PLAYER OF THE DAY: Tyus Battle, Syracuse
Without looking at the big picture, Tyus Battle had the kind of game that he — and Syracuse fans — will remember for a long time.
The resident All-American in Upstate New York, Battle went for 26 points on 8-for-18 shooting and hit a game-winning jumper with 2.5 seconds left as the Orange knocked off their archrival, Georgetown, 72-71, in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. He scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime, a performance that helped dig the Orange out of a 13 point hole that they had dug for themselves.
(As an aside, all that talk of Battle starting the season slow can officially be deaded. He’s popped off for 20 points in four of the five games during this five-game winning streak for the Orange, including 20 points in the win at Ohio State.)
Then there is the importance of this win for the Orange, both in terms of where their season is heading and what this means for their non-conference resume. Syracuse already has two questionable losses to their name, falling to both UConn and Oregon in Madison Square Garden in November. A home loss to a Georgetown team from a down-Big East that probably isn’t tournament bound isn’t the kind of thing that they need.
But a come-from-behind win in a rivalry game?
That’s a nice way to change the momentum of a season.
TEAM OF THE DAY
Tulsa students got a chance to storm the court on Saturday night, as the Golden Hurricne knocked off No. 16 Kansas State, 47-46.
(Yes. That score is correct.)
Good for Frank Haith. Good for Tulsa. Good for the American.
Very, very bad for Kansas State.
This is the second straight Saturday where Bruce Weber’s club has dropped a road game. Last week, they fell at Marquette. This week Tulsa. I think that it is time for us to truly question just how good this team actually is, and it’s not an answer that Kansas State fans are going to like. The problem? They can’t score. The Wildcats rank 99th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and are shooting 28.2 percent from three, but you didn’t really need me to explain to you that this team can’t score after they put up 46 points on Tulsa.
Before the season, I made the point that Bruce Weber has quite a bit of pressure on him because of the overloaded expectations he had coming into the year, and this certainly isn’t going to help matters. It’s not a secret that Kansas State fans haven’t exactly been thrilled with his tenure, and struggling to find a way to win games like this is going to be a bad thing for him in the long-term.
ONIONS OF THE DAY
You tell me which shot was the Onions Of The Day.
Was it Myles Cale hitting the game-winner with 9.5 seconds left as Seton Hall upset No. 9 Kentucky, 84-83?
Was it Myles Powell burying a ridiculous step-back three to put the Pirates up three with 1.5 seconds left in regulation?
Or was it Keldon Johnson hitting the halfcourt shot to answer Powell, forcing the extra frame where Cale hit the game-winner?
SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS
SETON HALL AND MARQUETTE: The Big East badly needed to pick up some impressive non-conference wins, and they got two of them on Saturday: Seton Hall knocked off No. 9 Kentucky in overtime and Marquette knocked off No. 12 Wisconsin in overtime. For a conference that doesn’t have a clear second-best team when the best team is a reloading Villanova, these are the kind of wins that can turn a four-bid league into a five-bid league or a five-bid league into a six-bid league.
I don’t think I’m overstating that, either.
This was really important not just for these two teams, but for the league in general.
And at some point, I should probably mention that the Golden Eagles have now beaten Louisville, Kansas State and Wisconsin over the last two weeks. That’s pretty good.
INDIANA: The Hoosiers got 21 points from Romeo Langford and came from behind at home to land a win over Louisville in Assembly Hall. Indiana has had some struggles early on this season, as a young team built around a freshman and a banged-up Juwan Morgan has had their share of difficulties, but they’re getting the wins they need. Indiana is now 3-1 in games decided by one possession, and their only loss came at Arkansas, when they missed a layup and a tip-in before committing a foul on the ensuing rebound in a tie game. They should be fine in the long run.
FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles knocked off UConn in the Never Forget Classic in Newark, landing another solid win and improving to 8-1 on the season. Like Indiana, Florida State has yet to truly click this year, but they now have wins over UConn, Purdue, Florida and LSU. That’s a pretty good resume for the first month of the season.
JORDAN POOLE: The concern with Michigan this season was always going to be whether or not they could find enough perimeter shooting to be able to keep the floor spaced, and Poole looks like he is providing the Wolverines with an answer. He had 26 points on Saturday in a win over South Carolina, and has now hit for at least 14 points in the last five games and six of the last seven games. He’s shooting 45.2 percent from three on the season and, after missing nine of his first 10 threes, he’s made 18 of the last 32 threes he’s attempted.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: I’ve been a doubter of Mississippi State this season, but after knocking off Clemson on Saturday afternoon, the No. 22 Bulldogs are 8-1 on the season, thanks in large part to the 28 points and eight threes that they got from Lamar Peters. Clemson is not a great team this season. Hell, I’m not sold they are actually a good team, especially when they are playing without Marcquise Reed. But a win is a win is a win, and Mississippi State got one that they needed on Saturday.
OKLAHOMA: Is Oklahoma actually better this year than they were with Trae Young last season? I don’t know if I fully believe it — they’ve beaten Florida, Notre Dame, Dayton and now Wichita State, albeit by 32 points while losing to Wisconsin by 20 — but I will say this much: They are better than I thought they would be this year. An NCAA tournament bid is within reach if they can do what they need to do in Big 12 play.
WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers are just 5-4 on the season, but after beating Arkansas on Saturday, they have two wins over high-major competition — the Razorbacks and West Virginia. You don’t want to see this group as a No. 15 seed in your bracket.
SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS
THE BIG EAST NOT NAMED SETON HALL OR MARQUETTE: We mentioned earlier how important it is for this league to go out and land some big wins during the remainder of non-conference play.
Well, Creighton got smoked at Nebraska. DePaul lost at Northwestern. Xavier got drummed by Cincinnati. Georgetown blew a 13 point halftime lead at Syracuse. Yes, all of those games came on the road, but all of those losses are going to hurt.
FLORIDA: The Gators lost their fourth game of the season, and this one might have been the most frustrating, as Mike White’s team had a shot at picking off No. 10 Michigan State slip through their fingers. Kyle Ahrens, of all people, scored the final seven points for the Spartans in a 63-59 victory.
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies had a second half lead on No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence and blew it. Dedric Lawson scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, including the last 14 points of the game for the Jayhawks, as Kansas eked out a 63-60 win.
It is perfectly reasonable to drop Kentucky out of the top 25 come Monday morning.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wildcats are not one of the top 25 teams in college basketball at this moment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t find a way to make themselves a favorite to get to the Final Four by the end of the season.
But as of today, after losing to an OK Seton Hall on a neutral court, Kentucky has not won a game against a high major opponent. They have not won a game away from Rupp Arena. They have not beaten a top that ranks in the top 75 on KenPom and have just two wins against teams that are in the top 150.
That’s just not a good resume.
And, frankly, they have not looked great in the games they have won, either. They struggled with Southern Illinois and UNC Greensboro. It was more difficult than it should have been to beat VMI and Winthrop.
This has happened before with Kentucky teams — Do you remember last season? — and it will happen with Kentucky teams again. It’s the way of the world when you deal with freshmen, and I don’t doubt that Cal will figure this thing out.
But as of right now, if you don’t think that Kentucky is one of the 25 best teams in college basketball, you’re probably right.