Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, Michael Carter-Williams

Pregame Shootaround 2.4.13: Syracuse looks to snap losing streak

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Game of the Day: No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 9 Syracuse (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Syracuse will once against be without James Southerland and DaJuan Coleman, which has cost the Orange of late. They’ve now lost their last two games, both of which came on the road against unranked opponents. And while Syracuse will be heading back to the Carrier Dome for Big Monday tonight, they’ll be forced to face off with Notre Dame, the team that ended their undefeated season a year ago.

The Irish are actually a pretty good matchup with Syracuse. They have arguably the most physical player in the Big East in Jack Cooley, who can take up space and get to the offensive glass with the best of them. But they also have a pair of play-making guards in the back court and a slew of shooters to rotate through on the perimeter. Pitt is one of the best passing teams in the Big East, but Notre Dame may be better. Can they dissect the Syracuse zone?

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UNC-Wilmington at Towson (7:00 p.m. ET)

There aren’t many great matchups at the mid-major level tonight, and this really is no different, as both Towson and UNC-Wilmington are well off the pace in the CAA race. That said, both teams have very good power forwards — Keith Rendlemen for UNCW and Jerrelle Benimon for Towson — that should put on quite a show going head to head tonight.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Oklahoma visits Iowa State tonight in a battle between two teams looking to establish themselves with legitimate NCAA tournament resumes. Both are sitting at 5-3 in league play, but both still have plenty of work to do to get that at-large bid. This game should be plenty entertaining, as both teams have perimeter-oriented big men and like to spread the floor.

2) George Mason and Old Dominion have had a strong rivalry for a long time. This is the last season that it will exist in the CAA, with ODU leaving. Can the Monarchs, who are 2-18 on the season, turn things around for one night?

3) Texas plays West Virginia in the Big Monday night cap. That may be the worst Big Monday matchup in the history of Big Monday.

4) Seton Hall has dropped to 2-7 in the Big East. An at-large bid isn’t really a possibility at this point, but the Pirates could be a serious spoiler in a tightly packed Big East race. They visit No. 23 Pitt tonight.

5) San Diego at Loyola Marymount means Anthony Ireland vs. Johnny Dee.

The Top 25

  • No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 9 Syracuse (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Seton Hall at No. 23 Pitt (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.