Saturday, January 31, 2009

Players Behaving Badly

-Suspended Miami FL point guard Eddie Rios was arrested for grand theft and burglary early this week. Rios, who if you remember was suspended earlier in the season as well (both times for violating team rules), apparently stole $3,400 worth of electronics from people in his dorm. From the Miami Herald:

When police searched Rios' dorm room they discovered an Xbox 360, a power charger, HD cables, two wireless controllers, a Sony laptop computer, and 12 DVDs inside a white pillow case under Rios' desk. Rios was also found to have a concealed-weapons license that belonged to someone else.
He also stole a credit card and an ID that wasn't his. Rios started four games early in the season for the Hurricanes.

-Fresno State point guard Dwight O'Neil was arrested last Thursday night for driving with a suspended license. It looks like he is going to have to spend up to a week in jail after police learned he had an outstanding warrant for the same offense from back in May 2007. It has been a tough couple of weeks for O'Neil. He was suspended for the Bulldogs game against Louisiana Tech after arguing with coaches during a Jan. 17th game against Nevada. He also missed a game on Wednesday after his uncle died in a fire (seriously).

-Ok, so this isn't a player, but it is quite the meltdown. I'll set the stage for you. South Alabama took a one point lead over Louisiana-Lafayette with two seconds left, but Randall Daigle of ULL hit a three at the buzzer to win the game. Apparently, ULL (the home team) didn't have a monitor to review whether they got the shot off on time. USA coach Randy Arrow was none too happy about it, and it just so happened to be caught on tape.



-South Florida's Mike Mercer and Anthony Crater were arrested for marijuana possession last week. For Mercer, it was his second arrest in four months and he was kicked off of the team. It won't be too big of a loss for the Bulls as he was already out for the season after tearing up his knee. Anthony Crater, who is sitting out until next December after transferring from Ohio State, will remain with the team. Continue reading...

Patty Mills out for a month

St. Mary's had been playing arguably their best basketball ... ever. Prior to the Gonzaga game, they were 18-1 with a 15 game winning streak, sitting atop the WCC standings at 5-0. In the first 17 minutes of the game, they were up 34-28 and Mills had 18.

All that changed with three minutes to go in the half. As Mills, who was averaging 18.7 ppg and 3.9 apg, penetrated to the middle, he slipped and landed on his right hand. Initially diagnosed as a sprained wrist, he came out and tried to shoot around in second half warm-ups, but apparently it was too painful as he sat out the rest of the game with ice on his hand.

Now comes much worse news - instead of a simple sprained wrist, Mills actually broke a bone in his hand and is expected to be out for around four weeks. This is a huge loss for the Gaels, who, as evidenced by the 28-11 run Gonzaga went on after Mills left, are just not the same team without their PG.

Senior Carlin Hughes will most likely take over point guard duties. Continue reading...

Saturday Roundup

Two games to get you caught up on from last night:

  • Butler 59, Valparaiso 51: The Bulldogs used a 11-0 run late in the second half to overcome a 43-41 deficit and remain undefeated in the Horizon League. Gordon Hayward led Butler with 18 points.
  • Jacksonville 82, East Tennessee State 72: Jacksonville overcame a ten point halftime deficit as Ben Smith hit a three to tie the game at 68 with 10 seconds left. The Dolphins would go on to win in OT as Smith finished with 26 and 5 dimes.
As is the case with all Saturday's, there are a lot of key conference games happening across the country. We'll start with the Big East, where there are four important games to watch.
  • 12:00 PM: West Virginia (15-5, 4-3) @ Louisville (16-3, 7-0): You are going to need to be a man to step on the court at Freedom Hall this afternoon, as both of these teams play tough, rugged defense. I think the Mountaineers match-up well with Louisville, in that they have guys that are big, strong, and athletic enough to match-up with Earl Clark and Terrence Williams. The key to beating Louisville right now is keeping those two from making plays. Bob Huggins is a guy that preaches defense, and I can see those two having a rough day going against the likes of Devin Ebanks, Da'Sean Butler, and Wellington Smith. That said, Louisville has a pretty good defense itself. Truck Bryant has been fantastic filling in for the injured Joe Mazzula, but I see him having a tough day against the strong Louisville guards. I think West Virginia is going to give the Cardinals a dog fight, but the 'Ville should be able to pull this one out if they defend and box out on the defensive end.
  • 12:00 PM: Notre Dame (12-7, 3-5) @ Pitt (18-2, 6-2): There may not be a team in the country that needs a win more than the Fighting Irish. They have now lost four in a row to the top tier teams in the Big East, and a loss at Pitt would put them at 3-6 in the conference. The Panthers are also coming off of a loss, dropping a 67-57 decision to Villanova. Pitt is much stronger on the interior and a much better defensive team, but that doesn't mean the Irish don't have a chance. There are two things they need to do to win. The first is to get DeJuan Blair into foul trouble. In both of Pitt's losses, Blair played right around 20 minutes because of fouls. Luke Harangody is a great player, but he is going to need to stay away from the jumpers and attack the rim if they plan on getting Blair out of the game. The other thing ND needs to do is shoot the ball. Both Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney have struggled of late with their jump shots. If the Irish can do that, and hold their own on the glass, they could pull this one out.
  • 2:00 PM: Georgetown (12-7, 3-5) @ Marquette (18-2, 7-0): If the Irish need a win worse than anyone in the country, then the Hoyas are second on that list. They have also lost four in a row, three to Big East schools and the last two to Cincinnati and Seton Hall. Marquette, on the other hand, is playing some of the best basketball in the country. They sit atop the league standings at 7-0 and have arguably the best back court in the country. Georgetown is going to have to slow down those three (plus Lazar Hayward) if they want to pick up this win. It won't help that DaJuan Summers, who injured his foot on an errant alley-oop against Cinci, looks like he won't be in uniform. The biggest issue for the Hoyas right now seems to be confidence - earlier in the season they had a swagger about them, that they couldn't be beaten. But since the whooping they took at Duke, this team just hasn't been playing the same. Without Summers, it is going to be tough, but the Eagles don't have anyone that can stop Greg Monroe is he plays the way he is capable of.
  • 4:00 PM: Providence (14-6, 6-2) @ UConn (19-1, 8-1): The Huskies always struggle against Providence. Always. Last year, they got swept by the Friars and overall they have lost three straight and five of seven. This is certainly a trap game for UConn. While Providence is having an excellent season, they are not as good as Louisville, who UConn will travel to face on Monday. Providence is a team that can put up a lot of points, as evidenced by the century mark they put on Syracuse last week. Providence shoots a lot of three's (second most in the conference), but UConn has been a good defensive team against the three this season (28.6%). They will need to be able to slow down Providence's shooting if they want to avoid another upset at the hands of the Friars.
  • 8:00 PM: DePaul (8-13, 0-8) @ Rutgers (9-12, 0-8): At the end of the day, there will only be one winless Big East team.
Pac-10:
  • 5:30 PM: Washington (15-5, 6-2) @ Arizona State (16-4, 5-3): The Pac-10 looks like it is going to be a lot of fun down the stretch, as there are currently six teams within two games of first place, and another three just three games out. This looks like it is going to be the match-up of the day. I think ASU will pull this game out. U-Dub has a lot of talented and athletic perimeter players, but most of them tend to be 1-on-1 guys that excel against a man-to-man. The Sun Devils play a tough match-up zone defense, which should cause problems for the Huskies offensively. After getting upset by Wazzu at home, I see James Harden going for about 35 as ASU bounces back.
  • 11:30 PM: Cal (16-5, 5-3) @ USC (14-6, 5-3): These are two teams headed in opposite directions. Cal jumped out to a 4-0 record in the league, scoring home wins over the Arizona schools, but has since gone just 1-3. USC started out terribly, but has been able to fight back to respectability after hanging on the beat Stanford. Cal's leading scorer, Jerome Randle, has been battling a severely bruised hip, and combined with having to go up against one of the best on-ball defenders in the league (Daniel Hackett), I see Randle struggling tonight. When Randle struggles, so does Cal. More than just their leading scorer, he is their best playmaker, and the guy that can get into the lane and get good looks for the rest of this Bears team. I think USC is going to be too tough defensively (I guarantee you see some triangle-and-two out of the Trojans tonight) for Cal to pull this one out on the road.
  • 1:00 PM: Washington State (12-8, 4-4) @ Arizona (13-8, 3-5): Both of these teams are coming off of upset wins in their first games of the weekend - Wazzu over ASU and Arizona over Washington. A really fun match-up to watch is going to be Klay Thompson and Chase Budinger, two rangy, athletic wings that can really score the ball (Thompson had 28 against ASU). The styles of these two teams really contrast, as Arizona plays zone and likes to get out and push the ball, while Wazzu will grind you out defensively in man. I think Arizona pulls this one out at home, carrying over the momentum from the Washington win.
  • 3:30 PM: Stanford (13-5, 3-5) @ UCLA (16-4, 6-2): UCLA is coming off of a 81-66 drubbing of Cal where they collected 16 steals. I see more of the same fromt eh Bruins as they play a Stanford team that has really been struggling in league play.
  • 7:30 PM: Oregon (6-14, 0-8) @ Oregon State (9-10, 3-5): With a win, the Beavers will surpass their Pac-10 win total from the previous two years combined.
Big XII:
  • 6:00 PM: Baylor (15-5, 3-3) @ Missouri (17-4, 4-2): Oklahoma and Texas are clearly the class of the Big XII, but after that it gets very iffy. Baylor was expected to be pretty good this year, but Missouri kind of came out of no where. I think this is a good match-up for Baylor to bet back on track. The Tigers play a "40 minutes of hell" press, using their length and their athletes to trap all over the court. But the Bears get excellent guard play out of Curtis Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, and Henry Dugat. The biggest issue for Baylor? Turnovers. All of those four have a tendency to sometimes make poor decisions with the ball and throw it away. If they can avoid doing that against the Tiger's pressure, Baylor should be able to get this one on the road.
  • 1:45 PM: Oklahoma (20-1, 6-0) @ Iowa State (12-8, 1-4): The only other really interesting match-up in the Big XII today as, with all do respect to Cole Aldrich, the two best big men in teh Big XII go head to head - Craig Brackins and Blake Griffin. While Brackins is talented offensively, he has no where near the strength you need to slow down Griffin.
  • 2:00 PM: Oklahoma State (13-6, 2-3) @ Texas A&M (16-5, 2-4): These two teams have been sliding a bit in conference play, but both still have an outside shot of getting into the tourney if they can turn things around. I really like this OK State squad this year. They are a real uptempo team that loves to shoot three's.
  • 4:00 PM: Kansas State (12-7, 2-4) @ Texas (15-4, 4-1): The Wildcats have won two in a row after starting out Big XII play 0-4, but Texas is just too good and too big this year.
  • 4:00 PM: Colorado (9-10, 1-4) @ Kansas (16-4, 5-0): The Baby Jayhawks are undefeated in the league, but their best win is against A&M. They actually have a shot of making a run at the Big XII title. Why? Because they only get Baylor, OU, and Texas once each.
  • 8:00 PM: Nebraska (12-7, 2-4) @ Texas Tech (11-9, 1-4): Two teams playing much different styles - Nebraska plays a slowed down, defensive game while Tech likes to push the ball and put up points (see their 167 in a game earlier this year).
Big Ten:
  • 1:00 PM: Michigan (14-7, 4-5) @ Purdue (16-4, 5-2): The Wolverines have really fallen off this year. A loss to Purdue drops them to 14-8 and 4-6 in the league, while they still have games against Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota (twice), and at UConn. The win over Duke will only carry them so far, they need to get some W's.
  • 4:00 PM: Ohio State (14-5, 4-4) @ Indiana (5-14, 0-7): I really feel bad for these Indiana kids. They are going to get beat up on all season long.
  • 8:00 PM: Wisconsin (12-8, 3-5) @ Northwestern (11-7, 3-5): Wisconsin has lost five in a row, and has already started playing around with their lineup. Northwestern has been much better than in past years, and a win over Wisconsin could (gasp!) put them into bubble contention?
ACC:
  • 12:00 PM: Wake Forest (17-1, 4-1) @ Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6): The Yellow Jackets have some talented players on their roster (Gani Lawal, Iman Shumpert), but they are not all that deep, which should kill them against a team like Wake Forest. You will get a chance to see Al-Farouq Aminu and Alade Aminu (brothers, did you guess?) go head-to-head.
  • 3:30 PM: North Carolina (18-2, 4-2) @ NC State (11-7, 2-4): The Heels should not have a problem disposing of the Wolfpack. Disregarding their fluke loss to BC, the two teams UNC has had the most trouble with have been Wake Forest and Florida State, who both have big and athletic front lines.
  • 8:00 PM: Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-2) @ Boston College (16-6, 4-3): If Va Tech wants to be considered among the elite teams in the ACC, they must take care of business against the middle-of-the-pack conference foes. The Hokies will need to slow down Tyrese Rice, which, as always, is much easier said than done.
  • 8:00 PM: Miami FL (14-6, 3-4) @ Maryland (13-7, 2-4): Maryland is a team in turmoil. They have blown big leads (14+) three times in the last month, just got shellacked by Duke, and have an AD and coach who cannot get along. Regardless of where this is played, Miami should win this game.
SEC:
  • 9:00 PM: Florida (17-3, 5-1) @ Tennessee (12-7, 3-2): The Vols desperately need this win. They are coming off of losses to Memphis and LSU, and do not look like the team everyone thought they would be in the preseason. If Tennessee wants to beat Florida, they are going to need to slow down Nick Calathes. Calathes is a Jason Kidd-like point guard. He is bigger (which means he will be able to see over the Vol traps) and not overly athletic, but he is a phenomenal passer and such a heady player. Tennessee needs to keep the ball out of his hands when they are pressing, because he will be able to dribble and pass right through the defense. I like Florida in this game, however. They have more skilled players on the perimeter, but they are just as long and athletic as Tennessee's wings.
  • 1:00 PM: Mississippi (11-9, 2-4) @ Mississippi State (14-6, 4-1): The Rebels look to knock off another tourney hopeful after beating Kentucky at home on Tuesday.
  • 2:00 PM: Vanderbilt (12-8, 1-5) @ Auburn (13-7, 2-3): You couldn't pay me to watch this one.
  • 3:00 PM: South Carolina (15-4, 4-2) @ Kentucky (16-4, 5-1): The Wildcats are coming off of a loss at Mississippi where the Rebels completely shut down Jodie Meeks (by completely I mean held him to 21 points on 4-15 shooting, no small task). The Gamecocks will need to do the same thing if they hope to win at Rupp.
  • 5:00 PM: Arkansas (13-5, 1-4) @ LSU (16-4, 4-1): I have no idea why Arkansas has been losing so many games recently. Between Michael Washington, Courtney Fortson, and Rotnei Clarke, they have a solid trio. And their gym in Fayetteville is one of the best home courts in the country. But Trent Johnson has done a fantastic job with the LSU team, who looks like they are destined for the NCAA's after knocking off Tennessee this week. This should end up being a fun one to watch, as both teams are chock full of athletes.
  • 7:00 PM: Georgia (9-11, 0-5) @ Alabama (12-8, 2-4): Georgia's first game without Dennis Felton. 'Bama's second without Mark Got fired Gottfried.
The rest of the day's games you need to keep an eye on:
  • 12:00 PM: UMass (7-11, 2-3) @ Xavier (18-2, 6-0)
  • 1:00 PM: Houston (12-6, 3-2) @ Memphis (17-3, 6-0)
  • 3:00 PM: Texas A&M-CC (11-9, 5-0) @ Sam Houston State (10-8, 4-1)
  • 3:00 PM: Davidson (17-3, 10-0) @ Samford (11-9, 6-5)
  • 3:30 PM: New Mexico (13-8, 4-2) @ Utah (13-7, 4-2)
  • 4:00 PM: UNLV (16-4, 4-2) @ Air Force (9-10, 0-6)
  • 4:05 PM: Bradley (13-8, 7-3) @ Illinois State (17-4, 6-4)
  • 6:00 PM: San Diego (12-9, 4-2) @ Gonzaga (16-4, 6-0)
  • 7:30 PM: Austin Peay (12-8, 8-2) @ Morehead State (12-10, 8-2)
  • 9:00 PM: St. Mary's (18-2, 5-1) @ Portland (14-7, 5-1)
  • 10:00 PM: Utah State (20-1, 8-0) @ Fresno State (9-12, 1-5)
Continue reading...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Lay-up Lines

Two games to keep an eye on tonight:

7:00 PM: East Tennessee State (15-5, 9-1) @ Jacksonville (14-6, 9-1): First place in the Atlantic Sun is on the line.

7:00 PM: Valparasio (6-16, 3-7) @ Butler (18-1, 9-0) Continue reading...

Got a Question for Blake Griffin? Now You Can Ask him

Blake Griffin is the most dominant big man in the country and one of the front runners for national player of the year. But he seems like a pretty down to earth guy.

How would I know, given I've never met the kid?

Sooner Sports, Oklahoma's official athletics website, has started a feature known as Blake's Mailbag. Fans around the country can go there to submit questions to the big fella. He seems to answer pretty honestly.

In the first edition posted yesterday, Griffin answers questions about his living arrangements (apparently roommate Cade Davis doesn't clean at all), his NBA draft status (he says as of now he is coming back - I call bull shit), his relationship with his brother, and his car (an '02 Denali).

My personal favorite answer came on a question from a fan in Alaska. I can't remember what the question was in regards to, but Griffin's answer started with "Let me ask you a question. Can you really see Russia from up there?"

For a guy that has taken a number of cheap shots this year, he is sure quick to dish them out.

My question to Blake: "What's with the crossdressing?"
Continue reading...

Friday Morning Shootaround

What a game out in Blacksburg last night. Virginia Tech controlled the first half. Clemson's press was completely ineffective last night. The Hokies used quick, long passes up the sideline to avoid being trapped, which created situations where Tech had numbers offensively. As a result, Tech got a ton of open looks and open lay-ups in the first half.

Malcolm Delaney was one of the guys that feasted on those open looks. He scored 22 of his 37 points in the first half (including a 60 foot heave at the first half buzzer).

In the second half, Clemson again came out in their press, and again it was ineffective. The Tigers had gotten the lead down to six before the half, but an 11-2 run (started by Delaney's 60 footer) pushed the lead back out to 15, 61-46, at the 17:14 mark. That is when Clemson would come out of their press, and go to a trapping man-to-man defense in the half court.

The Tiger's half court defense held Tech to just 21 points the rest of the way, and they used a 26-5 run over the next 10 minutes to take their biggest lead of the game, 72-66. KC Rivers scored 13 of his 29 points in the run, and capped it with his seventh three of the game.

But Tech would respond. Malcolm Delaney scored seven of the next 13 Hokie points, including a three with 3:25 left to put Tech up 79-76. But with the game tied at 80 and 1:25 left, David Potter hit a three from the top of the key, and Clemson would hang on, forcing a three way tie in third place in the ACC.

