Thursday, December 31, 2009

Illinois Drops Northwestern in OT, Open Big Ten with Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ranked #25, Northwestern University was hoping for good things from its basketball program heading into Big Ten play at Illinois Wednesday night. What they got was stunned in OT by the Fighting Illini, 89-83, sent home to consider their dubious future, including their next game, hosting #10 Michigan State, on January 2nd.

The Illini joined Purdue and Minnesota atop the Big Ten standings with 1-0 records. Though Illinois has already suffered defeat four times, they are making a habit of beating lower-ranked teams. Beck on december 2nd, they upset then-#18 Clemson on the Tigers' own wood, 76-74. Leading the charge against Northwestern were juniors Mike Davis (20 points, 17 rebounds) and center Mike Tisdale, who led all scorers with a career-high 31 points and hauled down 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double performance.

The Wildcats had no answer for Tisdale whenever he was able to get his hands on the ball in the paint. He hit 11 of 14 shots from mostly point-blank range. The two teams battled to a 74-all tie at the end of regulation, but Illinois outscored the Wildcats, 15-9 in the extra session. It was the 11th straight time Illinois has beaten Northwestern.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Six-for-Six... Unbeaten Teams Remain Perfect

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When the balls hit the various floors across the college basketball spectrum on Tuesday, six teams remained undefeated. By the time the final buzzers sounded, all six - Kansas, Texas, Syracuse, Purdue, Kentucky and West Virginia - still had perfect records.

Most of the games were one-sided affairs, though Syracuse had to sweat out a 80-73 win at Seton Hall, aided by Wesley Johnson's huge effort: 20 points and 19 boards.

West Virginia narrowly escaped at home against Marquette, getting a buzzer-beating 20-foot jumper from Da’Sean Butler for the 63-62 win. The Mountaineers are 11-0.

The most impressive performance by a single player came in the most one-sided game of the evening, Kentucky's 104-61 pounding of Hartford. Freshman sensation John Wall scored just 9 points, but set a school record by dishing out 16 assists. The accomplishment is augmented by remembering the exceptional players who passed the rock over Kentucky's 100 years or so of basketball excellence. Wall's effort was the best ever. Now that's saying something.

NOTABLE: Not only did the top six teams in the rankings win on Monday, but so did #7 Duke, #12 Kansas State, #16 Mississippi, and #21 Clemson. The only Top 25 team to lose was #20 Texas Tech. They took a 90-75 loss at #19 New Mexico.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fredette's 49 Makes Cougars 13-1

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, December 28, 2009

For years, college football fans have railed against the BCS for ignoring the smaller conferences in their rankings and bowl selections. The same bias seems to have spilled over into college hoops, where the current crop of Top 25 teams includes just three small conference schools: Temple, New Mexico and UAB, with Butler and Gonzaga dropping out. Pollsters might be wise to respect the results of the last few NCAA tournaments, in which schools from unknown, smaller conferences have made significant impact.

One team from the Mountain West (same conference as New Mexico) that is catching some attention but still hasn't cracked the Top 25 is BYU, now at 13-1, after having pasted PAC-10 foe, Arizona, 99-69, for their 8th straight win and thrid straight against major conference opponents (previous wins include Arizona St. and Nebraska).

Part of the reason for the Cougars' success has to be the play of junior guard Jimmer Fredette, currently among the nation's leading scorers, averaging over 21 points per game. In Monday's win, Fredette poured in a career-high 49 points, on 16-for-23 shooting, including an incredible 9-for-13 from beyond the arc. Fredette, a 93% free throw shooter, missed scoring 50 by failing on just one of his 9 attempts from the freebie line. He also dished out 9 assists, grabbed 7 rebounds and recorded a pair of steals.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Huskies Improve to 9-2 on Robinson's 29

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, December 27, 2009

Senior leadership is what Stanley Robinson brings to the Connecticut Huskies, along with plenty of buckets. Robinson, who has tallied in double figures every game this season, scored a season-high 29 points as the Huskies blew past the Iona Gaels, 93-74, improving to 9-2.

In their final tune-up before Big East play begins - at Cincinnati, Wednesday - the Huskies mushed out to a big early lead and held it as they emptied the bench in the second half. Robinson played 35 minutes, hitting 13 of 18 shots from the field and converting 2 of 2 free throw attempts. He also pulled down 5 boards, blocked a shot and had a pair of steals.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mountaineers Top Seton Hall, Remain Undefeated

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, December 26, 2009

Apparently, Bob Huggins never heard the phrase, "you can't go home again," or, if he did, hasn't bothered to take its message to heart. Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Huggins made a long coaching journey - with great success - through places like the University of Cincinnati (1989-2005) and Kansas State (2006-2007), but finally made it back to his home, and since last season has been the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Experts figured it would take Huggins a couple of years to reshape he program into a national contender, something he did at Cincinnati, but Huggins appears to be ahead of schedule. After opening the Big East season with a 90-84 overtime win at Seton Hall Saturday, the Mountaineers are 10-0, one of just six unbeaten college basketball teams.

Led by sophomore Devin Ebanks, who matched his career high with 22 points, the forward also nabbed 17 rebounds, his high of the season. Aiding in the effort were Kevin Jones (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Da'Sean Butler (21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists).

Holding off the Pirates was no easy task as junior guard Jeremy Hazell poured in 41 points, though he hit only 4 of 19 shots from 3-point range. West Virginia rallied from a late ten-point deficit to force overtime, finally putting the Pirates down in the extra session. Seton Hall is 9-2.

NOTABLE: On Friday, USC downed UNLV, 67-56, to capture the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, led by Marcus Johnson's 19 points and 9 boards. The Trojans, who began the 2009 campaign 2-4, have now won 6 straight, including solid victories over quality foes: Tennessee, Western Michigan, St. Mary's and UNLV.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wright Lights up Crimson with 34 in Georgetown Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 23, 2009

After losing their first game of the season, to unheralded Old Dominion, 61-57, on Saturday, the Georgetown Hoyas weren't about to drop a home game to Harvard, even though the Crimson seemed to have other ideas, keeping the game tight through most of the first half. Georgetown got a career-high 34 points out of Junior guard Chris Wright, extending a 44-33 halftime lead to a thorough thumping of their Ivy League foe for an 86-70 win. Wright, who hit 13 of 21 shots from the field, including 2 of 5 3-pointers, took over all aspects of the game with 4 assists, 6 rebounds and 6 steals in 35 minutes of playing time. Teammate Greg Monroe, who's quickly turning into an NBA prospect with his low post domination, doubled down with 16 points and 16 boards.

The Hoyas improved to 9-1 in their final tuneup before beginning Big East play, when they host St. John's on New Year's Eve.

NOTABLE: The number of undefeated teams continues to dwindle, with New Mexico the latest to feel the first sting of defeat. The Lobos met their match at Oral Roberts; the Golden Eagles unceremoniously dumping on them, 75-66. The Lobos are 12-1 and still off to their best start since 1973. Their loss leaves six undefeated teams: Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue and West Virginia. Kentucky is the first team with 13 wins, followed by Syracuse with 12, Kansas, Texas and Purdue at 11-0. West Virginia is 9-0.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Longhorns Deserve #1 Ranking; James Powers Texas Past Spartans

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Having pounded two of the better teams in the country - North Carolina and Michigan St. - in consecutive outings, the Texas Longhorns have the look of a #1 and merit serious consideration of making it all the way through the field in March to a national championship. Whether they should be ranked #1 right now would be a value judgement weighed against the current #1, Kansas, and a very small number of other candidates - Kentucky, Syracuse and Purdue - all of which have, like Texas and Kansas, unblemished records.

What compels one to consider Texas begins with the play of future-NBAer Damion James, who put together another highlight reel with 23 points and 13 boards in the Longhorns' 79-68 win over Michigan State. James dropped in 10 of his 18 shots and was the steadiest player on the floor in addition to being the most durable: his 38 minutes was a game high. His effort followed a 25-point, 15-rebound performance just three days earlier against the Tar Heels, so with back-to-back high quality games over ranked opponents, James could be looking at player of the year honors somewhere down the road.

Texas has won all 11 of their games by a minimum of 11 points, have exceeded the century mark three times and they are also one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Besides Carolina's 90 and Long Beach State's 78, Michigan State's 68 points was the most they've allowed all season. One of the reasons Texas defends so well is the play of Turkish-born guard, Dogus Balbay, who demonstrated his denial skills by holding Spartan point guard, Kalin Lucas, to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, and just 2 assists. Lucas averages 15 points on 48.5% shooting and 4.3 assists. Balbay was instrumental in forcing Lucas into 6 turnovers and 22 total for the Spartans. He had 3 steals of his own.

The Pollsters probably won't elevate Texas to #1 until somebody beats the Jayhawks, or, if Texas does when the Big 12 foes meet on February 8. Prior to that a stretch from January 16-27 will be crucial for the Longhorns, as they host Texas A&M and Texas Tech and play at Kansas State and UConn during that span. All four of those opponents are currently ranked in the Top 25.

NOTABLE: North Carolina's offense is beginning to take shape in big ways, and they look like the team to beat in the ACC. With Tuesday's 98-61 trampling of the Marshall Herd, the Heels have put up their three highest point totals of the season back-to-back-to-back. After dropping a 68-66 decision at Kentucky, Roy Williams' kids have scored 103, 90 and 98. That's big-time production, no matter who you're playing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Providence's Peterson Provides Punch; Kentucky First to 2000 Wins

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, December 21, 2009

Last season was a forgettable one for the Providence Friars. Finishing near the bottom of the Big East standings, Providence was ousted from the NIT tourney in the first round by ACC foe, Miami. With a 19-14 record, all the team could do was look ahead to next year.

Well, next year is here, and the Friars, though not exactly a powerhouse, could be better than they were last season, thanks in part to the play of sophomore forward Jamine Peterson, who played as a true freshman, but redshirted last year. In Monday's 87-78 win over Yale, Peterson led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down a game-high 13 boards for his 7th double-double of the season. The 6'6" wingman hit 12 of 22 shots and fell just 2 points short of his career high point total. He leads the Friars in both points and rebounds. Providence, playing their final game before Big East play begins - at Notre Dame on Dec. 30 - is 8-4.

NOTABLE: The Kentucky Wildcats doubled up Drexel, 88-44, to become the first team in NCAA history to reach 2000 wins, getting to the number just ahead of North Carolina (1992) and Kansas (1980). In 107 seasons, the Wildcats have been a paragon of excellence, with a record of 2,000-635-1 (75.87). while the Tar Heels are a cinch to attain 2000 wins sometime in January or early February at the latest, the Kansas Jayhawks will likely hit the number either during their conference tournament or in the NCAAs. Kansas is currently ranked #1, at 10-0, and have 21 games remaining on their regular season schedule.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Robinson's 26 Sparks Huskies

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ten days off took its toll on the Connceticut Huskies, who found themselves trailing little UCF, 25-20, at the half. Since their loss to Kentucky on December 9, the Huskies hadn't had a game, and it showed.

The second half was a different story, at least for senior forward Stanley Robinson, who put the team on his back and rallied them, scoring 23 of his game-high 26 points over the final twenty minutes. As a team, Connecticut shot just 44%, while Robinson hit 9 of 13 from the field (69%) and converted 7 of 11 free throws. Jerome Dyson hit 4 of 6 3-pointers as the Huskies pulled away late for the 60-51 final, outscoring the Knights, 40-26, in the second half.

Robinson's point total was his best of the season. He's scored in double figures every game this year for the 7-2 Huskies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Longhorns Gore Tar Heels 103-90; Duke Defense Prevails over Gonzaga

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, December 19, 2009

Of all the teams across the nation, North Carolina probably has more height than any with a slew of 6'8" and taller players occupying the floor at any given time, but their size was no match for the intensity brought by the Longhorns big men as Texas thumped the Tar Heels, 103-90, in the first game ever at Cowboy stadium. Forward Damion James scored 25 points and had 15 boards and center Dexter Pittman posted season highs with 23 points and 15 rebounds (12 offensive).

Texas outrebounded North Carolina 60-41, a stat that bears respect, because if the Longhorns can dominate the paint against a team like North Carolina - and all that up front size - there may not be any other squad out there capable of handling them in the post. The win put Texas at 10-0, even with conference rival Kansas, who punched out a 74-65 win over Michigan earlier in the day. The Jayhawks and Longhorns are ranked 1-2 in the polls. North Carolina, which was #10 coming in, will surely drop down, having lost their 3rd game in 11 starts. Their two other losses - to Syracuse and Kentucky - were also on the road.

Notable: Was it the Duke defense or Gonzaga's poor shooting that produced the 76-41 Blue Devil blowout at Madison Square Garden Saturday? On the one hand, the Zags were awful from the field, hitting just 15 of 54 shots (28%), including 1 of 10 from the 3-point area. While nine different players scored for Gonzaga, none hit double figures, but the play closest to the hoop was more than likely a function of inexperience, as freshman forward Elias Harris went 2-for-8 and sophomore center Robert Sacre - who led the Bulldogs in scoring with 9 points - was 2-for-11, mostly on contested shot in the paint. Gonzaga turned the ball over 18 times and were outrebounded 45-35, but they were also just 10-for-21 from the free throw line, and that doesn't involve any defense. Give Duke credit for solid defense, but the Zags just didn't have much zip in their game on this occasion.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Samhan Steady for 9-1 Gaels

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking to get back to the NCAA tournament, the St. Mary's Gaels of the West Coast conference seem to have the players and chemistry to get there as they improved to 9-1 on Friday with a 80-65 thumping of Pacific.

The Gaels, despite finishing the 08-09 regular season with a 26-6 record, were denied an invitation to the Big Dance, eventually falling in the quarterfinals of the NIT. In 07-08, they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Miami, after going 25-6. A mainstay in both of those seasons was 6'11" center Omar Samhan, now a senior, who's scored in double figures every game this season and has six double-double games this year.

In Friday's game, Samhan tallied 28 points, adding 8 boards and 4 blocks. He leads the Gaels in all three categories. Visting Vanderbilt, one of the top SEC teams this year, handed the Gaels their only loss of the season on November 20, 72-70. The season's biggest tests come on January 14 and again on February 11, when St. Mary's hosts, then plays at, Gonzaga.

Transfer Bowles Gets 37 and 15 for James Madison

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, December 17, 2009

Denzel Bowles finally get his chance to play and the James Madison Dukes are a better team for it. By NCAA rule, Bowles sat out spring semester of last season and the first six games of this year after transferring from Texas A&M, but finally got into action on December 12 at Eastern Michigan, though his 14 points couldn't help the Dukes from dropping a 75-64 decision and falling to 4-4 on the year.

Thursday night at Gardner-Webb, it was a different story, as Bowles exploded for 37 points and 15 rebounds, leading the Dukes to a 78-57 pasting of the Runnin' Bulldogs. A 6'10" junior, Bowles dominated in the paint, hitting an amazing 68% of his shots (17-25) in 32 minutes, much of it over, under and around the rim.

James Madison already has one loss in the Colonial Athletic Conference, losing 49-44 to Georgia St., but that was just before Bowles became eligible. When conference play begins in earnest on January 2 at Northeastern, Bowles and his Dukes should begin making some noise and offer a challenge to the traditional leaders - VCU and George Mason.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Booker Pushes Clemson Past Pirates

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looking to make its annual appearance in the Top 25, the Clemson Tigers won for the 9th time in 11 starts, plundering the Pirates of East Carolina, 80-63, as senior forward Trevor Booker played another of his usual all-around solid games, scoring 13 points to go with 12 boards, 9 assists and 3 blocked shots. Booker has scored in double figures in all but one of Clemson's outings in 2009 and leads the Tigers in minutes, points and rebounds.

Teammate Tanner Smith, a sophomore, made his presence felt with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Clemson went 23-9 last season and looks to make noise in the contentious ACC.

Notable: Mississippi's Chris Warren poured in a career-high 32 points as the Rebels outgunned the UTEP Miners, 91-81, improving their record to 9-1. Warren nailed 5 of 10 3-pointers and 13 of 15 form the free throw line.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Golden Gophers Win 4th Straight on Hoffarber 3s

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A perennial 20-win team, the Minnestoa Golden Gophers have been streaky this season, beginning with four straight wins, then three straight losses. Since the insertion of Blake Hoffarber into the lineup, however, they've won their last four, including Tuesday's 89-48 mushing of the Northern Illinois Huskies.

A 6'4" junior guard, Hoffarber is blessed with a pure outside stroke, which was on display as he banged home 8 of 10 3-pointers (9 of 11 overall) against the Huskies en route to a career high 26 points. While looking for his shot, Hoffarber did not neglect his other duties on the floor, dishing 4 assists and bringing down 6 rebounds.

The Huskies are now, 8-3 during a busy early schedule, and while unranked, may pose a serious threat to Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State in the upcoming race for the Big Ten title. Averaging around 22 minutes per game, Hoffarber has tallied in double figures in each of his last four outings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lawal Pumps in 29 for Yellow Jackets

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, December 14, 2009

Last season, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets suffered through one of their worst seasons in the ACC, going 4-19 in the conference and 12-19 overall. Things are looking up this season, as the Yellow Jackets have begun the 2009-10 campaign with a 7-1 start, including Monday's stinging 95-64 win over Chattanooga. The 31-point margin of victory was the largest in a road game in more than two years, but the Jackets may become accustomed to winning by big numbers with their very capable front court of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors doing the heavy lifting in the paint.

Lawal scored a season-high 29 points in just 17 minutes against the Mocs, hitting all 8 of his shots from the field and canning 13 of 19 free throws as the smaller Chattanooga players just couldn't handle him in the low post. Lawal, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and has double-doubles in four contests, finished with 7 rebounds. Favors, a 6'10" freshman, scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 3rd double-double of the year. He's scored in double figures every game in '09.

The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked #24 in the AP poll.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fernandez Scores 33 as Owls Top Villanova

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Temple Owls handed the Villanova Wildcats their first loss of the season, 75-65, getting 33 points from sophomore guard Juan Fernandez who tallied a career high on 11-of-15 shooting, including 7 of 9 3-pointers. While the Owls were shooting 52% overall, Villanova was struggling from the field and in the paint, as forward Lavoy Allen grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds and scored 10 points for a nifty double-double effort, his third of the season.

Villanova dropped to 9-1, while the Owls improved to 10-2. The Wildcats had been ranked #3 heading into the contest. Temple was unranked, but may get some consideration when the latest poll arrives on Monday.

NOTABLE: Xavier's Jason Love snatched 19 rebounds as the Musketeers dropped the Cincinnati Bearcats, 83-79 in double overtime. Teammate Terrell Holloway scored as season-high 26 points, to pace all scorers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Henry Notches 31 as Jawhawks Roll to 9-0 Record

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baseball has Spring Training; pro football has exhibition games; the college basketball equivalent is the month of December, when perennial powerhouses like Kansas get to flex their muscles, test new players and generally beat up on lesser rivals like La Salle.

Now, the La Salle Explorers aren't a bad team. In fact, when they waltzed into Rupp Arena to take on the Jayhawks on Saturday, they were a respectable 6-2. They left with the unmistakable imprint of #1 Kansas dealing them their third loss of the season.

Kansas dominated just about every aspect of the game. They shot 53%, had 44 rebounds and blocked 11 shots. La Salle's numbers, for comparison: 36%, 34, 2. Yes, it was a rout, with the Jayhawks winning, 90-65, for their 9th straight win without a loss. It was the sixth time Kansas had scored 90 or more, this time with a little less balance than normal, as freshman senation Xavier Henry went off for a career-high 31 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including 4 of 5 3-pointers and 7 of 9 from the line. Low post specialist Cole Aldrich chipped in with 19 points of his own. Together, Aldrich and Henry accounted for 2/3rds of the Jawhawk points. Henry has scored in double figures every game this season.

NOTABLE: The Butler Bulldogs got back to their winning ways with a late surge to top Ohio Sate, 74-66. Gordon Hayward scored 24 for the second straight game, as the Bulldogs improved to 7-3. Ohio State dropped to 7-2. Both teams should remain ranked when the new polls come out on Monday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hassan's Nine 3-pointers Lead Sacred Heart to 1st Road Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, December 11, 2009

After losing road games at Fordham, Xavier and Penn State, the Sacred Heart Pioneers finally won one away from the home hardwood, dropping Hartford, 76-65, on the back of Corey Hassan's 29 points and 9 rebounds. Hassan, a 6'4" guard and the nation's 8th-leading scorer (24.4 ppg), drilled a season-high 9 3-pointers on 14 long-range efforts and was 9 for 16 overall.

Hassan has scored in double figures in each of the Pioneers' 8 games, including a season-high 33 in the loss to Fordham. Sacred Heart is 5-3 overall and 1-0 in the Northeast conference. Hassan leads the team in points, rebounds (8.3), 3-point percentage (48%) and steals (1.6).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Orangemen Tame Gators on Jackson's 21 and 11

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, December 10, 2009

After Kentucky's narrow win over Connecticut on Wednesday, the Syracuse Orangemen struck a blow for the Big East conference, knocking off #10 Florida, 85-73, in the second day of the SEC/Big East Invitational at Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse led almost the entire game, pulling away late in the second half as the Gators kept themselves in it by nailing 12 of 30 3-pointers. Junior forward Rick Jackson led the scoring charge with 21 points and was one of three Orangemen registering double-doubles as he hauled in 11 boards, 7 of them on the offensive end. Wes Johnson kicked in 17 points and 10 rebounds; Kris Joseph had 10 and 12.

The conferences are tied at 2 wins apiece, as Mississippi State stopped DePaul, 76-45, and Cincinnati defeated Miami, 63-59.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wildcats' Wall Throws No Bricks

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In one of this season's best inter-conference contests, the Kentucky Wildcats barely outlasted the UConn Huskies, 64-61, as the legend of freshman John Wall extended through Madison Square Garden.

The Wildcats broke out to an early 12-0 lead, only to have the Huskies come back and take a 29-23 lead into half time. In the second half, Kentucky took control early, outscoring the Huskies by 9 in the period, paced by Wall's career-high 25 points. A time ticked down to the final buzzer, Wall took over the game, scoring 12 of Kentucky's final 12 points, including a dazzling drive to the hoop, bucket and foul for a three-point play that put the Wildcats ahead for good.

Wall hit 10-of-16 shots overall, including 1-1 from 3-point range. He hit all four free throw attempts, and, despite turning the ball over 7 times, made 6 steals.

#4 Kentucky improved to 9-0, while the #14 Huskies dropped to 6-2.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Georgetown's Monroe Sends Hoyas Past Butler

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Following a disappointing season in which the Hoyas finished 16-15 and did not receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown looked forward to a better 2009-10 campaign with a number of solid returnees, including guards Jason Clark and Chris Wright and center Greg Monroe. With a promising freshman class filling some roles, Monroe has emerged as a leader on the court, and that was evident as the 6'11" sophomore achieved career highs in both scoring and rebounding in Georgetown's handy 72-65 triumph over #22 Butler.

Monroe tallied 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting and snatched 15 boards in a dominating performance as the 15th-ranked Hoyas improved their early-season record to 7-0. Playing at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V. Classic, the Hoyas were never seriously threatened, upping their lead to as many as 17 points during the second half. Monroe is averaging a double-double thus far in 2009-10 with 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

While the Hoyas were soaring past the Bulldogs, Butler was en route to its third straight loss against Top 25 opposition. Now 6-3, the Bulldogs have already dropped home games to Minnesota and Clemson.

NOTABLE: In the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic, Indiana prevailed over Pitt, 74-64, but the Panthers seemed to be intent on getting sophomore Ashton Gibbs the maximum number of looks from the perimeter. Gibbs threw up a boatload of shots - 25 in all and 15 from 3-point range - as he led all scorers with a career-high 25 points. Gibbs was only 5-of-15 from beyond the arc, but the experience should pay benefits down the road when the youthful Pitt squad faces Big East opponents.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sloan Powers Aggies to 8-1 Record

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, December 7, 2009

Donald Sloan, a senior guard, led all scorers with 21 points in Texas A&M's 75-65 win over North Texas Monday night. Sloan was in double figures for the 7th time in 9 starts for the 8-1 Aggies, hitting 5-of-8 shots from the floor, including 1-of-2 3-pointers, and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Morris Lights Up Bruins as Jayhawks Go 7-0

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, December 6, 2009

Markieff Morris led all scorers with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting as the Kansas Jayhawks improved their unbeaten record to 7-0, fending off a UCLA team in obvious rebuilding mode, 73-61 at Pauley Pavilion in LA. Cole Aldrich continued to be a rebounding machine for Kansas, pulling down 12 boards, 6 of those on the offensive end.

The Bruins have not gotten off to a very promising start in 2009, with the loss to Kansas their 5th in just 7 games. Scratch the Bruins from the PAC-10 contender list this season as their talent from the past two years has been badly diluted by graduation and players going to the pros. The Bruins shot just 36% on the night, while the Jayhawks, who led the entire game, were held to a season-low 44%, but still easily prevailed.

NOTABLE: The Connecticut Huskies barely escaped their trip to the Ivy League with a 79-73 win over the 6-2 Harvard Crimson and their outstanding senior guard, Jeremy Lin. Lin scored a season-high 30 points, nailing 11 of 18 shots from the field (2-3 on 3s) and 6 of 8 from the foul line. Nine boards, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots rounded out Lin's memorable performance.

Senior guard Jerome Dyson led the Huskies with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. Dyson has carried the Huskies to a 6-1 record, averaging 20 points per game, but even UConn coach Jim Calhoun thinks Dyson - who is playing more than 34 minutes per game - needs help, saying, "we don't have a bench."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Charlotte Dump Louisville on Braswell's 21

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Louisville Cardinals, playing without injured guards Jerry Smith, Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles, were routed by the Charlotte 49ers of the Atlantic-10, 87-65, as Charlotte guards let fly from outside the 3-point line and freshman Chris Braswell controlled the inside with game highs in points (21) and rebounds (14). The freshman forward, who had been averaging less than 6 points per game, but recored a double-double each time he saw more than 24 minutes of floor time, hit 9-of-12 shots from the field and all three of his free throw attempts in 24 minutes of play. It was his third double-double of the season.

While doing his damage inside, Braswell's front court mates were tossing bombs into the ocean from long range. Derrio Green hit 4-of-8 from beyond the arc for 20 points, and Shamarr Bowden - 5-of-12 from long range - pitched in with 17 points.

The win was remarkably easy for the underdog 49ers, who led 47-32 at the half and upped their season record to 6-1. Their only loss was a 101-59 loss at Duke. Having played all but one game on their home hardwood, Louisville is 5-2, with a 76-71 road loss at UNLV marring their record.

NOTABLE: The Syracuse Orangemen, ranked #8 in the nation, overwhelmed the Maine Black Bears, making them look more like Cubs, in a 101-55 rout Saturday night at the Carrier Dome. Six different players scored in double figures for Syracuse, but what stood out was the score at the half, when the Orangemen led 60-12. Syracuse was 24-of-35 (68.6%) in the half while Maine hit just 4 shots from the floor.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Morgan On Track in Spartan Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, December 4, 2009

After a disappointing loss to North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans quickly rebounded with a solid win over Wofford, taming the Terriers, 72-60, behind Raymar Morgan's 19 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs.

Often hindered by injuries, Morgan, when healthy, is one of the top forwards in the country, and it appears that over his last three games he's begun to find an All-American stride, scoring 17, 18 and 19 points in successive contests. The 6'8" senior should help the 6-2 Spartans to a compete for a second straight conference title this season.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Roberson Leads Red Raiders to Upset Over Huskies

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quincy Pondexter scored a career-high 31 points for Washington, the only ranked team in the PAC-10, but it wasn't enough as Texas Tech whipped the Huskies in overtime, 99-92. Paced by a season-high 25 points from junior point guard John Roberson, the Red Raiders remained undefeated in 2009 with their 8th straight win, this one the first over a ranked opponent. Roberson, who added 7 assists and a couple of steals, hit 6-of-10 shots from the field and was a perfect 13-of-13 from the foul line. He also scored 6 points in the overtime session when the Red Raiders outscored the Huskies, 19-12.

Tech, which had battled back from a 9-point half time deficit to tie the score at 80, thought they had won the game in regulation on Mike Singletary's 3-pointer at the buzzer, but, as fans streamed onto the court in celebration, the officials reviewed the tape and determined that the ball was still touching Singletary's fingers when the clock turned to all zeroes. Despite the setback, the Red raiders were undeterred and continued playing pressure defense to force turnovers in the extra session. Singletary finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wisconsin, Illinois Lead Big Ten over ACC

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It took eleven years, the biggest comeback in Illinois basketball history and a nail-biting win by Wisconsin over Duke, but after ten years of frustration, the Big Ten finally beat the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, taking six of the eleven games, with three wins coming on the final night of competition.

In their 76-74 win at Clemson, the Fighting Illini lived up to their name, coming back from 22 points down in the second half for the biggest comeback in school history. Led by Mike Davis' 22 points (9-11, 4-4 free throws) and 9 rebounds and freshman Brandon Paul's 20, the Illini kept Big Ten hopes alive with an unlikely road win after dropping their last two games. Clemson, which took a 20-point lead into the half, appeared to be cruising to the win when the Illini went on a 22-2 tear, and finally caught the Tigers when Paul stole the ball and went in for a layup to tie the game at 61 with 5 minutes left.

The Tigers didn't fold, however, and actually had a lead late, but the Illini were undeterred as they improved to 5-2, haning the Tigers their second loss of the season (6-2). The win by the Illini kept the Big Ten close, but the ACC led, 5 games to 4 with just two left to be played in the challenge.

Wisconsin led from the opening bucket, sending the Duke Blue Devils to a loss for the first time in the eleven years of the Challenge, 73-69. The Badgers opened the game with a barrage of three-pointers to take an early lead, then let guard Trevon Hughes loose in the lane and on the perimeter. He scord a game-high and personal season-high 26 points in leading the Badgers to their 5th win in 6 tries this season. Hughes hit 9 of 16 shots from the floor, including 4 of 8 from three-point land. He added a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line to match Duke's Kyle Singler point for point.

Moments later, when Ohio State beat Florida State, 77-64, the Big Ten could finally exhale and celebrate the conference's first win over the ACC.

The three other wins for the Big ten were provided by Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern.

ACC winners were Miami, Boston College, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech.

Tar Heels Help Even Big Ten/ACC Challenge

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 1, 2009

After Penn State got the Big Ten off to a winning beginning with a 69-66 win over Virginia Monday night, the ACC, which has won this early season measuring stick each of the last ten years, roared back with a trio of victories to even the score at three games per conference.

Maryland whipped Indiana, 80-68; Virginia Tech schooled Iowa, 70-64; and the North Carolina Tar Heels stepped past Michigan State, 89-82, in a rematch of last year's national championship final.

Even though North Carolina lost four starters and super sub Danny Green to the pros from last season's championship team, the Tar Hells have reloaded in a hurry, sporting more height and depth on a squad made up primarily of underclassmen.

While seniors Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson got the most floor time, major contributions were made by a pair of rising sophomores, 6'10" forward Ed Davis and 6'2" point guard Larry Drew II. Davis, who is averaging nearly a double-double (16.7 points, 9.4 rebounds), scored a game-high 22 points to go with his 6 boards and 2 assists, as he dominated the interior. Drew pumped in 18 points, on 6-0f-7 shooting, missing just one of his two 3-point attempts while shutting down the Spartans' Kalin Lucas, one of the nation's top ball-handling guards. He and freshman Dexter Strickland limited the Michigan State star to a poor shooting performance (6-of-17, 15 points), keeping Lucas on the perimeter and denying him driving and passing lanes.

The Heels sizzled at 58% from the floor, hitting 5-of-10 3-pointers. Michigan State, hampered by the Tar Hell height and length, shot just 43%, including a miserable 10% (1-of-10) from beyond the arc. One standout for the Spartans was Raymar Morgan, the Spartan's high-scorer, with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 6 rebounds.

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge concludes on Wednesday night with five more games, capped off by #6 Duke at Wisconsin at 9:15 pm from Madison and #21 Florida St. at #15 Ohio State at 9:30 pm from Columbus. Earlier games include Illinois at Clemson, Minnesota at Miami and Boston College at Michigan.

Earlier wins by the Big Ten included Purdue over Wake Forest, 69-58, and Northwestern's surprisingly easy 65-53 win over NC State.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Butler Does It for Mountaineers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, November 29, 2009

Da'Sean Butler matched his season high with 26 points, as the West Virginia Mountaineers downed Portland, 84-66 in the championship game of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Ca.

The Mountaineers are ranked #8, which is the highest they've been this early in a season since well before Bob Huggins took over as head coach three years ago. They may be as good or better than their ranking, winning their fifth straight by a large margin. The average margin of victory in those games has been an even 20 points, with the closest game being a 73-66 win over Texas A&M to reach the 76 Classic finals.

Butler, who is averaging 13.5 points per game, pulled in 6 rebounds in his 33 minutes.

NOTABLE: Previously-ranked Minnesota was beaten for the second straight time, this time losing, 66-65, to Texas A&M.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Upsets Proliferate Across College Hoops Landscape

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, November 27, 2009

With college basketball becoming more and more competitive in the early going, the number of upsets - and the term should be used lightly as this early juncture - has increased this season as never before. On Friday, five top 25 teams were dumped by unranked schools, giving credence to the camp which believes pre-season and early rankings are worthless.

The games must be played on the court, and some of these smaller schools have talent popping right out of the hardwood.

The biggest surprise was probably Florida's 77-74 win over #2 Michigan State. Though out-shooting the Gators, the Spartans turned the ball over 24 times, while Florida hit 22-of-25 from the charity stripe for the win.

Here's a quick run-down of the other eye-popping upsets:

Utah 60, #20 Illinois 58
Northwestern 72, #23 Notre Dame 58
Portland 61, #22 Minnesota 56
Marquette 79, #15 Michigan 65

What stands out is that four of the teams upset came out of the Big Ten, so, maybe these aren't really all that surprising after all.

In Syracuse's 85-60 thumping of Columbia (this was a real creampuff opponent), forward Wesley Johnson tallied a season-high 26 points, going 8-for-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point land. Johnson also hit all 6 of his free throws, grabbed 3 rebounds, dished three assists and had two steals.

The Orangemen are 6-0, and face Colgate and Maine this coming week, prior to a trip South to face the Gators on December 10. That should prove interesting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Day for Gophers; Later, Sooners

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Minnesota Golden Gophers usually fall somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings, still, they are a force with which to be reckoned year in and year out. Proving that they field a solid team once again in 2009, the Gophers advanced their early record to 4-0, with an impressive, 82-73, win over #12 Butler in the opening round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California.

Ranked #22, but certain to improve upon that by next week, the Gophers shot an even .500 for the game while limiting the Bulldogs to 33% shooting, including 22% from behind the 3-point line. Minnesota hit 9-19 on threes, their 47% accuracy one of the keys to victory.

Leading the way was senior forward, Damian Johnson, who tickled the twine for a team-high 18 points. Johnson also added 3 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals and a blocked shot in just 25 minutes on the floor. Fouling out for the first time this season did not deter him from setting a personal season-high in scoring. Johnson hit 7-of-8 shots from the floor, including his only 3-point attempt and all three free throws.

Three other Gophers scored in double figures, and ten players scored overall. The Bulldogs were led by Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, who tallied 23 and 20, respectively.

NOTABLE: Autumn has not been a good time for Oklahoma athletics. First, the football team lost their Heisman winning QB, Sam Bradford, for the season and are a lowly 6-5 right now. Now, it seems the same bad karma has found its way to the basketball team, which lost its third straight game Thursday, dropping a 100-93 decision to Houston. While poor defense and poor shooting had caused their demise the previous two games, Thursday's effort was clearly a case of simple mishandling of the rock. The Sooners turned the ball over 18 times, while shooting 54% from the floor, 42% from the 3-point line and 82% of their free throws. Ranked #25 on Sunday, Oklahoma's 2-3 record isn't going to garner many votes this time around.

#15 Michigan was taken into overtime by Creighton, out of the Mid-American conference, eventually getting the win, 83-76, at the Old Spice Classic at Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Wolverines were led by Manny Harris' 20 points, 11 assists and 9 boards. Harris didn't get any pine time during the game, playing all 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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Wall the Real Deal in Maui Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everyone who's seen him play says Kentucky freshman, John Wall, is ready for the NBA. After his performance Wednesday night, propelling the Wildcats to a 73-65 OT win over Stanford to capture the title game of the Maui Invitational, it's tough to argue with that assessment.

Wall scored a career-high 23 points - it's only his 5th college game - and hit a clutch jumper and a pair of free throws in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. There, the Wildcats outscored the Cardinal, 10-2, with Wall punctuating the win with a dunk at the buzzer. He also had 4 boards, 5 assists, a steal and 2 blocked shots in the game.

Matching Wall on the scoreboard was Stanford's Landry Fields, who accounted for 23 points and 15 boards - his third straight double-double. Unranked Stanford and Landry garnered some respect in Maui. The senior forward is averaging 23 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

NOTABLE: Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson each scored 20 points as #13 Connecticut engulfed LSU, 81-55, in the semi-finals of the Preseason NIT Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The 6-0 Huskies will play #7 Duke, who struggled to a 64-53 win over a sub-par Arizona State squad.

Sophomore Willie Warren lit it up for 30 points but couldn't help the #25 (and falling) Oklahoma Sooners from losing their second straight game, this time to unheralded San Diego, 76-64. Last Saturday, the Sooners fell to Virginia Commonwealth, 82-69. The main problem for Oklahoma seems to be accuracy. They shot 33% from the field in the loss to San Diego and 41% when losing to VCU, but only 19% from 3-point range in that contest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Harangody Off to Hot Start for Irish

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Luke Harangody missed all three of his three shot attempts, but he did nail half of his shots from the floor (11-22) and drained 7-of-8 from the foul line to post 29 points in Notre Dame's 80-62 romp over Kennesaw State. The 6'8" senior forward also pulled in 15 boards for his second double-double of the season. The Fighting Irish are off to a 5-0 start in which Harangody has scored in double digits every game. His low point was in the season opener, when he only scored 19. In the next four games he put up 27, 29, 32 and 29, for a season average of 27.2.

A four-year starter, Harangody has improved his scoring average in each successive season. Last year he averaged 23.2 and 11.8 rebounds. Playing the majority of his games against Big East opponents, he's a force with which to reckon.

NOTABLE: Texas easily handled Pitt, 78-62, to capture the title game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Longhorn senior Damion James led all scorers with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also grabbed 9 rebounds as the Longhorns improved to 4-0.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Texas freshman Leads Longhorns Over Iowa

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, November 23, 2009

Longhorn freshman Jordan Hamilton topped all scorers with a career-high 16 points, propelling Texas past Iowa, 86-60, to move into the final of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Texas faces 4-0 Pittsburgh in the final, Tuesday night at 10:00 pm ET.

While Hamilton's scoring was his best effort to date, there are certain to be better games ahead. The 6'7" swingman was playing in just his third college game. Hitting 5-of-9 from the floor, Hamilton did most of his damage from beyond the arc, nailing 4-of-8 3-pointers. He also dished 5 assists, grabbed 2 boards and ripped off two steals in his 20 minutes.

The Longhorns are currently ranked #3 in the AP Poll, though that's hardly a convincing argument at this early juncture. Their Tuesday tilt with Pitt should offer a better insight as to just how good they are. The unranked Panthers usually put a solid team on the floor and despite many losses to graduation, this year should be no exception.

NOTABLE: Wayne Chism scored 24 points to lead all scorers, but missed a shot with 2 seconds left that would have given the Tennessee Volunteers the lead, as Purdue held on to win the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, 73-72. One of the few early games between ranked teams, the final result only muddied the waters further. With no truly dominant team on the college hoops landscape, this year's Top 25 will likely be something of a roller coaster ride for those teams involved.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Villanova 5-0 After Puerto Rico Wins

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, November 22, 2009

One of the favorites to win the Big East, the Villanova Wildcats have already stamped an early-season mark by winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with wins over George Mason, Dayton and, in the championship game, Mississippi.

With the tourney wins, the #5 Wildcats improved to 5-0, including a relatively easy, 79-67, defeat of the SEC Rebels.

Scottie Reynolds scored a season-high 22 points, Corey Stokes chipped in with 18 and Antonio Pena dominated the interior, hitting 8-of-13 shots for 17 points in addition to hauling down 16 rebounds. Pena's totals were both season-highs for the 6'8" junior forward.

NOTABLE: Forward Gani Lawaltotaled 17 points and 13 rebounds and Zachery Peacock led his team with 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting, as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets topped Boston University, 85-67, in one of three consolation games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Sunday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wildcats Run on Patterson Power

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, November 21, 2009

John Calipari is off to a 4-0 start as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, thanks in part to the easy early schedule, and also to some of the exceptional players who remained from last year's squad.

One such standout is junior forward Patrick Patterson, who was unstoppable in the lane against undersized Rider University. Patterson lit up the Broncs for 19 points and 18 rebounds, as the Wildcats cruised to a 92-63 victory. It was Patterson's 3rd double-double of the season. Last year, he averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 boards.

Rider has come back to earth after opening their season with a road win at Mississippi State. After beating Lehigh at home on Monday, they've lost consecutive road games, to Virginia and Kentucky this week, evening their record at 2-2. One has to give the small New Jersey school (student population roughly 6000) credit for such an ambitious early schedule. The MAAC school already has played two SEC teams and one from the ACC.

NOTABLE: Beware the Rams! VCU, a perennial powerhouse out of the Colonial Athletic Association, upset #17 Oklahoma, 82-69, Saturday. Three-point shooting proved to be the difference, as the Sooners hit just 5 of 26, while the Rams drained 9 of 26.

All 13 players scored for the #24 Fighting Illini as they took out Presbyterian, 94-48, for their third straight win without a loss.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rautins, Johnson Lead Syracuse Past Tar Heels

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, November 20, 2009

Watch out for Jim Boehiem's Syracuse Orangemen this season. Ranked preseason as the 6th-best team in the Big East, the Orange took out two ranked opponents en route to capturing the championship in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic at madison Square Garden in New York.

After throttling Cal, 95-73, on Thursday, they routed North Carolina, 87-71, Friday night to improve their record to 4-0. (Big East teams were 41-0 before Providence and South Florida lost Friday night to Alabama and South Carolina, respectively.)

Syracuse was led by 6'7" junior forward Wesley Johnson, who sat out all of last season after transferring from Iowa State University. Johnson lit it up for a game-high 25 points, to go with his 8 boards. Johnson was 10-17 from the field, hitting 4-of-8 3-pointers.

The Orangemen had five players in double figures, but senior Andy Rautins was everywhere, scoring 11 points with 3 3-pointers, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 steals.

Syracuse, trailing 39-37 at the half, exploded for a 25-2 run to open the second half and take complete control of the game. North Carolina drew to within 8 points, but never threatened as the Orangemen employed their 2-3 zone to produce 18 Tar Heel turnovers.

NOTABLE: Tennessee's Scotty Hopson tallied 25 points for the second straight game, hitting 10-of-15 shots, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, in a 105-66 win over East Carolina. The 3-0 Vols lead the nation in scoring at 104 points per game.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Calipari Gets 27 Points and 18 Boards from Freshman Cousins

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, November 19, 2009

Talk about lighting it up. Kentucky outscored Sam Houston State, 102-92, for their third straight win to open the 2009-10 campaign, but the margins of victory haven't been as wide as new head coach John Calipari might have liked.

After topping Miami (OH), 72-70, the Wildcats had to go longer and deeper with their starters in order to stave off the upset-minded Bearcats. In the end, the strategy worked, but not until senior Corey Allmond had thrown down 37 points for Sam Houston on 13-of-22 shooting, including an incredible 11-of-16 3-pointers. Allmond's monster night was eventually outdone by Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins' 27-point, 18-rebound effort. The 6'11" Cousins didn't even attempt a 3-point shot, doing the majority of his damage within 5 feet of the hoop. His 18 rebounds included 8 offensive boards which resulted in a good number of put-backs. Both his points and rebound totals were career highs.

NOTABLE: The opening round of the third-annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, featured two quality games, one upset and once close call for the 3-0 Villanova Wildcats, who slipped past George Mason, 69-68, after trailing almost the entire game. The opener of the tourney did produce the minor upset, as the #18 Dayton Flyers dropped #21 Georgia Tech, 63-59. Dayton will play Villanova for the championship on Friday.

In the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden, Syracuse defeated an obviously-overrated #13 Cal squad by a 95-73 score, while the Tar Heels took down Ohio State, 77-73. The Orangemen will face North Carolina in the title match on Friday night.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butler Improves to 2-0 Off Hayward Effort

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Butler Bulldogs have a pretty good team. How far they go this season rests largely on the big shoulders of 6'8" sophomore Gordon Hayward, who recorded his first double-double with 14 points and 10 boards in Butler's 67-54 victory at Northwestern.

The win made the Bulldogs 2-0, with a bunch of big games just ahead. On Thanksgiving, the Bulldogs host #24 Minnesota, but then on December 8, 12 and 19, the schedule gets extremely tough, at (19) Georgetown, then home for (15) Ohio St. and then unranked Xavier.

It's that kind of scheduling that keeps little Butler consistently in the Top 25 and battle-tested for the Horizon League regular season. The Bulldogs have been in the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons, having won or shared the regular league title in each of those years and the conference tournament after the conclusion of the 2007-08 season.

Hayward averaged 13.1 points per game last season. He's up to 15.5 so far this year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hopson's 25 Leads Tennessee to 2-0 Record

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tennessee 124, N.C. Asheville 49 - 13 different Volunteers scored, but sophomore guard Scotty Hopson was filling up the stat sheet quicker than anyone else, tallying 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including hitting 6 of 7 from 3-point range. Hopson added 4 rebounds, 5 assists and a pair of steals in the all-around effort. Best of all, he did his damage in just 23 minutes on the floor. Hopson averaged 9.2 ppg last season. This year he's up to 25.5 after two games, though the competition gets tougher after December.

Notable: The College Tip-Off Marathon was a smashing success for ESPN and college hoops, especially with the two premier games going down to the wire. Gonzaga pushed #2 Michigan St. to the limit, with the Spartans finally prevailing, 75-71. Right on the heels of that contest, #1 Kansas went toe-to-toe with Memphis for the full 40, finally dropping the Tigers, 57-55. Close calls for the top two teams (preseason rankings) suggests that this season will be much like many past: lots of upsets and a general carousel around the top 10.

Louisville's Reggie Delk: 20 points, 8-9 (4-5, 3s), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 22 minutes. (Louisville 96, Arkansas 66)

Monday, November 16, 2009

All Day Hoops as College Basketball Season Officially Opens Tuesday

Special Televised Event on ESPN to feature full day of college games

For the second year in a row, ESPN has teamed with the NCAA to present the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, presenting 12 games and 24 hours of continuous college basketball coverage to tip off the hoops season.

In addition, the other properties in the ESPN stable: ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN Mobile, will also carry an extensive menu of games.

The 24 hour marathon begins with Cal State Fullerton vs. UCLA at 12:00 am ET, Tuesday morning (9:00 pm Pacific, Monday night) and end with a Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off matchup from Tempe, Ariz., at 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

If you're not ready for this, too bad, because it's HERE!

James Leads #3 Texas over Anteaters

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, November 15, 2009

Damion James scored 21 points and hauled down 15 rebounds as #3 Texas got their 2009 campaign off to a roaring start with an 89-42 victory over the Anteaters of UC-Irvine.

Dexter Pittman matched James with 21 points, as the Longhorns put 5 players into double figures to just one for the Anteaters. The game was never in doubt, as Texas rolled to a 42-21 half time lead and continued to dominate the rest of the way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Harris Triple-double Powers Michigan

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, November 14, 2009

Michigan opened their 2009 campaign with a 97-50 win over Northern Michigan with ample assistance from junior guard Manny Harris, who lit it up with a triple double: 18 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. Senior Deshawn Sims tallied 22 with 10 boards.

Notable: Isaiah Thomas: 23 points, 4-5 on 3s, Washington 96, Belmont 78. Huskies are 2-0.

Those are the Stat Sheet Stuffers for Saturday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Varnado Needs Support; Thomas, Henry Stand Out

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, November 13, 2009

It's a shame that Jarvis Varnado doesn't have much of a supporting cast at #18 Mississippi State, because h's got the kind of talent that can make an impact come tournament time. In their season opener, the Bulldogs relied too heavily on Varnado, their 6'9" senior forward, an came up short against little-known Rider College from New Jersey, losing, 88-74.

It wasn't for lack of effort from Varnado, who hit all 8 of his shots from the floor, knocked down 6 of 8 free throws, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked 7 shots. His 22 points led all scorers, but his teammates shot a losing 18-54 from the field, a 33.3% performance that isn't going to get the job done in the SEC or any other conference, for that matter. Keep an eye on Jarvis, though, as he'll likely be heading to the pros next season.

Notable: Sophomore Isaiah Thomas poured in 30 points for the #14 Huskies as Washington topped pesky Wright State, 74-69 to open their 2009-10 campaign. Thomas, no relation to the former Detroit Piston star by the same name (different spelling: Isiah), led the Huskies in scoring in 08-09 and is off to a smart start, hitting 7 of 14 from the field, including 2 of 7 from 3-point range and 14 of 18 freebies.

#1 Kansas wasted no time in establishing themselves as the team to beat in the Big 12, with a 101-65 thumping of tiny Hofstra. The Jayhawks showed off their top recruit, freshman guard Xavier Henry, who led the scoring parade with 27 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including 5-of-8 from outside the arc and 6-6 from the charity stripe. The sharpshooting guard did all his damage in a mere 24 minutes of floor time.

College Hoops 2009-10 New Format

This marks the 6th season in which I'll be blogging on College Basketball, and every year I go through the same thought process - how can one post per day make an impact, provide readers with something entertaining and consistent, something readers can come back to daily.

What I've discovered, after years of doing Baseball on Deck, my daily in-season baseball blog, is a format which may work well for college hoops: the Player of the Day, or POTD, as I like to call it. On my baseball blog, I choose a player from each of the two leagues, National and American, who had a star performance from the previous night, write that up and link to the box score, and that seems to work well with baseball fans.

Since there aren't two leagues in the NCAA, my workload will be a little lighter, as I'll be highlighting just one player who has an outstanding on-court performance. What's nice about this format is that you can search for a player or team through the labels, or tags, and you'll get just the posts related to that player or team.

In addition, this space will also delve into standings, conference battles and other issues surrounding college hoops, plus, game previews and recaps, and more extensive coverage come tourney time.

OK, the kids are already on the court, so let's get going...

Monday, April 06, 2009

BLUE HEAVEN AGAIN! Tar Heels Take 5th Championship

North Carolina Tar Heels (34-4) 89, Michigan State Spartans (31-7) 72

Two teams met on the court Monday night, but one, the North Carolina Tar Heels, was clearly superior.

North Carolina rolled out to a 17-7 lead, hitting 6 of their first seven shots including 2 3-pointers and 3 of 4 free throws. Then, the Tar Heels went on a 6-1 run to lead 24-8, and expanded on that, leading by 20 or more for most of the first half. North Carolina's 55-34 lead at the break was the largest lead and highest first half point total in a championship game.

Michigan State could just not stay with the kids from the Carolinas. Wayne Ellington scored 17 first-half points, on 7 of 9 shooting, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. Carolina was 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. In the first half, Ty Lawson tied the championship game record of 7 steals for a full game. The rout was on, and only a miracle could keep prevent the Tar Heels from their fifth national championship, and the Spartans were all out of those.

Having beaten two #1 seeds already, they found the third time more harmful than charming, as the Tar Heels maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. The spartans cut it to 13 points with under five minutes to play, but their 21 turnovers really hut them and they could not match North Carolina's size, speed and play in the paint, where the Heels were just plain kickin' it.

Ty Lawson, who set a new NCAA championship game record with 8 steals, led all scorers with 21 points, followed by Ellington's 19 and 18 by Tyler Hansbrough.

Ed Davis and Deon Thompson chipped in 11 and 9, respectively. For coach Roy Williams, his second national championship in six years at North Carolina was a testament to his outstanding coaching ability.

The Tar Heels were widely believed the team to beat even before the season began, and that prognosis proved true. North Carolina won the championship game by nearly the average margin they had won their first five tournament games, 21 points, showing that they were not only championship quality but truly among the elite teams of all time. Truly, throughout the 6 games, they were never really tested, except in the second round, when they were down by 1 to LSU with 5 minutes left, but won that game by 12.

They may have won the title in the city of Detroit, but nothing could be finer than to be from Carolina this time.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

National Championship Analysis: Tar Heels vs. Spartans

Here we go with the final game of the 2008-09 college hoops season with the National Championship game Monday night at Ford Field in detroit, Michigan, pitting the Michigan State Spartans against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tip time is 9:21 pm EDT.

North Carolina Tar Heels (33-4) (-7 1/2, 152 1/2) Michigan State Spartans (31-6)
How they got here (all stats for NCAA tournament only):
Michigan State beat Robert Morris, 77-62; USC, 74-69; Kansas 67-62; Louisville, 64-52; Connecticut, 82-73.
North Carolina beat Radford, 101-58; LSU, 84-70; Gonzaga, 98-77; Oklahoma, 72-60; Villanova, 83-69.

Average Points Scored
Michigan St.: 72.8
North Carolina: 87.6

Average Points Allowed:
Michigan St.: 63.6
North Carolina: 66.8

Average Margin of Victory:
Michigan St.: 9.2
North Carolina: 20.8

Just looking at the raw numbers, it's easy to see how the oddsmakers have the Tar Heels installed as 7 1/2-point favorites. If they play as they have, on average, Michigan State will score 69.8 points against North Carolina, but the Tar Heels will put in 75.7 points, so we come up with a final score of 76-70, in favor of North Carolina, meaning that the Tar Heels capture the national title, but don't cover the spread. Also, the number (146) falls short of the over/under of 152 1/2.

In the parlance of Las Vegas, this is called hedging. The Tar Heels maybe should only be favored by 6 points, and the O/U lower by 6 1/2, but owing to the idea that more people will bet the favorite, they're going to pay a premium. Those betting that Michigan State either wins or covers get an additional 1 1/2-point boost in their wager. Naturally, 1 1/2 points is nothing in a college basketball game, but the Las Vegas sharpies who calculate these things are uncanny at getting the final result right.

Further, since there are going to be more people betting on Carolina, their hope is that the Spartans pull off the upset, becaue the money line is massively tilted toward a North Carolina victory. You have to put up 360 to make 100 on a flat bet (no points) on the Tar Heels, though you could put up 100 to make 300 making a similar wager on Michigan State. Essentially, Vegas is saying that North Carolina is a 3-1 favorite, which, as most of us already know, is a pretty heavy choice.

How Carolina wins is pretty understandable. First, there's history. Earlier this season, the two teams met at the very same site, Ford Field, with Carolina romping to a 98-63 win. It was Carolina's 8th game of the season, Michigan State's 6th.

Two items stand out from that encounter. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State's point guard, scored 6 points and dished 5 assists. He's arguably a better player now than he was then, but by how much? Playing opposite Ty Lawson, who is possibly the best point guard in the nation, Lucas can't be expected to fare that much better in the final. Give him 15 points and 8 assists, and it's still a 24-point win for Carolina.

The second point is that Goran Suton, Michigan State's steady center, did not play. Suton is good for at least 12 points and 10 rebounds, even against the mighty Tar Heels. Those numbers are a little better than his season average, so give the Spartans another 12 points, plus 4 more due to the additional board strength. That still leaves Michigan State on the short end of the score by 8, which means there is hardly any way the Spartans can win this game, unless...

Draymond Green, a 6'6" freshman who plays bigger, and Delvon Roe, a 6'8" frosh, can contribute more on both ends of the floor. This is likely, since neither of them scored a single point in that December pasting, though Roe was fairly productive in his 26 minutes, with 8 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Green played all of 6 minutes and fouled out. That's unlikely to happen again, considering the additional time both players are likely to see in the final.

Michigan State got an incredible 33 points from its bench in their semifinal win over UConn, many of those on layups and dunks in the fast break. will the Spartans actually try to outrun the Tar Heels. They just might, as it seems to be one way to get some quick scores and settle in on defense, which is the heart of Michigan State success.

With that in mind, the big stat - which probably won't come into play here, though it might - is that the Spartans are 30-0 when holding their opponent to less than 70 points. Of North Carolina's four losses, the lowest point total was 70, against Florida State in the ACC tournament. In the other three, they scored 75, 78 and 89. If North Carolina pours in 80 or more, their chances of winning are enormous, because Michigan State has only topped that number 4 times, the last just two days ago. The Spartans can score, but the Tar Heels - for all intents and purposes - can score more, so the idea of running on them sounds more like suicide than success.

Michigan State will throw more players into the mix, that's a given, but, even though those players may have fresh legs, they probably won't have much impact against North Carolina's impressive offense, which can hurt teams on the inside or out, with heft in the middle and gunners on the wings. Unless Michigan State comes up huge, or the Carolina kids have an off night shooting, this one looks like a pretty big win for the Tar Heels.

The other factor which may come into play is the fact that it's a virtual home game for Michigan State. Whether that matters much or at all remains to be seen. The Tar Heels are battle-tested and enjoy advantages in many aspects of the game - size, experience, three-point shooting, among the top reasons. Ty Lawson at the point and Tyler Hansbrough in the post are WMBs - Weapons of Monstrous Ballin' - who are unlikely to be denied.

Michigan State has provided some of the tournament's best moments in the regionals and semifinals, taking out the best teams from the Big East - Louisville and Connecticut - while the Tar Heels disemboweled Villanova. It's interesting, that for all the Big East hype all season long, none of their teams are represented in the national championship game. It's Big Ten vs. ACC.

One final word about this game needs to be mentioned. This North Carolina team may be one of the best ever, rivaling the great Michael Jordan-Sam Perkins-James Worthy era. If they win this game, which they should, will we someday come back to look at this national championship and say, "Wow, Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington all on the same team?" Maybe. I count as many as seven potential NBA players on the North Carolina roster right now, and there may be more. Danny Green, who has come through big during the tournament run, is not the most overlooked player on this squad, at least not now. That award would go to Deon Thompson, the 6'8" junior foward who's in on every loose ball, banging in the middle with the giants of every team, quietly doing all the little things like boxing out, swatting away shots and providing backside defense without any acclaim. He and Green make this team special.

North Carolina will win handily.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 84 Michigan State 71

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It's Spartans vs. Tar Heels for the National Championship!

In college basketball, coaching matters. Having either more contributors or just better players also makes a difference. But both Michigan State and North Carolina made it though the meat-grinder that is the NCAA tournament largely because the respective coaches - Michigan State's Tom Izzo and North Carolina's Roy Williams - have been there before, guiding their youthful charges to overcome the hype, media, fans, confusion and pressure that are obstacles along the way to achieving the lofty goal of one shining moment.

What began more than a fortnight ago with 65 teams, has now been whittled down to just two. Here's how each team fared in their last outing. More detailed analysis will follow tomorrow in anticipation of the national title game.

(2) Michigan State 82, (1) Connecticut 73
ESPN Box Score

The stats don't like for the Spartans. They are simply unbeatable (30-0) when holding opponents under 70 points, and while this one doesn't qualify technically, it had all of the earmarks of a Michigan State, defense-first victory. The game was, as are many of the Spartans wins of this 2008-09 vintage, closely played, with neither team able to gather an advantage though the first half, which ended with Michigan State up by 2 points, 38-36.

Michigan State took control early in the second half, when consecutive layups by Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen gave the Spartans a 53-49 lead with just over 13 minutes left. After that, they would never trail or be tied again. Failure to hit anything from the perimeter by the Huskies allowed Michigan State defenders to pack the lane and make entry passes difficult for UConn. As usual, every shot was contested, and as the Huskies struggled for offense, the Spartan lead expanded to 8, then 10, then finally, 11, on Raymar Morgan's dunk at 3:21.

Morgan was one of the difference-makers for Michigan State, scoring 18 points and 9 boards, his best outing in the tournament. Lucas led all scorers with 21. The Spartans got an incredible 33 points from their bench. In the basketball world of Tom Izzo, it's still a team game. Everybody plays, and that was one of the most decisive aspects of this win. The Connecticut players were simply outmanned in the end as Izzo shuffled players in and out of the game throughout.

(1) North Carolina 83, (3) Villanova 69
ESPN Box Score

In stark contrast to the first game, North Carolina's explosive offense made this one rather one-sided right away, establishing a big early lead, hitting 10 f their first 15 shots, 3 of them from beyond the arc. Less than 10 minutes in, it was 26-12 and the Tar Heels just continued to roll along. Villanova eventually cut the lead down to 9 at the break, and to 5 early in the second half, but North Carolina responded to the challenge and played at a high tempo throughout.

While the tar Heels raced up and down and around the Wildcats, Villanova could not buy a bucket, especially from three-point range, where they hit just 4 of 28. By comparison, the Tar Heels were more efficient, nailing 11-22 threes.

Wayne Ellington and Danny Green were the deadliest bombers for Carolina. Green hit 4 of 10, while Ellington splashed 5 of 7. Ty Lawson was the game's high scorer, with 22 points; Tyler Hansbrough had his second double-double of the tournament, scoring 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Final Four Analysis (Part 2) North Carolina vs. Villanova

Final Four Game 2, Saturday, April 4, 2009
Ford Field, Detroit, MI

(1) North Carolina (32-4) (-7, 158 1/2) (3) Villanova (30-7) 8:47 pm - The dark horse from the Big East, Villanova, is also possibly the most balanced and talented team overall from the conference. It's fitting that they'll face off with North Carolina, as both teams possess very subtle, but important similarities. Both teams are solid in the backcourt, strong up front, rebounds well and has no single player without which they cannot survive, though it could be argued that if Carolina is without either point guard Ty Lawson or forward Tyler Hansbrough, or the Wildcats are missing Dante Cunningham or Scottie Reynolds, their games would suffer on both ends.

So, there are the first and second similarities, at point guard and strong forward, where the Tar Heels seem to have edges. While Reynolds is as fine a point guard as can be found, Lawson is simply extraordinary, a gifted ball-handler with speed and quickness that has yet to be matched in this tournament. Where Reynolds evens things out, however, is in the strength department. Lawson probably won't be able to handle Reynolds man-to-man, and that could cause trouble for North Carolina. It's easy to see how both point guards will be able to penetrate into the lane and raise havoc. In that regard, the matchup becomes a draw.

In the power forward area, Tyler Hansbrough has a heft advantage over Cunningham. He is the more physical of the two, though Cunningham has better range and is quicker on his feet, so once again, the edge, if there is one, is marginal. Both players can play to their strengths within the offense. Look for Cunningham to set up either at the foul line or on the wing away from the basket. From either of those positions, he can either aid the offense with ball movement and screens or, should he so choose, shoot over Hansbrough while also drawing him away from the basket.

When Hansbrough is on offense, he'll want to be active in the low post, where he can hope to overpower his opponent for layups and dunks or feeds to his teammates for the same.

Cunningham will stand his ground, though he's not going to get a whole lot of help from teammates, and Carolina can also go very large, inserting either of their big freshmen, 6'10" Ed Davis or 7'0" Tyler Zeller. 6'8 Deon Thompson starts and plays much bigger. Compare those beasts with what Villanova puts on the floor. Cunningham is 6'8", Dwayne Anderson checks in at 6'6", and sub Shane Clark is 6'7". Also crashing the board will be Reggie Redding, who goes 6.5", but the Tar Heels have an obvious height edge in the lane.

A wild card in this game, as he usually is, is Danny Green, who lit up Oklahoma for 18 points in the Tar Heels' 72-60 win. Green is a do-it-all kind of player who will stick his nose in anywhere, can get out on the break, hit jumpers and rebound with the big boys. His counterpart on the Wildcats is Anderson, who has had some big games during the tournament, is seasoned and capable of guarding the best athletes on the floor. Again, whatever advantage North Carolina has with Green, it is offset by the defensive abilities by the corresponding Villanova player.

If there's an edge in terms of coaching, it has to go to Roy Williams, who is making his 7th appearance in the Final Four and has a championship ring, earned in 2005 with the Tar Heels. Villanova coach Jay Wright is the only coach in the Final Four (his first) without an NCAA championship. Williams has an experience edge. Wright will get some here.

In the final analysis, North Carolina looks indomitable on the inside and, with Lawson healthy, he's going to be difficult for even Reynolds to contain. The overall size and depth of the Tar Heel bench, plus the smarts of coach Williams makes North Carolina the team most likely to advance. Villanova's defense and heart will keep them in the game and not allow the Tar Heels to establish a huge runaway lead, but down the stretch, North Carolina has the players who can come up with the really big plays in Lawson, Hansbrough and Green. They're no lock to cover the spread, which will probably come down to the final minutes and free throws vs. three-pointers, but they seem capable of prevailing. The Over/Under is an equally risky proposition, as the oddsmakers seem to have that number nailed.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 85 Villanova 75

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Final Four Analysis (Part 1) Michigan St. vs. Connecticut

Final Four Game 1, Saturday, April 4, 2009
Ford Field, Detroit, MI

(1) Connecticut (31-4) (-4, 131 1/2) (2) Michigan State (30-6) 6:07 pm - Hoops fans could not have asked for a more balanced Final Four, with two teams from the nation's best conference, the Big East, and one each from the Big Ten and ACC. Interestingly, two of the three Big East #1 seeds did not make it to Detroit, as Louisville - the #1 overall seed - and Pitt were ousted in their respected regional finals. However, Villanova picked up the Big East slack, by beating Pitt but still representing the conference.

In the matchup between UConn and Michigan State, the player which stands out most prominently is the Huskies' 7'3" man in the middle, Hasheem Thabeet, who is a terror to anyone who dares drive to the tin, swatting away would be layups with alarming regularity. Keeping Thabeet out of foul trouble will be coach Jim Calhoun's main concern. For Tom Izzo, finding a way around, over or through the big guy is the challenge.

Izzo used an interesting ploy in his win over Louisville, spotting his own big man, Goran Suton, at the high post offensively. Suton responded with key jumpers, three of them 3-pointers, four assists and 10 boards (4 offensive). He proved to be the absolute key to beating the Cardinals by sticking to the coach's plan and executing to perfection. Should Izzo determine to employ the same tactic, Connecticut will be not caught unaware. They can either choose to send Thabeet out to play man-to-man on Suton, though that would open up the inside, where Michigan's slashers and drivers, particularly point guard Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan (shut out against the Cardinals) might just find a happy place in the lane.

Calhoun has other options, however, one being keeping Thabeet in the low post and putting the more athletic Stanley Robinson on Suton to limit his effectiveness by contesting his shots or denying him the ball. Robinson is a good match for Suton, being just an inch shorter than the 6'10" Spartan.

Besides Suton, Michigan State has some limitations when it comes to offense, though the play of Lucas during the late regular season and into the post-season has been a real boost for Michigan State. He is speedy and a deft ball-handler, though he's prone to hoisting treys more often than coach Izzo might like. Almost as comic relief, Lucas has been hitting at a respectable 40% during the tournament, including 2-of-4 against Louisville.

The other Spartan player who's been a boost during the tournament is Durrell Summers, who filled in the scoring nicely over the past three games, scoring 11 against USC, 9 against Kansas and 12 against the cardinals. His contribution and ability to bury a number of treys (4 of 6 during the tournament) will be another key to Michigan State's success.

For the Huskies, they cannot rely heavily upon Thabeet for scoring because he does so much work on defense, though sending the ball into the low post and trying to get Suton in foul trouble is a ploy Calhoun no doubt has under consideration. The bulk of the scoring will come from A.J. Price (averaging 20 ppg in the NCAAs), point guard Kemba Walker (who exploded for 23 against Missouri) and Robinson (15 ppg). Craig Austrie has been inconsistent, missing all 6 of his three-point attempts in the Huskies' opener against Chattanooga, but going 3-for-3 beyond the arc and scoring 17 points against Purdue.

Getting points against the stingy Spartan defense will not be easy for Connecticut. All of their players are hard-nosed defenders, and Lucas is probably a bit of an overmatch for Walker at the point. Though Walker should hold his own, don't expect him to blow by Lucas more than a couple times. The Michigan State point guard is the embodiment of quickness and speed.

If the pace of the game is to Michigan's liking, forcing the Huskies to work hard for every basket, they may be able to get out on the break on a number of occasions. Suton is especially good at getting up and down the floor in a hurry, while Thabeet is not. Expect the Michigan State big man to be on the receiving end of a number of passes to the post or the happy trailer on the break.

The real kicker in this game is UConn's Jeff Adrian and his ability to hit jumpers from inside 15 feet. When he's on, the Huskies are virtually unbeatable. When he's not, which is often enough to raise concerns, UConn is vulnerable.

If there is one big key or stat it's this: Michigan is 30-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. While Connecticut can generally put up 75 points or more, they do have 9 wins (and 3 losses) when they have scored in the 60s, so they are capable of playing the defense-first game as well. It would not be a surprise for the Huskies to score 65 points and win, though a final score in that range surely works in Michigan State's favor.

Both coaches have been here before, and Calhoun has a pair of championship rings to Izzo's one, so there's no advantage when it comes to sideline smarts. Bottom line, this could go either way. Giving Michigan State points at this juncture might just be a mistake, as they've turned back the critics with crisp play thus far and have shown incredible heart and desire, key factors in tournament play. Take the points and hope nobody scores for the first five minutes. That will help Michigan State's confidence.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 67 Connecticut 63

Tomorrow: Part 2: Villanova vs. North Carolina