This is a difficult time of year for hard-core college hoops fans. Many of the games being played are lopsided affairs between ranked teams and small colleges, so there really isn't much in the way of compelling basketball.
However, there have been a number of notable upsets over the past week that need to be highlighted.
Last Saturday, USC, ranked #9 by Rivals.com and #7 by me, got walloped by little Mercer College, 96-81, marking the first serious casualty in the top 25. USC needs to play a little defense apparently. Mercer shot 59% from the field and also hit 13-16 free throws. By contrast, the Trojans shot only 40% from the floor and 56% from the charity line. Obviously, more time in the gym working on fundamentals is ahead for these guys.
Another team with free throw problems is Texas Tech, my #25 preseason pick. The Red Raiders fell on Wednesday night at Sam Houston State, 56-54, missing four key foul shots down the stretch and hitting just 15-28 freebies for the game. They also were outrebounded, 44-32. Coach Bobby Knight will likely be running block out drills and extra free throw sessions for weeks.
On Friday, Memphis knocked off UConn, 81-70 in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic. I didn't rank UConn, but Rivals.com had them at #21 preseason. I still think the Huskies are toast this season and this result is just the beginning of what will be a 12-15 loss season for them.
Also on Friday, one of my sleepers, Providence, topped Arkansas. 67-51 (I had Arkansas ranked #14 and the Friars, #22. Rivals.com didn't rank either of them). Providence had beaten Temple 66-64 in Thursday's opening round of the ESPNU Puerto Rico Tip-Off, before topping the Razorbacks. Arkansas committed 32 turnovers in the game, while the Friars accounted for 15 steals. What really stands out is that neither team shot the ball very well. Arkansas actually hit 43% from the field to Providence's 38%. Sonny Weems, one of the Razorback stars, had only 3 points in 36 minutes. I don't know why the Friars weren't ranked preseason, but they've served notice that they should challenge some of the powerhouses in the Big East. I still think Arkansas is a pretty good team and they'll recover from this.
The Friars (2-0) will face Miami (3-0) in the championship game, Sunday night.
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