Seton Hall cannot rest on their win over UConn

0 Comments

Andre Drummond didn’t know who Herb Pope was prior to No. 8 UConn’s trip to Seton Hall, but the name he most likely learned during the Pirate’s 75-63 win on Tuesday was that of Jordan Theodore.

The Pirate point guard was sensational as Seton Hall won their first game against UConn in 3,958 days, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, three steals and a number of big buckets in the second half to prevent the Huskies from building any kind of momentum.

The statement “big buckets” in the second half is kind of ironic, I know, as the Pirates flat out drilled UConn on this night. Think about this: UConn was hot early, hitting three threes in the first four minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 11-2 lead. Over the next 16 minutes? Seton Hall outscored the Huskies 31-11, which included a 16-3 run to close the first half. UConn was able to trim a 35-22 halftime deficit to 10, but they never made things interesting after the break.

The one, very basic, question that we are now forced to ask: is this Seton Hall team is ‘for real’?

Personally, I hate asking whether a team is ‘for real’, if for no other reason that the term is incredibly vague and has different connotations for different teams. After Indiana knocked off Ohio State on New Year’s Eve, folks were asking whether or not Indiana was ‘for real’. Not even the most delusional Seton Hall fan would dare think that the Pirates are currently on the same level as the Hoosiers.

What we can say is this: Seton Hall has put themselves into incredible position to make a run at an at-large bid. Why? Because this win over the Huskies is far from the only impressive thing they have done this season. Just five days ago, the Pirates knocked off a better-than-we-thought West Virginia team by 19 points in the Prudential Center. They also own a win at Dayton, victories over Wake Forest and Auburn and knocked off both St. Joseph’s and VCU in Charleston.

On Tuesday afternoon, Andy Glockner’s bubble watch was released at SI.com, and he said that Seton Hall would “obviously would be in today” while emphasizing that we needed to have “some continued restraint given the lack of a true marquee win.” I think a dominating victory over a top ten team would qualify as a marquee victory.

Seton Hall’s next five games are fairly unimpressive as well, as they host DePaul and Notre Dame while traveling to Providence, South Florida and Villanova. Assuming they go 4-1 in that stretch, Seton Hall will head into the most important stretch of their season — home for Louisville, at Marquette, at UConn in the span of eight days — with a record of 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big East.

The Pirates are going to be garnering plenty of attention over the next month.

But is that attention warranted?

Is Seton Hall the team that has blown out West Virginia and UConn at home, or are they the group that was completely and thoroughly abused at Syracuse six days ago? Don’t forget about that performance, Seton Hall fans. You lost 75-49 to a team that didn’t get a single point out of their leading scorer.

The answer, frankly, lies somewhere in the middle — Kevin Willard’s team is not as bad as they played against Syracuse and they aren’t as good as they looked on Tuesday night against UConn. I know that’s a cop out, but its true. You cannot simply overlook a no-show performance and write it off as a “one of those nights”. What happens if Seton Hall has “one of those nights” against Providence on Saturday? Or in the first round of the Big East Tournament?

And, frankly, what’s to stop us from saying UConn lost tonight because they had “one of those nights”? Outside of Jeremy Lamb, only two players from UConn came to play Tuesday — Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander — and they aren’t exactly who we talk about when we say UConn has a roster stocked with potential NBA draft picks.

Jordan Theodore (who was once considered a better prospect than his AAU teammate Kemba Walker) and Herb Pope (who was once thought to be one of the best big man recruits in the country) are both showing why they had the hype they did at the amateur level. Fuquan Edwin is a much-improved offensive weapon and a playmaker on the defensive end. Patrick Auda and Aaron Cosby have been reliable role players. Brandon Mobley showed why had some hype when he joined the Seton Hall team five games ago.

No one is questioning whether or not the Pirates are a good basketball team this season.

But there is no need to place unwarranted expectations on this group. They are winning because they are playing every game like their season depends on it. Making this group think they are good enough to win just by showing up — kind of like what UConn did tonight — will result in more tallies showing up in the loss column.

If beating UConn at home ends up being the highlight of their season, than this won’t have been a very productive year for the Pirates.

What We Learned

Seton Hall:

– This isn’t exactly a secret, as he is currently leading the country in steals, but you cannot be lazy with the ball around Fuquan Edwin. He notched two more steals against the Huskies. That said, Edwin’s production was more than just his defense on this night. He finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards), scored in transition and flourished in the role of the glue-guy. Edwin is to Seton Hall as Pepco is to BIAH HQ: he’s the one that brings the energy, and tonight you saw why.

– Herb Pope is not the best big man in the Big East. He’s good — you have to be good when you are still averaging a double-double two months into the season — but his physical limitations get exposed when he plays against bigger, more athletic front lines. Pope is a combined 9-29 in the two games against UConn and Syracuse. That said, he’s a physical presence in the paint and a guy that can get rebounds and score on putbacks. Most importantly, however, Pope didn’t quit tonight despite a slow start to the game. We couldn’t say as much against Syracuse.

– Now do you see why Seton Hall fans were excited about Brandon Mobley? The freshman who is five games into his career after battling a shoulder injury had eight points and seven boards in the first half to help lead Seton Hall back.

– Who saw Peter Dill at the end of the Seton Hall bench?

UConn:

– UConn isn’t going to miss Kemba Walker’s ability as a basketball player nearly as much as they are going to miss his ability to be a leader. UConn has no emotional spark. They have no vocal presence on the floor. They have no one that is willing to say “enough of this BS, y’all gonna play tonight?” There isn’t a presence in their huddle holding them accountable for mistakes and lazy play. And there isn’t anyone with that killer instinct capable of hitting the step-on-your-throat shots down the stretch.

– That issue is only exacerbated without Jim Calhoun’s presence on the bench.

– UConn’s body language was horrible in this game. After Theodore hit a pair of threes midway through the second half to push the lead to 15, UConn looked like they had given up. That’s not something you want to see out of a team that is expected to compete for the Big East title and contend for a Final Four.

– I’ll make this prediction: this is the worst game that we will see UConn play all season long. Shabazz Napier was 2-12 from the field. Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi combined for six points and seven boards. You’d be quickly forgiven if you didn’t realize Deandre Daniels and Roscoe Smith played. Much of that can be credited to the play of Seton Hall, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was an all-around atrocious performance from the Huskies.

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

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.