Saturday, February 20, 2010

Big Red Steaming Toward Ivy league Title

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 19, 2010

If it's Friday, it must mean Ivy League hoops. Unlike most other conferences, which take Friday's off, many of the Ivy League schools - where the focus is on academics - play almost exclusively on weekends, meaning cramming games onto the Friday night fare.

Last Friday, Cornell was suffering through its worst game of the season, a 79-64 loss to lowly Penn at the Palestra. The Big Red quickly made amends, beating Princeton the following night before heading back North to Ithaca, NY.

This Friday found the Cornell troops at Harvard, where Ryan Wittman and his buddies dispatched the Crimson smart set with a 79-70 win. Wittman, a 6'6" senior forward, scored a game-high 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting, which included 6 of 12 from beyond the arc. He also collected 6 rebounds and blocked a pair of sots as Cornell won their third straight game - all on the road - and continued to lead Princeton by a 1/2 game at 8-1 in the conference standings. Princeton improved to 7-1, coasting past Yale, 81-52.

Wittman has scored in double figures every game except one this season, when he scored just 4 points at UMass in Cornell's second game of the season.

Cornell travels again, to Dartmouth, Saturday, before returning home to prepare for next Friday's 7:00 pm home showdown with Princeton.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rautins Stars as Syracuse Downs Georgetown

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 18, 2010

The first meeting this season between age-old rivals Georgetown and Syracuse resulted in a less-than epic performance as the Orangemen dusted the Hoyas by an easy 73-56 score at the Carrier Dome. On Thursday night, it appeared that the Orange had Georgetown's number again, despite the game being played on the Hoyas' home floor.

Taking the lead right from the start, Syracuse extended a 44-31 half time gap to eventually lead by as many as 23 points before the Hoyas put together a mid-to-late second half run that cut the lead to 1, at 71-70, with just over a minute remaining. Having lost both of their big men - Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson - to fouls, the Orange responded with a basket by super sub Kris Joseph and a pair of Andy Rautins free throws that sealed up a 75-71 victory, Syracuse's 9th straight road win without a loss and 7th in Big East play.

Rautins, who scored 15 points and had six steals in their first encounter, emerged as the game's high-scorer with a season-high 26 points on 6-for-11 shooting, which included 5 of 9 3-point scores. A 74% free throw shooter, Rautins canned 9 of 11 from the line and hauled in 7 rebounds.

Though Syracuse blew most of their impressive lead, they did not look rattled at any point of the game, especially in the final minute. With legendary Jim Boeheim on the sidelines and floor leader Rautins directing traffic in the 2-3 zone scheme, Syracuse virtually wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament with their gritty performance, to say nothing of their shining 25-2 record. They also managed to slip 1/2 game ahead of Villanova in the Big East standings, at 12-2. The 11-2 Wildcats play at Pittsburgh and host South Florida before heading up to play Syracuse next Saturday (Feb. 27), in their only meeting this season, a game that should decide the Big East champion.

Notable: Both #13 Gonzaga and #14 Wisconsin suffered losses to unranked opponents Thursday, the Zags falling Loyola Marymount, 74-66, while the Badgers were thumped by Minnesota, 68-52. Late-season losses have a way of deflating a team's seeding at the Big Dance, especially the kind of drubbing taken by the Badgers. Minnesota is about as bubbly a team as there is in the country, with a 6-7 conference record and 15-10 tally overall. The win was more important for their post-season than the damage it did to Wisconsin's.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fredette's 36 Points Lift BYU; Texas Irrelevant; Purdue Tops Buckeyes

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 17, 2010

With a scorer like Jimmer Fredette (tied for 14th nationally at 21.5 ppg), the BYU Cougars could make quite some noise in the NCAA tournament. The 6'2" junior guard poured in 36 points Wednesday night, leading the Cougars to a 92-70 road win at Colorado State. Fredette hit 12 of 22 shots, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range, adding 5 boards and 6 assists for one of his best games of the season. His high point total was 49 at Arizona. He scored 36 in recently in a home game against the Utah Utes.

The win moved BYU closer to Mountain west leader New Mexico. BYU is 9-2 in the conference; the Lobos are 10-2 and have a win over the Cougars in hand, though the rematch will be at BYU next Saturday. No matter the outcome of that game, both teams are locks to make the Big Dance, and the conference could end up sending as many as four teams to the tourney. Both San Diego St. and UNLV stand at 19-7 overall, and, with the dearth of quality in the PAC-10, those two could slip in behind the Lobos and Cougars.

Notable: The eyes of Texas may be upon coach Rick Barnes, but his players must take much of the responsibility for the Longhorns' horrible showing in conference play. The Longhorns lost for the 6th time in their last 9 outings, dropping an 82-77 decision at Missouri Wednesday night.

While still 20-6 overall, Texas is tied for 6th in the Big 12, at 6-5, and looks like a team that will make an early exit in the NCAA tournament. There are just 5 games remaining in conference play for the Longhorns, and three of those are on the road. The team just looks irrelevant at this point.

Purdue ended Ohio State's 6-game win streak while extending their own to 8 with a 60-57 win on the Buckeyes' home court, pulling the 10-3 Boilermakers to within 1/2 game of Big Ten leader Michigan State (11-3). With a road win over the Spartans in hand, Purdue will have ample opportunity to take home the Big Ten hardware. They host Michigan State on Sunday, Feb. 28. A win would virtually assure them of the conference title, since they close out with a home game against Indiana and a road game at Penn State. Those two have a combined record in conference of 4-22.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Virginia Tech a Serious ACC Contender after Win over Wake

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Malcolm Delaney, the ACC's leading scorer at 21.2 points per game, upped his average and helped the Virginia Tech Hokies overcome a 9-point second half deficit and roar back for an 87-83 win over Wake Forest.

Delaney scored 31 points before fouling out late in the game, but by then he had helped push the Hokie lead to 7 points. The Deacons scored six points nearing the end of the game, but could get only to within three points as Tech players hit 3 of 6 free throws. His point total was the second highest of the season, just one short of the 32 he scored in a 61-50 loss at Temple, back on November 27. The junior guard hit 9 of 11 shots from the field, including 3 of 8 3-pointers and converted 10 of 13 free throws. He also added nine boards and 3 assists.

The win improved Virginia Tech to 22-4 overall and 8-3 in the conference, a game back of 9-2 Duke, setting up a showdown for the league title on Sunday, when the Hokies invade Cameron Indoor Stadium to play the Blue Devils. The tip is slated for 7:45 pm and is will be available to cable subscribers of Fox College Sports - Atlantic (FCSA) and MSG Plus (MSGPL).

Notable: Kentucky's freshman sensation John Wall certainly has to be considered for Player of the Year honors after his cool determination helped the #2 Wildcats secure an 81-75 OT win at Mississippi State Tuesday night. Wall nearly had a triple-double, with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Kentucky's 25-1 record is the best in the nation, along with #1 Kansas, though the Wildcats face a tough schedule down the SEC stretch with a trip to Vanderbilt on tap for Saturday. Following that contest, a rematch with the only team to have beaten them - South Carolina - Thursday, Feb. 25 and another road trip, to Tennessee, on the 27th. The wildcats finish up with a game at Georgia and a home finale with Florida.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wild, Wild East: Villanova Falls to UConn

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 15, 2010

With the post-season staring them in the eye, the UConn Huskies had their head coach, Jim Calhoun, back from medical leave and a trip to Villanova standing between a lost season and respectability. The Huskies had lost 8 of their last 11 games and needed a road win over the Big East leaders to salvage any hope of making it to the Big Dance come March.

What they got was a career-best game from point guard Kemba Walker and a resounding 84-75 triumph that signaled to the rest of the Big East that the Huskies were not yet dead. Walker scored 29 points, hitting 14 of 16 free throws in the process, to go with 9 boards, 3 assists and a pair of steals. The sophomore guard's frequent forays into the lane turned into baskets, free throws and 11 offensive rebounds (4 by Walker) while the swarming Husky defense limited Villanova's shooters to just 40% from the field and a 40-29 rebounding edge.

Villanova's loss was just their second in the conference, dropping them into a tie with Syracuse at 11-2 for the Big East lead.

Where the Huskies tread from here is a matter of the calendar. At 5-8 in the conference, but 15-11 overall, they still are not under the radar of the selection committee. They have an upcoming road game vs. Rutgers, then host West Virginia and Louisville before finishing off the regular season at Notre Dame and South Florida. Winning at least four of their final five games looks to be essential, ensuring that UConn would finish up at least .500 in the conference. A good showing in the Big east tournament then might get them into the field of 65.

What should concern the Huskies is the overall depth of the Big East. Only two teams - DePaul and Providence - have losing records, meaning there are 14 Big East teams eyeing post-season fun. UConn will likely have to get some help.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Buckeyes Tie Spartans for 1st in Big Ten with Win over Illini

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 14, 2010

No matter which team emerges from the logjam atop the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes have served notice that they will be a team to reckon with down the regular season stretch and into tourney time.

