Fran McCaffery

Pregame Shootaround: Minnesota at Iowa highlights a slow day

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GAME OF THE DAY: Minnesota at No. 14 Iowa (1 p.m., BTN)

The Big Ten is going to churn out awesome matchups on a daily basis this season, and Minnesota at No. 14 Iowa falls into that category. The Gophers looked great beating Ohio State at home. Road trips are a different story.

After a week in which some of the Big Ten’s best like Wisconsin and Ohio State were knocked off, can the Hawkeyes avoid a trap in this rivalry game? The Gophers have taken Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing and beat Ohio State, so they’ll be prepared for this one.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss (1 p.m.)

How about this solid C-USA matchup of 15-3 teams? While Charlotte and UAB also are off to decent starts — and UTEP is 12-5 despite their recent troubles — Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss are likely the two teams we’ll see competing at the end of the season for the conference title and they matchup on Sunday.

Southern Miss dropped a conference game to Tulsa last week and will look for the home victory to even it up with the 3-0 Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech has won all three conference games by at least 20 points, but they’ll be without leading scorer Raheem Appleby the next six-to-eight weeks as he recovers from a ligament injury in his ankle.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Wright State at Cleveland State (1 p.m.)

This should be an enticing battle in the Horizon League as a pair of 3-2 teams with league title aspirations collide. Wright State is coming off of a loss to Green Bay — the team both teams are trying to keep pace with — while the Vikings have ideas about playing for the title in the Horizon as well.


1) There’s a good CAA Battle on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, as Towson heads to Charleston at 3:30 p.m.

2) After Oregon’s tremendous start to the season, they’re 1-3 in Pac-12 play and could desperately use a win as they face rival Oregon State on the road on Sunday night. Craig Robinson’s bunch could use the win themselves, as they also sit at 1-3 in Pac-12 play and could use a shot in the arm by beating the formerly-ranked in-state rival.

3) After Notre Dame’s impressive ACC win over Duke, the Fighting Irish sit at 1-3 in the ACC and they’ll face another 1-3 league team when Virginia Tech comes to visit on Sunday. Can Notre Dame bounce back?

4) Larry Brown comes from an extensive NBA background, so he can help prepare his SMU Mustangs for the tail end of the road-home, back-to-back the team is playing this weekend. The Mustangs won 58-46 at Central Florida on Saturday, in an American contest, and SMU will host Hofstra on Sunday at 6 p.m. These non-conference opponents were originally scheduled to play on December 7th, but the game was postponed due to inclement weather in the Dallas area.

5) If you really have no desire to watch Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, ESPN3 will have a 2 p.m. MAC battle between Bowling Green and Western Michigan. David Brown has missed a lot of time in his college career due to injury but the Western Michigan senior is playing great ball this year, averaging 18.1 points per game while increasing his field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Brown is a potential All-League performer.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)