Pregame Shootaround: Michigan State faces test in Austin during a loaded day of hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m., CBS)

A banged-up Spartans team travels to Austin for its first true road game of the season on Saturday as Rick Barnes and Texas hope to continue to surpass preseason expectations. Texas has a big chance at home to capitalize on an already strong week after the Longhorns won on the road at No. 14 North Carolina earlier in the week.

The Spartans lone loss on the season is to that same North Carolina team — at the Breslin Center — that Texas outplayed earlier this week, but Michigan State should be more concerned with the health of its own roster over anything else.

Gary Harris (ankle), Matt Costello (mononucleosis) and Travis Trice (foot blister) all missed Tuesday’s win against North Florida and seniors Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) both played but have missed practice time as they deal with injuries of their own.

One thing to monitor in this one: The battle on the glass.

Texas crashed the glass hard against North Carolina and it led to 21 second-chance points for the No. 7 rebounding team in the country, while Michigan State teams under Tom Izzo are traditionally strong rebounding the ball and the Spartans are also top 50 (No. 41) in rebounding despite all of their injuries.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)

If you’re up late on the east coast, you’ll want to flip this on to see the matchup of former Big 12 foes in Las Vegas that is led by a strong matchup at guard between All-American candidates Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado).

The second game of a doubleheader in Las Vegas that follows Marquette and New Mexico, this matchup of top-25 teams will mean something for both teams.

Oklahoma State is off to a strong 10-1 start this season, but after a loss to Memphis on December 1st at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the Cowboys have now lost three straight games to ranked opponents on neutral floors. If Travis Ford’s bunch wants to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year, that will be a trend that will have to change.

Colorado, meanwhile, also sits at 10-1 and is riding the program’s first 10-game win streak since the 1961-62 season after losing its opener this season to Baylor. After a win over Kansas at home earlier this season, the Buffaloes would also love another top-ten victory to add to their resume.

Although Smart leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 18 points a game, he has played more of a facilitating role since the Memphis loss as LeBryan Nash has stepped up in that time to average 17.9 points a game in the Cowboys’ three wins while shooting 57 percent from the field.

CBT’s own Raphielle Johnson will be at this doubleheader and will have more on it later.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 22 UMass at Florida State (2 p.m.)

Unbeaten UMass (10-0) travels to Tallahassee for a tough Saturday afternoon tilt with the Seminoles. Chaz Williams is one of the most dynamic point guards in the country for UMass and the 5-foot-9 senior is averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 assists (second in the nation) a game but Williams and the Minutemen will face a Florida State team that has played pretty well against ranked opponents this season.

The Seminoles (7-3) thrashed VCU earlier in the year when the Rams were highly ranked and Florida State also lost to Michigan and Florida by a combined total of three points.

Florida State is also coming off of a strong overall effort against Charlotte earlier in the week, as they beat the 49ers 106-62 in a game that the Seminoles dominated in nearly every facet.

This will also be the first major road test for UMass, as they’ve only faced Eastern Michigan and Ohio on the road this season.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: USC Upstate at Charlotte, (7 p.m.)

I just mentioned Charlotte’s 106-62 loss to Florida State from earlier in the week, and the 49ers have an interesting home game against USC Upstate on Saturday as they try to improve upon Tuesday’s effort.

Charlotte (7-3) will host the Spartans (6-5) as USC Upstate is fresh off of a big road win at South Carolina on Thursday and USC Upstate has three players that can really score for them.

Senior 6-foot-6 forward Torrey Craig (17.7 points, seven rebounds per game) leads the Spartans in scoring and rebounding and the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year candidate is joined by junior guard Ty Greene (14.5 points per game) and senior 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Glenn (12.5 points per game) as double-digit scoring threats. All three players averaged double-digits in scoring this season and last.

Charlotte will look to bounce back, led by a balanced group that features five players currently averaging 11 or more points per game.

Perimeter shooting could be a factor in this one as well. USC Upstate is shooting a dreadful 30 percent from beyond the are this season and Charlotte has struggled in that area at times as well, including going cold during the second half of the Florida State loss.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) When Rick Byrd’s Belmont squad plays at Rupp Arena today against No. 19 Kentucky, they certainly won’t be scared of the talented Wildcats and Big Blue Nation. Belmont already owns a road victory at North Carolina this season and won’t be afraid of the big-time atmosphere as a smaller conference team.

