Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gators Drop Another One

Tennessee 86 #5 Florida 76On Saturday, the Florida Gators lost to lowly LSU. Last night in Knoxville, evidence that the reigning national champions were in the throes of a late-season slump surfaced as they lost an important game to surging Tennessee.Sports Training Products Against LSU, the Gators couldn't find any offense. Against the Vols, they disregarded defense, allowing Tennessee to hit 58% of their shots, open a 19-point lead at the half and hold off a Florida rally late in the game. Florida has also lost their shooting touch from beyond the arc. They hit only 6 of 21 attempts last night after a 2.17 performance at LSU.

Chris Lofton led the Vols with 21 points, but the bigger story was the lack of production from some of the Gators' leading scorers, Joakim Noah in particular. Against the Vols, Noah scored a mere 8 points, following his 4 point game at LSU. Taurean Green scored just 6 at LSU and 9 last night. Lee Humphrey had 5 points against LSU and 9 against the Vols. Those three players average 36 points per game combined. Over the last two losses, 20.5.

Whatever is ailing the Gators, it became Tennessee's gain as the Volunteers improved to 9-6 in the SEC East and 21-9 overall, having won 6 of their last 7. Both teams close out the regular season on Saturday. Tennessee is at Georgia, while the Gators host Kentucky.

The SEC Men's Basketball Tournament begins Thursday, March 8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and concludes on Sunday, March 11.

#12 Pittsburgh 80 West Virginia 66 - The Pitt Panthers regrouped after their weekend loss at Georgetown and took care of business at home with a decisive win over the Mountaineers. Pitt regained a share of first place as Georgetown lost at Syracuse on Monday. West Virginia, however, saw their hopes of getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament slipping away as they lost for the 3rd time in their last 4 outings. The Mountaineers fell into a tie with DePaul at 8-7, good for 7th place in the conference. West Va. has only a one quality win on their resume (UCLA), so they'll have to win their season finale against Cincinnati and perform well in next week's Big East Tournament.

BYU 62 #25 Air Force 58 - The BYU Cougars ended Air Force's 30-game home win streak and clinched at least a tie for the Mountain West championship. The Cougars can win the title outright with a win in their final regular season game, at home - where they own the nation's longest home win streak, 30 straight - against Utah. At 12-3, BYU currently leads UNLV by 1/2-game. The Runnin' Rebels, winners of 9 of their last 11, play at New Mexico on Wednesday and close out the regular season hosting Colorado St. on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Syracuse Stops Georgetown Streak

Syracuse 72 #12 Georgetown 58 - The rivalry between these two schools just got a little more interesting last night at the Carrier Dome in upstate New York. Syracuse needed a big win to help convince some of the doubters on the NCAA tournament selection committee and they got it with a win over the Hoyas, ending Georgetown's win streak at 11. The Orangemen deployed Jim Boeheim's zone defense to perfection, shutting down the Hoyas inside and out. Some of the numbers were downright embarrassing: Jeff Green, 3-13; Jessie Sapp, 2-12; DaJuan Summers, 1-10. Georgetown shot 30% from the field, including 6-25 (24%) from 3-point land. Demetris Nichols led the scoring parade with 22 points, joining 3 other Orangemen in double figures. Syracuse also forced 19 Georgetown turnovers.

Just two days after Georgetown toppled Pitt from the top slot in the Big East standings, they find themselves even with the Panthers in the loss column again. The Hoyas have one Big East game remaining - vs. UConn on Saturday - while the Panthers close out conference play at home vs. West Virginia tonight and at Marquette on Saturday.

Syracuse moved into a tie with Notre Dame for 4th place at 10-5. The Orange finish Big east play at Villanova on Saturday. While the win over the Hoyas probably clinched a spot in the Big Dance for the 'Cuse, the upcoming Big East tournament will be about gaining better seeding. The Big East may be sending as many as 8 teams into the March Madness fray.

#6 Kansas 67 Oklahoma 65 - Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers scored 18 points each as the Jayhawks improved to 13-2 in the conference. The Jayhawks blew a 17-point lead but rallied late for the road win over the Sooners. The win allowed Kansas to briefly grab a 1/2-game lead over Texas A&M atop the Big 12 standings. They have only one game remaining, but it's a big one, at home against Texas (11-3) on Saturday. The 12-2 Aggies play at Texas on Wednesday and finish up at home with Missouri.

If Texas wins both of their remaining games and A&M beats Missouri, the three teams could end up tied for the conference title at 13-3. All of this makes for an interesting week in the Big 12, which is likely to get three or four NCAA tournament bids at best. With the Aggies, Longhorns and Jayhawks already locked in, only Texas Tech or Kansas State are worthy of consideration.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ohio State Stakes Its Claim

Sunday's battle between #1 Wisconsin and #2 Ohio State resulted in a 1-point win for the Buckeyes. Being that the game was played on Ohio State's home court, the win was not surprising. It's tough to win on the road, but Ohio State's win could literally not have been by any smaller margin. So, Ohio State's #1 ranking should include an asterisk with the note, "at home."

#2 Ohio St. 49 #1 Wisconsin 48 - The Buckeyes captured the Big Ten title with a win over their closest rival and a 14-1 record with just one conference game remaining and a 2-game lead over the Badgers (12-3). Mike Conley Jr. hit the game-winner for Ohio State with 4 seconds left and Kammron Taylor's desperate jumper at the buzzer was swatted away by Greg Oden and Ron Lewis. Ohio State still has some unfinished business at Michigan, but the result of the game won't change the standings. The Buckeyes are likely to be named #1 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls later today.

Maryland 89 #5 North Carolina 87 - Just when everyone had counted Gary Williams and the Maryland Terrapins out, they go nose-to-nose with the Tar Heels and pull out a surprise win. Senior guard D. J. Strawberry lit it up with 27 points and led the host Terps into a tie for 5th place in the ACC with Duke at 8-6. The Tar Heels' loss also produced a three-way tie for 1st place in the conference with Virginia Tech and Virginia, all at 10-4. It will all shake out in the coming week. Most of the contenders have 2 games left, except 10-5 Boston College, which closes out the regular season on Sunday, March 4 at Georgia Tech.

#7 Memphis 77 Houston 64 - The Tigers extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 with another home win. Ho-hum. Conference-USA. No big deal.

#17 Vanderbilt 67 Kentucky 65 - Derrick Byars scored 26 points and Shan Foster chipped in 21 to lead the Commodores to their 9th SEC win against just 5 losses. The effort solidified Vanderbilt's position for an at-large bid to March Madness. Vandy has just two conference games left, at South Carolina and at home against Arkansas. Winning either should be enough to get to the field of 65.

Meanwhile, Kentucky dropped into a three-way tie for 3rd place in the SEC East with Tennessee and Georgia. The Wildcats could be the odd team out as they host Georgia on Wednesday and close out the season at Florida on Sunday. They could also win them both or split and get an invitation to the Big Dance.

#18 Duke 67 St. John's 50 - The Blue Devils won on the road in a rare non-conference tilt, holding St. John's to just 10 points in the first half and have a tough week ahead. On Wednesday, they host Maryland and close out the regular season at North Carolina. Tournament invitations are on the line for 22-7 Duke.

#20 Louisville 76 Connecticut 69 - The Cardinals spread the scoring out among 10 players and cruised to their 5th straight win and 6th Big East road win. Louisville is now a solid 3rd in the Big East standings at 11-4 and play patsy Seton Hall (4-10 Big East) on Sunday to end their regular season.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Florida Falters, Bruins, Irish Complete Perfect Home Seasons

Plenty of Top 25 action from Saturday, including the Florida Gators being bumped off by a hungry bunch of Tigers from LSU.

LSU 66 #3 Florida 56 - The Gators played possibly their worst game of the season, hitting only 2-17 3-pointers (12%) and 12-22 from the foul line. The Gators have some cause for concern having lost their last two road games (lost at Vandy 83-70) with a big game at Tennessee on Tuesday and home vs. Kentucky on March 4 to close out the regular season. They've already clinched the SEC East title, but don't seem to be playing their best right now.

The 56 points against the Tigers was their lowest output of the season. Joakim Noah, their most visible star, was not even a factor worth considering with 4 points and just 3 rebounds. Florida's problems seem to be more mental than anything else. The pressure of heading towards the NCAA as the defending champions may be wearing on this team at just the wrong time.

Top 25 Home Winners

#4 UCLA 75 Stanford 61 - Arron Afflalo scored 20 points as the Bruins cruised by Stanford en route to completing an undefeated season at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA also clinched at least a share of the PAC-10 title at 14-2. They close out with games at Washington and Washington State.

#6 Kansas 89 Iowa St. 52 - The Jayhawks got everybody into the act with 6 players in double figures. Darrell Arthur recorded his second straight double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Kansas remains tied atop the Big 12 with Texas A&M at 12-2.

#8 Texas A&M 97 Baylor 87 Acie Law scored 31 points and the 4 other starters also finished in double figures, accounting for all but two of the Aggies' output. The win kept A&M in a tie with Kansas for top honors in the Big 12.

#12 Georgetown 61 #10 Pittsburgh 53 - The Hoyas won their 11th straight game and took over first place in the Big East by upending the Panthers. Jonathan Wallace led all scorers with 17 points. Jeff Green added 14 and Roy Hibbert 12 for Georgetown. In a turnover-filled game (Pitt-13, Hoyas-14), Georgetown's defense prevailed, holding a hobbled Aaron Gray to just 10 points and the Panthers to 33% shooting. The 22-5 Hoyas (12-2 Big East) can clinch at least a tie for the conference title with a win at Syracuse on Monday or at home vs. UConn on Sat., March 3.

#13 Southern Illinois 76 Evansville 69 - The Salukis' Randal Falker scored a season-high 30 points as Southern Ill. clinched the Missouri Valley conf. title with their 11th straight win.

#15 Butler 56 Detroit 36 - The Bulldogs laid claim to a share of the Horizon League championship with a dominating defensive win, holding Detroit to just 27% shooting.

