Michael Carter-Williams

Pregame Shootaround 3.9.13: High-major & mid-major action make for a big Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Otto Porter made his case for National Player of the Year when these two teams last met, scoring 33 points and carrying Georgetown in a big road win over the Orange. Now the Hoyas return home with a chance to claim at least a share of the Big East regular season title with a win. Syracuse has some concerned because of its recent slide, having lost three of its last four games and sliding back into the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Lafayette (-2) vs. Lehigh (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Lehigh will be without star C.J. McCollum again, as he has been ruled out for Saturday’s semifinal, but the Mountain Hawks still have plenty to work with. The key for Lehigh will be defending the Lafayette three-point shooters, who lit them up in the two previous matchups (21-of-51) between these teams. That includes the team’s leading scorer, Seth Hinrichs, who averages 14.6 points per game. Lehigh has the advantage in the frontcourt and that’s what it should look to exploit. That means Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner need to come up big Saturday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

In the first meeting between these two teams San Diego State blew a 17-point lead before Chase Tapley saved them with a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving the Aztecs a 63-62 win. This time around, the stakes are higher in the season finale. Boise State sits on the bubble and couldn’t get resume-building road wins over New Mexico and UNLV in recent weeks, but now returns home with another chance to solidify its spot. As for San Diego State, the Aztecs are cemented in the tournament but could use another win on the road to affect their seating.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) No. 3 Duke has not lost a game with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Kelly has put up astronomical numbers since returning from his foot injury. What does it likely mean when you consider those two factors for Saturday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina? A Duke win on the road. But don’t underestimate North Carolina. Since Roy Williams switch to a smaller, for versatile lineup, the Tar Heels have become a different team.

2) No. 6 Miami severely  hurt its chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a loss at the buzzer to Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have now lost three of their last four, including games to Wake Forest and that game against Georgia Tech. They try to get back on track Saturday against Clemson.

3) Indiana State escaped last night in the final moments to advance in the crazy Missouri Valley tournament. The Sycamores now meet Creighton, who they beat handily in their first meeting of the season. Expect Doug McDermott to come up big after his huge season finale to clinch the conference title.

4) Amidst all the drama in the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC, don’t forget about the Big 12. Kansas State is tied atop the conference with Kansas and a win Saturday, plus a Jayhawk loss, would give the Wildcats an outright conference title. They take on Oklahoma State.

5) Kentucky’s NCAA tournament hopes took another blow with its double-digit loss to Georgia this week. Because of that, it needs a big home win over No. 11 Florida and a run in the SEC tournament to stay alive.

The Top 25

No. 3 Duke vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Baylor (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Miami vs. Clemson (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Louisville vs. No. 24 Notre Dame (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Florida vs. Kentucky (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 12 New Mexico vs. Air Force (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Marquette vs. St. John’s (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Saint Louis vs. La Salle (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 18 Arizona vs. Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Pittsburgh vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 UCLA vs. Washington (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 25 Memphis vs. UAB (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

Providence vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Minnesota vs. Purdue (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ole Miss vs. LSU (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

NC State vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Lehigh vs. Lafayette (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Indiana State vs. Creighton (2:35 p.m. ET)

San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgia vs. Alabama (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Missouri vs. Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oregon State vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Canisius vs. Iona (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Cornell vs. Harvard (5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Fresno State vs. UNLV (6:00 p.m. ET)

Xavier vs. Butler (6:30 ET, CBS Sports Network)

Louisiana Tech vs. Denver (7:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

Nevada vs. Colorado State (8:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.