Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Beast of the East: Georgetown or Pittsburgh?

A new AP poll out Monday put the Big East in focus, placing Pittsburgh at #7, Marquette #12, Georgetown #14 and West Virginia climbing up to #23 on the heels of their upset over UCLA on Saturday.

Well, as soon as the poll (see sidebar below) was released, the Big East showed once again that no poll can contain the diversity of talent and overall competition in what's shaping up to be the best top to bottom conference in the nation. Results and recaps follow.

Georgetown 71 West Virginia 53 - Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green continue to demolish the competition in the Big East. Last night, Hibbert scored 20 points and Green had 15 as the Hoyas shut down the visiting Mountaineers, holding them to 38% shooting for the game. The superiority on the interior was evident from the rebounding stats: Georgetown 35, West Va. 19

The #14 Hoyas are on a significant roll. With their smashing win over #23 West Virginia, they've grabbed 8 straight wins and have surged to within a half game of conference leader, Pitt. With just five games remaining, Georgetown will try to avenge a 74-69 defeat at Pitt from Jan. 13 when the Panthers come calling Feb. 24. That game could determine who wins the Big East and gets the automatic tournament bid.

The same day the Mountaineers reach the Top 25, they suffer their worst loss of the season, equaling the 18-point defeat at Marquette, 63-81, on Jan 13. Ironic, isn't it?

Louisville 66 Pittsburgh 53 - David Padgett was the only Cardinal in double figures (16), but it was enough to upset the Big East-leading Pitt Panthers on their home floor. Louisville's scrappy defense forced 19 turnovers and limited Aaron Gray to just 12 points. While Gray earned his 12th double-double with 10 rebounds, he was the only Panther to shoot better than 50% from the field (5-8).

It was likely the biggest win of the season for Rick Pitino's kids, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the focus on quality wins down the stretch, the Cardinals road win over #7 Pitt surely will make the right impression on the NCAA Tournament committee. Louisville improves to 4th place in the rugged Big East at 8-4, (18-8 overall), but there's still work to be done, as they travel to Marquette on Saturday. A win there would virtually assure the Cardinals of a turn at the Big Dance.

Texas 83 Oklahoma St. 54 - Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry have tried to carry the Cowboys this season, but the team's dependence on the two stars has begun to show some strain. Boggan and Curry scored 28 points combined, but shot just 38% from the field. Meanwhile, the Longhorns were throwing it down at a 56% clip, including 8-15 from behind the arc.

Freshman sensation Kevin Durant had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double (he's averaging 25 and 11.6) of the season. He's scored in double figures in all 25 games, but the quirky Longhorns still trail Texas A&M by 2 games in the Big 12 standings at 8-3. Kansas is second at 8-2 and the Aggies are 9-1.

#17 Oklahoma St. dropped to 5-5 and 19-6 overall.

Duke, which has dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in 11 years, has lost 4 in a row, but one wonders how much resentment is directed at coach K by the voters, who continued to keep Alabama and Arizona in the Top 25 despite similar slipups in the past.

I can't believe I'm actually defending coach K (no, I can't spell his name) and the Duke program, but while the Devils may not be a dominant squad this season, I'd still take them against half of the teams ranked 15-25 and especially against the likes of Alabama and Arizona. [rant] The AP poll may be a lot of things, but one thing it certainly is not is unbiased. [/rant]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Duke Dumps 4th Straight; #25 Stanford Also Loses

Maryland 72 #16 Duke 60 - The Maryland Terrapins are a tough beat at home, where they have a 15-3 record this season. They proved to be impossible for the visiting Duke Blue Devils as Duke's losing streak reached panic stage at 4 straight.

The loss dropped Duke to an unfamiliar place in the ACC standings - tied for 6th with Florida State, which lost last night at home, 68-67 to conference leader Boston College, now 9-2. Duke and Florida St. are both 5-6, Maryland still trails both of them at 4-6.

At 18-7, both Duke and Maryland are sitting on the proverbial tournament bubble. While both may reach 20 wins, 10 losses is also within range, and that's a number the committee always considers.

Could Duke miss being invited? It's a good possibility. Their remaining games are at Boston College, Georgia Tech, at Clemson, at St. John's, Maryland, at North Carolina. There's probably little chance of them sweeping these games. The best they can hope for is probably a split on the four road games and winning both home tilts.

That would put the Blue Devils at 22-9 with the ACC tournament ahead. Unless they win that, there's the 10th loss. Additionally, if they lose early in the ACC tourney, they're probably NIT material.

There are a bevy of quality teams which will finish with fewer than 10 losses, even though that's not necessarily a magic number. 11 or 12 losses almost certainly knocks a team out, so Duke and Maryland and a bunch of other ACC teams - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech - currently have 7 or 8 losses. It's beginning to get very interesting.

Washington 64 #25 Stanford 52 - Stanford's twin 7-foot freshmen forwards, Brook and Robin Lopez, got a little lesson in positioning from Washington's forwards, Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman. While the twins had 13 points and 7 rebounds between them, the Huskies' duo piled up 32 and 17. Hawes' 18 and Brockman's 14 propelled Washington to their 4th win in their last five games.

However, the Huskies are getting a little bit of a late start to challenge for any Pac-10 honors. They are 7th, at 6-7 and 16-8 overall. With 4 of their remaining 5 games against ranked opponents, the Huskies would do well to get an invitation to the Big Dance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Road Warriors: Florida Prevails, Bruins Can't Climb over Mountaineers

#1 Florida and #2 UCLA took their respective shows on the road on Saturday, but only the Gators proved to be worthy warriors. Florida survived at Kentucky to win their 16th straight after the #2 UCLA Bruins were upset by West Virginia.

Florida 64 Kentucky 61 - Tubby's troops seem to be rounding into form at just about the right time. Ranked #20 in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats pushed Florida to the limit on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Randall Morris scored 18 with 9 boards and Ramel Bradley led the Wildcats with 20. Bradley has scored 20 or more in each of his last four games. The Wildcats could not overcome the #1 Gators, however, even though they held Joakim Noah to his second-lowest score of the season - 6 points. Noah was plagued with foul trouble and played only 21 minutes.

It's likely that the Wildcats aren't as good as this score might indicate. Being at home and not having to deal with Noah for almost half the game made this one tighter than it should have been. Kentucky may also have hurt themselves more than the Gators. Both teams went to the foul line 21 times. Kentucky made only 12, Florida 13. When it comes to crunch time in March, neither of those foul-shooting performances are going to get it done.

West Virginia 70 UCLA 65 - Playing without point guard Darren Collison, The #2 UCLA Bruins managed to cut into a 19-point lead and make a close game of it late. Unranked West Virginia scrambled on defense, forcing 15 Bruin turnovers and held on valiantly down the stretch. Alex Ruoff led the Mountaineers with 17 points; the Bruins' Arron Afflalo scored 27 for UCLA.

The Pac-10 - Big East matchup pointed up the relative strengths of the conferences to a degree. While the Bruins were without Collison and on the road, the Mountaineers still won and are unranked and tied for 4th in the Big East standings. The Bruins lead their conference at 10-2.

Top 25 road winners:

#6 Texas A&M 66 Nebraska 55 - Josh Carter equaled his season-high with 26 points, Aggies are now 4-1 on the road in Big 12 action.

#9 Kansas 92, Missouri 74 - Julian Wright blasted off with a season-high 33 points and completed his 4th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds, including 8 offensive boards.

#15 Air Force 60 New Mexico 51 - The Falcons rallied from a 4-point halftime deficit and cruised to a relatively easy win, though they still trail BYU (unranked, why?) by a game in the Mountain West.
#24 Arizona 77 #13 Oregon 74 - the fast-sinking Ducks fell at home to the already fallen Wildcats in the always-exciting-but-never-inspiring Pac-10. Chase Budinger scored 30 for Arizona.

Top 25 home winners:

#3 Ohio St. 63 Purdue 56 - Banged up Greg Oden played only 21 minutes but still managed 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. If Oden makes it through the season, he'll be in the top 3 in the NBA draft.

#4 Wisconsin 74 Iowa 62 - Alando Tucker, 21 points, 7 rebounds. Ho-hum, just another day at the office. Iowa (14-11, 6-5 Big 10) looking very bubbly.

#5 North Carolina 104 Wake Forest 67 - 14 different players scored for the Tar Heels as they topped the century mark for the 7th time this season. Randall Terry led with 23.

#7 Pittsburgh 74 Providence 68 - Aaron Gray, 22 points, 7 rebounds. 15-8 Friars still looking like March dancers.

#8 Memphis 95 Tulane 51 - It doesn't get much easier than this.

#14 Washington St. 59 California 46 - Daven Harmeling scored 26 points, including 5-7 3-pointers. The Cougars may be the stealth team of the tournament unless they overtake UCLA for the Pac-10 title. 21-4 overall, with 3 of those losses by 3 points apiece to UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.

#17 Oklahoma St. 93 Texas Tech 91 2 OT - Mario Boggan 35 points, 14 rebounds. Texas Tech drops to 15-10 and is squarely on the bubble. OK St. has struggled against lesser opponents and should make an early exit from the tourney.

#21 Southern Illinois 72 Creighton 68 - Big win for the Salukis over one of the better teams in their conference. The win actually was for first place in the Missouri Valley. Southern Ill. now 12-3, Creighton 11-4. Watch out for 10-5 Missouri State. Matt Shaw, 25 points for the winners.

#22 Georgetown 76, #11 Marquette 58 - The Hoyas are playing as well as any team in the nation. Jeff Green had 25 points and 5 rebounds; Roy Hibbert 23 and 11. For Hibbert, his 5th double-double and 3rd in his last 4 games. Georgetown has won 7 straight and with the win took over sole possession of 2nd place in the Big East at 8-2. Marquette misfired badly from beyond the arc: 4-21 (19%).

Top 25 Losers (not already mentioned):

Wright St. 77 #10 Butler 65 - The boys from Wright State may have taken some umbrage at Butler rising to #10 in the polls and took it out on the visiting Bulldogs. Not only that, but the Raiders took a 1/2-game lead in the Horizon league, avenging a 73-42 thrashing at Butler earlier in the year. The league winner gets an automatic invite to the tournament and this win makes the case for Wright St. if they finish tied or second. Wright State has won 7 straight and has only 3 games left to play.

Mississippi 75 #18 Alabama 69 - The Rebels were unkind hosts, sending the Crimson Tide to their 5th SEC loss and tying them for the SEC West lead at 5-5. The contentious SEC may send as many as 7 teams to the tournament, especially now that Tennessee has Chris Lofton healthy again.

Tennessee 84 #23 Vanderbilt 57 - Freshman forward Wayne Chism recorded his third double-double of the season, with 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Vols ran roughshod over the visiting Commodores. Chris Lofton scored 16 in 26 minutes. It was Lofton's 2nd game back after missing four straight. The Vols are playing well at the right time. They've beaten LSU and Vandy since Lofton returned to the lineup after losing 3 of 4 without him. Look for the Vols to possibly replace Alabama in the Top 25 this week.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cougars Keep Pac-10 Pressure on Bruins

#14 Washington St. 58 #25 Stanford 45 - The Washington St. Cougars stayed within hailing distance of 1st place UCLA, winning at home over Stanford. Ivory Clark had his first double-double of the season, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The 9-3 Cougars trail the 10-2 Bruins by one game. The two teams meet March 1 at UCLA.

#8 Memphis 70 UAB 56 - The Tigers got 30 points from senior guard Jeremy Hunt and held the Blazers to just 31% shooting (16-52). The 20-3 Tigers hold a 3 1/2 game lead over their closest rivals in Conference USA. UCF, Houston and Rice all are 6-3. Memphis has won 12 straight overall; their last loss was at Arizona on Dec. 20 (79-71).