Potter finished with 7 points, 7 assists and 5 boards while Trevor Booker had 21 and 13. Jeff Allen added 13 and 9 boards for Tech, who only got 10 points from leading scorer AD Vassallo.

Before this game, I really had my doubts about Clemson - I couldn't decide if they were just another Tiger team that had a hot start. But they really impressed me with their come back for two reasons. First, they were down 15 on the road (Cassell Coliseum is a tough place to play) to a Tech team playing just about its best basketball. Second, they were able to come back without pressing, which is their MO defensively. They were able to grind out stops in the half court, which just proves that this team is much more versatile than people give them credit for. I don't want to say that they are up with Duke, Wake, and UNC, but they are probably the fourth best team in the ACC right now.

The rest of the night's games:

  • Gonzaga 69, St. Mary's 62: A match-up of arguably the two best teams on the West Coast fizzled early as Patty Mills had to leave the game with three minutes left in the first half due to a right wrist injury (they are calling it a sprain). The Gael's offense really struggled without the Aussie in the second half as they shot just 33% and scored only 23 points (Mills alone had 18 in the first 17 minutes of the game).

    Gonzaga used a 28-11 run at the start of the second half to build up a 61-50 lead. St. Mary's would keep fighting and scrapping, but without Mills they couldn't get into their offense and couldn't score. Diamon Simpson led the Gaels with 17 and 12, going 7-7 from the floor, but without Mills to provide spacing, he was limited in the number of post touches he got.

    The guy on Gonzaga who has been making the most noise of late has been Matt Bouldin. He had 17 last night, which was right on his average over the previous six games. He is such a smart, fundamentally sound player. He does it all on the floor - shoot, pass, defend - and is becoming the go-to guy for the 'Zags and the guy they run their offense through.
  • Minnesota 59, Illinois 36: Talk about an ugly game to watch. The halftime score was 22-16, as the two teams combined to shoot 28% from the field. The Gophers figured it out a bit in the second half on the strength of 10 points from Lawrence Westbrook, who capped a 19-7 run with a three that pushed the lead to 45-27. Illinois shot 29.7% from the field on the game, hitting just 2-16 from deep, and did not put a player into double figures. It was a huge win for Minnesota. They whiffed against Purdue and Michigan State, and not only did this win put them all alone in third place in the Big Ten, but it ended a 20 game losing streak against the Illini.
  • UCLA 81, Cal 66: The story of this game was steals. UCLA tallied 16 steals (forcing 21 total Cal turnovers) which led to numerous wide open transition lay-ups. UCLA used a 19-2 run early in the second half to blow open a three point game. Theo Robertson scored all 19 of his points in the second half, but it wasn't enough as Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher combined for just 17 points, less than half their season average. Darren Collison led the Bruins with 18 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals, while freshman Jrue Holiday added 13 points. With the win, the Bruins moved into a tie in first place in the league because...
  • Arizona 106, Washington 97: The Wildcats used a 13-0 run midway through the second half to build a 69-53 lead. But Washington would keep chipping away. Using a a trapping, pressure defense, the Huskies were able to widdle the lead down to 91-88 before Zane Johnson hit a three that just about iced it. The Huskies would get no closer than five the rest of the way. Arizona made some huge free throws down the stretch as the Huskies resorted to fouling fairly early (one of the reasons the second half score was 69-59 - compare that to the score of the Minnesota-Illinois game). UA hit 34-40 from the line in the second half. Nic Wise led the Wildcats with 29 points (including 14-14 from the line) and 8 assists while Chase Budinger added 25 and 8 boards. Jon Brockman led U-dub with 27 and 16. The loss knocked the Huskies from the perch all alone atop the Pac-10.
  • Washington State 65, Arizona State 55: Freshman Klay Thompson single-handedly busted the Sun Devil zone, going for 28 points (including 8-10 from three) as Wazzu bounced back after being swept at home last weekend. Aron Baynes had 22 and 9 boards for the Cougars, who held ASU to just 8-29 shooting in the second half (in which they outscored the Sun Devils 38-25). James Harden had 26, but he was just 8-20 from the floor and 8-13 from the line.
  • USC 70, Stanford 69: Lawrence Hill had 19 points, but he needed 21 as he missed a baseline jumper at the buzzer. Taj Gibson had 20 and Leonard Washington and Daniel Hackett both added 12. Landry Fields had 18 for the Cardinal.
  • Michigan State 71, Iowa 56: Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers both stayed hot as they scored 24 and 21 points, respectively.
  • Evansville 65, Drake 62: This happened -



  • Siena 91, Canisius 73
  • Utah Valley 123, Chicago State 121 4OT: Ryan Toolson led UVSU to the 4OT win by scoring 63 points, the second time we've had someone hit 60 this season (remember Ben Woodside from North Dakota State?). Toolson also had 12 boards and 6 assists. He wasn't the only guy to go off in this one - Chicago State got 41 from David Holston and 40 from John Cantrell.
  • Dayton 47, St. Louis 46
  • North Dakota State 81, Oakland 71
  • Seton Hall 70, Rutgers 67
  • Arkansas 89, Alabama 80
  • Utah State 72, Nevada 61: If Utah State wants to ensure themselves an at-large bid if they happen to lose in the WAC tourney, they need to win out. Their SOS? 218th in the country. Puts their 19-1 record in perspective a bit, doesn't it?
  • Portland 69, San Diego 55
Continue reading...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Lay-up Lines

Four great games on tonight, starting with Clemson (17-2, 3-2) heading to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1), who just so happen to be in second place in the ACC. Everyone knows about UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest this year - they are the last three teams to be ranked #1, and clearly the class of the ACC. But after that, there are five teams (Florida State, BC, and Miami, to go along with these two) that the book is still out on. What makes this game all the more important is that a win for Tech puts them in a first place tie with Duke. A loss puts both teams in third with UNC. I think Clemson has more to prove in this one. They coasted through a fairly easy schedule early on, going undefeated before losing back-to-back games to Wake Forest (at home) and UNC (where they were smacked on the road). The Tigers have a gaudy ranking right now, but they need to start backing it up with wins.

This is a tough one to call. I think Clemson is the better team, but when Tech's big three get it going, they are tough to beat. I'm going to say Clemson wins, simply because I don't know if Tech has the guards to handle the Tiger's press.

  • 9:00 PM: Illinois (17-3, 5-2) @ Minnesota (17-3, 5-3): A key Big Ten showdown as two of the better defensive teams in the league square off. Illinois is playing some of their best basketball of the season. They've won three of their last four games, beating Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin (with the only loss coming in a close game at Michigan State). Minnesota, on the other hand, is coming in struggling. They've lost two of their last three (including dropping one to Northwestern), barely holding on the beat Indiana. This is a key game for the Gophers. After the Illini, they have to go to Ohio State and Michigan State. If they lose all three and fall to 5-6 in the league, that may be a hole they can't dig themselves out of. I think Illinois wins this one. They have a really good, really experienced back court that is not going to be thrown off by Minnesota changing defenses.
  • 10:30 PM: Cal (16-4, 5-2) @ UCLA (15-4, 5-2): Good match-up of intriguing styles between two of the three teams tied for second in the Pac-10. Cal is a little more uptempo and loves to shoot the three, relying on guys like Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson to keep them in games. UCLA is a team that hangs their hat on the defensive side of the ball, and has no problem winning games in the 60's. I know that UCLA's ranking is inflated right now (really? 16th? Their best win is Miami OH), but they tend to struggle against teams with a big front line and a workhorse down low. Jamal Boykin is averaging double digits, but he isn't exactly Jon Brockman. I think the Bruins defensive pressure will force Cal into a poor shooting night, and I see Randle struggling against Darren Collison.
  • 11:00 PM: St. Mary's (18-1, 5-0) @ Gonzaga (14-4, 5-0): The two best teams in the WCC face off for first place in the league. Both teams are immensely talented. They both have excellent size and good guard play, but this one is going to come down to the point guards. Patty Mills and Jeremy Pargo are two of the best in the country, but they do it in very different ways. Mills is a speed demon that puts up points in a hurry, while Pargo is a much stronger, more athletic player that has turned himself into a run-the-team point guard. Whoever gets the best of this match-up should win.
The rest of the night's action:
  • 7:00 PM: Canisius (7-13, 2-8) @ Siena (16-5, 10-0)
  • 7:05 PM: Michigan State (16-3, 6-1) @ Iowa (12-8, 2-5)
  • 8:00 PM: St. Louis (11-8, 2-3) @ Dayton (18-2, 4-1)
  • 8:00 PM: Oakland (13-9, 6-3) @ North Dakota (14-5, 8-1)
  • 8:30 PM: Washington (15-4, 6-1) @ Arizona (12-8, 2-5)
  • 9:00 PM: Washington State (11-8, 3-4) @ Arizone State (16-3, 5-2)
  • 9:00 PM: Rutgers (9-11, 0-7) @ Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)
  • 9:05 PM: Alabama (12-7, 2-3) @ Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)
  • 9:05 PM: Nevada (12-7, 5-1) @ Utah State (19-1, 7-0)
  • 10:00 PM: San Diego (12-8, 4-1) @ Portland (13-7, 4-1)
  • 10:30 PM: Stanford (13-4, 3-4) @ USC (13-6, 4-3)
Continue reading...

