11/29 – College Hoops Week in Review: The A-10’s struggles and the Big East’s success

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Game of the Week: Xavier 94, Wofford 90 3OT

This was far from the only exciting overtime game this week (and it wasn’t even the longest — Skidmore and Southern Vermont dueled for seven overtimes), but this was probably the best. Xavier was up 44-33 in the second half, but a 25-6 Terrier run left the Muskies down 58-50 with just 4:23 left on the clock, Chris Mack called a timeout and challenged his team. “I thought our kids in the huddle challenged one another, took the challenge from the coaching staff, and were able to put consecutive stops out on the defensive side of the floor to eventually get us back in the game,” Mack said.

It worked. Xavier got the stops they needed, using a 12-4 push to force OT. After an exciting back and forth that featured missed free throws and clutch buckets by both teams, the Terriers found themselves up three on the final possession. Wofford fouled Xavier’s Dante Jackson with 2.2 seconds left on the clock. Jackson made the first, missed the second, and this happened:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDVg7ymbaZw&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

In the second overtime, Xavier jumped out to a four point lead, but a basket and a three gave Wofford the lead back. After trading buckets — and after both teams made 1-2 free throws, the game was tied and Wofford had the ball. Cameron Rundles hit a jumper at the buzzer, but as you can see here, the shot came after the buzzer, forcing a third overtime:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhFkmV9qB0g&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

In the third overtime, Wofford scored to tie it up with just over 40 seconds left, but a Tu Holloway floater with 9.7 seconds left gave Xavier the lead. They would get a stop and hit two free throws for the win.

The win was another escape by a Xavier team that has struggled so far thus season. The biggest issue right now appears to be depth. All of Xavier’s starters logged at least 40 minutes and the Muskies only got three points from their bench. But, hey, a win is a win, and Xavier improves to 5-1 on the season.

The other good games:

  • BYU had a couple of exciting finishes. Against South Florida, the Cougars needed two overtimes before this buzzer beater by Noah Hartsock won the game:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBEqipdiU4&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

  • BYU also took on St. Mary’s in a game that had another terrific finish. It was this dagger with just 10.26 seconds (I have no idea why the clock went to hundreths of a second) from Jimmer Fredette that won it for the Cougars:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqfbJeSYpqY&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

  • Butler led by as much as nine points in the second half against Evansville, but the Purple Aces made a 22-8 run to take a 58-53 lead with just over three minutes left. Butler rallied, tying the game on two Zach Hahn free throws with eight seconds left. In overtime, Denver Holmes hit 1 three with 17.7 seconds left before fouling Shelvin Mack on a three with seven seconds on the clock. Mack missed the second free throw, then missed the third intentionally. After an Evansville free throw, Mack missed a game-tying three pointer for a 71-68 loss.
  • Trey Thompkins tipped in a missed shot with 10.4 seconds left to force the first overtime, then Ben Hansbrough his 1-2 free throws with 4.7 seconds left to force the second overtime. In the second extra frame, Tim Abromaitis and Eric Atkins both hit big jumpers for an 89-83 win.
  • Texas State was down 31 points to Our Lady of the Lake with 8:31 left in the game, but used a 44-13 run to tie the game at 108. In the extra frame OLotL hit a three on their final possession for a 127-126 upset.
  • South Carolina needed a three with 20.7 seconds left to force over time, then a short jumper from Sam Muldrow to force a second OT. In the second extra frame, South Carolina took a two point lead with 4.4 seconds left and Western Kentucky was unable to get shot off and the Gamecocks won 87-85.
  • Boston College went up 66-62 with a minute left in the game, but after a BJ Holmes three and a free throw, the Eagles were up just 67-65. Dash Harris had a layup at the buzzer rim out.
  • Weber State was on opposite ends of great games this weekend. On Friday, after a Damian Lillard jumper gave them a 58-57 lead, Trent Lockett of Arizona State won the game with a jumper of his own the seven seconds left. On Saturday, we had the weirdest finish of the week. Lillard was called for a charge with 5.7 seconds down 81-80, but a Drake player spiked the ball. He was called for a technical, and Lillard hit both free throws for the win.

Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, UConn

This one was easy. Walker scored 29 points in the second half to lead the Huskies to a win over Wichita State, scored 30 in an upset of then No. 2 Michigan State, and went for 29 in UConn’s win over then No. 9 Kentucky in the Maui finals. He also averaged 4.0 apg and 2.7 spg while shooting 28-52 (53.8%) from the floor, 26-28 (92.9%) from the line, and 8-19 (42.5%) from three. All in all, I think Walker had a pretty good week.

The All-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Kevin Anderson, Richmond: Anderson averaged 18.0 ppg on the week, but it was his 28 point performance in the Spider’s upset of Purdue on Saturday that earned him a spot on this list.
  • G: Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette led the Cougars to a 3-0 week, averaging 24.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, and 3.0 spg, which included a number of crucial baskets in two close BYU wins.
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse: Joseph shook off some early season struggles. He scored 22 points in a win over Michigan, then went for 16 second half points, finishing with 19, as the Orange beat Georgia Tech in the finals of the Legends Classic.
  • F: Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Kentucky went 2-1 in the Maui, but after their disastrous performance against UConn, some fans left unsatisfied. Jones, however, was terrific, averaging 23.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 3.3 bpg for the tournament.
  • C: Keith Wright, Harvard: Wright averaged 21.5 ppg, 9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.0 bpg in a 2-0 week. Harvard knocked off Colorado this week.
  • Bench: CJ McCollum, Lehigh; Chace Stanback, UNLV; Adrian Oliver, SJSU; Kenneth Faried, Morehead State; Jamie Skeen, VCU

Team of the Week: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

After last season ended, the talk of the MWC was BYU and Jimmer Fredette. Early in the season, the toast of the league has been San Diego State after the Aztecs went into Spokane and beat Gonzaga. And, of course, there was the obligatory “wait until New Mexico gets Drew Gordon” references. UNLV, on the other hand, started the season out without star Tre’Von Willis and was, for the most part, the afterthought when discussing four potential bids for the conference.

But UNLV has put those thoughts on hold. Heading into the 76 Classic in Anaheim coming off of a 68-65 win over Wisconsin, the Rebels had a ton of confidence, and that roll continued with their impressive showing out west. UNLV knocked off Tulsa, Murray State, and Virginia Tech en route to the tournament title. More impressive, they did it with Willis looking slow and out of shape. There are few teams in the country as fu to watch as UNLV. They play with essentially four guards (Chace Stanback gets the majority of his minutes as a power forward) and press for 40 minutes. At every spot on the perimeter, they have athletes that can shoot, penetrate, and pass the ball. This club understands what they want to do on each offensive possession. This could very well be the best team in the MWC, which is saying quite a bit.

The Atlantic 10 could be in trouble this season. We already noted Xavier’s troubles early in the season. Temple, the only ranked team in the Old Spice Classic, ended up losing two of their three games, and not in impressive fashion either. They were dropped by Cal in a game the Owls looked largely uninterested in, then they proceeded to lose to a Texas A&M team that lost to Boston College who lost to Yale. Ok, that doesn’t mean much, but a 1-2 performance in a tournament with a field that was largely mediocre is not a good sign for a team that was expected to be the best in the Atlantic 10.

And then there is Dayton. If we had an award for worst team of the week, that would go to the Flyers. Dayton lost to Cincinnati 68-34, and it wasn’t even that close. At one point in the second half, the score was 56-19. This is the same Cincinnati team that will likely finish well done in the bottom half of the Big East. Charlotte, URI, and St. Louis have all looked unimpressive as well.

If there is any saving grace, its that Richmond went into Chicago and knocked off Purdue. But that same Richmond team also has a double overtime loss to Iona on their resume this season. So there’s that.

While the A-10 struggles, the Big East looks like they may have been slept on this season. Seven teams in the conference either won or made the finals of their respective early season tournament:

  • UConn beat Wichita State and upset Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
  • Syracuse beat Michigan and Georgia Tech to win the Legends Classic.
  • Notre Dame notched wins over Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin to with the Old Spice Classic.
  • St. John’s beat Arizona State in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.
  • Pitt won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by beating Maryland and Texas in NYC.
  • Georgetown won the Charleston Classic with a win over NC State in the finals.
  • Villanova lost to Tennessee in the finals of the Preseason NIT.
  • West Virginia beat Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off before losing to Minnesota in the finals.