Heading into Sunday, the Buckeyes were tied with the Fighting Illini and Purdue at 9-3 in the conference, all 1/2 game back of 10-3 Michigan State. After a dominating first half which left the Buckeyes up 36-20 at the break, Ohio State stormed to a convincing 72-53 road win. Led by Evan Turner and his 16 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists, the Buckeyes ended the day tied for first in the Big Ten.

Turner, who leads his team in points per game, assists, rebounds and steals, has established himself as a front-runner for Big Ten player of the year along with several national honors. The 6'7" junior swingman has posted 8 double-doubles and two triple-doubles this season.

Ohio State has a big week ahead, hosting Purdue on Wednesday and traveling to Michigan State on Sunday.

Notable: Unless you haven't heard, the Big East is a very tough conference. Just ask the players or coaches of Syracuse and Georgetown, each of whom suffered out-of-the-blue upsets at the hands of Louisville and Rutgers, respectively. Louisville ended the Orangemen's 11-game win streak and dropped them into second place (11-2) in the conference with a 66-60 win. Villanova leads at 11-1.

Georgetown's loss to Rutgers was more of a shock. The Scarlet Knights had won only twice in conference play before knocking off the Hoyas, 71-68.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Longhorns Break Out of Funk with 40-Point Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 13, 2010

Losers of 5 of their last 7 games, the question marks popping up around the texas basketball program were almost too numerous to mention.

Why can't they hit free throws? What's wrong with Dexter Pittman? Who's going to score after Damion James? Are they an elite team or just another Big 12 also-ran?

A few of those queries were put to rest on Saturday when the Longhorns posted their biggest conference win of the season, a 91-51 embarrassment of visiting Nebraska, spearheaded by 25 points from freshman guard Avery Bradley. Bradley smoked in the first half, hitting all five of his three-point attempts. After hitting one more in the opening minutes of the second half, Bradley missed, but by then, the Longhorns were already up by more than 30 points. Bradley finished 9-for-12, hitting 6 of 7 3-pointers.

As for the other questions, Texas made 20 of 33 free throws (73%), Dexter Pittman only played 16 minutes (he's too slow and clogs up the offense), and beyond James, who only scored 13 points, a trio of freshman will need to continue to produce. There was Bradley's 25, J'Covan Brown's 12 points and Jordan Hamilton's contribution of 16.

Whether Texas returns to elite team status will be determined over the next three weeks. The Longhorns play four of their final six games away from home, and after that, the conference tournament, which should provide more answers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cornell's Loss to Penn Sets up Showdown with Princeton

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 12, 2010

Big Red rolled into Philadelphia's Palestra Friday night confident and, at 6-0, atop the Ivy League standings, a game ahead of 4-0 Princeton. With a scheduled trip to Jersey to play the Tigers on Saturday, al Cornell needed to do was knock off the pushovers from Penn, a team without much hope, 2-2 in the Ivy, but 3-15 overall.

What happened next was unthinkable and maybe the upset of the season, as Jack Eggleston and Zack Rosen went off for 24 and 22 points, respectively, propelling the Quakers to a blowout, 79-64 victory. Eggleston was 8-for-12 from the field, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. Rosen was 6-for-12 (3-5 on threes) and hit 7 of 9 free throws. The Quakers shot 56% for the game, hitting 11 of 21 three-pointers (51%).

The loss pushed Cornell into second place as they prepare to face Ivy-unbeaten Princeton Saturday night. The Tigers downed Columbia on Friday, 55-45, and will have the home court edge for the showdown with Big Red. Ivy league games usually don't get much attention, but this one's a big one. A Princeton win would put them head and shoulders ahead of the pack, whereas a loss would have them 1/2 game behind Cornell. A subsequent meeting of the two Ivy powerhouses is scheduled for Feb. 26 at Cornell.

Notable: It took three overtimes, but the Pitt Panthers finally held home court in the backyard brawl, downing West Virginia, 98-95. The loss won't matter much in the larger scheme for the Mountaineers. They're still looking at being a #2 or #3 seed come tourney time, but the win for Pitt was big, their third straight win and second over a ranked opponent this season. Pitt is the only team to have beaten Syracuse. So now, at 8-4 in the Big East and 19-6 overall, the Panthers are a lock to get an invite to March Madness.

Some nice games on tap for Saturday, including Michigan St. at Penn St. (noon), Maryland at Duke (1:00 pm), Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (8:00 pm) and Tennessee at Kentucky (9:00 pm).

Friday, February 12, 2010

PAC-10 Counting on Cal

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 11, 2010

If you're a fan of college hoops - and who isn't? - you might be thinking that the PAC-10 has almost no shot of competing in the Big Dance this season, and, you'd probably be right.

It's been 5 weeks since any representative of the PAC-10 conference has made an appearance in the AP Top 25. On January 4, the then 10-3 Washington Huskies made it all the way up to #24. The Huskies then proceeded to implode, losing consecutive games at Arizona and Arizona State, on January 8 and 10, both by 17-point margins, and just like that, they were gone. It hasn't gotten any better for Washington. In six tries, they've yet to win a road game, the latest coming Thursday when they visited the Golden Bears of Cal and proceeded to finish on the short end of a 93-81 tally.

With that result, Washington dropped to 6-6 in the conference and still holds a 16-8 record overall, but no road wins is likely to mean no NCAA invite. Besides, four of the final six games for the Huskies are away from home.

The other side of the equation is Cal, which has assumed first place in the conference at 8-4, and has a 16-8 record overall. Their 4-5 road record is also not a positive, along with earlier losses to Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico, all defeats by fairly sizable margins. Still, Cal is probably going to be one of the two teams - maybe three - which will represent what used to be a power conference.

In Thursday's win, Cal was led, as usual, by senior point guard Jerome Randle, who tossed in 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Randle is a nearly-unstoppable force, having scored in double figures in every game but one this season. He leads Cal in both scoring and assists and gives the whole conference hope that the Golden Bears might crack into the rankings sometime soon.

Beyond the Bears, the conference is still pretty wide-open, though mediocre. Arizona, Arizona St., UCLA and USC all have winning records in the conference, but the Bruins, at 11-12, look to be outclassed this season. Best bets on making the field of 65 are Cal, and both of the Arizona teams.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Duke's Scheyer, Singler Stomp Tar Heels

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

They weren't exactly sharpshooters from inside the 3-point line, but Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler shot well enough from outside the arc to bury North Carolina right in the Tar Heels' back yard at Chapel Hill, 64-54.

The guard-forward combo combined for 2/3rds of the Blue Devil scoring, 43 in all, sending North Carolina to their 4th straight conference loss, 4th straight home loss, and dropped them to a 2-7 record in the ACC, just 1/2 game ahead of last place NC State (2-8). 8-2 Duke expanded their ACC lead to a full game over idle Maryland (6-2) and Wake Forest (7-3). Maryland's scheduled home game with Virginia was cancelled due to the fierce storm which dumped nearly 4 feet of snow on College Park over the past 4 days.

Singler was the man in the first half for Duke, while Scheyer scored most of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Singler was 7-for-18 overall, but 4 of 5 from 3-point range as the Tar Heels allowed him open looks in the early going. He finished with 19 points and 9 boards. Scheyer was 7-for-20, but 5 of 9 from outside the arc, adding 4 assists and 5 rebounds. As a team, the Blue Devils had one of their worst shooting nights of the season, hitting just 31% from the field, though they managed 50% (9-18) from 3-point land. The dynamic duo had all of the treys.

North Carolina didn't fare much better, hitting 35% from the floor and a woeful 5 of 18 (28%) on threes. Carolina's overall record now stands at a mediocre 13-11, nearly assuring that they will not be invited to the Big Dance in March. It's a sorry state of affairs in Chapel Hill, less than a year removed from cutting down the nets as national champions. Of course, losing players like Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Danny Green did put a very large dent in Carolina's overall game.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vandy Dumps Vols Again, Chasing Kentucky

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Two weeks ago, the Vanderbilt Commodores stormed into Tennessee and thumped the Volunteers, 85-76. To prove that they are at least the second-best team in the SEC (after Kentucky), on Tuesday night, they hosted the Vols and chewed them up even worse, in a decidedly one-sided 90-71 smack-down.

6'7" sophomore swingman, Jeffery Taylor provided plenty of Vandy offense, scoring a career-high 26 points and assisting on 3 other hoops. He also snatched 7 rebounds as the Commodores built an insurmountable second-half lead and turned what was supposed to be a competitive game into an outright laugher.

Despite similar records (now both teams are 18-5), the Commodores weren't getting the respect they deserved in the polls, ranked #22 before Tuesday's game. Tennessee is at #12, but sure to drop following their poor showing on the road.

Vanderbilt is just a game behind 8-1 Kentucky in the SEC East, at 7-2, and will have a chance to even the score on February 20, when the Wildcats come to town. Kentucky has already beaten Vandy once, 85-72, but that was back on January 30, at Rupp Arena.

