Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Duke, K-State Stunned: College Hoops Notes from Feb. 19 & 20

Tuesday's Results

DePaul 60 (13) Connecticut 65
Punch that ticket to the dance for the Huskies. Any team capable of winning 10 straight in any conference, much less the Big East, has earned the right to play on.

(14) Purdue 68 (15) Indiana 77
Indiana put all concerns over the future of coach Kelvin Sampson behind them as the Hoosiers' tremendous trio of Eric Gordon, A.J. White and Armon Bassett scored 22, 19 and 16, respectively. White and Bassett controlled the boards, which the Hoosiers won convincingly, 46-30. White had 15 rebounds, while Bassett finished with 8.

The win tightened the race in the Big Ten, with Purdue a 1/2-game up - at 12-2 - on both Indiana and Wisconsin, both with 11-2 records.

Bradley 72 (16) Drake 71
Disappointment for Bulldog fans as Drake suffered its first home loss of the season, but, with only two conference games remaining the Missouri Valley is already a done deal. Drake plays at Butler on Saturday.

Wednesday's Results:

(1) Memphis 97 Tulane 71
Coach John Calipari notched career win #400 as his Memphis Tigers built a 19-point lead at the half and coasted to their 26th straight win and a 12-0 conference record in advance of their Saturday meeting with #2 Tennessee. Chris Douglas-Roberts had 20 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 29 on 13-17 shooting, including 2-of-3 three-pointers.

Auburn 70 (2) Tennessee 89
In one of their easier wins of the season, the Vols led 46-20 at the half and cruised to their 24th win against just 2 losses. At 10-1, Tennessee leads the SEC East by two games over Kentucky.

(3) North Carolina 84 NC State 70
Once again, Tyler Hansbrough led the way for the 24-2 Tar Heels, with 32 points and 12 rebounds. Hansbrough, a strong candidate for player of the year honors, hit 11 of 19 shots from the field and canned 10-13 free throws.

(5) Duke 95 Miami (FL) 96
Sophomore Dwayne Collins scored a season-high 26 points, while Duke's Greg Paulus struggled through a tough shooting night as Miami upset #5 Duke. Leading 41-36 at halftime, the Hurricanes went on a 18-3 run to open the second half, building a 20-point lead which proved insurmountable. Collins was nearly unstoppable inside, connecting on 12 of 14 shots, most of them from point-blank range. Jon Scheyer kept Duke in the game, hitting 5 of 9 three-pointers and a game high 27 points. Duke closed the gap and scored at the buzzer, but still fell short. Paulus was 3-12 from the field and finished with 12 points.

The loss dropped Duke into a tie with North Carolina for the ACC lead. Miami improved to 5-6 in the conference and 18-7 to keep their post-season hopes alive

(8) Butler 51 Illinois-Chicago 46
In a night loaded with blowouts, this Horizon League matchup provided some excitement. A.J. Graves hit his 4th three-pointer of the game with 48 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 49-46 lead and his two free throws with 2 seconds left sealed the win. Butler has clinched at least a tie for the conference title and can wrap it up with a win over arch-rival, 2nd place, Wright St. next Thursday.

(11) Wisconsin 71 Illinois 57
The Badgers won their third straight and tied Purdue atop the Big Ten at 12-2. Trevon Hughes scored 18 points and Marcus Landry had 17.

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Penn St. 49 (19) Michigan St. 86
After losing three of their last four, the Spartans got back on track, avenging a Feb. 2 loss at Penn State. They did it in a big way, leading by as many as 35 points in the second half before Tom Izzo emptied his bench. Eleven different Michigan State players had at least a bucket as the Spartans shot 58% for the game.

(24) Kansas St. 64 Nebraska 71
Michael Beasley had an off night, hitting just one of six three-point attempts and finished with 17 points as the Wildcats dropped a key road game. The loss dropped K-State to 8-3 in the Big 12, a game behind leaders Kansas and Texas.

(25) Marquette 73 St. John's 64
Jerel McNeil had 20 points and Dominic James scored 19, boosting Marquette's season record to 19-6.

Note: Home teams listed second in line scores; AP rankings in parentheses.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

College Hoops Scores and Notes for Feb. 18

(10) Xavier 81 Rhode Island 77
The X-Men are now 10-1 in the A-10, with a three-game lead over 7-4 St. Joseph's and 3 1/2 over 3rd place Richmond, the two teams against whom the Musketeers finish the regular season. With the lead they have, the games may be, well, academic. Seven Xavier players scored 8 or more points, led by senior forward Josh Duncan's 23.

(12) Georgetown 68 Providence 58
Roy Hibbert led the Hoyas with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. The win kept them tied with Louisville atop the Big East standings at 11-3.

Syracuse 50 (18) Louisville 61
Every game critical for the Orangemen, but Louisville (11-3, Big East) was too much down the stretch. Syracuse shot just 28% for the game and hit just 2 of 20 three-pointers.

(22) Texas A&M 50 (7) Texas 77
This loss may have taken A&M off the short list for an NCAA bid and into bubble territory. While 20-6 overall, the Aggies are just 6-5 in the Big 12. An earlier win over Texas, plus non-conference victories over LSU, Alabama, Washington and Ohio St. will help, but the schedule is a testy one, especially the regular season finale against Kansas.

D.J. Augustin scored 27 points and dished 9 assists for the Longhorns, who tied Kansas at 9-2 in the conference.

(23) St. Mary's 100 Pepperdine 64
The Gaels put six players into double figures and notched 100 for the first time this season. Their previous high score was all the way back on November 20, when they beat Oregon, 99-87. St. Mary's hit 17-of-29 three-pointers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh! The Horror! Blue Devils Torched by Freshmen Deacons

Wake Forest 86, (2) Duke 73
Freshmen James Johnson and Jeff Teague scored 50 points between themselves and Wake Forest did what no other ACC team has done this season: they beat Duke.

Johnson, a 6-8 forward, scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and snagged a career-best 16 rebounds. The Blue Devils had no answer for the big man, and when he wasn't dancing inside, Teague was blazing from the perimeter, scoring a game-high 26 points, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

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Duke simply could not guard every on the floor efficiently, as all five of their starters fouled out of the game. Kyle Singler, who was coming off his best performance of the season against Maryland, was 6-of-10 and scored 17 points, but the shooting was off for Duke. Greg Paulus was only 1-6 on three-pointers, and Duke shot just 41% for the game, much of that attributable to the Deacons pressure defense.

Other alarming stats for Duke showed up at the free throw line. Wake Forest went to the charity stripe 38 times - unusual against a Duke team which almost always gets to the line more than their opponent - and the Blue Devils were also shabby at the line, making only 13-of-25. Wake Forest hit 27 of their freebies - 71%.

While the loss was not critical for Duke, the win was important for Wake Forest, a team squarely on the bubble at 16-8 and now 6-5 in the conference. The win over the #2 team in the country certainly improves their chances for an at-large bid, though they still have to travel to #5 North Carolina next Sunday before filling out the regular season schedule with winnable games against Maryland, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and NC State. 19-10 or 20-9 overall should be good enough, considering only five teams in the ACC have winning conference records right now.

Notre Dame 71 Rutgers 68
The Fighting Irish aren't very good on the road and it showed as they struggled past Rutgers. The Irish managed only 41% shooting from the field, though they did manage to hit 8-of-17 3-pointers (47%). Rutgers was simply worse, hitting only 38% including 9-of-25 beyond the arc.

UCLA 56 USC 46
In the West Coast version of Last Man Standing the Bruins, who used only 8 players, outlasted the Trojans, who used just six. USC turned the ball over 22 times against the Bruins trapping defense and were outrebounded, 38-31. Freshman standout O. J. Mayo was held t a season-low 4 points.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Top 25 Results and Notes from Saturday, Feb. 16

(1) Memphis 79 UAB 78
Closest game so far this season for the unbeaten Tigers, who needed a three-point play from Chris Douglas-Roberts and a made shot by the Blazers ruled too late. Memphis was only 12-22 (.545) from the foul line, which won't help their cause in March. Here's a #1 with targets on their chests. 25-0 ain't bad, though.

Colorado 45 (3) Kansas 69
Bill Self emptied the bench as this one was done early. KU remains in commanding position in Big 12.

(4) Tennessee 74 Georgia 71
This one figured to be close and it was. Chris Lofton had 18 of his 22 in the second half, and the Vols roll ever closer to clinching the SEC East. Tennessee visits Memphis on the 23rd (Saturday) in a major out-of-conference showdown.

VA Tech 53 (5) UNC 92
Nobody's paying much attention to the Heels, but Tyler Hansbrough (23 points and 9 boards in 29 minutes) is making a bid for player of the year.

(7) Stanford 67 Arizona 66
Stanford got out of Arizona with a loss and a narrow win. As the competition heats up their close-out games with Washington St., then At UCLA and USC should prove how good the Cardinals really are.

(8) Georgetown 70 Syracuse 77
Paul Harris, 22 points and 8 boards; Jonny Flynn, 17 points. The main strength and vulnerability for the Hoyas is center Roy Hibbert (11 points, 3 rebs.) and 'Cuse coach Boeheim knew that. Georgetown's center saw plenty of bench time with foul trouble. Syracuse still on the bubble, but this was huge for them.

Cleveland St. 46 (9) Butler 51
Butler has a date with Missouri Valley top dog, Drake, on Feb. 23 and only 3 conference games left. Wright State on the 28th should be the clincher for the Horizon league. Mike Green and A. J. Graves make these Bulldogs tough to beat (23-2)

(10) Michigan St. 61 (13) Indiana 80
Down 18-8 early, the Hoosiers went on a 33-15 run to the half and never looked back. Despite the distractions involving coach Sampson, the team is solid and Eric Gordon (game-high 28 points) is ridiculous. Look for him to enter the draft shortly after the Hoosiers are knocked out of the tourney. Spartans have lost 3 of their last 4. In March, 2 dance limit for them.

(11) Texas 82 Baylor 77
Damion James had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Longhorns' 5th straight win and 22nd straight over Baylor. The fact that it was close gives the Bears some cred, but they have to start winning a few here and there.

