Pregame Shootaround 12.22.12: Ohio State vs. Kansas highlights loaded Saturday

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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.

Games of the Day:

No. 9 Kansas vs. No. 7 Ohio State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

This game has a very different feel to it than the last time these two teams met on Dec. 10, 2011. No Jared Sullinger or William Buford for Ohio State. No Thomas Robinson or Tyshawn Taylor for Kansas. Instead, we have a more mature Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith, back with point guard Aaron Craft vs. Jeff Withey and star freshman Ben McLemore.

Ohio State will be cognizant of Withey around the rim, being that he’s leading the nation with 5.4 blocks per game. They’ll also be looking to Craft to lock down defensively on the perimeter to neutralize Kansas’ three-guard set of McLemore, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford.

Kansas is the favorite in the Big 12 this season, but this will be only the Jayhawks’ second game against a ranked opponent this season. Their first ended in a loss to Michigan State.

No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 10 Illinois (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

In Saturday’s other matchup of ranked opponents, newly legitimized Illinois faces Missouri. This will be a battle of the backcourts, with Illinois featuring D.J. Richardson, Tracy Abrams, and early Player of the Year candidate Brandon Paul vs. Phil Pressey, Keion Bell, and Oregon transfer Jabari Brown.

Brown had 12 points and three assists in his first game with the Tigers, now paired with Pressey after Michael Dixon’s days with the team came to an end. He saw 20 minutes in his first game, but look for his numbers to increase as he gets more into the fold. Laurence Bowers is still the go-to option for Frank Haith’s team.

Illinois will have to make a concerted effort to control what happens on the glass, as Missouri is second in the nation in rebounds per game. That duty will fall to everyone on the floor for the Illini, who don’t have just one dominant rebounder.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Miami against Hawaii (12:30 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

Hawaii pushed Illinois to overtime earlier this year and lost by only one point. Now, Miami travels all the way to our beautiful 50th state for a matchup with a team that rebounds well and puts a lot of points on the board. Sometimes the effects of traveling can be overstated, but the Hurricanes have traveled to Hawaii, then tip off at 12:30 a.m. ET. Not an easy task. I’ll take Hawaii in the upset.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Murray State vs. Dayton (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Isaiah Canaan, Ed Daniel, and Murray State meet a tough Dayton team Saturday at noon ET. This matchup gives Dayton guard Kevin Dillard (15.0 points, 4.1 assists per game) a chance to face a nationally recognized player like Canaan. The Flyers narrowly missed out on beating Illinois State in overtime, but Daniel (16.1 points, 10.7 rebounds) will be a controlling force on the block.

Five Things to Watch

1. Temple suffered an upset to Canisius earlier this week, but there’s no rest for the weary. The Owls face No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden at noon ET, which might as well be a Syracuse home game.

2. Jabari Brown will continue to work himself into the Missouri rotation Saturday against Illinois, coming off a debut in which he put up 13 points in 20 minutes on the floor.

3. Keep an eye on No. 16 New Mexico against South Dakota State. Any time Nate Wolters is on the floor against a ranked opponent, there is a chance for an upset. It’ll be made tougher because SDSU is traveling to Albuquerque, but never count out the Jackrabbits

4. Texas inexplicably dismantled North Carolina without Myck Kabongo this week, which likely says more about UNC than it does the Longhorns, but Texas returns to the floor Saturday to face No. 20 Michigan State.

5. Whereas it was mentioned that Temple fell to Canisius this week and will have no rest, a fired-up Canisius team faces No. 21 UNLV Saturday. They might be in upset mode, but I don’t see the Runnin’ Rebels falling.

The Top 25 

No. 3 Syracuse vs. Temple (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 4 Arizona vs. Tennessee State (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Western Kentucky (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Kansas (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS) (See Above)

No. 8 Florida vs. Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 10 Illinois vs. No. 12 Missouri (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Wright State (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 13 Minnesota vs. Lafayette (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 15 Georgetown vs. American (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 16 New Mexico vs. South Dakota State (2:30 p.m. ET)

No. 18 San Diego State vs. San Francisco (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 19 Butler vs. Evansville (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 20 Michigan State vs. Texas (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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

No. 23 North Carolina vs. McNeese State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 24 Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee Tech (1:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 NC State vs. St. Bonaventure (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Murray State vs. Dayton (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

LSU vs. Marquette (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Florida State vs. Charlotte (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

George Mason vs. Richmond (3:00 p.m. ET)

Kentucky vs. Marshall (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Fresno State vs. UCLA (11:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Miami (Fla.) vs. Hawaii (12:30 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

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

Sister Jean: “I don’t care that you broke my bracket.”

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As Missouri Valley Conference player of the year Clayton Custer came off the floor after Loyola earned its spot in the Elite Eight after beating Nevada, he had to make a quick apology.

He had to tell the Ramblers’ star fan Sister Jean he was sorry. She, of course, had picked Loyola’s Cinderella run to end in the Sweet 16 in her bracket before the start of the tournament.