#23 Oregon 93 Washington 85 - The Ducks continued to make their case for inclusion in the field of 65 for March Madness with their second straight win as Aaron Brooks pumped in 30 points on 10-14 shooting, including 4-7 3's. After having lost three straight the Ducks needed a couple more wins and at 22-7 look like a certain at-large pick with just one more game, at home vs. Oregon St., on the regular season schedule. They hold wins over Arizona, Georgetown, UCLA and Washington St. (twice) and are in 4th place in the PAC-10 at 10-7.

#24 Virginia 75 Georgia Tech 69 - JR Reynolds scored 25 and Sean Singletary had 24, as the Cavaliers punched their ticket to the Big Dance and likely ended Georgia Tech's hope of getting an invitation. The win kept Virginia in a tie for 2nd in the ACC with Va. Tech at 10-4, while dropping the Yellow Jackets to 6-8 in the conference. The remaining games for the Cavaliers are at home vs. the Hokies and at Wake Forest, Thursday and Saturday.

Top 25 Road Winners

#9 Washington St. 58 Oregon St. 54 - The Cougars got back on the winning track, squeaking by the Beavers and remaining in 2nd place in the PAC-10 at 12-4.

#11 Nevada 95 Boise St. 81 - Nick Fazekas scored 28 points and all five starters scored in double figures as the Wolf Pack clinched the WAC championship. At 13-1 with two games remaining, 2nd place New Mexico State cannot catch them. The two top teams end the regular season at Nevada on March 3.

#19 Texas 68 Oklahoma 58 - Kevin Durant scored 32 points and plucked down 11 rebounds in an easy road win for the Longhorns. At 11-3, the Longhorns are just a game behind Kansas and A&M in the Big 12 standings and host A&M on Wednesday before closing out the regular season at Kansas on Saturday. The Longhorns have won 5 straight.

Top 25 Losers

Notre Dame 85 Marquette 73 - The Irish completed an undefeated home season as Luke Harangody scored a career high 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Notre Dame dealt the Golden Eagles their 4th loss in their last 5 games. Marquette, which looked to be a certain Tournament invite just a few weeks ago is now on shaky ground, but likely will still get in. They are 9-6 in the Big East and 22-8 overall, and they host Pittsburgh on Saturday to end the regular season. A loss there and an early exit in the Big East tournament could spell disaster.

TCU 71 #14 Air Force 66 - The Falcons were grounded for the second straight time, both on the road, and have fallen to 3rd place in the Mountain West behind BYU and UNLV. They host BYU on Tuesday to end their regular season.

San Diego St. 86 #21 BYU 74 - The Aztecs clawed their way to a win over the league-leading Cougars and into 4th place in the Mountain West. BYU remained in first place at 11-3.

Auburn 86 #25 Alabama 77 - This game was the end of the line for the Crimson Tide. Arch-rival Auburn shot 54% and slammed the NCAA Tournament door on Alabama in the process. The Tide, ranked as high as 10th nationally during the season, dropped their second straight and 4th in their last five games. They are now at 6-8 in the SEC West and play Miss. St. and Mississippi to close their regular season campaign. Both of those teams are 7-7 and hungry for a ticket to the tourney. While Alabama is 19-9, their performance down the stretch has been a complete flop. Count them completely O-U-T.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who Won't Be Dancing

With no games of meaning last night, today brings an opportunity to present the teams that won't be invited to the NCAA Tournament, which begins with Selection Sunday on March 11 and ends with the National Championship Game on Monday, April 2.

There are 65 teams invited, two of which will play for the final spot in the seedings on Tuesday, March 13. Actual 1st round games get underway on Thursday and Friday, March 15 and 16.

While there are plenty of shoo-ins, a number of teams have already played poorly enough as to eliminate themselves.

In the ACC, which will probably send 5 or 6 teams to the tourney, Wake Forest, NC State and Miami are already out with conference records well under .500. The big surprise is Clemson, which started the season 17-0, but since has gone 2-8. At 5-8 in the conference, the only way they can make the tournament is to win the ACC tourney, and that's just not going to happen.

The other ACC teams which are not going to be invited will be Maryland or Georgia Tech and possibly both. The Terps play North Carolina tomorrow, then visit Duke and close the regular season with NC State. If they win just one of those games, they'll finish 8-8, not good enough. A win over Duke is possible, as Maryland just did that 2 weeks ago.

That the Yellow Jackets won't get a bid is more likely. They are 6-7 and play at Virginia today, then host North Carolina and Boston College. A loss today just about seals their fate. Even winning two of their remaining three won't likely be enough.

In the Big East, which could send as many as 8 teams, the bottom of the conference - St. John's, Seton Hall, South Florida, Rutgers, Cincinnati - are already beyond consideration. After that it gets a little dicey. Connecticut (6-7, 17-10) doesn't look like a Final 64 kind of team. It will be the first time in many years that the Huskies haven't made it to the tourney.

Villanova (6-7, 18-9) also may not get the job done, and DePaul (7-7, 16-12) already has too many losses to be considered. Right now, Providence (7-6 17-9) is on the outside looking in. They host Syracuse today in a critical game for both teams. If the Friars win, it may be the end of the line for the 'Cuse. A loss by Providence would likely eliminate them.

In the Big 10, count Iowa out. The Hawkeyes' 12 losses already have them eliminated. Besides, they've lost to all 4 Top 25 teams they've played (Alabama, Ohio St., Wisconsin twice). After Ohio State and Wisconsin, only Indiana looks like a legitimate invitee. Michigan, Michigan St. Illinois all have a shot, while Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State are already out.

The Big 12 has three teams sure to go - Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. After that Kansas St., Texas Tech (and what's a NCAA tournament without Bobby Knight?) and Missouri are on the bubble. Missouri is the one likely not to make the list. Oklahoma St. has played themselves right out of it. At 5-7 in the conference, stick a fork in them. Iowa St., Nebraska, Colorado and Baylor are at the bottom, thus, out.

In the PAC-10, don't expect any sympathy for Lute Olson and the Arizona Wildcats (8-7, 17-9). Unless they reach the conference finals, they're out. Oregon has played itself into a bubble position, and may not get an invite, though I wouldn't bet against it. UCLA, Washington St., USC and Stanford are all going, while Washington, Cal, Oregon St. and Arizona St. are staying home.

The SEC is probably the toughest to figure, but Alabama's loss to Tennessee the other night was critical. Tennessee will get a bid; Alabama will not. Expect 6 teams from this conference - Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi and Mississippi St. - unless Alabama comes alive in the conference tourney. Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Auburn and Arkansas stay home.

One other interesting conference to watch is Conference-USA, where Memphis has blitzed the opposition, which has been diminished by teams going to the Big East or elsewhere. Besides the Tigers, only UCF (20-7) and Southern Miss. (17-9) have less than 10 losses and even they look like 11-14 seeds at best. Memphis may get a #2, but they haven't beaten anybody good in a long time except Gonzaga.

Speaking of the Zags, they are 9-3 in the West Coast Conference, right behind 10-2 Santa Clara. One of those two will likely win the conference tournament, and both may get bids. Nobody else is even close to getting a whiff of March Madness.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Duck Soup: Oregon downs Washington St.

#23 Oregon 64 #9 Washington St. 59 - The Ducks proved they weren't actually dead, just flying erratically. After losing 6 of their previous 8 games, Oregon came through with an important home win, one which will likely lead to an invitation to March Madness. With just two games remaining in the regular season, the 21-7 Ducks look like a lock to make the field of 65 despite their sub-par 9-7 PAC-10 record.

Loyola Chicago 75 #15 Butler 71 - With Wright St. losing, Butler had an opportunity to claim sole possession of first place in the Horizon League, but failed to seal the deal at home against a feisty Loyola squad which shot 53% to Butler's 44%. The 15th-ranked Bulldogs have just one conference game left - this Saturday against Detroit and trial Wright St. by 1/2 game. They will have to win the Horizon League tournament to be guaranteed a bid to the NCAA Tournament, though their selection as an at-large team is very likely considering their 25-5 record.

#4 UCLA 85 California 75 - Josh Shipp hit 9 of 12 shots and scored 22 points to lead the Bruins to their 19th straight home win and a 2-game lead in the PAC-10 standings. While the Bruins were winning, their closest pursuer, Washington St., was losing at Oregon. The Bruins are 13-2, the Cougars, 11-4.

#5 Memphis 99 Rice 63 - The Tigers shot 55% and clinched the Conference-USA title while extending the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games. Memphis is looking like a #2 seed for sure.

#11 Nevada 84 Idaho 68 - Nick Fazekas scored 21 points and hauled in 14 rebounds as Nevada won their 8th straight game. The visiting Wolf Pack shot 62% and hit all 16 of their free throws.

#18 Duke 71 Clemson 66 - This was a very important road game for the Blue Devils and they managed to come away with a win, though better shooting by Clemson could have easily altered the result. The Tigers shot 47% on their home court, but hit just 9-18 free throws while the Blue Devils were knocking down 16-22. Duke also hit 52% of their shots from the field, including 7-14 3-pointers.

Duke improved to 8-6 in the ACC, while Clemson fell to 5-8 and probably out of the NCAA Tournament field.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Slippery Slope in the SEC

Three ranked teams from the SEC hit the hardwood on Wednesday night. Funny thing, only one of them won.

The SEC has turned into the basketball version of Little League. There's one big kid (Florida) who always hits home runs, but the rest of the league is full of kids and teams who look like champs one day and the next, they're distracted by the cheerleaders. Nothing happens like it's supposed to, the unexpected becomes the new normal. So it was last night...

#3 Florida 63 South Carolina 49 - The Gators got back on the winning side of the scoreboard (and how dumb do the voters look for dropping them to #3?) at home last night as Al Horford scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. To nobody's surprise, the win clinched the SEC East for the Gators who are now 25-3 and 12-1 in the conference with just 3 games remaining.

Mississippi St. 83 #17 Vanderbilt 70 - Jamont Gordon pulled off the rare triple-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to help keep the Bulldogs in a first-place tie with rival Mississippi in the SEC West. Charles Rhodes pumped in 23 for the host Bulldogs.

Both are 7-6 and lead Alabama by 1 game in the standings. After starting off conference play at 3-6, the Bulldogs have won 4 straight with games at Arkansas and Georgia before returning home to face Alabama to close out the regular season.