(14) Drake 65 N Iowa 55
The Missouri Valley title clincher for Drake wasn't all fun and games, as the Bulldogs shot just 39% from the floor, but hit 18 of 19 freebies to the Panthers' 3 of 5.

Minnesota 56 (15) Wisconsin 65
Balanced scoring and tenacious defense make the Badgers one of the real sleepers in the nation. Just one game behind Purdue (11-1) in the Big 10 standings at 10-1, they could run the table (only Michigan State left as ranked opponents) and the conference tourney and end up a #2 or #3 seed.

Oklahoma St. 59 (16) Texas A&M 54
No real knocks on the Aggies, but 18 second half points at home isn't going to cut it in this or any other conference. The loss snapped a five-game win streak, but the schedule suggests that A&M still has work to do.

(17) Connecticut 74 S Florida 73, OT
A tough road win for the Huskies, puts them in great position for the post-season. Their ninth straight win and no ranked teams in their final six Big East games means they're a lock for an at-large bid.

Missouri 63 (18) Kansas St. 100
Michael Beasley tied his season high with 40 points (and 17 rebounds) and this one turned into a rout early on as the Wildcats opened up a 21-point lead at the half. Beasley makes K-State one of the more dangerous teams in the nation. Nobody's been able to slow him down yet and it's doubtful anybody will as he's averaging 25.7 and 12.6. #1 draft pick? Count on it.

(19) Purdue 71 Northwestern 56
Make it 11 straight for the Boilermakers, who might be a little under-appreciated by the pollsters. Tuesday's visit to Bloomington ought to be killer.

(21) Wash St. 62 Oregon 53
The Ducks hung in until the final three minutes, and both teams may be just good enough to get tourney bids, but how far they'll go is an open question. Lots to still be sorted out in the PAC-10.

(23) Louisville 80 Providence 72
Cardinals now tied with Georgetown at 10-3 in the Big East standings, but have a tough schedule remaining: Syracuse, at Pitt, Notre Dame, Villanova, at Georgetown. Louisville sure to move up in the polls while the Hoyas fall.

Florida 58 (24) Vanderbilt 61
Commodores seem to have their groove on once more, with their 5th straight win. The Gators are still fighting for an at-large bid, but have to contend with with three solids in the SEC West: Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. All four teams have 7 losses and winning conference records.

(25) St. Mary's 80 Loyola-Marymount 49
If you can hold a team to 26% shooting, your chances for a win improve dramatically. That's what the Gaels did on Saturday, and that tough defense will work in March as well. Big games with San Diego and Gonzaga, Feb. 25 and March 1, respectively, should tell us more.

Note: Home teams listed 2nd in line scores, rankings in parentheses.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bubble Puzzle: Marquette Pounds Pitt

Marquette 72 Pittsburgh 54
There's a swinging door at the entrance to the NCAA field of 65, and it swung wide open for the Marquette Golden Eagles last night. For the Panthers, though, that door is closing fast, and they may just have to climb in through an open window in the Big east tournament.

Marquette outplayed the Panthers in every aspect of the game: the Golden Eagles shot 49%, grabbed 36 rebounds, dished 20 assists, turned the ball over 10 times, made 6 steals and blocked 4 shots. The numbers for Pitt were 37%, 33, 12, 15, 3 and 1. The Panthers were also a dreadful 1-11 from 3-point range.

Marquette stepped past Pitt in the Big East standings, improving to 8-5 in conference and 18-6 overall. Pitt is 7-5 and 19-6. Both teams are on the bubble, but Marquette served notice that they are worthy of reaching the next level.

Pittsburgh is an enigma wrapped in a sweat sock. Here's a team that's beaten both Duke and Georgetown, but has lost to the likes of Dayton, Rutgers, Cincinnati, UConn and Villanova. They're a horrible 2-4 on the road against Big East opponents and their next game is at Notre Dame, where the Irish have won 34 straight. Pitt will have to raise the ghost of Andrew Carnegie to win that one.

Next Sunday, the Panthers host Louisville, one of the hottest teams in the country, then play Cincy, a team that already beat them. Two road games, against contentious Syracuse and West Virginia precede the season finale against DePaul.

If the Panthers finish up 4-3 or 5-2 in those final seven games, they'll need a bit of a run in the Big East tourney to impress the NCAA selection committee. Winning less than four of their remaining games probably wipes them off the bracket board even before the conference tourney.

Marquette has similar bubble problems, but the win over Pitt really aids their cause. A pair of losses to Louisville, a split with Notre Dame and road losses at UConn and West Virginia are among the negatives. An out-of-conference win over Wisconsin helps, though a March 1 showdown with Georgetown, at Marquette, and the Big East tourney, will be keys to their success.

The Big East is likely to send seven teams to the national tournament. Georgetown, UConn, Louisville and Notre Dame look like locks already. With Syracuse, Cincinnati and West Virginia knocking on the door, Pitt may be the odd team out.

Friday, February 15, 2008

PAC-10 Punch: Arizona St. Downs Stanford in OT

Arizona State 72 Stanford 68 OT
Is this a bubble team or a real contender for the field of 65 in March? The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5, 16-7) will have every chance to claim that they belong as they continue to play down the stretch of their PAC-10 schedule.

After losing five straight - to Stanford, Washington, Washington St., USC and UCLA - the rest of the conference was about to write them off. But, with their second straight win, they are suddenly back in the thick of it, just a 1/2-game behind third place Washington St. (7-5), with 9-3 Stanford and 9-2 UCLA ahead.

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The PAC-10 will likely send 5 or even six teams to the national tourney, and Arizona State has a legitimate chance at being one of the chosen few.

With seven games left on their schedule, they have the opportunity to avenge all of their losses, they've already swept in-state rival Arizona, and the remaining games are with Cal, Oregon and Oregon State, three teams they've already beaten. Supposing they win those three and split the revenge/avenge games, they'd finish up at 21-9 and 11-7 in the conference, and it would depend on which of the teams (USC, UCLA or the two Washington teams) they beat and how those teams finish.

They may be firmly on the bubble for a couple of weeks, but after last night's win, the Sun Devils have everything in front of them. The big home win over highly ranked (#7) Stanford, in which they rallied from seven points behind in the final two minutes of regulation, could be just the juice they needed.

Elsewhere in the Top 25, the Butler Bulldogs (23-2, 12-2) easily dispatched Youngstown St., 89-73, to maintain their two-game lead in the Horizon league, and #21 Washington State won their second straight after three consecutive losses, going on the road to defeat Oregon St., 70-57.

Tonight's schedule is light, with only one top 25 team in action. #22 Pittsburgh travels to Marquette for a pivotal Big East showdown. The Panthers are 7-4 in the conference and have won two straight, while rebounded with a win at Seton Hall after losing to Louisville and Notre Dame. The Golden Eagles are 7-5. Point guard Lavance Fields is expected to see action for the Panthers. He's been out 7 weeks with a broken foot.

The weekend has a number of great games on tap with all Top 25 teams taking to the hardwood. Saturday's Texas at Baylor game stirs some interest, along with Missouri at Kansas State. A late Saturday game sends Michigan State to Indiana in a battle of Big Ten powerhouses.

On Sunday, #2 Duke visits Wake Forest, while out West, UCLA tangles with crosstown rival USC.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big Ten Mash-up: Purdue, Wisconsin on Top

Wisconsin 68 Indiana 66
Following Tuesday's surprisingly easy win by Purdue over Michigan State, the Big Ten produced another upset as the Wisconsin Badgers upended Indiana in Bloomington, 68-66, handing the Hoosiers their second conference loss and third overall.

Down 66-65, Wisconsin senior Brian Butch hit a three-point shot with 4.5 remaining to propel the Badgers to their second victory over the Hoosiers this season and into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten standings at 10-2. Both of Wisconsin's losses have been to Purdue.

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Purdue leads the Big Ten with a 10-1 record, Indiana is third at 9-2, followed by 8-3 Michigan State.

Butch's big three-pointer capped a 13-point effort, including 9 of the Badgers' final 12 points. Michael Flowers had 15 and Jason Bohannon led the way with 18, but it was Butch's work at the rim that kept the Badgers in the game late, converting misses by Flowers and Bohannon into scores.

Indiana was led by Eric Gordon and D.J. White, who had 23 and 17, respectively.

The game itself was partially overshadowed by a NCAA report which took Hoosier head coach Kelvin Sampson to task for violating previously-imposed recruiting sanctions from his tenure at Oklahoma.

While Sampson defended his actions, penalties are likely, but not until the off-season, as Indiana has 90 days in which to appeal the charges that Sampson participated in recruiting phone calls and three-way calls which the NCAA had specifically prohibited him from making.

Texas Tech 84 Kansas State 75
Pat Knight's first win as a head coach was a big one, knocking K-State out of first place in the Big 12 and sending the conference into a February frenzy.

Knight, who took over the coaching reins when his father, Bob, abruptly retired on Monday of last week, got a career-high 30 points from Alan Voskuil and a big boost in job security.

Voskuil hit 5 of 6 3-pointers and canned 7 of 9 from the charity stripe in the Red Raiders' biggest upset of the season. The loss sends 7-2 Kansas State into a second-place tie with Texas, behind 8-2 Kansas. 6-3 Texas A&M and 5-4 Baylor remain in the mix, as the conference heads down the stretch to determine a regular season champion.

All of the contending teams have either 5 or 7 games remaining of the 16-game slate.

Around the Nation
17th-ranked UConn downed Notre Dame, 84-78, for its 8th straight win and an 8-3 record in the Big East. Georgetown leads the conference at 10-2, with Louisville second at 9-3. Notre Dame shares third with the Huskies at 8-3.

Three of the top four teams in the nation were in action on Wednesday. #1 Memphis rolled to 24-0, handling Houston, 68-59; #2 Duke held off Maryland, 77-65, and #4 Tennessee crushed Arkansas, 93-71.

In a story that didn't get as much coverage as it should have, #24 Vanderbilt pounded Kentucky, 93-52 on Tuesday night, the worst SEC loss ever for the Wildcats.

