Sunday, January 20, 2008

College Basketball 1/21 - Four Top Ten Teams Tumble

Another exciting week that included top tens UNC, UCLA, Georgetown, and Texas A&M (twice) losing and saw Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado put up a rare triple double (10 points, 12 boards, 10 blocks).

Maryland 82, UNC 80
North Carolina State 79, Miami (FL) 77 OT

With many great games this week, including the seven upsets of ranked teams Saturday, it was difficult to narrow it down to these two great ACC games. Maryland, the same team that lost back-to-back games at home the American and Ohio, went into the Dean Dome and knocked off undefeated North Carolina 82-80 thanks to a basket from Bambale Osby with just 21 seconds left. UNC had three shots at the end, but Tyler Hansbrough's jumper bounced off the rim at the end. All in all, Maryland outplayed and outworked UNC. James Gist and Osby out-physicalled Tyler Hansbrough - not an easy feat. Couple all of that with UNC's inability to shoot and score consistenly, and you have the perfect recipe for an upset.

NC State's "upset" win over a very average Miami team had one of the best finishes I have ever seen. Watch the highlights here. Despite a three point play with 30 seconds left to send the game into OT, the Wolfpack found themselves down four with just under a minute left in the game, having gone scoreless thus far in the extra period, when Courtney Fells knocked down a tough pull-up three with a hand in his face. After a Miami free throw, NC State super-frosh followed up a miss with a tip-in with 4 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Gavin Grant stole the ball and made a lay-up to win the game, but no one saw it live because ESPN cut to a shot of Sidney Lowe on the Wolfpack sideline, and the hands of fans were in the way of the regular camera. Neither of these teams will compete in the ACC, but it was an awesome ending.

Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
The freshman Hazell led the Pirates to two much needed home wins over South Florida and Louisville by averaging 25.5 points. Over the two games, he shot a whopping 13-25 from three, while picking up six steals along the way. Against Louisville, Seton Hall was down 14 with 12 minutes left when Hazell went nuts. He scored 14 in the final 12 minutes, including four three's, the last of which put Seton Hall ahead for good 81-80 with four minutes left. These two wins were huge for the Pirates, who lost tough ones to UConn, Pitt, and Marquette the start league play, if they have any hopes of making the NCAA tournament.

The Minutemen earn the TOTW honors with a 2-0 week, beating Dayton on the road and knocking off a very-game Charlotte team at home. This week was huge, considering the quality of the A-10 this year and UMass's upcoming schedule - @ St. Joe's, home for Xavier, @ Duquense. In the 82-71 win at Dayton (who had not lost at home this season, including a win over then No. 6 Pitt) UMass was in control for most of the game. They jumped out to a 15-3 lead, and with the exception of a Flyers' run with 10 minutes left, the Minutemen never looked back. UMass overcame a rebounding deficit of 50-35 by using penetration to get open looks from three, and they capitalized on those looks going 13-30. Against Charlotte, UMass did much of the same, knocking down 11 three's to pull out a dog fight 86-79. Ricky Harris led the way by averaging 23ppg, shooting 50% from the field, hitting 9-18 threes, while only turning the ball over three times in over 30 minutes per game.

1/22 Drake @ Creighton: 16-1 Drake, fresh off a win over second place Illinois State, takes on the third place team in the MVC. Drake may be the best team-you-don't-know-about - their only loss is to St. Mary's.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Leonard Houston, Drake - The senior will have to pick up his game with backcourt mate Josh Young being out.

1/23 Baylor @ Texas A&M: First real test of the season for a 15-2 Baylor squad that sits stop the Big 12 standings. After losing big twice last week, A&M is looking to turn around their fortunes. FYI - Great article on the Baylor program's resurrection.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jospeh Jones/DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M and Kevin Rogers, Baylor - With Rogers being the lone big man on a team full of talented guards, his play against the big and strong front line of A&M will go a long way to legitimizing the hot start by the Bears.

1/24 Dayton @ Xavier: Another in the seemingly endless run of great games coming out of the A-10. Winner should be considered the early favorite to win the conference.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brian Roberts, Dayton - As UMass proved, the key to beating Dayton is stopping to explosive Roberts (held him to two first half points). Xavier has a laundry list of athletic wings they can throw at him.

1/24 Washington State @ Arizona
1/26 Washington State @ Arizona State
: After this road trip, Wazzu will have gone through there two toughest road trips. The Arizona State match-up could be for first place in the conference if Oregon can knock off UCLA Thursday, and may set the record for slowest pace and ugliest game of the decade.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jordan Hill, Arizona and Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State - Wazzu has been susceptible inside this year (see Kevin Love's 27 point, 14 board performance), so these guys need to have a game for their team to have a chance.

1/26 UConn @ Indiana: Fresh off a big win over Marquette, the Huskies head into Indiana with a little confidence. Could be a trap game for Indiana, with UConn being out of conference and coming right before a trip to Wisconsin.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DJ White, Indiana and Hasheem Thabeet, UConn - Thabeet has a reputation of shrinking when facing great big men, and White is as imposing of a center as there is in the nation. Eric Gordon will get his, so slowing White will be key for a UConn upset.

1/26 Mississippi @ Mississippi State: In-state rivalry pits the two best in the SEC west. Both teams are looking for their first legitimate win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jarvis Vanardo, Mississippi State - He leads the nation in blocks at 5 per game, and staying out of foul trouble will help to counter Ole Miss' attacking style.

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