Tennessee 69 #25 Alabama 66 - It took 81 shots and an overtime session, but Tennessee defended their turf and sent Alabama home losers of their 7th SEC game. Chris Lofton scored 20 for the Vols, who shot only 35% but took 26 more shots than Alabama due to the Crimson Tides' 26 turnovers.

Tennessee recorded an astonishing 18 steals as they improved their post-season chances by getting over the .500 mark. At 7-6, the Vols have just 3 games remaining - at Arkansas, home vs. Florida and at Georgia - in the regular season.

It's still an uphill battle for the Vols, and they'll likely have to do well in the SEC tourney to continue playing in March.

As for the Tide, the loss was their 3rd in their last four games and dropped them to 6-7, behind both Miss. and Miss. St. in the SEC West. They'll have a chance to save their season as they host Auburn and Miss. before heading to Miss. St. to end their regular season.

Top 25 Home Winners

#2 Ohio State 68 Penn St. 60 - Greg Oden, OSU: 17 points, 14 rebounds.

#5 North Carolina 83 NC State 64 - Brandan Wright scored 24 and Tyler Hansbrough added 20 as the Tar Heels claimed sole possession of first place in the ACC at 10-3.

#20 Louisville 72 St. John's 48 - The streaking Cardinals blew past the Red Storm, recording their 4th straight win and continued to hold 3rd place in the Big East at 10-4. With just games at Connecticut and at home vs. Seton Hall remaining, Louisville looks like a lock for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. They are 20-8 overall.

#21 BYU 76 Colorado St. 67 - The Cougars won their 8th straight and 30th straight at home, securing their hold on first place in the Mountain West at 11-2. They hold a 1 1/2 game advantage over Air Force and UNLV, both at 10-4. Keena Young led all scoring with 24 points as BYU improved to 21-6.

Top 25 Road Winners

#8 Texas A&M 66 Oklahoma St. 46 - Acie Law scored 19 points and the Aggies' defense held the Cowboys' Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry to a combined 13 points in the blowout. Oklahoma State's top scoring duo were 6-24 from the floor.

The win kept Texas A&M in a tie for first place in the Big 12 with Kansas at 11-2, while the Cowboys slumped to 5-7 and likely ended any hopes of making the March Madness field of 65 with their 5th loss in their last 6 games.

#12 Georgetown 75 Cincinnati 65 - The Hoyas won their 10th straight to remain tied for first in the Big East with Pitt at 11-2. Jeff Green scored 21 points as Georgetown shot 54%.

#13 Southern Illinois 58 Indiana St. 50 - The Salukis overcame a poor shooting night with stellar defense en route to their 10th win in a row and the Missouri Valley title. With a two-game lead over Creighton and one game left, the 11-3 Salukis clinched the championship and will receive a solid seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Top 25 Losers

Miami (FL) 68 #24 Virginia 60 - The Cavaliers gave up first place in the ACC, but still look like a solid choice for post-season play. A road loss to 4-9 Miami isn't going to look good on their resume, but their 9-4 conference record, with wins over Duke, Clemson and Maryland (twice), should be enough to get them into the March Madness field.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spartan Slaughter: Badgers Besieged

It certainly didn't take long for the Top 25 to get back to business as usual, which, this season means knocking off the high and mighty. On Monday, the Wisconsin Badgers were crowned the #1 team in the nation (yes, I said before the poll came out that Florida should have remained #1). On Tuesday night, Wisconsin suffered the fate of many a road team - they were beaten by a fired-up Michigan State squad which denied every scoring opportunity and ran Wisconsin off the court.

Not to be outdone, Providence and UNLV scored upsets over ranked teams as well.

#1 Michigan St. 64 Wisconsin 55 - Wisconsin's Alando Tucker was 6-15 from the floor, scoring 16 points, but running mates Kammron Taylor and Brian Butch might have done better sitting this one out. Taylor was a pathetic 0-6 in 39 minutes and finished with just a pair of free throws for 2 points. Butch was 1-4 and 1-2 from the charity stripe for a measly 2 points.

Meanwhile, the Spartans were making March Madness noise a week early. Junior guard Drew Neitzel was unstoppable, filling it up with 28 points on 10-17 shooting including 6-11 3-pointers. The Spartans held Wisconsin to 36% shooting (19-52) and outrebounded them badly, 41-24. Obviously, the kids at Michigan State didn't think much of the Badgers' #1 ranking and suddenly, at 20-8 and 7-6 in the Big 10, look likely to get an invitation come March.

UNLV 60 #14 Air Force 50 - Come on now. The Falcons fell into a tie for second place with UNLV at 10-4, behind 10-2 BYU in the Mountain West. All three of these teams may get an invite, but only the winner of the conference tournament is guaranteed entry. Air Force shot just 30% as the host Rebels shut down their suspect offense.

It was the 4th time this season the Falcons have been held to 56 points or less - all losses - and they haven't played a ranked team this season. Top 25 material? Hardly. At least UNLV played some ranked teams and beat 2 of them in 4 tries. BYU, finally ranked this week at #21, may not be much better than the Falcons. The only ranked teams they've played are UCLA and Air Force, and while they beat the Falcons, the 82-69 loss to UCLA isn't very heartening.

My point is that the Mountain West should get just one invitation because whichever team emerges from this mediocre conference looks very much like a first round victim.

#19 Texas 80 Texas Tech 51 - Kevin Durant had an off night, scoring only 16 with just 8 rebounds, but 4 other Longhorns scored in double figures while the Red Raiders were hitting just 29% of their shots (20% on 3's). The win was one of the easier home games for the Longhorns who still have a shot at the Big 12 title. They play at Oklahoma on Saturday, but then close out the season hosting Texas A&M on Feb. 28 and at Kansas on March 3. The Longhorns trail A&M by 1/2 game and Kansas by 1 game.

Providence 64 #22 West Virginia 61 - The Providence Friars kept their Big Dance hopes alive by rallying at home to upset the Mountaineers. Sophomore guard
Weyinmi Efejuku (yeah, remember the name) dropped in 24 points, including 4-7 from beyond the arc while his teammates ruled the boards, holding a 41-33 rebound advantage over the hops-challenged Mountaineers.

Providence improved to 7-6 in Big East play and 17-9 overall. They're floating on the NCAA bubble right now, but may be finding their best stride at the right time. Their last three losses have all been on the road, by 7 to Marquette, by 4 at Pitt and by 3 at Notre Dame. If they win 2 of their final 3 conference games and make some noise in the Big East tourney, a ticket to the dance could be in the offing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Four Games, No Upsets

It's been a while since I've been able to report Top 25 games without at least one upset. Last night, 4 Top 25 teams hit the hardwood and none of them lost. This could be an indication that the Top 25 is solidifying and that teams are beginning to focus more as February and regular season schedules wind down.

#10 Pittsburgh 71 Seton Hall 68 - The Panthers survived a scare at Seton Hall by shooting 55% from the field and outlasting the Pirates. Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Aaron Gray, Levance Fields picked up the slack with 15 points. Levon Kendall added 14 on 6 of 8 shooting.

Gray should be available for the Panthers' next game, at Georgetown on Saturday. The Hoyas trail Pitt by 1/2 game in the Big East. The Panthers' remaining regular season schedule is daunting. After Georgetown, they host #22 West Virginia before closing out the season at #16 Marquette.

#6 Kansas 71 Kansas St. 62 - Sherron Collins scored 20 points and Darell Arthur chipped in with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Jayhawks earned at least a temporary 1/2 game lead over Texas A&M with the win. Kansas ends the regular season against Iowa St., at Oklahoma and hosts #19 Texas on March 3.

#16 Marquette 80 Villanova 67 - The Golden Eagles, losers of 3 straight Big East games, got back on the winning track at home as Lazar Haywood and Dominic James each scored 18 points. Villanova turned the ball over 17 times and fell to 6-7 in the conference. Even though they are 18-9 overall, the loss pushed the Wildcats to the brink in terms of tournament invitations.

While the Big East could conceivably send as many as 8 teams into March Madness, the Wildcats now need to win their remaining games (Rutgers, at Connecticut, Syracuse) and make a solid showing in the Big East tournament. That final game against the Orangemen will be critical as it could determine who goes and who stays home. Syracuse is 8-5 in conference, 19-8 overall and handled the Wildcats back on January 13, winning at the Carrier Dome 75-64.

#15 Butler 68 Wisconsin Green Bay 58 - A.J. Graves scored 20 points to lead the Bulldogs on the road. Butler continues to trail unranked Wright State by 1/2 game, with two games remaining. The 13-2 Wright State Raiders have just one regular season game left, at Youngstown State on Thursday. Should both teams win out, they would share the Horizon League title, splitting the two games against each other and the automatic bid would go to the winner of the conference tournament.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who will be #1?

After Vanderbilt stunned Florida on Friday, the top spots in the AP and USA Today Polls are up for grabs. #3 Wisconsin would be the likely choice since they already have a win over #2 Ohio State, with Florida falling no further than #3. Besides that, the Badgers have the best record in the nation - 26-2 - and Ohio State was severely beaten by Florida back in December, 86-60.

On the other hand, since Florida already trashed Ohio State, why not keep them at #1? Everybody loses once in a while, and Florida's loss to Vandy was on the road and ended a 17-game winning streak. So, despite the one bad game, the Gators are still as good, and arguably better than Ohio State. Furthermore, last week's voting was unanimous. All first place votes went to Florida in both polls.

Personally, I'd move Nevada way up and forgive some of the losses by North Carolina, Kansas and Texas A&M. My Top Ten would look like: Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pitt, Texas A&M, UCLA, Ohio State, Nevada, Kansas, Georgetown.

The long and short is that it doesn't really matter much right now. In three weeks the NCAA Tournament gets underway and we'll really see who's got what it takes to claim the crown.

Just two games from last night to report:

#2 Ohio St. 85 Minnesota 67 - Apparently, Greg Oden is good enough to play half a game and still put up impressive numbers. On the road against the Golden Gophers, Oden played just 21 minutes but led the team in scoring with 19 points and pulled down 9 rebounds for good measure. Ohio State has won 11 in a row and may be ranked #1 for the first time since John Havlicek was wearing the crimson and white - 45 years ago.

Arizona St. 68 #22 USC 58 - After 14 straight Pac-10 losses, the Sun Devils victimized USC. Trailing 26-21 at the half, Arizona State blazed away for 47 2nd half points to post their first win since December 21. The Sun Devil's home crowd was more shocked than ecstatic.

