Somehow in the libational haze of last Friday night’s self-induced dystopia, we noted a strange factoid surfacing across the ESPN bottom-line crawler. Tennis great Jimmy Connors, he of the former #1 ranking and a current Santa Barbara resident, had gotten into some kind of row with another fan outside the UCSB Thunderdome prior to the Gauchos’ game with #1 North Carolina, and found himself arrested. The story got lost among all the football and hoops this weekend, but we wanted to make sure that we remembered it correctly. Turns out, we did. From the NY Daily News report:
Tennis giant Jimmy Connors was arrested outside a college basketball game in California for standing his ground, police said. Connors, 56, was ordered to move away from the entrance of the Thunderdome just before UC Santa Barbara and top-ranked North Carolina were set to play Friday night. The eight-time Grand Slam champ, known for his fiery temperament in his heyday, refused and was arrested, police said.
We can only speculate as to who the other guy must have been or what he must have done to elicit such rage in Connors so that he would miss the once-in-a-generation opportunity for the local school (of which he supposedly is a fan) to host the nation’s #1 ranked team. Hmmm…
Just thinking out loud here, but who fits that description? What nemesis is capable of eliciting such rage so that Connors would refuse to comply with police instructions and move his arse? Who could that have been?
Maui Invitational. Texas vs. Notre Dame could be the best game of the first month of the new season. UNC vs. Oregon could be interesting, but won’t be.
Texas 68, St. Joseph’s 50. The Texas defense has been absolutely superb so far this season, holding its three opponents to an average of 46.3 ppg and 29% from the field. St. Joe’s was no different, struggling to find open looks against the long arms and quick feet of the Longhorns. Damion James and AJ Abrams combined for 31/8 for the Horns, who will hook up with Notre Dame tomorrow in a blockbuster contrast of styles (ND is averaging 82.3 ppg).
Notre Dame 88, Indiana 50. This was a complete mismatch from start to finish, as the experienced Golden Domers meticulously picked apart the green Hoosiers in nearly every way possible. Notre Dame shot 51% as it brought back to the fore that Indiana simply isn’t going to be very good this season. Tory Jackson had 21/5/6 assts and Kyle McAlarney contributed 18 (all threes) for the Irish.
UNC 115, Chaminade 70. UNC rode a 67-pt second half to the second-worst loss that host Chaminade has ever suffered in this tournament. Roy Williams kept Tyler Hansbrough on the bench throughout, figuring it best to keep him fresh for what will be a much tougher next two days of games. Danny Green had a career-high 26 pts, while Ty Lawson added 19/6 assts. UNC will play a revived Oregon next, but we guarantee that the Heels will put up more of a fight defensively than Bama did.
Oregon 92, Alabama 69. At times during this game, Alabama appeared to be the least prepared and worst coached team in America. And they were playing a team in Oregon that often appears that way themselves, which should really tell you something. If we had a coconut for every time Bill Raftery or Jay Bilas said the word “terrible,” our living room would smell like Maui right about now. UO hit a blistering 54% from the floor while holding Bama to 36%. In a sidenote, Ronald Steele shot 3-11 from the field and just doesn’t look like the same player he was two years ago (before all of his knee injuries).
CBE Classic. It’ll be Syracuse vs. Kansas in KC tomorrow night for the championship.
Syracuse 89, Florida 83. Florida’s ‘improved’ defense got exposed exploited, giving up 89 points and 52% shooting to the more athletic Orange in an entertaining up-and-down game that featured several nice performances on both sides. Paul Harris contributed 18/11 for the Orange, while Alex Tyus chipped in 24/4 for the Gators.
Kansas 73, Washington 54. KU’s Cole Aldrich dominated the more ballyhooed Jon Brockman by dropping 16/9/6 blks (vs. Brockman’s 7/18 on 2-9 shooting) in the Jayhawks’ blowout victory in the semis of the CBE Classic. The Kansas defense held the Huskies to 29% shooting for the game, and frankly, Washington largely looked out of sorts for much of this game.
Feasting on a feastly week of hoops… here’s the news…
Remember 73-yr old Ken Mink’s first game where he scored two points? We wondered who and how he could possibly get fouled?!? Believe it or not, watch the video here of this CBS News report where Mink pump-fakes on the wing and gets hammered by some 19-year old defender (#23) who never learned to properly close out on shooters.
Loyola Marymount head coach Bill Bayno is taking a leave of absence from his position, effective immediately, due to an undisclosed medical condition.
UCLA’s Alfred Aboya didn’t break his hand in Friday’s game against SIU, but SIU’s Nick Evans did (out 4-6 weeks).
Another blow for St. John’s basketball – their best player Anthony Mason, Jr is out for the year with a torn tendon is his foot (ouch).
The 2009 Maui began today, but the 2010 field is already set with: UConn, Kentucky, Washington, Wichita St., Michigan St., Oklahoma, Virginia and Chaminade.
Duke – I’m not convinced this year’s Duke team is going to be all that impressive, but it’s difficult to argue with their early performance. Other than a surprisingly close game with Rhode Island (82-79), Duke cruised through the 2K Sports Classic on their way to this early 6-0 record. Forward Kyle Singler is averaging 17 points and 7 boards a game, guards Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are both averaging 13, and forward Gerald Henderson is averaging 12. The Blue Devils made the decision early on to bring Greg Paulus off the bench, which seemed to be working well so far. However, he suffered a “right forearm contusion” and did not play Sunday against Montana. His status is currently unknown.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels have looked pretty good to start the season, which is no surprise. Tyler Hansbrough returned to action for the first time on Friday against UCSB and contributed 13 points. It looks like he has recovered fully and is unlikely to be bothered by the injury going forward. Despite that good news, North Carolina received some very bad news in an impressive 77-58 rout of Kentucky. Highly touted freshman Tyler Zeller came down awkwardly on his wrist after going up for a layup in the second half. The wrist is broken and Zeller is likely out for the season.
