Monday, January 31, 2011

1/31 - College Hoops Week in Review: Louisville, Georgetown, and New Mexico make moves

Game of the Week: Louisville 79, UConn 78 2OT

Louisville doesn't have any one star, but Peyton Siva sure looked like he is primed to be one down the stretch against the Huskies. Louisville trailed for much of the second half, getting down by as much as nine points midway through the half. But Siva sparked a 14-3 run with an and-one bucket in the paint and capped it with two free throws that gave the Cardinals a 57-55 lead. UConn would score four straight points, but Siva broke down UConn's defense -- something that would become a common theme -- and score another tough bucket in the paint with 30 seconds left to tie the game. Kemba Walker got a decent look at a jumper on the baseline, but he missed and the game headed to overtime.

In that first OT, Preston Knowles scored Louisville's first five points, but a Shabazz Napier three and four UConn free throws gave the Huskies a 68-64 lead. After Mike Marra hit a three and Napier went 1-2 from the line, Siva again broke down the UConn defense, tying the game with a dunk in traffic. Walker had two defenders run at him and gave the ball up to Jeremy Lamb, who missed a three point floater that would have won the game.

In the second overtime, back to back threes gave the Cardinals a six point lead, and while UConn made a push, it was two driving hoops from Siva that ended being the difference. Why? Because Louisville missed three straight free throws down the stretch that nearly cost them the game. But with the score 79-78 and eight seconds left, UConn took six seconds to get the ball in Kemba's hands. He was forced to take a 35 foot three for the win that bounced off the rim. With the win, the Cardinals moved into sole possession of second place in the Big East.

Florida 104, Georgia 91 2OT: In a back and forth game down in Athens, the Gators rallied from a nine point first half deficit to take a lead late in the second half. But Georgia made a run, and thanks to two missed free throws by Erving Walker, Georgia was able to force overtime on a tip-in by Trey Thompkins at the buzzer:

After an exciting overtime period, Florida was able to force a second overtime period thanks to this 30 footer from Erving Walker:

In the second overtime, Chandler Parsons got hot and the Gators eventually won by 13 points, but the best moment of the game had nothing to with basketballs.

Utah State 89, Hawaii 84 2OT: The Aggies won their 15th straight game and moved to 9-0 in the WAC, but it wasn't easy. Hawaii was down by as much as 10 points in the second half, but Zane Johnson and Jeremiah Ostrowski sparked a come back. Bill Amis eventually gave the Rainbows the lead at 61-60. The two teams would trade baskets before Brian Green, who had a team-high 22 points, hit a tough pull up jumper to force the first overtime. Hawaii again had a late lead in the first OT, but Green once again tied the game with a 28 foot three. In the second OT, USU jumped out to an early lead, but after Johnson hit a three to cut the lead to 80-79, the Aggies hit their free throws down the stretch to win the game.

Half-court buzzer beaters: Is it just me, or does it seem like there are more buzzer beaters than usual this season. Weber State handed Northern Colorado their first loss of the Big Sky season on this 45 footer from Scott Bamforth:

Not to be outdone, freshman Michael Alvarado of Manhattan banked in a 55 footer to beat Marist:

Player of the Week: Peyton Siva, Louisville

Siva didn't put up the greatest numbers this week -- in two Louisville wins, he averaged 17.5 ppg and 5.0 apg -- but when his points came were much more important than the total number that he scored. Against West Virginia, he helped spark a comeback from an 11 point second half deficit, sealing the win with a tough, up-and-under layup off the glass.

As we already mentioned, Siva was unstoppable in the final minutes against UConn, dissecting the Huskie's defense for four huge buckets late in the game. The knock of Louisville all season long has been that they don't have a star, that they don't have a go-to player that they can give the ball to down the stretch. After this performance from Siva, it appears the Cardinals now have two.

Preston Knowles has hit a number of big shots in his career. He also sparked Louisville's comeback from 18 points down against Marquette. Combine his shot making with Siva's play making ability, and the Cardinals back starts to look much more dangerous.

