Winners & Losers from big week of hoops
Williams' Wildcats remain on top in the Pac-10.
By: Mitch Light | 2/21/11, 1:01 PM EST
By Ken Davis
So much happened in the world of college basketball this past week, the thought of highlighting just one story didn’t seem to make sense. Instead, we are going to look back — and a little ahead — by naming a few winners and losers from recent days.
Colonial Athletic Association – It is tempting to view ESPN’s BracketBusters series as a TV gimmick, but this February scheduling tool has become a valuable way to separate the men from the boys. The CAA came away walking like a man with George Mason, VCU and Old Dominion scoring significant victories. Remember when the question was, “Who is this year’s George Mason?” And the answer was, “Butler.” Well, this year’s George Mason should be … George Mason. Last week the Patriots (23-5, 14-2) went on the road to settle conference business with a 71-51 victory over VCU, then hit the road again for a BracketBusters win over Northern Iowa, 77-71. Let’s not compare Jim Larranaga’s team to his historic 2006 squad. Just accept the fact that the Patriots are for real again. VCU (21-8, 12-4) bounced back from consecutive loss to Old Dominion and George Mason to defeat Wichita State 68-67 — again on the road. And Old Dominion (22-6, 12-4) has won eight of its last nine, including a 74-63 win over Cleveland State in the BracketBusters. Don’t forget Hofstra (18-10, 12-4) is in the CAA too. Charles Jenkins of the Pride is one of the best players in the nation, but an 82-56 loss to Wright State hurt Hofstra. I’d love to see three CAA teams in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s more realistic to predict two will be dancing.
Derrick Williams – It isn’t often that you walk away from a game talking about a last-second, game-saving blocked shot. Arizona’s Williams gave us that moment Saturday against Washington as the Wildcats tightened their grip on first place in the Pac-10. The 6-8 sophomore forward did much more than that last week. If he wasn’t in the National Player of the Year discussion before, he should be now. Williams averaged 26 points, 9.5 rebounds and two assists as the Wildcats swept Washington State and Washington. Williams shot 57.7 percent from the field and hit 20-of-21 from the free throw line. We could go on and on, but Williams is simply a competitive beast. And that block was an emphatic way to end a game. It also may have been goaltending — but it wasn’t called. “I believe if we were at Washington, they would have called it goaltending,” Williams said. “Good thing we were home.” You’ve got to love his honesty too.
New York City – Did you hear the noise in Madison Square Garden Saturday? Did you see the smile on Lou Carnesecca’s face? St. John’s defeated No. 4 Pitt 60-59 and Steve Lavin’s team now has defeated five top-25 teams at the Garden since Jan. 3. The Garden is sold out for next month’s Big East Tournament. That’s nothing new. But there might be a retro buzz in the Big Apple. If you were there back in the days of Chris Mullin and Walter Berry, you understand what that can be like. A competitive St. John’s team makes New York a really fun place in March.
Kansas State and Nebraska – If you want to stay on the bubble and impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee, you’ve got to make headlines. K-State did that on Monday by beating rival Kansas, just hours after the Jayhawks had risen to No. 1 in the polls. Who would replace Kansas at No. 1? People were ready to vote for Texas until the Longhorns lost at Nebraska Saturday. That was a huge statement by Doc Sadler’s Cornhuskers. The Big 12 race just got real interesting again.
Missouri Valley – This conference is full of rising stars in the coaching profession — and some good teams. There just aren’t as many NCAA Tournament-worthy teams as in past seasons. And BracketBusters weekend wasn’t kind to the MVC. Missouri State lost to Valparaiso; Wichita State lost to VCU; Northern Iowa lost to George Mason; and Indiana State lost to Morehead State. Could it be that the Missouri Valley is a one-bid conference in 2011? Wow.
Boston College – I really wanted the Eagles to convince me they belong in the NCAA field. So, I tuned in Saturday to watch Boston College play North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Eagles didn’t score until almost eight minutes into the game. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots. They established season lows for shooting percentage (26.9) and points (46). BC made a remarkable comeback (I had stopped watching by then), but lost 48-46, dropped to 16-10 overall and 6-6 in the ACC. The Eagles have lost five of seven. Don’t forget the losses to Yale and Harvard earlier in the season. BC has home games against Miami and Wake Forest, road games against Virginia and Virginia Tech remaining. It might be a good idea to win out.
