Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vols Top Tigers, Claim #1; Notes from Saturday, Feb. 23

#2 Tennessee 66 #1 Memphis 62
In the most widely-anticipated game of the season, #2 Tennessee marched into Memphis and ended the Tigers' 25-game winning streak, while also stopping the nation's longest home winning streak at 47 games and likely knocking the Tigers off the #1 ranking perch when a new Top 25 poll comes out on Monday.

For the Volunteers, it was largely a team effort, with just three players in double figures. Tyler Smith led the way with 18 points. Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince added 13 apiece. JaJuan Smith scored 9 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Chris Lofton, regarded by many as the best all-around player on the team, was guarded tightly all night and finished with just 7 points on 2-11 shooting. Lofton misfired on all four of his 3-point attempts.

The game was tight throughout, with neither team opening more than a 7-point lead. Memphis, one of the worst foul shooting teams in the nation, hit just 8 of 17 free throws. They also hoisted 27 3-balls, hitting just 8.

Inability to score from behind any line, be it the foul line or 3-point line, is going to be a killer come tourney time, which is why Memphis should not go into the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed. Despite their lofty record, they play in a weak conference, shoot just 58% from the charity stripe and only 34% from the 3-point arc. While their 3-ball stat number is acceptable, the foul shooting figure is not. In fact it's horrible and partly why they lost to Tennessee last night and won't win a national championship this season. Little things matter come tourney time and hitting freebies becomes large, especially if you can't make them.

Around the NCAA on Saturday:

#4 Kansas 60 Oklahoma St. 61
The Big 12 is not very predictable. At least it wasn't yesterday. Of the four ranked Big 12 teams playing on Saturday, three of the lost. BTW: the Cowboys improved to 5-7 in the conference and close out the season with Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. 8-8 or 9-7 could get them a dance card.

St. John's 56 #5 Duke 86
Who scheduled this? Obviously, St. John's was getting a nice cut of the gate. Duke needed a little break after losing two straight. This was better.

Oregon 65 #6 UCLA 75
The Ducks hung around until UCLA got serious. Oregon is just a shade smallish and it hurts them. If their shooters get hot, as they were in the first half of this game, they can be dangerous. UCLA's defense is tremendous. They look more and more like a #1 seed every time they hit the court.

Oklahoma 45 #7 Texas 62
A breeze for the Longhorns as G.J. Augustin scored 19.

#16 Drake 71 #8 Butler 64
Earth to Horizon League: There are probably four or five teams in the Missouri Valley conference better than Butler.

Cincinnati 53 #12 Georgetown 73
The Hoyas won for all the wrong reasons. They were outrebounded, but hit 27 of 35 free throws (77%). Roy Hibbert scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds in 31 minutes. He needs anger management. to make him mad. There's never been such a mild-mannered big man, ever. The Hoyas are, however, one of the better defensive teams out there, but teams with good post players can beat them.

#13 Connecticut 65 Villanova 67
Nova's got game, for sure, and they sorely needed this win to keep their tourney hopes alive. They're now 7-7 in the Big East. Respect. You have to earn it.

Arizona 65 #17 Washington St. 55
This was somewhat of a shock because Arizona had been doing a death spiral, losing four of their last five coming in, but the Cougars hit only 5 of 22 3-pointers while the Wildcats hit 8 of 14. At 7-7 in the PAC-10, Arizona is still alive. The Cougars matched their season-low in scoring, and are 2-4 against teams in California (they beat USC twice). Their next two games are at Cal and at Stanford. Trouble.

Iowa 52 #19 Michigan St. 66
Tom Izzo breathed a real sigh of relief when this one was over. The Spartans have struggled against the best in the Big 10, and have Wisconsin and Indiana up next, then close out the season at Illinois and Ohio State. Still 10-4 in the conference, they need to win three of those final four to avoid having to face an 8, 9, or 10 seed in the tourney. They have issues with everything from perimeter shooting to fundamental defense.

Georgia 74 #20 Vanderbilt 86
The Commodores ought to move up in the rankings. They're probably no worse than 15th nationally.

Nebraska 65 #22 Texas A&M 59
The Aggies are deflating faster than a blow-up doll on Valentine's Day. Yesterday, I put them in the "likely" column to make the NCAA tournament. Put me in the "idiot" column. They suck, and I was suckered.

Kent St. 65 #23 St. Mary's 57
We all knew Kent State was better than St. Mary's didn't we? Well, didn't we?

#24 Kansas St. 86 Baylor 92
A big win for Baylor, probably enough to get their ticket punched for the big dance. Good on them. K-State is still growing and maybe can get things right during the Big 12 Tourney. They have lots of upside.

Rutgers 48 #25 Marquette 78
That's four straight wins for the Golden Eagles, one of the real sleepers in the country. They have one of the best inside-outside tandems in Lazar Hayward and Jerel McNeal and when they go to their 3-guard offense with Wesley Matthews and Dominic James, they turn up the heat from the perimeter and on defense. The rest of the field better look out for these guys in March because they're truly dangerous.

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