The All-the-were-good-too team (This was hard to do. There were a lot of terrific performances by back court players):

  • G: Darius Morris, Michigan: Morris was terrific in the Wolverine's win over Michigan State, scoring 17 points and dishing out eight assists. He was even better in a win over Iowa, finishing with 12 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists to notch the second triple double in Michigan history.
  • G: Tu Holloway, Xavier: Xavier certified their dominance in the Atlantic 10 with a 23 point win at Richmond. Holloway was incredible, scoring 33 points to go along with seven boards, five assists, and a 17-17 performance from the line while helping to hold Kevin Anderson to 10 points. Oh, and he had 22 in a win over George Washington as well.
  • G: Brian Green, Utah State: Green had 28 points in the Aggies win against San Jose State early in the week, but it was his 22 point performance against Hawaii that drew my attention. Not only did he score 22 points, but he forced overtime and double overtime with clutch jumpers down the stretch, the second of which was a 28 footer.
  • F: Mike Singletary, Texas Tech: Singletary had 33 points, 10 boards, and five assists (the first ever 30-10-5 game in Big XII history) against Iowa State while adding 25 points and seven boards in an overtime win over Oklahoma State.
  • C: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Faried's best performance this week was a 23 point, 23 rebound performance he had in a win over Tennessee State. He also went for 17 points and 16 boards in a win over Austin Peay and notched 13 points and 15 boards as the Eagles won at Ball State. Should I mention he also had seven blocks, five steals, and 19 offensive boards?
  • Bench: Jimmer Fredette, BYU (37.5 ppg, including 43 vs. SDSU); Talor Battle, Penn State (22.5 ppg, had 20 2nd half points in a win over Wisconsin); Austin Freeman, Georgetown (30 points in a win at Villanova); Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas (26.0 ppg, including 36 in a win at Vanderbilt); Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (38 points, including 12 in overtime, in win over Iowa State)

Team of the Week: Georgetown Hoyas

Three weeks ago, I said I was almost ready to write off the Hoyas. Its a good thing I put an "almost" in that sentence, because the Hoyas have proved that their season is anything but finished. Georgetown had two impressive wins this week. On Wednesday, they smacked a St. John's team by 25 that would go on to do the same thing to Duke on Sunday. Then on Saturday, the Hoyas went into Philly and knocked off Villanova 69-66. Chris Wright is still struggling (he didn't score a single point against Villanova) but thanks to Austin Freeman's resurgence (he had 30 at Villanova), Jason Clark's excellent all-around play, and Hollis Thompson's move to sixth man, the Hoyas are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

Its perfect timing. Georgetown is now 5-4 in the Big East, but with Villanova and Syracuse both coming back to earth and the question marks surrounding Louisville, Notre Dame, and UConn, there really only seems to be one dominant team in the Big East. Georgetown is still very much in the thick of the race for a top four seed in the Big East and a double bye in the conference tournament next month.

Teams deserving a shout out: This week was one of the crazier weeks I've ever experienced as a college hoops fan. Teams ranked in the top 25 went a preposterous 22-20 this week. Included in that record was this weekend, where 13 of the top 25 teams in the country picked up a loss. That doesn't mean that the past week was forgettable for everyone, however:

New Mexico: The Lobos picked up two huge wins this week, knocking off both TCU and BYU at the Pit. The BYU win was incredibly important, as it gives Steve Alford's club a win to hang their tournament resume on. New Mexico has plenty of talent on their roster, but seeing as this is a relatively new team -- they lost Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez last season and added three freshmen this season and Drew Gordon in December -- it looks as if it has taken a while for this team to gel. New Mexico has the pieces to be capable of a run down the stretch of the season. Hopefully, knocking off the Cougars is the spark they needed.

Louisville: As we mentioned, Peyton Siva's performance in the clutch this week was impressive. The Cardinals picked up two huge wins over teams in the upper half of the Big East and now sit alone in second place in the conference. Keep in mind, the Cardinals are doing all of this without Raheem Buckles. Or Jared Swopshire, for that matter.

Texas: All of a sudden, the Longhorns look like one of the four or five best teams in the country. This week, they picked up a tough win at Oklahoma State on the night the Cowboys honored the ten year anniversary of the plane crash that killed ten members of their team before they demolished Missouri at home. The final of that 71-58 win against Missouri doesn't do the Longhorn's dominance justice, either. If they hadn't shot 16-34 from the free throw line, it would have been a 25 point win.

