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.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

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.