12/27 – College Hoops Week in Review: I hope everyone had a great holiday

Leave a comment

Game of the Week: Missouri 75, Illinois 64

Missouri is the most exciting team in the country to watch this season. Not just because they play a hectic, up and down style — its called the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” for a reason — but because every game they play seems to come down to the wire. This is already this third time this season that we have used a game that the Tiger’s have played in as Game of the Week.

Wednesday night’s matchup was no different. Illinois jumped out to a 10 point lead early in the first half, but a 17-2 run by Mizzou that spanned the two halves gave the tigers a 35-29 lead early in the second half. Illinois answered with a 12-2 run of their own, and it was on. Both teams made big shot after big shot. It was like a boxing match between two fighters with glass jaws but not all that much skill. Illinois and Mizzou were both landing haymaker after haymaker, waiting for the other team to drop.

Eventually, Missouri took a 62-58 lead when Brandon Paul missed two free throws with 48 seconds left. Michael Dixon tracked the ball down, but it was stolen from him in the back court by Mike Davis, setting up an exciting sequence (jump to the 1:30 mark, and don’t mind the music in the back ground):

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehnd_NymN9o&feature=player_embedded]

The intentional foul called on Tisdale may have cost Illinois the game, but it was the correct call. Two handed shoves in the back of a player moving at full speed are dangerous, and they are the precise reason that the intentional foul was added to the rulebook.

That sequence is the perfect example of Missouri basketball. A potentially momentum changing three is made off of a turnover, cutting Mizzou’s lead to one with 44 seconds left. Most teams hold the ball for one shot in that situation. Missouri threw an inbounds pass to Marcus Denmon, who was already heading up the floor. He took one dribble and passed ahead to Laurence Bowers, who was wide open on a wing. Layup, foul, six point possession, game over.

It deserves to be noted: UAB 68, VCU 65

In a battle of anagrams, VCU took a 19 point with just 13 minutes left in the game. UAB was able to whittle that down to nine at one point, but eventually UAB took a 65-53 lead with just 5:08 left in the game. That’s when Jamarr Sanders took over. He hit a three to cut the lead to nine, but neither team scored until Sanders scored four points — one of two free throws and then a three — when he picked up a steal on back-to-back possessions, cutting the lead to 65-60 with 1:30 left. After Aaron Johnson picked up a steal, he hit one of two free throws. UAB grabbed the rebound off of the miss and the ball ended up in Sanders’ hands. He buried another three, and the lead was now just 65-64 with 1:15 left. VCU had possession, but they turned the ball over again, and with just 10 seconds left in the game, Sanders drove, drew a foul, and hit both free throws to take the lead 66-65. Two more Johnson free throws sealed the win.

All told, Sanders had 12 of his 29 points in the final five minutes. UAB had not been closer than nine points since the 14:50 mark of the first half. That’s not quite Jay Williams-vs.-Maryland territory, but Sanders’ performance was quite impressive nonetheless.

Player of the Week: Klay Thompson, Washington State

I know that Washington State was beaten pretty handily by Butler in the final of the Diamond Head Classic, but that does nothing to diminish the week that Thompson had. In the three games in Hawaii, he averaged 26.3 ppg, including 31 in the loss to Butler that kept things close. He was 25-46 from the floor and 13-25 from three. It was, without a doubt, an impressive performance, and Thompson’s play this week is a huge reason why Wazzu’s name is being tossed around as a potential top 25 team and a sleeper in the Pac-10.

What makes this performance by Thompson so impressive is not that he shot the ball well. We’ve known that Thompson was a good shooter. That is no secret. But, like we said after the win over Gonzaga, Thompson has become an all-around player. He’s jumping passing lanes. He’s creating for his teammates. Most importantly, however, he’s been able to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim while handling physical, one-on-one defense much better than last year. Thompson started out the 2009-2010 season on fire, but once Pac-10 play came around his numbers dropped considerably. He likely will not find defense as physical as Butler’s in the Pac-10 this season. He had 31 against Butler and kept the Cougars in the game despite subpar performances from Reggie Moore, DeAngelo Casto, and Faisal Aden.

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

  • G: Darius Morris, Michigan: Granted, it came against Bryant, but Morris had 26 points and 12 assists in his only game of the week. It was the fifth time he’s reached double figure assists and his fourth double-double of the season. Morris is now averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.5 apg on the season.
  • G: Jio Fontan, USC: Fontan averaged 17.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 3.5 spg while leading the Trojans to a 2-0 week, including a win at Tennessee, to bounce back from a tough loss to Kansas in Fontan’s debut.
  • G: Doron Lamb, Kentucky: Lamb had 32 points on 11-12 shooting (7-8 from three) as he set the Kentucky freshman scoring record, previously held by Jamal Mashburn, in a win over Winthrop.
  • F: Travis Franklin, Colorado State: Franklin led the Rams to a win in the Cancun Governer’s Cup by averaging 22.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 2.0 spg, including a 25-point, 9-rebound performance against Gary Flowers and Southern Miss in the final.
  • F: Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper averaged 20.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg, leading the Spiders in scoring in both games, as Richmond knocked off UNC-Greensboro and Seton Hall. Harper had 24 points and hit six three against the Hall.
  • Bench: Jimmer Fredette, BYU; Justin Hurtt, Tulsa; Chris Singleton, Florida State; Matt Howard, Butler