Wake Forest – Despite the fact that the Demon Deacons have only played two games, they’ve looked very good in both. Through those two games Wake has won by an average of 39 points, and scored 120 against UNC Wilmington. Guard Jeff Teague is averaging 22.5 points, forward James Johnson is averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, and freshman Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds. It is clear the Deacs are going to make their presence felt this season.
Virginia Tech – After starting the season with three straight wins, the Hokies have dropped back to back games, first on an overtime buzzer-beater against Xavier (62-63) and then against Seton Hall (73-77) in the third place game of the Puerto Rico Tip Off. Both of those losses came against pretty good teams, but the Hokies will need to be able to win those kinds of games to compete in the ACC this season. Forwards Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassalo, as well as guard Malcolm Delaney have looked good early for Virginia Tech, however they are not getting much production from anyone else.
Boston College – Despite a good win against St. John’s, the Eagles looked very poor against St. Louis on Saturday. They managed only 50 points in the 53-50 loss, shooting only 33% from the field. It’s going to take more than that for Boston College to make any noise this season.
Looking Ahead – Thanksgiving Tournaments
Despite the loss to St. Louis, the BC Eagles have a chance to redeem themselves in the Preseason NIT. They face Purdue in the semifinals on Wednesday, and could advance to face Oklahoma in the Championship with a win. A couple of good games could quickly right the ship for Boston College.
North Carolina begins the EA Sports Maui Invitational today against Chaminade, and will have to face some pretty good teams in one of the premier pre-season tournaments. They’re likely to face Alabama in the second round (unless Oregon beats them) and then Texas or Notre Dame in the Championship. It should be a good early barometer for the Tar Heels.
Maryland will also face some solid opponents in the Old Spice Classic at Disney World in Florida. They play Michigan State in their first game, Oklahoma State or Gonzaga in their second, and could potentially play Tennessee or Georgetown in the future. The Terrapins have a chance to make an early statement with a good showing.
Wake Forest gets to face off against some other up-and-coming teams in the 76 Classic, played in Anaheim, CA. They first face Cal State Fullerton before a likely game with St. Mary’s. A good performance in those two games puts them in the championship, likely against Baylor, although other potential opponents include Arizona State, Providence, and Charlotte. Either way these games are sure to provide some much-needed experience for a young Wake Forest team.
Other Matchups This Week
Florida State @Cincinnati – Friday 11/28 – Florida State has already won two games on the road this season, and a matchup with undefeated Big East team Cincinnati is a good early test for the Seminoles.
Virginia @ Syracuse – Friday 11/28 – Virginia is not expected to have a good season, but this game against Syracuse could prove otherwise, or indicate that the Cavaliers will indeed be bottom-dwellers this season.
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.
Big 12 Conference Week in Review (Nov. 14-23)
Current Records and my standings:
Kansas St. (4-0)
Oklahoma St. (4-0)
Texas Tech (4-0)
Iowa St. (3-0)
Texas A&M (3-0)
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma—Oklahoma has gotten off to a fast 4-0 start behind Blake Griffin and his supporting cast. They survived the Gardner-Webb bug that Kentucky suffered from last year. Griffin scored 35 points and pulled down 21 rebounds to lead Oklahoma to a win. Now they head to New York after holding off Stephen Curry and Davidson in their NIT regional. They get a somewhat favorable matchup against UAB instead of an expected Arizona team.
TEAMS DOING WELL
Nebraska—I actually like Nebraska just for the fact that they are one of the only Big 12 teams that already has a road game under their belt as they made the trip to TCU this week. Though they only had 21 free throws (most came towards the end) against TCU’s 38 free throws, Nebraska survived their first road test and will build some toughness as they continue a somewhat soft non-conference schedule. However, Nebraska won against Arkansas-Pine Bluff but according to Doc Sadler, the Huskers were “outworked.” Maybe next time after the morning shootaround you should keep the players there and let them prepare for the game instead of sending them home.
Missouri—Missouri started the season with a couple warmup games against Prairie View A&M and Chattanooga and then headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a tournament – losing to Xavier, winning against Fairfield and getting a nice win against USC. The bench for Missouri is starting to feel a little comfortable. The Tigers’ high pressure defense caused 20 or more turnovers by their opponents the first three games of the season. Missouri gets a week off before hosting Summit Conference favorite Oral Roberts next Sunday.
Kansas St.-The Wildcats enjoyed a little cupcake city playing against a bad Florida A&M team, a troubled Southeast Missouri St. team and D2 Emporia State, but then took to the road to play against Horizon league favorite Cleveland St. and left with a win—their first true non-conference road win in nearly two years. Kansas St. is enjoying balanced scoring as they have six players averaging double figures in scoring.
Baylor—Baylor’s documented scoring machine has not disappointed as they are averaging almost 95 points a game. In addition to what they already had, Baylor got a new scoring threat in Quincy Acy. The freshman has yet to miss a shot, scoring 18 straight baskets over his 3-game career, breaking a Big 12 record. With an assist for every two baskets, that means the Bears are doing a good job of playing some team ball. They get a warm up with Jacksonville on Monday night before heading to Anaheim for the 76 Classic.
