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Pregame Shootaround 12.25.12: Arizona-San Diego State is the big present under the tree


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. 3 Arizona vs. No. 17 San Diego State

This is the marquee matchup of the four games in the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day. Jamaal Franklin is at the center of it all for San Diego State, and he won’t be seeing an easy day against Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson. The Wildcats should be keying in on the backboards, though they won’t have as much of a margin against the San Diego State frontcourt. Franklin is the leading rebounder for SDSU, but Deshawn Stephens will need to step up against Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, and Solomon Hill.

Five Things to Watch

1. Jamaal Franklin is continuing to mature and develop into an All-American caliber guard, averaging 17.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He matches up on Christmas Day with the Arizona backcourt of Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, which will likely be his toughest matchup since the Aztecs opened the season against Syracuse.

2. Without Reggie Johnson in the lineup, Arizona outrebounded Miami 44-19 on Sunday. They won’t have that kind of margin against San Diego State, but freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley will have the advantage over on the interior against Deshawn Stephens and Franklin.

3. Mark Lyons still isn’t a true point guard, but he is the biggest key to Arizona being ranked third in the nation right now. He will have to show up Tuesday against Franklin, limiting his turnovers.

4. Ole Miss is in the Top 15 in the country in both scoring and rebounding, but lost to Indiana State in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic and outlasted San Francisco in the second. They take on Hawaii Tuesday.

5. Keep an eye on San Francisco guard Cody Doolin. He had 18 points and 14 assists against St. John’s and 20 points and eight assists in a loss to Ole Miss Sunday. The Dons take on East Tennessee State.

The Top 25 

No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 17 San Diego State (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

San Francisco vs. East Tennessee State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Ole Miss vs. Hawaii (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Indiana State vs. Miami (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.