#10 Butler 92 Cleveland St. 50 - Pete Campbell scored 28 points as the Bulldogs improved to 23-2 and 11-1 in the Horizon conference. Butler can extend their lead on Saturday at Wright State, 2nd at 11-2. The Bulldogs already have a win over the Raiders in hand, having beaten them 73-42 on Jan. 6.

#12 Nevada 81 Fresno St. 68 - Nick Fazekas scored a season-high 33 points and had 15 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. The 10-1 Wolf Pack leads the WAC over 8-2 New Mexico State.

#13 Oregon 55 Arizona St. 51 - The Ducks won for just the 2nd time in their last 5 games, improving to 4-1 on their home court vs. Pac-10 opponents.

#24 Arizona 72 Oregon St. 66 - The Wildcats hit 25 of 33 free throws to Oregon State's 6-8 and pulled out a needed road win. The beleaguered Wildcats now face a tough three-game stretch which will likely determine their March travel plans. On Saturday, they travel to #13 Oregon. After that, they host USC and UCLA on Feb. 15 and 17, respectively.

Tar Heels Get Wednesday Road Win at Duke

The two games featuring Top 25 matchups were both won by the higher-ranked teams on Wednesday night. #5 North Carolina defeated #16 Duke, 79-73, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke lost their third straight game and are 3-3 at home against ACC foes.

Duke's loss sent them into a fifth-place logjam in the ACC standings at 5-5 with Clemson and Florida State. Virginia and Boston College lead the conference at 8-2. The Blue Devils close out their regular season at North Carolina on March 4.

Out West, #2 UCLA overcame a 7-point second half USC lead to win their 18th straight at home, 70-65. The Bruins finished last season with 3 straight home wins and haven't lost in 15 games at Pauley Pavilion this season. UCLA improved to 21-2 (10-2, Pac-10), retaining their hold on first place in the conference. They also completed a season sweep of their crosstown rival, having already topped the Trojans 65-64 on Jan. 13.

Top 25 road winners:

#1 Florida 71 Georgia 61 - The Gators extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.

#4 Wisconsin 74 Penn St. 58 - Alando Tucker: 24 points, 8 rebounds.

#7 Pittsburgh 60 West Virginia 47 - Pitt is now 9-1 in the Big East, 1st place.

#22 Georgetown 73 Louisville 65 - The efficient Hoyas completely dominated the interior with their size advantage. Center Roy Hibbert scored 20 points on 9-10 shooting and hauled in 11 rebounds. Forward Jeff Green had 16 (7-10) and 7 boards. Georgetown shot 57% to Louisville's 33%. Despite the shooting disparity, good ball control (1 turnover) allowed the Cardinals to stay close.

Top 25 home winners:

#9 Kansas 97 Kansas St. 70 - Brandon Rush: 18 points.

#11 Marquette 67 Rutgers 47 - 8th straight Big East win for the Golden Eagles. Their 8-2 record trails Pitt by one game.

#18 Alabama 80 Mississippi St. 79 - Richard Hendrix: 22 points. Alabama keeps things interesting, winning their 5th SEC game overall and the 4th by 3 points or less. They now have the lead in the SEC West by one game and are the only team in their division with a winning record at 5-4.

#20 Kentucky 95 South Carolina 89 Kentucky: 25-33 free throws; S. Carolina 11-16.

#21 Southern Illinois 60 Bradley 50 - Salukis' Randall Falker: 13 points, 12 rebounds; 6th double-double of season. Creighton visits So. Illinois Saturday.

Top 25 losers:

Oklahoma 67 #17 Oklahoma St. 60 - 18-5 Cowboys drop to 6th in the Big 12 at 4-4.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Falcons Floored Again, BYU Excels

Hoops action was somewhat limited on Tuesday night, but the results from the Mountain West suggest further changes will be coming to the Top 25 in weeks to come.

BYU (18-6, 8-2) claimed sole possession of first place in the conference with a 77-72 win at Wyoming. Meanwhile, #16 Air Force was grounded at San Diego State, 62-41 and dropped to 2nd place at 7-3 (20-4 overall). BYU has already beaten the Falcons, 61-52, on January 27, but Air Force continues to be ranked due to a couple of quality wins over Stanford and Texas Tech back in November.

However, it's now February and BYU has won 5 straight. The Cougars play at Air Force on Feb. 27. By then, they may have the conference title wrapped up because the Falcons have road games at New Mexico, TCU and UNLV in the mix before then. Stay tuned.

In other Top 25 lunacy, how is it that the two top teams in the ACC - Virginia and Boston College - aren't ranked? They've kind of snuck up on the voters, but not the public or opposing ACC coaches.

Virginia won again last night, at Maryland, 69-65, improving to 8-2 in the conference and sole possession of first place as BC was idle. North Carolina (6-2) and Duke (5-4) are chasing, and one of them is going to drop further behind as the Tar Heels play at Duke tonight. Lost in the confusion are two quality programs, Virginia Tech (6-3) and Florida State (5-4), at free-falling Clemson tonight.

In the only other game involving a Top 25 team last night, Ohio State bested Michigan at home, 76-63. Mike Conley Jr. led the Buckeyes with 23 points. Super frosh Greg Oden scored 15 and pulled down 8 boards.

14 Top 25 teams take to the court Wednesday night, so check back here tomorrow for updates. In addition to the UNC-Duke game, #19 USC is at #2 UCLA in the only other matchup between two ranked teams.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Georgetown Garners Respect in Current Poll

In Monday's latest AP Top 25 (see below in the left-hand column) a few new names popped up. Getting the biggest boost was Southern Illinois, which debuted at #21, replacing, ostensibly, Notre Dame (though the Irish are without a doubt a better team than Alabama or Arizona). The Salukis have been surging through the Missouri Valley conference into a tie for 1st place with preseason choice Creighton at 10-3.

Southern Ill. won at Creighton back on January 20, but has since won four more straight and are a very respectable 19-5 overall with wins over Wichita State (twice), Virginia Tech and Minnesota to name just a few.

The Salukis have another date with Creighton on Saturday and a road game at Horizon conference leader, #10 Butler the following Saturday. Those games should provide some indication of this team's potential to make madness in March.

Right behind Southern Illinois is Georgetown, at #22 in the poll. The Hoyas have an impressive front line - one of the tallest in the nation - revolving around 7-footer Roy Hibbert. At 16-5 and 6-2 in the Big East, the Hoyas have seemingly hit their best stride. Following consecutive losses to Villanova and Pitt, Georgetown has strung up five straight wins, by an average margin of 16.6.

Losses to Duke and Oregon are still major blemishes, though those losses came at the end of November and beginning of December, and the Hoyas are looking more organized and turning the ball over much less. If Hibbert and forward Jeff Green (24 points vs. St. John's last Thursday) continue to contribute, the Hoyas could go deep in March.

Last night there was but one Top 25 game, and Texas A&M was triumphant again. The Aggies tore through Texas, 100-82, just two days after knocking off Kansas on the road. What was a three-way tie just 3 days ago is now a 1 1/2 game lead for 8-1 A&M in the Big 12. Coach Billy Gillispie has built himself a powerhouse offense around Acie Law and the Aggies are currently #6 in the AP poll. They're 20-3, with the losses at UCLA and LSU and a lone conference loss at Texas Tech.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thornton leads Seminoles over #8 Duke

Florida State 68 Duke 67 - Forward Al Thornton is making the most of his senior year at Florida State. He's scored in double figures in all 23 games this season, scored 20 or more 12 times, and has 3 double-doubles. But yesterday was possibly his best as his 21 points, 8 rebounds and floor leadership helped the Seminoles upset #8 Duke at Cameron Arena. Florida State had lost their 15 previous trips to Duke, but this time Thornton and his teammates were determined not to leave without a win.

Greg Paulus scored 23 for Duke, but Florida State held the Blue Devils scoreless in the final minute to seal the 1-point victory. Afterwards, Seminole players danced and celebrated on Duke's home court.

With the win, Florida State improved to 16-7 on the season and into a tie with Duke for 5th place in the topsy-turvy ACC at 5-4. The road victory virtually ensured that the Seminoles would receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, though they must still play well down the stretch and in the ACC tourney. The Seminoles advanced to 3-4 against ranked teams, the two other wins coming against Florida and Virginia Tech.

Just one game involves Top 25 teams tonight, but it's a good one. #22 Texas invades #10 Texas A&M at 9:00 EST. By the time these two tip, their rankings will almost certainly have changed. On Saturday, Texas lost at home to Kansas State, while the Aggies won at #6 Kansas.

One other game of note is in the Big East. Syracuse plays at UConn. Both teams are perennial tournament fixtures, but have fallen on lean times this season, especially the Huskies, who are 3-6 in the conference and 14-8 overall. Syracuse is 5-4 in the Big East and 16-7 overall. A win tonight by Boeheim's boys could send Calhoun's kids home early this season.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Upsets Galore!

Big Saturday produces eight losses by Top 25 teams

There were 22 games involving Top 25 teams on Saturday. Everybody except Duke and Pitt were on the court and 8 of those ended up on the wrong side of the score. Even in the one game between two ranked teams, the lower one, #10 Texas A&M, scored an upset over the higher, #6 Kansas. The game was played on Kansas' home court, so maybe the two will change positions in Monday's new poll, though nobody's holding their breath.

On to the action (losers first):

NC State 83 North Carolina 79 - This wasn't just big, it was huge. #3 North Carolina looked like a shoo-in to take over the #2 ranking in the next poll after Wisconsin and UCLA both suffered losses during the week. It was not to be. The Wolfpack sizzled at 60% shooting from the field, including 8-15 3-pointers, and in the process, further muddied the ACC waters. North Carolina's loss, coupled with Boston College's win over Virginia Tech, hoisted two unranked teams, BC and Virginia, to the top of the conference standings.

Texas A&M 69 Kansas 66 - Acie Law played 39 minutes and scored 23 points to lead the #10 Aggies to their most important win of the season. By virtue of Texas' loss to Kansas State, A&M wriggled out of a 3-team logjam atop the Big 12 and came out on top, a game better than #6 Kansas and #22 Texas.

USC 71 Oregon 68 - The Trojans proved that their win at Oregon was no fluke, holding off a spirited late rally by the #9 Ducks for the win. Oregon has had a tough week, losing to both SoCal teams. UCLA beat them on Thursday, securing first place in the Pac-10. On Saturday, USC relegated Oregon to middle of the pack status and moved into a tie with Washington St. for 2nd place at 8-3. USC plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion this coming Wednesday.

USC shot 60% for the game while holding the Ducks to just 33% (22-66). The disparity in shooting percentage was mandatory for the Trojans as they were outrebounded 41-20, an area they must address in the near term.

Colorado 89 Oklahoma St. 77 - This was not expected to happen. Colorado was just 1-7 in the conference going in and 3-7 at home overall. But senior guard Dominique Coleman scored 21 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Teammates Kalvin Bay and Richard Roby contributed 21 and 20 respectively to pull off one of the more stunning upsets of the day. #12 Oklahoma State fell to 5th place in the Big 12 at 4-3.

Boston College 80 Virginia Tech 59 The #16 Hokies fell for the second straight time to an unranked opponent. On Wednesday, they lost at home to NC State, 70-59, and on Saturday took their show on the road. The loss boosted Boston College into a first-place tie with Virginia at 7-2 and dropped the Hokies to 4th place at 6-3. Senior forward Jared Dudley matched his season high with 30 points for the Eagles while snatching 13 rebounds (7 offensive) for his 8th double-double of the season.

