Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Bubble battles, good games out west

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Creighton at Marquette, 8:00 p.m.

Marquette paid a visit to Omaha in Creighton’s first game as a member of the Big East, and they got smacked about by the Bluejays. The Golden Eagles have gone on to have a fairly-disappointing 2013-2014 campaign, but a recent hot streak has gotten them back into the NCAA tournament conversation. A win over Creighton would go a long way to ensuring that Buzz Williams’ guys aren’t doomed to the NIT.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 23 UCLA at Cal, 10:30 p.m.

UCLA now looks like they’ve inherited the title of the second best team in the Pac-12, but every time a team takes over that title, they end up struggling. Kyle Anderson is quietly having one of the best seasons of anyone in the country, averaging 15.4 points 8.7 boards and 6.8 assists. How come no one is talking about this guy?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 4 Arizona at Utah, 10:00 p.m.

Arizona is, quite simply, not the same team without Brandon Ashley. That much is obvious. Utah is a tough out this season, and playing at the altitude is never an easy thing to do. Also worth noting: Delon Wright might be the best player in the country that no one is talking about. He could end up being a first round NBA Draft pick before his career is over.


1) No. 10 Saint Louis will visit George Mason tonight. The Patriots almost beat the Billikens in Saint Louis earlier this season. The game will be on the NBC Sports Network at 7:00 p.m.

2) Arizona State will be at Colorado tonight in a game that features two of the Pac-12’s hopeful tournament teams.

3) New Mexico and UNLV will square off tonight in a battle to determine who the second-best team in the Mountain West is. After a sluggish start, the Rebels have a glimmer of NCAA tournament hope. They can’t afford another loss, however.

4) No. 3 Wichita State will put their undefeated record on the line tonight at Loyola (IL).

5) No. 1 Syracuse will do the same as they host BC


  • Auburn at No. 2 Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 Cincinnat at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
  • Northwestern at No. 24 Ohio State, 7:00 p.m.
  • American at Boston U., 7:00 p.m.
  • Houston at SMU, 8:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at LSU, 8:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Missouri, 8:00 p.m.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.