2) A tremendous matchup in the backcourt is the focus of Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State as the two teams face in New York at the Gotham Classic. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott might be the best defensive backcourt in the country early this season and they’ll have their hands full with Irish guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

3) Start the college hoops day off right with the 12:00 p.m. clash of traditional college basketball powers Georgetown and Kansas. The Hoyas visit Phog Allen Fieldhouse unranked, but still pose a major threat thanks to their talent and experience. The No. 18 Jayhawks continue their demanding non-conference schedule and it’ll be interesting to see how their point guards play against the experienced backcourt of Georgetown.

4) The Braggin’ Rights between Illinois and Missouri is one of the top rivalries in the Midwest in college hoops and this year Illinois (9-2) and No. 23 Missouri (10-0) clash in St. Louis in what should be a fun contest. Missouri has won four straight games in the series as the two teams will play in front of a sold-out crowd that will be split between the two fan bases.

5) Oregon will be an interesting team to track today in a home game against BYU as the No. 13 Ducks still work Dominic Artis and Ben Carter back in the lineup following their nine-game suspensions for selling University-issued apparel earlier in the season. Artis and Carter made their season debuts in a Tuesday win over UC Irvine and Artis saw 26 minutes of action as head coach Dana Altman looks to work those two into an already deep rotation. Also, if BYU’s offense gets back on track from a recent mini-slide, this game could turn into a shootout very quickly.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • No. 6 Louisville at Florida International, 6:00 p.m.
  • Rider at No. 8 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Southeast Louisiana State at No. 15 Memphis, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Fresno State at No. 16 Florida, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • McNeese State at No. 24 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.

NOTABLES:

  • East Carolina at North Carolina State, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Middle Tennessee at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Youngstown State at St. John’s, 2:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Butler at Evansville, 3:05 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UAB at LSU, 5:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • VCU vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
  • Texas Tech at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Xavier at Alabama, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UTEP at Washington State, 8:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Marquette vs. New Mexico, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU

Quinnipiac’s Cameron Young, Siena’s Jalen Pickett with a shootout for the ages

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Imagine going for 46 points and 13 assists in a basketball game, and not only not being the high scorer or the headline, but losing that game.

That is exactly what happened to Siena’s freshman star Jalen Pickett on Sunday.

Quinnipiac’s Cameron Young went for 55 points in a 107-100 triple-overtime win at Siena, becoming the high scorer in college hoops this season, scoring the most points in a game since North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside had 60 in Dec. of 2008 and becoming the first Division I player in 20 years to have a 55-point double-double.

“I had about 20 at halftime, they didn’t have the stats on the jumbotron so I didn’t know exactly what I had until I went to the line to shoot my last free throw,” Young told the New Haven Register.

Jalen Pickett, a freshman point guard for Siena, finished with 46 points and 13 assists in the loss. That’s the first time that a Division I player has posted at least 45 points and 10 assists since 2003, with LIU’s Antawn Dobie did it against St. Francis. The 101 combined points that they scored is the most by a pair of opposing players since 1996.

Just a normal, Sunday afternoon college hoops game.

NBC Sports Top 25: Kentucky beats Tennessee as injuries abound

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The big talking point this week comes with Kentucky’s win over Tennessee, which came just four days after Kentucky lost at home to LSU.

I wrote all about the top five battle on Saturday. Without taking anything away from what Kentucky did, I think that the way that game played out had as much to do with situation — Kentucky, at home, coming off a brutal loss against a team that hadn’t been tested in two months — and matchup as it did with what each of those two teams are.

Put another way, I still buy the idea that this Tennessee team can win it all, just like I still believe Virginia can win it all despite losing to Duke twice in the last month.

