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Newcomers impress in Louisville’s intrasquad scrimmage

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Despite losing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, two key pieces from last year’s championship team, Louisville returns a slew of talented players that will have Rick Pitino and Co. challenging for a national championship once again. Player of the Year candidate Russ Smith is back for his senior season, as are Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock among others.

Three key pieces that weren’t on the floor last year will be relied upon to help fill the void that Siva has left, namely junior college transfer Chris Jones. Rob Dauster called Jones one of the top “X-factors” for the coming season, and posited that many may be overlooking just how important Siva was to last year’s squad. Siva was often the one ensuring Russ Smith played within himself — at least, he tried to — and the onus this season may fall on Jones to accomplish that.

It is more than just Jones, however. Freshmen Terry Rozier and Anton Gill will be relied on, as well.

After an intrasquad scrimmage this past weekend, Rick Pitino told The Courier Journal:

“Rozier is as cool a customer as you’ll see. I don’t think Chris played particularly well tonight, but I’ve watched him in practice do some things that are just outstanding. I think Anton is a smooth basketball player…With all three of them, they don’t rattle. They know how to play the game.”

Anyone who watched Louisville play last year knew they hung their hat on the defensive end. For all the attention Smith receives on the offensive end with his explosive first step and propensity to get to the basket, he’s also one of the best perimeter defenders out there.

Pitino’s defense isn’t easy to grasp, but Smith is pleased with what he has seen of the newcomers thus far: “No new guy knows our defensive intensity, and that’s no disrespect to them. We play a certain way that guys have to pick up on. But they’re coming along. I think they’re the best class to come in and pick stuff up that I’ve seen.”

Highlights from the Red vs. White scrimmage are found below:

WATCH LIVE: St. Bonaventure hosts Saint Louis on NBCSN

St. Bonaventure's Denzel Gregg celebrates after they defeated St. Joseph's after an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Philadelphia.  (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) PHIX OUT; TV OUT; MAGS OUT; NEWARK OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
(Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
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St. Bonaventure is looking to keep pace with the Atlantic 10’s elite as they host Saint Louis on Sunday afternoon. You can watch this A-10 contest live on NBCSN at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Coming off of a huge road win at Saint Joseph’s, the Bonnies (14-6, 6-3) have won two consecutive games with a winnable stretch of two more before a key conference clash with George Washington. The trio of Marcus Posley (19.1 ppg), Jaylen Adams (18.5 ppg) and Dion Wright (16.2 ppg) has been putting up a ton of points this season and slowing down that group will be the focal point of the Saint Louis defense.

The Billikens (8-13, 3-6) are coming off of two consecutive double-digit losses and will try to regroup on the road. Senior guard Ash Yacoubou paces the Saint Louis offense at 12.2 points per game and junior guard Mike Crawford (10.9 ppg) is the only other player averaging double-figures.

These two teams will play again on March 5 when the Bonnies head to the Midwest.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.