Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Belongs? Et Tu, Xavier?

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heading into what is the final week of the regular season for the majority of conferences, the questions of bubbles and belonging have naturally arisen. This season being one of the more tumultuous of the recent past, bubble-sitting has become a crowded affair and the addition of three more teams - as the NCAA field expands to 68 - makes the watching and waiting even more exasperating.

One team nearly certain to get their ticket to the big dance is the #25 Xavier Musketeers, winning their 7th straight - and 14th of their last 15 - with a 66-62 win at Dayton on Sunday.

Tu Holloway, scoring leader of the Musketeers and tied for 16th in the nation at 20.5 ppg, poured in 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 8 of 9 from the charity stripe. Holloway and his teammates have compiled a solid 22-6 record and are 13-1 and in first place in the Atlantic 10 conference, holding off 12-2 Temple and 11-3 Richmond.

The Musketeers have already put down double-digit wins over both of those opponents, appearing to be the class of the league. Whether Temple (ranked 24th) and/or Richmond get in will be up to the tournament selection committee and highly dependent on how those teams fare in the upcoming conference tourney.

NOTABLE: As far as determining who belongs in this season's March Mayhem, a ot of energy is being expended on the choices from the Big East, which looks to be sending as many as 11 teams tourney-bound. The league is bifurcated, with 11 at 9-7 or better and the five bottom teams all 5-11 or worse (1-15 DePaul is at the bottom). with five teams - Cincinnati, Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette and Connecticut all sporting that 9-7 mark, reasoning can be discerned for all of them making it in, though the Mountaineers and Golden Eagles seem to be still bubbly, with respective 18-10 and 18-11 records.

20 wins is generally a good guideline, though not always, but the two aforementioned teams will have ample opportunity to prove themselves, with two regular season games and at least one conference tournament tilt remaining. In any case, the Big East will send nine teams at least, and probably all eleven with .500 or better records.

A couple of teams that may not be deserving suffered lopsided losses on Sunday. Stumbling Michigan State - 16-14, 8-8 - lost at home to Purdue, 67-47, and Maryland's 87=76 loss at North Carolina was never really close.

The Terrapins have falling into a tie for 5th place in the ACC with Boston College at 7-7. So the ACC now looks like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech (10-4), Florida State (9-5) and maybe even Clemson (8-6). Maryland? Sorry, maybe next year.

The Big Ten was supposed to be one of the stronger conferences, but the demise of the Spartans has weakened it substantially. They are tied for 4th place with Illinois and Penn State at 8-8, leaving only Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin the only true locks.

As for the PAC-10, only UCLA and USC seem headed in the right direction, which happens to be bad news for the Washington Huskies, currently in third place (10-6), but hosting both LA teams this week. The Huskies took it on the chin from hopeful Washington St. (18-10, 8-8), 80-69. Arizona, tied with the Bruins for first place, will get either an automatic or at-large bid, but they have the look of a first round loser written all over them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hardy Has 34 as Red Storm Blasts Wildcats

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 26, 2011

With an 81-68 win at Villanova, the St. John's Red Storm has taken sole possession of third place in the Big East at 11-5. Ahead of them are Notre Dame (12-4) and Pitt (13-2), both teams the Red Storm have already beaten.

With the continued exceptional play of senior guard Dwight Hardy, who led all scorers with 34 points - there's no telling where this Steve Lavin-coached team is headed, except to the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. St. John's has just two games left on their regular season schedule - at Seton Hall and home vs. South Florida - before the Big East tournament, for which they will receive a double bye should they maintain at least 4th place in the conference.

Hardy's 34 was a career high, topping the 32 he had against UCLA and the 33 points he scored in a win over UConn. He went 9-for-16 from the field, including 5 of 9 three-pointers and nailed 11 of 13 free throws. It was the sixth straight win for the Red Storm and their sixth win over teams ranked in the top 15 or higher.

NOTABLE: In a day full of upsets, none was bigger than Colorado's stunning 91-89 win over Texas, coming back from a 22-point first half deficit. Alec Burks led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, unranked Baylor knocked off #21 Texas A&M, 58-51. Likewise, Kansas State dumped #20 Missouri, 80-70.

The biggest story of the day came late in the evening in Blacksburg, Virginia, where the Virginia Tech Hokies upended #1 Duke, 64-60. It was the third time in as many weeks that a team was named the #1 squad on Monday but tasted defeat before the week was over. Ohio State and Kansas suffered the same fate prior to Duke.

In other surprises, UCLA pummeled #10 Arizona - which probably shouldn't have been ranked that high - 71-49 and #23 Kentucky held court at home, defeating #13 Florida, 76-68.

Arizona's loss was their second straight, having lost at USC on Thursday. The Bruins and Wildcats are now tied for the PAC-10 lead at 12-4. In the SEC, despite losing, Florida remains two games ahead of 9-5 Vanderbilt in the SEC East at 11-3. The Gators face Alabama on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Harvard Clinging to Ivy Lead

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 25, 2011

Oliver McNally led the Crimson to their sixth straight victory, a come-from-behind, 74-68, win at Brown to remain 1/2 game ahead of Princeton in the Ivy League race. The winner of the conference gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and with the regular season closing fast, chances for the title have been whittled down to just the two top teams.

McNally hit 7 of 13 shots from the field with three 3-pointers. He also had five steals, helping trim an 11-point half time lead by Brown. His 20 point effort matched his season high.

Harvard is 10-1 with three games remaining, while the 9-1 Tigers have four contests still to go, the final three all on the road, though the most important of them is surely next Saturday's (March 5) tilt at Harvard. The winner of that game will most likely be the Ivy League champion, though, with the field opening up to 68 teams this season, there's a chance both could punch a ticket to the Big Dance.

Harvard is 21-4 overall, while Princeton sports a 21-5 record and both teams have a number of quality wins on their respective resumes.

NOTABLE: 17 of the top 25 teams in the nation will see action on Saturday, including a number of match-ups featuring ranked rivals. The action gets underway at noon ET when #17 Syracuse invades #11 Georgetown. At 2:00 pm, the Mountain West regular season title is on the line when Jimmer Fredette brings #7 BYU to #6 San Diego State. Both squads are 12-1 in conference play.

Also at 2:00, there's more Big East action, with #23 St. John's at #17 Villanova. At 4:00, #13 Florida can wrap up the SEC East with a win at #22 Kentucky. At 9:00 pm, #1 Duke plays at unranked, but dangerous, Virginia Tech. The Hokies find themselves in their usual spot within the ACC bubble, so a home win over the top team in the conference would go a long way toward securing an NCAA bid.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Trojans Stop Wildcat Win Streak at 8 Behind Vucevic's 25

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 24, 2011

Perhaps it's a bit late in the season, but the PAC-10 is beginning to evolve. What looked like a three-horse race became a quartet on Thursday as USC upset #10 Arizona, 65-57, snapping the Wildcats' 8-game win streak, in a must-win situation for the Trojans.

USC was in danger of falling below .500 in the conference, a move that might have put a permanent mark on their resume for inclusion in the post-season proceedings, but junior forward Nikola Vucevic made certain the Trojans would live to fight another day with his fifth straight double-double, pouring in 25 points and ripping down 12 rebounds. It was his 16th double-double of the season and above his average of 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds.

The win brought USC to 8-7 in the conference, and, combined with earlier out-of-conference wins over Texas and Tennessee, the Trojans - winners of three straight - now appear poised to receive an NCAA invitation, despite their perplexing 16-12 record.

With Arizona falling to 12-3 in the conference, their path to the regular season title becomes a bit more complex, especially with UCLA - 71-53 winners over Arizona State - now just one game back at 11-4. Arizona plays at UCLA on Saturday.

NOTABLE: Another team needing a signature win on Thursday night was Marquette, and the Golden Eagles made their most of their trip to Connecticut, dropping the Huskies, 74-67, in overtime. The result put both teams at 8-7 in the crowded Big East, where the top 11 teams are 8-7 or better and all have a chance of making the NCAA tournament.

Atop the Big East standings, Pitt retained their two-game lead over Notre Dame, with a 71-58 win over West Virginia, another 8-7 team.

The #13 Florida Gators virtually ensured that they would win the SEC East with a 71-62 home win over Georgia. The Gators are 11-2 in the conference, three games ahead of Vanderbilt (8-5), though the Gators still have to play three of the best teams in the SEC - Kentucky, Alabama and Vandy - to close out the regular season.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marshon Brooks Scores 52, But Providence Falls to Notre Dame, 94-93

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When the NCAA tournament begins in about three weeks, the Providence Friars won't be there, nor will their superstar forward, Marshon Brooks, but Brooks will have left an indelible mark on this season already, as the most talented player in the country, but without much of the accolade.

In their 94=93 home loss to Notre Dame, Brooks set a season-high NCAA scoring mark that isn't likely to be broken, scoring 52 points on 20-for-28 shooting, including 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and 6 of 10 from the foul line.

Not only did Brooks single-handedly keep the Friars in the game, but he shattered the Big East single game all time record of 48, set by another Friar from 1991, Eric Murdock and tied the school record with the most points ever scored against the Fighting Irish.

For Brooks and the Friars, however, the game will go into the books as another narrow defeat, their sixth loss by four points or fewer. Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough scored a season=high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis pumped in 28, but neither of them were sure they'd be leaving Providence's Dunkin' Donuts Center with a win until the final second of the game. Brooks had kept the Friars close with a dazzling array of shots - scoring 15 points in the final 2:39 - and Abromaitis, after missing the first of two free throws, intentionally missed the second with one second left, leaving Brooks with nothing but a desperation heave from three-quarter court that sailed over the far-off backboard.

When the awards come out for college player of the year, Brooks won't be mentioned, because his team has a poor record (14-14, 3-12 Big East), but his numbers speak for themselves: 25.4 points per game (49.6%), good for second in the nation behind BYU's Jimmer Fredette. Maybe, on a better team, with more scoring options, he'd score less. But then again, he might score even more.

Notre Dame's win made them 22-5 on the season and 11-4 in the Big East, a game and a half behind front-running Pitt, over whom the Irish already have a win. This team is ready for tourney time.

NOTABLE: #1 Duke didn't falter in their first game as the new top dog, dropping #23 Temple, 78-61, at Cameron Indoor. There were, however, two Tp 25 upsets. #11 Georgetown lost at home to Cincinnati, 58-46, and #22 Kentucky lost in overtime at Arkansas, 77-76. Both Georgetown and Kentucky look like shoo-ins for the tournament, but the win by Cincinnati (22-6, 9-6) probably punched their ticket to March Madness.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Washington Huskies Set to Cruise into NCAA Tournament

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The PAC-10 won't be sending too many teams to the NCAA tournament - probably just three - but Washington will be one of them and any team they face will have to take them seriously.

The Huskies (19-8, 10-5) took a day off from conference play to travel to Seattle, where they handed the Redhawks a 95-74 beating, thanks in large part to Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who went 9-for-11 from the field, scoring 24 points to lead all scorers and six Huskies in double figures.

A senior forward, Bryan-Amaning also put up his 9th double-double of the season, ripping down 13 rebounds.

Washington is a high-scoring machine that puts pressure on opponents with an end-to-end running game that will likely serve them well come tourney time. They're currently third in the conference, behind Arizona (the only ranked PAC-10 team) and UCLA, but already have a win over the Bruins and lost a one-point game at Arizona this past Saturday.

While the Huskies are 1-3 against ranked teams, the two other losses came back-to-back in November, when they traveled to Kentucky and Michigan State, losing by 5 and 7 points, respectively. Their earlier encounter with Arizona - on their home court - was a runaway 85-86 victory.

With just three more conference games on the schedule - all at home - the Huskies look like a team that's already punched a ticket to the dance.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Marcus Morris Leads Kansas Over Cowboys

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 21, 2011

Resuming their winning ways after being knocked off the #1 spot in the polls, the Kansas Jayhawks put together a rather convincing win over Oklahoma State Monday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, blasting the Cowboys off their saddles with a 92-65 explosion.

A week ago, just as pollsters earlier in the day had anointed the Jayhawks the #1 team in the land, A determined Kansas State squad had humiliated them, 84-68. Since then, Kansas has been on a mission, to finish the season with a flourish and a top seeding in the NCAA tournament.

After knocking off Colorado by 26 points on Saturday, the Jayhawks muscled and hustled their way to a 27-point win over Oklahoma State, led by Marcus Morris' 27 points. Morris hit 9 of 13 shots, including 2 of 3 three-pointers, adding six free throws and five rebounds.

The Jayhawks dominated the glass, outrebounding the Cowboys, 38-25, and shared the ball, with 20 assists in the game. It also didn't hurt that they were red-hot from the field, hitting 54% and 44% from beyond the arc. Kansas upped its record to 26-2, but remain 1/2 game behind the Texas Longhorns (11-1) in the Big 12 standings at 11-2.

The only chance the Jayhawks will have to avenge their two losses (Texas and Kansas State) will be in the conference tournament. Kansas has just three remaining dates in the regular season, at Oklahoma, home against Texas A&M and at Missouri.

NOTABLE: With the top teams suffering upsets all week, the top spot in this week's polling fell to the Duke Blue Devils, though the voting seems rather a case of triumph by elimination rather than one of deserved respect. Sure, Duke's a quality team, but the ACC is in a down year and the Blue Devils are an eminently beatable team. Still, they seemed vulnerable last season as well, before their run to the championship. For now, the polls matter little. What happens on the court will offer more in terms of seeding for the tourney.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moore Scores 38 as Boilermakers Dump Buckeyes

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 20, 2011

Road wins are becoming harder and harder to get. Presumed walkovers go down to the final shot. Teams once thought to be pushovers are springing upsets against the Top 25... no, make that the Top Ten.

It must be late February.

The latest victim of late-season surging was the one many thought could not be beaten just a week ago, the Ohio State Buckeyes, who, in the course of just eight days and three games have proven not only to be beatable, but downright vulnerable. Of course, it helps when you have a player like Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, who normally plays big, but plays even bigger in big games.

Moore knocked down 7 of 10 three-pointers and was 13 of 18 from the field as he put up a career high 38 points to lead the Boilermakers to their 4th straight win, a 76-63 home court conquest of Ohio State.

Moore torched the Buckeyes from the start of the game to the finish as the Boilermakers snuck to within a game of Ohio State in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes, undefeated at 24-0 and 10-0 just a week ago, lost at Wisconsin on February 12 and beat up a depleted Michigan State squad on the 15th before falling at Purdue, casting doubt on their assumed superiority in the league.

Purdue looms a force with which to be reckoned as the regular season heads into its final two weeks and four games. The Boilermakers improved to 11-3 and 22-5 overall and will surely move up from their #11 ranking after knocking off the #2 Buckeyes.

NOTABLE: Four other Top 25 teams were on the hardwoods Sunday, all winners. #5 Duke polished off Georgia Tech, 79-57; #10 Wisconsin handled Penn St. 76-66; visiting #14 Florida held off a late rally by LSU for a 68-61 win, and #23 Temple scorched St. Joseph's, 66-52.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fisher, Yahou Save Wildcats as Top Teams Stumble

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 19, 2011

With Top 25 teams tumbling all around them, Corey Fisher and Mouphtaou Yarou lifted #15 Villanova to a hard-earned road win over a determined DePaul squad, 77-75, in overtime.

Fisher scored a game-high and career high 34 points, hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers, including one with six seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime. Fisher was 11-for-18 from the field, 7 of 9 from the foul line with 5 rebounds and three steals.

While the senior guard was handling most of the scoring duties, sophomore center Yarou was cleaning the glass, handling 8 offensive and 7 defensive rebounds, and scoring 12 points, primarily on put-backs. It was Yarou's 5th double-double of the season, and came at a most opportune time for the Wildcats, who improved to 21-6 overall and 9-5 in the Big East, good for a tie for 4th place with Louisville and St. John's in America's most contentious conference.

NOTABLE: While Villanova escaped from DePaul with a win, other teams weren't so lucky on a Saturday full of surprises. At Madison Square Garden, the plucky St. John's Red Storm pulled off the upset of the day when Dwight Hardy tossed in an impossible scoop shot with 2 seconds left in the game, lifting the Red Storm to a 60-59 victory over Big East-leading Pitt. The win was the 5th straight conference triumph and seventh straight home victory for St. John's, surely the surprise team of the year.

#8 Notre Dame, second in the Big East, got a rude welcome from the Mountaineers in West Virginia, suffering a 72-58 loss.

The other major upset came from the Big 12, where Nebraska defended their home court with a 70-67 win over #3 Texas. The Longhorns had not lost in 11 conference games this season. Texas remains one game ahead of Kansas (10-2), easy winners at home over Colorado.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Louisville Sweeps Season Series with UConn, 71-58

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 18, 2011

Winning on the road in college basketball is hard. Getting it done in the Big East borders on ridiculous. Just ask Louisville. Or Connecticut.

Just two days after being thoroughly throttled in Cincinnati, the Louisville Cardinals returned to a more familiar floor at the KFC Yum! Center and beat up on the visiting Huskies, 71-58, sweeping the season series.

Freshman center Gorgui Dieng put up 13 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double while point guard Peyton Siva harassed UConn's Kemba Walker into a rare 3-for-10 shooting performance. Siva led Louisville with 15 points.