South Florida 69 Notre Dame 63 - Another poor performance on the road sent the #21 Fighting Irish to their 5th loss of the season and 4th out of 6 on the road in . Colin Falls had 26 points for Notre Dame, but McHugh Mattis had 23 as the Bulls took an early lead and never relinquished it. The Bulls outrebounded Notre Dame 48-38 and outscored them from the foul line, 20-6. The loss dropped the Irish to 6-4 in the heady Big East.

Kansas St. 73 Texas 72 - #22 Texas' Kevin Durant had 32 points and 9 rebounds but Cartier Martin (27 points) hit a 3-pointer and two key free throws to send the visiting Wildcats to their 6th straight Big 12 win and into a second place tie with rival Kansas at 6-2. Unranked K-State plays next at Kansas on Wednesday while Texas has a date at #10 Texas A&M on Monday night.

Georgia Tech 80 Clemson 62 - Georgia Tech ended a four-game losing streak and demolished the #25 Tigers in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets outshot Clemson 46-41% and won the battle of the boards, 44-28. Clemson, undefeated at 17-0 just 3 weeks ago, has dropped 5 of their last 6, all ACC games. At 4-5, they are alone in 7th place in the conference.

Saturday's Top 25 Winners:

#1 Florida 91 Tennessee 78 - The Gators run their streak to 14 straight wins, currently the longest in the nation. They lead the SEC East at 8-0.

#2 Wisconsin 69 Northwestern 52 - The Badgers recovered from their first conference loss with a convincing home win. Alando Tucker had 20 points and 9 rebounds. Running mate Kammron Taylor scored 15.

#3 Ohio St. 63 Michigan St. 54 - Greg Oden led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds (7 offensive), keeping the Buckeyes tied for first place with Wisconsin in the Big 10.

#5 UCLA 82 Oregon St. 35 - In one of the most lopsided games of the season, the Bruins shot 58% overall and hit 7-15 3-pointers. 11 different players scored for UCLA as bench sitters got extended playing time as the Bruins built a 30-point halftime lead.

#10 Texas A&M 69 #6 Kansas 66 - See recap above.

#11 Memphis 88 SMU 52 - Memphis improved to 9-0 in Conference USA and won their 11th straight overall. They lead by 3 1/2 games and may end up being the only representative from that watered-down conference in the NCAA tournament.

#13 Butler 66 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 47 - The 22-2 Bulldogs won their 14th straight home game without a loss.

#15 Nevada 69 Hawaii 68 - Nick Fazekas had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season as the Wolf Pack survived a scare from the visiting Rainbow Warriors.

#17 Air Force 88 Wyoming 43

#18 Washington St. 48 Arizona St. 47 - The Cougars squeezed out a road win to improve to 19-4 and remain tied for 2nd in the Pac-10 at 8-3.

#19 Alabama 64 South Carolina 61 - The Crimson Tide won their second straight, improving to 4-4 in the SEC West, good enough for a 1/2-game lead over Mississippi and Auburn.

#20 Arizona 84 Washington 54 - The Wildcats won for just the 3rd time in their last 9 games.

#23 Stanford 90 California 71 - The Cardinal won the boards 43-29, shot 54% and hit 22-24 free throws for a much-needed road win.

#24 Vanderbilt 66 Georgia 61 - The Commodores avenged an earlier loss at Georgia with 20 points from Derrick Byars and 19 from Dan Cage.

With the Super Bowl taking most of the sports interest today, only one Top 25 team will see action on Sunday as #8 Duke hosts Florida State.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ones to Watch on Saturday

There were no Top 25 teams in action last night, but a bevy of basketball to be played on Saturday. Here are some of the games to watch (conference records in parentheses):

12:00 pm Louisville 16-6 (6-2) at Villanova 14-7 (3-5) - Two teams with plenty of upside, both headed for the NCAA Tournament. Villanova needs to get back into the Big East race while Louisville can earn conference credentials with a road win.

3:30 pm #9 Oregon 19-3 (7-3) at USC 17-6 (7-3) - Second straight road game for the Ducks, and the first one didn't go well, losing to UCLA on Thursday. A win by the Trojans puts them back in the top 25 and tightens their hold on 2nd place in the conference.

4:00 pm #4 Ohio St. 19-3 (7-1) at Michigan St. 17-6 (4-4) - Road wins are essential and the Buckeyes need to win in East Lansing. The Spartans are likely a sleeper NCAA team and could upset.

5:30 pm UNLV 19-4 (6-2) at BYU 16-6 (6-2) - Winner will get eyeballs from the poll voters and likely stay tied with #17 Air Force in the Mountain West. The Falcons host Wyoming today.

7:00 pm Georgia 13-7 (5-3) at #24 Vanderbilt 15-7 (5-3) - Both teams seemed destined to dance in March, but suffered losses in their most recent outings. Georgia already has a win over the Commodores, 85-73 on January 13, so some home cookin' should be in order. The Bulldogs, however, are a tough beat.

8:00 pm #21 Notre Dame 18-4 (6-3) at South Florida 11-11 (2-6) - This may look like an easy date for the Fighting Irish, but South Florida isn't too bad, the Big East is balanced and Notre Dame has struggled on the road. Time for them to grow up.

9:00 pm #10 Texas A&M 18-3 (6-1) at #6 Kansas 19-3 (6-1) - Phog Allen Fieldhouse will be rockin' and rollin' with the best game of the day and 1st place in the Big 12 on the line. The Aggies have never beaten Kansas in the five years they've been in the conference. Billy Gillespie's mind will be on defending the Jayhawks' Brandon Rush, one of the top players in the nation. This should be fun.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cavaliers streaking through ACC; Bruins back on top of Pac-10 heap

Virginia 68 Duke 66 - The Virginia Cavaliers won their 5th straight ACC game - and the second consecutive over a ranked opponent - beating #8 Duke in overtime. After winning at #25 Clemson on Sunday, the Cavaliers returned home for the Blue Devils, rallying from 7 points down at the half to tie the game at 61 and then win it on Sean Singletary's shot with one second left. Singletary, who scored 17, also hit the game-tying shot in regulation.

The Cavaliers were led by the man with the best name on Tobacco Road, J. R. Reynolds, who had 25 points, including 10 of 11 free throws. Neither team could find the range from beyond the arc. Duke hit 5-18 (28%), while Virginia managed only 4-13 (31%). The win moved Virginia past Duke in the ACC standings and into a tie for second place (6-2) with Boston College and Virginia Tech. Duke fell to 5-3 in conference play.

Washington St. 72 Arizona 66 - #20 Arizona lost for the 6th time in 8 games and their 2nd straight at home as Washington State completed a sweep of the Wildcats for the first time in 24 years. The Cougars improved to 18-4 and into a tie with Oregon and USC at 7-3 for 2nd place in the Pac-10. UCLA leads the conference at 8-2.

The #18 Cougars shot 51% from the field, including 7-14 3-pointers and 9-9 free throws. Senior forward Ivory Clark scored 18, hitting 7 of his 9 shots.

The loss dropped Arizona to 14-7 and 5-5 in the conference.

UCLA 69 Oregon 57 - The Bruins are very tough at Pauley Pavilion. Ranked #5 in the nation, UCLA has not lost at home this season, making the #9 Oregon Ducks their 11th straight victim on Pauley's legendary hardwood last night.

The Bruins avenged a 68-66 loss at Oregon on January 6, took sole possession of 1st place in the conference and cemented their claim as one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Ducks were limited to 39% shooting while the Bruins hit 57% (28-49, 8-14 3s).

UCLA's backcourt did most of the offensive damage. Darren Collison scored 12 points and dished 4 assists. Arron Afflalo led the Bruins with 17, while forward Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

USC 73 Oregon State 56 - The unranked Trojans had five players in double figures and improved to 7-3 in the Pac-10 and 17-6 overall but have a tough week ahead. On Saturday, they host #9 Oregon and then travel to #5 UCLA on Wednesday. If they can win at least one of those games, the Trojans have a legitimate chance of breaking back into the Top 25.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gators Roll On as Badgers Fall; Durant hits 37 again

Florida 74 Vanderbilt 64 - #1 Florida extended their winning streak to 13 games as they put down the upstart Vanderbilt Commodores last night in Gainesville. Joakim Noah scored 19 and Lee Humphrey added 15, including 5 3-pointers. Conversely, the Commodores could only muster 3-18 shooting from beyond the arc. Vandy's Derrick Byars scored 23. It was #24 Vanderbilt's first game since making the Top 25 for the first time this season on Monday.

Indiana 71 Wisconsin 66 - The Hoosiers established themselves as a legitimate contender in the Big 10, ending the #2 Badgers' winning streak at 17 and improving to 6-2 in the conference. A.J. Ratliff had 20 and D.J. White, 16 points for Indiana, while Alando Tucker continued his scoring blitz with 23 for Wisconsin. The Hoosiers fell out of the Top 25 on Monday, but will likely be reincluded following next Monday's votes though Indiana faces a tough test at Iowa on Saturday as Wisconsin hosts Northwestern (1-7 Big 10).

North Carolina 105 Miami (FL) 64 - Tyler Hansbrough led 5 players in double figures with 22 points and 13 rebounds as the #3 Tar Heels cracked the century mark for the 6th time this season. North Carolina took over the ACC lead at 6-1 as Virginia Tech lost to NC State. North Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation in scoring at 88.5 points per game.

Ohio St. 78 Purdue 60 - The #4 Buckeyes improved to 19-3 overall and moved into a tie with Wisconsin for 1st place in the Big 10, bombing the Boilermakers with an impressive road victory. Greg Oden played only 21 minutes as Ohio State pulled away in the 2nd half for the relatively easy win.

Texas A&M 73 Iowa State 49 - Joseph Jones scored 21 points for the Aggies as they remained tied with Kansas and Texas for the Big 12 lead at 6-1. The logjam atop the conference should see some resolution in the next week. The #10 Aggies play at Kansas on Saturday and host the Longhorns Monday, Feb. 5.

Memphis 87 Central Florida 65 - #11 Memphis continued to cruise through their Conference-USA schedule with another dominating road win. Joey Dorsey scored 22 points and hauled in 9 rebounds in the one-sided affair. The win was the 10th straight for the Tigers, who improved to 18-3.

Butler 71 Youngstown St. 58 - Mike Green had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the #13 Bulldogs to their 21st win against just 2 losses, tying them with Wisconsin for the nation's best record. North Carolina, Nevada and Florida are 20-2.

Nevada 79 Louisiana St. 71 - Nick Fazekas and Marcellus Kemp each scored 20 points as the #15 Wolf Pack reached the 20-win mark and remained tied with New Mexico State atop the WAC at 8-1.

North Carolina State 70 Virginia Tech 59 - The Wolfpack won only their second road game of the year, but it was a big one, knocking off #16 Virginia Tech. The win was also NC State's 2nd conference win in 7 tries. They are 0-5 in the ACC at home and 12-8 overall. The Hokies dropped into a tie for 2nd place in the conference with Boston College at 6-2, a half-game ahead of Duke (5-2)

Alabama 73 LSU 70 - The #19 Crimson Tide finally got a road win in the turbulent SEC. LSU's woes continued. Jermareo Davidson scored 31 for Alabama, which had lost all of their conference away games - at Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Auburn - had lost 4 of their last 6 overall and had fallen from #12 to #19 in the current AP poll.

The loss for the LSU Tigers was their 4th in a row, dropping their record in the SEC to 2-5 and 13-8 overall. After a great run in last year's tournament, the Tigers are in jeopardy of not getting an invitation this season.