Top seeds – Ohio State recorded two road losses in eight days. Kansas lost at Kansas State after rising to No. 1 in the polls. Pittsburgh lost at St. John’s. Texas lost at Nebraska. Moral of the story: Don’t go on the road to play. Second moral of the story: Don’t count your No. 1 seeds until Selection Sunday. And that’s still 20 days away.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kansas State’s NCAA Tournament pulse was getting weak until Jacob Pullen arrived as a one-man medical rescue unit. No one ever doubted Pullen’s scoring ability. It was leadership ability that was under scrutiny. But the senior guard came up big last week, scoring 38 points in a huge win against rival Kansas and 27 points in a victory over Oklahoma. Against Kansas, Pullen was 9-of-17 from the field (including 5-of-6 on threes) and 15-of-19 from the line. The Oklahoma performance was almost as efficient (8-of-18 field, 8-of-8 line, 3-of-6 threes). If the Wildcats make the NCAA Tournament, this will be viewed as the turning point of the season.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones had two double-doubles for the Wildcats last week. Against Mississippi State it was 17 points and 10 rebounds. Against South Carolina it was 19 points and 12 rebounds. Seventeen of those 22 rebounds were on the defensive end. Jones was 13-of-24 from the field and 9-of-12 from the line. Jones has his season averages up to 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds as Kentucky prepares to play at Arkansas Wednesday.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Monday, Feb. 21
Syracuse at Villanova
Monday night comes quick for these Big East programs. Both were forced to overtime Saturday before winning: Villanova over DePaul and Syracuse over Rutgers. Back on Jan. 22, Villanova couldn’t miss from the outside and defeated the Orange 83-72 in Syracuse.
Oklahoma State at Kansas
After moving up to No. 1 in the polls and then getting embarrassed by in-state rival Kansas State, the Jayhawks settled down and crushed Colorado. The Cowboys have lost three in a row.
Tuesday, Feb. 22
Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Tennessee probably should have a spot in the NCAA Tournament but a win over Vanderbilt would tighten up the SEC East standings.
Louisville at Rutgers
Rick Pitino’s Louisville team is healthy again and dangerously hot in the Big East. Coach Mike Rice has Rutgers putting a scare into the entire conference.
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Temple at Duke
Doesn’t it feel as if Duke plays 40 non-conference games a year? This one is really late in the season, sort of a BracketBusters game for big boys.
Kansas State at Nebraska
Evidently the Cornhuskers are determined to just totally mess up the Big 12 before heading off to the Big Ten or the new Big Twelve or whatever you want to call it.
Thursday, Feb. 24
Georgia at Florida
The first time these two met, they couldn’t settle things in regulation. In fact, it took double overtime for Florida to emerge with a 104-91 victory. Erving Walker and Chandler Parsons decided things for the Gators.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh
The Panthers had some uncharacteristic breakdowns in execution on the way to a 60-59 loss to St. John’s. Coach Jamie Dixon should have those corrected in time for Round 2 of the Backyard Brawl.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s
The Gaels want to replace Gonzaga as West Coast champs. This is their chance. Saint Mary’s won at Gonzaga on Jan. 27 but has gone 4-3 since. Gonzaga has climbed back into the race with four straight games.
Arizona at USC
Sean Miller has led Arizona to a 23-4 record overall and the Wildcats are on top of the Pac-10 at 12-2. Now it is time to take care of business on the trip to Los Angeles.
Friday, Feb. 25
Siena at Fairfield
Stag Nation is imagining big things for Fairfield. Derek Needham and Ryan Olander have directed the Stags to a 22-5 record and first place in the MAAC.
Saturday, Feb. 26
Missouri at Kansas State
The Tigers finally got their first Big 12 road victory at Iowa State. This game in Manhattan is big as both teams jockey for their seed position in the conference tournament.
St. John’s at Villanova
Tied in the Big East standings. St. John’s and Villanova, both 9-5. Didn’t see that coming now, did you?
Seton Hall at Notre Dame
The Pirates can make life difficult for opponents any night in the Big East. But that’s a tough assignment at Notre Dame.
Duke at Virginia Tech
Take away the two losses to Virginia and Tech would be looking good in the ACC. Beating Duke would make a huge statement.
Syracuse at Georgetown
It may be impossible to predict this game. These two teams have multiple personalities.
BYU at San Diego State
Part II of the great Mountain West showdown.
Florida at Kentucky
Rupp Arena will be pumped up for Billy Donovan and the Gators.
