10 tidbits to know: Bearcats boarding, Baron scoring and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. No. 3 Arizona improves to 11-0 — its best start in 25 years. Sean Miller’s team beat No. 17 San Diego State 68-67 to win the Diamond Head Classic. As beautiful as Honolulu is, I hope tournaments like this don’t start becoming the norm for the holidays. As it stands right now, most college basketball players and coaches miss Thanksgiving with their family because tournaments the last weekend of November are customary. Hopefully playing games on Christmas night does not move in that direction. Let’s leave that tradition for the National Basketball Association.

2. In typical Tom Izzo fashion, his Spartans are one of the best at keeping you to one shot. Michigan State being 3rd in the nation in defensive rebounding is a stat that should surprise no one.

3. Speaking of crashing the boards; offensive rebounding is a great way to manufacture points when the perimeter shooting gets cold. Nobody is doing that better than Cincinnati. The Bearcats lead the NCAA in offensive boards.

4. Still trying to figure out how 9-3 Virginia lost to Old Dominion right before the holidays. The win was literally ODU’s second highlight of the season. The Monarchs’ other win was against Morgan State on Nov. 10. Old Dominion is 2-10 overall and host Fairfield this Saturday.

5. Billy Baron playing in the MAAC has proved to be a nice fit. The Canisius guard, who followed father Jim to Buffalo, is averaging nearly 18 ppg. Baron averaged 13 ppg previously at Rhode Island. Jim Baron’s Canisius team is the surprise of the MAAC so far. The Golden Griffins are 8-3 and have beaten St. Bonaventure and Temple.

6. Speaking of the MAAC — teams need to stay away from fouling Iona this year. The Gaels are shooting 79.3 percent as a team from the free-throw line — good for 3rd in the country. When teams play Siena it’s the opposite. The Saints are shooting 57.9 percent from the line — 343rd nationally.

7. Rutgers (8-2) is 2-0 under associate head coach David Cox. Cox is filling in for Mike Rice, who was suspended without pay for 3 games due to violation of athletic department policy. Cox coaches this Friday against Rider — Rice is due back for the Big East opener next Wednesday vs Syracuse.

8. It’s not the passes that make Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse the nation’s assist leader by far … it’s the timing of his passes. The delivery is often right on the time and his teammates are rarely taken out of rhythm.

9. How about those 49ers? Charlotte is 11-2 overall, with its two  losses being Miami and Florida State. This is Charlotte’s last season in the A-10 before they head for Conference USA.

10. We lost a great one in 2012 with the passing of Rick Majerus. Here’s one of his quotes to make us smile….Happy New Year!

On being courted by the University of Texas …

“This (Texas) is a great job and I think DeLoss would be a great guy to work for. But I’m real happy. I like my AD. I like my players. I like Utah. It’s like being a married guy, but Cindy Crawford comes over and asks you if you want to dance. It’s kind of enticing to grab on for a dance. Then after the dance is over, you go back to your wife.” [Austin American-Statesman, 12/12/1998]

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ETFollow him on Twitter @VinParise.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.