Otto Porter Jr., John Thompson III

Pregame Shootaround 2.15.13: Cincinnati looks to bolster NCAA tournament resume

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Game of the Night: No. 15 Georgetown at Cincinnati (9:00 p.m.; ESPN) 

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are in good shape to return to the NCAA tournament, but a win over the visiting Hoyas would not only add to their resume but also keep Cincinnati in the Big East title race. Georgetown arrives in Cincinnati with an opportunity to move into sole possession of first place, something that few people would have expected when conference play began.

Otto Porter Jr. is one of the nation’s best wings but guard Markel Starks will be just as important given the strength of Cincinnati’s backcourt. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright lead the way offensively for Cincinnati with the steady Jaquon Parker being a solid third option on the wing. Keep an eye on Cincinnati’s offensive rebound total, as the Bearcats manage to rebound nearly 40% of their missed shots.

Who’s Getting Upset? Iona (-2.5) at Manhattan (7:00 p.m.; ESPNU) 

After a loss at Siena dropped the Jaspers to 4-7 in MAAC play, Steve Masiello’s team has won three straight and have a legitimate chance of avoiding finishing in the bottom four of the conference standings (those teams have to play in the first round of the MAAC tournament). Manhattan’s had to change how they play due to injuries, most notably losing leading scorer George Beamon for the year back in December, so while they will pressure defensively don’t look for the Jaspers to actively try to play at a high tempo.

The opposite can be said for Iona, who looks to run at every opportunity with guards Sean Armand and Lamont Jones leading the way and David Laury controlling things inside. If Manhattan can control the tempo, look for them to upset their rival at Draddy Gymnasium.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Vermont at Stony Brook (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3) 

Stony Brook (9-2) leads Vermont (9-3) by a half-game in the America East standings, but given the fact that the Catamounts won the first meeting the Seawolves need this one for tiebreaker purposes. Clancy Rugg was outstanding for Vermont in their 81-73 victory on January 18, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. That helped make up for an off night from Brian Voelkel, who accounted for five points, six assists and four rebounds before fouling out. Stony Brook will counter with veterans Tommy Brenton and David Coley, and freshman forward Jameel Warney is one of the best freshmen in the conference.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Harvard hosts Princeton on Saturday night in a game that will go a long way towards determining the Ivy League champion. Both have business to attend to tonight, with the Crimson taking on Penn and Princeton visiting Dartmouth.

2) The middle of the Atlantic Sun standings could get a lot tighter tonight if North Florida wins at Jacksonville. The Dolphins need a win to move into a tie for third with Stetson at 8-6, but a loss would drop them into a three-way tie for fourth.

3) Green Bay finds itself in a situation similar to that of Jacksonville, as a win would move the Phoenix into a tie for third in the Horizon League and keep them from dropping into the middle of the pack. Green Bay visits Cleveland State, who has struggled offensively for much of the season due to the season-ending injury suffered by Anton Grady.

4) Niagara looks to remain atop the MAAC standings as they visit Marist, but this game could be trickier than it looks to be on paper. Chuck Martin’s team beat both Iona and Loyola (MD) last week, and they’re capable of doing the same to the Purple Eagles.

5) Which team has the best shot of catching Harvard and Princeton in the Ivy League race? The chances are minuscule for both Cornell and Yale but the winner of their meeting in New Haven will give the winner a sliver of hope.

Other Notable Games 

7:00 p.m. Penn at Harvard

7:00 p.m. Princeton at Dartmouth

8:00 p.m. Niagara at Marist (ESPN3)

9:00 p.m. Green Bay at Cleveland St. (ESPN3)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.