Texas—Texas, for being favored in the Big 12, has been relatively quiet to start the season. They won against Stetson and Tulane to open things up before heading to Maui for the ever popular Maui Invitational. AJ Abrams moving to point guard hasn’t affected his scoring too much as he leads Texas in scoring with 18 pts per game while expected point guard Dogus Balbay finally made his debut. Texas has also had the opportunity to build depth as they have 9 players playing more than 13 minutes a game so far.
Kansas—Kansas welcomed a whole new bunch of players to Allen Field House this week as they played their CBE Classic pod against in-state UMKC and Florida Gulf Coast. As expected, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are leading the way for the Jayhawks in scoring.
Oklahoma St.—The cowboys hosted Texas-San Antonio and North Texas as well as Tulsa and Grambling St. with relatively easy wins. The 3-point shot has almost been non-existent as they have been playing a lot of pick and roll basketball. Five players are averaging double figures in scoring per game. Okie St. will have a challenging week ahead as a part of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
Texas Tech—The basketball team must have taken some notes from the football team as far as high paced scoring goes as the Red Raiders scored 167 points and opened the record book against East Central Oklahoma. But what is even worse is that they did not have any defense either as they gave up 115 points themselves. You have to kind of feel for Tyree Graham as he played 18 minutes and couldn’t score while everyone else did and mostly in double figures. With that scoring explosion, through 4 games the Red Raiders are averaging 108 points a game. Wow.
TEAMS THAT ARE STRUGGLING
Iowa St.—The Cyclones hosted their own multi-team tournament including UC Davis, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Loyola Marymount. They didn’t look that great, but with so many new players that is probably expected. However that opening three games was last weekend. After 9 days off, the Cyclones headed to Hawaii for what appears to be a vacation and one game, it will be interesting to see how that works for them before turning around and hosting the SWAC’s Mississippi Valley St.
Texas A&M—Texas A&M struggled with Southland favorite Stephen F. Austin sandwiched in between SWAC opponents Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson St. The game with SFA was tight the whole game and everyone in College Station was holding their breath hoping their basketball team isn’t going to be as bad as their football team was this year. A&M may be undefeated, but at this point looks like smoke and mirrors so they are considered “struggling.”
Colorado—Colorado opened up against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a great win and everyone in Boulder was tricked into thinking that they had a basketball team this season. Then they hosted Big Sky Conference dweller Montana St. and lost. Whoops. Well maybe that is a good thing for the Buffalos.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma vs. Davidson, NIT Tip Off—Davidson and Stephen Curry gave Oklahoma all they wanted in one of the more exciting games of the season so far. The Griffin brothers combined for 41 points and 27 rebounds. Though Oklahoma led by as many as 21 in the game, Davidson crept back in and made it a game to the end. Great foul shooting led to a win for Oklahoma.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma—As advertised, Blake was just a beast in Oklahoma’s 4 games they have already played. He is averaging 25 points and 20 rebounds a game. That is just ridiculous.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
The Big 12 has played as advertised so far winning the games they are expected to win. This week will be the “Week of Tournaments” where several Big 12 teams will stop playing the cupcakes and play some real competition in the annually known neutral holiday tournaments:
11/24-11/25, Kansas @ CBE Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—Kansas gets a bit of a home court advantage as they play Washington and either Syracuse or Florida at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
11/24-11/26, Texas @ Maui Invitational (ESPN Family of Networks)—Texas starts off with St. Joseph’s, then either Notre Dame or Indiana and then possibly North Carolina.
11/26-11/28, Oklahoma @ NIT Tip Off (ESPN2)—Oklahoma gets a bit of surprise when they open up in New York against UAB and then will play either Boston College or Purdue.
11/27-11/30, Baylor @ 76 Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—Baylor opens with Providence and new coach Keno Davis, then most likely Arizona St. and then probably St. Mary’s or Wake Forest.
11/27-11/30, Oklahoma St. @ Old Spice Classic (ESPN2 and ESPNU)—A stacked tournament where the Cowboys open with Gonzaga and then either Maryland or Michigan St. If they win both of those, then they could likely be playing either Tennessee or Georgetown.
11/28-11/29, Texas A&M @ South Padre Invitational (Fox College Sports Atlantic)—A&M plays Tulsa and then most likely Illinois.
11/28-11/29, Kansas St. @ Las Vegas Invitational (ESPNU and ESPN2)—Kansas St. plays a struggling Kentucky team and then either Iowa or West Virginia in the city that never sleeps.
11/28-11/29, Texas Tech @ Legends Classic (HDNET)—Texas Tech takes their new found high scoring offense into New Jersey hoping to beat Pittsburgh and then either Mississippi St. or Washington St.
11/29, Colorado @ Stanford (Fox Sports Net)—Two teams seeing if they can be considered a player this season.
11/29, Nebraska vs. Creighton (Fox Sports Midwest)—This in-state rivalry will heat up once again and I will actually be there to see it in person.
Yep, Feast Week is here, and that means tons of preseason tournament action this week. And to think that some misguided folks still associate Thanksgiving with the gridiron! Let’s take a quick look at the two tournaments starting tomorrow in Hawaii and Kansas City, and leave a comment if you have a favorite memory from one of these tourneys or a particular game you’re really excited about seeing.