Not a Good Week to Coach in the SEC: Dennis Felton is out at Georgia

Just saw on Sportscenter that Dennis Felton has been fired as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Felton was in his sixth season at Georgia, but the Bulldogs could not recapture the glory of last season's miracle run through the tornado-interrupted SEC Tournament (remember, they won two games in one day).

Georgia was struggling this season, with last night's 83-57 loss to Florida dropping them to 9-11, 0-5 in the SEC. Felton got a rough draw at Georgia as he took over a program saddled with sanctions from the infamous Jim Harrick. He had an 84-91 career record at Georgia, and in the four years prior to last season, Felton had just two NIT trips to show for his efforts.

While he may have been hired into a tough situation, the reality of it is that without their run through the SEC, Felton would not have even started this season.

So that means there are now two jobs open in the SEC. Get those resumes together... Continue reading...

Thursday Morning Shootaround

Last night was chock full of upsets, including Wake Forest knocking off the #1 team in the country, Duke, 70-68. Wake went up 61-48 with just under nine minutes left in the game, but that is when Duke really turned it on. The Blue Devils were helped out by some bad misses at the free throw line (Wake was just 5-10, missing two front-ends, during Duke's run) and some timely turnovers.

Down 68-66, Jon Scheyer missed a three from the wing, but James Johnson didn't box him out and was lazy going after the rebound, which allowed Scheyer to grab the board and call time out with 17.4 seconds left. Duke then got the ball in to Gerald Henderson, who finished with 20 points, and he drove and hit a 15 foot pull-up over Johnson to tie the game up with under 10 seconds left. After missed lay-ups by Al-Farouq Aminu and Jeff Teague, Henderson was called for a travel with 2.6 seconds left on the clock.

Dino Gaudio knew that Duke would go to a switching man-to-man on the out of bounds play. So what Wake did was line up with four across the baseline, with Jeff Teague in the opposite corner and James Johnson in front of the ball. They ran Teague off of three screens, the last one being Johnson. Henderson was guarding Johnson, and Nolan Smith was on Teague, but Johnson slipped the screen (meaning he never set it, he cut to the rim right before Teague got there) which meant that Smith was never in position to cover him. Johnson made a lay-up with 0.8 seconds left, and the Demon Deacons knocked off Duke.

Wake did a fantastic job defensively against Duke. It was clear the length and athleticism was bothering the Blue Devil shooters, as they shot 33% as a team (28% in the first half) and were just 4-22 from three, a staple in the Duke offense. Duke was able to hang around for a while because of their offensive rebounding (12 of their 15 in the first half), but Wake really focused on box outs in the second half.

While Duke somehow managed to outrebound Wake 47-43, the Demon Deacons still clearly had the advantage inside, outscoring the Dukies 42-24 in the paint. Johnson (13 and 11) and Aminu (15 and 10) both had double doubles while Chas McFarland added 9 and 7 before fouling out. Combined, those three had eight blocks.

The Blue Devils did a fantastic job defensively on Jeff Teague. They held the all-america candidate to just 11 points on 4-14 shooting. Teague just seemed a little bit off all game. He was hitting his jumpers and getting into the lane, but he just couldn't finish around the rim like he normally does. One guy that ended up being a real difference maker for the Deacs was Ishmael Smith. Smith was able to penetrate at will during the second half, either to score or to pass, and finished with seven points and four assists. He is a great asset for Wake in the back court along side Teague, because he takes a lot of pressure off of the sophomore in terms of PG responsibilities. When Smith is out there, Teague can worry a little more about his scoring and less about whether he is getting people involved.

The one thing that really worried me in this game (and which was a little evident in the UNC win) was Wake Forest's lack of poise down the stretch. As I said, they went 5-10 from the line, missing two front ends, turned the ball over a couple times (on bone headed plays to boot), and did not always take great shots. Down the stretch, Jeff Teague needs to be more assertive. He needs to be the one taking, and making, the big shots.

I know this isn't exactly about the game, but it is relevant. I think we've reached a point in the career of Dickie V where he shouldn't be the only color guy in the booth. Don't get me wrong, I love him, but it is getting to the point where his gimmick is cutting into real analysis. I think they need to do with him what ESPN has done with Bill Raftery. I think my favorite ESPN booth is when Raftery teams up with Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough, usually on Big Monday's Big East game. You got your x-s'and-o's guy (Bilas), your nut job/screamer (Raftery), and your play-by-play man (McDonough). Why not throw Fran Fraschilla or Steve Lavin on the sidelines with Vitale? It can't be any worse than sitting through Lavin's halftime segments where he breaks down an offense...

One more thing - as you know, I am a huge fan of dunks, and there were quite a few nice ones last night:







My favorite? Henderson's reverse dunk.

Let's get to the rest of the night's games:

  • Villanova 67, Pitt 57: Man, do I look like an idiot now... So much for Villanova being overrated. The Wildcats took advantage of Panther foul trouble (specifically, DeJuan Blair, who tallied 7 and 8 boards in 23 minutes) and were able to come back from a early 10 point deficit to win this one. Reggie Redding, who led 'Nova with a career high 18 points and 7 boards, hit two free throws with eight minutes left to start a 7-0 run that broke open a 48-48 game. Sam Young led Pitt with 14 and 9 boards.
  • Providence 100, Syracuse 94: The Orange were playing without Andy Rautins (ankle) and with a limited Arinze Onuaku (knee), which meant that they only had six healthy scholarship players available for this one. Providence got a balanced effort as Sharaud Curry led six players in double figures with 22. It is a huge win for the Friars, who now have their first marquee win on their resume. Jonny Flynn had 35 and Eric Devendorf 27 is the loss.
  • Cincinnati 65, Georgetown 57: Cincinnati got 20 from Deonta Vaughn, and the Bearcats used a 6-0 spurt with under four minutes left after Jason Clark gave the Hoyas their final lead as they sent Georgetown to their fourth straight loss. Just like with Providence, this win gives Cinci a victory over a formerly? marquee team. This loss isn't even the worst news for the Hoyas - DaJuan Summers, the Georgetown leading scorer, sat out the second half with a twisted left ankle.
  • UNC 80, Florida State 77: Toney Douglas scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half to lead FSU to a 77-74 lead. With just over a minute left, Danny Green hit an and-one lay-up. After an empty possession for FSU gave the Heels the ball with 3.2 seconds left, this happened:



    Lawson finished with 21 points, 9 boards, and 4 dimes and Danny Green added 20 as UNC overcame eight points from Tyler Hansbrough and 21 turnovers.
  • Kansas State 88, Missouri 72: Jacob Pullen had 23 points as K-State was able to figure out Missouri's press, while throwing the Tigers a trapping defense of their own. DeMarre Carroll had 19 for Mizzou, who was held 13 points below their scoring average. K-State hit 12-22 from deep.
  • LSU 79, Tennessee 73: Marcus Thornton had 29 points and Chris Johnson added 14, 14, and 4 blocks as the Tigers went into Knoxville and beat the Vols. Tennessee overcame a 14 point second half deficit, eventually taking a 69-67 lead, but an and-one lay-up by Thornton gave LSU the lead right back. Big win for the Tigers, devastating loss for the Vols, who are running out of chances to pick up key victories after losing to Memphis and Kentucky in recent weeks.
  • Ohio State 72, Michigan 54: The Buckeyes jumped out to a 19-4 lead and never looked back. Evan Turner had 24 points.
  • Louisville 80, South Florida 54: The Cardinals got 16 from Edgar Sosa and outscored the Bulls 47-22 after the break.
  • Memphis 85, East Carolina 64: Antonio Anderson had 26 in the win.
  • Davidson 92, Chattanooga 70: Curry had 32 and 8 dimes.
  • St. Joe's 68, Richmond 58
  • West Virginia 75, St. John's 52
  • South Carolina 86, Vanderbilt 76
  • Kansas 68, Nebraska 62
  • Xavier 69, Charlotte 47
  • Florida 83, Georgia 57: Nick Calathes had his second career triple double, going for 20, 13 boards, and 10 dimes.
  • Northern Iowa 59, Illinois State 55
  • Texas A&M 79, Texas Tech 70
  • Northwestern 77, Indiana 75
  • UConn 71, DePaul 49: Jerome Dyson had 18 and DePaul scored just 14 second half points.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gary Williams - The Axe is Near

Gary Williams has been on the hot seat for a while. He won a National Title the year after reaching a Final Four (2001 and 2002 for the Terps), but has made the NCAA tournament just three of the past six seasons.

The hot seat. Fair or not, that's just what happens when you raise the bar of expectations, then fail to fulfill them.

The issue with Williams has been his inability to recruit one of the most fertile high school basketball areas in the country. College Park, where the University of Maryland is located, is a stone's throw from Washington DC (it actually has its own stop on the DC subway line) and Prince George's Country in Maryland (where all the "DC" players come from). It is also just a 15 minute ride up 95 from Baltimore.

As I was saying, the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) produces as much high school basketball talent as any area in the country. Here is a quick peek at some of the guys Williams has whiffed on in his own back yard the last few years:

  • Kevin Durant
  • Michael Beasley
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Scottie Reynolds
  • DaJuan Summers
  • Chris Wright
  • Austin Freeman
  • Donte Greene
  • Rudy Gay
  • Ty Lawson
  • Jerome Dyson
  • Marcus Ginyard
  • Malcolm Delaney
And that is only scratching the surface. You think having some of those guys could help the Terps this year?

I bet they wouldn't have blown as many big leads (17 to Miami? 16 to BC last night? 14 to Morgan State with under 12 minutes left?) as they have recently.