Texas 76 Texas Tech 64 - Kevin Durant may have had his best game of the season last night in Lubbock, leading the #22 Longhorns to another important road win with 37 points and 23 rebounds. It may have been the best performance by any player in the NCAA this season. Durant was 15-29 overall, including 5-9 from 3-point range. The Longhorns were down 4 at the half, but Durant's heroics helped produce a 38-22 2nd-half drubbing. Earlier this season, Durant had scored 37 against Oklahoma State and again vs. Colorado. The phenomenal frosh scored 34 against both Baylor and Missouri.

Gonzaga 90 Stanford 86 2OT - Unranked Gonzaga reminded West Coast watchers that they are still a team to be reckoned with, pulling off the upset over #23 Stanford on the road. despite their 16-7 mark, the Bulldogs still dominate the West Coast conference, leading it at 6-1. The main knock on Gonzaga is their record against ranked teams, though last night's win was their 3rd road win over a ranked team this season. Previously, the Bulldogs beat North Carolina and Texas, but lost to Butler, Nevada and Duke.

With one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Gonzaga also lost to Washington St., Virginia and Georgia, while beating Washington earlier in the season. With 7 of their remaining 8 games in conference, the focus will be on a February 17 tilt with #11 Memphis which will be played on Gonzaga's home hardwood.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Top 25 Not Representing the Best

On Monday, the AP and USA Today each released their updated Top 25 (also shown below in the margin). While they may have it right from 1-5, after that, it's really a guessing game, and as you get towards the bottom of the list, it's outright hilarious due to the inclusion of Alabama and Arizona.

The Crimson Tide has been beaten repeatedly in conference games, and Arizona was a 28-point home loser to North Carolina on Saturday after losing 4 of 6 conference games. Their inclusion brings the value of the entire poll into question.

In any case, they got a few things right. Vanderbilt, Texas and Stanford were included in this week's poll (replacing LSU, Indiana and USC), but Georgetown, Georgia and Virginia didn't get in. Heck, Virginia and Georgia only got 11 votes apiece.

Good thing there's a tournament at the end of the year so we're able to determine which teams really are contenders and which are pretenders (and from the looks of it, there are plenty of the latter).

There were only three Top 25 games on Monday night, so here are the highlights:

Butler 71 Illinois-Chicago 45 - The Flames were snuffed out by #13 Butler, limited to just 30% shooting on the night. The Bulldogs avenged a Jan. 10, 73-67 overtime loss at Ill-Chicago, improving to 20-2 on the season and 8-1 in the Horizon League. Junior forward Pete Campbell matched his season high with 17 in just 25 minutes on the floor.

Kansas 76 Nebraska 56 - #6 Kansas used a 27-0 first half run to humble Nebraska in front of 12,000+ disappointed Cornhusker fans. Brandon Rush continued his scoring assault with 20 points, leading all scorers. Rush is averaging 16.4 in Big 12 play.

Pittsburgh 65 Villanova 59 - The Pitt Panthers also proved to be road-worthy, winning on their cross-state rivals' floor in Philadelphia. Levance Fields lit up the Wildcats with 20 points and the Panthers hit on 8 of 19 3-point attempts. #7 Pitt improved to 20-3 overall and 8-1 in the Big East, increasing their lead over Marquette (6-2) to a game and a half. Pitt gets a deserved rest, as their next game isn't until Feb. 7, at West Virginia. Marquette will try to keep pace, hosting Providence on Saturday.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Road Wins, Close Games Reveal Quality

UCLA, LSU latest victims in Top 25

The Top 25 took a beating this weekend and it will be interesting to see which teams get dumped wholesale. My list of teams that should not be represented in the Top 25 includes Indiana, LSU, Clemson, Arizona, Air Force and Alabama.

Replacing them in random spots would be Georgetown, Virginia, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Texas, and Stanford. I figure any team capable of beating the #3 team (UCLA), as Stanford did last night, deserves some props. And that's where today's coverage begins...

Stanford 75 UCLA 68 - The #3 UCLA Bruins blew a 12-point halftime lead, giving up 50 2nd half points to the Cardinal, as Stanford notched its third win over a ranked team in the last four tries.

Stanford's outstanding sophomore forward, Lawrence Hill, scored 22 points and classmate Anthony Goods rained down 20 more, hitting 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line. It was somewhat of an off-shooting night for UCLA, though much of that could be attributed to Stanford's defense. The Bruins shot just 43% and hit only 5 of 16 (31%) threes.

Stanford beat then #22 Washington State, 71-68, on January 13, and this week took care of both sides of Los Angeles, beating USC, 61-50 on Thursday and finishing the task with their win over the Bruins. The Cardinal improved to 14-5. All three of the recent wins over ranked teams were on the Cardinal home court. Sandwiched in between was a 66-59 loss at Oregon, who now is tied with UCLA at 7-2 atop the Pac-10.

Georgia 57 LSU 54 - LSU was the other Top 25 team to lose on the road Sunday. The #21 Tigers fell victim to a last-second three-pointer by Levi Stukes, who led the Bulldogs with 16. The loss was the third straight for the Tigers. They previously were defeated by Arkansas and the streaking Vanderbilt Commodores.

Meanwhile, Georgia has won four of its last five, and is tied with Kentucky and Vandy for 2nd place in the SEC East at 5-2, all chasing Florida and their 6-0 conference record.

Wisconsin 57 Iowa 46 - Alando Tucker scored nearly half his team's points - 27 - leading the Badgers to their 21st win and an impressive 7-0 in Big 10 play. Tucker was phenomenal, hitting 11-14 shots from the field, including 2 of 5 3-pointers. The rest of the team was only 9-29 as the Hawkeyes harassed shooters all day but could not stop the determined Tucker. Wisconsin has won 17 straight and next plays at Indiana on Jan. 31.

Virginia 64 Clemson 63 - J. R. Reynolds led all scorers with 18 points and the Cavaliers stunned #19 Clemson at home. Virginia scored the final 15 points of the game, overcoming a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead when Jason Cain scored his only basket of the game on a tip-in with 15.5 seconds remaining. The Tigers, who less than 4 weeks ago were 17-0, have dropped 4 of their last 5 since then.

Other Top 25 winners included #10 Duke, who held serve at home over Boston College, 75-61. The win was Duke's fifth straight.

Road winners were #15 Marquette at South Florida, 70-68, and #24 Virginia Tech, which delivered a 73-65 win at Georgia Tech.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Alabama, Arizona lose again

Tide has lost 4 of last 6; Wildcats 5 of 7

What does it say about the state of the current poll that the #12 team has lost 4 conference games already and the #17 team just lost at home by 28 points?

Well, it means the polls are going to see some changes on Monday, and also that they shouldn't be used as a reliable guide to which teams are really the best, especially after the top 5 or 6.

There were no Top 25 games on Friday night, and a slew of them on Saturday.

In the essence of time, I'll just recap quickly:

Unranked Arkansas beat #12 Alabama for the second time this season, 63-57, this time on the Tide's home hardwood. #4 North Carolina calmly executed its offense and the #17 Arizona Wildcats, 92-64, in Arizona.

BYU grounded #16 Air Force, 61-52, in Provo, UT.

#20 Washington State lost at home in overtime to #7 Oregon, 77-74.

Saturday's Top #25 home winners:

#5 Ohio St. 66 Michigan St. 64
#6 Texas A&M 70 Oklahoma 61
#8 Kansas 97 Colorado 74
#11 Memphis 67 Southern Miss 64
#9 Pittsburgh72 St. John's 46
#13 Oklahoma St. 62 Iowa St. 50
#18 Nevada 79 Utah St. 62
#22 Notre Dame 66 Villanova 63
#23 Indiana 76 Michigan 61

Road winners:

#1 Florida 91 Auburn 66
#14 Butler 68 Detroit 58
#21 USC 76 California 73

Friday, January 26, 2007

Unrest in the West

Pac-10 produces not one, but two upsets

College basketball is probably as competitive as it has ever been. Not a single day goes by that there isn't an upset in the Top 25 ranks. while that could be due to poor choices by the poll voters, it's more likely that home courts rule and college players just aren't well-prepared for the rigors of the road.

Thursday night produced a couple of upsets, both in the Pac-10 and both against hostile home crowds.

Stanford 65 USC 50 - This one maybe wasn't as surprising as one might think. Stanford has a solid history of Pac-10 hoops play and this year's squad had already knocked off Washington St. and played Oregon close on the road.

7-foot freshman Brook Lopez and his twin brother Robin, were overpowering inside, boosting the Cardinal to an early lead which they would not give up. Brook Lopez scored 18 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked a school-record 12 shots. Brother Robin added 6, 4 and 3 blocks.

The #25 Trojans were apparently not well-prepared for the twins or the rest of the Stanford onslaught. They shot only 28% and were outrebounded 45-33.

Stanford hosts #3 UCLA this Sunday. Look out above!

Washington 89 Oregon 77 - Maybe the Huskies were just tired of losing. Maybe they were simply homesick. Whatever it was, the Huskies made #7 Oregon the unwitting victim.

Coming off a three straight road losses, Washington returned home on fire. They shot 53% (Oregon shot 55%) and made good at the foul line with regularity (19-26) to improve to 12-1 at home. Of their 7 losses, only a 96-87 defeat by Arizona occurred on their home floor.

The Huskies may be predominant at home, but they have another three-game road stretch late in the season - Feb. 17 at Pittsburgh, Feb. 22 at Oregon St. and Feb. 24 at Oregon - which could keep them out of the NCAA Tourney if they don't soon discover some secret to winning on the road.

UCLA 63 California 46 - With a little help from their Northern neighbors, the #3 Bruins took over sole control of first place in the contentious Pac-10. While Washington was waxing Oregon, the Bruins coolly disposed of Cal and built some confidence on the road. UCLA shot an even 50% from the floor while limiting the Golden Bears to just 37%. Arron Afflalo paced the Bruins with 25 points, including all 9 of UCLA's free throws (others were 0 for 6). It was Afflalo's 6th 20-or-better performance of the season.

Washington St. 70 Oregon St. 55 - The #20 Huskies improved to 6-2 in the Pac-10 and 17-3 overall with a ho-hum home win over hapless Oregon State (1-7 Pac-10). Washington State's only conference blemishes are a pair of 3-point road losses to UCLA and Stanford.

Duke 68 Clemson 66 - The #10 Blue Devils got a double-double from Josh McRoberts (17 points, 12 rebounds) and survived on a last second shot by soph David McClure to hand #19 Clemson their 3rd loss in their last 4 games. Duke nearly blew an 11-point halftime lead, and could not contain the Tigers' Vernon Hamilton, who finished with 21 points and had tied the game with 5 points in the final 6 seconds.

Duke has now won four straight ACC games after losing their first two in conference.

Butler 70 Chicago-Loyola 66 - A. J. Graves scored 26 as the #14 Butler Bulldogs got a key road win over a Horizon Conference foe. Butler is 6-1 in conference and 18-2 overall.

Nevada 84 Louisiana Tech 67 - Ramon Sessions threw down 21 points and Nick Fazekas added 13 as the #18 Wolf Pack blew by Louisiana Tech in the 2nd half. After playing to a 37-all tie at the half, Nevada outscored the Bulldogs 47-30 for their 18th win against just 2 losses.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fear the Commodores!

Vanderbilt has knocked off four ranked SEC teams

Vanderbilt 64 LSU 53 - They're not flashy. They haven't been ranked yet this season. But the Vanderbilt Commodores are ripping through the SEC and raising eyebrows around the country. Last night the Commodores improved to 14-6 and 4-2 in the SEC, knocking off #21 LSU with a combination of swarming defense and timely shooting.

Beginning on January 10 with an 82-81 road win over then-#16 Tennessee, the Commodores have gone 4-1, including wins over Alabama, and road wins at Kentucky and LSU. Their only loss during the span was at Georgia (85-73), another SEC surprise.

On Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Vanderbilt outhustled the Tigers to an early 16-3 lead and never looked back. Frustrating LSU's Big Daddy Glen Davis into a 5-15 shooting performance, the Vanderbilt defense held the Tigers to 32% shooting overall. Vandy's top three scorers - Derrick Byars, Shan Foster and Dan Cage - led the scoring. Byars had 18, Foster and Cage scored 14 apiece and the trio nailed 9 of their team's 10 3-pointers.

The Commodores next hit the court on January 27 at home against Mississippi. They get their shot at #1 Florida (currently leading the Commodores by 1 1/2 games in the SEC East at 5-0) on the 31st in Gainesville.

Texas Tech 70 Texas A&M 68 - Bobby Knight added another win to his resume last night, but this one was particularly satisfying. Knight is college basketball's all-time leader in wins, now has his team tied for the Big 12 lead with Kansas, A&M and Texas, all at 4-1.

The Red Raiders knocked off Kansas, 69-64, on Saturday and made it two in a row against Top 10 teams on Wednesday night.

It wasn't as though the #6 Aggies were going to make it easy. Leading scorer Acie Law poured in 26 points on 9-15 shooting and the Aggies outshot Tech, 53-50%, but the Red Raiders popped from beyond the arc, hitting 10 of 19 3-pointers. They also frequented the foul line and made good on 22 of 29 free throws, especially Martin Zeno, who led the team with 22 points, including 13-14 from the line. Tech's leading scorer, Jarrius Jackson, had 14. Senior forward Jon Plefka hit 6 of 8 shots for 17 points.

Florida 70 Mississippi St. 67 - The #1 Gators survived a scare on the road, but managed to escape with their 11th straight win and remain undefeated in the SEC at 5-0. Corey Brewer scored 20 for the Gators who didn't shoot particularly well (42%), but made 23 of 35 free throws.

Wisconsin 71 Michigan 58 - The #2 ranked Badgers continued their roll though the miserably weak Big 10, improving to 6-0 in the conference and 20-1 (best record in the nation) overall. The win was their 16th in a row and a new school record, since a 66-64 loss at Missouri St. November 24. Alando Tucker and Brian Butch each had 16 points as coach Bo Ryan emptied the bench as Wisconsin was never threatened by the Wolverines.

North Carolina 88 Wake Forest 60 - The #4 Tar Heels put four players into double figures and coasted to an easy win at overmatched Wake Forest. The youthful North Carolina squad was led by freshman guard Wayne Ellison who hit 8 of 12 shots for a game-high 18 points. The Heels improved to 5-1 in the ACC, but still trail 6-1 (and unranked) Boston College by half a game. Wake Forest fell to 1-6 in conference play.

Ohio State 59 Northwestern 50 - The #5 Buckeyes got 18 points from Ivan Harris on the outside and 17 from Greg Oden inside in a well-managed road win over the Wildcats. Both players were sharp, as Harris hit 7 of 9 shots and Oden 6 of 7.

The Buckeyes continue to chase #2 Wisconsin in the Big 10, who handed them their only conference loss. Ohio State will play both Purdue and Michigan State twice between now and Feb. 10 plus a home game against Michigan on Feb. 6. They'll have to wait until the second-last game of the season on Feb. 25 to get the Badgers again, though this time the Buckeyes will have home court advantage.

Kansas 82 Baylor 56 - The Jayhawks rebounded from their loss to Texas Tech with an easy win at Baylor. #8 Kansas built a 42-18 lead at the half and coasted home from there with Brandon Rush leading the way with 18 points.

Pittsburgh 67 Cincinnati 51 - #9 Pittsburgh also got back on the winning track with a road win, mangling the Bearcats with 61% shooting, including 12-19 from 3-point range (63%).

Memphis 71 Tulsa 59 - The #11 Memphis Tigers are quietly tearing through Conference-USA and everybody's getting into the act. The Tigers had seven different scorers with 7 or more points in Wednesday's home win. Though they shot only 40% from the field, Tulsa was held to just 35%.

Memphis hasn't played a meaningful game since a 79-71 loss at Arizona, and considering the way the Wildcats have been playing of late, questions linger over just how good coach Calipari's squad is. The Tigers have won 8 straight and all 6 of their conference games by at least 10 points and they won't see another ranked team all season unless Gonzaga (whom they play on Feb. 17) goes on a tear. The soft schedule makes for a grand record but often an early exit in March.

Marquette 89 Seton Hall 76 - #15 Marquette quickly answered any questions about a let-down following Sunday's win at Pitt by blitzing the Pirates with 43 first-half points to take a commanding 13-point lead. Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal each had 22 points as the Golden Eagles won their 5th straight Big East contest after dropping their first two. Despite having beaten Pitt, they still trail the 6-1 Panthers by a full game in the wide-open Big East.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Alabama #12? Give Us a Break!

Auburn 81 Alabama 57
It was already pretty bad that Alabama was still in the Top 25 this Monday. But ranking them at 12 was a bit unrealistic. The Tide had lost already at Arkansas and Vanderbilt by an average of 24 points, and then barely got by Georgia (78-76) at home on Saturday. Those performances should have given voters a clue that the Crimson Tide was not exactly rolling along.

So, the massive egg laid by Alabama last night in Auburn should seal their fate. This is, however, the same group of voters who watched Arizona lose three straight and four of five, and only drop them down to #17, so really, what can we expect except more mindless rankings in weeks to come.

In their game against Auburn, the Tide shot a sub-par 38%, including just 5-19 (26%) from beyond the arc. Not only that, but Auburn was allowed to shoot 58% from the field. Alabama actually had the lead by a point at the half, but the meltdown in the 2nd half was catastrophic, as they were outscored 46-21.

Let's see. They can't shoot and they can't defend. Top 25 material? I think not.

St. John's 71 Notre Dame 68 - Notre Dame has had problems on the road and they continued at the one venue that really matters in the Big East, Madison Square Garden.

The Garden hosts the Big East Tournament but it's also home court for the Red Storm, who have now won 2 straight there, having beaten Syracuse 64-60 on Sunday. St.
John's didn't do anything special in the win over the Irish, they just did everything a little bit better than the other guys - a formula for success no matter what sport you're playing. Of course, when the other guys only shoot 36% from the floor and 60% at the foul line, as Notre Dame did, you don't have to play that well.

Senior forward Lamont Hamilton did most of the damage for St. John's, leading his team with 23 points while pulling down 12 rebounds. Notre Dame's Russell Carter did his best, pouring in 32 points on 10-20 shooting (4-9 3s), but it simply was not enough. Besides his stats, the rest of the team was 12-42, with Rob Kurz leading the brick-fest at 1-8. Yes, the Big East is a tough conference, especially when shots aren't falling.

In other Top 25 action, #16 Air Force buzzed TCU, 72-39, #23 Indiana seems destined to be kicked into the "also receiving votes" category after losing at Illinois, 51-43. Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell hit 15-18 free throws en route to 30 points and a 92-85 road win at Miami. Dowdell, a senior guard, has scored in double figures in every game this season except a 63-62 loss at George Washington, when he tallied only 6 points. Dowdell is averaging 21.5 in ACC games and his 18 ppg overall is good for 4th in the conference.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cowboys rope Sooners

Oklahoma St. 66 Oklahoma 61 - The Cowboys got only 25 points from their tandem of JamesOn Curry and Mario Boggan, but Byron Eaton pumped in a season-high 17 points to lead the #12 team in the nation to a victory of their in-state rivals.

As usual, the bedlam game wasn't a thing of beauty as Oklahoma shot only 38%. Oklahoma State wasn't much better at 42%, but hitting 27 of 38 free throws provided more than the margin of victory. For a team ranked so high, the Cowboys have no solid scoring threats beyond Curry and Boggan and if one of them is cold, the team struggles for points. In their three losses, the team averaged only 61 points, all on the road.

Tuesday night Top 25 games feature Notre Dame, Alabama, Indiana, Air Force and Virginia Tech. Recaps, highlights and insights tomorrow.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Need Tickets? Big Daddy Has Them

Occasionally, even the most home-bound fans get the urge to turn off the TV, get off the couch and venture out for a live game.

There's nothing quite like taking in all the sights and sounds of a big time sporting event. But first you have to get tickets, and if it's a big game - like the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four - they're likely to be hard to find.

While finding great seats for a game may be a problem for some, those of us who have a big daddy, like Big Daddy Tickets, always get the best seats at the right prices.

I visited the site just today and not only does Big Daddy Tickets have Super Bowl tickets, but they have multiple tickets all over the stadium. If you're really ready to splurge, they even have luxury suites for you and 23 of your best friends available.

While I was there, I figured it's never too early to get a look at Final Four Tickets. Not only was I able to find tickets to the Final Four in the Georgia Dome, they also had packages for hotel and tickets. I was impressed with the ample available selection.

The bread and butter of Big Daddy Tickets are individual game tickets. They carry every sport, plus Broadway shows, concerts and Las Vegas venues, so even if your girlfriend insists on equal time, Big Daddy provides the ability to take in a Yankees game and Mamma Mia in the same weekend.

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The site is feature-rich, easy to use and the ticket supply is large and up-to-date. When it's time to get out to a game or event, your best bet is to visit your Big Daddy.

Marquette marches on, drops Panthers at Pitt

Recaps of Sunday's Top 25 games

Marquette 77 Pittsburgh 74 OT - Proving yet again that anything is possible in the Big East, #24 Marquette traveled to Pittsburgh on Sunday and upset the #6 Panthers, ending Pitt's unbeaten streak in the conference at five.

The win was the 4th straight Big East win for the Golden Eagles - after dropping their first two, to Providence and Syracuse - and third over a ranked opponent. Marquette won at Connecticut, 73-69 on Jan. 10 and then beat West Virginia, 81-63, at home.

Marquette is now tied with Notre Dame and Syracuse at 4-2, one game back of the 5-1 Panthers.

Sparkplug point guard Dominic James ignited the Golden Eagles with 23 points, including 7-8 free throws, many of them crucial down the stretch in regulation. Marquette led by as many as 11 in the second half, but could not keep the Panthers from tying the game late. Pitts' star center, Aaron Gray was somewhat contained, scoring just 16 points in 35 minutes.

Virginia Tech 67 Maryland 64 - Virginia Tech needed to get back on the winning track, and they did so, even though it took an extra five minutes on the court. The Hokies followed up wins against Duke and North Carolina with a flop at Florida State, dropping an 82-73 decision to the Seminoles on Wednesday.

The Hokies were pressed into overtime by the feisty Maryland Terrapins, probably the best team in the nation with a 1-4 conference record. The game was certainly not a beauty contest, as both teams shot less than 40%, but once again, senior guard Zabian Dowdell turned in a solid effort, hitting 8-13 from the floor for 19 points.

Notre Dame 82 South Florida 58 - The #20 Fighting Irish were comfortable on their home court, where they have lost just once this season, and made quick work of the 10-10 (1-5, conference) Bulls. Rob Kurz had 21 points and 10 boards in 30 minutes and Colin Falls connected for 3 treys in his 14-point effort.

The Irish built a 42-26 lead at halftime and cruised from there. The Irish play Tuesday at St. John's.

The only Top 25 team in action on Monday is #12 Oklahoma State, hosting in-state rival Oklahoma for their annual bedlam event.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Top 25 will be reshuffled on Monday

Teams fall all around in Saturday action.