This is our favorite annual preseason tournament. The Hawaiian shirts, the late start times, Bill Raftery, the high school gym, the raucousness of the fans, the soothing views of the sea as we go to commercial breaks, all of it. Oh, and it’s usually a loaded field, and this year is no different. If things go as expected (and hoped), we’ll have two good games tomorrow (Texas v. St. Joe’s and Oregon v. Alabama) followed by an absolute blockbuster on Tuesday (Texas v. Notre Dame) and Wednesday (Texas/ND v. UNC). And hey, who knows, there’s always the chance that little Chaminade can re-enact its magic from that fateful evening 26 yrs ago against another #1 team from the ACC with the reigning POY on the team. Right?
Ed. note: we’ve already written a post on the absurdity of the Gazelle Group’s decision to pre-slot the regional hosts (Florida, Washington, Kansas, Syracuse) into the semifinals. Luckily for GG, all four hosts won their regions, thereby avoiding any possible outcry over the inherent unfairness of not allowing an upset winner to ‘advance’ into the semifinals of this ‘tournament.’
Nevertheless, the matchups in Kansas City are fairly good ones. All four of these teams have a good shot at playing March Madness this year. For our money, Florida’s young guns versus Kansas’ would be the ideal final game on Tuesday night.
(November 24 – 7:30 ET)
Syracuse vs. Florida- ESPN2
Kansas vs Washington- ESPN2
Forget the BCS. None of the big college football matchups this weekend were worth your time – Texas Tech/Oklahoma: blowout; Ohio St/Michigan: blowout; Penn St/Michigan St: blowout; Utah/BYU: blowout – so hopefully you found some good hoops to watch instead.
The Return of our Lord and Savior Tyler Hansbrough.UNC 84, UC Santa Barbara 67. This game was a little past RTC’s bedtime on Friday night, so we’ll cover it now. Did you guys hear? Tyler Hansbrough made his triumphant return to UNC’s lineup Friday night! The stress reaction is no longer reacting! There was to be no Santa Clara Pt. 2, as Psycho-T returned for 25 minutes of action and 13/7 in the box score. The Heels put all five starters in double figures (led by Ty Lawson’s 19) + Ed Davis off the bench, but didn’t really start to pull away until the mid-second half. James Nunnally had 22/7 off the bench for UCSB, who packed the Thunderdome for its first game against a #1 team in 18 years. Mild cause for concern? UNC is allowing its opponents to shoot 44% from the field in three games thus far this season.
Why Do We Ever Sleep on Xavier?Xavier 63, Memphis 58. Sean Miller just continues to get it done at Xavier year after year. Memphis won’t need this game in March, but Xavier just might, and like Wisconsin, we should just go ahead and put the Muskies in the top 25 no matter what players they’re returning in a given year. We watched this game, and guess what area of basketball once again bit Memphis in the arse? Would you believe FREE throws?!? Yep, 15-30 from the line, including missing seven of the last nine AND the last four as the game still hung in the balance. Robert Dozier had a double-double (10/11) but Memphis isn’t very good at shooting the ball outside of the paint (24% from three this season), and this area of the game might be their major bugaboo this year. Xavier exhibited a balanced attack, but Terrell Holloway’s 10-10 from the line helped XU secure the victory and the Puerto Rico Tipoff Championship.
Introducing Samardo Samuels. Louisville 79, Morehead St. 41; Louisville 81, S. Alabama 54. Samardo Samuels was the clincher as to why we chose Louisville to win the national title over UNC next April, and if his first weekend of games is any indication, we might start patting ourselves on the back soon. Samuels is averaging 21/5 in his first two games, while shooting 17-22 from the field (over half of which were dunks). Pitino is calling him the best freshman he’s ever coached, which is fairly high praise considering Jamal Mashburn, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Francisco Garcia were all pretty solid players for Pitino in their first seasons. Louisville has held its first two opponents to 32% from the field thus far.
Will the Hansbrough Effect Kill Another Big 12 Beast?Oklahoma 80, Gardner-Webb 76. Everyone pretty well knows that Tyler Hansbrough is going to win the NPOY awards again this year (assuming his stress reaction days are behind him). But is he going to win it over a more deserving Big 12 big man for the second year in a row? Google Michael Beasley/Kansas State for a comparison. It’s still early, but indications are that Blake Griffin is going to absolutely pulverize everyone that gets in his way this year. After four games, Griffin is averaging an utterly PREPOSTEROUS 26/20 on 75% shooting from the field. The reason he won’t win is because of games like this one, where poor shooting (42% FG, 26% 3FG) nearly doomed Oklahoma who probably should have lost to a vastly inferior team (and the fact that TH will have 30+ games on national tv, whereas Oklahoma will be lucky to have a third of that). Griffin set personal records with 35 pts, 21 rebounds and 5 assists, but it was his three-point play with 2:36 remaining that finally gave OU a secure lead. Gardner-Webb, now 0-3, was very close to making a name for itself for the second consecutive November.
Upset of the Weekend.Missouri 83, USC 72. This isn’t much of an upset, but it was a light weekend in that department. USC was once again the Jekyll and Hyde team in terms of the tale of two halves. They led Mizzou by six going into the break, but were outscored 46-29 in the second half to lose for the second time in three days. Demarre Carroll blew up for 29/11 for the Tigers, who are 4-1 with their only loss to Xavier and appear to be finally turning the corner a little bit under Mike Anderson. It’s going to take time for USC, as Demar DeRozan hasn’t adjusted to the college game yet (9/5) and Floyd’s teams usually get off to a slow start anyway. What has to be distressing for Floyd is where the Trojans’ are going to get some outside shooting – they’re currently at 23% from deep this year, and if that keeps up, nobody will bother to cover them outside of the paint this year.