Kentucky, which shot 33% for the game, scored just 11 points in the first half while the Commodores piled up 41. The Wildcats hit only 1 of 10 3-pointers and committed 25 personal fouls and 15 turnovers.

It was a rout of historic proportions, unfortunately for first-year coach Billy Gillespie, who took over after Tubby Smith left the program in shambles. Smith is now head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are 15-8 overall, but just 5-6 in the Big Ten.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Carolina Wins Another Close One; Purdue Whips Michigan St.

North Carolina 75 Virginia 74
Tyler Hansbrough's hook shot with 21 seconds left in the game gave North Carolina a 75-71 lead and it turned out to be enough to hold on over feisty Virginia. Sean Singletary scored 27 points to top all scorers and hit a three-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to claw the Cavaliers back to within a point, but it was all they could muster.

For Hansbrough, the little hook shot that gave the Tar Heels a 4-point lead in crunch time was almost routine for the North Carolina star. He finished with a team-high 23 points and 7 rebounds and Roy Williams' kids have ridden his first rate efforts to a couple of close wins in the challenging ACC.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels had to go to double overtime before finally dispatching Clemson, 103-93. North Carolina has five straight games against lower-eschelon teams in the ACC before closing out the regular season March 8 at Duke.

The Blue Devils already have a win over Carolina (a Feb. 6 89-78 win) and have a grip on the top spot in the conference standings. Duke leads at 9-0. The Tar Heels are second at 8-2, followed by 6-3 Maryland and 5-4 Clemson.

Duke hosts Maryland tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Purdue 60 Michigan St. 54
These are tough times for Tom Izzo and his Spartan basketball team. On Tuesday night, they found out that the Boilermakers were for real, dropping their only meeting of the season at Purdue in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicates.

Outshot, 47 to 38%, the Boilermakers forced Michigan State into a slew of mistakes and turnovers, building a huge lead that left them ahead 34-18 at the break. The Spartans rallied to within one point three times in the second half, but could never draw even or take the lead away.

Frosh Robbie Hummel had another brilliant game, with a career-high 24 points, including 4 of 7 3-pointers. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in an all-around noteworthy effort.

While Purdue improved to 11-1 in the conference and stayed in first place ahead of 9-1 Indiana, the Spartans fell back to 4th at 8-3. Michigan State's losses have all come on the road - at Iowa, Penn State and last night at Purdue.

Indiana hosts 9-2 Wisconsin in tonight's key Big 10 matchup.

#1 Memphis hosts Houston, #2 Duke welcomes Maryland while in the Big East, #17 Notre Dame travels to #20 Connecticut.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Longhorns KO KU, 72-69

In the premier college hoops match Monday night, #4 Kansas traveled south to Texas to face the #11 Longhorns. By the time the night was over, Kansas had suffered their second loss, Texas earned their 20th win and unlikely Kansas State stood alone atop the Big 12 standings.

Both teams had ups and downs during the contest, but especially D.J. Augustin, whose only bucket of the game (on 1-13 shooting) turned out to be the most important.

The lead had changed hands several times during the first half and most of the second half. With 7:28 remaining, the score was knotted at 57-all. When the teams got back on the court, Texas took the advantage. A.J. Abrams made a jumper, Justin Mason hit one of two free throws and then Augustin made a layup at 5:58 to give Texas the lead for good at 62-57.

Though the Jayhawks had enough time and opportunity to get back in the game, the closest they could come was 69-67 on Mario Chalmers' only three-pointer of the game.

Kansas hit just 4-of-17 shots from beyond the arc, and though they outshot the Longhorns 44 to 41%, they didn't get to the foul line often enough - they were 11 of 14, to Texas' 20 of 28.

Chalmers had a final chance at the buzzer, but his long jumper bounded off the rim.

Both squads placed four players in double figures, though Kansas' Darrell Arthur topped all scorers with 22 points. Damian James had a double-double for Texas with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and teammate Connor Atchley had a perfect shooting night, hitting 6 of 6 from the floor and making all four of his charity tosses for a team-high 16 points.

Kansas dropped to 23-2 and 8-2 in the conference; Texas improved to 20-4 and 7-2. Both teams trail 7-1 K-State, with #16 Texas A&M following at 6-3. Kansas State, while leading the conference, is the lowest ranked team of the bunch, at #18.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Memphis Tops Polls; Tar Heels Survive Clemson; Bruins Fall

As the sole remaining undefeated team in the country, the Memphis Tigers received all possible first place votes in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls.

Playing in watered-down Conference USA, the 23-0 Tigers, have only one more significant challenge leading up to the NCAA tournament, that being a non-conference home game against Tennessee on February 20. The Vols were ranked #4 in the most recent polls.

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Besides the Tennessee game, Memphis has only seven games left in their regular season schedule. Two games are against UAB, currently third in the conference standings at 6-2, and one against Tulane (5-4, 15-8). The other four games are against opponents the Tigers have already defeated once - Houston, SMU, Southern Miss and Tulsa. The Tigers have beaten those teams by an average of 23 points, the worst of those an 83-47 pasting of Southern Miss.

Memphis has more than just a gaudy conference record to their credit, though, owning wins over Gonzaga, Connecticut, Georgetown, USC, Arizona and Oklahoma. All but the Connecticut game were played on the Tigers' home floor.

On Sunday, North Carolina (22-2) survived a scare at home from the testy Clemson Tigers, who got a huge game from senior guard Cliff Hammonds as the Tar Heels won in double overtime, 103-93.

Hammonds had a season-high 31 points, but Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough - who is averaging a double-double on the season - outdid him, scoring 39 points to go with 13 rebounds. Hansbrough has been doing it all of late; he's scored 89 points and grabbed 51 rebounds over the last three games, even though one was a home loss to Duke.

Out West, UCLA (21-3) suffered their worst loss of the season, a 71-61 setback at Washington. The Huskies' Justin Dentmon scored 20 points while holding Bruins point guard Darren Collison to just 3 points on 1-for-8 shooting.

The win was wholly unexpected. Washington won its 4th PAC-10 game against 7 losses and is 13-11 overall. The Bruins were ice cold, shooting 34% from the field, including a dismal 1-16 from 3-point range.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Big East, Big 10 Tighten Up

Two critical games were played in two of the nation's top conferences Saturday and the results tighten the races for their respective titles.

In the Big East, Louisville defeated Georgetown, 59-51 to create a four-team log jam atop the division. Georgetown still leads with a 9-2 record, but 8-2 Notre Dame, Louisville (8-3) and Connecticut (7-3) are in the mix. With 7 or 8 games remaining for each squad - some against each other - the Big East is certainly up for grabs, setting up a thrilling finish to the regular season and a highly anticipated post-season tournament.

The same applies in the Big 10, where unheralded Purdue knocked off Wisconsin for the second time this season, 72-67. The Boilermakers got 21 points from freshman swingman Robbie Hummel on Saturday and lead the conference at 10-1, followed by Indiana (9-1), Wisconsin (9-2) and Michigan State (8-2).

Purdue hosts Michigan St. on Tuesday (Feb. 12) and, after a trip to Northwestern, stays on the road to play Indiana on Feb. 19. Those two games may go a long way toward deciding the conference and whether Purdue will have any staying power when the competition ratchets up in March.

On Sunday, the Hoosiers downed Illinois, 59-53, getting 21 points from power forward D. J. White, but have a testy slate of games just ahead. Indiana hosts the top three contenders in the conference in consecutive games. Wisconsin comes calling on Feb. 13, followed by Michigan St. on the 16th and then Purdue on the 19th. A sweep would give the Hoosiers serious bragging rights, though that's hardly a done deal. Wisconsin already has a win over Indiana, Purdue leads the conference and Michigan State can run with anyone.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Memphis, Duke, Butler, Kansas All Winners

Butler 62 Wisconsin-Green Bay 57 - The Butler Bulldogs are ranked in the top 10 nationally, and a major factor is the stiff competition in the Horizon League. Seven of ten Horizon League teams have winning records.

Trailing 29-26 early in the second half, the Bulldogs outscored their Green Bay hosts 23-10, to seemingly take command of the game with 8 minutes remaining.

The Phoenix responded with a 8-0 run of their own to trail 49-47 with 4:20 left, but Pete Campbell knocked down consecutive three-pointers to increase the lead back to eight.

Campbell joined A. J. Graves, Mike Green and Matt Howard in double figures as the Bulldogs improved to 10 -2 in the conference and 21-2 overall. The loss by the Phoenix dropped them to 7-6 and 13-10 overall, dimming hopes for a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Butler shot only 39% from the field and hit just 8 of 32 threes, but they made them when they mattered most.

Kansas 100 Baylor 90 - The Jayhawks took their first step toward opening up some daylight in the contentious Big 12, putting down the Baylor Bears with their highest point output since a season-opening 107-78 rout of Louisiana-Monroe.

Kansas has scored 90 or more in back-to-back wins, topping Missouri, 90-71, on Monday. The win kept the Jayhawks 1/2-game in front of Kansas State, which topped Oklahoma State, 82-61, earlier in the day. Kansas is 8-1, K-State, 7-1. The two meet at Kansas March 1, in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 champion.

The Wildcats stunned the Jayhawks on January 30, handing them their first loss f the season, 84-75.

Surprising Baylor dropped to 5-3 in the Big 12, but are a solid 17-5 overall and should get an invite to the big dance in March.

Darrell Arthur led the Jayhawks with 23 points. Russell Robinson came off the bench to score 22, hitting 14-of-15 from the foul line. Kansas shot 51% from the field but was 0-9 from behind the three-point line. It was the first time since 1999 that a Jayhawk team failed to register a three-point shot.

This Monday, Kansas plays at #12 Texas, third in the conference at 6-2. It is the only meeting beg 12 rivals this season. The Longhorns beat Iowa State on Saturday, 71-65.

Around the Nation

Elsewhere in the Top 25, top-ranked Memphis made quick work of UCF, 85-64, as the Tigers improved to 23-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in Division 1. #2 Duke dispatched Boston College, 90-80 and #7 Tennessee scraped by LSU, 47-45. Surging UConn won their 7th straight with an 80-68 win over Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame won their 34th straight home game, squeaking by Marquette, 86-83. The Irish canned 10 straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win, holding a huge edge at the charity stripe. Notre Dame was 24-31, while Marquette was just 5 of 8.