It is actually pretty amazing that Williams is such a poor recruiter. MD plays in a gorgeous arena (I know, I've been there), has a large and loyal fan base, and is in a location that is easily accessible to other basketball hot beds Philly, Jersey, and NYC.

Last year, it seemed as if Williams had finally landed some top tier, albeit troubled recruits. But neither Tyree Evans (community outrage over his past arrests and convictions) or Gus Gilchrist (extra year of eligibility) ended up at Maryland. Gilchrist went to South Florida, where he became eligible in December and is now averaging 10.8 ppg and 5 rpg, while Evans headed to Kent State, where he too became eligible in December (and really cleaned up his act) and has since averaged 13 ppg.

It isn't just recruiting, however. Word is that Williams has had a less than perfect relationship with the athletic director's at Maryland, and I'm sure yesterday's turn of events isn't going to help that much.

According to a Baltimore Sun article:
Kathleen Worthington, a senior associate athletic director, yesterday questioned Williams' statements about forward Gus Gilchrist and guard Tyree Evans, who were to have been integral parts of Maryland's recruiting class.

Williams had told reporters Monday: "It wasn't my fault that they're not here. That was somebody else's call."

But Worthington telephoned The Baltimore Sun yesterday and said: "I want to clarify the facts and the timing and the decision process of these situations. It was my recommendation that we not sign a release for Gus. I didn't want to release him. It was the head coach's decision. No one else released Gus."

"Gary made the final decision to withdraw an offer of aid to Tyree and personally called the Office of Student Affairs to inform them he was no longer recruiting Tyree Evans because Tyree had not disclosed all of the criminal issues he'd had in his past," she said. "Gary became upset that Tyree hadn't disclosed everything."
Williams, as I'm sure you would expect, had something to say in response. From the same article:
"He was going to leave. Me signing the release had nothing to do with it," Williams said after Maryland's 76-67 loss to Boston College. "He had made up his mind. Why not sign a release and let the kid go where he wants? Why am I bad for signing a release? .... Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me, she has never won a national championship, she has never done anything. She's an associate AD. This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."

"What had been in the paper for two straight weeks was you shouldn't make that kid come into that situation here. He would have had to go through so much just being a student on campus after everything that was said in the papers. ... I've run a clean program for 20 years. Check my record."
Yup, it looks like that relationship is reeeally starting to blossom.

Just for the record, by transferring to a school outside of the ACC (he originally was going to Virginia Tech before he signed with Maryland) Gilchrist was able to play for four years as opposed to two and a half. There was an enormous outrage over Evans criminal past when he signed with the Terps (he had misdemeanor convictions for selling weed and statutory rape from prep school, and also has an arrest for gun possession on his record, but charges were never brought against him), such that he decided to withdraw from his LOI instead of facing the Maryland judicial system.

In case that didn't make sense to you, Williams is getting thrown under the bus by his AD's office because he let two recruits out of their LOI's that wanted out. One because he wanted a chance to play an extra three semesters of basketball and the other because he knew he wouldn't be happy playing in College Park.

And that is wrong because..?

You know what they say. Nice guy's finish last. Continue reading...

Wednesday Lay-up Lines

The big game of the night is happening at 7:00 as Duke (18-1, 5-0) heads to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (16-1, 3-1). It'll be interesting to see how Wake Forest bounces back from getting upset by Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons are a young squad, and young teams don't always handle adversity well.

While both teams are talented at each position, there is one specific match-up I am looking forward to seeing - Gerald Henderson and James Johnson. Henderson might be the hottest player in the ACC right now, but Johnson has a lot of size on him and is just as athletic as Henderson is. Wake is going to need to slow down Henderson if they plan on winning.

Offensively, Wake is going to need to take advantage of their size. Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Chas McFarland will have have size and strength advantages regardless of who is on the floor for Duke. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are both excellent defenders on the perimeter, and they are going to make it very difficult for Jeff Teague and Ishmael Smith to function on the perimeter. If Wake can control the offensive glass and dominate the paint on their end, they have a good chance of winning.

I actually think Wake is going to win this one. I think LD Williams is going to lock down Jon Scheyer, and Wake's size and athleticism is going to take over on the inside. It should be a fun one to watch.

The rest of the night's games:

  • 6:30 PM: Michigan (14-6, 4-4) @ Ohio State (13-5, 3-4): These two teams were the main reason that people were talking about the Big Ten being much improved this season. Both have fallen off during conference play. Michigan runs a 1-3-1 zone, which should give Ohio State fits as they lack quality point guard play.
  • 7:00 PM: South Florida (7-12, 2-5) @ Louisville (15-3, 6-0): With the way Louisville is playing, the Bulls should have no chance to hang in this one.
  • 7:00 PM: Memphis (16-3, 5-0) @ East Carolina (10-8, 2-3)
  • 7:00 PM: Pitt (18-1, 6-1) @ Villanova (15-4, 3-3): I think Villanova is one of the most overrated teams in the country. Their best win right now ... St. Joe's? Temple? Rhode Island? Tell me, who is going to handle DeJuan Blair on this team? And who will be able to stop Sam Young? Answer - no one.
  • 7:00 PM: Davidson (16-3, 9-0) @ Chattanooga (9-11, 5-4)
  • 7:00 PM: St. John's (11-8, 2-5) @ West Virginia (14-5, 3-3)
  • 7:00 PM: Syracuse (17-4, 5-3) @ Providence (13-6, 5-2): Providence needs a marquee win. Badly. Right now, their best win lies somewhere between a Cincinnati and a Rhode Island. Providence has come close to beating the top dogs in the Big East (Georgetown, Marquette), but with their mediocre record, they need to knock off two or three of the big boys if they plan on going to the NCAA's.
  • 7:00 PM: Vanderbilt (12-7, 1-4) @ South Carolina (14-4, 3-2)
  • 7:30 PM: Kansas (15-4, 4-0) @ Nebraska (12-6, 2-3): Nebraska is a tough defensive team, which should cause the baby Jayhawks some problems on the road. But I think the veteran leadership of Sherron Collins will be too much.
  • 7:30 PM: Georgetown (12-6, 3-4) @ Cincinnati (10-8, 3-4): Hard to believe, but Georgetown and Cincinnati are tied in the Big East standings. The Hoyas could really use a win after losing to Duke, West Virginia, and Seton Hall.
  • 8:00 PM: Georgia (9-10, 0-4) @ Florida (17-3, 4-1): The fact that a 17-3 team for a power conference is unranked should go to show you what the country thinks of the SEC.
  • 8:00 PM: LSU (15-4, 3-1) @ Tennessee (12-6, 3-1): Would it surprise you if neither of these teams reached the tournament? I think Tennessee will figure it out eventually, but a win over the Vols could go a long way for LSU.
  • 8:05 PM: Illinois State (17-3, 6-3) @ Northern Iowa (14-6, 8-1): My money is on one of these team's eventually winning the MVC.
  • 9:00 PM: UNC (17-2, 3-2) @ Florida State (16-4, 3-2): I like the 'Noles this year. They are probably the biggest team in the country (they start 6'2", 6'7", 6'9", 6'9", 7'1"). But my feeling is that you need a good point guard that can help control the tempo of the game offensively - preventing turnovers and making sure you take good shots - if you are going to beat the Heels. Toney Douglas, while good, is not that.
  • 9:00 PM: UConn (18-1, 6-1) @ DePaul (8-12, 0-7): I'm going to step out of my role as an unbiased writer for a minute. UConn better not lose this f-ing game.
  • 9:00 PM: Missouri (17-3, 4-1) @ Kansas St. (12-7, 1-4)
Continue reading...

Who's #1?

Yesterday's edition of the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls both have Duke sitting pretty at #1, with the UConn Huskies coming in a distant second - Duke got 62 first place votes to UConn's six in the AP poll, and the Blue Devils received 30 of the 31 first place votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

Call me a UConn homer, call me a Duke hater, I don't care - is Duke really that much better than UConn? Or fellow one loss teams Oklahoma, Wake Forest, and Pitt?

According to the RPI, yes (all RPI numbers are taken from RealTimeRPI). Duke, Pitt, and Oklahoma are 1, 2, 3 in the RPI, with UConn sitting at 6 and Wake Forest at 12.

Duke is 7-1 against the RPI top 50, with their wins coming against Xavier (4), Georgetown (13), at Florida State (17), Virginia Tech (32), Davidson (37), at Purdue (39), and Michigan (47), who doubles as the only team to beat them.

UConn is 4-1 against the RPI top 50, with wins at West Virginia (18), against Wisconsin (22), Villanova (26), and Miami (38), losing to Georgetown (13). But UConn also owns wins against Gonzaga (51) and at Notre Dame (75), two teams that are talented but have hit a rough patch during the season.

In fact, UConn has beaten six teams that were ranked at the time they played them, the most in college basketball.

So what does all that mean? It looks like, based on the numbers, that both the voters and the computers got it right. Duke does have a better resume than the Huskies, although I think it is much closer than the polls would lead you to believe.

But the RPI numbers don't always tell the whole story.

The way I see it, you can rank teams two different ways. The first is based on their performance, the resume of wins they have put together. The other is to breakdown the teams - the players, the coaches, the style of play - and decide subjectively who you believe is a better team. The first is a clear cut, objective ranking system, while the second is influenced much more by opinions and biases.

So I ask you, if Duke played UConn on a neutral court, who would win?

To be honest, no matter where the game is played, I don't see any way UConn beats Duke.

The Huskies struggle against teams with a big man that can step out and play the perimeter. See Georgetown and Greg Monroe. Why? Because Hasheem Thabeet cannot guard anyone on the perimeter, and he is not enough of an offensive threat to take advantage of the mismatch on the other end.

