Doug McDermott

Tuesday’s Pregame Shootaround: New Year’s Eve hoops!

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GAME OF THE DAY: Marquette at Creighton, 10:00 p.m.

Creighton kicks off their tenure as a member of the Big East as they host Marquette, who entered the season as the favorite to win the league. The Golden Eagles have struggled this season, however, as they have spent much of the first two months looking for someone to provide a consistent perimeter scoring punch. The key to this matchup will be in the front court. Can Creighton handle Marquette’s size inside? Can the Golden Eagles keep up with Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott on the perimeter?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 11 Villanova at Butler, 7:30 p.m.

Yeah, I’m calling it. And I like Villanova, too. But there’s just something about this Butler program, isn’t there? Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall have made the jump this season, and even though the Bulldogs are missing Roosevelt Jones, this is still a team that is good enough to win some games. It will be Butler’s first as a member of the Big East conference, and they will be playing the game in Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve. Magic is in the air.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: Kent State at Princeton, 12:00 p.m.

Kent State is perennially one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, but Princeton has been one of the biggest surprises this season. The Tigers look like they might actually have a chance at contending with Harvard in the Ivy League.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. I mentioned two of the games above, but the Big East will be featuring five games today as all ten league members take the court. The third-best game of the day? St. John’s heading to Xavier at noon.

2. League play kicks off in the American today as well as two ranked teams take to the road. No. 14 Louisville heads to Orlando to play their first game since Chane Behanan got the boot (that tips at 5:00 p.m.) and No. 17 UConn is in Houston to take on the Cougars in a 9:00 p.m. tip.

3. No. 5 Michigan State heads to State College to square off with Penn State. The Nittany Lions picked off Michigan at home last season, and this group that Pat Chambers has assembled is better than most people realize. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are the truth.

4. That’s not the only Big Ten game on the schedule today. Illinois and Indiana kick off their conference schedule today in a game at Illinois that could have some bubble implications down the road.

5. George Washington has been quite impressive this season. They head to Manhattan, KS, to take on Kansas State at 2:30 p.m.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Eastern Michigan at No. 2 Syracuse
  • No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue
  • No. 7 Duke at Elon
  • Northern Illinois at No. 13 Iowa State
  • No. 18 Memphis at South Florida
  • UNC-Wilmington at No. 19 North Carolina

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.