Cory Jefferson, Hondo Webb, Stan Brown

Pregame Shootaround 12.21.12: BYU visits Baylor and Stanford looks to rebound

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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: BYU at Baylor (9 PM) 
After watching the Bears walk out of the Marriott Center with an 86-83 victory last season, BYU looks to return the favor in the best matchup of the day. The Cougars have won three straight since getting whipped by 21 at Iowa State. Since that loss Dave Rose’s club has held their opponent below 40% shooting in two of three games, but repeating that feat will be tougher against Pierre Jackson and company.

If BYU is to win they’re going to need a big night from Matt Carlino, who has to remain under control. And the battle in the paint featuring BYU’s Brandon Davies and Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin will be entertaining to say the least. With both teams rebounding at least 32% of their missed shots, the team that controls its defensive glass will win.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Maryland (vs. Stony Brook; 8 PM) 
The Terrapins have taken full advantage of their schedule (as good teams tend to do), winning nine straight after losing the season opener to Kentucky. But the Seawolves pose an interesting challenge despite not having a player in their rotation taller than 6-9 Anthony Mayo. Guards Anthony Jackson, Jameel Warney and David Coley lead the way offensively for Steve Pikiell’s squad, and in forward Tommy Brenton the Seawolves have one of the most versatile players in America East. If Stony Brook can harass Alex Len and Dez Wells into off nights they’ve got a puncher’s chance. But given the talent of those two, that’s far easier said than done.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Montana at Sacramento State (10:05 PM)
Both teams enter tonight’s game 1-0 in Big Sky play, with the Grizzlies’ Will Cherry playing his third game of the year after returning from a broken foot. After playing 13 minutes in a loss to South Dakota State, Cherry played 35 (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) in Montana’s 62-56 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday night. And it will be interesting to see how Cherry responds to playing two games (both on the road) in three days. But he will have help from Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward, and they’ll need to perform well against a Sacramento State team that has four players averaging double figures. Forward John Dickson leads the way and point guard Dylan Garrity is a solid on-court leader.

Five Things to Watch

1) Given UConn’s rebounding issues tonight’s contest against Fordham could be one to keep an eye on, especially with the Rams now having the services of All-Atlantic 10 forward Chris Gaston. The Huskies are being out-rebounded by nearly six rebounds per game, and opponents are rebounding 38.3% of their missed shots (worst in the Big East).

2) Just one undefeated team is in action tonight, as 11-0 Wyoming hosts UCSB in Laramie. The individual matchup between UCSB’s Alan Williams and Wyoming’s Leonard Washington will be fun.

3) Stanford looks to rebound from their loss at No. 25 NC State with another road game, this time taking on Northwestern in Evanston. While the loss in Raleigh was an opportunity the Cardinal failed to grasp, tonight’s game is one that neither Stanford (nor the Pac-12) can afford to lose from an NCAA tournament resume standpoint.

4) Already having beaten Ole Miss this season, Kermit Davis’ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will look to pick up another win over an SEC opponent as they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville. Middle Tennessee has been one of the nation’s best when it comes to defending the three, as opponents are shooting just 27.7% from beyond the arc. Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller will need to be on their game for Vandy if the Commodores are to win.

5) No. 22 Notre Dame should be able to take care of Niagara in South Bend, but they’d better be careful with Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason. Green, MAAC Rookie of the Year last season, and Mason are averaging a combined 35.1 points per game with Mason’s 19.2 average currently ranking third (behind Iona’s Lamont Jones and Sean Armand) the MAAC.

The Top 25 

FIU at No. 6 Indiana (7 PM)

Niagara at No. 22 Notre Dame (7 PM)

Other Notable Games

Fordham at Connecticut (7 PM)

Stanford at Northwestern (9 PM)

Vanderbilt vs. Middle Tennessee (in Nashville; 9 PM)

SMU vs. Wagner (Cable Car Classic; 9 PM)

Cal State Northridge at Utah (10:30 PM)

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

No. 22 Xavier’s slide continues with loss to short-handed No. 7 Creighton

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 16:  Chris Mack the head coach of the Xavier Musketeers  gives instructions to his team against the Creighton Blue Jays during the game at Cintas Center on January 16, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 22 Xavier.

The Musketeers have now lost three straight games, all to the top three teams in the Big East, and currently sit at 13-5 on the year with just a single good win to their name: Clemson.

But prior to Monday’s loss to No. 7 Creighton, Xavier had lost all of their games on the road to teams that will either get a top five seed in the NCAA tournament (Villanova, Butler, Baylor) or play at altitude (Colorado). On Monday, the Musketeers not only lost 72-67 to Creighton, but they did so on a day where the Bluejays lost star point guard and all-american candidate Mo Watson to a knee injury midway through the first half and spent the majority of the game playing with star center Justin Patton saddled with fouls.

