Syracuse Tyler Ennis

Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Maui ends, NIT and Great Alaska Shootout start

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 18 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. ET

In the finals of the Maui Invitational, Baylor will get a chance to prove that the Big 12 is more than just a two-horse race. The Bears have developed a reputation over the years of being a team that simply rolls the ball out as Scott Drew tries to rely on the talent that he has recruited to carry his program. This season, that talent is evident in their front court, as the Bears has the size, length and athleticism to matchup with anyone. In fact, with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers manning their front line, I think that there is an argument to be made that Baylor is better up front than Syracuse.

And the Orange actually have a number of talented big guys. C.J. Fair is the guy everyone knows and Jerami Grant has been the star of the tournament to date, but one guy to keep an eye on is DaJuan Coleman, who has actually been quite effective in his minutes this season. The most interesting battle will be at the point guard spot, where JuCo transfer Kenny Chery goes toe-to-toe with freshman Tyler Ennis.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Arkansas vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 5:30 p.m.

This will be an interesting test for the Zags, as Arkansas is the kind of team that is difficult for them to matchup with. The Razorbacks like to press and have a number of big, athletic guards that can attack the basket. Kevin Pangos, David Stockton and Gary Bell Jr. are talented in the back court, but they are not all that big. Can Mark Few’s club keep the drivers from penetrating.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Tulsa vs. Indiana State, Midnight ET

You like late-night hoops? The Great Alaska Shootout kicks off tonight, and while it’s not the same event that it used to be, it’s has as much tradition as any event. Indiana State is one of the best mid-major programs in the country, and while Tulsa isn’t quite on that level … man, it’s hoops after midnight!

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1) Cal takes on Dayton in the third place game out in Maui, a game that is really important for both teams. Going 2-1 in an event like this is so much better than going 1-2. At least Dayton has already picked up a win over Gonzaga. Cal would be heading back to Berkeley with nothing but a win over Arkansas to show for their efforts.

2) No. 10 Wisconsin will be taking on West Virginia in the final of the Cancun Challenge.

3) No. 3 Kentucky will take the court against tonight against a mid-major program that could give them some trouble. Eastern Michigan is coached by Rob Murphy, a disciple of Jim Boeheim that runs a 2-3 zone.

4) The NIT semifinals take place tonight as No. 6 Duke takes on Alabama after No. 5 Arizona squares off with Drexel. With all due respect to Bruiser Flint and Anthony Grant … GO DUKE! GO WILDCATS!

5) Saint Louis lost to No. 10 Wisconsin last night and will look to bounce back against Old Dominion tonight.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.