The apology was quickly accepted.

“I said I don’t care that you broke my bracket,” Sister Jean said. “I’m ready for the next one.

“For a nice little school like ours, we are just so proud of them.”

Michigan rolls past Texas A&M into Elite Eight

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Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 24 points, seven assists and five boards for Michigan. Mo Wagner chipped in with 21 points — 14 of which came in the first 15 minutes of the game — while Zavier Simpson added 11 points, five boards, five assists and five steals. Charles Matthews had 18 points. Duncan Robinson busted out of his slump with 10 points, including a couple of threes and a dunk to boot.

Put another way, the Wolverines were firing on all cylinders.

And that should terrify everyone on the left side of the bracket.

Entering this weekend’s games, Michigan was the best defensive team left in the tournament. They ranked third-nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and that’s not a fluke or a flaw within KenPom’s formula. The Wolverines can absolutely grind teams down defensively. They are so much more athletic on the perimeter than they have been in past seasons, and with Simpson playing as the point man for them on that end of the floor, they’ve simply overmatched everyone that has gotten in their path on that end of the floor.

That’s why they were able to win two games in the first weekend of the tournament despite scoring a total of just 125 points.

At some point, you knew they were going to find a way to be better on the offensive end, and the Aggies were the team they needed to see.

Texas A&M’s strength in their front line. Tyler Davis, Robert Williams, D.J. Hogg. They have so much size along that front line that it can overpower just about anyone this side of Duke. But what those big, burly dudes bring in the paint they lack on the perimeter, and Michigan was able to spread them out and beat them down the floor in transition. It didn’t help matters that the Aggies struggled with the idea of passing the ball to the guys in maroon instead of the guys in yellow during the first half, and the end result was a Michigan team that found their confidence.

At one point, they were 9-for-12 from three. They made 10 of their 14 threes in the first half. The score at one point was 52-23. It was a three-point avalanche of Villanovian proportions.

And here’s the kicker: The Aggies actually did manhandle Michigan inside. Tyler Davis and Robert Williams combined for 36 points on 17-for-25 shooting.

It didn’t matter.

Michigan will advance to face the winner of No. 4-seed Gonzaga and No. 9-seed Florida State tonight, and regardless of who they end up getting in the Elite 8, they will be taking on a team that is much, much, much better suited to matching up with Michigan’s spread attack.

But Michigan has their confidence back.

I don’t expect that we’ll be seeing them shoot 28 percent from three on Saturday.

And that defense?

It’s not going anywhere.

And the Wolverines won’t have to face a team seeded higher than them until the national title game.

This run may not be close to over yet.

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

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It was supposed to cripple the league – and maybe it still will in the long-term – but it also gave birth to an idea. It created space to dream and imagine. There simply was reason to hope.

Wichita State’s decision to leave the Missouri Valley Conference for the AAC robbed the league of its marquee program and, the thinking went, its national relevance. With the conference’s dominant force suddenly gone, though, there was a question that suddenly became pertinent. Once perhaps delusional, it was not essential.

“It’s this huge overwhelming wave of optimism,” Loyola coach Porter Moser told NBC Sports in January. “I think every single program is asking, ‘Why not us?’”

Two months later, the Ramblers are still asking that question, but for a different audience. Once, they just asked it of themselves. Then of the conference. Now, of the country.

The Ramblers’ run through March continued Thursday as they won a spot in the Elite Eight by toppling No. 7 Nevada in the South Region semifinals, 69-68, in Atlanta to be just 40 minutes shy of a Final Four that last hosted Loyola in 1963.

Fifty-five years later, it’s now fair to ask, why not these Ramblers?

Loyola and its magnetic, lovable and charming sensation of a team chaplain, Sister Jean, haven’t come up with an answer to that question yet. There has been no reason it can’t be Loyola through an entire MVC season, Arch Madness and three NCAA tournament opponents.

There are no lottery picks on the floor. Moser is in his second stint in the Valley after being fired from Illinois State in 2007. They don’t play with much flash or even speed.

Loyola, though, makes it work.

All the Ramblers have done this season is win. They won in Gainesville against Florida. They won 15 MVC games and the league title with a four-game cushion. They skated through the conference tournament. Buzzer-beaters got them by Miami and Tennessee in the first weekend. In the Sweet 16, they didn’t spare a fellow Cinderella, instead dispatching Nevada with lethal offensive efficiency.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle.

With a one-point lead and less than 10 seconds on the clock, Loyola got a 3-pointer from Marques Townes to seal victory. The Ramblers shot 75 percent from the floor in the second half, but still needed a clutch shot. And they got it.

Nevada Caleb Martin scored 21 points and Jordan Caroline added 19. They spearheaded a Wolf Pack offense that looked like its speed and athleticism just might be too much for Loyola. There were times when the Ramblers just looked overmatched. But there were more times when they just out-executed Nevada anyway.

Loyola is in the Elite Eight. The question persists.

Why not Loyola?

2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

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NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

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Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.