Elston Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein

Five Weekend Storylines: Kentucky’s rematch with Texas A&M


Kentucky’s rematch with Texas A&M: Kentucky has had a number of lowpoints this season, but I don’t think there’s been a worse moment for UK fans than when they lost at home to Texas A&M on a night where Elston Turner lit up the Wildcats for 40 points. Every other loss has an explanation — they’re young, they were on the road, they were playing a talented team — except for this one.

And on Saturday night (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Wildcats get their shot at revenge. But it’s more than just a payback game. Kentucky looked they best they have all season long on Tuesday night in their win over Ole Miss. Kyle Wiltjer dominated. Alex Poythress took over for 10 minutes in the second half. Nerlens Noel owned the game while scoring just two points. That’s something that they need to build on, because that was the first time all year long where we sat back and said, “Hey, maybe this team actually is getting better.”

Oh, and there may be a special guest in attendance. That should be fun.

What is going on with Missouri? The No. 17 Tigers host Auburn on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3) just three days after they lost their third SEC game of the year. But instead of the loss coming at the hands of a league favorite, Missouri fell at LSU. In a game where Laurence Bowers was back in the lineup.

What gives?

Is this group actually any good?

Because if they are, than that loss is unacceptable. Good teams simply do not lose to the bottom of their conference, especially when they play in a conference as weak as the SEC. If Missouri is a good team, that lose could end up lighting a fire under them, and Auburn could end up being the unknowing victims of a pillaging on Saturday.

We’re about to find out if the Johnnies are for real: Pop quiz hotshot: Who is all alone in third place in the Big East? Any guesses? Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that, at 6-3, St. John’s is sitting in third place by themselves, a half-game in front of four teams in the Big East standings? Steve Lavin’s group has been a revelation early on this season. They’ve won four straight games and have already knocked off Cincinnati and Notre Dame this year.

Now it gets serious. On Saturday, they’re at Georgetown (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS). They host UConn on Wednesday and then follow that up with trips to Louisville and Syracuse. If this group is really going to compete for a tournament spot, we’ll know in two weeks.

Philly hoops is a confounding mess: Villanova lost by 18 to Columbia at home and has since beaten both Syracuse and Louisville. La Salle beat Butler and VCU, on the road, and then lost at home to UMass. Drexel is, well, Drexel.

But the two teams in the city that have confused me the most are Temple and St. Joseph’s, who square off on Hawk Hill on Saturday (6:00 p.m. ET, CBS). St. Joe’s was picked to win the A-10 in the preseason, but got off to a 1-3 start in league play before winning their last two games. Temple beat Syracuse in the Garden earlier this year, but they’ve been the epitome of inconsistency since that win.

If anyone wants to take a shot at explaining any of those five teams, please, the comments section is below. Don’t hesitate.

When do we write off Illinois?: The Illini host Wisconsin on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten) in what has become a must-win game for them. Yes, they’ve beaten Gonzaga, Butler and Ohio State. Those wins are great. They’re also 2-6 in the Big Ten with a stretch coming up that consists of Wisconsin, Indiana, at Minnesota and Purdue, with trips to Ann Arbor and Columbus left on their schedule as well.

Yes, they have plenty of chances to right their ship, but with each loss, it gets harder and harder for a team to turn around their season. Lose this game, and the Illini are staring 2-9 in the Big Ten in the face. They cannot afford a slip-up here.

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.