Everyone know about Pitt and Villanova coming into the season. Everyone expected good things from Georgetown, Syracuse, and West Virginia. But with Louisville’s impressive start, UConn and Notre Dame’s big tournament wins, and Marquette, Seton Hall, and St. John’s still waiting in the wings, the Big East looks like they will once again have a deep conference with quite a few tournament teams.

The Old Spice Classic managed to set records on back-to-back days for offensive futility. On Thursday, Wisconsin and Manhattan slogged their way to a 17-10 score at the half. The 27 points were the fewest ever scored in the first half since the advent of the shot clock. The previous record came on January 8th, 2003, when Ole Miss took a 15-13 lead into the break against South Carolina. It got worse the next night, as Notre Dame took a 21-5 lead into the half against Cal. The Bears, who came one point away from the record for the worse half in the shot-clock era (Savannah State scored four points in the second half against Kansas State), were 2-25 from the field and didn’t score a point for the last 10:44 of the half. They had twice as many turnovers (11) as points (5), and more than four times as many fouls (9) as field goals (2).

Interestingly enough, its not even the D-I record. North Carolina Central took a 13-5 lead at the break against (guess who!) Savannah State last year. But since NCCU was still a D-I provisional last season, the record isn’t officially the “record”, which may actually be a positive. That game ended up going to overtime tied at 34, which may also set a record for free basketball that least the number of people wanted to see.

Other Notes from the week that was:

  • Butler is a long way from where they were last season. Evansville is a bottom feeder in the Missouri Valley, and they went into Hinkle Field house and beat the Bulldogs. That is not a good sign, and not having Ronald Nored is not an excuse.
  • I saw Harvard play earlier this year. They were thoroughly beaten by a thoroughly mediocre George Mason team. Colorado just lost to the Crimson by 16 points, dropping the “sleeper” Buffaloes to 2-3 on the season. The worst part? Harvard’s best player (Kyle Casey) played 13 minutes off the bench as he tries to come back from a broken bone in his foot.
  • Duke really is that good. Like, seriously. (Post coming on this.)
  • The Pac-10 will get, at best, two teams into the NCAA Tournament. That I am sure of. Well, for now. Washington will be fine once they determine who their late-game scorer is. Arizona, and Derrick Williams, had an impressive showing against Kansas. But Cal? All that good will from beating New Mexico and Temple went out the window with their five point first half performance against Notre Dame and their 22 point whooping at the hands of Boston College. Arizona State? They were manhandled in the paint by Justin Brownlee of Saturday night in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout. And UCLA? I saw them twice this weekend in NYC. They don’t have the defense or the point guard to be a tournament team.

Matchups of the Week:

  • The ACC/Big Ten Challenge (see here) headlines the week
  • 11/30 – 9:00 pm: Georgetown vs. Missouri
  • 12/1 – 8:05 pm: BYU @ Creighton
  • 12/1 – 10:30 pm: St. Mary’s @ San Diego State
  • 12/2 – 7:00 pm: Arizona State @ Baylor
  • 12/2 – 9:00 pm: UCLA @ Kansas
  • 12/3 – 7:30 pm: St. Joe’s @ Villanova
  • 12/3 – 11:00 pm: Kansas State @ Washington State
  • 12/4 – 12:00 pm: Utah State @ Georgetown
  • 12/4 – 12:30 pm: Kentucky @ UNC
  • 12/4 – 3:15 pm: Butler vs. Duke in New Jersey
  • 12/4 – 5:15 pm: NC State @ Syracuse
  • 12/4 – 5:15 pm: Illinois @ Gonzaga
  • 12/4 – 10:05 pm: Wichita State @ San Diego State
  • 12/5 – 2:00 pm: Richmond @ Arizona State
  • 12/5 – 8:00 pm: Temple @ Maryland

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.