Pregame Shootaround 2.13.13: Two great rivalries highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Day: San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

This is a game that Colorado State really needs to win if they are going to bring home the Mountain West regular season title. While the Rams do get New Mexico at home, they still have road trip to UNLV, Air Force, Boise State and Wyoming. Putting themselves in a one-game hole behind the Lobos with that kind of schedule remaining would be tough.

The Rams also happen to matchup quite well with the Aztecs. Colorado State is big and physical and one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They’ll be going up against an SDSU team that’s perimeter oriented and currently dealing with injuries to their starting back court of Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames.

Part of what makes the MWC so entertaining this season is that the conference is so deep, and that, in turn, means that there really aren’t all that many bad losses to be had. But just because it’s not a bad loss doesn’t mean that the loss won’t hurt.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This is a rivalry game, and rivalry games are always going to be difficult to predict. But there’s so much more to the story here. UConn, with everything that they’re dealing with as a program, has nothing to play for this season beyond pride and the chance to play spoiler. And there would be nothing that the Huskies would enjoy more than handing a loss to the Orange — the team that helped precipitate the downfall of the Big East, which leaves UConn as a team without a conference — that would knock them out of sole possession of first place in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton needs a win. Badly. They’ve lost two in a row and four of their last seven games. Four of their next five games are on the road, and they close the season with a home game against Wichita State. That’s a long way from an easy schedule, but thanks to some question performances from Indiana State and Wichita State of late, the Bluejays still control their own destiny in the Missouri Valley. Win out, and they’re regular season champs. Sounds easy, but it won’t be. Northern Iowa has had a tough season, but Cedar Rapids is never an easy place to get a win.

Five Things to Watch For

1) North Carolina and Duke play tonight. We gave it the preview treatment here. I think the Blue Devils win easily. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Butler will be playing without starting center Andrew Smith as they take on one of the A-10’s biggest surprises in Charlotte. The Bulldogs cannot afford to lose a game and fall a game off the pace in the conference standings. (7:00 p.m. ET)

3) No. 22 Memphis has finally made their way back into the top 25, but the question is whether or not this team has really gotten better, or if they are simply feasting on the lesser competition in Conference USA. Want to prove it’s not the latter? Don’t lose league games you should win. (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

4) Believe it or not, a visit to Texas A&M may be the toughest game that Ole Miss has left on their schedule. And considering that they’re anything but a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, the Rebels probably cannot afford a loss tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

5) Oregon is 2-3 since losing Dominic Artis to a foot injury. Their first game without the freshman point guard was against Washington at home. The Ducks won. (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Top 25

  • Nebraska at No. 1 Indiana (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • North Carolina at No. 2 Duke (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 3 Miami at Florida State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Charlotte at No. 11 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • DePaul at No. 21 Notre Dame (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Central Florida at No. 22 Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 23 Oregon at Washington (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Delaware at Northeastern (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Akron at Eastern Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa State at Texas (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Purdue at Illinois (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • West Virginia at Baylor (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.

College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25

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Virginia remained in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll while Michigan State and Villanova still sit at No. 2 and No. 3 with Xavier once again in fourth.

The biggest change in the poll was that Duke rose to No. 5 after three straight wins; they were No. 12 last week.

Kentucky is still not a part of the top 25.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Virginia (42 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
t-6. Texas Tech
t-6. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

VIDEO: Wichita State celebrates in locker room after win over Cincinnati

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Wichita State went into Cincinnati — well, Northern Kentucky — on Sunday evening and landed their biggest win of the season.

They were fired up about it, as you might imagine.

And their locker room celebrating after the win was, as the kids say, litty:

Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.

Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.

CBT Podcast: Monday Overreactions: Villanova-Xavier, the Big 12 is drunk, the best in the Big Ten is … ?

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Rob Dauster was joined by Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic on today’s show to overreact to everything that happened this weekend, from Villanova pasting Xavier to the insanity that is the Big 12 to what happened in the Big Ten in the last ten days. We also spend a good 30 minutes talking about bubble teams, tournament resumes and some misconceptions with both. The rundown.

OPEN: Bubble Banter. We talk about weird bubble teams and whether or not we like the new Quadrant system.

36:08: Villanova’s win over Xavier and the Big East title race.

45:15: The Big 12 makes no sense and I love it.

58:30: Michigan State deserves the Big Ten title.