NCAA Tournament Primer: Cal Poly Mustangs

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Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Big West

Coach: Joe Callero

Record: 13-19 (6-10 Big West)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 172
– RPI: 223
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: They weren’t in Dave Ommen’s latest bracket, but the Mustangs will likely be a 16 seed with a trip to Dayton in their future.

Names you need to know: F Chris Eversley (13.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), G David Nwaba (11.9, 4.9), G Kyle Odister (9.3, 2.2)

Stats you need to know: The Mustangs lost nine of their last 11 games to end the regular season, and they played five of those games without Odister. Cal Poly averaged just 63.3 points per game and shot 40.8% from the field, ranking last in the Big West in both statistical categories. However this is a group that takes care of the basketball, averaging just nine turnovers per game and ranking 39th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3). Defensively teams shot 43.5% from the field against Cal Poly.

Tendencies: Tempo is critical for Cal Poly, as they rank 348th in the country with an average of 60.8 possessions per 40 minutes. They’re not going to run up and down the floor, preferring to play one half court at a time. Eversley and Nwaba are their two best offensive options, with Odister being a key figure as well. And in their Big West title game victory over Cal-State Northridge freshman guard Ridge Shipley was an important piece, stepping in for the struggling Jamal Johnson and hitting three three-pointers (finishing with 14 points) off the bench.

Big wins, bad losses: Cal Poly picked up just two wins against Division I opponents in non-conference play, beating Big Sky tournament finalist North Dakota and Santa Clara. In conference play the Mustangs lost a game to Cal-State Fullerton and was swept by UC Davis, which did not qualify for the Big West tournament.

How’d they get here?: Beat Cal-State Northridge 61-59 in the Big West title game. In the two games prior the Mustangs beat two-seed UCSB and one-seed UC Irvine.

Outlook: A win in Dayton looks improbable for the Mustangs. Then again, so did their run through the Big West tournament.

How do I know you?: This is the first-ever NCAA tournament appearance for Cal Poly, whose alums include Ozzie Smith, John Madden and Chuck Liddell.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.