “Pitino you suck.”

VIDEO: Brooks hits 3-pointer with 0.2 left to lift Oregon past Cal

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Dillon Brooks did it earlier against UCLA. Wednesday, he added Cal to his list.

The Oregon junior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 left on the clock to give the sixth-ranked Ducks a 68-65 victory over the Bears after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

#POSTERIZED: Deng Adel dunks on the entire state of North Carolina

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Deng Adel of No. 7 Louisville quieted a rowdy Dean Dome crowd by going coast-to-coast and doing this to the Tar Heels: