Monday, November 14, 2011

11/14 College Hoops Week in Review: And we're off!

Games of the Week: George Mason 92, Rhode Island 90 OT

It was a wild one in at the Patroit Center on Friday night. With both Jamil Wilson of Rhode Island (38 points) and Ryan Pearson from George Mason (28 points, 12 boards) were in a groove offensively, the two teams saw the lead change hands 22 times -- with 17 ties thrown in for good measure -- in an exciting, back-and-forth game. Mason erased a 10 point first half deficit to tie the game at the half. After opening up a five point lead early in the second half, GMU saw Rhode Island go on a 12-2 run to go ahead by five. The Patriot responded with a 9-1 spurt of their own.

George Mason eventually took an 80-77 lead with 39 seconds left when sophomore Sherrod Wright cleaned up a miss by Vertrail Vaughns. But at the other end, Jonathon Holton -- who was 0-5 from long range at that point in the game -- buried a three to force the extra period. In overtime, GMU scored six of the first seven points, taking an 86-81 lead, but Wilson responded with a 7-1 run of his own. Pearson game GMU the lead back and after trading baskets, he hit a free throw with 11 seconds left to take a 92-90 lead. URI used their hot hand Wilson as a decoy, but Orion Outerbridge missed a would-be buzzer-beating three.

Evansville 80, Butler 77 OT: Butler somehow always seems to be involved in games with weird endings. Everyone will remember the strange finish to Butler's upset of Pitt in last year's NCAA Tournament, but do you remember when Butler beat Xavier when the clock stopped for 1.2 seconds? Believe it or not, Butler may have topped that with the way they lost to Evansville on Saturday evening. After blowing a 12 point second half lead, Butler fouled Colt Ryan with 0.9 seconds left and a one point lead. But Ryan missed the first before making the second shot, tying the game.

On the ensuing inbounds, Butler threw the ball the length of the court to Andrew Smith who made the catch and laid the ball in at the buzzer. The only problem? The refs said the lay-in came after the buzzer, but that he was fouled with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Smith would proceed to miss both free throws and Evansville won the game in overtime when Chrishawn Hopkins failed to get a shot off to try and tie the game. For a more in-depth look at the controversy involved in the finish, we wrote about it here.

Player of the Week: Nurideen Lindsey, St. John's

St. John's may not have played a murder's row schedule in the first week of the season, but the youthful Johnnies were tested. They dug themselves a big hole against William & Mary and a bigger hole against Lehigh before coming back and winning both of those games. Lindsey played a huge role in both of those comebacks, getting 15 of his 19 points in the second half against W&M and finishing with 15 points against Lehigh. Lindsey's best game of the week came against UMBC. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 boards and nine assists.

For the week, Lindsey finished with averages of 16.3 ppg, 4.7 apg and 4.7 rpg. He also added 3.3 spg while shooting a crisp 50% from the field. Lindsey is a slippery penetrator. He's got a crafty handle and while he doesn't have blazing speed, he's quick and understands how to change speeds. He's a good finisher when he gets into the paint and, at least against some mid-major competition, was able to avoid getting his shot blocked while drawing fouls. He still has plenty of room to improve -- Lindsey turned the ball over 10 times in the three games while shooting 0-7 from three and just 15-27 (55.6%) from the line -- but what makes him so important to the Steve Lavin's team is he is one of the only guys that is capable of getting his own shot.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

- G: Tray Woodall, Pitt: The talk of the Panthers coming into the season was their front line and Ashton Gibbs, but Woodall was the star of the first two games. He averaged 21.0 ppg, 10.0 apg and 6.5 rpg while committing just six turnovers and hitting 9-17 from beyond the arc.

- G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters may have had the single best game of the week, putting up 32 points and 11 assists -- without a turnover -- in a win over Western Michigan.

- F: Dominic Cheek, Villanova: Cheek is an important piece for the Wildcats if he can become a consistent scorer on the wing. We know about his defensive acumen (he had three steals), but his 27 points and 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc was a pleasant surprise for Nova fans.

- F: Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots big man went for 28 points and 12 boards in an overtime win over Rhode Island on Friday night.

- C: John Henson, North Carolina: In a 2-0 week for the Heels, Henson finished with averages of 16.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 5.5 bpg while shooting 66.7% from the floor. He even showed off a turnaround jumper in the win over UNC-Asheville.

- Bench: Nathaniel Lester, Hofstra (33 points in a win over Long Island; Jamil Wilson, Rhode Island (38 points in a loss to George Mason); Trae Golden, Tennessee (29 points, 9 assists in a win over UNC Greensboro); Robbie Hummel, Purdue (21 points in his return to the court); Eric Atkins, Notre Dame (27 points, 6 assists, 6-7 FGs, 12-12 FTs in a win over MVSU); Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech (10 points, 16 boards, 5 assists, 5 blocks in Tech debut); CJ Wilcox, Washington (20.5 ppg in a 2-0 start); Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State (16.3 ppg, 12.7 rpg in three games this week); J'Covan Brown, Texas (28 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover in a win over Boston U.); Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (15 assists, 1 turnover against UNC-Asheville); Allen Crabbe, Cal (22.5 ppg in a 2-0 week)

Team of the Week: Cleveland State

The Vikings were a bit of an afterthought heading into this season. That's generally what happens when you are a mid-major program and you lose a player as talented and important to your team as Norris Cole. But Gary Waters' team did a fine job introducing themselves to the country on Sunday afternoon, as they went into Memorial Coliseum and bullied Vanderbilt into a 71-58 victory. D'Aundray Brown led the way for the Vikings, finishing with 18 points and 8 boards, but he got plenty of help, as five of his teammates scored between seven and 11 points.

But the offensive end of the floor isn't what won this game for Cleveland State. It was their defensive pressure. Vanderbilt, a top 10 team known for having a powerful offensive attack, had more possessions end in a turnover (20) than in a made field goal (18). John Jenkins, the Commodores all-american, was hounded the entire game, shooting 5-14 from the floor (2-8 from three). Jeff Taylor had just nine points, shooting 3-8 from the field and turning the ball over six times. All in all, it was an impressive performance from the Vikings, one that will likely get them into the conversation -- along with Butler and Detroit -- for the favorite in the Horizon.

Teams deserving a shoutout:

Akron: Akron made a statement on Wednesday night, as they went into Starkville and handled Mississippi State fairly easily. Quincy Diggs led the way with 19 points, but it was an all-around team effort that got the job done. Much like Cleveland State's win over Vanderbilt, it was work on the defensive end that got the job done.

Cal: The Bears looked quite impressive in their two games this week. After running through UC-Irvine with a dominating first-half performance, Cal used a 21-0 run to close out the first half against George Washington on Sunday night. Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe have been as good as advertised, but it was the play of Justin Cobbs (16 points, five assists on Sunday) and Brandon Smith (seven points, six assists on Friday) that was promising.

St. John's: The Johnnies went 3-0 this week, and while all three games were against overmatched opponents, there is reason to be excited about this team. They are young and, obviously, will go through some growing pains, but the fact that they were able to come back from halftime deficits twice was promising. God'sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless have been promising up front and when the Johnnies press is clicking, they are a dangerous team.

Five Thoughts:

- The SEC stinks again?: Vanderbilt was supposed to be a Final Four contender this year, but they were manhandled by Cleveland State at home on Sunday. Mississippi State was a team that everyone thought could finally turn the corner this year, but with Renardo Sidney still out of shape -- and now injured, apparently -- that looks like wishful thinking. The loss to Akron on Wednesday confirms that. Now to be fair, those are the only two league teams that lost this week and Cleveland State and Akron are both legitimate contenders to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid this year. But to get an idea of the significance of two of the league's top five teams having a mark in the loss column right now, only three other high-major teams do as well -- Michigan State (who lost to North Carolina), Oregon (who lost to Vanderbilt) and UCLA (who lost to Loyola Marymount).