UConn has been playing some zone of late, as teams have begun to figure out what kind of offense to run against the Huskies. But do you think that Jim Calhoun, a coach that prides himself on his team's rugged man-to-man defense, will switch to (let alone effectively coach) a zone defense, especially when you consider how good of a team Duke is offensively (sixth most efficient according to Kenpom).

So Duke is the best team in the country then, right?

Not so fast.

Pitt is second in the RPI and 5-1 against the RPI top 20, with wins over Florida State (17), Siena (20), Georgetown (13), Syracuse (16), and West Virginia (18), their only loss coming to Louisville, who may deserve to be in this conversation as well (more on that in a bit). Pitt is, physically, the toughest team in the country, and there may not be someone harder to keep off of the offensive glass than DeJuan Blair. The development of Jermaine Dixon as a scorer has made this Pitt team even more balanced and dangerous.

Oklahoma, third in the RPI, is 8-0 against the RPI top 50, with wins against Purdue (39), Texas (23), Baylor (24), and Utah (25). They also have Blake Griffin, the most dominant big man in the country, a back court (Austin Johnson and Willie Warren) that is emerging as one of the best in the Big XII, and a bench that is slowly turning from a weakness to a strength with the development of Omar Leary and the return of Juan Pattillo.

Wake Forest is 12th in the RPI, but they have three of the best wins out of this entire group - beating UNC and winning at Clemson and at BYU (which is a much tougher place to play than you think - 22,000 screaming mormons is enough to rattle anyone). With Jeff Teague and arguably the best frontline in the country, Wake has proven they can beat anyone, anywhere (except Va Tech at home, apparently).

And that only includes the one loss teams. UNC was the favorite up until their two losses to start the ACC, but after blow out wins over Miami FL and Clemson, they look to be back on track. Louisville may actually be the hottest team in the country right now, with seven straight wins, including victories against Villanova, Notre Dame, Pitt (the only team to beat the Panthers), and Syracuse in the last two weeks. Michigan State is rolling again. Marquette is leading the Big East.

So does Duke deserve their #1 ranking?

Probably.

Are they the best team in the country?

Possibly.

What does it all tell us?

Contrary to what many people (including this guy) had been saying earlier in the season, it is wide open this year. If my analysis didn't convince you, maybe this will - in the last three weeks, three different teams have been number one. And if Wake can beat Duke tomorrow night at home, it will be four in four weeks.

March is going to be a lot of fun this year.
Continue reading...

POSTERIZED: Terrico White of Ole Miss on Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson, and Billy Gillispie puts Jeannine Edwards in her place

Patrick Patterson averages 2.0 blocks per game. Perry Stevenson averages 2.2. Ole Miss freshman Terrico White dunked on both of them last night.



In case you missed the game, Billy Gillispie had a pretty funny halftime interview, where he tells ESPN sideline reporter not Erin Andrews, so who cares Jeannine Edwards that she asked "a really bad question".

Continue reading...

Wednesday Morning Shootaround

A quick shootaround for you today.

  • Mississippi 85, Kentucky 80: David Huertas snapped out of his funk for 19 second half points as the Rebels knocked off the Wildcats in Oxford. Patrick Patterson had 24 for Kentucky, who got 21 points from the nation's third leading scorer Jodie Meeks on just 4-15 shooting.
  • Texas 78, Baylor 72: Texas used a quick 6-0 run with under five minutes left to break open up a tie game. LaceDarius Dunn hit two free throws to cut the lead to two with 1:23 left, but AJ Abrams knocked down a jumper and Tweety Carter missed three free throws after being fouled on a three on the ensuing two possessions, and the Longhorns held on for the win. Abrams had 19 points, and hit three triples, which tied him with Jeff Boschee for the all-time lead in Big XII three's made at 338.
  • Purdue 64, Wisconsin 63: Purdue was down 56-51 with five minutes left, but they used a 9-2 run, capped by a Robbie Hummel three with a minute left, to take a 60-58 lead. E'Twaun Moore led Purdue with 17, while Hummel added 8 off the bench. Wisconsin has now lost five straight games after opening Big Ten play 3-0, and unless they right the ship (very) soon, they look like they will miss the NCAA tournament. Purdue, on the other hand, has won five in a row after dropping their first two league games.
  • Northeastern 68, VCU 63: Northeastern went into Richmond and took a 30-13 lead in the first half, and was up by as much as 16 during the second half before VCU made it interesting down the stretch. The Commodores cut the lead to two three different times in the last two minutes, but the Huskies were able to hit some clutch free throws to seal the win. Eugene Spates and Manny Adako each had 12 for NEU, while Eric Maynor went for 30 for VCU.
  • Utah 94, BYU 88 OT: BYU was seemingly in control for most of the second half, stretching their lead to five with under five minutes left, but the Utes battled back to tie it up at 71 on a Luke Nevill jumper. Nevill finished with 32 points on the night. In OT, Utah went on a 7-0 run and hit 10-14 free throws in the last minute to seal the win. Luka Drca had 18 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds for Utah. Lee Cummard led the Cougars with 23 points while Jimmer Fredette added 19 points and 10 dimes.
  • NC State 84, Miami FL 81: Freshman Julius Mays his a three from the top of the key with 2.6 seconds left as the Wolfpack beat Miami on a night where the school remembered legendary women's coach Kay Yow.
  • BC 76, Maryland 67
  • Buffalo 74, Western Michigan 71
  • George Mason 78, Delaware 55
Continue reading...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Lay-up Lines

The best game of the night is out in Waco as Baylor hosts Texas in a Big XII battle. As much as I like Baylor's squad this year, this is going to be a tough match-up for them. The Longhorns are huge and deep up front, and the Bears just do not have the muscle to match-up with them. Conversely, however, Baylor is going to be the much quicker team, and they will have an advantage on the perimeter.

Rick Barnes is going to have a tough decision to make defensively. In order for him to keep his advantage on the offensive end, he is going to want to keep Damion James at the three, which means that one of Gary Johnson and Connor Atchley will also be on the floor. That creates a bit of a match-up problem defensively. If I'm a Texas fan, the only one of Baylor's guards that I'd feel comfortable with James guarding is LaceDarius Dunn, simply because Dunn is not a penetrator or as quick as the other three. And I still don't love that match-up. I think Rick Barnes will go zone against Baylor, trying to cut down on penetration while making sure to get out on shooters. Texas is a very good defensive team this year, and as good as the Baylor back court is, I see Texas being able to keep them out of the lane.

There are a number of other good games on tonight as well:

  • 7:00 PM: Kentucky (16-4, 5-0) @ Mississippi (10-9, 1-4): The Wildcats are one of the biggest surprises of the season, especially after losing to VMI in the season opener. Big Blue looks like they are the class of the SEC. That isn't quite what it would have been in years past, but with a 1-2 punch of Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, UK is going to be a tough team to beat come March.
  • 7:00 PM: Miami FL (14-5, 3-3) @ NC State (10-7, 1-4): The Hurricanes really need this win to keep pace in the ACC.
  • 7:00 PM: Buffalo (12-5, 4-1) @ Western Michigan (7-11, 4-1): First place in the MAC is on the line after Buffalo knocked off previously undefeated Ball State their last time out.
  • 7:30 PM: Boston College (15-6, 3-3) @ Maryland (13-6, 2-3): The Terps could really use a win just to boost their confidence after possibly the worst lost in the history of the program. Two things about Maryland - if Greivis Vazquez is going to run his mouth and call Cameron Indoor "his house", you gotta come harder than 2-10; and if Gary Williams doesn't turn this team around quickly, he may find himself out of a job this off-season.
  • 9:00 PM: Purdue (15-4, 4-2) @ Wisconsin (12-7, 3-4): This game could make or break Wisconsin's season. As it is, the Badgers have lost four in a row, including their first meeting with the Boilermakers. UW is already tinkering with their line-up (going to three guards as opposed to three forwards), and dropping to 12-8, 3-5, when they still have Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, and the Michigan's on their schedule could be devastating. Purdue, on the other hand, is playing as well as they have all season, and they still are waiting for Robbie Hummel to get to 100%.
  • 9:00 PM: Northeastern (13-6, 8-1) @ VCU (15-5, 8-1): A battle for first place in the always competitive CAA.
  • 10:00 PM: BYU (15-4, 3-2) @ Utah (12-7, 3-2): This is one of the most underrated rivalries in the country, and the Mountain West is one of the most underrated conferences in the country. Currently, they have three teams in the top 50 (San Diego State is mid-50's, depending on where you look), with Utah and BYU sitting at 33rd and 26th, respectively. This is a big game for both programs, even beyond the rivalry. BYU's best win is against SDSU, while Utah is still trying to overcome losses to Idaho State and Southern Baptist.
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Tuesday Morning Shootaround

Marquette and Notre Dame are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Golden Eagles are now 7-0 in the conference, but they hadn't really beaten anyone (save Villanova) in league play until last night. The Irish may be playing themselves right out of an NCAA tourney spot if they aren't careful. They have now lost four straight (to Louisville, Syracuse, UConn, and Marquette) and in their next four they have to play Pitt, UCLA, and Louisville again.

Marquette knocked off Notre Dame at the Joyce Center last night 71-64, handing the Irish their second straight loss at home after a 45 game winning streak. Notre Dame looked out of sync offensively the entire game. Marquette's guards did a fantastic job cutting off Kyle McAlarney, who did not get a good look for the first 30 minutes of the game, and by the time he started to, he was completely out of rhythm. Tory Jackson also played a somewhat sloppy game. He had a huge turnover late in the second half when ND was down by two. He over-penetrated, got stripped under the rim, and it led to a Wesley Matthews floater in transition.