NOTABLE: Georgetown's Greg Monroe turned in his 9th double-double effort of the season in the Hoyas' 79-70 win at Providence, but the 6'11" forward's results had a different twist for a big man. while he scored 12 points, he also dished 12 assists while adding 7 rebounds. All of his other double-doubles have been of the points plus rebounds variety.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

KU Slugs Texas, Closes in on Big 12 Title

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 9, 2010

As many expected, the Kansas Jayhawks emerged from their visit to Texas Monday as clearly the class of the Big 12, corralling the Longhorns with a no-contest, 80-68 decision.

While the match-up was endlessly hyped on ESPN as part of "Rivalry Week," what occurred on the court was something closer to a victory lap for Kansas and confirmation that Texas may not even be Top 25 material.

The Jawhawks continued their march through the otherwise-competitive Big 12 with their 9th straight win without a loss. Since their closest pursuers are Kansas State and Texas A&M, both 6-3, Kansas should be able to lay claim to the regular season title either on Feb. 20 or 22, when they host Colorado and Oklahoma, respectively, maybe sooner.

As for the Longhorns, now losers of 4 of their last 6 conference games, their focus is likely to be on getting a couple more wins in the conference, finding another scorer besides Damion James (24 points), and hoping to get seeded something along the lines of an 8 or 9 in the NCAA tournament. Of course, there are still 7 or 8 games left in the conference schedule and the Big 12 tournament, but this Texas team has the look of a one-and-done unit when crunch time comes.

Kansas improved to 23-1 overall and will likely remain in the top spot on the AP Poll, which kept them there for the second straight week. The most recent poll was released just prior to their game with the Longhorns.

Marcus Morris again proved to be one of the most complete players in the country, scorching Texas for 18 points and 8 rebounds. Following a 1-point performance in a 71-66 win against Cornell and a 5-point game in Kansas' only loss, at Tennessee, 76-68, Morris has stepped up his game in conference action, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 boards.

Kansas appears headed for a #1 tourney seed, almost certainly in the MidWest region.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Terps Stomp Tar Heels; Carolina 2-6 in ACC Play

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints on winning Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17, over the Indianapolis Colts. But, while the pre-game festivities were taking place in South Florida, some developments on the basketball court were noteworthy.

#3 Syracuse (sure to move up in this week's poll) turned a close game into a rout with a late, second half run, dumping the Cincinnati Bearcats, 71-54. The 'Cuse now has the best record in the nation, at an impressive 23-1, and is 1/2 game to the good over Villanova in the Big East standings. The 9-1 Wildcats suffered their first conference loss of the season Saturday at Georgetown. SU is 10-1 in the conference.

With the Big East looking to send 7 or 8 teams to the NCAA tournament, one of the ACC standard-bearers has fallen on very lean times. On Sunday, the North Carolina Tar Heels suffered their 6th loss in 8 conference games, this time to a heady bunch from Maryland, who whipped North Carolina, 92-71. The 21-point margin was the worst of the season for the Tar Heels, but should propel Maryland (16-6, 6-2) - encamped in second place in the ACC - into the ranks of the Top 25.

The Terps took a 7-6 lead early in the game and never again trailed, widening their lead at various points of the game. Greivis Vasquez, who had 35 against the Tar Heels when the Terps beat them last season, proved Heel-killer again, scoring 26 points, including 6 of 11 3-pointers, and dished 11 assists. A talented senior guard who should be playing pro ball this time next year, Vasquez leads the Terrapins in both scoring and assists.

Currently, the ACC only shows two teams in the Top 25: #10 Duke and #21 Georgia Tech, but, while the Blue Devils lead the ACC at 7-2, the Yellow Jackets are tied for 6th place in the conference at 5-4.

As for the Tar Heels, don't look for them in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Maryland loss was their 10th of the season, against just 13 wins, and other teams in the conference are hungry to get at them. Having dominated the conference for so long, this Tar Heel squad enters conference games with targets on their backs. Other teams know their weaknesses - particularly on defense, and aren't opposed to exploiting them. North Carolina simply don't guard well individually and don't work well together, a recipe for disaster in any competitive environment.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Willis Hits Career-High 33 as UNLV Bombs BYU

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

Tre'Von Willis, a transfer from Memphis who sat out the 2007-08 season, scored a career-high 33 points as the UNLV Runnin' Rebels smacked down BYU, 88-74, putting the Mountain West conference up for grabs. The Rebels, BYU and New Mexico each hold a share of the lead at 7-2, though UNLV holds a slight edge with a win and a loss to BYU, and a win over New Mexico, who beat San Diego St. on Saturday, 88-86, in OT.

Willis, a junior guard, knocked down 11 of 20 shots, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. He also converted 7 of 9 free throws, adding 5 rebounds and 8 assists. willis leads the Rebels with 18 points per game and also is 85% accurate from the foul line, a valuable commodity come crunch time. The Rebels took control of the game in the early moments, establishing a 56-34 half time lead, and coasted to an impressive win.

Notable: 23 of the Top 25 teams in the nation were in action on Saturday, and in the 22 games which didn't include two Top 25 teams, there were 14 winners and 8 losers. The only game involving two Top 25 teams was in the Big East, where #7 Georgetown shot the lights out, thumping #2 Villanova, 103-90.

These results indicate that no team or rating in the Top 25 is sacrosanct, that on a given day, almost any team can be beaten, either by an unranked conference opponent or a lower-ranked team. How that will shape things coming into March remains to be seen, though Villanova's loss surely puts a #1 tournament seeding in jeopardy. Another team suffering free-fall is Texas, which lost for the 4th time in two weeks, immediately following their #1 national ranking. The Longhorns were nearly run off the court in the first half of an 80-71 loss at Oklahoma.

Continuing to be noticeably absent, the PAC-10 still doesn't have a single team in the Top 25.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Big Red Continues to Stomp Through Ivy

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 5, 2010

After dispatching with previously-perfect in conference Harvard in a very unfriendly manner last Saturday (86-50), Cornell's Big Red continued their domination of lesser Ivy league foes by thrashing Yale, 90-71, with 7-foot senior center Jeff Foote having another big game.

Foote hit 7 of 11 shots from the field for 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for his 7th double-double of the season. Unranked Cornell sports one of the better records in the nation at 19-3 are 5-0 in the Ivy League. Their remaining major test comes next Saturday (Feb. 13), when they travel to face Princeton (12-5, 3-0). The two teams have a return date at Cornell on the 26th of February. Those two games should decide the Ivy League champion, though Cornell currently appears unbeatable.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Singler Guides Duke Past Georgia Tech; Devils Top ACC

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

With Georgia Tech's big men - Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors - both in foul trouble from just about the very start of the game (Lawal picked up 2 personals in the first 33 seconds and Favors had three before the game was even 7 minutes old), one would have thought the Blue Devils would take the ball in deep for scoring opportunities. Instead, just the opposite occurred as Kyle Singler roamed free on the perimeter, hitting 8 of 10 3-pointers for a career-high 30 points. As Singler was pouring them in from long range, and the Yellow jacket insiders on the bench, #10 Duke (18-4, 6-2) easily sped past #21 Georgia Tech (16-6, 4-4), 86-67, to remain 1/2 game ahead of 5-2 maryland and Virginia in the ACC.

Singler hit only one of seven shots that wasn't from three-point range, but he added 4-of-5 from the foul line and pulled down 5 rebounds. The game was decided within the first ten minutes of play, as Duke took a lead and went ahead to stay. Singler canned one of his threes just before intermission, giving the Blue Devils a 45-33 lead. After that they were never threatened.

NOTABLE: Keep an eye on the Butler Bulldogs, who are about to wrap up the Horizon league regular season title. They are 12-0 in the conference, on Thursday knocking off Detroit, 63-58, following four consecutive wins on the road. Gordon Hayward scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, continuing to lead Butler in both departments. The Bulldogs are a perennial upset-maker in the NCAA tourney and appear poised for a deep run this year. 19-4 Butler is ranked #23 in the most-recent AP poll.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Buckeyes Bounding Into Tourney Contender

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ever since Evan Turner returned from injury to the Ohio State starting lineup, the Buckeyes have become a force to reckon with in the Big Ten, winning 7 of 9 games and vaulting into the national Top 25.

Turner proved his value once again on Wednesday, as the Buckeyes hammered Penn State, 75-62, winning their 12th straight home game since a 77-73 setback to North Carolina on November 19. Turner led all scorers with 27 points, his second-highest point total of the season (he had a career-high 32 points in a 70-66 win over Purdue on January 12), to go with 10 boards, 6 assists and 3 steals. Turner played all 40 minutes of the game and, at 6'7", 210 pounds, is truly one of the most feared offensive players in the nation. He has the ability to can jumpers from the perimeter but can also take opponents off the dribble and is a great finisher near the hoop. He averages 50% from the field, 35.9 from 3-point land and is a 73.8 free throw shooter. He leads the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.

Ohio State, ranked #13 in the most recent poll, has improved to 17-6 and is in a 3-way tie for second place in the Big Ten at 7-3 with Wisconsin and Illinois. Everyone in the conference is chasing 9-1 Michigan State.

Notable: dominique Jones only scored 29 points, but the South Florida Bulls won their school-record 4th straight Big East contest by downing the Georgetown Hoyas, 72-64, at Georgetown.