- Good start for the MVC: Missouri State is in full-on rebuilding mode this year. That's what happens when you lose six of your seven rotation players and overhaul the coaching staff. But that doesn't mean the Bears won't be competitive in the Missouri Valley this year. On the one hand, they bring back Kyle Weems, the reigning MVC player of the year. On the other hand, they opened the season with a 22 point win at Nevada. Making the win even more impressive? Weems had four points on 2-12 shooting. Northern Iowa was impressive as well. Old Dominion is in a bit of a rebuilding year as well, but the Panthers went into Richmond and beat the Monarchs by 17 despite the semi-surprising return of Kent Bazemore. Now if we could only forget about the loss Southern Illinois suffered against (wait for it) Ohio Dominican. Yeah, they're D-II.

- UConn's strength is their back court?: That's at least the way that it looks after UConn's first game against Columbia. Jeremy Lamb lived up to the all-american hype, putting up 30 points on 11-17 shooting, while Shabazz Napier was just as good, finishing with 21 points, eight assists and six boards. The two combined for six steals. Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond, on the other hand, combined for just two points and nine rebounds. Drummond attempted a single shot in 12 minutes. As good as Napier and Lamb looked, they played a 36 and 38 minutes, respectively, against Columbia. The Huskies are going to need more balance -- and depth -- this season.

- Duke and Belmont: Duke has some major issues they need to address this season. Austin Rivers is ridiculously talented but will make plenty of freshman mistakes this year. Seth Curry is a knockdown shooter, as if Andre Dawkins, but the best point guard -- and perimeter defender -- on the roster is Tyler Thornton. How does Coach K get him into the lineup? Duke's big men have put up some solid numbers early, but are we ready to assume that the Plumlees are more than just the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly is better than a sixth or seventh man? But more than anything, what you should have taken out of Belmont's one-point loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor is that the Bruins are going to be a team to reckon with in March. In other words, Belmont is legit. Memphis, you have been warned.

- Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: It certainly doesn't look like UCLA at this point. The Bruins looked awful in a loss to Loyola Marymount, as Josh Smith is clearly not in shape and their guards look better suited to playing at Cal. State Northridge. Arizona is dealing with their fair share of issues as well. They struggled against Valparaiso and Duquense before having to come back from a double digit deficit against Ball State. The Wildcats lack an interior presence and are trying to identify their go-to scorer and starting point guard; Josiah Turner lost his starting job after missing a shootaround and didn't play on Sunday against Ball State. Oregon's loss at Vanderbilt looks worse after Vandy lost to Cleveland State, and Washington has struggled against two inferior opponents. That leaves Cal. So are the Bears really the favorite in the Pac-12?

Matchups of the Week (all times eastern):

- 11/14 7:00 pm: UCF @ Florida State
- 11/14 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Alabama
- 11/14 9:00 pm: Detroit @ Notre Dame
- 11/14 10:00 pm: Nevada @ UNLV
- 11/15 12:00 am: Washington State @ Gonzaga
- 11/15 12:00 pm: Belmont @ Memphis
- 11/15 2:00 pm: SDSU @ Baylor
- 11/15 7:00 pm: Champions Classic -- Duke vs. Michigan State and Kansas vs. Kentucky
- 11/15 8:00 pm: Florida @ Ohio State
- 11/15 8:00 pm: Bucknell @ Vanderbilt
- 11/16 9:00 pm: Long Beach State @ Pitt
- 11/17 1:00 pm: Purdue vs. Iona
- 11/17 7:00 pm: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
- 11/19 2:00 pm: Louisville @ Butler
- 11/19 6:30 pm: Vanderbilt vs. NC State

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