Late games of note had Purdue at Wisconsin and Georgetown at Louisville.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Indiana Survives Scare fom Illini in 2OT

Indiana 83 Illinois 79, 2OT

Armon Bassett hit a critical three-pointer and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in double overtime to seal the win for Indiana and keep the Hoosiers in the thick of the Big 10 race.

Star freshman Eric Gordon suffered one of the worst shooting nights of his career, hitting only three of thirteen attempts from the floor - all 3-pointers - the last of which tied the game at 63 with 23 seconds left to send the game into the first overtime.

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In the extra period, Jordan Crawford found the hot hand, making consecutive three-pointers to give the Hoosiers a 69-66 lead, but Illinois' Demetri McCamey knocked down a three-ball with 1:08 remaining to re-tie the game at 69. Neither team could find the touch after that, pushing the contest to double overtime.

Indiana improved to 8-1 (19-3 overall) to pull to within a game of Wisconsin and Purdue, both 9-1 in conference play.

Following a trip to Ohio State on Sunday (Feb. 10), the Hoosiers will have every opportunity to stake their claim to the Big 10 title, playing consecutive home games against Wisconsin (Feb. 13), Michigan State (Feb. 16) and Purdue (Feb. 19).

Illinois suffered another tough loss and is not likely to make the NCAA tournament and now even the NIT looks doubtful. The Illini are 10-14 overall and have won only 2 of 11 conference games. Only Michigan (1-9) and Northwestern (0-9) have worse conference records.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How Good are the Blue Devils?

Duke 89 North Carolina 78

After watching the Duke Blue Devils dismantle the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last night, one wonders if we were watching the best team in the country.

While Duke didn't have an answer for Tyler Hansbrough, who finished with game-high 28 points and 18 rebounds, but the Blue Devils were deadly from outside, played with poise and skill, and every time Carolina seemed on the verge of pulling even, the Duke shooters would slam the door shut.

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Greg Paulus was a phenom on the wings, hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers and finishing with a team-high 18 points. Kyle Singler hit 3 of 6 and Jon Scheyer 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Singler had his own double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Blue Devils shooting wasn't the whole story. Despite being outrebounded and allowing more attempts from both the floor and the free throw line, they still won by 11, held the lead for the entire second half, and put six different players in double figures. Ridiculous. That's not sharing the ball, that's like having Mother Teresa clones all over the court.

North Carolina was without Ty Lawson, but it didn't seem to matter very much. The Tar Heels only recorded three steals, to Duke's 11. They shot 41%. Duke shot 46%. It was good enough, especially considering they went 13 of 29 from 3-point range.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski actually used a word he seldom attaches to his own teams: "special." If he thinks of them in that terminology, the rest of the NCAA should be put on notice. This team is coming, and they're taking no prisoners.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Georgetown, Tennessee Roll

Georgetown 63 South Florida 53 - The Georgetown Hoyas won their 9th Big East game against one loss, retaining their lead in the conference with a comeback win at South Florida.

The Hoyas trailed by as much as 10 points in the first half, on the strength of DaJuan Summers' career-high 24 points and 9 rebounds. Center Roy Hibbert added 13 points and 8 rebounds as the Hoyas shot just 39% from the field.

Georgetown is 19-2 overall, their only losses coming on the road against powerhouse teams Memphis and Pittsburgh. The win, the 6th straight for Georgetown precedes a string of three road games in their next four, a testing schedule. The Hoyas are at Louisville Saturday, then home against Villanova, followed by road games at arch-rival Syracuse and Providence.

Tennessee 104 Florida 82 - The Volunteers topped the century mark for the third time this season and for the first time in SEC play, improving to 20-2 on the season and 7-1 in the conference.

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Tennessee got off to a slow start against the Gators, trailing by 13 points in the first half, but they finished strong as Chris Lofton threw down 26 points and JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith each posted 23.

Both Lofton and JaJuan Smith hit 6 3-pointers. Tyler Smith was a force inside, hitting 10 of 16 shots while pulling down 9 rebounds and dishing 6 assists. The Vols retain a solid 2 game lead over Kentucky in the SEC East.

1-2-3 Teams in Action

On Wednesday, the top three teams in the nation take to the hardwood. #1 Memphis hosts SMU, while #2 Duke visits #3 North Carolina in a battle for ACC supremacy.

While the Tigers are prohibitive favorites, one of the ACC teams will lose and cause a shakeup in next week's polls.

In another interesting matchup, #19 Connecticut, one of the hottest teams in the nation, travels to Syracuse to take on the unranked Orangemen, who are just a 1/2-game behind the Huskies in the Big East standings. UConn is 6-3, while Syracuse has posted a 6-4 conference record.

The Orangemen are coming off three straight wins of their own, including strong road performances over DePaul (60-55) and Villanova (87-73).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Knight Retires As Winningest Coach

Bobby Knight will be remembered fondly in college basketball circles, though his feisty and cantankerous personality often raised eyebrows and ire from fans and officials alike.

Knight resigned unexpectedly on Monday from the coaching ranks, saying it was time to move on. Knight holds the record for most wins by a coach in NCAA history with 902, spanning 42 years at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech.

His accomplishments were greatest at Indiana, where he led the Hoosiers to three national championships, including an undefeated season in 1976, which is the last time any division 1 college basketball team has finished without a loss.

At 67, Knight has done just about everything a coach can do, including winning a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics with Michael Jordan as one of his players. The Red Raiders, 12-8 in the Big 12, will be turned over to his son, Pat, for the remainder of the season.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

SEC in Flux: Florida dumped, Wildcats 'Getting It'

Likely the most contentious conference in the nation, teams in the SEC took some serious turns at ranking maneuvers over the past week.

The enigmatic Arkansas Razorbacks, which started their SEC campaign with two wins (Auburn and Alabama) followed by two losses (South Carolina and Georgia), yesterday won their third straight, whipping the tar out of the Florida Gators, 80-61, while moving into first place tie with Mississippi State in the West division.

That may have come as a surprise to some, but the Gators are rebuilding, having lost their starting five after capturing two straight NCAA championships. That level of excellence is difficult to maintain, even for coach Billy Donovan.

Meanwhile, the Razorbacks have been knocking on the door for the past couple of seasons. They made an unanticipated run to the SEC championship game last season, only to lose to the Gators by 21 and end up in the NIT tourney.

Sonny Weems led the scoring with 17 and Gary Ervin added 15 points with six assists. Arkansas improved to 16-5 and 5-2 in the conference.

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The only ranked team in the SEC West, Mississippi, lost at home to South Carolina, 80-77, while the Mississippi St. Bulldogs fell 76-71 at SEC East leader Tennessee (19-2, 6-1), clearly the class of the conference.

Kentucky made more noise with their third consecutive conference win and first on the road, knocking down Georgia, 63-58 to get to 4-2. Both Vanderbilt and Mississippi are 3-4 in SEC play after beginning the season undefeated, with 15-0 and 13-0 records, respectively.

The SEC may not be the best conference in the country, but it certainly is one of the more unpredictable and exciting.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kansas beaten; Memphis rolls on

And then there was one.

The top-ranked Memphis Tigers stand alone as the only undefeated team in the nation, at 20-0, after the Tigers defeated Houston, 89-77 and #2 Kansas fell at Kansas State, 84-75.

It was the Jayhawks' first loss of the season. They are 20-1.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tigers, Jayhawks Remain Unbeaten

As the college hoops world turns...

The top two teams in every poll, Memphis and Kansas kept on winning on Saturday. The Jayhawks, ranked a strong #2, had the easier time of it, taking to their home court against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team they had already defeated, 79-58 on the road. Kansas got 18 from Darrell Arthur and 17 out of Brandon Rush in a 84-49 walkover win to get to 20-0. The result was hardly in doubt, as the Jayhawks built a 44-17 lead by halftime.

Memphis had a little more difficulty, but kept the Gonzaga hopefuls at bay, winning 81-73, for their 19th straight win. Chris Douglas-Roberts poured in 21 points for the Tigers, but Derrick Rose had a monster game, with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. The Tigers should be able to coast along through their relatively easy Conference-USA schedule until they host SEC powerhouse Tennessee on Feb. 23.

Speaking of the Vols, Chris Lofton hit 7 3-pointers and tallied 27 points to lead Tennessee past Georgia, 85-69. Tennessee shot 57% from the field. The Volunteers are 17-2 overall and tied for first place in the SEC East with Florida at 4-1.

After knocking North Carolina out of the #1 spot last week, the Maryland Terrapins found the Duke Blue Devils a little tougher act to follow, dropping a 93-84 decision at College Park. DeMarcus Nelson scored 27, and Gerald Henderson had 23 for 16-1 Duke, the only team in the ACC without a loss in the conference. Mark down Feb. 6, when the Devils play at North Carolina.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tennessee Shuffled; A&M Un-Bear-Able

Kentucky 82 Tennessee 76

Upsets are a way of life in the upper echelons of college basketball. Kentucky is making them part of their routine in the SEC.

After handing Vanderbilt their first loss of the season ten days before, skeptics figured the Wildcats couldn't do the same against the deeper, more experienced Volunteers from Tennessee on Tuesday night. As it was, Kentucky had lost two straight after the upset of Vandy, both on the road, to Mississippi St. and Florida.

The skeptics were wrong.

Kentucky used their size advantage inside to upend the #5 Vols, 82-76 as Patrick Patterson scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Though star guard Chris Lofton led the way for the Vols with 22, including 5 3-pointers, his offense wasn't enough down the stretch. Kentucky had trailed by 10 in the second half, but Joe Crawford hit back-to-back treys to tie the game with 11 minutes remaining.

The teams traded leads as time wore on, but the Wildcats played solid defense and came away with another unlikely upset at Rupp Arena, where they are 2-0 in SEC play.

