Keith Appling, Julien Lewis

Pregame Shootaround 12.31.12: Loaded slate for New Year’s Eve

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Game of the Day: 2:00 p.m.: No. 19 Michigan State at No. 11 Minnesota (ESPN2)

How good are the Gophers this year? Well, they’re ranked in the top 15. And they’re 12-1 on the season. And they’ve beaten … Memphis? Stanford? Florida State? South Dakota State without Nate Wolters? You can only play who is on the schedule, and the Gophers have beaten everyone they’ve lined up against with the exception of the No. 1 team in the country, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Gophers’ ranking is a bit inflated due to the struggles of some of their opponents.

Michigan State is legit. They are big, they have athletic, they have a veteran ball-club and they’re coached by Tom Izzo. Keeping in mind that this game is played in Minneapolis, this may be our best chance to truly gauge how good Minnesota is this season.

Who’s Getting Upset?: 4:00 p.m.: No. 5 Indiana at Iowa (ESPN2)

You want to know how to make some money in Vegas? Bet on ranked teams playing solid unranked teams on the road. Especially in league play. Iowa is better than you think this season, and while they are a young team that is still getting better, I think they have the pieces to give Indiana some trouble. Roy Devyn Marble has been on fire of late, and Hawkeye fans will be hoping that a nine day layoff won’t change that.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: 8:00 p.m.: Harvard at St. Mary’s (ESPN2)

Harvard is coming off of a win at Cal in which their star point guard, freshman Siyani Chambers, struggled. St. Mary’s is better than Cal, but Chambers should put on a better performance than he did on Saturday night. Seeing the freshman go up against Matthew Dellavedova should be great entertainment for all those watching.

Five Things to Watch

1. 12:00 p.m.: No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 24 Pitt (ESPN2): Outside of a game against Michigan in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT, Pitt has been wholly untested in the non-conference portion of their schedule. They’ll be hosting a Cincinnati team that is coming off of their first loss of the season, which came at home against New Mexico. Are the Panthers for real? (And don’t call it an upset if they win.)

2. 6:00 p.m.: No. 13 Gonzaga at No. 22 Oklahoma State (ESPN2): Hard to believe that this could end up being the fourth-best game of the day, but that’s the truth. This should be a terrific gauge for both the Zags and the Pokes. Gonzaga finally has a tough road test while Oklahoma State will be playing their best opponent of the season.

3. 7:30 p.m.: New Mexico at St. Louis (CBS Sports Net): We know how good New Mexico is, but St. Louis is still a question mark. A lot of people picked them to win the A-10 this season, but they just got their star point guard Kwamaine Mitchell over the weekend. He had four points, five assists, three turnovers and shot 2-7 from the field in 19 minutes in his season-debut.

4. 4:00 p.m.: St. Joseph’s at Drexel: An intra-city battle between two schools from Philly that both need to prove themselves. Drexel has been a massive disappointment this season, while the Hawks have been far too inconsistent to be considered a threat for an at-large bid.

5. 2:00 p.m.: Bowling Green at Temple: The last time Temple played, they beat Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. The last time Temple played at home, they lost to Canisius. Which team shows up against Bowling Green?

The Rest of the Top 25

  • 2:00 p.m.: South Dakota at No. 25 Kansas State
  • 3:00 p.m.: Central Connecticut State at No. 9 Syracuse (ESPNU)
  • 5:00 p.m.: UNC Greensboro at No. 23 NC State (ESPNU)

Other Notable Games

  • 5:00 p.m.: Utah State at Texas State
  • 7:00 p.m.: Nevada at Oregon (Pac-12)
  • 8:00 p.m.: North Texas at Middle Tennessee State (ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.