ATB: The A-10 Rises. . .Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2009
In our first college football-free weekend of the season (except for Mark Ingram’s Heisman and ESPN’s phenomenal documentary on “The U”) we had quite a few interesting story lines from the weekend, but one stood out on Sunday — the pair of upset victories by Atlantic 10 teams over highly ranked Big East teams in crosstown rivalry games (Temple against Villanova and Xavier against Cincinnati). Not only does it give those individual programs some bragging rights and a much needed boost on the recruiting trail, but it also gives a huge lift to the national perception of the Atlantic 10 and might cause some consternation amongst the Big East fans who like to promote their conference as the best in the nation for college basketball.
The A-10 Rising
- Xavier 78, #19 Cincinnati 75 (2 OT). This might not be as shocking to the rest of the nation, but it might go down as the game of the year so far. It had a little bit of everything you could ask for in a game at this point of the season. Bitter rivalry? Check. Physical play? Check. Biting fan chants? Check (Brian Kelly). Big comeback? Check. Buzzer beater? Check (later waved off). National TV audience? Not so much thanks to ESPNU’s sparse national penetration, but RTC Live was there. In the end it was Terrell Holloway‘s 26 points and Jason Love‘s 19 rebounds that were the difference as the Musketeers overcame 22 points from Lance Stephenson in a game where neither team led by more than 4 points during the last 19 minutes of the game and that was only after the Bearcats fouled Xavier in an attempt to get the ball back when Dion Dixon missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 21 seconds left in the second overtime. To get a really good feel as to how intense this game was, definitely read our accounting from RTC Live above and check the highlight package below.
- Temple 75, #3 Villanova 65: The Owls used an 11-0 run to start the 2nd half to overcome a 6-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Wildcats. The story of the game was Juan Fernandez who scored 33 points including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to knock off the highest ranked Big East team coming into the weekend. While the casual basketball fan will consider this a huge upset, those of us who follow college basketball closely knew that this would be a tough game for Jay Wright‘s crew against a team that had only lost by one to Georgetown (still undefeated) and St. John’s (only one loss by nine against Duke). The Wildcats managed to keep it relatively close with 23 from Scottie Reynolds, 16 from Antonio Pena, and 14 from Corey Fisher, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Fernandez, 20 points from Ryan Brooks, and 10 points and 17 rebounds from Lavoy Allen. The loss was just the 2nd loss for Villanova in their last 23 games against one of their Big 5 rivals. After the victory, the fans began chanting, “We want Kansas!” in reference to their upcoming game on January 2nd. We love what the Owls have done so far this season, but the student body might want to be careful what they wish for because they might just get it. One bright spot for Villanova fans: Reggie Redding (think he might have been helpful against Allen today?) will return to action against Fordham on Saturday in his first action since he was suspended ten games for his arrest for possession of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.
In other action…
- #1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65: The Jayhawks were able to overcame an off-night from Sherron Collins (1/12 FG) thanks to a season-high 31 points from Xavier Henry (the last KU freshman to score 30 points in a game was some guy named Paul Pierce) and a 12-point, 12-rebound effort from Markieff Morris. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks while Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and 6 assists with no turnovers. The Jayhawks’ next two games should be a bit more competitive as they face a pair of teams—Michigan (12/19) and California (12/22)—that have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but both have a lot of talent.
- #2 Texas 87, Texas State 54: The big news out of this game was that J’Covan Brown injured his left ankle during the 2nd half of this rout. Brown is listed as day-to-day. [Ed. Note: Technically, aren’t we all day-to-day?] Most teams would feel the loss pretty hard particularly since the Longhorns have already lost Varez Ward for the season, but Rick Barnes will get a boost next Saturday when Jai Lucas becomes eligible just in time for their showdown against UNC.
- #4 Kentucky 90, Indiana 73: We covered a lot of this in our first Boom Goes the Dynamite of the season. Indiana came out on fire hitting 5 of their first 7 3-point attempts, but were still down by one with two minutes left in the half. That should have told us plenty about where this game was heading. As the game progressed, Kentucky’s superiority was evident as they pulled away in the 2nd half thanks to a 18-0 run. Coming into the game, all the hype was on John Wall and to be perfectly honest he was not that impressive in this game with the exception of the play below. The lone bright spot for the Hoosiers was the play of freshman Maurice Cheek who had a season-high 31 points. Nobody else had more than 7 points for the Hoosiers. If Tom Crean can add a few more pieces and Cheek decides to stay around for a few years, the Hoosiers could be interesting sooner rather than later.
