Jamie Dixon

Pregame shootaround 2.18.13: A Top 25 tilt in the Big East, Huggins returns to K-State

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Game of the Day: No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 20 Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I’m sure that Jamie Dixon is ready for this run to end for the Panthers. The Fighting Irish will be the fifth ranked team Pitt has faced in the last six games. They’ve gone 3-2 in that span, holding their own, but I’m sure the wear and tear isn’t good for guys like Steven Adams and Tray Woodall, who are going to be necessities come tournament time.

For Notre Dame, they really need a good win to reassure the team that the five overtime thriller over Louisville didn’t drain them. Since the victory, the Fighting Irish barely beat Big East bottom-feeder DePaul in overtime and then took an L at Providence.

It’s really a battle of mental (Notre Dame) versus physical (Pittsburgh). The winner might get more than just a victory from this one.

Who’s Getting Upset? Norfolk State at Hampton (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Spartans are 11-0 in the MEAC, best in the conference. Hampton sits at 7-3 in the conference and has won five in a row — four of them road games — including a win over conference contender Savannah State on Feb. 7. They’ll be fired up and looking for revenge after Norfolk State beat them 74-67 on the road on Jan. 21.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Bucknell at Lehigh (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

So what there’s no C.J. McCollum? This game demands your attention anyway. Both teams sit at 8-2 in the Patriots League and the Bison have already reached the 20-win plateau (21-5). The Mountain Hawks still have the regular season title in their sights. This one should still be a conference game of the year candidate.

Five Things to Watch For

1.) West Virginia makes their first visit to Bramlage Coliseum tonight as a member of the Big 12 Conference. Guard play will rule this one, with Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling, Shane Southwell and Angel Rodriguez going up against Aaric Murray, Juwan Staten, Jabari Hinds and Eron Harris. Oh, then there’s the whole Bob Huggins making his return to Manhattan thing.

2.) Drexel takes on Hofstra at home tonight. The last time those two teams got together, this happened.

3.) North Carolina Central took their first conference loss on Saturday to Savannah State. They’ll be looking to get back to chasing Norfolk State with a victory at 1-9 in-conference South Carolina State tonight.

4.) After losing their first five games in-conference, Fairfield has won six of their last seven to get back to respectability in the MAAC. They take on Iona tonight, who still have dreams of a high seed in the conference tournament with their 9-6 conference mark.

5.) Arkansas-Pine Bluff is having the best season of a postseason-banned team not named UConn. They’re 11-3 in the SWAC, 12-14 overall and take on Prarie View A&M tonight on the road.

The Top 25
West Virginia at No. 13 Kansas State (9:00 p.m., ET, ESPN)

Other Notable Games
Rutgers at Villanova (9:00 p.m., ET, ESPNU)

Iona at Fairfield (7:00 p.m., ET, check listings)

North Carolina A&T at Savannah State (7:00 p.m. ET, check listings)

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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 NBCSports.com 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.