The Bulls continue to get outlandish scoring from Jones, the leading Big East scorer at 22.4 points per game. Over the 4-game win streak, he's averaged 35 points.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Onuaku Polices the Lane as SU Goes to 22-1

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Arinze Onuaku, the 6'9" center for the Syracuse Orangemen, probably doesn't get enough credit for his work in the lane because of SU's reliance on Jim Boehiem's remarkably-effective 2-3 zone defense, but the big man in the middle does have a way of taking up space and discouraging traffic near the hoop.

In Tuesday's encounter with Providence, Onuaku delivered on both ends of the floor, scoring a season-high 20 points on 10-for-12 shooting, while keeping the Friars out of the lane defensively with 4 blocks and 7 rebounds, 3 offensive. Consequently, the #3 Orangemen turned a 3-point half time advantage into an 85-68 home win, improving to 22-1 overall and 9-1 in the conference, 1/2 game behind Villanova (9-0). Syracuse suffered its only loss of the season at home against Pitt, but that was a month ago, and the Orange have run off 9 straight wins while the Panthers have gone just 4-3 over the same span.

Syracuse will likely enter the NCAA's March Madness as a #1 or #2 seed, as their only remaining stiff challenges are at Georgetown (Feb. 18) and on February 27, when they host Villanova, a game that may decide the regular season Big East champion.

Notable: The selection committee for the NCAA tournament may have an easy time picking #1 seeds for this year's field of 65. Four teams: Kansas (20-1), Villanova (20-1), Syracuse (22-1) and Kentucky (20-1) have pulled away from the pack and are ranked 1-4 in the AP Poll. After them, only two teams in division 1 have two losses - BYU and Northern Iowa - though their conferences are not nearly the caliber of the Big 12, SEC or the Big East.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hamilton's 27 Saves Texas

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 1, 2010

With Jordan Hamilton slicing through the Oklahoma State defense for a career-high 27 points, the obvious question is, "Where have they been hiding this guy?"

The Texas Longhorns overpowered Oklahoma State with a 40-24 second half, cruising to their 19th win against 3 losses, 72-60.

A freshman out of Dominguez High in Los Angeles, Hamilton played just 19 minutes, but put on a dazzling show of offensive skills, hitting 11 of 16 shots, including drives, dunks, jumpers and treys. He was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and was generally unstoppable in the second half as Texas pulled away from the Cowboys after trailing 36-32 at intermission.

Hamilton's previous high was 17 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After Monday night's performance, expect him to receive a lot more playing time and more attention from opposing defenses.

Texas, in desperate need of a win after dropping 3 of their previous four games, got a real lift from the frosh, whose exploits couldn't have come at a more-needed time. Adding him to the offensive arsenal will open things up inside for Damion James and slumping Dexter Pittman, who's averaged just over 6 points per game in his last 8 games.

Monday, February 01, 2010

No Keeping Up with Dominique Jones

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

In South Florida, the focus has been on football, but lately, 6'4" junior guard Dominique Jones has drawing fans into Tampa's Sun Dome to see the Bulls take on Big East rivals.

On Sunday, the Bulls hosted Pitt, but proved to be quite rude to their guests, as Jones went off for 37 points en route to a 70-61 win for South Florida. Pitching them in from everywhere on the court, Jones was 10 for 20 from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and 14-for-17 from the charity stripe. He also notched 8 boards and 3 assists as the Bulls won their third straight Big East game, for the first time in the program's history.

Jones has been unstoppable of late, recently scoring 46 in a win at Providence and then 28 at home vs. Seton Hall. Both games went into overtime, but on Sunday, the Bulls downed the Panthers without needing an extra period.

The loss was the third in the last four games for Pitt, currently ranked #17, though they may be out of the Top 25 when the new poll comes out on Monday. South Florida still has a way to go before making the rankings. They've improved to 4-5 in the conference and 14-7 overall.

Notable: Ohio State avenged an earlier loss to Minnesota with a blistering 85-63 home win. Point guard Will Buford went for a career-high 26 points, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The 16-6 Buckeyes are ranked #20 in the nation.

Virginia improved to 16-6, as Sylven Landesberg scored 29 points and the Cavaliers dumped North Carolina, 75-60, in Chapel Hill. The struggling Tar Heels are 2-4 in the conference and 13-8 overall. On their current path, North Carolina looks to be playing in the NIT come March.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hoyas Shoot 72%, Hammer Blue Devils

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Georgetown Hoyas put on a shooting clinic at the Verizon Center Sunday, hitting 33 of 46 shots from the field, for an impressive 71.7% effort as they cruised to an 89-77 win over Duke.

While the Hoyas were hitting just about everything from everywhere, the Blue Devils were trying their best to stay in the game. After a first half run, the Hoyas took command, heading into the break with a 46-33 lead. Duke cut that to six, but that was the closest they would get, as Georgetown players just kept making their shots. Other than the shooting, Georgetown wasn't all that special. They were outrebounded by Duke, 32-22, and turned the ball over 15 times, one more than Duke. They did, though, manage to block 9 shots, and 20 of the 33 baskets came off assists.

Shooting the lights out were a trio of Georgetown players: Austin Freeman (8 of 11, 2-3 3-pointers, 20 points); Chris Wright (8 of 9, 1-2 3-pointers, 21 points); and, super soph center Greg Monroe (7 of 11, 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists).

The Hoyas, taking a break from the rigors of the Big East, got into Duke's psyche and bolstered their own resume, improving to 16-4 on the season. Duke, despite the loss, is 17-4 and will likely still be ranked in the Top 10 come Monday.

Notable: Of 14 games involving Top 25 teams Saturday, 4 of them went into overtime. The two biggest were in the Big 12, where #2 Kansas withstood the Kansas St. challenge, winning 81-79, while in Austin, the Baylor Bears upset Texas, 80-77, hanging the Longhorns with their third loss in two weeks.

The other two OT games produced wins by unranked teams, as San Francisco toppled #13 Gonzaga, 81-77, and unheralded UTEP outscored #25 UAB 11-2 in the second overtime for a 74-65 win.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cornell Stomps Dartmoth, Continues Roll through Ivy

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

When Ivy Leaguers from Dartmoth meet with Cornell, it's Big Green vs. Big Red, but the greens were swallowed up in a sea of red Friday night as Cornell plastered Big Green, 71-37, continuing their dominance over fellow Ivy Leaguers.

Sporting a 17-3 record, Cornell's only losses have come from outside the conference, to powerhouses Syracuse, Kansas and Seton Hall, though Big Red held their own in each of those contests. Against Dartmouth, Cornell emptied their bench (amd maybe some of the stands) using 19 different players to extend a 27-13 half time lead for 44 second half points and a thorough beating.

Leading the way was 3-point specialist and Massachusetts transfer, Max Groebe, who hit his only 2-point attempt, and connected on 4 of 6 from beyond the arc to raise his season shooting percentage from long range to an incredible 59.4%. Groebe played just 16 minutes but tallied a team-high 15 points. 11 other Big Red players scored in the one-sided affair.

Cornell will try to go 4-0 in the Ivy League when they face Harvard - also 3-0 - on Saturday in Ithaca, NY. Back-to-back weekend games are the norm in the Ivy, where the focus is on books rather than hoops. All conference games are played on either a Friday or Saturday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Razorbacks Clamber Past Miss. St. on Fortson's 35

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 28, 2010

Although their record is just 9-11, the Arkansas Razorbacks may be a surprise team from the wide-open SEC West, especially if the Hogs can find a player or two to step up to the level of sophomore point guard, Courtney Forston.

Forston, who missed the first fourteen games of the season due to a suspension for some untoward comments on Twitter, scored 33 of his 35 points in the second half to rally the Razorbacks to a 67-62 SEC win.

After a lethargic first half from both squads, in which the Bulldogs led 29-21, Forston put the entire program on his 5'11" frame and lifted the team to victory, hitting 9 of 17 shots, including 3-for-6 on 3-pointers, while canning 14 of 18 free throws. The diminutive guard added 7 boards, 4 assists and a pair of steals. Down by as many as 11 points, Forston carried Arkansas back to their second conference win against 3 losses.

Besides Mississippi State, Alabama and Mississippi should vie for the SEC West title, and you can add Arkansas into that mix, especially if they can upset the Rebels when they travel to Mississippi on Saturday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

James Matches Career High as Texas Returns to Winning Form

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Even though Texas only managed to stay #1 for a couple of hours before losing - first at Kansas State last Monday, and then at UConn on Saturday - they still came in at #6 in the most recent poll and have now gotten off their losing skien with a 95-83 home win over a pretty solid bunch from Texas Tech.

As usual when the Longhorns are rolling, forward Damion James led the way, matching his career-best (also against Texas Tech, last season) of 28 points on 12-for-20 shooting while also helping out on the boards in a big way with 13 rebounds (4 offensive). It was the 11th double-double for james this season, in 20 games.

The 18-2 Longhorns host #24 Baylor on Saturday before back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State (Feb. 1) and Oklahoma (Feb. 6).