Xavier: This wasn't supposed to be Xavier's year. With the injuries and eligibility issues they have had this season, it was supposed to be Temple and Richmond that rose to the top of the Atlantic 10. But after a 23 point beatdown of the Spiders in Richmond on Saturday, the Muskies are now sitting at 7-0 in league play and well on their way to another conference championship and NCAA Tournament bid. Chris Mack better have his name near the top of every Coach of the Year list.

Penn State: Believe it or not, the Nittany Lions are now officially on the bubble, which is impressive considering this is a team that few thought was capable of competing in the Big Ten this season. Well, compete they have, as the Bryce Jordan Center has become the conference's best home court advantage. With wins over Illinois and Michigan State at home already, Talor Battle scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half as Penn State rallied from a nine point halftime deficit to knock off Wisconsin. Penn State has a brutal finish to the season -- @ Illinois, Michigan, @ Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, @ Wisconsin, @ Northwestern, Ohio State, @ Minnesota -- but if they can piece together a .500 record in that stretch, the bubble is weak enough that this group could very well sneak into the Big Dance.

Kansas: Kansas won at Colorado and at home against Kansas State this week, which wouldn't be all that impressive if they didn't have a midweek trip to Washington DC for the funeral of Thomas Robinson's mother. Kansas has as much talent in the world, and with this added motivation and support, the Jayhawks are a scary team this season. It should be noted that in the win over Kansas State, Robinson had 17 points and nine boards.

Washington State: The Cougars have fallen down to fourth in the Pac-10 standings, but that doesn't mean this is a team that you can write off just yet. They proved that fact with an 87-80 win over Washington on Sunday night. When Klay Thompson, Faisal Aden, and Reggie Moore are all playing well, Wazzu is not a team that you want to be playing.

VCU: The Commodores moved into sole possession of first place in the CAA with a 3-0 week, which included a statement win over Hofstra. I saw this team play at the Preseason NIT in November, and I said then that they looked like a group capable of winning a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. They are balanced, they have a ton of shooters, and they have a high-major post presence in Jamie Skeen.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers have now won seven straight games in the Valley, capping off that streak with a hard fought, 61-60 win over Missouri State on the road. The Panthers are the hottest team in the conference, sit just a game back of both the Bears and Wichita State, and own road wins over both the teams they trail in league play.

Morehead State: The Ohio Valley may not be the two team race we all expected it to be as five teams are within a game of first place. But thanks to a 2-0 week against two of those five teams, the Eagles find themselves just a game behind Austin Peay and Murray State in the loss column.

Seton Hall: I want the Pirates to be successful this season. We all talk about how devastating this season has been for Thomas Robinson, but no one mentions that the Pirates are a misplaced defibrillator and a poorly aimed bullet away from losing their two best players, Herb Pope and Jeremy Hazell. This past week, the Pirates started their season in the right direction, beating Syracuse by 22 points in the Dome and knocking off Providence.

Texas Tech and Oklahoma: Neither Texas Tech nor Oklahoma will be fighting for an at-large bid this season, but it appears both teams are fighting to keep their coaches employed. Both the Red Raiders and the Sooners are on three game winning streaks right now.

Matchups of the Week:
  • 1/31 - 7:00 pm: Louisville @ Georgetown
  • 1/31 - 9:00 pm: Texas @ Texas A&M
  • 2/1 - 7:00 pm: Purdue @ Wisconsin
  • 2/1 - 9:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ Florida
  • 2/1 - 9:00 pm: Boston College @ North Carolina
  • 2/2 - 7:00 pm: Syracuse @ UConn
  • 2/2 - 7:00 pm: Marquette @ Villanova
  • 2/2 - 7:00 pm: George Mason @ Hofstra
  • 2/2 - 9:00 pm: Duke @ Maryland
  • 2/5 - 12:00 pm: Butler @ Cleveland State
  • 2/5 - 12:00 pm: West Virginia @ Villanova
  • 2/5 - 2:00 pm: Old Dominion @ George Mason
  • 2/5 - 4:00 pm: UNLV @ BYU
  • 2/5 - 4:00 pm: Memphis vs. Gonzaga
  • 2/5 - 9:00 pm: Kentucky @ Florida
  • 2/6 - 1:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Michigan State
  • 2/6 - 2:00 pm: Ohio State @ Minnesota

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