Josh pastner

Weekend Preview: Storylines to follow

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The drama surrounding the continuation of the Memphis-Tennessee series: If you’ve missed the latest, here’s a quick catchup: Josh Pastner has never wanted to play Tennessee. He doesn’t want to help the Vols recruit in the city of Memphis by allowing them to play there once every other year. The old Memphis athletic director overruled him and understood the importance of the rivalry, and Pastner played ball. The new athletic director, however, allowed Pastner to go out in front of the media and talk all week about how the series was coming to an end and how Memphis needed a new opponent.

And then the AD went and negotiated with Tennessee about keeping them on the schedule behind his head coach’s back.

If you can’t see why this is a problem, go ahead and read this eviscerating column from Geoff Calkins. Then, go and read through his twitter feed. This story has become about so much more than simply the game — which, it just so happens, is a game that both Tennessee and Memphis desperately need to win. How long will Pastner want to work for a man that has no problem publicly humiliating his most high-profile, highly-paid and prominent employee?

Gauge games: The most frustrating thing about allowing teams to put together their non-conference schedules on their own is that so many teams end up playing nothing but rolls of Division II charmin for he first two months of the season. Thus, when we hit league play, it’s impossible to get a good read on those teams. Two of the biggest culprits this season: Seton Hall and Maryland.

The Terps host Virginia Tech on Saturday, and while the Hokies have come back to earth since their 7-0 start, they do have a guard in Erick Green that is capable of going for 30 on any given night. Maryland is 12-1 this season, but they haven’t played anyone other than Kentucky, who they lost to. Seton Hall, on the other hand, is 12-2 on the season and travels to play at Notre Dame. The Pirates won their Big East opener by … beating DePaul by one on the road.

Also keep an eye on Purdue’s trip to Michigan State. The Boilermakers struggled through the first two months, but they are healthy now and just knocked off Illinois at home.

Does anyone want to be the best team in Texas?: Texas A&M can’t seem to put together a convincing win, regardless of opponent. Texas Tech sticks. North Texas has been a massive disappointment. TCU? Rice? Houston? SMU? C’mon. The two best teams in the state are Baylor and Texas, who have been almost as disappointing as UNT this year. The Bears have as much raw talent as anyone in the country, but they have lost to Charleston and Northwestern, which makes up for that win at Kentucky. Texas finally got Jaylen Bond back from injury, but he’s not the difference-maker Mykc Kabongo will be.

Conference play kicks off for real: This will be the first “real” weekend of conference play. Who gets upset? Who stands out? Who did we undervalue in the non-conference? Who did we overvalue in the preseason? This is when it really starts to get fun.

Grab your popcorn.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.