NOTABLE: With the possibility that the Mountain West Conference could send more teams to the NCAA Tournament than the PAC-10, the New Mexico Lobos have regained some of their swagger with their 5th straight conference win after dropping their first two. Wednesday's 76-72 win over high-flying #12 BYU was spurred by Dairese Gary's career-high 25 points. The win was the Lobos' third against ranked opponents this season and has them settled into a second-place tie in the Mountain West with UNLV, at 5-2. BYU still leads the pack, at 5-1.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Then There Were None: Gamecocks Shock #1 Kentucky

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kentucky's freshman sensation, John Wall, has gotten an inordinate share of press and frothy praise by NBA scouts who believe he'll be the #1 pick in the draft later this year. s Wall has helped the Wildcats to the Top of the AP poll, ranking #1 for the first time since 2003 with their 19-0 record, that was, until Tuesday night when Kentucky squared off with SEC foe South Carolina Gamecocks at the Colonial Center in Columbia, SC.

Amid all the hype and excitement over Wall and the #1 Wildcats, 5'9" guard Devan Downey was having none of it and he proved his point with 30 points and a 68-62 win, eliminating the last of the undefeated teams in college hoops.

Downey was the ultimate water bug against Kentucky, spinning, whirling, twisting, and leaping past defenders. Though he only shot 31% (9-for-29), he made up for it with impressive defense and by hitting 10 of 11 from the foul line. Easily the shortest player on the court, he managed to grab 5 rebounds to go with his 3 assists, keeping the Wildcats off-balance and in awe most of the night. Downey leads the SEC in scoring at 22.4 points per game.

Helping in the upset effort were 6'8" forward Sam Muldrow, who contested everything in the paint, blocking 5 shots while scoring 9 points with 11 rebounds. Downey's backcourt mate, Brandis Raley-Ross, chipped in with 17 points and 5 boards.

Kentucky's reign as #1 lasted just over one day before they tasted their first loss of the season, though they will retain the #1 ranking through Sunday, and might just stay there, depending on how they fare against Vanderbilt on Saturday and how other teams - #2 Kansas, #3 Villanova and #4 Syracuse - perform during the week.

NOTABLE: The University of Seattle is a fledgling independent playing mostly teams from the Big West, PAC-10 and other independents, and they've done fine, sporting a 9-11 record heading into their Tuesday night game at Washington. Seattle hoped to be competitive against the Huskies, but the wheels fell off completely as the Redhawks committed 45 personal fouls, had six players foul out and sent the Huskies to the charity stripe 61 times, where the Washington players gleefully dropped in 46 freebies en route to a 123-76 thrashing.

Washington built an insurmountable 61-20 lead by the half, and Seattle played the final 1:27 with just four players on the court due to the foul-outs. Quincy Pondexter led 6 Washington players in double figures with a game-high 27 points. Washington shot 56%, to just 30% for Seattle.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#4 Syracuse Rips #7 Hoyas at Carrier Dome

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 25, 2010

Big East rivalries don't get any bigger than the one witnessed Monday night by a national television audience (ESPN), as Georgetown headed north from the nation's capitol to take on the Syracuse Orangemen.

At the beginning, everything went Georgetown's way, with the Hoyas building a 14-0 lead. Once Syracuse got on track, however, it was game over, lights out, everybody down. The Orange stormed to a 34-29 lead at the break and opened up by as many as 20, eventually winning in a laugher, 73-56. Too quick and too physical for the Hoyas, Syracuse converted 21 of 28 free throws, compared to just 6 of 11 from the line for Georgetown.

Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph led the Orange attack with 15 points apiece. Joseph added 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Rautins dished 6 assists and had 6 steals.

Wesley Johnson had a superb all-around game with 14 points, 9 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocked shots, all while committing not a single personal foul.

Notable: Kansas, seeking their 54th straight home win, held Missouri to 27% shooting in the first half while building a 50-30 lead en route to an easy, 84-65 win. Cole Aldrich had 11 rebounds by half time as all 8 Kansas players who saw floor time scored, led by Marcus Morris with 11 points. Aldrich finished with 16 rebounds, 6 blocks and 12 points and was a key factor in Kansas' fast breaks with deft, deep outlet passes. #3 KU improved to 19-1, and 5-0 and sole possession of first place in the Big 12.

Pirates Bloody Panthers as Pope Reigns in Paint

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winning on the road in any conference is a tough task, but it's especially difficult in the Big East, as the #9 Pitt Panthers found out on Sunday when they traveled to New Jersey Sunday to face the Seton Hall Pirates. The Panthers were coming off their first home loss in 3 years, and a win would be a big boost to their confidence, but the Pirates had other ideas.

After close calls against Syracuse, UConn and West Virginia, the Hall was poised to make a statement, and they did, despite leading scorer Jeremy Hazell riding the pine for most of the game due to foul issues. Hazell, who averages 22.2 points per game, saw just 16 minutes of floor time and scored only 9 points, his lowest point total since the season opener.

Picking up the slack was sophomore forward Herb Pope, who played 38 minutes, scored 19 points and ripped down 9 boards. Pope was a solid force in the paint, hitting 8 of 12 shots, mostly from point-blank range. With help from Jeff Robinson, rounding into form after missing the first eight games of the season, the Pirates were able to hold on for a 64-61 win and improve their conference mark to 3-4.

Playing solid defense for the duration of the game, the Pirates held Pitt to just 35% shooting, including holding the Panthers' leading bomber, Ashton Gibbs, to just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. Gibbs, the game's high-scorer with 23 points, made up for his poor shooting by hitting all 14 of his free throws, but in the end it wasn't enough.

Pitt is now 15-4 (5-2 Big East) and will still be ranked when the poll results come out on Monday, but two straight losses have taken some of the swagger out of their step.

NOTABLE: A huge match-up in the Big East is slated for Monday night, when the Syracuse Orangemen and Georgetown Hoyas renew their rivalry at the Carrier Dome. 19-1 Syracuse is ranked #5; the 15-3 Hoyas are ranked #12.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Longhorns Corralled by Huskies, 88-74

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Big 12 is a tough conference, but the Big East is even tougher, proven, in distinctive fashion by the Connecticut Huskies, as they thumped the Texas Longhorns, 88-74, at the XL Center in Hartford.

Texas entered the week ranked #1 in the polls, but since then has suffered two straight losses, the previous one at Kansas State on Monday, where the Wildcats bumped them, 71-62. Five days and another long road trip later, Jerome Dyson and the Huskies took them down again. Dyson led all scorers with a season-high 32 points, hitting 12 of 23 shots from the field, including 4 of 8 3-pointers. Down 42-34 at the half, the Huskies rallied in the second stanza, outscoring the Longhorns, 54-32. Texas drops to 17-2 on the season, while UConn, during a week in which they lost head coach Jim Calhoun to a medical leave and dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in 36 weeks, improved to 13-6 with their second straight win over interim head coach George Blaney.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cal Golden Bears Devour Ducks

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 21, 2010

The PAC-10 is having a down year. Not a single team in the conference is ranked in the Top 25, but, since they will be sending three or four teams to the NCAA Tournament, it's a good idea to keep tabs on which teams are likely to get bids and potentially pull off an upset.

The league is pretty wide open at this early date, though a number of teams, including Washington, Washington State, Cal and Arizona State have winning records and may be headed to the field of 65.

On Thursday, the Cal Golden Bears, led by 21 points from senior guard Patrick Christopher, mauled the visiting, defenseless Ducks from Oregon, 89-57. Christopher, who was one of five Cal players in double figures, also chipped in with 6 rebounds, 3 of them on the offensive end.

With the outcome of the game almost never in doubt past the opening minutes, Cal took a 48-21 lead into the half and cruised from there for their 12th win against 6 losses. The Bears are tied for first in the PAC-10 with Arizona State at 4-2, but, after 4-3 Washington State, a pack of four teams are in pursuit, at 3-3. The conference may not be one of the best in the nation, but it appears to be highly competitive.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wright, Hoyas Hand Pitt 1st Big East Defeat

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

There are just too many good teams in the Big East to think that any one of them will go through the conference schedule without tasting defeat, and probably more than once.

Such was the case on Wednesday night, when the Georgetown Hoyas stormed into Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center and stopped the Panthers' 31-game home win streak and 5-0 Big East start with an important 74-66 road win. Led, as they often are, by point guard Chris Wright's game-high 27 points, Georgetown broke a second-half 56-all tie with a 7-0 run and never allowed the Panthers closer than 6 after that.

Wright went 11-for-17 from the field, including hitting all 3 of his 3-point attempts and going 2-for-2 from the foul line. He also added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal while outplaying his counterpart, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, who was just 3-for-16 and 2 of 8 from beyond the arc for 8 points.

Pitt's loss left Villanova alone atop the Big East, at 6-0, followed by 5-1 Syracuse and Pitt. Georgetown improved to 5-2, good for sole possession of 4th place in the conference standings.

Notable: #3 Kansas staved off a determined effort by Baylor for an 81-75 win. Sherron Collins all but sealed the deal when he hit his 5th 3-pointer of the game with 1:13 left, giving KU a 5-point lead. Collins finished with a game-high 28 points, closely followed by Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn, who scored 27 and also canned 5 3-pointers. Dunn, who leads Baylor at 19.5 points per game, grabbed 9 boards to go with 2 assists and 4 steals.