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

Butler may have given life to their chances of earning an at-large bid this season with a win in the Diamond Head Classic out in Hawaii. With wins over Florida State and Washington State, as well as Utah, Butler landed themselves two quality victories against teams that will likely be in the tournament come March. Without much in the way of a resume booster from here on out, the Bulldogs are going to want to win the Horizon Tournament to be safe, but the resume is not what was important coming out of this week.

What’s important is that Butler looked like the Butler we expected to see all season long. Matt Howard has really grown as a player in his four season with the Bulldogs. He’s now knocking down threes, he’s putting the ball on the floor and hitting mid-range shots and fadeaways. He’s still a terrific rebounder. He averaged 18.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg this week, upping his averages to 18.1 ppg and 8.2 rpg on the season. Shelvin Mack broke out of his slump this week, scoring 17 points on FSU and 20 on WSU. Andrew Smith looks like he is going to be a force on the block in the Horizon this year. Chase Stigall and Zack Hahn are both knocking down jumpers now. Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant are just as pesky and athletic as they were last season. I’m not usually a big believer in the eye test, but this team passed with flying colors this week.

A disappointing week: I don’t have an explanation for it.

The only reason I can think of is that teams that aren’t as good as they think they are were distracted by the end of the finals and the start of the holiday season.

Regardless, it seemed like every time I looked at the college basketball scoreboard this week, another team had a disappointing performance.

We’ll start with the obvious — Renardo Sidney, Elgin Bailey, and Mississippi State. What else is there to say? These two embarrassed their team and their program and managed to get themselves sent home early from a Christmas trip to Hawaii for fighting in the stands. The Bulldogs are a mess this season.

Then there was Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who managed to get themselves suspended for accepting discounts on clothing from a department store. The act itself isn’t all that terrible — the fact that these two are NCAA athletes is the only reason anyone is frowning upon them taking advantage of a hook-up — but it is just another example of the lack of leadership within the Kansas State program. The Wildcats lost to UNLV on Tuesday due to a lack of talent. It wasn’t, however, a lack of effort, as Kansas State, for the first time all season, looked like the Kansas State I expected — scrappy defense, aggressive to the offensive glass, win with floor burns. Now can they do the same with Pullen in the lineup?

Tennessee may have had their season saved with a jumper from Scotty Hopson against Belmont. Tennessee had lost to USC by one point earlier in the week, their third straight loss, before the Bruins came back to take a late lead on the Vols. Hopson hit a runner with 5.7 seconds left, however, and gave the Vols a win. Right now, the Vol’s problem is execution in close games. Their last three games have been decided by one point. Two of them are losses, and both of those games Tennessee had a shot to win the game late. The Vols have three games — against Tennessee-Martin, the College of Charleston, and Memphis — to get this thing figured out before Bruce Pearl’s eight game suspension kicks in.

How about Virginia Tech’s season? They have struggled all year long to find the rhythm many of us expected them to have, and over the holiday break news leaked that Dorenzo Hudson will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his foot. Seton Hall is in the exact same boat, as Jeremy Hazell — who may be out for the season with a wrist injury — was shot in an attempted robbery over the holiday break.

All told, 18 teams from the BCS conferences lost to team from outside the BCS conferences. Eight of those upsets occurred on Wednesday night. Don’t forget, this was a week when there were essentially no games played on Saturday and Sunday. Usually, there are upwards of 175 games played on the weekend. And those struggles? They don’t even count games like UCLA beating UC Irvine by one, or Arizona State losing to North Carolina A&T by 11 in the second half, or Minnesota struggling to knock off South Dakota State.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 12/27 – 8:30 pm: UConn @ Pitt
  • 12/28 – 7:00 pm: Minnesota @ Wisconsin
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: Georgetown @ Notre Dame
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: George Mason @ Dayton
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: Wofford @ VCU
  • 12/29 – 9:00 pm: Marquette @ Vanderbilt
  • 12/29 – 11:00 pm: Washington @ USC
  • 12/29 – 11:00 pm: Washington State @ UCLA
  • 12/30 – 7:00 pm: Temple @ Villanova
  • 12/30 – 8:00 pm: Old Dominion @ Missouri
  • 12/31 – 12:00 pm: Louisville @ Kentucky
  • 12/31 – 12:00 pm: Northwestern @ Purdue
  • 12/31 – 4:00 pm: Minnesota @ Michigan State
  • 12/31 – 4:00 pm: Xavier @ Florida
  • 12/31 – 10:00 pm: Oklahoma State @ Gonzaga
  • 1/1 – 11:00 am: West Virginia @ Marquette
  • 1/1 – 2:00 pm: New Mexico @ Dayton
  • 1/2 – 6:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Illinois
  • 1/1 – 3:30 pm: Notre Dame @ Syracuse

“I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says after bump from official

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tennessee 63-58 loss to Texas A&M wasn’t without some controversy.