The Volunteers fell to 16-2 and 3-1 in the conference, a half game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Baylor 116 Texas A&M 110, 5 OT

The Aggies probably wish they could start their conference schedule over again. They began play in the Big 12 with a 14-1 record and were fresh off a confidence-building 79-53 romp over LSU. They beat Colorado handily in their conference opener, 86-69, but then lost 2 straight, at Texas Tech and Kansas State.

Heading back to their home court against Baylor should have been just what the doctor ordered to snap them back to life. Instead, they ended in a battle to the death in five overtimes with the Baylor Bears, finally coming out on the wrong end of the score with their third straight loss, 116-110.

The Aggies continue to slide through the rankings, dropping to #16 last week and falling, now that they are now 15-4.

Baylor, on the other hand, should move up on Monday if they can get past 13-5 Oklahoma on Saturday. The bears are tied with #2 Kansas at 4-0 atop the Big 12 standings.

The Bears were led by junior guard Curtis Jerrells, who scored 36 points, including 20-24 from the foul line. Jerrells and his teammates actually won big time at the line, hitting 39-47 (.830) to the Aggies' 36-59 (.608).

80% free throw shooting will serve any team well, especially come March. Beware the Bears.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Syracuse takes Georgetown to OT

Georgetown 64 Syracuse 62 - Roy Hibbert scored 15 points and snatched 9 rebounds and Jonathan Wallace scored 15, including hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers as the Hoyas won their 10th straight home game Monday night.

It was not easy for the 15-2 Hoyas, who overcame a 7-point deficit in the final five minutes to force overtime. Syracuse's phenomenal frosh, Johnny Flynn, scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Georgetown was also outrebounded by the Orangemen, 38-29.

Flynn, averaging 15.4 points per outing and has been held to single digits just once in the last 16 games, was largely stymied down the stretch, ending the night at 9-23 from the field, though he was 4-10 from beyond the arc.

Georgetown retained their first place standing in the Big East at 5-1 while Syracuse fell to 3-4. West Virginia, DePaul and Cincinnati are all a game back at 4-2, with five more teams deadlocked at 3-2.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shakeup in the Top 25

Some very big noise made via upsets over the past few days, not the least of which was Maryland's 82-80 overthrow of number one North Carolina.

(the current poll results are over in the left-hand column)

However, considering the level of overall talent in the ACC, it was to be expected that the Tar Heels were going to lose at least a couple of games in the conference. Now, losing to a very green and unranked Maryland team may surprise some, but the Terrapins always have a team capable of ruining any opponent's plans, and they always make the NCAA field of 65.

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Coach Gary Williams consistently puts a solid product on the floor, has a NCAA championship to his credit and is in his 19th season at the University of Maryland, so, no surprise that the Terps beat the Heels, but doing it at Chapel Hill does raise some eyebrows.

What is interesting is to find another ACC team - Duke - jumping past their arch-rivals into the #3 spot behind Memphis and Kansas, both of which remained undefeated. Memphis made the top spot (in the AP Poll) for the first time since 1983, before any of the current players were even born. Duke knocked up Clemson pretty good on Sunday, 93-80, and were given the credit they deserve. The Blue Devils are just a one-point loss at Pitt from being undefeated themselves.

Other Top 25 teams that lost on Saturday:

Mississippi, 80-77, at Auburn
Pittsburgh, 62-59, at Cincinnati
Texas A&M was outscored 40-21 in the second half in its 75-54 thumping at Kansas St.
Miami, 79-77, at NC State
Arizona State, 67-52, at Stanford
UCLA, 72-63, at home to USC

Sunday's solitary Top 25 loser was Marquette, 89-73, at Connecticut. That's two straight losses for the Golden Eagles and their third in the Big East (3-3).

It's fascinating to note that the biggest upsets - North Carolina and UCLA - were on their home courts. Really great teams don't lose many on their own floors, so it bears watching if these two stumble as tourney time approaches.

Things are still pretty fluid and no team has demonstrated clear superiority, though, as stated in a previous post, Memphis appears on track to make it to the tourney unbeaten. For Kansas, accomplishing that feat would make them odds on to win it all. For now, the Jayhawks look to be gilt-edged, but the Big 12 is hazardous.

Looking ahead, #23 Drake is at Creighton and #5 Tennessee should cruise at Kentucky Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, #16 Texas A&M travels to Baylor, looking to avoid their second straight road loss. #4 North Carolina visits Miami. The Tar Heels don't want to lose their second straight, while the Hurricanes seek respect and a return to the Top 25.

On Thursday, the Dayton Flyers (19) travel to Xavier (22). The winner will take at least a share of the Atlantic 10 lead.

We'll be updating those games and others in the days ahead. Tonight, Syracuse visits Georgetown. While the 'Cuse is in somewhat of a downtrend, they'll give the Hoyas a game, but Roy Hibbert, who terrorized the Irish to the tune of 21 points in Saturday's 84-65 pounding of Notre Dame, looks to be putting his complete game together.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Butler Busted; Louisville Routs Marquette

Cleveland St. 56 Butler 52

The mighty may not have fallen, but some mites got bitten on Thursday night.

In the mid-majors, Butler met their match as the Cleveland State Vikings upended the #12 Bulldogs, 56-52, with a pressure defense that forced the visitors into their poorest shooting performance of the season.

Butler could only manage 18-53 field goals (.340) including a mere 6-23 from beyond the arc, as Cleveland State played tight defense and got inside scoring from J'Nathan Bullock (14 points) and timely sharpshooting from Joe Davis, who hit 5 of 7 from the field with 3 of 4 threes for 13 points. Cedric Jackson was also on his game, hitting 4-6, tallying 14 for the game.

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Butler star A.J. Graves was hounded all night, and finished with a dismal 2 of 11 from the floor and 5 points, matching his worst outing of the season, a 73-66 win over Valparaiso.

The loss was the second of the season for the Bulldogs (16-2), both to Horizon League opponents. Their first loss was at Wright State, 43-42 on December 8, and had won 8 straight since. Cleveland St. improved to 13-5, but won their 6th straight in the Horizon League without a loss, improving their lead over Butler to two games.

Louisville 71 Marquette 51

Everybody's healthy again for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals and they're making some noise in the Big East.

David Padgett scored 17 points and hauled in 10 rebounds and Terrence Williams pitched in a game-high 20 points as the Cardinals won their 4th straight and 8th of their last 9, routing 15th ranked Marquette, 71-51.

Louisville improved to 3-1 in the conference and are in a 4-way tie for first place with Notre Dame, Pitt and Georgetown.

Marquette shot just 30 percent from the field and fell to 3-2 in the conference and 13-3 overall.

Tennessee 80 Vanderbilt 60

The Vols showed everybody who's the boss in the SEC with a consummate victory over #16 Vanderbilt.

Wayne Chism showed his versatility with a game high 20 points, hitting 8 of 13 shots from the floor, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith each chipped in with 14 as the #6 Volunteers improved to 15-1. Vandy won 16 straight to open the season, but have dropped two straight, the first a 79-73, double overtime loss at Kentucky this past Saturday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

KU Goes to 18-0; Top 25 Upsets Update

There are some very good teams in the heartland, and then there's Kansas.

The Jayhawks sent a message to the rest of the conference with a pair of dominating performances in their first two Big 12 games, whipping Nebraska, 79-58 on Saturday, and then thumping Oklahoma, 85-55, Monday night.

Brandon Rush scored a team-high 19 in the win over Nebraska and followed that performance with 16 points against the Sooners. Darnell Jackson led the team in the Oklahoma game with 17 points on 8-10 shooting. The two wins put the Jayhawks at 18-0.

Over the weekend, a handful of notable upsets shook up college hoops and the Top 25.

It all began Saturday afternoon when Kentucky took undefeated Vanderbilt in double overtime, 79-73, followed by UCLA's dismissal of Washington State from the unbeaten club, 81-74.

But the biggest upset of the day took place in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes unceremoniously dumped Michigan St., 43-36. Iowa actually shot just 28% and won, as the Spartans weren't much better at 31%, hitting just 16 of 52 shots. Michigan St. turned the ball over 18 times for their second loss of the season.

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Also on Saturday, the Missouri Tigers shot the lights out (56% and 12-26 on 3's) and walloped Texas, 97-84. Six Tigers scored in double figures. The Longhorns subsequently fell from #13 to #19 in the USA Today/ESPN poll.

In the Big East, Cincinnati knocked #16 Villanova down one notch after beating them 69-66.

On Sunday, Oregon kicked Stanford right out of the Top 25 with a 71-66 win and on Monday, #15 Pitt struck with an upset of #5 Georgetown, setting the stage for more Top 25 changes to come.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Vandy, Washington State Eliminated from Unbeaten Ranks

And then there were three.

UCLA knocked Washington State off their lofty perch, handing the Cougars their first loss of the season, and it was mayhem in Lexington as Billy Gillispie had his team focused on a win. With the undefeated Commodores in town, Kentucky entered the game losers of 6 of their last 8, with an overall record of 6-7. This was their first SEC game.

Rupp Arena has seen it's share of upsets, but on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats exposed Vanderbilt's weakness and smothered the previously-unbeaten Commodores, 79-73.

The Wildcats consistently fed their big man, Patrick Patterson, in the first half, and he not only ate the Commodore's lunch, but polished off dinner and enjoyed a nice dessert and a cup of coffee. The 6'8" freshman, pounded the ball inside to the tune of a game-high 22 points on 7 for 12 shooting with 8 of 11 free throws and 12 rebounds.

In the second stanza and overtime, it was all Ramel Bradley, who scored 18 points - including the game-clincher with 32 seconds left in the second OT - after being held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

It was ugly for Vandy from the start, as Kentucky led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Patterson led the way with 14 points in the opening period, which ended with Kentucky holding a 10-point lead, 32-22.

The Commodores closed the gap in the second half as Shan Foster and Alex Gordon turned up the shooting. Vanderbilt's freshman sensation, A. J. Ogilvy delivered a key basket with under thee minutes to play cutting the lead to 3, but was limited to 16 points on 6-11 shooting. Foster cut the lead to 2 points (63-61) at the 1:45 mark on a deep three-pointer.