Duke and North Carolina both lost on the same night, the first time that's happened since 2003, though it appears it could happen again sooner rather than later, especially with a slew of injuries plaguing the Tar Heels. Carolina was mangled, 82-69, by visiting Wake Forest (13-4, 3-2), probably the best unranked team in the country. Duke had its own problems at NC State, as the Blue Devils were spanked by the Wildcats, 88-74. North Carolina is 1-3 in ACC play; Duke's conference record is 3-2.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Georgia Tech Tames Tigers in ACC Clash

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The ACC is a very tough conference. Just ask players from Clemson, whose record dropped to 3-2 after their trip down to Georgia Tech to play the Yellow Jackets ended in a 66-64 loss.

Georgia Tech has already equalled their win total from last season, and, by taming the Tigers, now can lay claim to three wins over Top 25 teams in the past 11 days. They beat Duke back on January 9, then took down the Tar Heels on Saturday and Tuesday night took out #17 Clemson.

The Yellow Jackets certainly have what it takes up front. Lots of beef. Teams playing the Yellow Jackets have to contend with a super-sized lineup which includes the likes of Zachery Peacock (6'8", 235) - whose two free throws with 5.1 seconds left won the Clemson game - Gani Lawal (6'9", 234) and Derrick Favors (6'10", 246), a freshman powerhouse, whose 17 points and 14 rebounds were essential in the win over the Tigers and were his 7th double-double of the season.

NOTABLE: In the Big Ten, Purdue, which had won 14 straight prior to dropping three in a row, got back on the winning track with an 84-78 win at Illinois. Ohio State, as suggested here last week, is back in the Top 25, coming in at #21. The Buckeyes took care of business with a 76-56 thumping of Northwestern.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Texas Dumped by K-State; Kentucky Only Unbeaten Left

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 18, 2010

Kansas State sophomore forward Jamar Samuels delivered his best performance of the season at just the right time, scoring 20 points and bringing down a career-high 12 rebounds to help the Wildcats knock off #1 and previously-undefeated Texas, 71-62, leaving another team of Wildcats, Kentucky, as the only unbeaten team in the college ranks.

Coming within a point of his career-high scoring mark, Samuels made the most of his time in the paint, hitting 8 of 13 shots, but also contributed a key three-pointer and defended against the Texas big men - Damion James and Dexter Pittman as the Wildcats had the Fred Bramlage Coliseum rocking. James, an all-American candidate, was held to just 9 points. Pittman was limited to just 6. James had one of his worst shooting nights ever, hitting just 3 of 12 from the field. He also was credited with 4 turnovers.

In addition to their generally poor shooting (37%), Texas struggled from the foul line as well, making just 9 of 22 freebies (41%).

NOTABLE: Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins scored 22 and 21 points, respectively, as the #5 Syracuse Orangemen closed out Notre Dame late for an 84-71 win, their 5th straight after losing to Pittsburgh back on January 2nd. The Orange are 18-1 overall and 5-1 in the conference, right behind co-leaders Pitt and Villanova, both 5-0.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Villanova Stops Hoyas Despite Monroe's Huge Game

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 17, 2010

Villanova remained perfect through five Big East games and improved to 16-1 overall, as Scottie Reynolds scored 27 points in the Wildcats' 82-77 home win over Georgetown. The #4 Wildcats rule the Big East along with Pittsburgh, both at 5-0. Syracuse, 4-1, is hot on their tails. The #11 Hoyas dropped to 4-2 in the conference and 13-3 overall, yet remain one of the elite teams in college hoops.

Part of their formula for success has been the play of sophomore center Greg Monroe, who continues the tradition of exceptional big men from Georgetown. Monroe was an absolute force in Sunday's loss, hitting 9 of 13 shots and 10 of 15 from the foul line for a career-high 29 points, to go with his 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Monroe is quickly becoming one of the most-feared low post players in the nation. If his progress continues at its current pace, he may not be back for a junior season, as he is already regarded as one of the best big NBA prospects around, averaging a double-double every time his sneakers hit the court - 14.9 ppg and 10.0 rpg.

NOTABLE: When the latest polls come out today, expect to see at least one of two fixtures in the Top 25 drop out. Both North Carolina and UConn seem to be in the middle of rebuilding seasons and their troops are not prepared well enough for the rigors of life in the ACC or Big East. Both teams have already suffered 6 losses, and are under .500 in conference play (Tar Heels, 1-2; Huskies, 2-3). With the easy part of the season behind them, don't be surprised if one or both of these squads miss the NCAA tournament. Despite playing in big time conferences, 12 or 13 losses isn't likely to impress the selection committee.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dunn's 25 Leads Baylor Over Oklahoma St.

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 16, 2010

Oklahoma State has a pretty good basketball team. At 13-4, they've established themselves as a contender in the Big 12. The problem for the Cowboys, however, is that there are a lot of good teams in the conference, such as Baylor, the team they visited on Saturday. After a closely-contested first half, from which the Cowboys emerged ahead, 40-39, Baylor took control in the latter stages, thanks to a 25-point effort from the Bears' leading scorer, LaceDarius Dunn, propelling Baylor to a harder-than-it-looked, 83-70 win.

Dunn, who is averaging 19.1 points per game this season, hit 9 of 17 shots overall, including 4 of his 9 three-point attempts. He also grabbed 9 rebounds, as the #22 Bears improved to 14-2, and 2-1 in the conference, along with Kansas State, Oklahoma and Missouri. That foursome trails Kansas (2-0) and Texas (3-0) in one of the nation's most loaded conferences. With anywhere from 6 to 8 teams likely to head to the Big Dance, wins over other contenders - give Baylor one here - will be an important determinant weighing on the final selections. Baylor appears to be headed that way.

NOTABLE: There was no lack of Top 25 action on Saturday, including a huge 72-67 overtime victory for #1 Texas, who hosted the Aggies from Texas A&M. Forward Damion James scored 26 points, including seven in overtime to keep the Longhorns unbeaten at 17-0.

Now that Ohio State has a healthy Evan Turner back playing full time, they've managed to even their conference record at 3-3 and should be a force - barring injuries -for the rest of the Big Ten season. After dispatching Purdue on Tuesday, the Buckeyes hosted #13 Wisconsin, defeating the Badgers by a 60-51 score. The 14-5 Buckeyes are making plenty of noise in the crowded Big Ten, where Purdue, which had been undefeated heading into conference action, has now lost three straight, their latest a 72-64 beat-down at Northwestern.

#12 North Carolina is in danger of dropping out of the Top 25 after dropping two straight, including Saturday's 73-71 loss to Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels are 12-6, and 1-2 in the ACC.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Harris Goes for Career-High 31 as Zags Top St. Mary's

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 14, 2010

Every year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs field a team worthy of inclusion in the NCAA tournament field. Over the last decade, the Zags have become a nearly-permanent fixture of the tourney, and have gone from being a novelty to being a perennial high seed. This year's squad is no different, taking on teams from all over the country, and beating some of them, in preparation for the annual March madness.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs won their 5th straight, and 3rd straight on the road, with an important victory over one of their West Coast Conference main rivals, the St. Mary's Gaels. Leading the way to the 89-83 win was freshman forward Elias Harris, who did it all with a career-high 31 points on 13-for-20 shooting, and 13 rebounds. Operating mostly in the post, Harris displayed some very un-freshman-like skills and even drifted out beyond the arc on occasion, hitting one of his two 3-point attempts. Harris, 6'7", is a 46% shooter from downtown.

With wins in their first two conference games on the road over their main rivals for the WCC title - beating Portland on Saturday, 81-78, the Bulldogs are tied for first place with Pepperdine and appear to have a team worthy of a high seeding and potential run deep into the tourney field come March. Gonzaga is 13-3, with the losses coming against Michigan State, Duke and Wake Forest.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Upsets Predominant In Wide-Open ACC

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The big news in the Top 25 Wednesday night was #24 Clemson's smashing performance over #12 North Carolina, in which the Tigers took advantage of 27 Tar Heel turnovers, including 14 steals, mostly by Clemson guard Tanner Smith and forward David Potter, each of whom had five. Clemson took an early lead and dominated the entire game, winning, 83-64. The win improved Clemson to 2-1 in the conference and a highly respectable 14-3 overall.

Later in the evening, two more upsets verified that the ACC, one of the top two or three conferences in the nation, was loaded with quality teams. Virginia slipped by 20th-ranked Georgia Tech, 82-75, while Virginia Tech was absolutely hammering #23 Miami, putting their offense on cruise control in the second half after taking a 50-23 lead into the break. The Hokies eventually finished off the Hurricanes with an 81-66 rout, improving to 13-2, as junior gaurd Malcolm Delaney hoisted up a game-high 28 points, to go with 9 assists and 4 rebounds.

All of the ACC upsets occurred on the home floors of the winners. With strong fan bases and generally loud crowds, college basketball presents one of the most challenging environments for visiting teams, especially in the hotly contested ACC.