Sunday, Feb. 27
Connecticut at Cincinnati
Cincinnati could really use a victory over the Huskies. It’s all about the NCAA resume at this point of the season, and the Bearcats are still building. Of course, so are the Huskies.
Pittsburgh at Louisville
Louisville’s matchup zone is hard to penetrate. Pitt is the best rebounding team in the nation. Which team can find the offensive efficiency to prevail?
Purdue at Michigan State
Can Michigan State make one of its patented late season runs? Or is it too late for that?
THEY SAID IT
“I just tried to get every rebound that I can.” – Temple’s Lavoy Allen, who grabbed 12 rebounds and became the schools career leader in rebounding during a 66-52 victory over Saint Joseph’s. Allen has 1,045 rebounds and passed John Baum (1,042), now the school’s radio analyst.
“We’re not playing team defense. We need five guys connected. Once we get that back, we’re going to be all right.” – Ohio State Jared Sullinger, after the Buckeyes lost at Purdue 76-63.
“It seems like we’ve got somebody who takes turns screwing up. It’s one guy this possession, another guy next possession, another guy next possession and the next thing you know, we’ve got three or four possessions where defensively we messed up or offensively we didn’t execute. I think that’s a big part of it.” – Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, after a 76-66 loss to Wisconsin.
“For the rest of my career I don’t anticipate ever going back to a tie or dress shoes every again. We’re 6-1 with sneakers that started to bring attention to a great cause. But it struck me in terms of comfort with the shoes and without the tie I’m doing a better job of teaching. Everything’s been at a higher level without a tie on.” – St. John’s coach Steve Lavin after a 60-59 upset of Pittsburgh. Lavin hasn’t gone back to a tie or dress shoes Coaches vs. Cancer weekend.
“We have to try to keep Jimmer under 43.” – San Diego point guard D.J. Gay, looking ahead to this week’s rematch with BYU and Jimmer Fredette.
“Not a lot to say. We won. That’s the bottom line.” – North Carolina coach Roy Williams after the Tar Heels held on to defeat Boston College 48-46.
I don’t understand how anyone can write about National Coach of the Year candidates without including Arizona’s Sean Miller. The Pac-10 might be way down as a conference, but the Wildcats are 23-4 overall, 12-2 in the conference, and way ahead of schedule in rebuilding their program. Miller is doing a terrific job. Derrick Williams and Lamont Jones are going create headaches for opponents in the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse needed overtime to defeat Rutgers 84-80 Saturday. How did the Orange do it? You might say Syracuse won it at the line (and when did you last say that?). Syracuse made 34-of-47 free throws (72.3 percent). Syracuse entered the game ranked 280th in free throw shooting at 64.9 percent. Rutgers was called for 30 fouls, while Syracuse was whistled for 18. Rutgers made 9-of-14 from the line. It’s pretty hard to win when you are outscored 34-9 at the line. The Scarlet Knights almost pulled it off.
More of Moore
E’Twaun Moore’s twisting, bending, scooping acrobatic fastbreak layup against Ohio State Sunday might have been the most amazing basket in all of college basketball this season. Moore is such an entertaining player, and now he is only the fourth player in Big Ten history with 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 350 assists in his career. The others are Penn State’s Talor Battle, Wisconsin’s Michael Finley and Michigan State’s Steve Smith. That’s darn good company.
Diebler for 3
Put Ohio State’s Jon Diebler in the Big Ten record book. Diebler passed Penn State’s Pete Lisicky (1994-1998) as the conference leader in three-pointers made Sunday. Lisicky had 331. Diebler hit No. 332 on a shot from the right corner about one minute into the second half.
Morehead State plays Murray State on ESPNU Thursday night. Do yourself a favor and catch at least a little of the game, enough to see Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried grab a rebound. On Saturday, Faried broke Tim Duncan’s modern-era (since 1973) NCAA Division I career rebounding record. He grabbed 12 rebounds against Indiana State and now has 1,576. Duncan had 1,570 in his career. The rest of the top five since freshmen became eligible for varsity ball: Derrick Coleman, Syracuse (1,537), Malik Rose, Drexel (1,514), and Ralph Sampson, Virginia (1,511). That’s better than good company. Next year at this time Faried should be making money in the NBA.
Ken Davis is the author of Basketball Vault books covering the history of the University of Kansas and the University of Connecticut. Both are available through the publisher
(http://www.whitmanvaultbooks.com/) and autographed copies are available at Ken’s web page (http://kendavis55.wordpress.com/).
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