After Kentucky's Ramel Bradley hit a short jumper and a free throw by Vandy's Jermaine Beal made it 65-62, Kentucky turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with under 40 seconds to play, giving the Commodores life. Foster banged home his 4th three pointer of the game to tie it at 65-all with 17 seconds to play.

In the first overtime, Ogilvy scored a key put-back with 4 seconds remaining to force another extra 5 minute period.

Foster finished with 20; Gordon tallied 12.

Patterson improved on his averages of 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, leading the Wildcats in both departments.

The losses leave just three undefeated teams in the NCAA. North Carolina pounded in-state rival NC State, 93-62. Memphis and Kansas played late games.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Five Undefeated... for How Long?

As the rigors of conference play get underway, there are only five undefeated teams in the college basketball ranks and the obvious question is whether any of them have what it takes to become the first team to win the NCAA National Championship since the Bobby Knight's 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, who went 32-0, beating Michigan 86-68 in the finals in Philadelphia.

North Carolina (16-0)
Memphis (14-0)
Kansas (15-0)
Washington St. (14-0)
Vanderbilt (16-0)

There they are, five teams with a cumulative record of 75-0. By this time next month, odds are that there will be three or less, maybe none, though the team which stands out as having the best chance of making it through not only January, but February and into March - the Memphis Tigers.

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Having already knocked off three ranked opponents (USC, Georgetown and Arizona), the next test for John Calipari's Tigers might not be until February 23, when they host the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are currently ranked #8 and just knocked Mississippi from the ranks of the undefeated, 85-83, this past Wednesday.

Before they get to that game with the Vols, Memphis faces a schedule made up nearly exclusively of Conference-USA opposition. In a league that was severely watered-down when Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette jumped to the Big East a few seasons back, the Tigers face an undistinguished group of teams including the likes of Marshall (9-4), Rice (3-11), Tulsa (8-4) and Southern Miss (8-7). On January 26, Gonzaga comes calling, but the Zags aren't the Western powerhouse they used to be, having already dropped decisions to Texas Tech, Washington St. Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The Tigers swept their conference games last season and they're likely to do it again. There simply isn't any measurable competition in the league that can stand up to the formidable inside game of Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier who combine for 19 points and 17 rebounds per outing. Nor can anyone match up with leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts (16.9 ppg) or the quickness of point guard Derrick Rose (4.5 apg).

Should the Tigers get past the Zags and the Vols, they should make a serious run at least to the Final Four.

If any other team has the skills and schedule to run the table, it's probably not going to be Vanderbilt. The Commodores have Tennessee on tap for Jan. 17 and the arduous itinerary of the SEC is simply too tough for anyone to get through unscathed. Besides, Vandy hasn't even played a ranked opponent yet. They're good, but finishing conference play with less than four losses would be accomplishment enough.

Out West, Washington State has defied skeptics and the odds, compiling a 14-0 record. Their big test comes tomorrow, Jan. 12, when they travel down coast to #5 UCLA. If they win that, the Cougars still have to wend their way through the tough PAC-10, including trips to Arizona, Arizona St., Stanford and Oregon. Good luck.

That leaves Kansas and North Carolina. While the Tar Heels are heads and shoulders better than almost every team in the ACC, the rivalries run deep and the games are hard-fought. If Roy Williams can guide his troops to an undefeated run through one of the toughest conferences in the country, hand them the trophy. The same applies to the Jayhawks, who face serious challenges in the Big 12 from Texas, Texas A&M and sneaky-good teams like Oklahoma, Kansas State and Missouri.

We're down to five now, but don't be surprised if there aren't any unbeatens come tourney time, though Memphis just may have the horses to get it done.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Few Facts about the Dayton Flyers

As the chilly months of January and February prepare us for the Madness that is March, a number of teams will seemingly pop out of the proverbial woodwork and into the national consciousness. One of those teams will likely be the Dayton Flyers of the University of Dayton in Ohio, so here's a little background with which you can amaze your friends come tourney time.

The Flyers are 13-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference, with wins over three ranked teams: Louisville (70-65), Pittsburgh (80-55) and Rhode Island (92-83). The only loss suffered by the Flyers was in their second game of the season, on November 17, at George Mason, 67-56. They've since won 12 straight.

The University of Dayton was founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary (the Marianists). It is a Catholic school which evolved from a boarding school for boys (St. Mary's School for Boys) built on 125 acres of farmland and became the University of Dayton in 1920. It is the largest private college in the state of Ohio.

Over the last nine years, UD has had 23 conference championships and 17 teams reach the post-season. The basketball program rates as one of the best in the nation, in an elite group graduating basketball athletes at a rate of better than 85%.

The basketball program has incredible fan acceptance. For seven straight years Dayton basketball has finished in the top 25 in the nation in attendance.

Conference: Atlantic-10

Head coach: Brian Gregory

Top Players:
Brian Roberts, 6'2" senior guard, leads the team with 4.6 assists and 19.4 points per game.

Chris Wright, 6'8" freshman forward, 6 rebounds (leads team), 10.4 points per game.

Marcus Johnson, 6'3" sophomore guard, 9.6 ppg.

Forwards Charles Little (6'6" junior) and Kurt Huelsman (6'10" sophomore) each average 4.9 rebounds per game and are the 4th and 5th leading scorers on the team.

Only six of the players on the team are from Ohio, but four of them - Roberts, Johnson, Wright and Huelsman - are starters. Oddly enough, Little, the other starter, hails from Cleveland... Tennessee.

Team colors: Red and Blue

Official website:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The SEC is the Place to Be

Tennessee asserted themselves at home and ended upstart Mississippi's 13-game win streak with the Rebels' first loss of the season while surprising Vanderbilt improved to 16-0 with an 80-73 win over South Carolina.

The Commodores, ranked #13 nationally, needed a huge game from freshman A.J. Ogilvy, who scored 25 points, more than picking up the slack from SEC scoring leader Shan Foster, who hit only 4-11 from the field and tallied 13 points. The Gamecocks kept the game close until Vandy pulled away in the final four minutes. Devan Downey led South Carolina with 22 points.

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In Tennessee's 85-83 win, it was tighter down the stretch. The visiting Rebels led 83-79 with under two minutes remaining, but the Vols scored the final six points of the game, the last four on buckets by Tyler Smith, who finished with a team-high 21 points, the same number scored by JaJuan Smith, who had a hot first half with 16 points, including 4-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Mississippi's Chris Warren scored 24 to pace all scorers. With the win, the Vols and Rebels share identical 13-1 records as conference play in the SEC got underway. The two teams will not meet again during the regular season.

Both divisions look to be hotly contested. In the East, the main challenge for the Vols will come from Vanderbilt and Georgia. Florida, which won the division, conference and national championship last year, already has a conference win over Alabama, though they are nowhere near the same team that took the floor last season, having lost all five starters to the NBA.

In the West, Mississippi will have to contend with Mississippi St., Arkansas and Auburn, all of which were close to the division lead last season.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hibbert's Double-Double Leads Hoyas; Big East on Fire

Georgetown 76 DePaul 60 - Roy Hibbert scored 17 points and wiped the boards for 11 rebounds to lead the #7 Georgetown Hoyas to a decisive victory at DePaul. The victory was the second straight Big East road win for Georgetown, which pounded Rutgers, 58-46 on Saturday.

Georgetown joins Notre Dame and Syracuse atop the Big East standings at 2-0, followed by Connecticut and Marquette at 2-1 and a gaggle of six teams at 1-1. Pre-season favorite Pittsburgh is 0-1, after losing at Villanova, 64-63, on Sunday. The Panthers can begin to make amends with games against 1-1 South Florida and 0-2 Seton Hall this week, prior to hosting the Hoyas on the 14th.

For Hibbert, it was business as usual in the post, hitting on 7 of 9 shots from the field as Georgetown improved to 12-1 overall. It was Hibbert's 2nd double-double of the season.

Four other Top 25 teams in action on Tuesday all won.

#3 Kansas 90 Loyola (MD) 60 - 12 different Jayhawks tallied as Kansas improved to 15-0.

#15 Marquette 61 Seton Hall 56 - Marquette survived a poor shooting night, hitting less than 33% from the field and committing 15 turnovers, to hold on for a home win over Seton Hall, 0-2 in the Big East.

#10 Indiana 78 Michigan 64 - Freshman sensation Eric Gordon led all scorers with 23 points, but D.J. White's performance was one for the record books, as the 6'9" senior forward scored 21 points and hauled down 23 rebounds, 8 of them on the offensive boards. White was the first Hoosier to record a 20-20 performance in over a decade (Alan Henderson, 1995). The Hoosiers are 13-1 and are tied with Wisconsin, Penn St., Michigan St. and Ohio St. at 2-0 in the conference.

#6 Michigan St. 78 Purdue 76 - The Boilermakers nearly pulled off a huge upset, rallying from a 16-point first half deficit to take a lead late in the game, but the Spartans held court at home to improve to 14-1, their 11th straight win.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Izzo's Spartans the Team to Beat in Big 10

There's little doubt that Michigan State coach Tommy Izzo is one of the best coaches in the NCAA, as a recruiter, game coach and getting players ready through rigorous practices.

This season, Izzo seems to have put together an elite, Top 10 team, making Michigan State the one to beat in the rugged Big 10 conference.

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Entering Saturday night's conference opener against a solid Minnesota team, the Spartans were 12-1 and ranked 6th nationally. By the time the game was over, Michigan had added another win, buttressing their spot near the top of the national heap with an All-American performance from sophomore forward Raymar Morgan.

The 6'8" Morgan wore out the visiting Golden Gophers on both ends of the floor, scoring 31 points on 11-17 shooting while snatching 10 rebounds in Michigan State's 65-59 win. The points were a career high for Morgan, who ranks third in Big 10 scoring behind Indiana's Eric Gordon (23.5) and Penn State's Geary Claxton (18.6) at 18.4 per game. He's also tied for 7th in the conference 7.3 rebounds per outing and has registered three double-doubles this season.

Teamed with the playmaking, scoring and leadership abilities of senior Drew Neitzel and the inside presence of 6'10" junior Goran Suton, Izzo is looking forward to a Big 10 title and possible Final Four appearance later this year.