Luke Harangody needs to stop playing as a jump shooter. First, it takes away really the only offensive rebounder the Irish have. Zack Hillesland gets some, so does Tory Jackson, but no one other than 'Gody can really get a board and go back up and finish. He also is the only guy that can draw fouls for the Irish.

But the biggest reason is that Notre Dame has enough shooters. K-Mac, Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller - these guys are excellent shooters that really cannot do much else. Name me another player on ND that can score in the paint.

I'll wait.

Anyone? Exactly.

Without Harangody downlow, the Irish become a completely one-dimensional team, and much easier to defend. The proof is in the pudding. Last night, ND made a little come back and briefly took the lead and control of the game when they started to pound the ball inside to 'Gody in the second half. But after a few minutes, they got away from that and the big fella started firing up fade-aways again.

I'm not saying that he can't hit that shot. He can, and he does on a fairly consistent basis. But my issue is that it is a relatively low percentage shot, and with no offensive rebounders, you are 100% relying on Harangody to make that shot. From watching him the last four or five games, he is almost as likely to throw up an airball as he is to hit it. Not exactly what I would be looking for every time down if I'm Mike Brey.

On to Marquette, I am not sure exactly what to make of this team yet. Yes, they are undefeated in the league, but this is their first road win over a top tier team in the Big East (they beat 'Nova and West Virginia at home). But more than their ability, the problem I see with the Eagles is depth and balance. Take last night as an example. Outside of their big four (McNeal, Hayward, Matthews, and James), the rest of the Marquette players totaled 0 points, 2 shots, 1 assist, and 9 rebounds. They each also played more than 36 minutes. How much can you ride those four kids before they get tired and worn down, especially playing in a league like the Big East?

That's not to say they aren't excellent players. Jerel McNeal, in one man's opinion, is the best guard in the country, and in the race for Big East player of the year with 'Gody and Terrence Williams of Louisville. He proved it again last night. Not only did he score 27 points, but he also showed why he is one of the best defensive players in the country. He, along with James and Mo Acker, were the guys that completely flustered K-Mac, and he also had two big blocks, including one on a lay-up attempt by Jonathon Peoples that would have given ND a lead late in the 2nd half.

The biggest issue last night for the Eagles is something that Buzz Williams has stressed all year - getting paint touches. Marquette is a much better team when they are penetrating, whether it is to score or it is to pass. Early in the game, they were settling for quick three's, which is why ND had the early lead. Every time the Irish made a run, it was because Marquette stopped getting the ball to the lane (which is inexcusable when you have guys like James, McNeal and Matthews). A perfect example came late in the second half. ND had made their run, and Marquette was back in control, taking a 57-53 lead with five minutes left. On back-to-back possessions, the Eagles forced up tough three's - one by McNeal off the dribble, one by Acker with a hand in his face - early in the shot clock. Both times, the Irish scored on the other end as a result, tying up the game.

Marquette is going to be at a size disadvantage in just about every game they play. In order to contend with that, the Eagles need to be able to take good shots. If they do, they will continue to win a lot of games.

The other big game from last night was Oklahoma beating OK State 89-81 in the Bedlam Series. Blake Griffin had 26 points and 19 rebounds, his 10th game of 20 and 15 this season, which is already an NCAA record. With all due respect to Steph Curry, Luke Harangody, or Jodie Meeks, at this point in the season, I don't see any way that Griffin isn't the national player of the year. Not only does he put up the numbers (he also averages 2.5 apg, which is the most for anyone over 6'5" in the Big XII), but outside of maybe Curry, he is the guy that will get the most focus of any game plan during the season.

That may have to change in the near future with the way Austin Johnson and Willie Warren are playing. It was Johnson who went off last night, going for 20 points on 5-8 from deep (and when I say deep, I mean he hit three or four from 25 feet). I've been saying all season long that if Oklahoma wants to be a serious contender they need Johnson and Warren to not only be credible scoring threats, but to be capable three point shooters. In six Big XII games, Johnson is averaging 14.2 ppg and shooting 50% from deep.

Another key factor from last night's game was Juan Patillo. If you don't know the story, Patillo was injured at the start of the season, and it looked like Jeff Capel was going to redshirt him. But his play on the scout team, combined with OU's lack of depth, made Capel change his mind. It was a good decision as well. After struggling in his first two games, Patillo has scored 21 points and grabbed six boards in 37 minutes against Baylor and OK State. Last night, he had 12 points. He gives the Sooners something that no one else on their roster can, similar to what Stanley Robinson provides UConn. Patillo is a long, extremely athletic combo forward that can play the three or the four. He brings a ton of energy to the table, and has the ability to be a real x-factor for the Sooners.

Malcoln Kirkland is a moron. Early in the game, after a Cowboys basket, Kirkland smacked Blake Griffin in the back of the head, drawing a tech and sending him to the bench (where he got an earful from Travis Ford). He wouldn't sniff the court again until the last minute of the game, when he drew another flagrant foul for hitting Griffin with a shoulder in the back court. He was immediately sent to the bench, and I'm sure he will be there for a while.

OK State is a fun team to watch. They shoot a lot of three's, they run the floor, and they score in bunches. If they had any post presence on the inside, this could be a team to watch out for come March. As it is, anytime they go up against a team with a solid interior presence, they are going to struggle.

Two other games of note from last night:

  • Oregon State 65, Cal St.-Bakersfield 59
  • Siena 69, Iona 68
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Monday, January 26, 2009

1/26 - Some Links, Some News

-Just a couple notes: Kentucky's Ramon Harris has been cleared to return to the practice court after fainting outside of the locker room during halftime of the Wildcat's game at Alabama on Saturday. He was taken to the hospital and released that night. It wasn't the first time Harris had to be taken to the hospital this season. He missed a couple of games after injuring his neck in a collision with teammate Michael Porter in a game vs. Lamar.

-Houston's Aubrey Coleman will be suspended for one game by Conference USA for stepping on the face of Chase Budinger after committing a charge at half court in a game in Arizona on Saturday. In case you haven't seen it, here's the video.

-Syracuse freshman forward Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury. Not a huge loss for the Orange, as Jones as not played too much this season.

-We have a Derrick Caracter sighting! The big man, who was all but kicked out of the Louisville program for repeated offenses, is now enrolled at UTEP. He's taking classes, paying his own way, and should be ready to suit up in December of next season.

-UConn recruit Ater Majok was deemed a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which means that he will be allowed to practice with the team, but cannot suit up until next season. Continue reading...

POSTERIZED: To Make Your Youtubing Easier

I have an obsession with great dunks. Its sick, really. I can't tell you how many hours I have wasted parousing youtube, watching videos of people doing what I wish I was able to do. I don't know why I'm obsessed like this, but hey, at least you get to see some nice dunks, right?

I'll let Terrence Williams start this edition off. He put on a show against Rutgers last week. The best of the bunch is the last one.



Gavin Edwards catches an oop, and-one, on the head of Luke Harangody.



There is a reason Chris Johnson is climbing NBA Draft boards.



This is just ridiculous. What is so amazing about it to me is that he goes up for a finger roll, but in the air realizes he is high enough to put down a dunk. My favorite part of the video is the guy running around the edge of the court high-fiving fans.



DeQuan Jones had a huge block and an even more ridiculous dunk against UNC last Saturday.

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Monday Lay-up Lines

Sorry for the late post, got caught up at work today.

Anyway, the big game of the night features Marquette (17-2, 6-0), who is sitting pretty in first place in the Big East, heading to the Joyce Center to take on struggling Notre Dame (12-6, 3-4). The Irish have been played very poorly of late, as they now have lost three in a row against Louisville, Syracuse, and UConn (it doesn't get easier after Marquette either as the Irish get Pitt). I think the Irish pull this one out. No one on Marquette is going to be able to handle Harangody on the interior. I know what you are thinking: "He averages 24 and 13, and put up huge numbers against UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville in ND losses". The issue isn't how many points he is scoring, it is how efficiently he is scoring those points. In those three games, he shot a combined 40% from the field and only went to the line 10 times, which should tell you that he was relying on being a jump shooter. In the ND wins over Texas and Georgetown, he shot 55% from the field and went to the line 19 times.

I watched all of those games, and can tell you with complete confidence that Notre Dame is a much better team when Harangody isn't settling for long fade away jumpers. Marquette is very small inside, and 'Gody should be able to get the ball to the rim at will. If he does, not only will he become a more efficient scorer, he will draw double teams and open looks for guys like Luke Zeller, K-Mac, and Ryan Ayers.

The other notable game on this Big Monday is Oklahoma heading to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Series. I like OK State this year. They have a lot of shooters and get out and run the floor. The issue is that the don't have much on the interior now that Ibrahima Thomas has transferred to Cincinnati. Blake Griffin did roll his ankle against Baylor in the second half, which could slow him down a bit. But OK State is basically a poor man's Baylor, and Oklahoma absolutely dismantled the Bears. Expect more of the same tonight.

One last intriguing game tonight: 10:00 PM: Cal-St. Bakersfield (5-14) @ Oregon State (8-10): It's interesting to note that Craig Robinson, the Oregon State coach, has gone on record as saying he scheduled this game to try and give his team some confidence going into their game against rival Oregon. I guess he didn't expect that his Beaver team would be sitting at 3-5 in the Pac-10 and coming off of a sweep of the Bay Area schools on the road.
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Has Anyone Made the Mark "Got Fired" Gottfried Joke Yet?

