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...