Ridiculous Score of the Weekend. San Francisco 74, Academy of Art 23. Seriously, we think if you choose to schedule art schools and multi-directional high schools, then you should automically cede all claims on an NCAA Tournament berth.
Georgetown 81, Drexel 53. Greg Monroe was a beast, contributing 20/8/4/3 stls/3 blks in his second game as a Hoya. Georgetown held Drexel to 25% FG shooting for the game.
Georgia Tech 82, Mercer 76 (OT). Ga Tech barely escaped its trip south to Mercer’s home court by storming back from an 18-pt deficit to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining and getting a stop to send it to overtime. Georgia Tech was led by Gani Lawal’s 27/9, but it was Mercer’s 27 TOs that ultimately killed the Bears. Still, Mercer is making a name for itself this year in the deep south.
St. Louis 53, Boston College 50. In a game that both teams needed to win, Rick Majerus’ SLU team made just enough plays down the stretch to seal the game. BC’s Tyrese Rice and Joe Trapani combined for 4-22 from the field.
Pittsburgh 86, Indiana (PA) 60. Dejuan Blair ripped apart the other Indiana for 27/18 in a mere 21 minutes of play.
Purdue 66, Coppin St. 46. Robbie Hummell had 20/11 and E’Twaun Moore had 10/8/5 assts/3 blks in an easy win for the Boilermakers.
Rhode Island 92, VCU 86. In a game that must have been played with absolutely no defense, URI put five players in double figures while shooting 54% from the field, while VCU shot an even better 61% led by Eric Maynor’s 22/6/8 assts (he also had an ungodly ten TOs). So how did URI win? Home court – the Rams shot 16 more FTS (making 11).
Clemson 71, Charlotte 70. In a game Charlotte really needed to win at home if it intends on making a case for an at-large later this year, Clemson managed to hang on led by Demontez Stitt’s 16/4/4 assts. KC Rivers (12/8) put the Tigers ahead for good with a driving layup with 43 seconds left.
Missouri St. 62, Arkansas 57. Can we go ahead and put the SEC in the mid-major grouping yet? Another loss to a mid-major – at least this one was on the road.
Marquette 100, UW-Milwaukee 80. Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward each had 25 pts in a blowout win over crosstown rival UW-Milwaukee. Matthews is up to a fantastic start this year, averaging 26/7/4 over three games.
Nevada 79, Oregon St. 71. We’ll say this for Craig Robinson’s first year at OSU – he has his team playing competitive basketball on the road, and Nevada is no easy venue for a visitor to get a win. Luke Babbit had 20/7 for the Wolfpack.
Duke 78, Montana 58. Greg Paulus didn’t play because of a bruised ego elbow, but Duke still had no trouble putting down the Grizzlies, despite playing four games in the last eight days.
Arizona St. 61, Pepperdine 40. This is a vintage Herb Sendek score, as James Harden’s 33/12 led ASU to a win over a Waves team that literally couldn’t throw it in the ocean (27% FG).
Connecticut 76, Miami (FL) 63. UConn advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam (vs. Wisconsin) by holding Miami to 35% shooting, helped by Hasheem Thabeet’s patrolling of the inside (19/14 to go with 7 blocks). The game was essentially decided when UConn held Miami to 8 pts for a nine-minute stretch of the first half. Jack McClinton had 27/5 for Miami and his teammate Dwayne Collins had 16/14 in the losing effort.
Wisconsin 64, San Diego 49. The Badgers pulled away late from San Diego, ensuring that there will be no UConn-SD rematch from last year’s NCAAs. Trevon Hughes appears to be the new stud in the Badger system, going for 22 pts tonight after 21 the night before. Some things never change – UW held SD to 35% shooting while going for 51% themselves.
On Tap Monday (all times EST). Feast Week is our favorite basketball week until Championship Week starts in March. There are so many good early-season tourney matchups, between the Maui Invitational, the Preseason NIT semis and finals, the Old Spice and Anaheim Classics, the Las Vegas Invitational, and even the ridiculous CBE and Legends Classic final rounds. Here are the highlighted games for tomorrow.
Texas (-9) v. St. Joseph’s (ESPN2 & 360) – 3pm (Maui Invtl.)
Our third installment of Set Your Tivos brings us what I consider the first legitimate tournament of the season–the Maui Invitational. It’s your yearly chance to see some of the biggest names in college basketball rocking Hawaiian t-shirts or polos. You could argue that I’m just being nostalgic over the most shocking upset in NCAA history (that barely anybody saw live) except that the famous game actually happened a little less than 3 months before I was born. Anyways, onto our weekly countdown. . .
#10: Boston College vs. #10 Purdue, Wednesday at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: I’m curious to see how one of the Big 10 co-favorites (along with Michigan State and now Michigan) will do against a middle to bottom of the pack Big East ACC team. This game is about getting some respect for the Big 10. If the Boilermakers don’t win this game easily, it could be a sign that we’re in for another season of really bad Big 10 basketball.
#9: Duquesne at #5 Duke; Friday at 3 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: It will still be November when they play this game so the Blue Devils should win this game even though they have struggled at times this year. One of the revelations from last week’s Coaches vs. Cancer was that Brian Zoubek may still be a stiff, but he is a tall one. Look for Coach K to try to get Zoubek involved as he may be a key for Duke if they want to advance deep into the NCAA tournament this year. (Hint: Don’t put Duke too far in your March Madness bracket).
#8: Maryland vs. #7 Michigan State, Thursday at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This game seems more interesting on paper (program reputation) than it will be on the court (this year’s teams), but I’ll be tuned in to see what Tom Izzo actually has this season. The Spartans come in with a preseason #7 ranking, but got “UNLV-Duke 1990” crushed by Memphis in their Sweet 16 match-up and have lost their floor general Drew Neitzel. This year’s Spartan team has the potential to make it to Detroit (for the Final 4–I can’t imagine why you would want to go there for any other reason), but they’ll have to step it up several levels from where they were last week (beating Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne by 11 in a game that was as close as the final margin indicates).
#7: UAB vs. #14 Oklahoma, Wednesday 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This game will be a match-up of potential All-Americans–Robert Vaden and Blake Griffin–although they won’t match-up against each other outside of the occasional switch off a screen. The Sooners looked like they were still basking in the glow of beating America’s sweetheart Davidson when they almost lost to Gardner-Webb although BIlly Gillispie may disagree. The thought here is that if Oklahoma could hold of Stephen Curry then they can do the same against Vaden.
#6: Saint Joseph’s vs. #8 Texas, Monday at 3 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Rick Barnes managed to get to the Elite 8 one year after losing national POY and the greatest freshman ever (I disagree with rtmsf) Kevin Durant. Now the question is how far he can get the Longhorns after losing All-American point guard D. J. Augustin. The early game of ESPN’s tripleheader will give us some insight into that. The Longhorns should win this one easily since Phil Martelli’s crew is in rebuilding mode (see their loss to Holy Cross), but the Hawks could show us some weaknesses that the Longhorns may have.
#5: Syracuse at #19 Florida, Monday at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Jim Boeheim will need big games out of Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf to pull off the upset tonight. Despite struggling to put away Richmond last week, the Orangemen have the potential to pull off the upset against Billy Donovan’s young squad especially after the loss of last year’s starting PG Jai Lucas. I’m assuming that the Gators will return to the NCAA tournament, but if they want to have a successful season (Sweet 16 trip), they will have to be able to beat teams of Syracuse’s caliber.
#4: Indiana vs. #9 Notre Dame, Monday at 5:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Our first look at Tom Crean’s new squad (Bruce Weber has already told us what he thinks of them). Unfortunately this game isn’t at Alumni Hall. It will be interesting to see how the Hooiser faithful react to Crean and his JV squad. I am imaging the scene out of Hooisers at town hall where they vote Norman Dale out before Jimmy Chitwood shows up and saves the day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Eric Gordon can come back to Bloomington with any eligibility to recreate this. Bottom line: The Golden Domers will have something to look forward to after pelting their football players with snowballs after another embarrassing loss.
#3: #6 Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech, Friday at 7:30 PM on HDNet: I’m guessing that Pat Knight’s boys won’t be putting up 167 tonight unless this game goes to 6 OTs. So far the Panthers have players compared to Shaq (DeJuan Blair) and Lebron (Sam Young) and that doesn’t even factor in Levance Fields, who may be the most important player on the roster. There is no question that Pittsburgh is the better team in this match-up, but I’ll be following this to see just how good the Panthers are and the Red Raiders have had a tendency to come up with big upsets early in the year.
#2: #3 Louisville vs. Western Kentucky, Sunday at 3 PM on Fox College Sports Atlantic: Our first good look at RTC pre-season bracketology national champion against some real competition. The Hilltoppers lost a lot in the backcourt (Courtney Lee, Ty Rogers, and Tyrone Brazelton), but they return a lot of experience in the frontcourt. If the Hilltoppers want to give Rick Pitino’s Cardinals a game they will need JUCO transfer Sergio Kerusch, Motlow State Community College transfer Anthony Sally, and Dejan Cvoro, a point guard from Serbia, to step up. I’m guessing that Western Kentucky will keep it close for the first 10 minutes before Louisville pulls away, but it should still be interesting to see just how good freshman Samardo Samuels is. If he is as good as advertised, Pitino may have a legitimate title contender.
#1:Oklahoma State vs. #11 Gonzaga, Thursday at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Mark Few comes into this year with his 2nd highest ranked team ever (7th in the 2005-2006 preseason poll) and one of the most talented teams he has ever had. While the Zags lack the superstar they had a few years ago in Adam Morrison, they are not lacking in talent (Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye, and Josh Heytvelt). However, as the Zags have steadily moved up in the national conscience andthe regular season polls, they seem to have underperformed in the NCAA tournament. After losing to Cinderella (Davidson) in the first round last year, the Zags are hoping to bounce back and their first big test of the season will be against Travis Ford’s Cowboys. Ford has been quick to keep expectations realistic for his rookie season, but some experts have picked the Cowboys to be a surprise in the Big 12 despite their lack of interior play.
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.
Missouri Valley Conference Week in Review (Nov. 14-23)
Current Records and my standings:
Illinois St. (4-0)
Southern Illinois (2-2)
Missouri St. (2-1)
Northern Iowa (2-1)
Wichita St. (1-1)
Indiana St. (0-2)
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Creighton—Creighton kicked off the season a week ago against New Mexico and looked like they were going to suffer a big loss at home. However, they outscored New Mexico 40-16 in the final 10 minutes of the game led by P’Allen Stinnett with 30 points and Booker Woodfox with 26 points. Creighton also got a win against The Summit conference favorite Oral Roberts this past Saturday afternoon. The Jays may lose a little of their depth however as they go on a two-game road trip this next week with forward Justin Carter injuring his achilies on a thuglike play by Oral Robert’s Marcus Lewis. The extent of the injury is not known at this time. Guard Cavel Witter led the Jays in scoring in their other two games this week which makes Creighton a tough team to prepare for as several players can score.