The scramble already on at the top and middle ranks of the conference, all of the confusion adds to 14-2 Duke's strong position at 2-1, with their only ACC loss coming just this past Saturday, as Georgia tech stepped up for a 71-67 win. The Blue Devils' only other loss was to Big Ten powerhouse, Wisconsin, another 4-point defeat, making the Blue Devils just four buckets short of perfection at 14-2. Duke held court at home over Boston College, 79-59.

NOTABLE: Senior guard Andy Rautins led five doble-figure scorers with 23 points, as the #5 Syracuse Orangemen improved to 16-1 with an 81-65 spanking of Rutgers. Rautins had one of the best all-round games by a single player this season, grabbing 8 rebounds, dishing 9 assists and snatching 5 steals.

Pittsburgh, the only team to have beaten Syracuse this season, continued to vie for first place, going to 4-0 in the Big East - along with Villanova - with a 67-57 defeat of a highly suspect UConn team. The Huskies are already 2-3 in the conference and 11-5 overall. While it's still early in the season, the huskies have the look of a definite bubble team when time comes to pick the 65 competitors for the NCAA tournament.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Turner Outduels Hummel; Ohio St. Outlasts Purdue

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 12, 2010

After missing 6 games due to injury, Evan Turner entered his third game back as the Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to face Purdue in a key Big Ten tilt. But even he couldn't have expected Robbie Hummel to score 29 first half points, hitting 8 of 10 3-pointers, before going on to a game-high 35. Hummel's eight 3's in a half tied a Purdue record set by Cuonzo Martin in a 1994 Sweet 16 win over Kansas, but the second half belonged to Turner and the Buckeyes, who scrapped back and eventually tied the game at 62 on a Turner trey and went on to win, 70-66, handing the Boilermakers their second loss of the season. For the Buckeyes, the game was their first road win of the season, and second conference win in five tries. Turner, who scored 23 in the second half, finished with 32, plus 9 rebounds and 3 assists.

Hummel scored 18 straight points heading into the half before E'Twaun Moore's layup with 5 seconds left put Purdue up, 41-29, at the break, but was stymied in the second, scoring four points within the first two minutes, but then being held scoreless by Ohio State's best defender, David Lighty, until he canned a pair of free throws with 22 second left in the game and Ohio State already ahead. Hummel dislocated a finger on his non-shooting hand late in the game and missed some key court time. He had ten rebounds.

The scoring outbursts by Hummel and Turner were both personal season highs, Turner's a career best.

Scottie Reynolds Goes Off as 'Nova Rips Louisville

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 11, 2010

Squandering a 17-point first half lead, the Louisville Cardinals could not stop Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds, as the Wildcats tore up the Cardinals in the second half - outscoring them 56-41 - en route to a 92-84 win.

Reynolds was nothing short of magnificent, hitting all five 3-point shots and 9-of-10 overall, adding 13 of 17 from the foul line for a season-high 36 points. He scored 16 points in the final 6 minutes of the game, boosting the #4 Wildcats to a 15-1 record and a 4-0 mark in the Big East. Their only loss was a 75-65 loss at Temple in December. Since then Villanova has reeled off 6 straight wins, including a pair of 2-point victories over Marquette.

Reynolds leads the Wildcats in scoring at 18.8 points per game and is tied for 5th in the Big East with South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vols Stun #1 Kansas; Texas Should Assume Top Spot

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tennessee's harassing defense held the #1 Jayhawks in check and the Volunteers stunned Kansas, 76-68, Sunday.

Senior guard Bobby Maze contributed greatly to the offensive success for Tennessee, scoring 16 points, but more importantly, distributing the rock with 8 assists and securing it with 7 rebounds. Maze played 33 minutes, his season-high, and was aided in the upset by teammates Rolando Woolridge and Scotty Hopson, who tallied 14 and 17 points, respectively.

The Vols held Kansas to just 38% shooting and induced 16 turnovers, while giving it up just 7 times. The outcome of the game, which wasn't decided until the closing minute, could have been worse for Kansas, as the Vols were horrible from the foul line, hitting just 15 of 29 free throws (52%).

When the new poll is released later today, Kansas should drop to #3 or further down, with Texas #1 and Kentucky #2. They are the only remaining undefeated teams in the country.

NOTABLE: After six Top 25 upsets on Saturday, half of the six Top 25 Sunday games ended with underdogs on top. In addition to Kansas, #18 Florida St. was dumped at Maryland, 77-68, and #24 Washington was routed at Arizona 87-70. Some new faces and new places are expeced in this week's poll.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wild Saturday Produces Six Top 25 Upsets

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2010

Purdue being knocked from the rank of unbeaten - in a 73-66 loss at Wisconsin - was the most prominent of the upsets in a wide-open Saturday of college hoops action.

#20 Georgia Tech ended seasons of frustration, beating #5 Duke for the first time in its last five tries, stopping the Blue Devils, 71-67.

The other upsets included Notre Dame over #8 west Virginia, Missouri downing #12 Kansas State, UNLV topping #15 New Mexico, dealing the Lobos their second straight conference loss and 3rd in their last 5, and Oklahoma St. clobbering #22 Texas Tech, 81-52.

In that Big 12 match-up, the Cowboys' big-time scorer, James Anderson, notched 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting, including hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers. Anderson, an unguardable 6'6" junior guard is among the top scorers in the nation, at 21.9 points per game. The Cowboys, largely overlooked in the polls, are a very respectable 13-2, their only losses coming at Rhode Island and Tulsa. They are tied with four other teams at 1-0 in the Big 12.

NOTABLE: Speaking of big-time scorers, Georgetown guard Austin Freeman poured in 33 points as his #12 Hoyas outlasted #13 UConn, 72-69. Freeman was 12-for-20 from the field, with 5 of 9 3-pointers finding the mark. He also had 7 rebounds to go with two assists and three steals. Georgetown improved to 12-2. The Huskies are 11-4.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mixup in PAC-10

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, January 8, 2010

Sure, it's early, but from the looks of things, the PAC-10 probably won't be sending more than three or four teams to the NCAA tournament this season. Which three or four remains something of a mystery, now that the only ranked team from the conference - Washington, #24 - has lost two straight and probably won't be ranked come Monday afternoon.

After losing to current conference leader Oregon (2-0), 90-79, on January 2, the Huskies traveled to Arizona State on Friday and came up absolutely empty, as the Sun Devils blasted them, 68-51. Not that the Devils are any great shakes - they out-shot Washington, 38%-36% - but their 11-5 record compares well to the best of the PAC-10, including USC (12-5), Oregon (10-4), Washington St. (12-3) and the Huskies, at 10-4.

Friday's win featured Arizona State's Rihards Kuksiks, a 6'6" swingman from Riga, Latvia, who pumped in 27 points to lead the Sun Devils to their first PAC-10 win of the season (1-2). Dropping bombs from all over the court, Kuksiks equalled his season-high, hitting 8 of 14 shots from the floor, including 5-for-8 on 3-pointers. The team's leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points per outing, Kuksiks also matched his career-high in rebounds, with 9.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Hilltoppers Win in OT, Take 1st in Sun Belt

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 7, 2010

As long as A.J. Slaughter and Steffphon Pettigrew remain healthy, the western Kentucky Hilltoppers should continue to be a major force in the Sun Belt conference and earn another trip to the NCAA tournament in March.

Slaughter, who leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, was on his game Thursday when the Hilltoppers invaded South Alabama, keeping their conference record clean with their second win in as many games with a 67-64 win on overtime. The 6'3" senior point guard led the scoring with 18 points. Pettigrew, a junior forward, complemented the effort with 16 points and 5 boards.

It was the 4th straight win, and 7th in their last 8, for Western Kentucky, who knocked off SEC rival, Mississippi St., 55-52, on Monday. The Hilltoppers lead the Sun Belt's East division with a 2-0 record. They are 9-4 overall.

There were no Top 25 teams in action Thursday.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cubillan Lifts Marquette Past Georgetown

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A 6-foot senior guard hailing from Maracaibo, Venezuela, David Cubillan, who played only 9.5 minutes per game and scored an average of 1.6 points, lifted the Marquette Golden Eagles to their first Big East win, topping #12 Georgetown, 62-59. Cubillan took only 7 shots, but hit on all 6 of his 3-point attempts, leading the Eagles with 18 points, his season high.

Marquette has been on the brink of winning a big game over a highly-ranked opponent, though this was the first time they broke through. On December 29, they took West Virginia to the edge, losing 63-62, and this past Saturday they lost at home to Villanova, 74-72. Against Georgetown, they kept their poise down the stretch, made critical free throws and made big shots when they needed them.

Despite their 10-5 record, Marquette is one of those unranked teams nobody wants to play because they possess enough talent, determination and solid coaching to hang in against just about any team in the country. Team leader Lazar Hayward shot just 25% from the field (4-16), but managed to post his 4th double-double of the season, with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

NOTABLE: On Tuesday, it was Texas taken to the limit at Arkansas. On Wednesday, it was Kansas' turn, when the Jayhawks hosted the Big Red of Cornell and found themselves scrapping deep into the second half to finally put away the testy Ivy Leaguers. The Jayhawks managed to keep their record unblemished with a 71-66 win, thanks to a season-high 33 points from senior guard and likely All-American, Sherron Collins. Collins was 9-for-16 from the field and canned 13 of 14 free throws, including some clutch ones down the stretch.