Beyond that, the toughest thing to do with ranking teams this week was figure out what to do about injuries. I dropped Michigan State to No. 17 because it appears that they have lost Nick Ward for an extended period of time. The Spartans were not all that talented to begin with and now they are down their top two scorers. I also dropped Kansas State over the uncertainty surrounding Dean Wade’s health. If he’s not 100 percent — and if Cartier Diarra isn’t playing — then Kansas State is a bad basketball team offensively.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Duke (23-2, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (25-2, 3)
3. Virginia (22-2, 4)
4. Kentucky (21-4, 5)
5. Tennessee (23-2, 2)
6. Michigan (23-3, 6)
7. North Carolina (20-5, 7)
8. Marquette (21-4, 9)
9. Nevada (24-1, 11)
10. Iowa State (19-6, 15)
11. Texas Tech (21-5, 16)
12. Houston (25-1, 13)
13. Kansas (20-6, 17)
14. Villanova (20-6, 10)
15. LSU (21-4, 20)
16. Purdue (18-7, 12)
17. Michigan State (21-5, 8)
18. Virginia Tech (20-5, 18)
19. Kansas State (19-6, 14)
20. Wisconsin (17-8, 19)
21. Louisville (18-8, 21)
22. Iowa (20-5, 22)
23. Buffalo (22-3, 23)
24. Florida State (20-5, 24)
25. Wofford (23-4, 25)

Dropped Out: None
New Additions: None

St. John’s rallies from 14-point deficit to stun No. 13 Villanova

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NEW YORK (AP) — A 70-foot shot just before halftime gave St. John’s momentum, and LJ Figueroa and the Red Storm used a strong defensive effort in the second half to surprise No. 13 Villanova.

Figueroa scored 22 points and St. John’s rallied to beat the Wildcats 71-65 on Sunday night. It was the first win for the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden against Villanova in 17 years, and they accomplished the feat in front of an energetic sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.

“It was as loud as I can remember, maybe louder,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “I’m happy for them they got to experience that too. There’s nothing like that. There are some great places to play college basketball, but when you get a full Madison Square Garden against a championship team like Villanova there’s nothing like that. It’s awesome. It helped us. It kept us in the game and took us to another level.”

Trailing by 17 late in the first half, the Red Storm scored the final six points, including Justin Simon’s shot from the opposite 3-point line that banked in just before the buzzer and made it 37-26.

“We were screaming the whole way into the locker room,” said Mustapha Heron, who added 19 points. “We had to do it on the defensive end (in the second half).”

The Red Storm (19-7, 7-6 Big East) were down 48-34 with 12:30 left. They scored 20 of the next 25 points to take their first lead on Figueroa’s 3-pointer from the corner.

During that run, Villanova coach Jay Wright was hit with a technical foul for arguing a call.

“Their half-court defense went to another level after they pressed us and the crowd got going,” Wright said. “We had it to 11-12 in the second half there and they started pressing us. They got that turnover at half court and we got the technical that really got them going. That was the turning point in the game.”

The teams traded the lead over the next few minutes before Figueroa hit another 3-pointer that gave the Red Storm a 58-57 advantage with 3:12 left and started an 8-0 run.

The Red Storm led 63-57 with 50 seconds left when Villanova’s Phil Booth was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He made two free throws to get the Wildcats within four.

That’s as close as they could get as St. John’s converted its free throws down the stretch to complete the biggest comeback since the team rallied from a 20-point deficit against DePaul in 2010.

Joe Cremo scored 14 points for Villanova (20-6, 11-2), and Eric Paschall added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Wright said. “We were really dominant in the first half, the second half they matched up the intensity.”

The game was a little bit of revenge for the Red Storm, who lost to Villanova by five after blowing an 11-point second-half lead on Jan. 8.

The Wildcats jumped all over the Red Storm early on, outscoring them 29-10 over the first 12 minutes. During that stretch, the Red Storm went without a basket for 7:39.

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one spot

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Alabama, Baylor, Syracuse, St. John’s, Auburn, Washington and TCU.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners finally snapped a five-game losing streak by going into Fort Worth and picking off TCU, 71-62. I still think that the Sooners are in a tough spot as it stands, but they now how four Q1 wins and just one loss to a team outside the top 35 in the NET — at West Virginia (115), a Q2 loss. A 4-8 mark against Q1 is not great, and neither is their 16-10 record or 4-9 mark in the Big 12, but OU does have three more shots at Q1 wins, and that doesn’t count Texas at home. Their bid is in their hands.

