Shane Larkin

Pregame Shootaround 1.23.13: Miami tries to knock off No. 1 Duke at home

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Game of the Day: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Both teams will be without a key piece on Wednesday, Ryan Kelly for Duke and Reggie Johnson for Miami.

Without Kelly in the lineup the past two games, Duke has gone 1-1, including a loss to NC State. The major concern continues to be the ability of the Blue Devils’ offense to spread the floor in his absence. When the Duke offense is spread, it allows more opportunities for guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee.

Julian Gamble has been important for Miami in Johnson’s absence. He has averaged 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in eight games without Johnson. That production has helped to patch the offensive and rebounding hole, but the focus will still be on the guards Wednesday. Durand Scott and Shane Larkin must be the engines of the offensive attack against Curry, point guard Quinn Cook, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.

Who’s Getting Upset?: La Salle (-3) vs. No. 9 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)

It’s hard to believe that La Salle is favored against a team ranked in the nation’s Top 10, but the Bulldogs walk into a tough matchup on the road Wednesday. Butler will again be without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who sprained his neck in a win over Dayton. His absence didn’t seem to faze coach Brad Stevens’ team against Gonzaga, though it didn’t hurt that Roosevelt Jones had some heroics in store as the buzzer sounded.

Without Clarke in the lineup, La Salle guard Ramon Galloway will be the biggest backcourt scoring threat on the floor. The senior guard has scoring in double figures in 15 of the Explorers’ 17 games, including 26 points in an overtime win over Villanova, 24 in a win over Northeastern, and 21 in a win over Iona.

Butler will likely try to work the ball into the interior Wednesday, using center Andrew Smith and exploiting the rebounding advantage.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Colorado State vs. No. 15 New Mexico

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to call the Mountain West a “mid-major,” but this non-BCS matchup Wednesday is the best of the slate. New Mexico coach Steve Alford has been in the news this week talking about the lack of respect that the conference has gotten from poll voters and Wednesday night has the potential to be his “Exhibit A”.

New Mexico is the lone Mountain West team undefeated in league play, having knocked off UNLV and grinding out an overtime win against Boise State. Tony Snell came up big in that game against Boise by scoring 22 points, but the focus Wednesday will likely be on center Alex Kirk, who was neutralized for much of that game.

His importance will be amplified Wednesday when he matches up with Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, who is averaging 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Rams will try to use their advantage on the glass to get second-chance opportunities.

Iverson and forward Pierce Hornung (9.6 points, 10.1 rebounds per game) will be centerpieces, but Greg Smith will also be looking to carry momentum from the win over UNLV when he scored 16 points.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 8 Florida has been absolute dominant in SEC play so far. Through four games, the Gators have won by an average of close to 27 points per game. There is another chance for a blowout win Wednesday vs. Georgia.

2) No. 12 Minnesota hit a rough patch in the Big Ten schedule and has lost back-to-back games against Indiana and Michigan. They have a chance to bounce back against Northwestern.

3) No. 16 Oregon sits atop the Pac-12 and is the lone remaining undefeated team in conference play at 5-0. Washington State comes in with a 1-4 record in the league, making it likely that Oregon will move to 6-0.

4) Lehigh vs. Bucknell would have a lot more luster if C.J. McCollum had been able to play, but it still features two teams who are undefeated in Patriot League play. Winner gets sole ownership of the conference for now.

5) Towson won just one game last season and finished with an overall record of 1-31. He has worked wonders for the Tigers this year and has his team at 10-10. A win tonight against George Mason would put them at second in the CAA with a 6-2 mark in the conference.

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 25 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 7 Indiana vs. Penn State (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 8 Florida vs. Georgia (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 9 Butler vs. La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)

No. 12 Minnesota vs. Northwestern (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 15 New Mexico vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 16 Oregon vs. Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 17 Creighton vs. Drake (8:05 p.m. ET)

No. 20 Wichita State vs. Missouri State (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

George Mason vs. Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)

Fresno State vs. Boise State (8:00 p.m. ET)

Texas A&M vs. LSU (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Iowa State vs. Texas Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. Nevada (10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Washington vs. Oregon State (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

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

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: