Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh, Those Johnnies! Hardy Gets 26 as St. John's Humbles Duke

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 30, 2011

Following the spate of wins by unranked teams over those in the Top 25 (we're not calling them "upsets" anymore), Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils should have seen their annual trek to Madison Square Garden as more than a jaunty visit to the Big Apple for a win and some shopping.

St. John's Red Storm was ready and waiting for the #3 Blue Devils and came out with incredible energy and ran past Duke defenders like they weren't even there. In the first half - totally under the control of the Johnnies - they raced to a 46-25 lead to essentially put the contest to rest. Duke didn't help its cause by missing its first ten three-point attempts and hitting just one three in the first half. Meanwhile, St. John's was scoring on dunks, layups and short jumpers.

Duke tried to rally in the second half, to little avail, as the Red Storm just kept shooting and hitting, going 32-of-55 for the game (58%). They only shot five three-pointers, making three of them. when the buzzer sounded at the end of 40 minutes of frenetic St. John's styling, Duke had not only been vanquished, but humiliated, 93-78, the highest point total for the season for St. John's and the most - by a whopping 14 points - that Duke had given up all season.

Senior guard Dwight Hardy led the scoring party with 26 points, going 9-for-13 from the field with a pair of treys and 6-for-6 from the line. Fellow senior Mark Brownlee added 20 points and 9 rebounds. Seven st. John's players scored, five of them were in double figures.

Duke's Nolan Smith led all scorers with 32 points - one off his season's high. He and Kyle Singler (20 points) were the only Blue Devils in double figures.

The loss was just the second of the season for Duke (19-2) while St. John's improved to 12-8, ending a string of three straight losses and five in their last six. The win concluded a run of eight straight games in which the Red Storm faced a ranked opponent. They went 3-5 over that stretch, but the schedule doesn't get much easier. The Johnnies face Rutgers on Wednesday, then fly out to UCLA for a Saturday game before returning to New York to host #5 Connecticut.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Holloway Scores 33 as Xavier Wins 7th Straight; Top 25 Recap

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 29, 2011

The way Top 25 teams are falling like so many dominoes, the pollsters might want to take a look at the Atlantic 10, where two, maybe three teams should find their way into the NCAA tournament come March.

Those two or three would be Temple, Duquesne and Xavier. The Musketeers in particular have been pounding the opposition in their conference, their latest being an 85-62 romp at Richmond, in which junior guard Tu Holloway - 12th nationally in points per game at 21.1 - poured in a season high 33 points.

The victory was the 7th straight for Xavier, all against conference foes. All but one of their recent wins have been by double digits. Only Dayton and George Washington came anywhere close, losing 81-76 and 81-74, respectively.

Holloway scored from everywhere on the floor, and hit 17-of-17 free throws as the Spider defenders simply couldn't handle him.

NOTABLE: There have been more upsets this week than anyone expected; losses to Top 25 teams continue to mount. There is the distinct possibility that these wins by unranked teams are not actually upsets, but more indicative of the leveling of talent across the conferences.

Naturally, there are some teams that have risen above the fray, most notably, Ohio State, Pitt and Kansas, each which won on Saturday, though the Buckeyes and Panthers were in nail-biters. Top-ranked Ohio State went down to the wire at Northwestern, skipping past the Wildcats by a 58-57 score.

#2 Pitt withstood a challenge at Rutgers, emerging with a narrow, 65-62 victory. #6 Kansas had a much easier time with Kansas State, whipping the Wildcats, 90-66. Also in the Big 12, #7 Texas easily beat #11 Missouri, 71-58. Both the Longhorns and Jayhawks were winners at home, but look like the clear leaders in the conference.

Elsewhere, ranked teams were dropping by the hour. #23 Louisville downed #5 UConn in overtime, 79-78. The 21st-ranked Hoyas defeated #8 Villanova, 69-66, and #12 Purdue held home court for a 73-61 win over #16 Minnesota.

The biggest surprise of the day came when the Lobos of New Mexico bounced #9 BYU, 86-77, just days after the Cougars had beaten #4 San Diego State. The Aztecs regrouped on Saturday for a 96-57 rout of Wyoming.

Syracuse, ranked #9 along with BYU, lost their 4th straight game, falling at Marquette, 76-70. Penn State continued to flex its muscles at home, whipping #16 Wisconsin, 56-52.

There were more: Clemson beat #22 Florida State, the only team to have beaten Duke this season. Mississippi state beat #24 Florida, #13 Texas A&M fell at Nebraska and unranked Arkansas defeated #19 Vanderbilt, 89-78, on the Commodores' home court.

With all those losses, it's really difficult to classify these games as upsets. More to the point, it appears teams are going through growing and learning phases, as teams that didn't start well are beginning to find their ways and the crowd of traditional leaders is losing theirs.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Harvard, Princeton Look Like Class of Ivy League

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, January 28, 2011

Last season, Cornell was the team from the Ivy League that made significant noise in the NCAA tournament, knocking of Temple and Wisconsin before finally falling to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16.

It's a down year for the Big Red this time around, though. With most of their starters having graduated, Cornell is just 4-13, 0-3 in conference and at the bottom of the Ivy League standings. The torch has been passed to traditional rivals Princeton (13-4) and Harvard (14-3).

Those two are atop the Ivy League, though Princeton has just one win in conference, it's only game, while Harvard went to 3-0 Friday night with a 77-66 win over Columbia.

Sophomore Kyle Casey came up big for the Crimson, with a season-high 17 points to go with 13 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. At 6'7", 215, Casey does most of his work close to the rim, leaving the outside open for Christian Webster, who nailed 4-of-5 three-pointers in the win.

Harvard has put together a string of seven straight wins, including victories at Boston College and George Washington. They've won 12 straight at home, dating back to last season.

So far, Harvard has only been badly beaten by UConn and George Mason, both of those coming on the road. Their December 4 loss to Michigan was a squeaker, 65-62. The play at Princeton next Friday, February 4.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vandy is Dandy in SEC: Tops Miss. St. on Road

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeffrey Taylor lit up the Mississippi State Bulldogs' phantom defense for 25 points and stole a win on the road, 81-74, reinvigorating the Commodores with their first SEC road win after a couple of tough losses at Georgia and Tennessee in recent weeks.

Boosting the record to 3-2 in the conference, the Commodores remain two games behind SEC East leader Florida (5-1) and tied with Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee, though the way they played against the Bulldogs - regarded as one of the best in the SEC West - they may be on the verge of breaking away from the pack.

Taylor, the 6'7" junior forward, who also had 3 steals and 5 boards, scored from everywhere on the floor, hitting three treys and a number of in-close baskets by hitting the offensive boards. The game was close throughout, but Vandy showed considerable grit in the closing minutes, making shots while Dee Bost and the Bulldogs were missing theirs.

Ranked #19 in the AP poll, the Commodores return home to face Arkansas on Saturday before a key test at Florida on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd.

Notable: Proving that the Big East has no lock on upsets, the Indiana Hoosiers downed #20 Illinois, 52-49, and Michigan upset #25 Michigan State, 61-57, in Big Ten action. For the Spartans, the loss was their 4th in the conference, evening their record at 4-4, but it probably marked the end of their being ranked, as they drop to 15-8.

Head coach Tom Izzo dismissed guard Korie Lucious from the team for undisclosed violations of team rules. Lucious was leading the Spartans in assists ad was usually the first man off the bench. with his departure, Michigan State can probably be moved from NCAA bubble team to definitely out of the tournament this year, just a season removed from a Final Four appearance.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cougars Slash Aztecs; Buckeyes Stand Alone

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BYU, the 9th-ranked team in the nation, mauled #4 San Diego State, 71-58, as Jimmer Fredette pumped in 43 points - a point more than he had in his last game and his second-highest single-game point total of the season - leaving the Ohio State Buckeyes as the only undefeated team in college basketball.

The Cougars, facing San Diego State for the first time this season, took advantage of home court with the nation's top scorer (27.4 ppg), busting the game open late in the second half. Fredette had one of his best performances of the season, hitting 14-of-24 from the field, with five three-pointers. He also nailed 10-of-11 from the foul line. The 43 points was surpassed only by the 47 he put up at Utah on January 11.

BYU (20-1, 6-0) has won 10 straight, and 14 in a row at home, extending back into last season. San Diego State dropped to 20-1, and 5-1 in the Mountain West, where they now trail the Cougars by a game. The rematch comes February 26 at San Diego State.

NOTABLE: The Big East keeps surprising everybody with its depth as upsets continue to pour in this week. Notre Dame knocked off Pitt on Monday; Seton Hall dumped Syracuse, Tuesday, so it was fitting the Providence took the measure of #8 Villanova, 83-68, Wednesday night. The Friars, just 2-6 in conference games, sent the Wildcats to their second conference loss and a 5-2 record, tied with Louisville and UConn for second place in the Big East, behind 7-1 Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Buckeyes Pound Purdue; Buford Leads with 19 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Although the game was billed as a Top 25 match-up with intriguing conference implications, Purdue's visit to #1 Ohio State quickly turned from a contest to a rout, with the Buckeyes cementing their hold on the top spot in the polls and the Big Ten with a one-sided, 87-64 victory that was a done deal within the first fifteen minutes.

Ohio State used an 11-0 run to establish a 20-point half time lead which ballooned to as many as 31 in the second frame. Though JaJuan Johnson led all scorers with 22 points, Will Buford was the best of six double-figure scorers for the Buckeyes, with 19 points on deadeye shooting. The Ohio State junior was 6-for-8 from the field, including 5-for-6 on three-point shots.

The top-ranked Buckeyes improved to 21-0 and 8-0 in the Big Ten. Purdue, their closest pursuer, is 6-2. Yhe Buckeyes, along with #4 San Diego State, are the only unbeaten teams in the nation.

NOTABLE: While Ohio State looks to make a shambles of the Big Ten, the Big East gets more interesting and contentious by the day. After Notre Dame knocked off Pitt on Monday, Seton Hall went into the Carrier Dome and absolutely decimated Syracuse, 90-68, sending the Orange to their third straight loss following an 18-0 start to their season. Jeremy Hazell, back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for 13 games, led the scoring parade with 28 points.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hansbrough, Irish Burn #2 Pitt

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 24, 2011

On a day in which the Pitt Panthers rose to the #2 team in the national polls, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame invaded the Peterson Events Center and spoiled the fun with a slowdown offense and a big night from senior guard Ben Hansbrough.

What Notre Dame did with its aptly-named Burn offense - which relates to "burning the clock" - was to slow down the pace and use up 25 of the 35 seconds on the shot clock before going into their offense. The tactic worked well enough to keep the Irish within five points (28-23) at the half, after which they turned loose their point guard.

Hansbrough scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, as Notre Dame assumed the lead and kept the Panthers at bay. He scored 13 of the last 18 points for the Irish, mostly on drives to the hoop from the top of the key. The slowdown offense and Hansbrough's deft ball-handling resulted in a huge, 56-51, road win for the 16th-ranked Irish and the end of a 20-game home winning streak for Pitt.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leuer, Gasser Lead #18 Badgers over Northwestern

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 23, 2011

When Jon Leuer is hitting his shots, the Wisconsin Badgers are tough to beat. That became evident early on in Sunday's tilt at Northwestern. Leuer hit eight of his ten shots, including a 2-for-2 effort from 3-point land, for a game-high 19 points in just 21 minutes of floor time. The Badgers stormed to a 45-26 lead at the half and cruised to a 78-46 victory as freshman Josh Gasser recorded the first triple-double in school history with 10 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds.

The Badgers improved to 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten, good for third place in the conference standings, behind 7-0 Ohio State and 6-1 Purdue. The Boilermakers play at Ohio state this Tuesday night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brown Scores 23 as Longhorns Cut Down Kansas

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 22, 2011

Led by sophomore J'Covan Brown's 23 points, the Texas Longhorns stormed Phog Allen Fieldhouse and snapped the nation's longest home winning streak, knocking off #2 Kansas, 74-63.

The streak had gone 69 games, since a 69-64 loss to Texas Tech on February 3, 2007, but the Longhorns didn't look like the team to break it in the early going. Kansas opened the game on a 10-0 run and led 35-23 as the teams left the court after one half.

The second half was all Texas, as the #10 Longhorns outscored the Jayhawks, 51-28, completely turning the game around. Brown hit a pair of three-pointers on consecutive trips to give Texas the lead and Jordan Hamilton, who had 17 points and 9 rebounds, helped the Longhorns build and maintain their advantage down the stretch.

Coming off the bench, Brown hit 6-of-10 shots, including 3-of-6 threes. He was 8-of-10 from the foul line. His game-high scoring burst was also his season high.

The loss by Kansas was their first of the year, after 18 straight wins, leaving just #1 Ohio State and #6 San Diego State - both 20-0 - as the only unbeaten teams in the country. Texas (16-3) now supplants the Jayhawks in first place in the Big 12, at 4-0.

NOTABLE: The Syracuse loyal jammed the Carrier Dome with the largest crowd this season to see a college basketball game (33,736), but #7 Villanova hit their three-pointers and handed the #3 Orange their second straight loss, 83-72. Winning in the dome seems to be becoming a habit for the Wildcats. No Big East team has more wins in the building than they do.

Elsewhere, #1 Ohio State won a nick-and-tuck road contest over the 20th-ranked Fighting Illini, 73-68. The Buckeyes look like a sure bet to remained ranked at the top for the second consecutive week.

#8 Connecticut handled Tennessee, 72-61 and #5 Pitt easily outdistanced DePaul, 80-50, and #4 Duke won, 83-59 at Wake Forest.

On the losing end, Vanderbilt got the measure of #22 St. Mary's, 89-70, hitting 52% from the filed and 50% (11-of-22) from three-point range. In Providence, the Friars upended Louisville, 72-67.

Matt Howard Turns in another Strong Performance for Butler

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2011

Butler's senior leader, Matt Howard - who was the Horizon League's Player of the Year as a sophomore - is making a bid for the same honor this season.

Through Friday night's 81-75 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay, Howard led the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks, and, conference-wide, was second in both scoring and rebounding.

Howard aided his cause, and that of the Bulldog's quest for their fifth straight Horizon League regular season title, with 29 points and 16 boards, leading Butler to their 14th win against 6 losses. Tied with Cleveland State and Wright State (who beat Butler, 69-64, this past Sunday) in second place at 6-2 in the Horizon, the trio is chasing 7-1 Valparaiso for the league's top spot.

The Friday night effort by Howard was his fifth double-double of the season. He's scored in double figures in 18 of Butler's 20 games this season.

Butler defeated Valparaiso, 76-59, back on January 1st, and the two teams will meet in a rematch - at Valparaiso - on January 29, the first of three straight road games for the Bulldogs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Badgers Take Down Hoosiers behind Taylor's 28

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 20, 2011

One of just two Top 25 teams in action on Thursday - the other was #20 Washington, which dispatched Arizona, 85-68, and retained the PAC-10 lead - the Wisconsin Badgers got a bit of a test from Indiana, but in the end managed to prevail at home, 69-60.

Led by their signature defense, the Badgers turned around a 34-30 deficit at the half with ball pressure and timely scoring, getting a career high 28 points from junior guard Jordan Taylor, who hit 9-of-15 shots from the field, including three treys and went 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Taylor also handled eight rebounds and dished four assists.

The Badgers improved to 14-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten. They are currently tied for third place with Michigan State and Illinois behind 6-0 Ohio State and 5-1 Purdue. They've won 14 straight games at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Longhorns Bust Up Aggies on Jordan Hamilton's 27

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jordan Hamilton had 27 points and 8 rebounds and the #10 Texas Longhorns prevailed in their showdown with #11 Texas A&M, bruising the Aggies, 81-60.

The Longhorns opened with a flurry, while the Aggies couldn't get the ball in the bucket, opening a 20-5 lead at the start of the contest. From there. A&M tried to rein in the Texas shooters, and got to within five points, but could not get much closer than their 39-27 half time deficit after the Longhorns went on another scoring spurt.

Hamilton, Texas' leading scorer, hit 10-of-14 shots from the field, including three 3-pointers. He was part of a Longhorn front court assault aided by 18 points from freshman Tristan Thompson and 14 by senior Gary Johnson.

Texas shot 58% for the game and also canned 19-of-22 free throws. The Longhorns outrebounded the Aggies, 33-25 and produced 16 assists to the Aggies' 7.

The result left Texas tied with Kansas for the Big 12 lead at 3-0. A&M and Colorado sit 1/2 game behind, at 3-1. The win broke a 13-game Aggie win streak and boosted the Texas record to 15-3 overall. The A&M loss was just their second of the season, leaving them at 16-2. They were last beaten by Boston College, 67-65.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kentucky Stumped by Alabama, 68-66; Green Leads with Double-Double

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One look at the SEC standings is not enough to understand what's going on in this topsy-turvy conference. The only ranked team, #12 Kentucky, is a mere 2-2, having lost both of their road games - to Georgia on January 8, and Tuesday night at Alabama, 68-66.

The Wildcats, a team that usually has its way against less-basketball-minded SEC opponents, is very good, but also very youthful, depending largely on three freshmen to carry the scoring load.

Facing the Crimson Tide on Tuesday, the three kids - Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight - got their points (17, 16 and 14, respectively), but came up a field goal short against Alabama, the team that appears to be their chief rival in the conference.

Leading the wave for the Tide was junior JaMychal Green, the 6'8" forward who was unstoppable in the paint for much of the evening's festivities. Green led all scorers with 18 points and had 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. The Tide led by as many as 20 points in the second half and had to hold on for dear life as the Wildcats unleashed a furious comeback, ending with Jones launching a shot from 45 feet as the buzzer sounded.

The shot wasn't close and Alabama survived what may have been a "must win" kind of game for them, improving to 11-7 after early-season losses to Seton Hall, Iowa, Purdue and Providence, among others.

But that's what the roster of SEC teams looks like. Lots of 4, 5 , 6 and 7-loss records, spread evenly throughout the league. If Kentucky continues to flail about on the road, expect others, notably Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State to pick up the slack and find their ways into the national rankings.

While the SEC may send only three to five teams to the NCAA tourney in March, those who do arrive will have been well-seasoned and through the grinder of one of the more overlooked, but most contentious conferences in the country.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Robinson Leads Panthers Past Orange, 74-66

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 17, 2011

The greatly-anticipated Big East showdown between #3 Syracuse and #5 Pitt turned into a circus when Pitt scored the first 19 points of the game and then Syrcuse returned the favor by scoring 17 straight. When it was all sorted out in the second half, the superior rebounding ability of the Panthers - who outrebounded the Orange 44-30 - and the exceptional interior play of Nasir Robinson, resulted in a 74-66 home victory for the Panthers and the first loss of the season for the Orange.

Robinson scored a season-high 21 points to lead all scorers, hitting on 8-of-12 shots from the field, mostly within three feet of the hoop. He also added 7 rebounds as the Panthers took control of the Big East standings. They now lead the conference at 6-0, while the Orange drop to 5-1. Both teams are 18-1 overall.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Washington Pounds Cal; Rules the PAC-10

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 16, 2011

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with a season-high 27 points and distributed the ball with 13 assists - a career high - as the Washington Huskies cruised to a 92-71 win at Cal.

The chief beneficiaries of Thomas' largesse were Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, who scored 22 and 23 points, respectively. The 13-4 Huskies raced out to a 48-33 lead at the half, holding the Golden Bears at bay for the win. In five conference wins, the Huskies have soundly defeated their opponents, with three of the wins coming on the road - at USC, UCLA and Cal - winning by an average margin of 17.4 points. Their lone loss was a 58-56 setback at Stanford last week.

The Huskies lead the PAC-10 race by 1/2 game over Arizona (4-1), whom they face on Thursday, Jan. 20.

NOTABLE: West Virginia continues to prove one of the toughest unranked teams from the Big East. On Sunday, they held sway at home, topping #8 Purdue, 68-64, improving to 12-4, while giving the Boilermakers their 3rd loss against 15 wins.

The Big East was also the stage for the upset du jour, where the upstart St. John's Red storm sent Notre Dame back to Indiana with a 72-54 thumping. St. John's improved to 4-2 in the conference and 11-5 overall.

For the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, ESPN will be airing a quartet of exceptional match-ups. The festivities get underway at 3:30 pm with #7 Villanova at #10 UConn, followed by #21 Kansas State at #15 Missouri at 5:30 pm. At 7:30, the highlight of the day, as the 5th-ranked Pitt Panthers host undefeated #4 Syracuse. The hoops-junkie delight finishes up with #3 Kansas at Baylor at 9:30 pm. All times are Eastern.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Aggies Down Missouri in OT for 13th Straight Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 15, 2011

It was #15 at #14 when the Missouri Tigers met the Texas A&M Aggies at College Station on Saturday, and for a while it looked as though the lower-ranked Tigers were going to have their way, but the Aggies surged late to tie the game at 77 and win it, 91-89, in overtime.

Sophomore forward Khris Middleton scored 11 of his team's 14 point in the extra session, finishing with a game-high 28 points for the Aggies' 13th straight win, a 3-0 record in the Big 12 and a share of first place.

Middleton hit 9-of-16 shots, including a pair of threes, plus canned 8-of-10 from the foul line. He also had seven rebounds and four assists. The Aggies haven't lost a game since a 67-65 loss to Boston College on November 25. Middleton has scored in double figures in all but three A&M contests. The Aggies are 16-1

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gaels' Glover hits for 25 with 17 Boards in OT Win at Rider

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, January 14, 2011

with the major conferences idle Friday nights, it provides CBD a peek at some of the better teams from small conference, like the Metro Atlantic, the eventual champion of which will receive an automatic NCAA Tournament invitation.

At the top are Fairfield, which suffered its initial loss in the conference on Friday, losing a heartbreaker, 66-65, at Loyola which snapped an 11-game winning streak. The Stags are 5-1 in the conference, 12-4 overall and tied with Iona for the Metro lead.

Iona was pushed to the limit at Rider College, finally escaping with a 100-96 win in overtime. Topping both scoring and rebounding stat columns for the game was Michael Glover, the Gaels' 6'7" forward who dropped in 25 points and ripped down 17 boards in the win.

Averaging a double-double (21.5, 10.5), Glover accomplished the feat for the 11th time this season and equalled his career best in rebounding. While the Gaels improved to 5-1, Rider dropped to 4-2 in the Metro, so there's more drama to come from this mostly Northeast urban conference.

The Gaels play at Fairfield on February 4 and finish their regular season at home with a visit from the Stags on February 27. Those two games are likely to go a long way toward providing a regular season champion unless Rider rises and continues to compete.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mountaineers Climb Over Providence, 93-63

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 13, 2011

Of the various conferences in the country, the Big East is probably the deepest, and thus, the most difficult for a team to gain recognition. Remember, this is the conference in which undefeated Cincinnati didn't even make the Top 25 rankings this season until they were 15-0.

Coach Bob Huggins probably feels that his West Virginia squad is equally shunned by the polls and pundits. After all, they did reach the Final Four last season, and have a record of 11-4, deserving of some respect, though in the Big East, four losses at this juncture makes you an also-ran.

In Thursday's 93-63 romp over Providence, the Mountaineers served notice to the rest of the conference that they were in it to win it. After opening the Big East schedule with back-to-back losses to St. John's and Marquette, they've won three straight and have the players and system to get them through the remaining games with a solid record. John Flowers, a 6'7" senior forward, dominated the contest with the Friars, scoring a season-high and game-high 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting and added six rebounds, five blocked shots, three steals and five assists. Providence simply had no answer for him or fellow front-man Kevin Jones, who chipped in 19 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

The Mountaineers take a break from the Big East in the coming week, hosting Purdue on Sunday, january 16 and Marshall, Wednesday, January 19.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seminoles' Kitchen Throws in Sink; Blue Devils Stopped

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The widely-held belief that Duke could roll through their ACC schedule without a loss evaporated under the bright lights of Tallahassee's Donald L. Tucker Center, where the Florida State Seminoles proved to be more than the Blue Devils could handle, again.

Florida State is not unused to knocking off highly-ranked, unbeaten Duke squads. In fact, they do it with amazing regularity. The Seminoles knocked off top-ranked Duke squads in 2002 and 2006, both times on the Seminoles own hardwood. Wednesday night's 66-61 upset was the charmed third time in a decade.

On a night in which the Blue Devils couldn't score inside, they shot horribly from outside as well, making just 11 of 35 three-point attempts and shooting 31% overall. Florida State nailed 6 of 13 treys and shot 44% from the field, with senior guard Derwin Kitchen providing much of the offense at critical junctures. He led all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting which included 3 triples. The 6'4" shooter hauled in 10 rebounds, dished 3 assists and made 3 steals for good measure.

The Seminoles improved to 12-5 after losing three of their last four games. The loss was the first for Duke since March of 2010, when they lost a conference game to Maryland. Their 25-game winning streak was the second longest in school history.

NOTABLE: A number of ranked teams appear to be headed for unranked status as conference play separates the men from the boys. #22 Georgetown was easily handled by visiting Big East rival Pitt (6), 72-57. The 14-5 Hoyas are a pure flash in the pan, having now lost three straight and four of five in Big East play.

Likewise, #18 Louisville looks overmatched in the Big East, the most competitive conference in the country, losing 88-74 at #7 Villanova. Though the Cardinals are 13-3, their losses have come recently and their 2-1 record in Big East play includes wins over confernence doormats, Seton Hall and South Florida.

#21 Kansas State looks to be leaving the Top 25 ranks after a 74-66 home loss to Colorado. Along with them should go #24 Georgia, road losers at Vanderbilt, 73-66. The Wildcats are 0-2 in the Big 12; 13-3 Georgia defeated Kentucky on Saturday, but are now 1-1 in the SEC. Earlier losses to Temple and Notre Dame are telling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fredette Goes for 47 as Cougars Rout Utes

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BYU's Jimmer Fredette had the kind of night most players only dream about, scoring 32 in the first half and 47 overall as the #11 Cougars topped Mountain West opponent Utah, 104-79, improving to 17-1 for the season.

Fredette was hitting from everywhere, even throwing in a 40-foot bomb just before the first half buzzer sounded to give BYU a comfortable 53-42 lead at the break. Fredette finished just two shy of his school record 49 points, set last season. The 47 points was his high for the year, and against Mountain West opponents, he is averaging 36 points in three games, all Cougar wins.

The 6'2" senior from Glens Falls, NY, hit 6-of-9 from three-point range and 16-for-28 overall, adding 9-of-9 from the free throw line. In his 35 minutes on the hardwoods, Fredeete managed to dish out 6 assists and grab four rebounds.

NOTABLE: The Big Ten gets wilder and more wide open every day, with the possible exception of #2 Ohio State. On Tuesday, Michigan State, dropped out of the Top 25 this week due to a 66-62 loss at Penn State, got back on track with a 64-61 overtime win against #20 Wisconsin. The Spartans regained a degree of respectability as the Nittany Lions took down #16 Illinois, 57-55 and #12 Texas - to whom the Spartans lost 67-55 back in December - blasted Texas Tech, 83-52.

In case anyone is worried that the Nittany Lions will upset them next, they play Ohio State on the 15th and Purdue on the 19th.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maquette Dumps Notre Dame with Barrage of Treys

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 10, 2011

Proving once again that playing in the Big East is not for the faint of heart, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame entered the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for a regional showdown with the Marquette Golden Eagles.

The Irish were sporting a #9 ranking in the AP poll, released earlier in the day, and a 14-2 record, their only losses at kentucky and Syracuse. By the time the Irish were through, they were 14-3, and wondering how they hit only three of 16 3-point shots while the Eagles were burying 12 of 17 from beyond the arc. The result was a 79-57 rout as a trio of Marquette shooters rained down threes all night long. From three-point range, Darius Johnson-Odom hit 3-of-5, scoring 13 points, Joe Crowder made 4-of-6 and tallied 18, but Dwight Buycks was the most deadly. He nailed 7-of-9 shots from the floor, including all five of his three-point attempts, for a game-high 21 points.

Maquette put the Irish away early in the second half and were never threatened after opening up a double-digit lead. The win was a key one for the Golden Eagles, 12-5, and on the fringe of the Big East conference and probably a bubble team come March.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Villanova Sends Cincinnati to First Loss as Fisher Scores 21

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 9, 2011

The number of undefeated teams shrank by one on Sunday when the Villanova Wildcats popped Cincinnati's balloon with a 72-61 win at the Pavilion.

The game was not in doubt after the Wildcats went on an 18-4 run to take a 39-23 lead into half time. Corey Fisher scored 20 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, helping extend Villanoa's home winning streak to 45 straight, a streak that began in January of 2007.

Fisher hit 3 of 5 three-pointers and was 4-for-8 overall, but nailed 10 of 11 free throws, grabbed five rebounds and dealt four assists. Fisher has scored in double figures in all but three of the #7 Wildcats' games. Villanova is now 14-1 and 3-0 in the Big East, while Cincinnati dropped to 15-1 and 2-1 in the conference.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

8 Top 25 Teams Dropped; #23 Washington Wins 6th Straight

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 8, 2011

No fewer than eight teams ranked in the Top 25 - some close to the top of the list - were defeated on Saturday, making it one of the biggest upset days of the season.

Before venturing into that morass of missed opportunity, a number of ranked teams managed wins, notably in the Big East, where Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame and UConn all came away victorious, but the performance of the day was by 6'9" senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who scored 24 points to go with 15 rebounds for the 12-3 Washington Huskies in their 103-72 win over Oregon State, their sixth straight win and fourth in the PAC-10 without a loss.

Bryan-Amaning hit 11-of-14 shots from the field, mostly in the paint and around the rim, notching his fifth double-double and scoring in double figures for the 12th time this season. In the rebounding department, five of his were on the offensive glass.

As for the upsets, there were so many it was difficult to keep track. Early in the day, Colorado bumped off #9 Missouri, 89-76, West Virginia hammered #13 Georgetown, 65-59, and Georgia held court at home to down #10 Kentucky, 77-70.

As the afternoon wore on, many fans glued to the NFL playoff games, Houston bumped off #19 UCF, Oklahoma St. dumped #17 Kansas State and Penn State kicked #18 Michigan State.

Two overtime games capped the day's action, as South Carolina outscored #22 Vanderbilt, 11-3 in the extra session for an 83-75 win and #8 UConn survived a trip to the Lone Star State with an 82-81 OT win over the Longhorns.

The day added up to one which should provide significant movement in the rankings due out on Monday, and highlights the intense competitiveness operating in the college hoops sphere. No game is a gimmie now that January has arrived.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sophomore Andrew Smith Leads Butler Blowout

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, January 7, 2011

The 2009-10 hoops season was a memorable one for the Butler Bulldogs, reaching the NCAA finals and finishing with a 33-5 record after losing, 61-59, to Duke.

This season has not been nearly as gratifying. The Bulldogs are currently unranked with an 11-5 record, uncharacteristic of the perennial Horizon League champions, though perhaps the schedule was a bit too optimistic.

An early loss at Louisville was amplified after the Bulldogs were beaten on their home court by Evansville, and then suffered back-to-back road losses to Duke and Xavier. That dropped them out of the Top 25, but on February 3rd, they suffered their worst loss of the season, a 76-52 beating dished out by 8-8 Wisconsin-Milwaukee, their first conference loss.

The Bulldogs regained some of their confidence Friday night with a convincing, 79-56, win over Cleveland State, shooting 48% as a team and forcing the Vikings into 18 turnovers. High scoring honors went to sophomore center Andrew Smith, who recorded a career high with 22 points on 7-for-9 shooting and hitting all eight of his free throws.

Smith, a 6'11" native of Indianapolis, also hit the glass with gusto, wiping off five offensive and five defensive rebounds for his first collegiate double-double.

Butler is 11-5 and into the heart of their conference play. A January 16 date at Wright State looms large.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Yancy Gates Has 25 and 14 as Bearcats Claw Xavier

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 6, 2011

The widely-anticipated showdown between crosstown rivals Xavier and Cincinnati quickly became a runaway for one team and a showcase for the enormous talents of enormous Yancy Gates.

After Xavier raced out to a 10-4 lead, Gates led a 22-5 Bearcat run that ended all argument over which was the best team in the Queen City. Gates, a powerfully-built Cincinnati native at 6'9", 260 pounds, led all participants with a game high 22 points and 14 rebounds, both season-high totals for the big man. Cincinnati won in a rout, 66-46, holding Tu Holloway, the Musketeers' leading scorers and one of the top point-producers in the nation, to a season-low five points.

Prior to last week, the Bearcats - despite being undefeated - were unranked in the national polls. Now at 15-0, some pollsters and even casual watchers have raised an eyebrow and given the Bearcats the nod of approval, spotting them at #24 in Monday's poll. Xavier slumped to 8-5.

Notable: #20 Illinois shot 70% from the field and absolutely swamped Northwestern, 88-63 to win their third straight Big Ten win without a loss, improving to 13-3 overall. A litmus test for the Fighting Illini comes in another week when they play at Wisconsin on the 15th of January, then return home to face Michigan State and Ohio State on the 18th and 22nd.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Duke Rolls to 14-0 As Nolan Smith Dazzles with Career High 33 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The top-ranked and undefeated Duke Blue Devils rolled to their 14th straight win with an 85-64 blowout over UAB.

Leading the Devils and all players in scoring was senior Nolan Smith, who tallied a career-high 33 points, also dishing five assists and bringing down seven rebounds, four on the offensive end.

When Smith wasn't beating multiple defenders to the hoop on slashing drives, he was ringing it up from the outside, hitting 2-of-5 three-pointers while going 11-for-22 from the field. Smith also went 9-for-10 from the foul line and was aided by fellow senior Kyle Singler's 15 points, which pushed his career point total over 2,000, making him the 11th Duke player to achieve that lofty goal. The all-time record for a Duke player is 2,769 points, set by J.J. Redick, who has since moved on to the NBA. Singler is sure to follow in those footsteps.

Smith has been on a tear for the Blue Devils of late, scoring at least 22 points in each of Duke's last five games. He leads the team in scoring and assists, at 19.6 points and 5.6 assists per game, respectively.

Notable: Jimmer Fredette lit up the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas as the #15 BYU Cougars went on the road to knock off #25 UNLV, 89-77. A season high for Fredette in scoring, he tickled the twine on 12-for-25 shooting from the field, including 7-for-13 on three-pointers and added 8 of ten free throws.

Other Top 25 winners included #3 Kansas, #6 San Diego State, #9 Missouri, #11 Purdue and #19 UCF. Memphis, ranked #21, fell to unranked Tennessee, 104-84.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Baylor Cruises as Dunn Hangs 43 on Morgan State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last season, the Baylor Bears compiled an impressive 28-8 record, making its way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tourney, where they were knocked off by eventual nation champion, Duke, in the third round, 76-71.

After that kind of performance, much was expected of the Bears this season, led by shooting star LaceDarius Dunn. The Baylor bandwagon was derailed in December with three losses in a four-game stretch after a 7-0 start.

Beaten by Gonzaga, Washington State and Florida State, the Bears were looking more like bubble babies than bracket busters, but since rebounded with wins over Texas Southern and, on Tuesday, Morgan State, topping the Golden Bears, 89-72.

The game was an eyeful for all manner of Bears, golden or otherwise, as Dunn erupted for career-highs in scoring, with 43 points, and three-pointers, canning 10 of 18. Baylor took a 42-40 lead into the half, but blew out their opponents, outscoring them 47-32 in the second half, fueled by Dunn's hot hand. He finished with a stat line which included 13-of-22 from the field, 7-for-7 from the foul line, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 37 minutes.

While Dun is among the nation's leading scorers at 23.4 points per game, the jury is still out on Baylor as the team heads into conference play January 8 at Texas Tech. The Bears may remain a mystery until later in the month, when they face Kansas at home on the 17th and travel to Kansas State on the 24th.

NOTABLE: It was a rough night for the Razorbacks. Not only did their football team fall to Ohio State, 31-26, in the Sugar Bowl, but 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns blitzed them on the hardwoods, 79-46.

#2 Ohio State battled to a 73-68 win at Iowa, getting 24 points from freshman Jared Sullinger.

In the Big East, #5 Pitt toughed out an 83-79 win at Providence, while Notre Dame kicked Georgetown, 73-70, handing the Hoyas their second loss in three Big East Games. Pitt beat them in their conference opener on Dec. 27, 78-63.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pullen Returns, Scores 24 in K-State Victory

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 3, 2011

Jacob Pullen returned to the Kansas State lineup after a three-game suspension and lit up little Savannah State for 24 points on Monday night, leading the Wildcats to a 92-61 rout and their 12th victory against three losses.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats felt Pullen's absence in the first game he missed, a 63-59 loss to UNLV, but rebounded with easy wins over the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos and North Florida.

Pullen, seemingly no worse off for the time he missed, nailed 9-of-11 shots, including 4-of-6 three-pointers, grabbed 3 rebounds and handed off 5 assists.

Pullen and teammate Curtis Kelly were suspended for recieving free clothing from a local store. Kelly is still suspended and not eligible to return until January 15.

A 6'8" senior, Kelly was averaging 10.3 points and 4 rebounds per contest, numbers that the Wildcats hope to replace with other players, but they were happy to have Pullen, their leading scorer, back in time for the start of Big 12 play, which begins - for the Wildcats - on January 8 at Oklahoma State. Kansas State hosts Colorado on the 12th and Texas Tech on the 15th, when Kelly is expected to return.

NOTABLE: Dick Vitale has been a vocal supporter of "the Johnnies," St. John's Red Storm, and that faith was validated with a 61-58 victory over #13 Georgetown Monday night. The Red Storm's Dwight Hardy led the way with 20 points. St. John's is 3-0 against Big East foes and 10-3 overall.

The Big East has seven teams in the most recent AP poll, as unbeaten Cincinnati replaced Louisville near the bottom of the Top 25, at #22. The Cardinals fell out after dropping a 78-63 decision to Kentucky on New Year's Eve.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Freshman Barton Pours in 24 for 11-2 Memphis

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 2, 2011

With December losses to Kansas and Georgetown, the Memphis Tigers may not be as good a team as some which have come before, but at 11-2, they are getting the notice of the pollsters at least, who have installed them at #21 in the national rankings.

The Tigers have some good, young talent, including freshman guard Antonio Barton, who pumped in a career-high 24 points as the Tigers outshot Tennessee State Sunday, by a 91-86 score.

Barton, a 6'2" recruit out of Notre Dame Prep in Baltimore, was money from everywhere on the court, hitting 6-of-8 from the field, including 5-of-6 three-pointers. He also made 7-of-9 free throws. Barton has scored in double figures in only five of Memphis' 13 games this season, but if the Tigers' offense can get him open looks, he may emerge as a deadly shooter as teams solidify their lineups heading for the NCAA tournament. He's hitting 53% from the field and 57% from beyond the arc.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Crowder's 29 Lifts Golden Eagles over West Virginia

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kicking into the new year, most of the important action was within the Big East, where #5 Syracuse improved to 15-0 on the strength of a 70-58 home win over #15 Notre Dame and #9 Georgetown cemented their #9 ranking with an 86-75 throttling of DePaul. The Hoyas are 12-2.

The best performance of the night came out of a game between two overlooked teams that will likely vie for the 8th or 9th Big East spot in the NCAA tournament come March. Marquette held serve at home with a 79-74 win over pesky West Virginia, getting a game-high 29 points from junior forward Jae Crowder.

Crowder put on quite the shooting clinic, hitting 12 of 14 shots from the field, including 2-of-4 on three-pointers, helping the Golden Eagles improve to a respectable 10-4. He also hit the boards hard for 8 rebounds, handed out 5 assists and made 4 steals in 39 minutes, the most he's played all season. His 29 points was a career high for the 6'6" native of Georgia.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Knight, Harrellson Provide Spark for Wildcats in Win over Louisville

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, December 31, 2010

Getting together for their annual contest to determine bragging rights for the state of Kentucky, Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his troops welcomed John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats into KFC Yum! Arena (sorry, that's what they're calling it these days) for a New Year's Eve celebration between the 11th (Kentucky) and 22nd-ranked teams in the nation.

It didn't take long for the Wildcats to feel perfectly at home in Louisville's venue, however, as the Wildcats raced to a 35-24 lead at the half and rode easy layups by Josh Harrellson and expert shooting by Brandon Knight to a 78-63 triumph.

Harrellson, conveniently left open near the basket on far too many occasions, dipped in 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting and snagged 14 rebounds as the Wildcats used their superior size and passing skills to dominate in the paint. The Wildcats outrebounded the Cardinals 36-24, and when Harrellson wasn't collecting easy entry passes, freshman Brandon Knight was making hay from the perimeter. Knight nailed 4-of-6 three-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points. Both Knight and Harrellson recorded career highs in scoring for the 'Cats.

Both Louisville and Kentucky have compiled 11-2 records thus far in the season.

Notable: There's still no love from the pollsters for the Cincinnati Bearcats, who went to 14-0 with a blowout, 70-53, win over Seton Hall. The Bearcats are also 2-0 in the Big East, and while they've beaten only DePaul and Seton Hall, they've been by huge margins. Come on, Man! 14-0 has to count for something.

An unbeaten team that hasn't escaped the purview of the polls is #7 San Diego State, now 15-0 thanks to a 93-50 bombing of Occidental. The Aztecs have never been ranked so high.

After losing their Big East opener to Pitt earlier in the week, #4 Connecticut had to go into overtime to down the upstart Bulls from South Florida, 68-61. Kemba Walker, still leading the nation in scoring at 26.7 points per game, had 24 for the Huskies, now 11-1.