Mick Cronin

Pregame Shootaround 3.4.13: The calm before the storm

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Game of the Night: Cincinnati at No. 8 Louisville (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Bearcats finally snapped a stretch of five losses in six games on Saturday afternoon, as they knocked off a depleted UConn team at home. The game was much closer than it probably should have been given the fact that the Huskies were playing without their star point guard Shabazz Napier, which means that while the Bearcats got a needed boost to their resume and their confidence, it doesn’t exactly change the fact that they have struggled since Cashmere Wright injured his knee.

Cincinnati cannot score the basketball right now. They don’t have anyone inside to dump the ball off to, which creates a problem since Sean Kilpatrick is really the only healthy perimeter player that can be trusted to score, and even he is better playing off the ball. Without Wright available to make things easier for his teammates with his ability to create off the dribble, the Bearcats stagnate. That’s not a good thing heading into a game against one of the toughest defenses in the country on the road.

Something to watch for: Russ Smith’s efficiency. He’s been much more selective in the shots that he’s taken over the last month or so. It’s shown; Louisville has won eight of their last nine games.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Montana at Southern Utah (9:05 p.m. ET)

This isn’t exactly a great basketball game, but it is one that could tell us a lot about the Grizzlies moving forward. They are playing without Mathias Ward and Will Cherry right now, and it’s unknown exactly when those two will be back. They just so happen to be Montana’s leading scorer and most talented player. The Grizzlies struggled to a 71-68 win over Montana State on Saturday.

Five Things

1) Baylor visits Texas in what might be the least interesting Big 12 Big Monday game in the history of Big Monday. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) No. 4 Kansas hosts Texas Tech in another game that the Jayhawks should win in a route. Let’s see if the new Elijah Johnson hangs around for another game. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3) Norfolk State puts their 14-0 record in the MEAC on the line against Florida A&M. (8:00 p.m. ET)

4) The team chasing NSU, North Carolina Central, is 13-1 in the MEAC and they’ll be hosting South Carolina State tonight. (7:30 p.m. ET)

5) The Following has a new episode tonight, which you should probably watch before catching up on Baylor-Texas on your DVR. (9:00 p.m. ET, FOX)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.