TEAMS DOING WELL
Southern Illinois— I was all set to give Southern Illinois the team of the week if they happened to win one of their games in Madison Square Garden this week in the Coaches vs. Cancer just because they were one of the host teams and put on the same level as Duke , UCLA, and Michigan. There was even a great behind the scenes look by Sports Illustrated on how the Salukis prepared for their trip to New York. However, the Salukis are a young team and could only play 30 minutes with the likes of Duke and UCLA. The Valley was on the national stage and laid an egg. I suppose realistically I expected SIU to be playing Michigan in their 2nd game which was probably winnable, so maybe I am being too hard on them. However, they did have a nice win against UMass this week before going to New York and have a couple emerging players in Carlton Fay and Kevin Dillard. Though they are 2-2 (or 1-2 if you don’t count the D2 win), they get a “Doing Well” for scheduling the way they did to be involved in this tournament. SIU’s next game is another road game against the always tough Western Kentucky.
Evansville—Evansville is probably the surprise to start the season so far with a 3-0 mark as far as being undefeated compared to a few other Valley teams that are unexpectedly stumbling. However, they did get some nice wins against a middle of the pack Austin Peay and Oakland teams. Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger are leading the team as expected in scoring and team leadership. Ely had a double-double in the opener.
Illinois St.—Illinois St. started the season on the road against a tough Wright St. team coming away with a victory and won the cupcake SMU Classic against low-RPI Alabama St., SMU and re-classifying first year Houston Baptist. The team is basically a bunch of players built around Valley POY candidate Osiris Eldridge and Oregon transfer Champ Oguchi. At least in the win against Alabama St. to kick off the SMU Classic didn’t feel like a win to Illinois St. and they are trying to improve. They rank high in my rankings right now just because they played four games this week. Hopefully the non-conference schedule won’t become an Achilles Heel come the end of the season.
Missouri St.—Missouri St. started the season with a couple games on the road against Auburn and Central Michigan losing the Auburn game and opened the new JQH Arena against Arkansas with a nice win. Another blotch for the SEC. They have almost a week until their next game against Utah.
TEAMS THAT ARE STRUGGLING
Bradley—Bradley started off with a nice victory over Illinois-Chicago, but then got blasted by Florida after a fast start made it look like they would be competitive in that game. Bradley was taking part in the CBE Classic as a last minute entry after the Top of the World Classic was announced it wouldn’t exist anymore late last summer. Bradley will be busy this week as they get the short end of the CBE classic and play 3 games in Ft. Myers against Florida-Gulf Coast, Richmond and UMKC Monday–Wednesday and then East Tennessee St. back at home on Saturday.
Drake—Drake opened the season with new coach Mark Phelps and against a “rebuilding” Butler team and lost at home. Some Drake fans were already calling for Phelps’ head after one game. Just amazing. Then the team turned it around and beat Morehead St. and South Dakota St. The jury is still out on this team until we see how they do in Cancun this week.
Northern Iowa—Northern Iowa is a team trying to recover from a slew of injuries as they struggled to beat a bad Denver team and then went on the road to lose at Illinois-Chicago at one point in the second half going 7 minutes without a field goal. The positive note is that Jordan Eglseder is recovering well from his injuries and is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game so far while Johnny Moran is getting comfortable with the team. UNI started their Chicago Invitational games Sunday afternoon winning against Texas Southern.
Wichita St.—This team has a lot to do after getting an opening weekend win against a Florida A&M team that was already beaten around pretty good by Kansas St. a couple nights earlier. Even though they remembered the bad loss against UMKC the year before, they went out and lost again to them this season, only it was at home. The sellout crowds at Koch Arena won’t like these types of things going on for long. Free throw shooting is something they need to improve on as they are 29-49 (59%) from the Free Throw line. They will be thrown into the gauntlet in the Old Spice Classic this coming week.
Indiana St.—Indiana St. didn’t even play their first game until the 18th and lost at Northern Illinois 86-79. North Texas came to town on Sunday and beat Indiana St. as well. The team is having a terrible time adjusting to life without Marico Stinson who was their leading scorer and left the team just before the season. The Sycamores have a busy week ahead with 3 games on the docket including a game at Depaul.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Southern Illinois vs. Duke and vs. UCLA—I was tempted to have the Creighton vs. New Mexico to be the game of the week since I was there for that one and the exciting comeback, but I think the bigger games were the Coaches vs. Cancer games involving Southern Illinois. SIU played their down and dirty defense in these games and were in the games for most part. However, Duke got 47 free throws and UCLA got 26 free throws in the games while the Salukis only got 19 and 15 in both games which was the difference. Unfortunately for SIU and the Valley those losses may come to haunt them come the end of the season. But at the same time Davidson benefited from all of their “challenging” games that they lost last season and look how well they did.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Josh Young, Drake—This was tough since there really wasn’t anyone in particular that stood out, but Josh was a scoring machine in the first two games for Drake averaging around 27 points a game including a 34 pt. performance against Morehead St. Shy Ely from Evansville, Jordan Eglseder from Northern Iowa and Cavel Witter from Creighton were also considered.
WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH
The Valley has not helped itself by losing games it should not lose and not coming up big against the BCS conference teams. However, there are several opportunities over this next week for the Valley to get some good wins:
11/25, Creighton vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (Local Omaha TV)—This is a dangerous trap game that will give Creighton a good challenge on the road against the favorites of the Sun Belt.
11/26,Southern Illinois vs. Western Kentucky (Fox College Sports Atlantic)—Western Kentucky is always tough and another road test for the young Salukis.
