Wichita State v Gonzaga

Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Kansas heads to Florida, Boise State visits Kentucky

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 13 Kansas at No. 19 Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET

I wonder how long it’s going to be before Bill Self regrets the schedule that he put together for this Kansas team? Three days ago, the Jayhawks were in Colorado, where they lost to the Buffaloes on a buzzer-beater by Askia Booker. They’ll return to Lawrence where they’ll get New Mexico on Saturday, following that up with home games against Georgetown, undefeated Toledo and San Diego State. Then they kick off Big 12 play. That’s as strong as it gets, and it comes at a time when Kansas is still trying to figure out who they are.

As far as tonight’s game, there are really three things I’m looking forward to seeing:

  • Can Andrew Wiggins build on the performance that he had on Saturday? Kansas lost, but it was the first time that Wiggins actually looked like Wiggins.
  • What will Joel Embiid do going up against Florida’s massive front line?
  • Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill are both cleared to play tonight. It will be the first time that the two of them are both eligible and healthy at the same time. How good will they be? They are the difference between Florida being good and Florida being a legitimate contender.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 20 Gonzaga at West Virginia, 9:00 p.m. ET

The Zags are going to be an interesting team to watch this season, as they are one of the most potent offensive teams in the country. But can they guard? West Virginia has a pretty good offensive team, particularly in their back court, where Eron Harris and Juwan Staten have been awesome. How will Kevin Pangos and David Stockton matchup with those two?

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Green Bay at Eastern Michigan, 7:00 p.m. ET

Green Bay is a really good team this season. They almost beat Wisconsin at home. They did beat Virginia at home. Kiefer Sykes in one of the nation’s best-kept secrets, and Alec Brown is a legitimate NBA prospect. That said, Eastern Michigan has a couple of high-major transfers, some length and athleticism and a coach that learned how to play a 2-3 zone under Jim Boeheim. Should be a good one.


1) No. 11 Kentucky will be hosting Boise State, who needed to take a bus from Chicago to Lexington after a connecting flight got cancelled. The Broncos are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams. They get up and down the floor. They’ll make it hard for Kentucky to guard them. But they won’t have an answer for UK’s size inside.

2) Indiana will host the Oakland Fighting Travis Baders tonight. The irony: Indiana desperately needs some three-point shooting. If this was the NBA, they’d give up a recruit to be named later for Bader.

3) Cal will be looking to bounce back from a loss to UCSB by hosting Nevada tonight. The best individual matchup of the day will be Deonte Burton vs. Justin Cobbs.

4) Evansville squares off with Xavier tonight. The Muskies have not been impressive this season.

5) Minnesota hosts South Dakota State tonight in a game that would have been a lot more interesting if Nate Wolters hadn’t graduated.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.