The Cardinals got off early and held an 8-point lead at the break, but the Huskies rallied early in the second half to take their only lead of the game, which turned out to be brief. Louisville went on a 14-5 run to reclaim the lead and held off Connecticut down the stretch.

Louisville (20-7, 9-5) shot just 41%, but the Huskies hit a only a 37% clip. 16 UConn turnovers resulted in a large shooting discrepancy. Louisville hoisted up 65 shots to Connecticut's 46.

All five of Louisville's conference losses have come away from home. They've won seven straight in their own building. Connecticut (20-6, 8-6) has lost four of six on the road and this loss comes off a home win over Georgetown. The Huskies and Cardinals are ranked 13 and 16, respectively, though those numbers are likely to change come Monday.

NOTABLE: There are 17 Top 25 teams in action on Saturday, all facing unranked opponents, but the most-widely-anticipated contest will be at Madison Square Garden when St. John's hosts #4 Pittsburgh at noon ET. The Red Storm is 8-5 in the Big East and has won four straight conference games. Pitt leads the Big East with a 12-1 record.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Arizona Wins 7th Straight as Williams Clicks for 26

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 17, 2011

With much of the focus on the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12, quietly cruising up the Top 25 is the only team from the PAC-10 seemingly with any credence, the Arizona Wildcats.

The Cats have risen to #12 i the AP Poll, mostly because they lead the PAC-10, a conference that has been on the skids lately, though teams from the marginalized group actually fared pretty well in last year's NCAA tourney.

It's not like the Wildcats are running away in the regular season standings. At 11-2, they're just a game ahead of 10-3 UCLA and another 1/2 game better than 10-4 Washington. The Wildcats beat UCLA a couple of weeks ago and the score wasn't very close, but they have a rematch, Saturday, Feb. 26, on the Bruins' home court where things could go differently.

Washington handled Arizona, 85-68, back in January, in Washington, and the Huskies come to Arizona Saturday to complete the season series.

That will be an interesting game by which to gauge both squads, as the Huskies are just 4-3 since beating the Wildcats. Arizona, on the other hand, is 7-0, after having taken the measure of Washington State Thursday, by a 79-70 score.

In that game, sophomore Derrick Williams did what he's done in every game this season, score in double figures, putting down 26 points for the Wildcats on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and canning all 12 of his free throws. Williams, who has eight double-doubles this season, came close, with 8 rebounds.

Which team wins the PAC-10 won't really make much difference in the larger tournament scheme of things, because after Washington, the next best team is only 7-7, that being Washington State. The other six members of the conference all all under .500, so it is reasonable to assume that the PAC-10 will send only three teams to the tourney: Arizona, UCLA and Washington.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Walker, Huskies Halt Hoyas Streak at Eight

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 16, 2011

As tournament time approaches, teams and individual players are bent on winning key games and making statements in hope that the selection committee will award them with a comfortable seeding, preferably a six or better and close to home.

Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies did just that Wednesday night, stopping Georgetown's winning streak at eight straight with a 78-70 win at the XL Center in Hartford.

Walker, who had been leading the NCAA in scoring back in November and December, was looking for his shot first against the Hoyas, though he did manage to record a double-double with 31 points and 10 assists, ripping through the Georgetown defense like a fine-tuned coping saw.

The senior point guard was 13-for-23 from the field, 4-for-8 from the foul line and added seven rebounds in one of his best efforts of the season. Sophomore forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, recently promoted to starting forward, added 23 points after scoring a career high 25 in Georgetown's win over Providence Sunday.

The win pushed Connecticut further into the mid-level morass in the Big East. The Huskies are now 8-5 in conference play, tied for 4th place with St. John's, Villanova and Louisville. The Hoyas are just a half game ahead, in third place, at 9-5, trailing 10-3 Notre Dame and 12-1 Pittsburgh.

NOTABLE: Cincinnati improved to 20-6 and 7-6 in conference with a determined 63-54 home win over Louisville, giving the Bearcats a quality win and reason to believe they'll be going to the Big Dance along with 8 or 9 other Big East teams. Near the top of the Top 25, Texas, Pitt, Duke and San Deigo St., respectively ranked 3, 4, 5, and 6, all won over unranked opposition. #11 Pudue upended #10 Wisconsin, and #18 Vanderbilt, #24 Xavier and #25 Utah State were all winners.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. John's Downs Marquette 80-68, Dwight Hardy Shines

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some of the Big East teams near or at the top of the conference standings may be looking over their shoulders at the surging Red Storm.

St. John's won its fourth straight Big East tilt - this one coming on the road - as they downed Marquette, 80-68, with a strong second half and 28 points from their star, senior guard, Dwight Hardy.

Tied 38-all at the break, the Red Storm pressured Marquette into numerous mistakes and outscored them 42-30 in the second half. St. John's forced 18 turnovers.

Hardy, who played all but one minute of the game, got his game-high 28 points on 7-for-16 shooting, with a pair of threes and 12 of 15 free throws. He also had six rebounds, three assists and five steals.

The Red Storm is now 8-5 after a 4-5 start in Big East play and has positioned itself nicely for an NCAA tournament bid, an honor not bestowed upon the team since 2002. The team hosts #4 Pittsburgh, the current conference leader, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

NOTABLE: All five Top 25 teams in action Tuesday night were winners. #2 Ohio State thumped Michigan State, 71-61 sending the Spartans to their 6th loss in their last 8 games. Michigan State has slumped to 6-7 in the Big Ten and 14-11 overall. Other Top 25 winners included North Carolina, Kentucky, Villanova and Missouri.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pullen Pours in 38; Wildcats Dump #1 Kansas

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 14, 2011

On Monday, the Kansas Jayhawks received the #1 ranking in the national polls. Before the day was over, however, Jacob Pullen and the Kansas State Wildcats sent a message to their in-state rivals that rankings are fleeting things and must constantly be earned.

Pullen scored a career high 38 points in the Wildcats' stunning 84-68 upset win over the Jayhawks. Perhaps it was not only Pullen's performance, but how poorly Kansas executed on both sides of the floor that cost them not only the game, but surely their short-lived top ranking.

The shortcomings by Kansas were obvious. They were outrebounded, 29-23, outshot, 56% to 44%, and outplayed. They had 11 assists to Kansas State's 16.

Pullen, who had been previously widely criticized for his spotty, inconsistent play, was focused on beating Kansas, and so were his teammates. Led by the senior guard's 38 points on 9-for-17 shooting (5-for-6 3-pointers and 15 of 19 from the line), the Wildcats built an early lead and opened it up to double digits in the second half.

With seven minutes remaining, the contest had turned into a laugher. Kansas coach Bill Self pulled both of the Morris twins and other starters played sparingly down the stretch. The final minutes prior to the crowd rushing the court were perfunctory. Unranked Kansas State had finally found he winning formula and there would be a new #1 team in a week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Delaney, Allen Lead Hokies Over Yellow Jackets

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 13, 2011

Malcolm Delaney led all scorers in a revenge win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, scoring a season-high 33 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

The Hokies knocked off the Yellow Jackets, 102-77, avenging an earlier, 72-57 loss at Georgia Tech, a game in which Delaney was saddled with fouls, turned the ball over 8 times and scored only 8 points.

In Sunday's win, Delaney still turned the ball over five times, but made up for his miscues with three steals, five assists and six rebounds. He also went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and nailed 12 of 14 free throws.

Virginia Tech dominated the Yellow Jackets in the paint, outrebounding them 42-21. Senior forward Jeff Allen had his way inside, hitting 10 of 15 shots for 25 points while hauling in 14 rebounds. Allen tied his season high in scoring and recorded his 12th double-double of the season.

Virginia Tech took over sole possession of 4th place in the ACC at 6-4, trailing Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.

NOTABLE: The Fairfield Stags clinched at least a tie for the regular season championship in the Metro Atlantic conference with a 70-69 overtime win at St. Peter's. The Stags sit alone at 13-2 with three conference games remaining, followed by St. Peter's, Iona and Rider, all at 10-5. The Stags can clinch the title outright with a win over Marist Wednesday. The Red Foxes are 3-12 in conference action this season.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

And Then There Were None... Wisconsin Hands Ohio State First Loss

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jordan Taylor scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, fueling a Wisconsin run that brought the Badgers all the way back from a 15-point deficit to defeat Ohio State, 71-67, ending the Buckeye's unbeaten streak at 24 straight.

Ohio State entered the Kohl Center seeking to remain the only undefeated team in college basketball, but, like so many times before, left the building shaken and defeated. The Buckeyes haven't won at Wisconsin in over a decade.

In an ironic twist, Wisconsin also knocked off #1 Ohio State back in October of this past football season, when the Buckeyes of the gridiron were also undefeated.

Taylor was 8-for-13 from the field, including five three-pointers. He also added four rebounds and seven assists, scoring in double figures for the 23rd time in 24 starts this season.

The Badgers are unbeaten in Big Ten action at home this season, and haven't lost there since being handled by Notre Dame, back in November in a 58-51 loss. Ranked #13 nationally, they're sure to move up in the standings come Monday afternoon. They are 9-3 in the conference, still trailing the 11-1 Buckeyes.

The last time a Division 1 team finished undefeated was in 1975-76 - well before the players on the floor today were even born - when Bobby Knight coached the Indiana Hoosiers to a national championship.

NOTABLE: Unnoticed by most fans of college hoops, Cleveland State's senior guard, Norris Cole is having a heck of a season, leading the Vikings to a 22-5 record and scoring a career high 41 points in Saturday's 71-67 win over Youngstown State. Not only did Cole put up big offensive numbers, he also crashed the boards with impunity, hauling in 20 rebounds and fell just short of a triple-double with 9 rebounds. Cole was 11-for-22 from the field with 5 threes and hit 14-of-17 free throws.

Cleveland State is 11-4 in the Horizon League, just a half game behind Valparaiso, at 11-3, but the conference is top-heavy, with Butler and Wisconsin-Green Bay both 10-5 and Wright State lurking at 10-6.

Big Least? #4 Pitt knocked off #9 Villanova, 57-54, keeping the Panthers clearly in the Big East lead, at 11-1. Notre Dame - who gave Pitt their only loss - trails the Panthers by two games at 9-3 and is followed by Georgetown and Louisville, both 8-4. With Pitt running away from the field, it poses an intriguing question, whether the Big East is really all that great and just how many teams should receive nCAA tourney bids?

The top four appear solid, but there's a gaggle of seven teams behind them all between 7-5 and 6-5, with Syracuse at 7-6. This bunch includes Villanova, West Virginia, St. John's, Marquette, Cincinnati and Connecticut, all looking very much like second or third round NCAA fodder.

Separation Days Top 25 upsets have pretty much ceased over the past two weeks. On Saturday, all twelve ranked teams which faced unranked opponents won their games, providing further separation of the Top 25 from the rest of college basketball.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fairfield Cruising to Metro Atlantic Title

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 11, 2011

The Fairfield Stags are within a game of capturing the Metro Atlantic Association regular season title after a 65-56 road win at Manhattan upped their conference record to 12-2, with just four games remaining on their MAA slate.

Chasing the front-running Stags is second place St. Peter's a 66-54 winner at Marist on Friday.The Peacocks are 10-4 in conference and host Fairfield on Sunday, Feb. 13. The Stags already have a win over St. Peter's - a 70-43 thrashing back in early January - and another win would clinch at least a tie for the regular season crown.

A win in any of their final three games - against Marist, Sienna and Iona - would then clinch the championship outright.

Sophomore guard Derek Needham was the only Stag in double figures, leading all scorers with 23 points, hitting four of seven 3-pointers in the first half and making 9 of 11 free throws. Needham was 5-for-9 from the field overall.

NOTABLE: Harvard held on at home for a 78-75 win over Yale Friday night, staying a game behind Ivy League-leading Princeton (6-0). The Crimson improved to 6-1 and 17-4 overall. Their lone loss in the Ivy was at Princeton - a 65-61 loss - on February 4.

Harvard hosts Princeton in both teams' season finale, March 5th, in a game that may determine the Ivy League champion.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Red Storm Does It Again, Knocks off UConn at the Garden

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a great thing to play your home games at storied Madison Square Garden, especially when you have a coach like Steve Lavin running the show for the St. John's Red Storm. The coach, who came out of semi-retirement this season to coach the Red Storm after departing as UCLA's head coach in 2003, has St. John's scaring the daylights out of every opponent who comes to the Bag Apple.

On Thursday night, it was Connecticut's turn to be taken out to the woodshed for an old-fashioned whipping, the fourth time this season that St. John's has played rude host to a highly-ranked team. Senior guard Dwight Hardy scored a career-high 33 points for St. John's, topping the 32 he put up in his last game, a 66-59 loss at UCLA on Saturday.

Hardy had everything going, hitting 10 of 17 shots, going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and hitting all eight of his free throws. St. John's blew open a close game with a dominant second half for an 89-72 thumping, outscoring the Huskies by 13 points in the second half.

Senior swingman, DJ Kennedy, chipped in with 20 points and 11 boards for his second double-double of the season. In recent weeks, St. John's has taken the measure of Georgetown, Notre Dame and Duke, all wins at the Garden, and are creeping up the Big East standings. At 6-5, they are now in a five-way tie with UConn, Marquette, Cincinnati and West Virginia and have seven games remaining before the Big East Tournament, which will be played on their home court.

With many predicting nine teams to come out of the conference for the Big Dance, don't be surprised if St. John's is one of them.

NOTABLE: Don't count the Michigan State Spartans out just yet. After losing five of their last six and dropping out of the Top 25, coach Tom Izzo's team regrouped at home for a 75-57 pounding of Penn State, getting a triple-double out of junior forward Dramon Green, who scored 15 points, grabbed 14 board and dished 10 assists. The Spartans recovered to 6-6 in the conference, but face a tough test at #1 Ohio State on Tuesday of next week.

It will be interesting to watch how the Spartans fare in the final three weeks of the Big Ten regular season. A permanent feature of the NCAA tournament, Michigan State is currently in bubble-land and needs to finish the season at least with a .500 record and put up a good show in the conference tournament to be considered viable for a taste of March Madness.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nolan Smith Drives Blue Devils Past Tar Heels

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nobody could say for certain, but some people at Cameron Indoor Stadium thought they saw the faint utline of a large, red "S" under Nolan Smith's jersey in the second half of Duke's comeback, 79-73, win over North Carolina.

The Duke senior, with some help from a red-hot Seth Curry, carried the Blue Devils from a 14-point half time deficit to ultimate victory over their main ACC rival. Duke had been outrun, out-rebounded and outplayed in the first half, as the Tar Heels blitzed the home team for a 43-29 lead.

But when the teams took the court in the second half, something surely had changed. The Blue Devils ground into North Carolina's lead, outscoring them 25-11 to tie the game at 54-all. Curry contributed a flurry of seven points in less than a minute during the run and Smith tallied 22 of his career high 34 points in the second stanza. Curry finished with a season-high 22 points.

Smith hit 13 of his 23 shots, and was nearly perfect in the second half after a rough start. He tossed in three of six three-pointers and added five free throws to surpass his previous career high of 33 set a month ago against UAB.

The #5 Blue Devils opened a 1 1/2 game lead on North Carolina in the watered-down ACC. Duke is 22-2 overall and 9-1 in the conference. North Carolina, which returned to the Top 25 this week at #20, is 7-2, followed by 6-3 Florida State, Clemson at 6-4 and Maryland and Virginia Tech, both at 5-4.

The Tar Heels will not forget Smith and the tale of two halves in their encounter when they next tackle the Blue Devils in the final game of the regular season for both squads, March 5, at Chapel Hill.

NOTABLE: The Big East continues to appear as the best top-to-bottom conference, as three games from Wednesday night pointed up the contentious nature of the nation's largest conference. #8 Notre Dame had to go to overtime to knock off #16 Louisville, 89-79, for their 6th straight win. In Syracuse, the Georgetown Hoyas hammered the Orange down the stretch, outscoring them 9-1 in the final 3:47 for a 64-56 victory, the Hoyas' 7th straight after a 1-4 start in conference play.

Outside Trenton, NJ, lowly Rutgers (4-8, Big East) took out #9 Villanova, 77-76 and unranked Marquette rallied from 16 points down to overtake South Florida, 59-58, on the Bulls' home court.

There are eight Big East teams represented in the Top 25, and the conference is expected to send at least that many to the NCAA tourney in March. #4 Pitt leads the conference standings with a 10-1 record.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wildcats Top Tennessee Behind Liggins' 19

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Much has been said and written about the youthful Kentucky Wildcats and their abundance of freshmen, but the team seems to be jelling rather nicely under the tutelage of coach John Calipari and the play of a select few upper-classmen.

One of those players is DeAndre Liggins, a junior and a starter, who is an on-court extension of the Kentucky philosophy, doing what he's called upon to do well, and occasionally coming up with the big effort, as he did in the Wildcats' 73-61 win over Tennessee Tuesday night.

Liggins led all scorers with 19 points, and was nearly flawless on the court, hitting 5 of 6 shots, including both of his three-pointers, and 7-for-8 from the foul line. Liggins also collected five boards, handed out three assists and snatched five steals while turning the ball over just twice. Besides matching his season-and-career high in points, he was the cog that kept Kentucky rolling toward their 17th win against 6 losses.

The Wildcats tied Tennessee at 5-4 in the SEC East, good for second place behind surprising Florida (7-2). Kentucky was happy to be back at Rupp Arena, having lost their last four games on the road. They get another taste of road flavor Saturday when they travel to play Vanderbilt. Kentucky is ranked 18 nationally; Vanderbilt is ranked #23.

NOTABLE: ESPN offers a couple of exceptional games Wednesday night, as the Syracuse Orangemen host the Georgetown Hoyas at the Carrier Dome at 7:00 pm ET. If that's not enough of a rivalry for you, then at 9:00 pm, the surging North Carolina Tar Heels - winners of five straight - invade Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Duke Blue Devils in a resumption of the most-storied rivalry in college basketball.

The 7-1 Tar Heels trail 8-1 Duke for supremacy in the ACC, so there's plenty on the line as Roy Williams has steadied his young Carolina troops over the course of the conference schedule and has them playing with continuity and explosiveness.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Morris Twins, Little, Prove Too Much for Tigers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 7, 2011

The Missouri Tigers - ranked #19 in the most recent poll - have a very good basketball team, likely to go deep into the NCAA field come March, but, as proven Monday night, they still can't keep up with the big men from Kansas in the low post.

The Tigers fell victim, for the 9th time in their last 10 meetings, to the #2 Jayhawks (23-1, 8-1), losing a 103-86 decision in Lawrence, KS. Missouri got off to a flashy start and was able to hang in, down by only four points at the half, but Kansas continually got the ball inside to their big men, Marcus Morris, Markeiff Morris and 6'6" "guard" Mario Little, who had a season-high 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

Marcus Morris led all scorers with 22 points, also going 7-for-9, with a three-pointer and 7-for-12 from the foul line plus eight rebounds, five on the offensive end. Twin brother Markeiff went 6-for-8, also with a trey, for 16 points.

The Jayhawks shot a sizzling 61% for the game, a pace the Tigers could not match, though they hit at a 52% rate themselves. The Jayhawks' 103 points was the most they've scored this season since their opener against Longwood, when they lit it up for 113.

Missouri dropped to 4-5 in the Big 12, though their 18-6 record nearly ensures that they'll be in the field for the NCAA tourney. Kansas trails Texas (8-0) by 1/2 game in the conference. The Longhorns handled the Jayhawks 74-63 in January and do not play them again.

The Tigers will get another chance - at home - to knock off Kansas in the regular season finale for both teams, Saturday, March 5th.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Jordan Taylor Leads Badgers Over Skidding Spartans

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the day that the Lombardi Trophy was returned to Green Bay, it was perfectly fitting that the Wisconsin Badgers would decimate Michigan State, sending the Spartans to their fifth loss in their last six games and the most lopsided defeat of the season.

Jordan Taylor scored a career-high 30 points as the Badgers dominated in an 82-56 win. The junior guard knocked down three of four three-pointers and was 9-for-13 from the field overall. Taylor also hit 9 of 10 free throws and handed out six assists in a game that was essentially over at the mid-point of the first half.

The Badgers led all the way and opened up a double digit lead early, expanding that advantage to a 43-25 score at the break. Wisconsin edged further ahead in the second half, eventually leading by as many as 33 points. Hitting 59% from the field and 11-of-17 (65%) from three-point range, Wisconsin's shots were as accurate as Aaron Rodgers' passes in the Super Bowl later in the day.

Ranked #19, Wisconsin moved into a tie for second place with Purdue at 7-3 in the Big Ten. Everyone in the conference is chasing runaway #1 Ohio State, the only unbeaten team in the nation at 24-0, and 12-0 in the Big Ten.

The Badgers will get two shots at the Buckeyes, the first on February 12, at home, and the second in the season finale, March 6, at Ohio State.

For now, though, all hail Wisconsin.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Brooks' 43 Not Enough to Topple Hoyas

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 5, 2011

Providence forward Marshon Brooks will surely be playing in the NBA next season; unfortunately, he and his teammates aren't likely to be in the field of 68 in this year's NCAA tournament.

Brooks blistered the Georgetown defense for 43 points - tying him for the second most points scored in a single game this season with BYU's Jimmer Fredette (Fredeette scored 47 earlier this season in a win over Utah).

Sadly, Brooks' heroic play wasn't enough to topple the #13 Hoyas, who eked out an 83-81 victory, getting to 7-4 in the Big East, mid-pack in the nation's most potent conference. Providence dropped to 3-8 in conference, but are 14-10 overall.

Brooks put on a memorable show for those in attendance, hitting 17 of 28 shots with a pair of three pointers. He was also 7-for-10 from the foul line and had 10 rebounds - 5 offensive - for his seventh double-double of the season.

With seven regular season games left of the Friars' slate, Brooks has a chance to catch Fredette, the scoring machine from BYU, who leads the nation at 27.6 points per game. Brooks is third at 24.1, just behind Northern Illinois' Xavier Silas, with 24.2. Whether he does or not, Brooks will be one of the top players most of America knows little to nothing about.

NOTABLE: Rank 'em: The Florida Gators held off a furious late rally by #10 Kentucky, holding on for the narrow home win, 70-68. Unranked Florida leads the SEC East at 7-2 and knocked off Vanderbilt (also ranked, #23) earlier this week. Look for them at about #18 in the AP Poll come Monday afternoon.

Separation Saturday: Unlike previous weekends, this one was devoid of the multitude of upsets that have been occurring throughout the college hoops season. Only two ranked teams besides Kentucky - #16 Texas A&M - 76-74 overtime losers to Baylor - and #20 Washington, who lost at Oregon, 81-76, suffered defeat on Saturday.

All other ranked teams won, many by double digits. In the one game matching up two ranked opponents, #12 Villanova cruised past #25 West Virginia, 66-50.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

At 11-1, Fairfield Stands Alone in Metro

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 4, 2011

With a 75-71victory over Iona on Friday, the Fairfield Stags have taken command of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with an 11-1 record and six straight wins.

Senior forward Yorel Hawkins surprised the Gaels - and his teammates - with a season-high 25 points, more than double his average, on 11-for-15 shooting. Hawkins worked the lane to near-perfection, adding three points from the foul line and grabbing seven rebounds, four on the offensive end.

Iona lost its 4th straight, knocking them down to 7-5 and out of serious contention for the conference title. Fairfield leads St. Peter's (9-3) and Rider (8-4) by two and three games respectively and have Sunday match-ups with those two foes over the next eight days with a Friday tilt at Manhattan this coming Friday.

Wins in those two key games would likely land the Stags the conference title, even though they play at Iona in their final regular-season game, Feb. 27. The Stags are 18-4 overall.

NOTABLE: Contentious Ivy: The Ivy league got a little little tighter on Friday as Princeton handed Harvard their first conference loss of the season, 65-61, and moved into a tie with Penn at 3-0 for Ivy lead. The Penn Quakers dispatched Dartmouth, 78-47, on Tyler Bernardini's 21 points for their 4th straight win and third in Ivy League play. Harvard sits right behind the co-leaders, at 4-1.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Wildcats Lead PAC-10 Behind Derrick Williams

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 3, 2011

Emerging as the team to beat in the PAC-10, the Arizona Wildcats began a string of three straight road games with a 78-69 victory over Stanford Thursday night.

It was the second time the Wildcats have defeated the Cardinal as they rolled to an 8-2 record in the conference behind 21 points and 8 rebounds from their do-it-all forward, Derrick Williams.

Williams, a 6'8" sophomore who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, three-point shooting, blocks and steals, scored in double figures for the 32nd straight game, dating back to last February.

At 13-4, the Wildcats' losses have been to Kansas, BYU, Oregon State and Washington, but they'll need to find more scoring to complement Williams if they intend to advance far this March.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Utah State is Ranked, but Duquesne is Better

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It was with great interest that the impostor in this week's AP Top 25 was spotted. There, conspicuously settled in at #22, right behind Arizona, another possible fake, was 21-2 Utah State.

Upon further investigation, suspicions were confirmed, as the Aggies, despite a 10-0 conference record (in the WAC) and 16 straight wins, have played exactly nobody. By far, games against their two toughest opponents - BYU and Georgetown - both resulted in losses, and while the Aggies may eventually receive an automatic bid to the Big Dance, they look more like first round losers than bracket busters.

Elsewhere, the Atlantic-10 gets little love from the sportswriters, though three of the first nine teams receiving votes were Xavier (15-6), which, with 92 votes would actually be #26, and further down the list, Duquesne and Temple, both 16-5.

Of the three, the Dukes look like the best of the bunch, having hammered George Mason Wednesday by an 84-59 score to go 8-0 in the conference, their 11th straight win, with some of those victories over some pretty good schools - Temple, St. Joseph's, Charlotte, Dayton.

The Dukes get plenty of mileage out of 6'5" senior Bill Clark, who leads the team in scoring at 17.5 ppg, and tallied 23 in the rout of GW. Clark was 5-for-9 from the field with a pair of three-pointers and snatched 10 rebounds for his 4th double-double of the season.

Duquesne is simply on a roll. Since a December 22 loss to George Mason, they've run off those 11 wins by an average margin of victory of oh, just 19.5 ppg, the closest contest being a 75-63 win at St. Joseph's, January 5th.

It's doubtable that the Dukes will get a chance to play Utah State this season, but veteran hoops junkies probably already know how that game would turn out.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Leuer Leads Badgers over Purdue, 66-59

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Maybe not the flashiest team in the nation, the Wisconsin Badgers certainly get one's attention, especially at home, where they are nearly impossible to beat.

The #19 Badgers took advantage of 10 first half turnovers by #11 Purdue and raced out to a 27-19 lead at the break only to see the Boilermakers come back to take a 46-39 advantage at the mid-point of the second half.

But Jon Leuer - who led all scorers with 24 points and tied a career best with 13 rebounds - brought the Badgers back in the later stages of the game for a key Big Ten win. Wisconsin got a key bucket from Ryan Evans with just under a minute left which gave them the lead for good at 60-59. Purdue could not muster a good shot in the final minute even though they had ample opportunity. Leuer made a couple of free throws and Evans put an exclamation point on the affair with a breakaway dunk for the final score of 66-59.

Wisconsin hosts Michigan State on Sunday, February 6, hoping to add more pain to the suddenly suspect Spartans' season. Michigan State had been ranked as high as #2 earlier in the season, but the losses have mounted as the season progressed. The Spartans are an unusual 13-8 and 5-4 in conference play, having lost three straight before upending Indiana, 84-83, on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Wright Tallies 24 to Lead Hoyas over Louisville

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 31, 2011

College basketball - like all sports - has its highs and lows, but Georgetown senior guard Chris Wright has really been on a roller coaster ride over the past two games.

In Saturday's 69-66 win at Villanova, Wright spent 30 minutes on the court, but hoisted only three shots, missing all of them and finished the game with zero points. It was the first time he'd been held scoreless since the Big East tournament in 2008, when he was a freshman.

Back on his home court on Monday, Wright's fortune changed dramatically, as he led the Hoyas to their fifth straight win, a frenzied 62-59 victory over #15 Louisville, with a game high 24 points and a personal season high point total. Wright hoisted 14 shots, made eight of them and went 8-for-8 from the foul line, adding five boards and three assists.

Louisville came back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to briefly take a late lead, but Wright's diving scoop shot and Hollis Thompson's three-pointer put the Hoyas ahead until Wright made two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining to ice the contest.

Georgetown, ranked #13 nationally, is just 5-4 in the Big East, caught in a traffic jam with eight other teams between 6-3 and 5-4. They are all desperately chasing 8-1 Pitt, though the feeling is that the Panthers won't survive the remainder of their season without at least one more loss.

The Hoyas are off until Saturday, when they host a dangerous, but unranked, Providence squad.