11/27-30, Wichita St @ Old Spice Classic (ESPN Family of Networks)—Wichita St. gets a matchup against Georgetown in the first round with Siena or Tennessee the next day. Then with Oklahoma St., Maryland, Gonzaga and Michigan St., the Shockers will have their hands full, but a chance to turn their season a particular direction.
11/28 Northern Iowa vs. Marquette and 11/29 vs. Auburn in Chicago—Part of the Chicago Invitational tournament.
11/29, Creighton vs. Nebraska (Fox Sports Midwest)—This in-state rivalry is always a good game that packs the building and a chance for a win against the Big 12. I’ll be there for that one.
11/29, Drake vs. Vanderbilt in Cancun (CBS College Sports)—The SEC is down this year it appears, so Drake could steal a win here.
11/29, Evansville vs. Butler—Butler has been historically tough over the last few years, so this could be a good win for Evansville and a chance to stay undefeated.
11/29, Indiana St. vs Depaul—A chance to play a Big East team.
Allen R is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
The first week or so of Conference USA basketball is in the books and really you can’t tell too much from these contests.
My biggest complaint is that teams like Central Florida, Marshall, East Carolina and Southern Miss scheduled Division II and NAIA teams to start out the season. I realize that many schools struggle to find quality non-conference opponents, but there are over 300 Division I teams out there that could be potentially scheduled. In a conference desperate for an RPI boost, this does very little good.
Okay, the rant is now finished. Here are the very early storylines in the conference so far.
Reload Time. With the loss of leaders such as Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose it isn’t surprising that the Memphis Tigers have looked a tad bit mortal early on in the season. During a nationally televised match-up against UMass, the Tigers struggled mightily to score any points at the outset. Clearly they are not as crisp as they were a year ago and the roles aren’t as clearly defined. In the second half of the UMass game however, Tyreke Evans showed why he was a top prep recruit and got the Tiger ‘dribble drive’ offense going en route to an 80-58 victory. While this may be the best chance for a Conference USA team to knock off the Tigers, they will only get better as the year grows on.
Blazing Arizona. The current Arizona Wildcat squad would not be confused with some of the great groups to come out of Tucson in the past few decades. Longtime head coach Lute Olson stepped down just before the start of the season, while recruits and players bailed left and right from the program. But that shouldn’t take away from the UAB Blazers’ impressive 72-71 road win over the Wildcats in the pre-season NIT. Coach Mike Davis has a deep, senior-laden team that has proven itself capable of dealing with challenges early in the season. Keep an eye on the health of point guard Paul Delaney III. He missed all of last season with an ACL tear and the Blazers’ success is quite contingent on him staying healthy this year.
First Impressions. At least a few freshmen from Conference USA teams look like they’ll be major impact players on their respective teams. Obviously Tyreke Evans on Memphis has superstar written all over him and has broken into the lineup from day one averaging 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Along with Evans, Tiger freshman Wesley Witherspoon has received a good chunk of minutes early on. Houston point guard Desmond Wade has also worked his way into the lineup from the first day, all the while showcasing a selfless attitude and hard-nosed defensive play (he’s averaged 6 assists and 2 steals per game). Junior college transfer Aubrey Coleman has also played well for Houston early, averaging 16.8 points and earning CUSA newcomer of the week honors along with Tyreke Evans in week one. On a team full of newcomers UCF’sDave Diakite has stood out early on and will pose some matchup problems down the road with his combination of size and scoring ability. Another team featuring a lot of new faces is the Marshall Thundering Herd, who have 8 new players on the court (including 3 transfers and Marcus Goode, who sat out the 2007-08 season due to academics). Out of that group, Shaquille Johnson and Chris Lutz have both broken into the Herd starting lineup to start the year. Expect Lutz, a Purdue transfer, to light up the scoreboards all season.
Dancing With Experienced Partners. On the opening weekend of college basketball, both Houston and Tulsa chalked up victories against teams that went to the NCAA tournament last season. One of last year’s biggest Cinderella stories: the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were defeated by Houston 73-64. In their home opener the Cougars trailed 37-27 at the half, but relied on a stingy defense and an aggressive offense led by Aubrey Coleman (19 points, 6 rebounds) to pull it out. Tulsa hosted Oral Roberts in what has become an interesting regional rivalry game. It was a fairly ugly and disjointed game, but the Golden Hurricane pulled out a 50-43 victory, led by 20 points from point guard Ben Uzoh.
House of Tudor. They may be a few years from being an upper-echelon CUSA team and have no basketball history to speak of, but the Rice Owls finally have a real basketball facility to play in. Previously the Owls played in Autry Court, a tiny and decrepit facility that seriously hampered any recruiting efforts. Prompted by a large donation from former Owl player and Goldman Sachs executive Bobby Tudor, the university began a major renovation of Autry Court that spanned all of last season. Now with new coach Ben Braun the Owls are looking to build a winning tradition in this new arena. For the record the Owls are 0-1 so far this year, with a 78-74 loss to defending Big Sky champion Portland State.
Not Cowboying Up. In one of the games I highlighted as an important non-conference contest for Conference USA, the Oklahoma State Cowboys dismantled Tulsa 91-73 in Stillwater. The Cowboys and their new up-tempo offense under coach Travis Ford made quick work of the Golden Hurricane in the first half. Led by Byron Eaton the Cowboys built a 54-28 first half lead and coasted from there on out. The lone bright spot for the Golden Hurricane would probably be another 20-point performance from Ben Uzoh.