1/3 – College Hoops Week in Review: Happy New Year!

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Game of the Week: Dayton 76, New Mexico 73 OT

In a game that featured far more than its share of big time dunks, New Mexico jumped out to an early 33-21 lead in Dayton. Dayton chipped away at the lead, eventually cutting it to six points heading into halftime on a three from Chris Johnson. New Mexico started the second half off ice cold, eventually tying the game for the first time since it was 0-0 on a thunderous tip dunk from Chris Wright.

After a bucket by the Lobos, Matt Kavanaugh gave Dayton their first lead with an and-one finish off of a pass from Juwan Staten. Dayton would eventually open a 64-58 lead with 3:54 left in regulation, but the Lobos scored six straight points — the last four on back-to-back jumpers by Kendall Williams — as they forced overtime.

Dayton took a three point lead late in the first OT, but after a free throw and a stop for the Lobos, Dairese Gary scored with 36 seconds left to force the second overtime. In the second extra frame, Paul Williams hit a three on the first possession. Two Chris Wright free throws extended the lead. New Mexico didn’t score a field goal in the second overtime and went 2-6 from the foul line. With with three seconds left they were down 76-73 with Williams at the line. He missed the second intentionally and the ball came right back to him, but his game-tying three came up short.

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Christian Laettner 2.0: This finish has to be mentioned. After Richmond choked down the stretch, missing seven of eight free throws in the final 2:58, they still found themselves up 61-60 on Bucknell with 1.7 seconds left. Bucknell had the ball under the Spider’s basket. They needed a miracle, and they got one:

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Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, Purdue

Its not necessarily a surprise that Purdue has gotten off to a 2-0 start to the Big Ten season. This is, in fact, a top 15 team that has two all-americans on the roster. What was a bit of a surprise, however, was the manner in which Purdue got off to their 2-0 start. On Tuesday, the Boilermakers went into Ann Arbor and obliterated the Wolverines, 80-57. And on New Year’s Eve, when John Shurna and Northwestern came to town, Purdue looked terrific once again, winning 82-69 in a game that wasn’t really in doubt for much of the second half.

Moore was the star for Purdue this week. Against Michigan, he had 21 points, 9 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block while also helping to hold Darius Morris, the Wolverine’s star that is averaging 15 points and 7 assists, to just 3-14 shooting. He was even better against Northwestern, hitting five threes in the first six minutes and finishing with 31 points, 7 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and another block. Oh, and John Shurna, the leading scorer in the Big Ten, finished with just 11 points.

Moore wasn’t alone this week — JaJuan Johnson averaged 20.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg while Ryne Smith added 15.0 ppg. When the Boilermakers are getting that kind of production, they are going to be a tough team to beat. But Moore, however, was the star.

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

  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke: In Duke’s first game without Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith tried to fill the void at the point, finishing with just 2 points but 10 assists. Since then, Coach K has asked Smith to be more of a scorer, and he has obliged, getting at least 22 points in the last four games. This week, he averaged 27.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 7.0 apg in wins over UNC-Greensboro and Miami FL.
  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois: McCamey led the Illini to a 2-0 week to open the Big Ten season, knocking off Iowa and Wisconsin. He averaged 20.5 ppg and 8.5 apg in the two wins, needing just 18 shots to score his 41 points.
  • G: Corey Stokes, Villanova: Stokes has arguably been Villanova’s best back court player this season, as he is the team’s leading scorer. He showed why this week, as he went for 24 points and 23 points in wins over Temple and Rutgers, respectively.
  • F: Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington: MBA, as we like to call him, was terrific as the Huskies went on their LA road trip and swept USC and UCLA. He averaged 19.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the two games.
  • C: Josh Harrellson, Kentucky: In what was arguably Kentucky’s biggest game of the season, the man known as ‘Jorts’ made a lot of people momentarily forget all about Enes Kanter by going for 23 points and 14 boards in a win over Louisville.
  • Bench: Kris Joseph, Syracuse; Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly, Kansas State; Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt; Marcus Jordan, UCF

Team of the Week: Oregon State Beavers

Its been an up-and-down season for Oregon State. Well, actually, that’s not exactly correct. Coming into the Pac-10’s first weekend, it had been mostly a down season for the Beavers. They were 5-6 on the season with five fairly embarrassing losses — Texas Southern, Utah Valley State, and George Washington all beat OSU in Gill Coliseum while they lost to Colorado, Seattle, and Montana on the road. If it wasn’t for the pathetic seasons being had by Wake Forest and Auburn, Oregon State likely would have been referred to as the worst major college team in the country.