Saturday saw a blizzard of Top 25 activity, with most of the top teams holding their own and a fair share of upsets. The biggest losers were LSU, Kansas, Arizona, Texas and Nevada. First the upsets:

Texas Tech 69 Kansas 64 - Brandon Rush was held to just 10 points on 4-16 shooting as Bobby Knight's Red Raiders knocked off the #5 Jayhawks in Lubbock. Tech improved to 14-5 and hosts tough Texas A&M on Wednesday.

Arkansas 72 LSU 52 - The Razorbacks mauled #16 LSU in Little Rock, limiting the Tigers to just 35% from the field. Glen Davis had 16 points, Terry Martin scored 10 and the two were the only LSU players to reach double figures. Arkansas had five players in double figures, shot 50% as a team - including 8-20 from behind the arc - and recorded 9 steals.

New Mexico State 80 Nevada 73 - The Aggies played unkind host to #15 Nevada, scoring 47 2nd-half points in a wild West shootout. While the Aggies shot only 39% to Nevada's 50%, they hit 28-34 free throws and dominated the glass, hauling down 45 rebounds to the Wolf Pack's 32. Senior forward Justin Hawkins was everywhere for the Aggies, scoring 29 points on 12-19 shooting, and pulling down 11 rebounds (9 offensive).

Vanderbilt 72 Kentucky 67 - The Commodores continued their impressive run in the SEC, this time knocking off a ranked opponent on the road. Vandy has now beaten three ranked teams - Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky - in the last two weeks, but still must face LSU and Florida on the road the next two Wednesdays. #25 Kentucky lost for only the 4th time this season, but has yet to face a ranked opponent in the SEC. Look out below... here comes Tubby!

Villanova 76 Texas 69 - covered yesterday... see below.

And now for the winners...

Florida 79 Mississippi 70 - Joakim Noah has an efficient afternoon, hitting 9-10 from the field and leading all scorers with 24 points. The #1 Gators built a 45-26 lead at the half and despite playing a sloppy 2nd half, cruised at home for their 10th straight win.

Wisconsin 71 Illinois 64 - The #2 Badgers toughed out another road win behind their two bulls, Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker, who scored 20 and 17, respectively. The Badgers have now won 15 in a row and face only unranked opponents for their next 9 games until February 25, when they visit Ohio State. Wisconsin is now 19-1 overall and 5-0 in the Big 10. Despite the knocks on the conference, Wisconsin hasn't ducked anyone. They have quality wins over Florida St., Ohio St., Georgia, Pittsburgh and Marquette.

UCLA 73 Arizona 69 - Arron Afflalo scored 22 points and the Bruins held the #11 Wildcats to 39% shooting, sending Arizona to their 3rd straight loss and 4th in five games. It was a tough week for Lute Olson's troops, with losses to Oregon, USC and the Bruins in a span of 7 days. While one could blame the scheduling gods for their downfall, losing all three of these games, plus a 77-73 loss at Washington St. on Jan. 6, cannot be discounted. The PAC-10 may be the toughest conference in the country and Arizona just can't cut it. If they Wildcats aren't bumped completely out of the top 25 as they should, look for a fall to at least 22 or 23.

Ohio State 82 Iowa 63 - Greg Oden finally is getting his groove on. The freshman phenom hit 12 of 13 shots, hit all five of his free throws, hauled down 10 boards and finished with a season-high 29 points. The #7 Buckeyes continue to chase Wisconsin in the Big 10.

Texas A&M 67 Oklahoma St. 49 - This one was no contest as JamesOn Curry scored 20 of the Cowboys' 49 points. Mario Boggan was the only other OKST player in double figures with 11. Acie Law had 16 to pace the balanced Aggies attack. The #8 Aggies improved to 16-2 (4-0 conference), while #11 Oklahoma St. dropped to 16-3 (2-2).

In the ACC, #4 North Carolina topped Georgia Tech, 77-61; #19 Clemson clobbered Boston College, 74-54; #14 Duke mauled NC State, 79-56; Virginia Tech

Elsewhere, #9 Oregon continued winning with a 92-84 home win over Cal; a pair of SEC squeakers saw Tennessee outlast South Carolina, 64-61 and #10 Alabama bested Georgia on a last-second shot by Ronald Steele, 78-76.

#13 Air Force topped San Diego St., 56-51; #17 Memphis invaded East Carolina for a 61-44 win; #18 Butler beat Wisconsin Green Bay, 80-59;

Sunday's Top 25 games include South Florida at #20 Notre Dame, #24 Marquette at #6 Pittsburgh, Maryland at #23 Virginia Tech.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Longhorns, Wildcats Have Impact Freshmen

Villanova 76 Texas 69 - Since Villanova coach Jay Wright instructed Scott Reynolds to shoot more, the freshman has responded with a couple of brilliant performances, the latest a 26-point performance which led the Wildcats to an important home win over #21 Texas.

Earlier in the week, Reynolds poured in 27 as the Wildcats shot down #20 Notre Dame, 102-87.

With all the hype surrounding Texas freshmen Kevin Durant, Reynolds and Texas point guard D. J. Augustin proved to be the underclassmen of the day. Following his 37-point explosion in a triple-overtime loss at Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Durant scored only 12 and was limited to a single point in the second half. Augustin topped the Texas scoring chart with 25, but it was not enough as Reynolds shot 6-14, including 2 treys and deposited 12 of 13 free throws. The Wildcats were without leading scorer Curtis Sumpter, who sat out with a leg bruise but is expected back soon.

Villanova is unranked and has a 2-3 record in Big East play, but if Reynolds continues his torrid scoring, the youthful Wildcats may be trouble come March. Texas has already proven that they can hang in with anyone.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Oregon, UCLA winners; Arizona falls at USC

One upset out West, but maybe USC should be ranked.

USC 80 Arizona 73 - USC handed Arizona their 3rd loss in 4 games as Nick Young erupted for 30 points, hitting 13 of 19 from the field. The Trojans improved to 14-5 and 4-2 in the conference and now have wins over 4 teams which were ranked when they played them - Wichita State, Washington, Oregon and Arizona. USC has dropped decisions to UCLA (65-64) and Washington St. (58-55) in conference and an early loss to Kansas, but they are coming together at the right time.

As for Lute Olsen's Wildcats, their conference play is leaving much to be desired. The losses to Washington St., Oregon and USC - all in the past two weeks - came at the end of a 12-game win streak and they head to UCLA on Saturday. A win might keep them in the Top 25, but no matter what, they won't be at #11 where they are now.

And speaking of rankings, maybe the Washington St. Cougars deserve some votes. At 15-3, they already hold wins over Gonzaga, Arizona and USC, with losses to UCLA (55-52), Utah and Stanford, all road games. They're looking pretty serious right now.

Oregon 66 Stanford 59 - Aaron Brooks shot just 4-13, but hit all ten of his free throws and the Ducks tallied 30-37 from the line. The Ducks keep rolling along, the only hiccup in their 17-1 record an 84-82 loss to USC. #9 Oregon survived despite shooting only 31% from the field. It may have been ugly, but it still counts as a conference win.

UCLA 60 Arizona St. 50 - The Bruins turned up the defensive heat and held the Sun Devils to just 13 2nd-half points, reversing a 37-34 halftime deficit. Darren Collison led the way with 16 points to boost the #3 Bruins to 16-1 and a tie with Oregon at 5-1 atop the PAC-10 standings.

In other Top 25 games, #14 Duke routed Wake Forest, 62-40. It was the best defensive effort of the season for the Blue Devils who have won two straight since dropping a pair to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

Nick Fazekas had 20 points and 10 boards as the #18 Nevada Wolf Pack improved to 17-1 with an 85-75 win over Fresno State. The win kept Nevada undefeated in 10 home games this season and ran their win streak to 10 overall.

There are no Top 25 teams in action Friday night. The Best matchup is 12-5 Georgetown at 11-6 Seton Hall.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bottom Fallout: Five Losers

At the bottom of the Top 25, Wednesday was a disaster. Five teams lost in conference, but the biggest flop was in Nashville.

Vanderbilt 94 Alabama 73 - Junior Forward Shan Foster led the way with 27 points, including 5 3-pointers, as Vandy put a real hurt on #10 Crimson Tide. The 12-6 (2-2 SEC) Commodores are a real enigma, with wins over 'Bama, Tennessee and Georgia Tech, but losses to no-names such as Appalachian State and Furman. They do know how to dish, however, as they produced 27 assists in the win last night and have six players on the roster averaging more than 2 assists per game. Yes, they can dish the rock, but can they finish the dance? Vandy better be dandy for the rest of January with road games at Kentucky, LSU and Florida scheduled.

Auburn 83 Tennessee 80 - The Vols let this one slip away. Leading by 14 points with 10 minutes left, they allowed Auburn to chip away and win it on the foul line in the closing seconds. #22 Tennessee is now 1-2 in conference and their chances of staying ranked - after losing to Ohio State and now here on the road - are slim. Look for a Big East team (Syracuse) to take their spot on Monday.

Villanova 102 Notre Dame 87 - The 20th-ranked Irish fell behind early and could never get any closer than 7, as the Wildcats just kept hitting from everywhere. Villanova shot 57% and the two teams combined for 25 3-pointers (15 by Notre Dame). Scottie Reynolds topped the scoring chart with 27, going 8-12 from the floor. Villanova also outrebounded the Irish, 40-26. The loss dropped Notre Dame to 3-2 in the Big East with both losses coming on the road. No defense, no rebounding... sounds like a quick exit is in store for Notre Dame if they keep playing that brand of hoops.

North Carolina 77 Clemson 55 - This wasn't really a surprise as the #4 Tar Heels rebounded off their loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Carolina solved their shooting woes, hitting 31-60 from the floor while cutting down on 3-point attempts. They shot 8 and made 3. The Tar Heels have to cut down on the turnovers, however. Despite their 17 assists, the 22 turnovers don't look good. Still, an ACC road win is big. Watch the name Trevor Booker. Clemson's 6'7" frosh swatted 8 shots.

Florida State 82 Virginia Tech 73 - OK, the ACC is upside-down. After beating Duke and North Carolina in succession, the Hokies went South for their first conference loss. How do you shoot 56% and lose? Send the opposition to the foul line 34 times. That's what happened, and the Seminoles only missed 3 times on their home hardwood. The Hokies had their chances, but hit only 17-26 charity tosses. Plus, actually guarding senior Al Thornton or soph Toney Douglas might have helped. The duo scored 27 and 22, respectively and together accounted for 19 of Florida State's 31 made free throws.

The Seminoles are a team to watch, though. They now have a win in the ACC (1-3), but this is the team that beat Florida 70-66 in December, but also has losses to Pitt, Wisconsin, Clemson, North Carolina and Georgia Tech - some quality teams, and all but the Clemson loss were on the road. These guys could put a run together, do some damage in the ACC tournament and conceivably make life miserable for a few foes in the big dance. Keep an eye out for them.

Winners on Wednesday: #2 Wisconsin, 69-64 over Purdue; #7 Ohio State, 73-41 over Northwestern; #16 LSU, 62-55 over Mississippi; #18 Butler, 67-39 over Youngstown State. All Top 25 wins were on home courts except #4 North Carolina's win at Clemson.

Thursday action will be late, as most games are out on the coast. Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Nevada play. #14 Duke is home for Wake Forest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Longhorns take Cowboys to the Limit; Air Force Grounded

It took three overtimes, but Oklahoma State held court at home and finally beat Texas, 105-103. Mario Boggan, who set career marks with 37 points and 20 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, lifting the Cowboys to their 16th win against just 2 losses.

The win was big for Oklahoma State, as their last game was a monstrosity of a loss at Kansas, 87-57, in which Boggan and his wingman, JamesOn Curry, were largely held in check. Texas fell to 13-4 and suffered their first loss in the Big 12. Freshman Kevin Durant matched Boggan's 37 points, hauled down 12 rebounds and blocked 4 shots in the losing effort.