SETON HALL (NET: 61, SOS: 36): Seton Hall may have just about punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon. They landed their third Q1 win of the season by going into Omaha and picking off Creighton (59), but making it all the more impressive is the fact that their first two Q1 wins came against Kentucky (6) on a neutral and at Maryland (21). They do have three unimpressive losses — they were swept by DePaul (91) and lost at home to Saint Louis (123) — but they are now 10-7 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They end the season like this: Xavier (104), at St. John’s (49), at Georgetown (79), Marquette (20), Villanova (19). Win three more games and they’re in. Win two more and they’re probably feeling pretty good.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 60): The Golden Gophers got screwed on a bad foul call in the final seconds of a loss on Wednesday night, which cost them a Q1 win. They bounced back by absolutely humiliating Indiana at home, a win that won’t carry quite as much weight on Selection Sunday but that will keep the Gophers heading in the right direction. I personally think Minnesota is in really good shape right now given their win at Wisconsin and a win over Washington on a neutral. The 3-7 record in Q1 games isn’t ideal, but their worst loss is only a Q2 loss at Boston College. They close the season like this: Michigan (8), at Rutgers (118), at Northwestern (72), Purdue (11), at Maryland (21). If they go 3-2 in that stretch, they’re dancing, and 2-3 might even be enough to get the job done.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 43): The Gators are not going to let us quit them. They picked up their best win of the season on Saturday, going into Tuscaloosa and pounding Alabama (45). That’s just Florida’s second Q1 win of the season. They are now 2-9 against Q1 opponents with a Q3 home loss to South Carolina in the mix. Their 14-11 overall record is not good, and their metrics are floated by the fact that they’ve played a lot of good teams close. Mike White’s team still has some ground to make up, but with two games against LSU (14) and a trip to Kentucky (6) on the schedule, they’ll have chances.

NEBRASKA (NET: 40, SOS: 70): I just can’t quit you, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won their second straight game on Saturday, adding another Q2 win by picking off Northwestern (72) at home. I know that they lost seven straight earlier this year, but the Huskers are now 8-11 in Q1 and Q2 games with a pair of Q1 road wins. That’s enough to keep them in the mix, and with a schedule that is just absolutely brutal in the final three weeks of the season — at Penn State (70), Purdue (11), at Michigan (8), at Michigan State (7), Iowa (28) — they’ll get five more chances to notch Q1 wins.

WOFFORD (NET: 28, SOS: 167): Wofford absolutely beat the brakes off of the second-best team in the SoCon, UNC Greensboro. They won by 30 points. It’s not a Q1 win because it’s at home, but it is their fourth Q2 win to go along with a 2-4 mark against Q1. As long as the Terriers avoid losing at Chattanooga and at Samford, they are an at-large team in my mind. A 15-0 league record against a conference with more top 60 NET teams than the Pac-12 deserves to get in.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 67): Arizona State has one of the strangest resumes in college hoops this season. They are 4-1 in Q1 games and have another Q2 win at UCLA (107). But they’ve lost four Q3 games — Princeton (90), Utah (101), at USC (145), at Vanderbilt (189) — and that doesn’t court their worst loss of the year, at home to Washington State (230) by 21 points.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Here is the catch-22 for life on the bubble: Entering Saturday, Temple winning at USF (76) would have been a Q1 win. The Owls went out and they beat the Bulls in overtime. The problem? That loss dropped USF to 76th in the NET, meaning that it is now a Q2 win and Temple’s resume is still a win over Houston (5) and not much else. The reality is that won’t matter all that much. The committee will take into account that winning South Florida, whether it’s Q1 or Q2, is not a game-changer, which is why I’m still of the mindset that Temple needs to win at least four of their final five regular season games and avoid an AAC tournament loss to one of the teams at the bottom of the league.

BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 25): The Bulldogs beat DePaul on Saturday night, getting the win they needed to set themselves up for a shot at an at-large. Butler plays at Marquette on Wednesday and at Villanova in two weeks. With just one Q1 win to date, Butler might need to get both to really feel comfortable.

VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 40): The Rams were up by 22 points at Dayton (82) early in the second half and blew the lead, but thanks to a late Marcus Evans bucket, they were able to get out of Dayton Arena with a win. The win at Texas (35) continues to look better and better, a 3-2 mark against Q2 teams is solid and with just one bad loss — a Q3 home loss to Charleston (113) — the Rams are the Atlantic 10’s best chance at an at-large.