Should I mention that Creighton, who is third-nationally in three-point percentage, shot 5-for-19 from beyond the arc, or that their two best healthy guards – Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas – shot a combined 10-for-31?

All of the stars were aligned. Coming how to an afternoon game against a top ten team on a holiday after losing back-to-back games on the road, and that top ten team lost their most important player early in the first half?

This should have been where Xavier landed that first elite win.

Instead, the Musketeers are left scratching their head again.

And it begs the question: If not now, when?

The Musketeers still play Villanova and Butler at home, visit Creighton and have the Crossroads Classic at Cincinnati. There are opportunities for them to get wins that they need.

But if they cannot get a win over a short-handed Creighton team at home, who are they actually going to be?

VIDEO: No. 7 Creighton beats No. 22 Xavier, loses all-american Mo Watson to a knee injury

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Creighton point guard Mo Watson was carried off of the Cintas Center floor on Monday afternoon after an ugly-looking injury in the first half.

Watson drove the lane and landed on his left leg. He immediately grabbed the knee in clear distress:

The Bluejays would hold on to win a thrilling, hard-fought game, 72-67, without Watson. That’s impressive, and it means that they move into a tie for first place in the Big East with Villanova, but the story of this game was Watson.

According to a reporter at the game, Watson told head coach Gregg McDermott that he “heard it pop“. Losing Watson to any significant injury would be catastrophic for the No. 8 Bluejays. Watson entered Monday averaging 13.4 points and a nation’s-best 8.8 assists. He’s been in the top ten of our Player of the Year Power Rankings all season long, is a clear-cut candidate for an all-american team and is the engine for the high-powered offense that has made Creighton a Final Four contender.

The injury may be somewhat controversial as well. Two minutes before the video clip above, Watson banged knees with a Xavier defender and had to be helped off of the floor. He was tested on the sideline and allowed to return to the game, albeit with a noticeable limp.

UPDATE: Gregg McDermott told FS1 after the game that Watson’s ligaments are intact, but that they are concerned about the meniscus.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Kansas vaults to No. 1

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Kansas vaulted up to the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll for the first time this season, receiving 23 of the 32 first place votes.

Villanova comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Kansas (23 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (4)
3. UCLA (2)
4. Gonzaga (3)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
7. Creighton
8. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Oregon
11. Louisville
12. Florida State
13. Arizona
14. Butler
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Xavier
20. Cincinnati
21. Florida
22. Purdue
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

College Basketball AP Top 25: Villanova is back to the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Temple Owls at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova vaulted back into the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll after falling out for a week when they lost at Creighton.

Kansas comes in at No. 2 while UCLA, Gonzaga and Kentucky finish up the top five. Bay.or, who was No. 1 in the country last week, is No. 6 while Duke fell all the way to No. 18 with a pair of losses last week.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

1. Villanova (28 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (32)
3. UCLA (3)
4. Gonzaga (2)
5. Kentucky
6. Baylor
t-7. Creighton
t-7. West Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Florida State
11. Oregon
12. Louisville
13. Butler
14. Arizona
15. Notre Dame
16. Virginia
17. Wisconsin
18. Duke
19. Florida
20. Cincinnati
21. Purdue
22. Xavier
23. Saint Mary’s
24. South Carolina
25. Maryland

Texas gets important commitment from 2017 point guard Matt Coleman

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Texas landed an important piece for its future on Monday as four-star Class of 2017 point guard Matt Coleman committed to the Longhorns during a televised announcement.

A priority recruit for head coach Shaka Smart, the 6-foot-2 Coleman is regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals. A lefty floor general who can attack the basket and set up others, Coleman played for Smart this summer as the two won a gold medal together with the USA Basketball U18 team during the 2016 FIBA Americas.

Coleman is going to have to improve his perimeter shooting for the next level — he only shot 18 percent from three-point range in Nike EYBL play — but he’s the type of setup guard who should help the talented Texas perimeter get ideal shots. It’ll be intriguing to see how Smart plans to play Coleman in what could be a crowded backcourt next season but Coleman should help bring stability to the team.

With Coleman in the mix, we’ll likely see Smart use a lot of lineups with two ball handlers as we saw with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix last season. That type of backcourt might suit Smart’s style of play a bit better than the current Texas roster this season.

Coleman is the fourth commitment for Texas in the Class of 2017. He joins three other four-star prospects in big man Jericho Sims, guard Jase Febres and forward Royce Hamm.