- #5 Purdue 73, Alabama 65: This game very easily could have been in the previous category as upsets of the weekend, as the Boilermakers rallied from 16 down in the 2nd half to win behind Robbie Hummel’s 22 points and Chris Kramer’s solid defense, closing the game on a 22-5 run. Anybody who watched the telecast can attest to how good Kramer is defensively, which is something the ESPN commentators referred to over and over and over.
- #10 UNC 103, Presbyterian 64: Nothing notable here except Roy Williams threw a fan out of the Dean Dome for cheering against Deon Thompson. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. What do you think about this?
- #13 Georgetown 74, #16 Washington 66: The Pac-10 is really, really, really bad this year. Washington is one of their only legit teams and they just got beat by a team that many people consider a 2nd tier Big East team in what was basically a road game for the Hoyas that was not as close as the final score indicates (see our thoughts from courtside). The Hoyas obviously look very good, but some people in the media are not willing to buy into them yet.
- #20 Butler 74, #15 Ohio State 66: Two very similar scores yet two very different games. If not for the Xavier-Cincinnati game this could have been the game of weekend. And no we are not just saying that because we were at this game too. The obvious buzz coming into this game was about the question as to how the Buckeyes would respond to Evan Turner’s absence. It should be clear now to everybody that they will miss him a lot. Gordon Hayward was huge for the Bulldogs with his 24 points and 8 rebounds as he is rapidly becoming the star for Butler as Matt Howard continues struggling to stay out of foul trouble. Howard is averaging an astonishing 4.1 fouls per game this year in 24.5 minutes per game. That’s more than 1 foul every 6 minutes. Even though Butler pulled this one out, Brad Stevens has to figure out a way to keep Howard in the game because Ohio State went on a huge run every time he was out of the game. Some of the Butler message boards have even suggested bringing Howard off the bench so the game is a bit more settled before he gets out there. I’m not sure that I would go that far, but Stevens needs to do something about Howard’s penchant for picking up careless fouls.
- Kansas State 95, #17 UNLV 80: Frank Martin used seven 3-pointers from Jacob Pullen to knock UNLV from the ranks of the unbeaten. As a team, the Wildcats were on fire from beyond the arc going 15 of 23 and even led by 23 with almost 6 minutes left in the game. Even though everybody is focusing on Kansas and Texas in the Big 12 (and rightfully so), they should keep on Kansas State as a potential sleeper that could give those two a challenge sometime this season.
- New Mexico 84, #18 Texas A&M 81: Surprisingly this game was played in Houston not at The Pit, but Steve Alford and the Lobos managed to go to 10-0 behind 22 points from Roman Martinez as they never trailed and even led by 17 midway through the 2nd half before holding off a strong rally by Donald Sloan (29 points—yes, he’s still playing college basketball) and the Aggies.
- #23 Wisconsin 72, Marquette 63: A nice rebound win for the Badgers after their debacle against Wisconsin-Green Bay. Jon Leuer had 24 points and 12 rebounds to hold of Lazar Hayward’s 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Badgers have what we would assume is a relatively easy schedule until their New Year’s Eve date with the still-Evan Turner-less Buckeyes, but we also thought they would handle Wisconsin-Green Bay pretty easily too.
- Seton Hall 134, VMI 107: Why are we featuring a game that involved two unranked teams? Look at the score. That’s in regulation. Jamel Jackson was the star for the Pirates with 40 points on 12 of 15 from 3-point range, off the bench. He had 49 points in his previous 7 games this year. Jeremy Hazell added 33 points and 12 rebounds.
- #7 Syracuse 75, St. Francis 51: Not much to say here that we haven’t already said before. The Orange are now 10-0 with all of their wins coming by 12 points or more. Early on it looked like a flashback to the Le Moyne game as the Orange only led by 1 point midway through the 1st half, but then they woke up and took total control. The Orange shouldn’t face a challenge until December 29th when they travel to Seton Hall to face a (currently) undefeated Pirate team. [Ed. Note: We doubt Seton Hall will be undefeated when they meet since they have to play Temple and West Virginia before their game against Jim Boeheim and company.]
- Central Michigan 59, South Florida 56: Like we said before it was not a good day for the Big East. The Bulls played without Augustus Gilchrist, their leading scorer (you might remember him from this absurd incident) who will be out until late January after injuring his right ankle, and Anthony Crater, who might not play for a while longer. As a result the Bulls only used 7 players and one player only played 3 minutes. [Ed. Note: This strategy might not work that well in the Big East especially when your 7 players are not that good.] Dominique Jones had 24 points for the Bulls, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their lack of depth as they lost to the Chippewas by 3.