It was moronic to think that the Beavers would have a chance to make any kind of noise in the Pac-10, but all of that changed on New Year’s Eve’s Eve, when the Beavers smacked Arizona State 80-58. Granted, the Sun Devils were playing without Trent Lockett, their leading scorer, but the score looks all the more legitimate after Sunday’s 76-75 win over Arizona, a team many believed to be the second best in the Pac-10. More interesting, however, is the fact that Oregon State won without playing well. They shot 42.4% from the field and 2-15 from three. They were bailed out by the Wildcat’s penchant for fouling (32 free throws for the Beavers) and inability to hit their own foul shots (13-24).

So one week into conference play, and Oregon State is sitting atop the conference at 2-0. The scarier thing is that in watching the Beavers play, this doesn’t look like a fluke. Jared Cunningham is a terrific athlete and defender that is starting to come into his own offensively. Joe Burton is a solid post player that is active and has quick feet. Calvin Haynes and Omari Johnson are seniors playing for a trip to the NCAA Tournament. We all know the story of Roberto Nelson. I don’t want to get ahead of myself because this team has, in fact, lost to Utah Valley State at home. But I wouldn’t be that surprised if the Beavers hung around in the Pac-10 this season.

Teams that deserve a shout out:

St. John’s: The Beavers weren’t the only team that surprised some folks with a 2-0 start to conference play. The Johnnies, coming off of losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure, looked like they were going to fade slowly into the back ground like so many St. John’s team before them. But believe it or not, St. John’s swept their Big East schedule this week, and more impressive still is the fact that won both games on the road. Against West Virginia, the Johnnies pounded away at the Mountaineers inside while against Providence it was 21 point from Dwight Hardy and a clutch three ball by Paris Horne that won the game. Perhaps we will get a real feel for the Red Storm after tonight’s game against Georgetown in Madison Square Garden.

Vanderbilt: After Kentucky’s emphatic win over Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, its tough to argue against the Wildcats being the favorite to win the SEC. Having said that, with Tennessee’s struggles, it appears as if Vanderbilt may just be the second best team in the conference. This week, Vandy knocked off a solid Marquette team at home 77-76 on a layup from Andre Walker with 4.1 seconds left despite a 4-21 shooting performance from John Jenkins. On Sunday, they ran Davidson, a SoCon contender, out of the gym 80-52.

Charlotte: Since Shamari Spears was kicked off the team, the 49ers have been a different group. Namely, they have been winning games. Four in a row to be exact, starting with their 49-48 upset of then-No. 7 Tennessee and ending with Sunday’s 86-83 2OT win over Georgia Tech. Charlotte is now 8-6 on the season and peaking just in time for conference play, which starts with a Wednesday trip to Richmond.

Dayton: I had all but written the Flyers off. That’s what a 68-34 loss to Cincinnati and a loss to East Tennessee State will do to you. But after beating George Mason and New Mexico this week — and winning at Seton Hall last week — while trailing by double figures in all three games is impressive. Dayton is now 12-3 on the season and, like Charlotte, peaking at the right now.

Iowa State: Did anyone expect the Cyclones to be 12-2 heading into the New Year? I certainly didn’t. And while Fred Hoiberg’s group hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents, they did go to Charlottesville and knock off UVa this week. The record needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but at the least this is a nice confidence booster for fans of the Cyclone program.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats still haven’t played anyone of note, but they can now add a 2-0 start in the Big East to their 14-0 start to the season.

Portland: Would you believe me if I told you that Portland might have the best chance at earning at at-large bid out of the WCC? They have the best RPI in the league, none of their three losses are bad losses, they’ve won at Montana and at Denver while beating Boise State, Nevada, and Utah in their last three games. Ok, maybe I wouldn’t even believe that, but keep an eye on the Pilots. On Saturday, they head to Gonzaga to open WCC play.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 1/3 – 7:00 pm: Georgetown @ St. John’s
  • 1/3 – 7:30 pm: Michigan State @ Northwestern
  • 1/4 – 7:00 pm: UConn @ Notre Dame
  • 1/5 – 7:00 pm: Drexel @ VCU
  • 1/5 – 9:00 pm: Memphis @ Tennessee
  • 1/5 – 10:00 pm: BYU @ UNLV
  • 1/6 – 9:00 pm: Northwestern @ Illinois
  • 1/6 – 7:00 pm: Xavier @ Cincinnati
  • 1/7 – 7:00 pm: Cleveland State @ Butler
  • 1/8 – 11:00 am: West Virginia @ Georgetown
  • 1/8 – 12:00 pm: Austin Peay @ Murray State
  • 1/8 – 3:30 pm: UConn @ Texas
  • 1/8 – 8:30 pm: Portland @ Gonzaga
  • 1/9 – Minnesota @ Ohio State
  • 1/9 – 12:00 pm: Cincinnati @ Villanova
  • 1/9 – 8:00 pm: Maryland @ Duke

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.