Creighton v Cincinnati

Creighton advances past Cincinnati, has a shot to take down Duke

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There’s a reason that we call him Dougie McBuckets.

Creighton’s all-american forward was too much for No. 10 seed Cincinnati on Friday afternoon, finishing with 27 points and 11 boards on 7-15 shooting as the No. 7 Bluejays outlasted the Bearcats 67-63.

This game was one of the more intriguing matchups of the tournament, as Cincinnati is a staunch defensive team that cannot score the ball with Creighton is a sharp-shooting, crisp offensive team that seems averse to defense at times. In the end, the scoring one, as Creighton got enough stops to push their lead to 52-44 late in the second half, holding on as the Bearcats made a final push.

Creighton will advance to take on No. 2 seed Duke, and I’ll be honest, I think that the Bluejays actually have a chance to pull off this upset.

The key?

Greg Echenique, Creighton’s burly, 6-foot-9 center.

Echenique is as big and as physical as any center in the country, and he’s perfectly fine playing the role as strictly a rebounder and a defender. Mason Plumlee may be a first round NBA draft pick, but he’s not going to have an easy go of it trying to post up Echenique.

The reason that Ryan Kelly is such a valuable commodity for Duke is that he allows the Blue Devils to make people pay for double-teaming Plumlee. They move the ball so well as a team that a double-team almost always is going to result in an open jump shot for someone, whether that be Kelly or Seth Curry or Quinn Cook or Rasheen Sulaimon.

If Echenique can slow Plumlee down in the post, Creighton won’t have to leave those shooters open. It’s exactly what Maryland did with Alex Len in the two games that they beat the Blue Devils. Now, whether or not McDermott is going to be able to matchup with Kelly or anyone on Creighton’s perimeter is going to be able to keep Sulaimon or Cook from penetrating is a different story entirely. Kelly also happens to be a perfect matchup for McDermott on the defensive end of the floor, so there’s no guaranteeing that stopping Plumlee will earn Creighton a win.

But Echenique’s presence will given them a chance.

And if Creighton has one of these nights, they’ll be on their way through to the second weekend.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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 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.