Ben McLemore

Pregame Shootaround 1.22.13: Sunflower Showdown highlights a solid Tuesday

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Game of the Day: No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

As frustrating as it may be for some folks that live outside the state of Kansas, the Sunflower Showdown may end up only being available to some of you on an online stream. Frankly, that would be unfortunate, as the Jayhawks are looking to strengthen their in-state rivalry with the Wildcats, replacing what was lost when Missouri headed off to the SEC.

Everything about this matchup should be awesome. This is arguably the best Kansas State team since Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente were manning the back court for Frank Martin, and that group had the Octagon of Doom — also known as Bramlage Coliseum — rocking for every home game. KU has won 44 of the last 47 meeting between the two schools, but this is a different Kansas State program than it was two decades ago.

The best part about this matchup? The best player on both teams — Ben McLemore and Rodney McGruder — play the same position. They’ll likely spend the majority of the game guarding each other. I ain’t complaining.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already know that the Badgers are capable of beating anyone in the country this season, as evidenced by their win at Indiana last week. And we also know that they can go out and lay an egg against anyone in the country, with the proof being the 30-10 hole their dug themselves against Iowa in the very next game. The Badgers don’t commit turnovers, they rebound the ball very well on the defensive end of the floor and they are always going to be a tough out at the Kohl Center. The Spartans have a nice record and a couple of quality wins, but they’ve yet to do anything that would make an observer think they are a dominant force this season.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Tulane at Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET)

This isn’t really a mid-major matchup, but there aren’t really any mid-major matchups today. Memphis is once again dealing with a moody Tarik Black, and they are going to have to figure out a way to control Tulane’s 1-2 punch of Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Kentucky is far from a lock for the NCAA tournament right now. If they are going to avoid the embarrassment of following up a national title and preceding the 2013’s ridiculous recruiting class with a trip to the NIT, than the Wildcats are going to have to do things like go into Tuscaloosa and knock off a tough, physical Alabama team. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Iowa is coming off of a win over Wisconsin, but it came at home. Can the Hawkeyes pull off an upset and truly thrust themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation at No. 14 Ohio State? (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)

3) This may make things difficult for No. 22 Missouri tonight:

4) Both Illinois and Pitt have been up and down this season, and both head on the road to take on teams at the bottom of their respective conference. Illinois heads to Nebraska (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten) while Pitt visits Providence (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

5) The perfect recipe for Maryand’s offensive struggles: Boston College’s 212th ranked defense. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Top 25

  • No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 5 Louisville at Villanova (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Iowa at No. 14 Ohio State (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • No. 18 NC State at Wake Forest (7:00 p.m. ESPN3)
  • South Carolina at No. 22 Missouri (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.