Both teams appear ready for a significant run in the post-season, though they still have to catch 5th-ranked Kansas (16-2, 3-0).

Pittsburgh 63 Connecticut 54 - The Panthers continued to roll through the Big East, taking down UConn last night in Pittsburgh. Aaron Gray had 22 points and 19 rebounds over the Huskies' underclassmen. UConn fell to 2-3 against Big East opponents. Pitt leads the conference at 5-0 and 17-2 overall.

Utah 85 Air Force 79 - As I ruminated yesterday, Air Force probably doesn't belong in the Top 25 and it didn't take long for the Utes to prove me right. Maybe there's unbelievable parity in the Mountain West, or maybe the conference as a whole is weak, but Utah entered the game in last place with an 0-4 record and 5-12 mark overall.

Air Force's previous other loss was at Duke, 71-56, and they ran off 13 straight after that, beating Texas Tech and Wake Forest along the way. A couple more losses to teams under .500, though, might just convince poll voters that they don't belong.

Among Top 25 games tonight, #20 Notre Dame visits Villanova, #18 Butler hosts Youngstown St., #2 Wisconsin hosts Purdue while #7 Ohio State continues to chase the Badger with a home game against Northwestern.

In the SEC, #22 Tennessee is at Auburn, #16 LSU hosts Mississippi and #10 Alabama is at Vanderbilt. LSU and 'Bama will both be tested. The Vols should roll over the 11-7 Tigers.

ACC games feature #23 Virginia Tech at Florida State and the big game of the night has #4 North Carolina as #19 Clemson.

Recaps and more tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Border War: Kansas Holds at Home

Kansas 80 Missouri 77 - Despite hitting only 5 of 14 from the floor, Brandon Rush did just enough to keep the Jayhawks' record in the Big 12 perfect. The 6'6" sophomore scored 16 to complement Sherron Collins' 23, and send the Missouri Tigers home with their 4th straight conference loss. The Jayhawks moved up to #5 in the latest AP poll and are tied with Texas A& M and Texas atop the Big 12 at 3-0.

The Longhorns can improve to 4-0 tonight if they can win on the road against #11 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are still smarting from their 87-57 loss at Kansas on January 10. Their Saturday game at Nebraska was postponed due to the ice storm that ravaged much of the Midwest. Texas has won five straight (13-3 overall) on the strength of play from freshman Kevin Durant, who is averaging 23.7 points and 11 rebounds per game - both team highs. Point guard D.J. Augustin is averaging 6.7 assists per contest, and has a 2-1 assist-turnover ratio. This game should be a true indicator of the real power in the Big 12.

In the Big East, the Pitt Panthers should handle the UConn Huskies and improve to 4-0 in conference play. Coach Calhoun's kids are all underclassmen and will get a baptism of fire this season in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.

The Panthers are on cruise control, especially after the much-anticipated matchup of power centers Aaron Gray and Georgetown's Roy Hibbert failed to materialize. Both centers had 11 points, Hibbert grabbed 2 boards and Gray hauled down only 4. Pitt forward Mike Cook - who finished with 18 points - helped the Panthers build a big, early lead and coast to a 74-69 win. Pitt has won 6 straight after a pair of road losses to Wisconsin and Oklahoma State in which the Panthers allowed 89 and 95 points respectively. Other than those games, the most points scored against Pitt this season is 69, by Georgetown in their most recent win. Pitt is 16-2 and ranked #6 in this week's AP Poll.

In other Top 25 action tonight, #13 Air Force is at Utah, #17 Memphis hosts UAB and #25 Kentucky is at South Carolina.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Top 25: The Big Least

Only three teams from the Big East are ranked. Syracuse, Providence overlooked.

Not that it means anything at this point of the season, but the Top 25 released today (see our sidebar - we update every Monday) is somewhat of a joke. Florida deserves to have the #1 spot again, since they're simply crushing people in the SEC, though Arkansas - also not ranked - deserves a real look. They played the Gators tough this past week and beat Alabama the week before, but also lost at Mississippi on Saturday by a deuce, so at 12-5, maybe they aren't ready for ranking.

On the other hand, Alabama got pumped up to #10 with a home win over LSU (overrated). The Razorbacks play LSU this Saturday. Stay tuned.

The real travesty is the lack of Big East teams in the Top 25. Now, the Big East is the largest conference in the country with 16 teams, so they should be more than 3 teams representing. To say that Pitt is #6 and the next best team in the conference is Notre Dame, all the way down at #20, is kind of silly, really. Syracuse (3-1 conference, 14-4 overall) and Providence (2-1, 12-4) come to mind, since they both beat #24 Marquette.

A couple of teams that probably won't be in the Top 25 a few weeks from now but are getting the nod based on the suspect vagueries of the AP Poll: Kentucky, Butler, Air Force, and probably Duke, which lost to a pair of Techs, Virginia and Georgia over the past 10 days. They're just in there on reputation, not actual ability.

Well, like I said at the start, the rankings are pretty meaningless right now.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tar Heels Trumped; Gators should retake #1 spot on Monday

Saturday's Top 25 action produced a number of expected wins, but in the ACC, Maryland ensured that there were no more undefeated teams by topping Clemson, 92-87 and one very big upset of top-ranked North Carolina by Virginia Tech, which improved to 13-4 overall and 3-0 in conference with a 94-88 win.

Clemson entered the Comcast Center in College Park, MD with a 17-0 record and the claim of being the only Division 1 team without a loss, but left on the short end of the score as the Terrapins shot 63% from the field and knocked down 25 of 31 free throws. Junior forward James Mays led the scoring with 23, but it was not enough to overcome the red-hot home cooking by Maryland. The Terps improved to 15-3 and will likely re-emerge into the Top 25.

In Blacksburg, VA, the North Carolina Tar Heels were victimized by their own poor shooting and the Hokies defense and will probably fall in tomorrow's rankings as #2 Florida continued to roll through the SEC. North Carolina shot just 44% from the floor, including 8-26 3-pointers. The Hokies took control early in the first half and held the Tar Heels at bay the rest of the way. Virginia Tech, paced by senior guard Zabian Dowdell's 23 points, hit 27-38 free throws to the Tar Heels' 16-29.

Ohio State 68 Tennessee 66 - Chris Lofton had 23 points for the Volunteers, but he and Ramar Smith missed key front ends of 1-and-1 free throw situations with less than 30 seconds left in the game and #5 Ohio State improved to 14-3. Center Greg Oden was unstoppable inside, scoring 24 for the Buckeyes on 9-13 shooting plus 6-6 free throws. Other than the foul shooting, the Vols' backcourt completely overwhelmed Ohio State's, but Oden stayed out of foul trouble and was the go-to guy all afternoon.

With the win, Ohio State should cruise through the rest of the month, with home games against Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State and road tilts at Northwestern and Purdue.

Syracuse 75 Villanova 64 - Demetris Nichols took over midway through the first half and guided the Orangemen to their 3rd Big East victory against one loss. Nichols finished with 23 points, while teammates Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts dominated the interior with 28 points between them.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

College Hoops Previews for Saturday

Last Saturday, while awaiting the NFL playoffs, I thought I might catch some college hoops as a warm-up. CBS, in their infinite wisdom, trotted out a triple header of women's college basketball, so they lost my vote and I skipped over to ESPN channels.

Today, CBS figured out that nobody likes women's hoops, and is airing a regional men's game at 1:00. I'll get Villanova at Syracuse, so that's where I'll start.

The winner of this game should crack Monday's Top 25, and I'd expect that team to be Syracuse. The Orange have won 2 of 3 Big East games. Their only conference loss was to Pitt, and one of the wins was on the road at Marquette. The Wildcats are a shadow of the team they were last season and may not even make the NCAA tournament.

Currently, there are only 4 Big East teams in the Top 25 and UConn doesn't deserve to be there. The 'Cuse and Providence should be ranked, and eventually Georgetown, along with Pitt, W. Virginia and Notre Dame. Should there be 6 Big East teams in the Top 25? I think so. If the ACC, SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12 each get 4 in - and that may be a stretch - those five conferences would total 22 of the Top 25 at most. There are only 2 Top 25 teams in the Big 10 - Wisconsin and Ohio State, and there are a couple of deserving small conference schools which deserve notice.

Getting back to previews, #5 Ohio State hosts #16 Tennessee in a big game fro both schools. The Buckeyes are coming off a loss at Wisconsin; Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, 82-81, and they need this game. The Vols are smaller and quicker and guard Chris Lofton should provide plenty of offense from the 2-spot. Greg Odom ought to have a big day inside for Ohio St., but he's fast becoming a head case, getting into early foul trouble and disappearing from the offense too often. Ohio State is favored by 10, but the Vols have a great shot at winning this one.

In the Big 12, #6 Kansas is at Iowa State, and the Jayhawks look like the class of the Big 12, and the Cyclones probably aren't close to being able to hand with them. After all, Iowa State lost to to Northern Iowa, Drake, Bradley, Iowa and Ohio State already, so they would really have to shoot lights out to beat Kansas. Ain't gonna happen.

#1 North Carolina better be careful against Virginia Tech today. The Hokies already have a win over Duke and their 4 losses have been by a total of 10 points. The Tar Heels didn't shoot well against Virginia Thursday night, and if they aren't sharp, they'll have their hands full in this big road test. Undefeated and #17-ranked Clemson travels to Maryland and that' a very tough place to play. Oddly, the Terps are favored by 4, despite losses to Boston College, Notre Dame and Miami (FL). They are at home and, as stated, it's a tough venue for ACC opponents. The key for the Tigers is forward James Mays. Clemson is 28-0 with him in the starting lineup and he's starting today. Good luck to Clemson as they seek to set a school record for consecutive wins (18) today. Even if they lose, shouldn't they be ranked higher? They look pretty darn good.

Later tonight (9:00 Eastern), two of the best big men in the nation go head-to-head when Georgetown visits #7 Pitt. The Panthers' Aaron Gray will get to know Roy Hibbert, the Georgetown center. Gray leads Pitt in points (14.9) and rebounds (10.2), while Hibbert has yet to demonstrate dominance, averaging only 11.7 points and 6.1 boards).

Tomorrow: recaps and player profiles.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Carolina, Kansas are Cruising

With conference wins on Wednesday night, the North Carolina Tar Heels (currently ranked #1) and Kansas Jayhawks (#6 and certain to move up) look like locks for at least the Elite 8 come tournament time.

Carolina looked a little shaky at times in their 79-69 win over Virginia, but they were up against a motivated team and will be virtually every game from here on out. The Tar Heels will continue their improvement under coach Roy Williams and got a boost of sorts when Duke fell to Georgia Tech, 74-63.

The Blue Devils don't seem to have quite the depth to go deep in the tourney, though the Yellow Jackets, despite road losses at Miami, Vanderbilt and Clemson, may be the sleeper in the ACC.

As far as the Big 12 is concerned, Kansas left little doubt about where they expected to be at season's end, whipping up on rival Oklahoma State, 87-57, in their conference opener.

Kansan Brandon Rush, a big-time scoring guard with an impeccable pedigree, led the way with 18 in the game. The two-headed monster of JamesOn Curry and Mario Boggan only totaled 20 between them. Boggan was especially ghastly, hitting only 4 of 16 from the field. You can pretty much write off the Cowboys for the tournament as they simply do not have the talent nor the motivation to move through the field.

Speaking of teams that don't have it, the Connecticut Huskies may not even make it to the Big Dance this season. They're very young, starting all underclassmen for coach Jim Calhoun. On Wednesday, the second-longest current home win streak (31 straight) came to an end when Marquette dumped the Huskies 73-69. It wasn't very pretty. UConn shot only 32% and the schedule gets more demanding from here on out.