For USC, losing a game like this certainly doesn't help their post-season chances. They're 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the conference with three games remaining. The Trojans host Cal on Saturday, then close out the regular season with a pair of road games - at Washington and #10 Washington St. Losing any of those games coupled with an early exit from the Pac-10 tourney could spell N-I-T for USC. The Trojans may not need worry, however, as Arizona and Oregon have imploded and are already on the bubble for invitations to the the March Madness Big Dance.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Vanderbilt Upsets #1 Florida

Vanderbilt 83 #1 Florida 70 - In a season witness to more than the usual share of ups and downs in the Top 25, this one rates as a real shocker. The Gators hit the floor in Nashville sporting the nation's longest winning streak - 17 games - but as Vanderbilt fans rushed onto the court as time expired they found themselves on the short end of their worst loss of the season.

The loss was only the 3rd of the season for Florida, which had previously dropped a 2-point decision to Kansas and lost 70-66 at Florida State. For the Commodores, it was their 6th win over a ranked opponent against only 2 losses and improved their SEC record to 8-4, good for 2nd place in the SEC East behind the 11-1 Gators.

Shan Foster and Derrick Byars each scored 24 points for Vanderbilt, which sizzled at 57% shooting from the field. Despite hitting 18 free throws to Vandy's 9 and shooting a respectable 44% from the floor, the Gators could not overcome 20 turnovers and Vanderbilt's speed and sharp passing which resulted in 21 assists.

Joakim Noah led the Gators with 15 points and Al Horford scored 13 and pulled down 11 rebounds, but only Corey Brewer joined them in double figures, with 13.

With the win and their outstanding record against ranked teams, the Commodores seem assured of a spot in the field of 65 in March.

Top 25 Home Winners

#3 Wisconsin 75 Penn St. 49 - Wis: Alando Tucker, 22 pts.; Kammron Taylor, 18.

#7 Pittsburgh 65 Washington 61 - Aaron Gray grabbed 10 rebounds but scored only 5 points as the Panthers pulled out a tough win against the testy Huskies. Washington's Spencer Hawes recorded his 2nd double-double of the year with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

#9 Kansas 92 Nebraska 39 - The Jayhawks scored 56 points in the second half while holding Nebraska to 17, and ran away to their most lopsided win of the season. All 13 players for Kansas scored in the blowout. The 53-point trouncing was the 2nd-largest margin of victory in Big 12 history, eclipsed only by a 102-46 win by Kansas over Nebraska in 1958.

#11 Nevada 79 Northern Iowa 64 - The Wolf Pack hit 9-18 3-pointers and pulled away in the second half to improve to 24-2.

#17 Air Force 67 Colorado St. 58 - The Falcons still trail BYU by 1/2-game in the Mountain West conference at 10-3. BYU is 10-2.

#23 West Virginia 81 Seton Hall 71 - Seton Hall shot just 15% on 3-pointers (3-20) and the Mountaineers pulled away late. The win put West Virginia in a 3-way tie for 4th place in the Big East with Marquette and Syracuse at 8-5.

#25 Alabama 72 #20 Kentucky 61 - Up-and-down Alabama aided their cause with an important home victory over the Wildcats. The win evened Alabama's SEC record at 6-6, tied for 1st in the SEC West with Mississippi and Mississippi St.

Top 25 Road Winners

#4 North Carolina 77 #22 Boston College. 72 - The Tar Heels regained a tie for 1st place in the ACC with 9-3 Virginia, handing BC their second straight home loss and dropping them to 4th in the conference standings at 9-4. Both teams shot 52% for the game, but the Tar Heels hit 16-20 free throws to BC's 11-21, which provided the margin of victory.

#5 UCLA 81 #19 Arizona 66 - Josh Shipp threw down 24 points as the Bruins crushed Arizona, possibly sealing the fate of the Wildcats' postseason hopes. The loss dropped Arizona to 8-7 in the Pac-10 and 17-9 overall.

#6 Texas A&M 56 Oklahoma 49 - Joseph Jones and Acie Law each scored 21 points as the Aggies continued their roll through the Big 12 and remain in a tie with Kansas at 12-2 for first place. The Aggies' next stop is at #18 Oklahoma St. on Wednesday.

#8 Memphis 78 Gonzaga 77 - The Tigers scraped by upset-minded Gonzaga and extended their winning streak to 15 games. By virtue of Florida's loss to Vanderbilt, Memphis now claims the longest current win streak in the nation. Joey Dorsey scored 15 and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Memphis.

#14 Georgetown 58 Villanova 55 - The Hoyas avenged a 56-52 loss at Villanova earlier in the year to keep pace with 10-2 Pittsburgh for 1st place in the Big East. Jeff Green led the way with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. The Hoyas recorded 14 blocks overall, playing without Roy Hibbert, who sat much of the game with foul trouble and scored only 4 points. The streaking Hoyas have won 9 in a row while Villanova fell to 6-6 in the conference.

#16 Southern Illinois 68 Butler 64 - The Salukis proved too tough for host Butler, hitting 7-15 treys and crashing the boards for a 33-24 edge. The non-conference game provided a good look at two of the better mid-major teams that likely will be competing in March. It was only the second game against a ranked opponent all season for Southern Illinois, but their record is perfect, having bested then-#16 Wichita State on January 1. The Salukis have won 9 straight.

Top 25 Losers (besides those already mentioned)

Louisville 61 #12 Marquette 59 - Louisville won on the road and continued its rise through the Big East standings with a third straight win, reaching 3rd place in the conference at 9-4 while knocking Marquette back to 4th. The Golden Eagles have lost three straight.

Stanford 88 #15 Oregon 69 - Oregon continued its spectacular collapse, losing for the 6th time in their last 8 games. The Ducks fell into a tie with Arizona at 8-7 in the Pac-10. Just a month ago they were in first place. Brook Lopez scored 24 for the Cardinal as they improved to 9-5 and 4th place in the conference.

Missouri 75 #18 Oklahoma St. 64 - Once again, Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry got little support from their teammates and the Cowboys got whipped at home. Oklahoma State's star duo had 16 apiece, shooting a combined 12-26. The rest of the team shot 8-23, including only 1-7 3-pointers. It was the 4th loss in the Cowboys' last 5 games and sunk them to 7th place in the Big 12 at 5-6.

Michigan 58 #24 Indiana 55 - In another in a long series of ugly Big 10 games, Indiana shot just 38% from the field and hit only 6-21 threes and 11-18 from the foul line. Despite the loss, Indiana remained in 3rd place at 7-5, as Iowa dropped to 7-6. Behind them Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois are all 6-6. Behind 12-1 Wisconsin and 11-1 Ohio State, mediocrity reigns supreme in the conference.

Of all the major conferences, the Big 10 should send the fewest number of teams to the Big Dance in March. Five could get bids, but no more than 3 are deserving.

Friday, February 16, 2007

PAC-10 Wide Open: Arizona, Oregon Lose Again

Thursday night saw only 4 games involving Top 25 teams, but, despite the light schedule, 3 of the 5 teams in action managed to lose. #5 UCLA and #22 USC were the two teams which escaped the upset bug, and, in the case of USC, helped secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

#5 UCLA 67 Arizona St. 61 - The Bruins kept the Sun Devils winless in conference play, though the game was closer than expected. Arizona State has dropped all 14 of their PAC-10 contests this season. Arron Afflalo scored 24 and Darren Collison returned to the lineup to throw down 18.

California 63 #15 Oregon 61 - The continuing slide of Oregon's basketball program hit another bump on the way down, losing on the road once more. The loss was the 5th in Oregon's last 7 games and dropped the Ducks into a 5th place tie in the conference standings with Arizona. Both teams are 8-6.

#22 USC 80 #19 Arizona 75 Both Nick Young and Lodrick Stewart dropped in 26 points and Arizona's woes continued while the Trojans now appear destined to dance in March. USC improved to 9-4 in PAC-10 play, while the Wildcats fell to 8-6 and 17-8 overall. With just 4 more games in the regular season, Arizona has their work cut out for them. They host UCLA on Saturday, and then close out with 3 straight road games at Arizona St., Cal and Stanford.

The Wildcats will likely be faced with the unwelcome task of having to win or at least reach the finals of the PAC-10 tournament to receive serious consideration by the NCAA selection committee.

Meanwhile, the win did wonders for USC. At 9-4 and 19-7 overall, the Trojans have five regular season games left, but only two against quality opposition. They play Stanford on Thursday and close out the season at #10 Washington St. The Trojans may indeed have punched their own ticket last night.

Purdue 81 #24 Indiana 68 - If the Hoosiers intend to keep playing through March, they'll have to do better than this. While Indiana remained in 3rd place in the Big 10 standings, Iowa, Purdue and Illinois are close. Wins down the stretch and a solid performance in the conference tournament will determine which teams - besides Ohio State and Wisconsin - make it to the Big Dance. Any of the four teams chasing the two leaders could win out and make a positive impression.

David Teague poured in 32 points for the Boilermakers and teammate Carl Landry scored 22 and hauled down 11 boards, his 3rd double-double of the season.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bye, Bye 'Bama

#1 Florida likely put #25 Alabama out of the Top 25 for good last night, handing the Crimson Tide a 76-67 whipping in Gainesville.

Florida extended its nation's-longest winning streak to 17 straight and seem destined to win the SEC East with ease and enter the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed.

Alabama, on the contrary, will be lucky to get an invitation to the Big Dance unless they step up their play considerably. The loss was the second straight for "Bama, dropping them to 2nd place in the wobbly SEC West at 5-6. They trail 6-5 Mississippi, which is unranked.

Alabama's next two games are critical. They play at Kentucky on Saturday and then host red-hot Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Both teams have better conference records and a pair of defeats would preclude a winning conference record for the Tide and probably have them watching the tourney on TV.

Top 25 Quick Update

Due to heavy snows yesterday - and digging out today - time is a little short so, I'll just recap briefly the Top 25 events from Wednesday night.

There were two upsets of note:

Duke 78 #21 Boston College 70 - Duke ended a four-game losing streak by beating the ACC-leading Eagles in Boston and putting the conference title up for grabs. 9-3 BC has a 1/2-game lead over North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech, all at 8-3. Duke evened their conference record at 6-6.

DePaul 72 #14 Marquette 67 - Lowly DePaul (6-6, 15-11) won at home, sending Marquette to their second straight loss. With just four games left on their schedule, the Big East crown seems out of reach for the Golden Eagles, though their 21-6 record should provide enough of a cushion for a decent seeding in the national tourney.

Home winners:

#17 Air Force 69 Utah 43 - The Falcons continue to trail unranked BYU by a game in the Mountain West.

#11 Nevada 68 San Jose St. 60 - Another double-double for Nick Fazekas (20 points, 10 rebounds). Is the Wolf Pack as good as their ranking? We'll find out in late February. Their final 3 games are against the teams closest to them in the WAC - New Mexico St., Utah St. and Boise St. Currently, Nevada leads them by 2, 3, and 4 games respectively.

Road winners:

#2 Ohio State 64 Penn St. 62 - Greg Oden, 15 points, 10 rebounds

#3 Wisconsin 75 Minnesota 62 - Alando Tucker, 29 points, 9 rebounds

#8 Memphis 69 Tulsa 52 - Tigers lead Conference USA at 12-0 and have won 14 straight.

#9 Kansas 75 Colorado 46 - Colorado: 27% shooting, 17 turnovers. Jayhawks are tied with Texas A&M for first place in the Big 12 at 9-2.

#10 Washington St. 65 Washington 61 - 11-3 Cougars tied with 10-2 UCLA for top honors in Pac-10. Cougars final four games: at Oregon, at Oregon St., UCLA, USC.

Quick Test Post

Testing the RSS feed for pickup.

Will wait 30 minutes before pinging Feedburner.

Then, Success.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


This is only a test to see if my RSS feed works. Probably not. Not holding out much hope.

Tumbling Down: Carolina, Texas A&M, Kentucky Fall

This has been the season for upsets and last night was no different with three Top 25 teams going down. Results and recaps:

Virginia Tech 81 North Carolina 80 - Zabian Dowdell clicked for 33 points to help the Hokies take down #4 North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dowdell created matchup problems all night long for the Tar Hells, who sent the senior guard to the line 19 times. Dowdell knocked down 17, free throws to go with his 7-15 shooting from the floor with a pair of treys. Forward Deron Washington picked a good time to go for his 3rd double-double of the season, snatching 14 rebounds to go with his 12 points.

The win moved Virginia Tech into a tie for 2nd place in the ACC with the Tar Heels at 8-3. Both trail 9-2 Boston College. Tech virtually guaranteed themselves a trip to the NCAA tournament by winning on the road against a top 5 team. While Carolina has lost only four times this season, the Hokies have now beaten them twice, the first time on January 13 at Blacksburg, by a 94-78 tally when the Tar Heels were ranked #1.

Texas Tech 77 Texas A&M 75 - Bobby Knight's Red Raiders refuse to be forgotten, delivering another stellar road performance against the #6 Aggies last night. Jarrius Jackson, who had the game-winner, poured in 31 points while his backcourt mate, Martin Zeno added 19 and dished out 6 assists.

Both teams shot over 50% in the Texas shoot-out which once again created some tension atop the Big 12 standings. While Tech is only 5-6 in conference play, the Aggies still lead at 9-2, though only by a 1/2 game over 8-2 Kansas and one game over 8-3 Texas.

Tennessee 89 Kentucky 85 - Everyone knows that if Chris Lofton is on the floor, the Vols are a threat and the junior guard delighted the home crowd with 23 points and Tennessee's 3rd straight win after he missed four straight games due to injury.

#20 Kentucky shot 56% to Tennessee's 49% and controlled the boards, 39-27, but the Volunteers defense forced 19 turnovers and stole one away. The Vols improved to 6-5 in the conference, just a game behind 7-4 Kentucky with Vanderbilt sandwiched in between at 6-4. Everyone in the SEC East is chasing top-ranked Florida, which has virtually clinched the division at 10-0 with just 6 games remaining.

Butler 79 Florida Gulf Coast 65 - #13 Butler got back on the winning track after their loss at Wright State on Sunday, recording their 22nd straight home win in a non-conference romp.

Southern Illinois 51 Missouri St. 47 - Randal Falker recorded his 7th double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the #16 Salukis. With back-to-back wins over their top two Missouri Valley opponents, Southern Illinois is poised to win the conference. After a non-conference tilt at #13 Butler on Saturday, the Salukis conclude the regular season at Indiana St. and at home vs. Evansville.

With Southern Ill. looking like the automatic bid, the Missouri Valley could send four teams to the tourney. Creighton and Missouri St. look like naturals, while Wichita St., Bradley and Northern Iowa may have a shot, especially if one emerges from the conference tournament in good form.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Beast of the East: Georgetown or Pittsburgh?

A new AP poll out Monday put the Big East in focus, placing Pittsburgh at #7, Marquette #12, Georgetown #14 and West Virginia climbing up to #23 on the heels of their upset over UCLA on Saturday.

Well, as soon as the poll (see sidebar below) was released, the Big East showed once again that no poll can contain the diversity of talent and overall competition in what's shaping up to be the best top to bottom conference in the nation. Results and recaps follow.

Georgetown 71 West Virginia 53 - Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green continue to demolish the competition in the Big East. Last night, Hibbert scored 20 points and Green had 15 as the Hoyas shut down the visiting Mountaineers, holding them to 38% shooting for the game. The superiority on the interior was evident from the rebounding stats: Georgetown 35, West Va. 19

The #14 Hoyas are on a significant roll. With their smashing win over #23 West Virginia, they've grabbed 8 straight wins and have surged to within a half game of conference leader, Pitt. With just five games remaining, Georgetown will try to avenge a 74-69 defeat at Pitt from Jan. 13 when the Panthers come calling Feb. 24. That game could determine who wins the Big East and gets the automatic tournament bid.

The same day the Mountaineers reach the Top 25, they suffer their worst loss of the season, equaling the 18-point defeat at Marquette, 63-81, on Jan 13. Ironic, isn't it?

Louisville 66 Pittsburgh 53 - David Padgett was the only Cardinal in double figures (16), but it was enough to upset the Big East-leading Pitt Panthers on their home floor. Louisville's scrappy defense forced 19 turnovers and limited Aaron Gray to just 12 points. While Gray earned his 12th double-double with 10 rebounds, he was the only Panther to shoot better than 50% from the field (5-8).

It was likely the biggest win of the season for Rick Pitino's kids, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the focus on quality wins down the stretch, the Cardinals road win over #7 Pitt surely will make the right impression on the NCAA Tournament committee. Louisville improves to 4th place in the rugged Big East at 8-4, (18-8 overall), but there's still work to be done, as they travel to Marquette on Saturday. A win there would virtually assure the Cardinals of a turn at the Big Dance.

Texas 83 Oklahoma St. 54 - Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry have tried to carry the Cowboys this season, but the team's dependence on the two stars has begun to show some strain. Boggan and Curry scored 28 points combined, but shot just 38% from the field. Meanwhile, the Longhorns were throwing it down at a 56% clip, including 8-15 from behind the arc.

Freshman sensation Kevin Durant had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double (he's averaging 25 and 11.6) of the season. He's scored in double figures in all 25 games, but the quirky Longhorns still trail Texas A&M by 2 games in the Big 12 standings at 8-3. Kansas is second at 8-2 and the Aggies are 9-1.

#17 Oklahoma St. dropped to 5-5 and 19-6 overall.

Duke, which has dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in 11 years, has lost 4 in a row, but one wonders how much resentment is directed at coach K by the voters, who continued to keep Alabama and Arizona in the Top 25 despite similar slipups in the past.

I can't believe I'm actually defending coach K (no, I can't spell his name) and the Duke program, but while the Devils may not be a dominant squad this season, I'd still take them against half of the teams ranked 15-25 and especially against the likes of Alabama and Arizona. [rant] The AP poll may be a lot of things, but one thing it certainly is not is unbiased. [/rant]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Duke Dumps 4th Straight; #25 Stanford Also Loses

Maryland 72 #16 Duke 60 - The Maryland Terrapins are a tough beat at home, where they have a 15-3 record this season. They proved to be impossible for the visiting Duke Blue Devils as Duke's losing streak reached panic stage at 4 straight.

The loss dropped Duke to an unfamiliar place in the ACC standings - tied for 6th with Florida State, which lost last night at home, 68-67 to conference leader Boston College, now 9-2. Duke and Florida St. are both 5-6, Maryland still trails both of them at 4-6.

At 18-7, both Duke and Maryland are sitting on the proverbial tournament bubble. While both may reach 20 wins, 10 losses is also within range, and that's a number the committee always considers.

Could Duke miss being invited? It's a good possibility. Their remaining games are at Boston College, Georgia Tech, at Clemson, at St. John's, Maryland, at North Carolina. There's probably little chance of them sweeping these games. The best they can hope for is probably a split on the four road games and winning both home tilts.

That would put the Blue Devils at 22-9 with the ACC tournament ahead. Unless they win that, there's the 10th loss. Additionally, if they lose early in the ACC tourney, they're probably NIT material.

There are a bevy of quality teams which will finish with fewer than 10 losses, even though that's not necessarily a magic number. 11 or 12 losses almost certainly knocks a team out, so Duke and Maryland and a bunch of other ACC teams - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech - currently have 7 or 8 losses. It's beginning to get very interesting.

Washington 64 #25 Stanford 52 - Stanford's twin 7-foot freshmen forwards, Brook and Robin Lopez, got a little lesson in positioning from Washington's forwards, Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman. While the twins had 13 points and 7 rebounds between them, the Huskies' duo piled up 32 and 17. Hawes' 18 and Brockman's 14 propelled Washington to their 4th win in their last five games.

However, the Huskies are getting a little bit of a late start to challenge for any Pac-10 honors. They are 7th, at 6-7 and 16-8 overall. With 4 of their remaining 5 games against ranked opponents, the Huskies would do well to get an invitation to the Big Dance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Road Warriors: Florida Prevails, Bruins Can't Climb over Mountaineers

#1 Florida and #2 UCLA took their respective shows on the road on Saturday, but only the Gators proved to be worthy warriors. Florida survived at Kentucky to win their 16th straight after the #2 UCLA Bruins were upset by West Virginia.

Florida 64 Kentucky 61 - Tubby's troops seem to be rounding into form at just about the right time. Ranked #20 in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats pushed Florida to the limit on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Randall Morris scored 18 with 9 boards and Ramel Bradley led the Wildcats with 20. Bradley has scored 20 or more in each of his last four games. The Wildcats could not overcome the #1 Gators, however, even though they held Joakim Noah to his second-lowest score of the season - 6 points. Noah was plagued with foul trouble and played only 21 minutes.

It's likely that the Wildcats aren't as good as this score might indicate. Being at home and not having to deal with Noah for almost half the game made this one tighter than it should have been. Kentucky may also have hurt themselves more than the Gators. Both teams went to the foul line 21 times. Kentucky made only 12, Florida 13. When it comes to crunch time in March, neither of those foul-shooting performances are going to get it done.

West Virginia 70 UCLA 65 - Playing without point guard Darren Collison, The #2 UCLA Bruins managed to cut into a 19-point lead and make a close game of it late. Unranked West Virginia scrambled on defense, forcing 15 Bruin turnovers and held on valiantly down the stretch. Alex Ruoff led the Mountaineers with 17 points; the Bruins' Arron Afflalo scored 27 for UCLA.

The Pac-10 - Big East matchup pointed up the relative strengths of the conferences to a degree. While the Bruins were without Collison and on the road, the Mountaineers still won and are unranked and tied for 4th in the Big East standings. The Bruins lead their conference at 10-2.

Top 25 road winners:

#6 Texas A&M 66 Nebraska 55 - Josh Carter equaled his season-high with 26 points, Aggies are now 4-1 on the road in Big 12 action.

#9 Kansas 92, Missouri 74 - Julian Wright blasted off with a season-high 33 points and completed his 4th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds, including 8 offensive boards.

#15 Air Force 60 New Mexico 51 - The Falcons rallied from a 4-point halftime deficit and cruised to a relatively easy win, though they still trail BYU (unranked, why?) by a game in the Mountain West.
#24 Arizona 77 #13 Oregon 74 - the fast-sinking Ducks fell at home to the already fallen Wildcats in the always-exciting-but-never-inspiring Pac-10. Chase Budinger scored 30 for Arizona.

Top 25 home winners:

#3 Ohio St. 63 Purdue 56 - Banged up Greg Oden played only 21 minutes but still managed 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. If Oden makes it through the season, he'll be in the top 3 in the NBA draft.

#4 Wisconsin 74 Iowa 62 - Alando Tucker, 21 points, 7 rebounds. Ho-hum, just another day at the office. Iowa (14-11, 6-5 Big 10) looking very bubbly.

#5 North Carolina 104 Wake Forest 67 - 14 different players scored for the Tar Heels as they topped the century mark for the 7th time this season. Randall Terry led with 23.

#7 Pittsburgh 74 Providence 68 - Aaron Gray, 22 points, 7 rebounds. 15-8 Friars still looking like March dancers.

#8 Memphis 95 Tulane 51 - It doesn't get much easier than this.

#14 Washington St. 59 California 46 - Daven Harmeling scored 26 points, including 5-7 3-pointers. The Cougars may be the stealth team of the tournament unless they overtake UCLA for the Pac-10 title. 21-4 overall, with 3 of those losses by 3 points apiece to UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.

#17 Oklahoma St. 93 Texas Tech 91 2 OT - Mario Boggan 35 points, 14 rebounds. Texas Tech drops to 15-10 and is squarely on the bubble. OK St. has struggled against lesser opponents and should make an early exit from the tourney.

#21 Southern Illinois 72 Creighton 68 - Big win for the Salukis over one of the better teams in their conference. The win actually was for first place in the Missouri Valley. Southern Ill. now 12-3, Creighton 11-4. Watch out for 10-5 Missouri State. Matt Shaw, 25 points for the winners.

#22 Georgetown 76, #11 Marquette 58 - The Hoyas are playing as well as any team in the nation. Jeff Green had 25 points and 5 rebounds; Roy Hibbert 23 and 11. For Hibbert, his 5th double-double and 3rd in his last 4 games. Georgetown has won 7 straight and with the win took over sole possession of 2nd place in the Big East at 8-2. Marquette misfired badly from beyond the arc: 4-21 (19%).

Top 25 Losers (not already mentioned):

Wright St. 77 #10 Butler 65 - The boys from Wright State may have taken some umbrage at Butler rising to #10 in the polls and took it out on the visiting Bulldogs. Not only that, but the Raiders took a 1/2-game lead in the Horizon league, avenging a 73-42 thrashing at Butler earlier in the year. The league winner gets an automatic invite to the tournament and this win makes the case for Wright St. if they finish tied or second. Wright State has won 7 straight and has only 3 games left to play.

Mississippi 75 #18 Alabama 69 - The Rebels were unkind hosts, sending the Crimson Tide to their 5th SEC loss and tying them for the SEC West lead at 5-5. The contentious SEC may send as many as 7 teams to the tournament, especially now that Tennessee has Chris Lofton healthy again.

Tennessee 84 #23 Vanderbilt 57 - Freshman forward Wayne Chism recorded his third double-double of the season, with 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Vols ran roughshod over the visiting Commodores. Chris Lofton scored 16 in 26 minutes. It was Lofton's 2nd game back after missing four straight. The Vols are playing well at the right time. They've beaten LSU and Vandy since Lofton returned to the lineup after losing 3 of 4 without him. Look for the Vols to possibly replace Alabama in the Top 25 this week.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cougars Keep Pac-10 Pressure on Bruins

#14 Washington St. 58 #25 Stanford 45 - The Washington St. Cougars stayed within hailing distance of 1st place UCLA, winning at home over Stanford. Ivory Clark had his first double-double of the season, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The 9-3 Cougars trail the 10-2 Bruins by one game. The two teams meet March 1 at UCLA.

#8 Memphis 70 UAB 56 - The Tigers got 30 points from senior guard Jeremy Hunt and held the Blazers to just 31% shooting (16-52). The 20-3 Tigers hold a 3 1/2 game lead over their closest rivals in Conference USA. UCF, Houston and Rice all are 6-3. Memphis has won 12 straight overall; their last loss was at Arizona on Dec. 20 (79-71).

#10 Butler 92 Cleveland St. 50 - Pete Campbell scored 28 points as the Bulldogs improved to 23-2 and 11-1 in the Horizon conference. Butler can extend their lead on Saturday at Wright State, 2nd at 11-2. The Bulldogs already have a win over the Raiders in hand, having beaten them 73-42 on Jan. 6.

#12 Nevada 81 Fresno St. 68 - Nick Fazekas scored a season-high 33 points and had 15 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. The 10-1 Wolf Pack leads the WAC over 8-2 New Mexico State.

#13 Oregon 55 Arizona St. 51 - The Ducks won for just the 2nd time in their last 5 games, improving to 4-1 on their home court vs. Pac-10 opponents.

#24 Arizona 72 Oregon St. 66 - The Wildcats hit 25 of 33 free throws to Oregon State's 6-8 and pulled out a needed road win. The beleaguered Wildcats now face a tough three-game stretch which will likely determine their March travel plans. On Saturday, they travel to #13 Oregon. After that, they host USC and UCLA on Feb. 15 and 17, respectively.

Tar Heels Get Wednesday Road Win at Duke

The two games featuring Top 25 matchups were both won by the higher-ranked teams on Wednesday night. #5 North Carolina defeated #16 Duke, 79-73, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke lost their third straight game and are 3-3 at home against ACC foes.

Duke's loss sent them into a fifth-place logjam in the ACC standings at 5-5 with Clemson and Florida State. Virginia and Boston College lead the conference at 8-2. The Blue Devils close out their regular season at North Carolina on March 4.

Out West, #2 UCLA overcame a 7-point second half USC lead to win their 18th straight at home, 70-65. The Bruins finished last season with 3 straight home wins and haven't lost in 15 games at Pauley Pavilion this season. UCLA improved to 21-2 (10-2, Pac-10), retaining their hold on first place in the conference. They also completed a season sweep of their crosstown rival, having already topped the Trojans 65-64 on Jan. 13.

Top 25 road winners:

#1 Florida 71 Georgia 61 - The Gators extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.

#4 Wisconsin 74 Penn St. 58 - Alando Tucker: 24 points, 8 rebounds.

#7 Pittsburgh 60 West Virginia 47 - Pitt is now 9-1 in the Big East, 1st place.

#22 Georgetown 73 Louisville 65 - The efficient Hoyas completely dominated the interior with their size advantage. Center Roy Hibbert scored 20 points on 9-10 shooting and hauled in 11 rebounds. Forward Jeff Green had 16 (7-10) and 7 boards. Georgetown shot 57% to Louisville's 33%. Despite the shooting disparity, good ball control (1 turnover) allowed the Cardinals to stay close.

Top 25 home winners:

#9 Kansas 97 Kansas St. 70 - Brandon Rush: 18 points.

#11 Marquette 67 Rutgers 47 - 8th straight Big East win for the Golden Eagles. Their 8-2 record trails Pitt by one game.

#18 Alabama 80 Mississippi St. 79 - Richard Hendrix: 22 points. Alabama keeps things interesting, winning their 5th SEC game overall and the 4th by 3 points or less. They now have the lead in the SEC West by one game and are the only team in their division with a winning record at 5-4.

#20 Kentucky 95 South Carolina 89 Kentucky: 25-33 free throws; S. Carolina 11-16.

#21 Southern Illinois 60 Bradley 50 - Salukis' Randall Falker: 13 points, 12 rebounds; 6th double-double of season. Creighton visits So. Illinois Saturday.

Top 25 losers:

Oklahoma 67 #17 Oklahoma St. 60 - 18-5 Cowboys drop to 6th in the Big 12 at 4-4.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Falcons Floored Again, BYU Excels

Hoops action was somewhat limited on Tuesday night, but the results from the Mountain West suggest further changes will be coming to the Top 25 in weeks to come.

BYU (18-6, 8-2) claimed sole possession of first place in the conference with a 77-72 win at Wyoming. Meanwhile, #16 Air Force was grounded at San Diego State, 62-41 and dropped to 2nd place at 7-3 (20-4 overall). BYU has already beaten the Falcons, 61-52, on January 27, but Air Force continues to be ranked due to a couple of quality wins over Stanford and Texas Tech back in November.

However, it's now February and BYU has won 5 straight. The Cougars play at Air Force on Feb. 27. By then, they may have the conference title wrapped up because the Falcons have road games at New Mexico, TCU and UNLV in the mix before then. Stay tuned.

In other Top 25 lunacy, how is it that the two top teams in the ACC - Virginia and Boston College - aren't ranked? They've kind of snuck up on the voters, but not the public or opposing ACC coaches.

Virginia won again last night, at Maryland, 69-65, improving to 8-2 in the conference and sole possession of first place as BC was idle. North Carolina (6-2) and Duke (5-4) are chasing, and one of them is going to drop further behind as the Tar Heels play at Duke tonight. Lost in the confusion are two quality programs, Virginia Tech (6-3) and Florida State (5-4), at free-falling Clemson tonight.

In the only other game involving a Top 25 team last night, Ohio State bested Michigan at home, 76-63. Mike Conley Jr. led the Buckeyes with 23 points. Super frosh Greg Oden scored 15 and pulled down 8 boards.

14 Top 25 teams take to the court Wednesday night, so check back here tomorrow for updates. In addition to the UNC-Duke game, #19 USC is at #2 UCLA in the only other matchup between two ranked teams.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Georgetown Garners Respect in Current Poll

In Monday's latest AP Top 25 (see below in the left-hand column) a few new names popped up. Getting the biggest boost was Southern Illinois, which debuted at #21, replacing, ostensibly, Notre Dame (though the Irish are without a doubt a better team than Alabama or Arizona). The Salukis have been surging through the Missouri Valley conference into a tie for 1st place with preseason choice Creighton at 10-3.

Southern Ill. won at Creighton back on January 20, but has since won four more straight and are a very respectable 19-5 overall with wins over Wichita State (twice), Virginia Tech and Minnesota to name just a few.

The Salukis have another date with Creighton on Saturday and a road game at Horizon conference leader, #10 Butler the following Saturday. Those games should provide some indication of this team's potential to make madness in March.

Right behind Southern Illinois is Georgetown, at #22 in the poll. The Hoyas have an impressive front line - one of the tallest in the nation - revolving around 7-footer Roy Hibbert. At 16-5 and 6-2 in the Big East, the Hoyas have seemingly hit their best stride. Following consecutive losses to Villanova and Pitt, Georgetown has strung up five straight wins, by an average margin of 16.6.

Losses to Duke and Oregon are still major blemishes, though those losses came at the end of November and beginning of December, and the Hoyas are looking more organized and turning the ball over much less. If Hibbert and forward Jeff Green (24 points vs. St. John's last Thursday) continue to contribute, the Hoyas could go deep in March.

Last night there was but one Top 25 game, and Texas A&M was triumphant again. The Aggies tore through Texas, 100-82, just two days after knocking off Kansas on the road. What was a three-way tie just 3 days ago is now a 1 1/2 game lead for 8-1 A&M in the Big 12. Coach Billy Gillispie has built himself a powerhouse offense around Acie Law and the Aggies are currently #6 in the AP poll. They're 20-3, with the losses at UCLA and LSU and a lone conference loss at Texas Tech.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thornton leads Seminoles over #8 Duke

Florida State 68 Duke 67 - Forward Al Thornton is making the most of his senior year at Florida State. He's scored in double figures in all 23 games this season, scored 20 or more 12 times, and has 3 double-doubles. But yesterday was possibly his best as his 21 points, 8 rebounds and floor leadership helped the Seminoles upset #8 Duke at Cameron Arena. Florida State had lost their 15 previous trips to Duke, but this time Thornton and his teammates were determined not to leave without a win.

Greg Paulus scored 23 for Duke, but Florida State held the Blue Devils scoreless in the final minute to seal the 1-point victory. Afterwards, Seminole players danced and celebrated on Duke's home court.

With the win, Florida State improved to 16-7 on the season and into a tie with Duke for 5th place in the topsy-turvy ACC at 5-4. The road victory virtually ensured that the Seminoles would receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, though they must still play well down the stretch and in the ACC tourney. The Seminoles advanced to 3-4 against ranked teams, the two other wins coming against Florida and Virginia Tech.

Just one game involves Top 25 teams tonight, but it's a good one. #22 Texas invades #10 Texas A&M at 9:00 EST. By the time these two tip, their rankings will almost certainly have changed. On Saturday, Texas lost at home to Kansas State, while the Aggies won at #6 Kansas.

One other game of note is in the Big East. Syracuse plays at UConn. Both teams are perennial tournament fixtures, but have fallen on lean times this season, especially the Huskies, who are 3-6 in the conference and 14-8 overall. Syracuse is 5-4 in the Big East and 16-7 overall. A win tonight by Boeheim's boys could send Calhoun's kids home early this season.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Upsets Galore!

Big Saturday produces eight losses by Top 25 teams

There were 22 games involving Top 25 teams on Saturday. Everybody except Duke and Pitt were on the court and 8 of those ended up on the wrong side of the score. Even in the one game between two ranked teams, the lower one, #10 Texas A&M, scored an upset over the higher, #6 Kansas. The game was played on Kansas' home court, so maybe the two will change positions in Monday's new poll, though nobody's holding their breath.

On to the action (losers first):

NC State 83 North Carolina 79 - This wasn't just big, it was huge. #3 North Carolina looked like a shoo-in to take over the #2 ranking in the next poll after Wisconsin and UCLA both suffered losses during the week. It was not to be. The Wolfpack sizzled at 60% shooting from the field, including 8-15 3-pointers, and in the process, further muddied the ACC waters. North Carolina's loss, coupled with Boston College's win over Virginia Tech, hoisted two unranked teams, BC and Virginia, to the top of the conference standings.

Texas A&M 69 Kansas 66 - Acie Law played 39 minutes and scored 23 points to lead the #10 Aggies to their most important win of the season. By virtue of Texas' loss to Kansas State, A&M wriggled out of a 3-team logjam atop the Big 12 and came out on top, a game better than #6 Kansas and #22 Texas.

USC 71 Oregon 68 - The Trojans proved that their win at Oregon was no fluke, holding off a spirited late rally by the #9 Ducks for the win. Oregon has had a tough week, losing to both SoCal teams. UCLA beat them on Thursday, securing first place in the Pac-10. On Saturday, USC relegated Oregon to middle of the pack status and moved into a tie with Washington St. for 2nd place at 8-3. USC plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion this coming Wednesday.

USC shot 60% for the game while holding the Ducks to just 33% (22-66). The disparity in shooting percentage was mandatory for the Trojans as they were outrebounded 41-20, an area they must address in the near term.

Colorado 89 Oklahoma St. 77 - This was not expected to happen. Colorado was just 1-7 in the conference going in and 3-7 at home overall. But senior guard Dominique Coleman scored 21 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Teammates Kalvin Bay and Richard Roby contributed 21 and 20 respectively to pull off one of the more stunning upsets of the day. #12 Oklahoma State fell to 5th place in the Big 12 at 4-3.

Boston College 80 Virginia Tech 59 The #16 Hokies fell for the second straight time to an unranked opponent. On Wednesday, they lost at home to NC State, 70-59, and on Saturday took their show on the road. The loss boosted Boston College into a first-place tie with Virginia at 7-2 and dropped the Hokies to 4th place at 6-3. Senior forward Jared Dudley matched his season high with 30 points for the Eagles while snatching 13 rebounds (7 offensive) for his 8th double-double of the season.

South Florida 69 Notre Dame 63 - Another poor performance on the road sent the #21 Fighting Irish to their 5th loss of the season and 4th out of 6 on the road in . Colin Falls had 26 points for Notre Dame, but McHugh Mattis had 23 as the Bulls took an early lead and never relinquished it. The Bulls outrebounded Notre Dame 48-38 and outscored them from the foul line, 20-6. The loss dropped the Irish to 6-4 in the heady Big East.

Kansas St. 73 Texas 72 - #22 Texas' Kevin Durant had 32 points and 9 rebounds but Cartier Martin (27 points) hit a 3-pointer and two key free throws to send the visiting Wildcats to their 6th straight Big 12 win and into a second place tie with rival Kansas at 6-2. Unranked K-State plays next at Kansas on Wednesday while Texas has a date at #10 Texas A&M on Monday night.

Georgia Tech 80 Clemson 62 - Georgia Tech ended a four-game losing streak and demolished the #25 Tigers in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets outshot Clemson 46-41% and won the battle of the boards, 44-28. Clemson, undefeated at 17-0 just 3 weeks ago, has dropped 5 of their last 6, all ACC games. At 4-5, they are alone in 7th place in the conference.

Saturday's Top 25 Winners:

#1 Florida 91 Tennessee 78 - The Gators run their streak to 14 straight wins, currently the longest in the nation. They lead the SEC East at 8-0.

#2 Wisconsin 69 Northwestern 52 - The Badgers recovered from their first conference loss with a convincing home win. Alando Tucker had 20 points and 9 rebounds. Running mate Kammron Taylor scored 15.

#3 Ohio St. 63 Michigan St. 54 - Greg Oden led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds (7 offensive), keeping the Buckeyes tied for first place with Wisconsin in the Big 10.

#5 UCLA 82 Oregon St. 35 - In one of the most lopsided games of the season, the Bruins shot 58% overall and hit 7-15 3-pointers. 11 different players scored for UCLA as bench sitters got extended playing time as the Bruins built a 30-point halftime lead.

#10 Texas A&M 69 #6 Kansas 66 - See recap above.

#11 Memphis 88 SMU 52 - Memphis improved to 9-0 in Conference USA and won their 11th straight overall. They lead by 3 1/2 games and may end up being the only representative from that watered-down conference in the NCAA tournament.

#13 Butler 66 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 47 - The 22-2 Bulldogs won their 14th straight home game without a loss.

#15 Nevada 69 Hawaii 68 - Nick Fazekas had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season as the Wolf Pack survived a scare from the visiting Rainbow Warriors.

#17 Air Force 88 Wyoming 43

#18 Washington St. 48 Arizona St. 47 - The Cougars squeezed out a road win to improve to 19-4 and remain tied for 2nd in the Pac-10 at 8-3.

#19 Alabama 64 South Carolina 61 - The Crimson Tide won their second straight, improving to 4-4 in the SEC West, good enough for a 1/2-game lead over Mississippi and Auburn.

#20 Arizona 84 Washington 54 - The Wildcats won for just the 3rd time in their last 9 games.

#23 Stanford 90 California 71 - The Cardinal won the boards 43-29, shot 54% and hit 22-24 free throws for a much-needed road win.

#24 Vanderbilt 66 Georgia 61 - The Commodores avenged an earlier loss at Georgia with 20 points from Derrick Byars and 19 from Dan Cage.

With the Super Bowl taking most of the sports interest today, only one Top 25 team will see action on Sunday as #8 Duke hosts Florida State.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ones to Watch on Saturday

There were no Top 25 teams in action last night, but a bevy of basketball to be played on Saturday. Here are some of the games to watch (conference records in parentheses):

12:00 pm Louisville 16-6 (6-2) at Villanova 14-7 (3-5) - Two teams with plenty of upside, both headed for the NCAA Tournament. Villanova needs to get back into the Big East race while Louisville can earn conference credentials with a road win.

3:30 pm #9 Oregon 19-3 (7-3) at USC 17-6 (7-3) - Second straight road game for the Ducks, and the first one didn't go well, losing to UCLA on Thursday. A win by the Trojans puts them back in the top 25 and tightens their hold on 2nd place in the conference.

4:00 pm #4 Ohio St. 19-3 (7-1) at Michigan St. 17-6 (4-4) - Road wins are essential and the Buckeyes need to win in East Lansing. The Spartans are likely a sleeper NCAA team and could upset.

5:30 pm UNLV 19-4 (6-2) at BYU 16-6 (6-2) - Winner will get eyeballs from the poll voters and likely stay tied with #17 Air Force in the Mountain West. The Falcons host Wyoming today.

7:00 pm Georgia 13-7 (5-3) at #24 Vanderbilt 15-7 (5-3) - Both teams seemed destined to dance in March, but suffered losses in their most recent outings. Georgia already has a win over the Commodores, 85-73 on January 13, so some home cookin' should be in order. The Bulldogs, however, are a tough beat.

8:00 pm #21 Notre Dame 18-4 (6-3) at South Florida 11-11 (2-6) - This may look like an easy date for the Fighting Irish, but South Florida isn't too bad, the Big East is balanced and Notre Dame has struggled on the road. Time for them to grow up.

9:00 pm #10 Texas A&M 18-3 (6-1) at #6 Kansas 19-3 (6-1) - Phog Allen Fieldhouse will be rockin' and rollin' with the best game of the day and 1st place in the Big 12 on the line. The Aggies have never beaten Kansas in the five years they've been in the conference. Billy Gillespie's mind will be on defending the Jayhawks' Brandon Rush, one of the top players in the nation. This should be fun.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cavaliers streaking through ACC; Bruins back on top of Pac-10 heap

Virginia 68 Duke 66 - The Virginia Cavaliers won their 5th straight ACC game - and the second consecutive over a ranked opponent - beating #8 Duke in overtime. After winning at #25 Clemson on Sunday, the Cavaliers returned home for the Blue Devils, rallying from 7 points down at the half to tie the game at 61 and then win it on Sean Singletary's shot with one second left. Singletary, who scored 17, also hit the game-tying shot in regulation.

The Cavaliers were led by the man with the best name on Tobacco Road, J. R. Reynolds, who had 25 points, including 10 of 11 free throws. Neither team could find the range from beyond the arc. Duke hit 5-18 (28%), while Virginia managed only 4-13 (31%). The win moved Virginia past Duke in the ACC standings and into a tie for second place (6-2) with Boston College and Virginia Tech. Duke fell to 5-3 in conference play.

Washington St. 72 Arizona 66 - #20 Arizona lost for the 6th time in 8 games and their 2nd straight at home as Washington State completed a sweep of the Wildcats for the first time in 24 years. The Cougars improved to 18-4 and into a tie with Oregon and USC at 7-3 for 2nd place in the Pac-10. UCLA leads the conference at 8-2.

The #18 Cougars shot 51% from the field, including 7-14 3-pointers and 9-9 free throws. Senior forward Ivory Clark scored 18, hitting 7 of his 9 shots.

The loss dropped Arizona to 14-7 and 5-5 in the conference.

UCLA 69 Oregon 57 - The Bruins are very tough at Pauley Pavilion. Ranked #5 in the nation, UCLA has not lost at home this season, making the #9 Oregon Ducks their 11th straight victim on Pauley's legendary hardwood last night.

The Bruins avenged a 68-66 loss at Oregon on January 6, took sole possession of 1st place in the conference and cemented their claim as one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Ducks were limited to 39% shooting while the Bruins hit 57% (28-49, 8-14 3s).

UCLA's backcourt did most of the offensive damage. Darren Collison scored 12 points and dished 4 assists. Arron Afflalo led the Bruins with 17, while forward Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

USC 73 Oregon State 56 - The unranked Trojans had five players in double figures and improved to 7-3 in the Pac-10 and 17-6 overall but have a tough week ahead. On Saturday, they host #9 Oregon and then travel to #5 UCLA on Wednesday. If they can win at least one of those games, the Trojans have a legitimate chance of breaking back into the Top 25.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gators Roll On as Badgers Fall; Durant hits 37 again

Florida 74 Vanderbilt 64 - #1 Florida extended their winning streak to 13 games as they put down the upstart Vanderbilt Commodores last night in Gainesville. Joakim Noah scored 19 and Lee Humphrey added 15, including 5 3-pointers. Conversely, the Commodores could only muster 3-18 shooting from beyond the arc. Vandy's Derrick Byars scored 23. It was #24 Vanderbilt's first game since making the Top 25 for the first time this season on Monday.

Indiana 71 Wisconsin 66 - The Hoosiers established themselves as a legitimate contender in the Big 10, ending the #2 Badgers' winning streak at 17 and improving to 6-2 in the conference. A.J. Ratliff had 20 and D.J. White, 16 points for Indiana, while Alando Tucker continued his scoring blitz with 23 for Wisconsin. The Hoosiers fell out of the Top 25 on Monday, but will likely be reincluded following next Monday's votes though Indiana faces a tough test at Iowa on Saturday as Wisconsin hosts Northwestern (1-7 Big 10).

North Carolina 105 Miami (FL) 64 - Tyler Hansbrough led 5 players in double figures with 22 points and 13 rebounds as the #3 Tar Heels cracked the century mark for the 6th time this season. North Carolina took over the ACC lead at 6-1 as Virginia Tech lost to NC State. North Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation in scoring at 88.5 points per game.

Ohio St. 78 Purdue 60 - The #4 Buckeyes improved to 19-3 overall and moved into a tie with Wisconsin for 1st place in the Big 10, bombing the Boilermakers with an impressive road victory. Greg Oden played only 21 minutes as Ohio State pulled away in the 2nd half for the relatively easy win.

Texas A&M 73 Iowa State 49 - Joseph Jones scored 21 points for the Aggies as they remained tied with Kansas and Texas for the Big 12 lead at 6-1. The logjam atop the conference should see some resolution in the next week. The #10 Aggies play at Kansas on Saturday and host the Longhorns Monday, Feb. 5.

Memphis 87 Central Florida 65 - #11 Memphis continued to cruise through their Conference-USA schedule with another dominating road win. Joey Dorsey scored 22 points and hauled in 9 rebounds in the one-sided affair. The win was the 10th straight for the Tigers, who improved to 18-3.

Butler 71 Youngstown St. 58 - Mike Green had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the #13 Bulldogs to their 21st win against just 2 losses, tying them with Wisconsin for the nation's best record. North Carolina, Nevada and Florida are 20-2.

Nevada 79 Louisiana St. 71 - Nick Fazekas and Marcellus Kemp each scored 20 points as the #15 Wolf Pack reached the 20-win mark and remained tied with New Mexico State atop the WAC at 8-1.

North Carolina State 70 Virginia Tech 59 - The Wolfpack won only their second road game of the year, but it was a big one, knocking off #16 Virginia Tech. The win was also NC State's 2nd conference win in 7 tries. They are 0-5 in the ACC at home and 12-8 overall. The Hokies dropped into a tie for 2nd place in the conference with Boston College at 6-2, a half-game ahead of Duke (5-2)

Alabama 73 LSU 70 - The #19 Crimson Tide finally got a road win in the turbulent SEC. LSU's woes continued. Jermareo Davidson scored 31 for Alabama, which had lost all of their conference away games - at Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Auburn - had lost 4 of their last 6 overall and had fallen from #12 to #19 in the current AP poll.

The loss for the LSU Tigers was their 4th in a row, dropping their record in the SEC to 2-5 and 13-8 overall. After a great run in last year's tournament, the Tigers are in jeopardy of not getting an invitation this season.

Texas 76 Texas Tech 64 - Kevin Durant may have had his best game of the season last night in Lubbock, leading the #22 Longhorns to another important road win with 37 points and 23 rebounds. It may have been the best performance by any player in the NCAA this season. Durant was 15-29 overall, including 5-9 from 3-point range. The Longhorns were down 4 at the half, but Durant's heroics helped produce a 38-22 2nd-half drubbing. Earlier this season, Durant had scored 37 against Oklahoma State and again vs. Colorado. The phenomenal frosh scored 34 against both Baylor and Missouri.

Gonzaga 90 Stanford 86 2OT - Unranked Gonzaga reminded West Coast watchers that they are still a team to be reckoned with, pulling off the upset over #23 Stanford on the road. despite their 16-7 mark, the Bulldogs still dominate the West Coast conference, leading it at 6-1. The main knock on Gonzaga is their record against ranked teams, though last night's win was their 3rd road win over a ranked team this season. Previously, the Bulldogs beat North Carolina and Texas, but lost to Butler, Nevada and Duke.

With one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Gonzaga also lost to Washington St., Virginia and Georgia, while beating Washington earlier in the season. With 7 of their remaining 8 games in conference, the focus will be on a February 17 tilt with #11 Memphis which will be played on Gonzaga's home hardwood.