In an important early Mountain West showdown, BYU slipped past UNLV, 77-73. The Cougars are tied with San Diego State, TCU and Colorado State at 1-0 in the conference.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Purdue Powers Past Minnesota; Texas Tested

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Robbie Hummel, Purdue's 6'8" junior forward, has been hailed as one of the best players in college basketball ever since he took the floor as a true freshman two years ago. Now, with the Boilermakers a perfect 14-0 after grounding Minnesota's Golden Gophers, 79-60, Hummel is being mentioned prominently in player of the year discussions.

Scoring in double figures for the 13th time in 14 games (he had 9 points in an 85-60 win at St. Joseph's back in November), Hummel and teammate E'Twaun Moore each scored a game-high 18 points as the Boilermakers shot 52% from the field while holding Minnesota to an ugly 31% shooting. Hummel also ripped down 11 boards, along with 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocked shots.

Purdue took a 35-28 lead into the break and then blistered the Gophers in the second stanza, shooting 65% from the floor. The 14 wins to open the season matched Purdue's 1993-94 start when Glenn Robinson led the Boilermakers to the first of three straight Big Ten championships and a finish in the Elite eight of the NCAA tournament under coach Gene Keady.

Last season, Purdue won the Big Ten tournament and reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA's, finishing the season with a 27-10 record.

NOTABLE:Plagued by foul trouble, Texas forward Damion James still managed to put up 20 points with 9 rebounds in just 17 minutes to help the #2 Longhorns pull away late from a determined Arkansas squad, 96-85. Dexter Pittman had 21 points as the Longhorns won their 14th game without a loss.

On the other side of the coin, #15 New Mexico suffered tis second loss of the season (14-2), dropping a 74-64 decision to conference foe San Diego State (12-3). It was the Lobos' second loss in their last four games and raises questions about their ability to endure over the long haul, especially against the expected challenge in the Mountain West from teams such as BYU, UNLV and Air Force, not to mention the Aztecs, who got 18 points and 15 rebounds from Malcolm Thomas in Tuesday's win.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tar Heels Given the Boot at Charleston

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, January 4, 2010

Junior guard Andrew Goudelock poured in 24 points, and the unheralded Charleston Cougars upset #9 North Carolina, in overtime, 82-79.

The team's leading scorer, Goudelock hit on half of his 20 attempts from the field, including going 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Playing almost the entire game without a rest - 43 minutes - Goudelock scored the final 8 points of the regulation, including a 28-foot 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime. He led four other Cougars in double figures as the 8-6 Cougars pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season, holding #9 North Carolina to 38% shooting, even though being outrebounded, 56-36, by the taller Tar Heels. Interestingly, all of Charleston's losses have come on the road, while they have yet to be beaten in six games on their home court under coach Bobby Cremins, who is no stranger to North Carolina, having guided the Georgia Tech program for 19 years, from 1981-2000. After a five-year absence from coaching, this is Cremins' 4th season as head coach at the College of Charleston.

North Carolina was playing without forward Marcus Ginyard, who missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. The Tar Heels dropped to 11-4 on the season. They open a usually-grueling ACC schedule on January 10, when they host Virginia Tech. Charleston is 3-0 in the South division of the Southern conference.

NOTABLE: The Pitt Panthers keep rolling along, despite having lost most of their starting lineup from a year ago to graduation. After slamming Syracuse on Saturday, handing the Orangemen their first loss of the season, the Panthers traveled to Cincinnati and topped the Bearcats on Monday night, 74-71, as Ashton Gibbs led the scoring with 19 points. Pittsburgh is now 13-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big East. The voters rewarded them on Monday with the #23 ranking in the latest poll.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pullen Leads Kansas State to 13-1 Record

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 3, 2010

How deep into the March NCAA tournament will Kansas State go this year? The Wildcats have been to the final four four times, but not since 1964, when they lost to UCLA 90-84 in the semi-finals. Last season, they didn't even receive an invitation and lost in the second round to San Diego State.

Prospects seem better this season, though the Wildcats are chasing two powerhouses within their own confernece: Texas and Kansas. But, after topping South Dakota, 91-69, on Sunday, the #12 Wildcats are 13-1 and appear ready to take on all comers in the Big 12.

Led By junior guard Jacob Pullen, the Wildcats have become an offensive machine, routinely scoring in the 80s or 90s. In Sunday's win, Pullen topped the scoring parade with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including 6 of 10 bombs from 3-point land. Pullen has tallied in double figures in every game this season and leads the team in scoring and steals.

Kansas State begins conference play on January 9 at Missouri, which should provide a glimpse of their ability because the Mizzou are also contenders, at 11-3. Their true tests will come later in the month when they host Texas (Jan. 18) and Kansas (Jan. 30).

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pitt Stuns Syracuse; Unbeaten Teams Down to Four

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, January 2, 2010

So far, the new year has not been praticularly kind to unbeaten teams in the Big East. On Friday, Purdue sent West Virginia to its first loss of the season, and on Saturday, the Pitt Panthers stormed the Carrier Dome and swept away the Orangemen's dreams of an undefeated season, topping the Orange, 82-72.

Syracuse stormed out to an early lead, but the Panthers kept the game within range, down by just three points, 30-27, as the two teams headed into the break. While SU's big men were getting themselves into foul trouble and the rest of the team missing shots from everywhere, Pitt's solid backcourt tandem of senior Jermaine Dixon and sophomore Ashton Gibbs were wreaking havoc from the perimeter. Gibbs, quickly becoming one of the more fearsome long-range specialists in the Big East, banged home 6 of 9 3-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points.

Dixon had a career-high 21 points, hitting 3 of 8 3-pointers, while dishing 4 assists, grabbing 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Pitt, winners of 5 of their last 6 trips to Syracuse, harassed Syracuse's outside shooters into a season-low 1-for-13 on 3-poiint attempts.

Prior to the game, Syracuse was ranked #5 nationally, while the Panthers were unranked. Now 12-2, Pitt should be mentioned as at least a contender in the Big East and should crack the Top 25 poll which will be released on Monday.

NOTABLE: Kentucky is loaded with young talent, though most of the attention is directed at the sensational John Wall. The Wildcats might be developing one of the best big men in the country in 6'11" frosh DeMarcus Cousins, who put on a thoroughly dominating performance in Kentucky's 71-61 win over Louisville. Cousins scored 18 points and had 18 rebounds, his 4th straight double-double and 8th on the season. #3 Kentucky improved to 15-0.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Badgers Bury Buckeyes; Purdue Punished Mountaineers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, December 31, 2009

Don't think twice about the Wisconsin Badgers reaching the top of the Big Ten and doing some serious damage in March - this team can play with anybody, and, usually, beat them.

The Badgers opened Big Ten play hosting Ohio State on the last day of 2009, and left the Buckeyes feeling like they'd rather leave memories of that year behind them. Wisconsin, playing tenacious defense and turning take-aways into points, built and early lead and pulled away late for the lopsided 65-43 win. By holding Ohio State to their worst shooting performance of the season, 14-of-43 (33%), Wisconsin established themselves as one of the top defensive teams in the conference, maybe the country.

Trevon Hughes led the scoring with 16 points, hitting 5 of 10 shots overall, but making 3 of 5 from 3-point range. The Badgers shot 10-for-21 from beyond the arc. Hughes, a 6-foot senior guard, also snatched 7 rebounds, a category in which the Badgers beat the Buckeyes, 34-25.

Wisconsin improved to 11-2, their losses coming on the road at Gonzaga and an 88-84 overtime loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay. However, the Badgers can look to quality wins over Arizona, Duke, Marquette, and now, Ohio State, for positive reinforcement that they are one of the best in the nation.

Ranked #23 coming into the Ohio State game, the Badgers are likely to move up in the polls, though they face a tough stretch with four tough games just ahead: at Penn St. January 3, at Michigan St. Jan. 6, Purdue Jan. 9, at Northwestern Jan 13.

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, January 1, 2010

...And then there were five.

The Purdue Boilermakers knocked West Virginia out of the ranks of the undefeated, opening the new year with a 77-62 thumping of the Mountaineers, leaving the 13-0 Boilermakers - along with Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Syracuse - as the only unbeaten teams in Division 1.

Led by 6'10" center JaJuan Johnson's 25 points and 10 rebounds, the Boilermakers expanded a 5-point half time lead to as many as 26 in the second frame, turning a Top 10 showdown into a one-sided blowout. Johnson's season-high point tally came on 8-for-14 shooting, mostly on dunks and shots from inside the paint, and a 9-for-11 performance on the free throw line.

Purdue is tied with four other teams at 1-0 in the Big Ten after having beaten Iowa, 67-56, on Tuesday, to open conference play. They were ranked #4 coming in, with West Virginia #6. The Mountaineers will surely drop a few spots in the polls, but Purdue should stay put behind Kansas, Texas and Kentucky.