This afternoon, Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried resigned after 11 years at the helm (although some outlets are reporting he was fired). To be honest, it doesn't exactly surprise me. The Tide had a good run a few years back, making it to five straight NCAA tournaments from 2002-2006, even reaching to Elite 8 in '04, but in recent years the program has fallen far below that plateau.

This year, despite having a talented backcourt of Alonzo Gee, Senario Hillman, and Ronald Steele surrounding Mickey D's all-american JaMychal Green, Alabama has sputtered to a 12-7 mark, 2-3 in the SEC, which includes losses to Mercer and Oregon.

Crimson Tide faithful could have seen the end coming last week when Steele left the team. Some reports said the reason for his departure was the plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the muscle that supports the arch of your foot causing pain in your heel (I've had it before, and it f'in hurts).

But Steele has said the reason for his departure was something other than an injury, leading people to believe he was unhappy with Gottfried. From the Birmingham News:

But Steele said Wednesday that it wasn't an injury that forced his decision, that it was something else. And that leaves it open to speculate about the state of Alabama basketball, and Steele's relationship with Gottfried.

It opens up reconsideration of last season, when Steele elected to redshirt and Gottfried never sounded comfortable with that decision. Remember all those postgame press conferences when Gottfried made references to the fact that his "best" player was only playing in practice? Were those comments subtle shots taken at Steele, evidence that Gottfried felt if Steele was well enough to practice, he should have been well enough to play?

And how did hearing Steele referred to as Gottfried's best player make Richard Hendrix, arguably the best player on the floor for Alabama, feel? Did that contribute to Hendrix's decision to leave early?
All in all, it is a shame to see Steele go out like this. As a freshman and sophomore, he was one of the best and most promising PG's in the country. Now, he is a fifth year senior that quit midway through his final season. Continue reading...

College Basketball Week In Review: Conference Favorites Emerge

What We Learned This Week: As we get farther into conference season, each league is starting to shake itself out and teams are starting to emerge as front runners for the regular season title. In a lot of cases, these are not necessarily the teams that were picked in the preseason, or even earlier during the season, to sit atop the league standings.

  • Big East - What makes the Big East so much fun this year is that seemingly each week, there is a new favorite leading the charge to the conference title. Early on, it was UConn. Then it was Georgetown. Then Pitt. Now, it seems like Louisville is leading the way. They are as talented as any team in the conference and playing as well as anyone in the country after knocking off Pitt and Syracuse in their last three games. Louisville is tied with Marquette atop the Big East standings at 6-0.
  • ACC - With Wake Forest losing to Virginia Tech, Duke is now the lone undefeated team in the ACC and most likely the #1 team in the country once the polls are released. If Louisville isn't the hottest team in the land, Duke is. They are rolling through ACC competition, which includes a 25 point win over Tech, the team currently in second place. The biggest reason for the rise of Duke to ACC favorite has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson as one of the best scorers in the league. The Blue Devils are 18-1 and 5-0 in the league, 1 1/2 games in front of Wake and 2 games up on UNC.
  • SEC - With the underwhelming play of early favorites Florida and Tennessee, the SEC has started to look like a very weak league. Kentucky is the lone undefeated team in the conference, and the Wildcats are quietly having a great season riding the coattails of Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson.
  • Big Ten - The Big Ten looked like it was going to be wide open this season as Michigan State and Purdue got off to slow starts and teams like Illinois and Minnesota kept winning games. While the Illini and the Gophers are still in the mix atop the conference standings, the Spartans and the Boilermakers have reasserted their control over the league. MSU is 6-1 while both Illinois (5-2) and Purdue (4-2) are one game back in the loss column.
  • Big XII - This league has pretty much remained constant throughout the season, as Blake Griffin and the Sooners have been the favorite from Day 1. Texas and Missouri are both a game back in league play, but perhaps the biggest surprise is that Kansas is also undefeated in the Big XII. They don't look to be much of a threat just yet, however. While OU has beated Texas and Baylor in league play, Kansas has beaten up on the bottom for teams in the Big XII.
  • Pac-10 - UCLA has been to three straight Final Fours and returned a number of players that have been to all three. Arizona State returned basically their entire team from last season, which included all-american James Harden. But seven games into the season, the Washington Huskies are now sitting on top of the Pac-10 standings after beating the Bruins as home by 11. Some might call it a fluke (they did beat UCLA at home), but the Huskies look like they may be for real. They have a legitimate beast in the post in Jon Brockman. They get excellent guard play out of Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon. And they have a ton of athletes on the perimeter.
  • MVC - Creighton, Drake, and Illinois State were the trendy preseason picks for this league, and both Bradley and Evansville made some noise early in the season. But the team that has emerged as the favorite and the MVC leader has been Northern Iowa. The Panthers are 8-1 in the conference, and their only loss has come to, oddly enough, cellar dweller Indiana State in OT.
  • MWC - This might end up being the most exciting league to watch down the stretch as six of the nine teams are tied atop the standings with two losses. UNLV might be the most talented team, but BYU, Utah, and San Diego State all have enough to make a run at the title. It should be fun to watch these teams fight it out atop the standings.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Arizona 96, Houston 90 OT
Down 87-78 with just 43 seconds left, Arizona managed to make a marvelous comeback to force over time. Chase Budinger hit a three to cut the lead to six. After Houston made one of two free throws, Nic Wise drove and made a lay-up to cut the lead to five. Houston then turned to ball over, and Jordan Hill was able to knock down a short jumper to cut the lead to three. UA fouled, and sent Kelvin Lewis, who had scored 35 in the game and 27 in the second half, to the line. Lewis missed both, and Nic Wise hit a three to send the game into overtime. In OT, Jordan Hill scored an and-one on the Wildcats first possession, and Arizona went on to the victory. Hill finished with 30 points, while Nic Wise added 23 and Chase Budinger 15.

This game was marred by one of the worst cheap shots I've seen in a while. Derek Vinyard Aubrey Coleman steps on Chase Budinger's face after being called for a charge midway through the second half. In his defense, Coleman has issued a statement of apology (and wrote a letter to Budinger) saying that it was accidental. Regardless, Coleman was issued a flagrant foul and ejected from the game.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech
The Hokies opened up league play by getting blown out at Duke, dropping them to 9-5 and making a NCAA berth seem so far away. But Tech bounced back with five consecutive wins, including two last week over then-#1 Wake Forest and Miami FL. The Hokies are now all alone in second place in the ACC at 4-1. The biggest reason for those wins was the play of Malcolm Delaney. For the week, Delaney averaged 25 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg, and 2.5 spg. Delaney made big shots in both games. Against Wake, the Demon Deacons had widdled a 16 point lead down to 71-69, but Delaney drew a foul and knocked down both free throws to help hold off Wake. Against Miami, Delaney's three-point with 1:49 left in OT gave the Hokies a lead they would never give up.

TEAMS OF THE WEEK:
Duke and UConn
Both the Huskies and the Blue Devils went 2-0 this week in impressive fashion, as they now look headed to be #1 and #2 in the polls. Duke did it by blowing out two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams. On Tuesday, they knocked off NC State 73-56, using a 27-5 run to close out the game. On Saturday, they blew out Maryland 85-44 in a game that, believe it or not, wasn't as close as the final score indicates (at one point, Duke was up 71-29). Gerald Henderson continued his phenomenal play this week, going for 21 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, 5 steals, and a block (all team-highs) against NC State, while adding 17 and 8 boards against the Terps. Even dating back to last season, I have been saying that for Duke to be considered a national title contender, they need either Henderson or Jon Scheyer to turn into a go-to scorer. With the way Henderson has been playing, it is hard to argue against that right now.

As for UConn, the Huskies beat Villanova 89-83 on Wednesday then ended Notre Dame's home court winning streak at 45 on Saturday night 69-61. Beating two ranked conference opponents in one week is impressive in itself, but what was more impressive was how the Huskies did it. They proved that they could force good teams to play the way the Huskies wanted to and assert their influence on the game. Against Villanova, one of the best defensive teams in the Big East, UConn turned the game into an up-and-down affair, going into half time tied at 48. Notre Dame is a much better team offensively than defensively, but the Huskies were able to force to Irish to play a slowed-down, grind-it-out defensive game. The Huskies look like a completely different team from the one that was blown out by Georgetown at home to start the Big East season.

MATCH-UPS OF THE WEEK:
1/26 - Marquette @ Notre Dame: Marquette looks to stay undefeated in the league, while Notre Dame is looking to end a three game losing streak.

1/27 - Texas @ Baylor: Oklahoma seems to be the clear-cut favorite in the Big XII, but it looks like these two teams are going to battle it out for second place.

1/28 - Duke @ Wake Forest: While it most likely won't be #1 vs. #2, this is still going to be a crucial match-up atop the ACC between two Final Four caliber teams.

1/29 - Illinois @ Minnesota: Illinois is looking to prove they belong in the conversation with Purdue and Michigan State.

1/29 - St. Mary's @ Gonzaga: Is it possible that these are the two best teams on the west coast?

As usual, Saturday provides us with an awesome slate of games:
  • Notre Dame @ Pitt
  • Georgetown @ Marquette
  • Stanford @ UCLA
  • West Virginia @ Louisville
  • Washington @ Arizona State
  • Michigan @ Purdue
  • Baylor @ Missouri
2/1 - Pittsburgh @ Arizona: Wait, that's football... Continue reading...