In the final seconds of the game, official Mike Nance appeared to bump into Vols coach Rick Barnes, who was standing stationary on the sideline, and the two exchanged words.

“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they are going to look at that,” Barnes said after the game about the incident, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I believe they will look at this game and take it apart. I just think they will do that. That shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form. I would like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing.”

Nance was headed to the monitor to review a call when the bump occurred, and Nance appeared to ask Barnes if the coach initiated the contact.

“Coach (Bob) Knight told me a long time ago that in a game officials are going to miss seven to nine or 10, 11, 12 calls,” Barnes said. “He kept going up every year. He said, ‘You just hope things aren’t egregious at any point in time.'”

Coach K screams at Duke fans, defending Jeff Capel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In one of the stranger things that we’ve seen in college basketball this season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went off on the Cameron Crazies for what he believed was a shot they were taking at former Duke player Jeff Capel.

The crazies were chanting, “Jeff Capel sit with us.” Coach K thought he heard something else.

Check out the video:

After the game, Coach K acknowledged that he misheard what the fans said, adding that he will apologize for the mishap.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “But I’d rather make a mistake for the protection of my guy.

“I love Jeff. I erred on that side. I just hope the ACC doesn’t fine me like they did [Mike] Brey.”

He ended the back and forth with this: “Jeff can sit with me anytime.”

 

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble): Utah State absolutely could not lose at Wyoming (299) on Tuesday, and they didn’t. The Aggies have neutral site wins over LSU (25) and Florida (37), which is enough to keep them in this discussion despite road losses at Boise State (102), UNLV (130) and Air Force (184). They make the trip to Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State (2) on Saturday, and that feels like a must-win for Utah State at this point.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out): The Boilermakers dropped to 11-10 on the season with a 70-63 loss at Rutgers (23) on Tuesday night. That means Purdue has dropped five of their last seven games. They’re 2-7 against Quad 1 opponents with a 29 point win over Michigan State (8), but there are a lot of losses on their resume already and the Big Ten is a bear.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): The Hokies did themselves no favors by losing at Miami (106) on Tuesday night. In the last three days, they’ve suffered their two worst losses of the season. The Hokies also have a non-conference SOS that ranks 341st, which eliminates much of their margin for error. The good news? They still have pair of Quad 1 wins — including Michigan State (10) on a neutral — and four of their five Quad 1 and 2 wins came away from home. It’s not all bad.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Hoyas lost their third straight game on Tuesday night and have now dropped six of their last eight. Making things worse is that they were up by 13 points on Butler (9) late in the first half. This was their best chance to land an elite win this season. They still get Villanova (14) and Seton Hall (12) at home, but the biggest issue with Georgetown’s tournament chances is that they are trending in the wrong direction with just seven scholarship players.

Virginia upends No. 5 Florida State, 61-56

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Remember back to the season’s opening night? Nearly three months ago? That was when Virginia embarrassed Syracuse in a 48-34 win. That game foretold a lot of the season up to this point for the Cavaliers. Their title-defending team would have the defense that’s defined Tony Bennett’s program while the offense, well, that would be a bit of a struggle. What it did not predict was more Quad 1 wins, as the Cavaliers, despite a dominating defense, failed to rack up another such victory after that season-opener.

Until Tuesday.

Virginia injected some life into its NCAA tournament hopes with a 61-56 win over fifth-ranked Florida State in Charlottesville to pick up a critical victory in an ACC that offers far fewer marquee opportunities than in years past.

The victory was exactly what Bennett’s team needed to help buoy that resume before the start of February. January was extremely rough on them with a 3-4 mark before the win over the Seminoles put them at .500 for the month. With only four chances left against the ACC’s best of FSU, Duke and Louisville, beating the Seminoles at home may not have been an absolute-must for the Cavs, but it sure makes it a lot easier to chart a path to the tournament now, even if it’s still a rocky road, than if they had dropped the game.

Point guard Kihei Clark scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime, changing the game offensively for the Cavaliers with his dribble penetration into the middle of the Florida State defense. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his ability to get into the teeth of the defense – creating some buckets and free throws for himself and chances for his teammates – provided just enough lift for the offensively-challenged team. His beautiful reverse layup with a minute left gave Virginia a lead it would not relinquish as it closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine boards for Virginia while Braxton Key had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The loss stops a 10-game winning streak for the ‘Noles, who led for most of the game but could not ever find any meaningful separation. Devin Vassell had 17 points to lead Florida State, which had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but missed both 3-point attempts horribly. If Virginia can surge a little in the season’s final month, this win won’t be much more than a missed opportunity for the Seminoles, but if it proves to just be a blip on the radar for Virginia, Florida State may have done some damage to its seed line Tuesday.