Michigan State's only setback this season was a tough 68-63 loss, November 20 at UCLA. Since then, the Spartans have knocked off three ranked opponents - BYU, Texas and NC State.

Looking ahead, key games include a Feb. 16 contest at Indiana, then two consecutive tough outings, Feb. 28 at Wisconsin and March 2, at home with the Hoosiers.

As Morgan continues to impress and improve and Izzo keeps pushing the fundamentals to his troops, the Spartans look to be the kind of team nobody will want to play come tourney time.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Kansas Forwards Dismantle Boston College

Darnell Jackson had 25 points and Darrell Arthur scored 22, as the Kansas Jayhawks' starting forwards completely overwhelmed Boston College, 85-60, in one of Saturday's premier college hoops events. The scoring totals were season-highs for both players.

Jackson was 9-16 from the field and popped in 7 of 8 free throws, while Arthur was devastatingly accurate, hitting on 10 of 13 shots with a pair of free throws. Kansas shot 52% for the game and outrebounded the Eagles 32-20.

The two power forwards are primarily responsible for Kansas' perfect 14-0 record this season.

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Sophomore Arthur leads the team in scoring at 13.1 points per outing, with Jackson, a senior, a close third, hitting for an average of 11.5 per game. Guard Mario Chalmers is second with 12.3. All five Kansas starters are averaging in double digits.

The two also do an exceptional job wiping the glass, combining for 13 rebounds per game. On Saturday, the pair was a force on both ends, as Jackson hauled down 9 boards and Arthur pulled in 7.

While Jackson will surely test the NBA draft following his final season at Kansas, Arthur may forego the remainder of his college career to go pro as well. In addition to leading the Jayhawks in scoring, he's second on the team in both rebounds and blocks and has scored in double digits in 13 of 14 games this season.

The inside presence of these two is going to make the Big 12 schedule - which begins next week - a nightmare for conference opponents.

The Jayhawks open on the road at Nebraska on January 12. Other key dates for Kansas are a pair of away games: at Texas, February 11 and Texas A&M, March 8, the final game of the regular season.

Watch out for Kansas come tourney time. Barring major injuries, they look like a lock for a #1 seed.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Spartans Travel Well, Knock Off BYU

Michigan State 68 BYU 61

In one of the most widely-anticipated matchups of the early college hoops season, the #9 Michigan State Spartans traveled out to Provo, Utah, to take on the 20th-ranked Brigham Young Cougars.

BYU stormed out to a 35-25 edge at the half, but Michigan State rallied on a 14-3 run to open the second half for a brief 39-38 lead. The teams exchanged baskets and leads thereafter, while BYU's Junior swingman Lee Cummard, who averages 14.8 points per game, was saddled with 4 fouls and sat out most of the second half.

Michigan State's Drew Neitzel scored seven straight points late, including a 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining to give the Spartans a 82-56 lead which proved to be insurmountable for the Cougars.

Fouls and foul-shooting played a critical role down the stretch, as the Spartans piled up personals, putting BYU in the bonus with 7 minutes left and into the double bonus at the 3:42 mark, while the Cougars committed only 4 fouls through the first 19 minutes of the second half but were forced to foul the Spartans repeatedly down the stretch as their shots would not fall and Michigan kept their lead at the foul line, as Travis Walton hit all six of his attempts from the stripe in the final minute.

Neitzel finished with 15 points as did teammate Raymar Morgan. BYU's Trent Plaisted led all scorers with 17.

The Spartans are 8-1, their only loss a thin 68-63 defeat at UCLA. BYU dropped to 7-2.

Indiana 70 Kentucky 51

Indiana positively pounded the Kentucky Wildcats in the annual border war in Bloomington, as D. J. White dropped in 16 points and hauled down 13 rebounds for his 5th straight double-double. The Hoosiers completely dominated the scoring and the boards, even without starting guard Eric Gordon, who was averaging 24.2 points per outing this season. Freshman Jordan Crawford led the Hoosiers and all scorers with 20 points.

Indiana improved to 8-1 and looks like one of the favorites in the Big 10. Kentucky dropped to 4-3, and is has not shot the ball well in most of their outings this season. They hit only 19 of 49 (39%) against Indiana, and have only cracked the 50% plateau twice, in blowout wins over pushovers Liberty and Texas Southern.

Coach Billy Gillispie will find the going tough once Kentucky enters SEC play in mid-January.

No Fluke: Duke Routs Wolverines

Duke 95 Michigan 67

I may have to take back some of what I said about Duke after watching them roll over Michigan on Saturday. While they are not big up front, they do have some depth and their wingmen, notably Gerald Henderson, Taylor King and DeMarcus Nelson, are extremely versatile and play within themselves. Most impressive, however, was freshman Nolan Smith, who scored a career-high 17 points on 7-9 shooting.

Duke opened the game shooting 0-7, but Taylor King hit a sweeping hook shot, then Paulus hit a long trey, followed by a three from King on the wing. Suddenly, the Blue Devils were up 8-5. Duke could not maintain much of a lead early in the first half, as the 3-5 Wolverines continued to push the ball and force Duke into mostly outside shooting. But the Wolverines shot only 26% for the half and Duke nearly ran them out of the gym, going on a 23-9 run to expand an 18-14 lead to 41-23 at intermission. Duke shot only 37% and hit on only 6 of 17 three-point tries in the opening stanza.

The second half saw a lot of substitution by both coaches, and Duke's lead was never challenged. Michigan seemed content to just hang in and work on their offense, while the Blue Devils hammered the ball inside.

Michigan ended up shooting 38% for the game, to the Blue Devils' 49%. Duke hit 11 of 26 3-pointers, better than their average of 22 threes per game and a 41% clip.

One to watch for Michigan is freshman Manny Harris, who was held to just 8 points, well below his 16.6 per game average. He's a slick guard with good ball-handling skills. Despite the loss, the Wolverines will win more than a fair share of their Big 10 games once they develop a little more offensively.

In other early Saturday action, the Fighting Illini took the visiting Arizona Wildcats into overtime, dropping a 78-72 decision to the 6-2 Wildcats. Arizona misses head coach Lute Olson, who is on an extended leave through the end of the season as he has filed for divorce, seeking to end his second marriage. Freshman sensation Jerryd Bayless dropped in 20 for Arizona, right on his average for the season.

Louisville, playing without Juan Palacios, had their hands full with the Dayton Flyers, dropping a 70-65 decision, as the Cardinals had absolutely no answer for senior guard Brian Roberts, who poured in 28 points on 10-17 shooting. The win makes Dayton 7-1, while Louisville falls to 5-2. Both Louisville losses have come at home, the first a 78-76 defeat to BYU. The Cardinals, currently #14, may fall out of the Top 25 next week, while Dayton probably won't get any consideration, but looks like a contender in the rugged Atlantic 10, along with Xavier, Duquesne and Rhode Island.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Duke is a Fluke

Every year about this time, we see the Duke Blue Devils ranked high in the polls. It's just one of those NCAA customs we're so used to. As long as Coach K is at the front of the bench, the Blue Devils are supposed to put on the floor one of the best teams in college basketball.

Currently, the 8-0 Blue Devils are ranked #6 in the AP Poll and #7 in the USA Today/ESPN poll. Chances are good that this is as high as they'll get because this 2007-08 version is not a powerhouse, nor will they challenge for supremacy in the ACC. They're just not that good.

OK, I hear the Cameron Crazies now. "We just beat Wisconsin by 24 points and we beat Marquette in the Maui Invitational."

Right. And you slipped by Davidson by 6 this past Saturday.

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The remainder of the month is pretty cushy, with only three games total and two that will have much meaning. Michigan comes to Cameron this Saturday and a December 20 game at Pittsburgh are the big ones. The Devils could win both of those, or lose both. It won't matter. They'll still be ranked in the Top 10. Everybody likes Duke, or, they're being kind to them, at least.

The real action begins on January 13, when the ACC schedule begins. Last year, Duke didn't do well, and while the conference doesn't look that strong, there are some teams that are loaded. Virginia, Maryland, Boston College and North Carolina will each pose a problem to Duke.

Why Duke is not that good? First they're thin, having just lost Junior guard Marty Pocious to season-ending surgery. A swingman, Pocius could play either guard or forward, but won't be missed too badly, as he was averaging only 8 minutes per game. The bench is going to be needed, however, and two starters, Greg Paulus and Lance Thomas, have taken early exits in a number of games. Paulus, the playmaker, is averaging just 3.8 assists per game, while Thomas is only hitting the boards for 2.8 rebounds per contest.

Up front, the Blue Devils are not very big nor experienced. Kyle Singler, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, is, like Thomas, 6-8. They can bring in sophomore 7-1 Brian Zoubek for added height, but he's not very mobile and has seen limited action.

The Blue Devils also rely on the three-pointer quite heavily. Jon Scheyer, Taylor King and Paulus are all shooting over 47% from beyond the arc, but they're heaving up more than 20 per game. Also, the free-throws aren't falling as easily as they could be. Against Marquette the Blue Devils shot 70%. In the win over Davidson, it was 60%.

Duke is a good team, but not one to hang one's March destiny upon. Enjoy the Top Ten ranking for now, because in about 6 weeks, it will be nothing but a fond memory.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Creampuff Upsets

This is a difficult time of year for hard-core college hoops fans. Many of the games being played are lopsided affairs between ranked teams and small colleges, so there really isn't much in the way of compelling basketball.

However, there have been a number of notable upsets over the past week that need to be highlighted.

Last Saturday, USC, ranked #9 by and #7 by me, got walloped by little Mercer College, 96-81, marking the first serious casualty in the top 25. USC needs to play a little defense apparently. Mercer shot 59% from the field and also hit 13-16 free throws. By contrast, the Trojans shot only 40% from the floor and 56% from the charity line. Obviously, more time in the gym working on fundamentals is ahead for these guys.

Another team with free throw problems is Texas Tech, my #25 preseason pick. The Red Raiders fell on Wednesday night at Sam Houston State, 56-54, missing four key foul shots down the stretch and hitting just 15-28 freebies for the game. They also were outrebounded, 44-32. Coach Bobby Knight will likely be running block out drills and extra free throw sessions for weeks.