#12 Butler was upset by Illinois-Chicago, 73-69, while #7 Pittsburgh took out DePaul, 59-49.

On Thursday night, the Pac-10 was the focus, and the top teams came through with wins. #10 Arizona topped Oregon State, 83-72. #20 Oregon survived on the road 60-55 over Arizona State. #22 Washington State also won away from home, topping Cal, 73-56.

In the same time zone, but different conference (WAC), #19 Nevada was a winner at San Jose State, 72-63.

With no Top 25 teams in action on Friday, I'll be bummin', but promise to be back tomorrow morning with some previews.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tuesday night recaps: Florida, Wisconsin stay sharp

Florida 79 Arkansas 72 - The Gators just keep winning. After capturing the NCAA football championship Monday night, Florida's #2-ranked basketball team held down a feisty bunch from Arkansas. While the Gators have lost only one home game this season, the Razorbacks proved a worthy opponent.

The game could have gone Arkansas' way had they been able to shoot better from behind the three-point line. The Razorbacks didn't hit a trey until midway through the second half and finished a paltry 2-15 (.133) on threes. Florida's free throw shooting down the stretch exposed a vulnerability as well. Both Taurean Green and Joakim Noah missed key freebies late in the game, but Arkansas was never able to cut the lead - which was never more than 9 - to less than 5 points. Green led the Gators with 17 points, while Darian Townes paced all scorers with 18.

The game was very physical, with a total of 45 fouls called on the two teams. Two Arkansas players fouled out, while Florida's Al Horford (10 points) was saddled with 4. A couple of three-pointers by Arkansas could have made the difference and the Razorbacks, now considered a force in the SEC after their upset of Alabama over the weekend, will seek a return to the SEC championship in March as they do not play the Gators again during the regular season.

Wisconsin 72 Ohio State 69 - The highly-anticipated matchup between the two best teams in the Big 10 lived to its billing as a tight, tactile struggle. Ohio State center Greg Oden picked up his 2nd personal foul just 12 minutes into the game and Wisconsin leading 19-13. But with their big man on the bench, senior forward Ivan Harris picked up the Buckeyes, cutting the Wisconsin lead to 31-28 at the half. Alando Ticker, the Badgers' 2nd leading scorer, put up only 7 points in the half on 3-9 shooting.

In the second half, Harris, who had hit 3 of 6 3-pointers in the first half, kept firing, but Kammron Taylor (25 points for the game) and Tucker responded and opened up a 6-point lead at the second TV timeout of the half, 47-41. Meanwhile, Oden had picked up his third foul and was spending extended minutes on the bench. While the Ohio State offense sputtered, Wisconsin went on a 10-0 run to lead 57-41.

Even when Oden was in the game, he was largely ineffective, going 0-4 from the floor with just 2 points on free throws when he picked up personal #4 (an offensive foul) with 7:57 remaining.

But the Badgers could not capitalize on the big man's foul trouble as they continually missed 3-pointers and committed fouls, allowing the Buckeyes to close to within 8 with 3:24 left. Tucker, however, scored a crucial bucket inside to hoist the lead back to 10 with just over 2 minutes left. Forced to foul down the stretch, Ohio State closed to within 2 on a pair of Ron Lewis 3-pointers and two Oden dunks, but the clock and Kammron Taylor's 5 of 8 free throws in the final minute sealed the Wisconsin victory.

Wisconsin improved to 40-2 in conference games under coach Bo Ryan. Alando Tucker picked up his game in the second half, scoring 10 points on 5-8 shooting. Greg Oden finished with 10 for the Buckeyes.

Elsewhere, #17 Clemson ran their record to 17-0 with an 87-76 win over NC State. #22 Notre Dame handed #21 West Virginia their first Big East loss, 61-58. #14 Alabama got back on track with a 71-61 home win over #13 LSU. Air Force, ranked 18th nationally, rallied for 41 second half points to overwhelm New Mexico, 65-57.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Villanova slays Georgetown's giants

With potentially one of the best front lines in college basketball, the Georgetown Hoyas can't seem to translate their height advantage into meaningful wins.

Last night, the Villanova Wildcats tore up the Hoyas at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, ending Georgetown's 7-game winning streak. Down by as many as 9 points in the second half, the Wildcats pressed full court and wore out the Hoyas, producing 22 turnovers and a 56-52 win.

The Wildcats earned the win by limiting ball access to Georgetown's 7'2" center, Roy Hibbert, who didn't attempt a shot from the field and finished with 2 points (2 of 6 from the foul line). Jeff Green, the Hoyas other inside force, was held to just 7 points.

Meanwhile, Villanova rallied, holding the Hoyas scoreless for a 6 minute stretch in the second half. Even more remarkable, Villanova outrebounded the Hoyas, 31-27. The surprising win was the first in Big East play for Villanova after dropping their first two to West Virginia and DePaul.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Big East Imbalance

With 16 teams, the Big East is big, really big. a slew of other conferences have 12 teams, many of them split into two divisions, and the Atlantic 10 has 14, the second most behind the Big East.

What's intriguing about the Big East is that it is just one big party. No divisions, and the unbalanced schedule (some teams will play each other twice, others once, some, not at all) make for interesting comparisons in and out of the conference.

Take Pitt for example. Through their 16-game conference schedule, the Panthers play home-and-away games with Georgetown, Marquette and West Virginia. Notre Dame and Rutgers are not on the schedule. The other 10 teams will play the Panthers once.

That makes the Panthers' itinerary a bit more daunting than, say, that of South Florida, which has to play Louisville, DePaul and Notre Dame twice each while skipping over Georgetown and Villanova.

The unbalanced schedule makes comparisons difficult, if not impossible. Teams with relatively weak-strong schedules could end up with similar conference records, though one team could be nationally ranked with the other just a blip on the NCAA radar. Of course, the great equalizer is the annual bash in NYC known as the Big East Tournament, where the weak and the strong each have equal chances on a neutral site.

What the Big East and their cockeyed schedule does is create havoc for the NCAA tournament committee, which has to weigh all these schedules and then decide if the biggest conference gets 6, 7 or 8 teams into the Big Dance.

An indication of how the balances may tip in the conference came just last night as Syracuse burst into Marquette and dumped the Golden Eagles, 70-58. The loss was the second straight conference defeat for 15th-ranked Marquette. They took it on the chin in Providence, 74-59, on Thursday and are 0-2 in the Big East (not to be confused with Big Easy).

Upcoming for the Golden Eagles are Wednesday, 1/10 at (18) Connecticut, Saturday, 1/13 vs. (25) West Virginia, Monday, 1/15 at Louisville and Sun, Jan 21 at (10) Pittsburgh. Hoo-boy. If Marquette finds its way back into the Top 25 ever again this season, it will be a mean feat.

In other action from Sunday, North Carolina rolled past Florida State, 84-58. with UCLA's loss to Oregon, the Tar Heels could find themselves ranked #1 later today.

#9 Kansas improved to 13-2 with a non-conference win over South Carolina, 70-54. The Jayhawks open Big 12 play on Wednesday (1/10) against #12 Oklahoma State.

#19 Tennessee opened their SEC schedule with a 92-84 win over Miss. St. The 13-2 Vols have a date with Ohio State this Saturday in Columbus. The game will offer the Buckeyes a chance for redemption against the SEC after their earlier trip to Florida ended up as a 86-60 blowout for the Gators. Should be interesting.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

#1 No More - Ducks drown Bruins

Oregon 68 UCLA 66 - The Ducks parlayed an early lead into a huge victory, handing the #1 UCLA Bruins their first loss of the season. The Bruins trailed nearly the entire game, but brought it to within 64-61 with less than three minutes when Aaron Afflalo hit a 3-pointer and tied the game at 66 on Darren Collison's 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining.. But Aaron Brooks, who led all scorers with 25 points, hit a jumper with 12 seconds left and UCLA could not score as time wore down. Maarty Leunen added 18 for the Ducks who improved to 14-1.

Ohio State 62 Illinois 44 - The Buckeyes are leaving little doubt about their plans to dominate the Big Ten. After opening conference play with a 74-67 home win over Indiana, Ohio State punished the Illini despite an 0-5 1st half performance from center Greg Oden. While the Buckeyes shot only 35%, it was more than enough, as Illinois shot only 23%. Oden finished with only 7 points, but four other Buckeyes scored in double figures.

Arkansas 88 Alabama 61 - The Crimson Tide wasn't exactly rolling as the Razorbacks stunned Alabama in another SEC opener. Arkansas opened a 26-6 lead nearing the middle of the first half and extended that to 44-20 by halftime. It didn't get any better for Alabama in the second stanza as Arkansas pulled away, leading at one point by as many as 36 points. Arkansas owned the interior, scoring repeatedly on layups and short jumpers. Three Arkansas players - Patrick Beverly, Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin - each tallied 18.

Conference Play Underway

The heart of the college basketball season began in earnest this week as conference play kicked off across the nation. With over 150 games scheduled in the first week of the year, here are some of the highlights from Saturday:

Florida 67 Georgia 51 - The #3 ranked Gators scored 42 second half points and turned around a one-point Bulldog halftime lead. Florida was not particularly sharp, but their defense was the story as they held the Bulldogs to 39% shooting and only committed 12 personal fouls. Georgia was unable to convert from the charity stripe, missing all five of their attempts. Corey Brewer led the Gators with 19 points.

Georgetown 66 Notre Dame 48 - The Hoyas unceremoniously ended Notre Dame's 12-game winning streak, as they capitalized on poor shooting by the Irish to take an early lead and were never headed. Nearing midway in the first half, Notre Dame had only hit 1 of 11 from the field and were trailing by as many as 16. Roy Hibbert hit 8 of 9 shots from the floor and finished with 19. The 48 points scored by the Irish was easily their lowest point total of the season, their previous low being 69 in a loss to Butler. Notre Dame shot just 31% (16-51), including 4-23 from three-point range. Georgetown extended their win streak to seven.

The Hoyas were unranked going into the game, though after the impressive win over #17 Notre Dame, should reappear in the top 25 next week.

Virginia Tech 69 Duke 67 OT - The #5-ranked Blue Devils opened ACC play in a most uncharacteristic manner, dropping their home opener to the upstart Hokies. Duke had entered the game 13-1, including wins over Gonzaga and Georgetown. The Hokies had lost 4 of their 5 road games this season, but none by more than 5 points. Losses at George Washington and Marshall were by 1 point apiece. The win upped Virginia Tech's record to 11-4. Zabian Dowdell led the Hokies with 20 points.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A New Year and a Good Knight

It took a little longer than Bobby Knight might have liked, but Monday afternoon the Texas Tech - and formerly Indiana and Army - coach finally got the win that pushed his career total past North Carolina's legendary Dean Smith.

The Red Raiders beat New Mexico 70-68, for Knight's 880th college basketball Division 1 win against 354 losses, a winning percentage of 71%. Knight, who is 65, is not even considering retirement, so a run at 1000 wins is possible. At 20 wins per season (below his average), it would take Knight just six years to surpass that milestone.

The next marks for Knight, besides getting his Texas Tech team through the grueling Big 12 conference schedule and into the NCAA tournament in March, are the 925 wins recorded both by Tennessee Volunteers women's coach Pat Summitt and by Harry Statham of NAIA McKendree College, who holds the record for the most men's wins at a 4-year college.

Knight won the NCAA national championship three times as coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, in 1976, 1981 and 1987, and coached the 1984 Olympic team to the Gold Medal.

While some may decry Knight's methods as too harsh or too demanding, nobody can deny the results.