BELMONT (NET: 60, SOS: 166): For the Bruins to have a chance at an at-large, they need to win out and lost to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament. On Saturday night, they smacked around Tennessee Tech. So far so good.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 126): The Aggies probably couldn’t afford a loss to Air Force, and they did what they needed to win — win. There are two things that Utah State needs to do in they truly want to get an at-large bid to the tournament: 1. Beat Nevada at home, and 2. Hope that Fresno State cracks the top 75 in the NET. If they two, that’s one less Q3 loss and one more Q1 win on their resume.

UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 83): UCF won against Memphis in Orlando, which gives them a sixth Q2 win but doesn’t do much to change the biggest flaw in their profile: A total lack of Q1 wins. The Knights play at Cincinnati on Thursday. That will be the game-changer.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 6): The Longhorns did what they needed to do on Saturday, knocking off Oklahoma State in Austin to avoid picking up their second Q3 loss of the year. The Longhorns are now 15-11 overall and just 7-6 in the Big 12, but they have the No. 6 SOS and No. 11 non-conference SOS nationally. Combine that with a neutral court win over UNC (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) and a win at Kansas State (26), and the Longhorns are in a pretty good spot.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 188): Losing to a three-win Kennesaw State team would have been a dream-killer for the Bisons. They won and live to fight another day.

LOSERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 239): The Wolfpack lost at Duke on Saturday, which is what we all expected to see happen. The chink in N.C. State’s armor is that they played the worst non-conference schedule in the country, and when combined with A) just one Q1 win and B) a Q3 loss, Kevin Keatts is not in a place where he can feel comfortable yet. The most troubling part: N.C. State’s season ends like this: Boston College, Wake Forest, at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Boston College. They have one Q1 opportunity left. They really, really need to win it.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 46, SOS: 191): The Spartans were whipped at Wofford, losing by 30 to the SoCon leaders. It’s their second loss this week and probably takes them out of serious bubble consideration. We’ll keep them around, but they’re probably not going to have enough good wins.

ARKANSAS (NET: 63, SOS: 45): I don’t get the appeal of Arkansas as a bubble team. They won at LSU, which is nice, but that is their only Q1 win in seven tries and they are 3-10 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost at home to both Georgia Tech (118) and Western Kentucky (121), which are Q3 losses. What is the appeal here? What am I missing?

INDIANA (NET: 49, SOS: 36): Indiana is off the bubble at this point. They went into Minnesota and got absolutely poleaxed. The Hoosiers have now lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall to 13-12 on the season and 4-10 in the Big Ten. If they can somehow find a way to put together a winning streak late in the year, they have some great wins — at Michigan State (7), Louisville (16), Marquette (20) — and no bad losses, but that feels like saying if I can lose 30 pounds and get my six pack back I could be an underwear model.

CLEMSON (NET: 42, SOS: 33): The Tigers had a shot to land their second Q1 win of the season, but after erasing and eight point lead in the final minute and forcing a turnover with 3.5 seconds left, the Tigers had a layup blocked with that would have won the game. The result doesn’t really hurt their profile other than the opportunity cost — this is the kind of win that, on this year’s bubble, can jump Clemson up four or five spots in the seed list. That’s a tough miss.

No. 11 Michigan State’s win over Ohio State overshadowed by Nick Ward injury

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No. 11 Michigan State used a 20-2 run over the course of the final eight minutes on Saturday afternoon, sending Ohio State back to Columbus with a 62-44 loss to keep pace with Purdue and Michigan atop the Big Ten standings, but no one is going to be talking about that today.

They’re going to be talking about Nick Ward.

The 6-foot-9 junior center for the Spartans emerged from halftime with his left hand — shooting hand — heavily bandaged and played just four second half minutes because of the injury. Michigan State announced after the game that Ward suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand towards the end of the first half. The injury occurred when Ward hit his hand on the rim, a source close to the program said.

Michigan State is already down their second-best scorer with Josh Langford injured. Losing Ward would mean losing their best low-post scorer and a guy that gets them a couple of easy buckets every night because of his ability to run the floor and the way Cassius Winston can find him in transition.

With Langford out of commission, Michigan State is going to have a tough enough time with Michigan in two of their last four game.

Without Ward?

It’s hard to see the Spartans winning much if Ward cannot return in time for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.