On Friday, Memphis knocked off UConn, 81-70 in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic. I didn't rank UConn, but had them at #21 preseason. I still think the Huskies are toast this season and this result is just the beginning of what will be a 12-15 loss season for them.

Also on Friday, one of my sleepers, Providence, topped Arkansas. 67-51 (I had Arkansas ranked #14 and the Friars, #22. didn't rank either of them). Providence had beaten Temple 66-64 in Thursday's opening round of the ESPNU Puerto Rico Tip-Off, before topping the Razorbacks. Arkansas committed 32 turnovers in the game, while the Friars accounted for 15 steals. What really stands out is that neither team shot the ball very well. Arkansas actually hit 43% from the field to Providence's 38%. Sonny Weems, one of the Razorback stars, had only 3 points in 36 minutes. I don't know why the Friars weren't ranked preseason, but they've served notice that they should challenge some of the powerhouses in the Big East. I still think Arkansas is a pretty good team and they'll recover from this.

The Friars (2-0) will face Miami (3-0) in the championship game, Sunday night.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pre-season College Basketball Rankings

I should have put these up a few days ago before Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State got whacked by lesser teams. I've composed my own Pre-season Top 25 and present them here, followed by those of widely-circulated and multi-million doall baby of Yahoo,

My Rank Team
1 North Carolina
2 Tennessee
3 Memphis
4 Kansas
6 Georgetown
8 Louisville
9 Virginia
10 Indiana
11 Marquette
12 Kansas St.
13 Michigan St.
14 Arkansas
15 Clemson
16 Washington St.
17 Georgia
18 Texas A&M
19 Mississippi
20 Florida St.
21 Duke
22 Providence
23 Auburn
24 Southern Illinois
25 Texas Tech Rank Team
1 North Carolina
2 Memphis
4 Kansas
5 Louisville
6 Tennessee
7 Indiana
8 Michigan St.
10 Georgetown
11 Kansas St.
12 Arizona
13 Stanford
14 Washington St.
15 Marquette
16 Duke
17 Mississippi St.
18 NC State
19 Syracuse
20 Texas
21 Connecticut
22 Oregon
23 Pitttsburgh
24 Alabama
25 Southern Illinois

We'll make comparisons as the season progresses. Note that neither I nor had Ohio St. or Kentucky in the Top 25. So far, we both look pretty smart.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Durant First Freshman to Claim Wooden Award

As the Florida Gator Nation continued the celebration of their 2nd consecutive national championship, the L.A. Athletic Club hosted the selection of the winner of the annual John R. Wooden award on Saturday, April 7.

The award is given annually - after the conclusion of the NCAA men's basketball season - to the top player in college basketball.

For the first time in the history of the award, the honor went to a freshman: Kevin Durant of the Texas Longhorns. Durant finished #5 in the nation in scoring at 25.1 points, leading Texas to a 25-10 season. He also averaged 11.4 rebounds per game, led the Longhorns in both steals and blocks (1.9/game each) and recorded an astounding 20 double-doubles. At one point, Durant ran off a string of 6 straight double-doubles, averaging 29.7 points and 14.3 rebounds during the stretch.

Durant was a prolific scorer, hitting 83 3-pointers and scoring 30 or more points on 11 occasions, including his career-high of 37, 4 different times.

The Longhorns were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the second round by USC, but Durant's presence was felt in both tourney games. In the opener against New Mexico St., Durant scored 27 points and hauled down 8 rebounds. He had 30 points and 8 boards in Texas' 87-68 loss to Southern Cal.

After receiving the award, Durant declined to comment on whether he would turn pro or return for another season at Texas, saying he was just going to enjoy the moment. The 6'9", 225 lb. phenom is widely assumed to be heading to the NBA after an incredible season, likely to be the #1 or #2 pick in a draft loaded with talented under-and-upperclassmen.

The selection committee had previously named 10 players as finalists for the award on two teams. The 1st Team:

  • Arron Afflalo (UCLA)

  • Aaron Brooks (Oregon)

  • Kevin Durant (Texas)

  • Nick Fazekas (Nevada)

  • Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)

2nd Team:

  • Acie Law (Texas A&M)

  • Joakim Noah (Florida)

  • Greg Oden (Ohio State)

  • Brandon Rush (Kansas)

  • Alando Tucker (Wisconsin)

Purdue's Gene Keady was the recipient of the Legends of Coaching award for the 2006-2007 season.

Candace Parker, a 6'4" forward from the Tennessee Lady Vols, won the award for the 2006-2007 top women's player.

The event was aired live on CBS.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Florida Gators Repeat: One for the Ages

Sports Training ProductsFlorida completes rare repeat; Gator Nation jubilant

The Florida Gators accomplished what no other NCAA Championship team had ever done: winning back-to-back championships with the same starting five. With their 84-75 win over Ohio State on Monday night, the Gators became the first repeat basketball champions since the Duke Blue Devils accomplished the feat in 1991-92.

The starters from Florida, most notably Joakim Noah, were outspoken about their desire to return to school and repeat after winning the title last season, and they proved true to their word.
The Gators stopped Ohio State's 22-game win streak in its tracks with timely outside shooting from Cory Brewer (3-8 on 3-pointers and named Most Oustanding Player of the Final Four), Lee Humphrey (4-7 3s) or Taurean Green (3-3).

The long-range scoring of the Gators was the story as Florida hit 10-18 (56%) from beyond the arc. Inside, Ohio State's Greg Oden had his career game, hitting 10 of 15 shots for 25 points while collecting 12 rebounds. Oden battled four Gators inside all night and wracked up a total of 15 fouls on his opposition.

But he alone could not overcome the tremendous team effort by Florida. Of the starters, only Noah failed to score in double figures. Al Horford had 18; Green, 16; Humphrey 14 and Green, 13. Noah, who spent much of the second half on the bench due to foul problems, finished with 8 points.

The Gators have now captured the last three major college championships. In between the basketball titles, the football team won a national championship, beating the Buckeyes' football counterparts earlier this year.

It has been an amazing 2 years in Gainesville, but all indications are that the good times may be coming to an end. All of the Florida starters will leave for the NBA and coach Billy Donovan has been rumored to be headed to another coaching post, either at Kentucky or in the pros.

That leaves it to Urban Meyer and the football team to carry on. The basketball Gators of 2005-2007 are going into the history books. In the two years the starters have been together, they've gone 68-11 (33-6 in 2005-06, 35-5 in 06-07), won both SEC tournaments and national championships, ending this season with a 9-game win streak. We may have just seen one of the great teams of all time.

You certainly won't get any arguments in the Sunshine State.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Deja Vu: Florida vs. Ohio State National Championship

For Joakim Noah and his fellow Florida Gators, the setting is familiar. They're playing for the national championship for the second year in a row, this time on a court that they might as well call home. The Gators won the SEC tournament at the Georgia Dome and easily handled UCLA (again) in their half of the national semi-finals.

Against UCLA, the Gators displayed the kind of aggressive play that have put them at the pinnacle of their sport, plus, having the Bruins' Arron Afflalo sidelined with two early fouls didn't hurt. Afflalo, UCLA's leading scorer and best defender, picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. As the Gators threatened to blow the game open, coach Howland put his star back in only to see him pick up foul #3.

Meanwhile, Corey Brewer was lighting up the scoreboard with three 3-pointers that put the Gators ahead by 6 points at the half. From there, Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard provided most of the offense as the Florida lead grew to double digits and the outcome became predictable. Humphrey hit 3 3-pointers in the second half and Richard scored repeatedly on dunks and tip-ins, finishing with 16 points. Brewer led all scorers with 19, while Al Horford swept the boards, accounting for a tournament-high 17 rebounds.

The final score of 76-66 was not indicative of how lopsided Florida's win really was. Afflalo did get back into the game in the second half and finished with 17 points, but he only hit 5-14 shots and much of his scoring was late in the game.

Earlier in the day, the Ohio State Buckeyes extended their winning streak to 22 games with a 67-60 win over Georgetown. The anticipated showdown between Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert failed to materialize as both players got into early foul trouble. The game lacked any real flow or consistency as the Buckeyes maintained a single-digit advantage through much of the contest and Georgetown could never sustain their offense for long.

Georgetown actually outshot the Buckeyes, 49-44%, but both teams were icy from outside, going a combined 11-35 from beyond the arc. With less than 3 minutes remaining, the Buckeyes opened up a 9-point lead that the Hoyas could never overcome and the game devolved into a foul-shooting contest late.

The national championship game tonight between the Gators and Buckeyes is a rematch of the programs which competed in the Fiesta Bowl in January for football's national title. In that game, the Buckeyes were heavy favorites, but the Gators shocked them with a one-sided win.

It's doubtful that the basketball Buckeyes will be able to turn the same trick. Florida is a 4 1/2 point favorite, and that's probably not even close to what the final score will be. While the Ohio State faithful are hoping for the first national title in over 40 years, the Gators are on the verge of being the first team to repeat as champions since Duke did it in 1992.

The matchups really favor the Gators here, despite not having a single player the stature of Oden. The problem for the Ohio State center is that the Gators have four players they can send at him - Noah, Horford, Chris Richard and, if need be, Marreese Speights, another 6'10" reserve. Oden doesn't have the stamina to stay in the game the full 40 minutes anyway, and there's a good chance he'll be in early foul trouble again.Sports Training Products

On the perimeter, the Gators and Buckeyes match up pretty well, though nobody in the country has an answer for Corey Brewer, who has been the real x-factor in Florida's two-season run. Nobody is able to match up effectively with his long, lean 6'9" frame. Brewer is the team's best defender and can slash to the hoop or shoot from outside. Ohio State will have trouble - as has every other team - containing him.

These two met earlier in the season and the result was an ugly, 86-60 rout by the Gators. Sure, the Gators were at home and Greg Oden was playing in just his fifth game after an injury. But Oden is still a freshman, after all, and the Gators are still defending national champions.

An upset by Ohio State seems unlikely. Tomorrow morning, we're likely to be singing the praises of the Gator nation.