ATB: New Year’s WeekendPosted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2010
New Year’s Football? Coulda fooled us, as there were nearly 200 basketball games over the last four days in every corner of America. And here’s the rub — a couple dozen of those games held more value than all those meaningless bowls over the same time period. The bowls are fun for the players and the fans of the teams involved (another reason to tailgate), but they have absolutely no (as in zero; as in 0.00%) bearing on the national title picture in football. At least games like West Virginia @ Purdue and Louisville @ Kentucky and William & Mary @ Hofstra have implications toward invitation and seeding in the NCAA Tournament in March. These games matter. The bowls (save Thursday night) do not. Let’s see what some of the highlights of the long weekend were.
Unbeaten No More. Two of the remaining six undefeated teams lost over the weekend — one expected, one unexpected. On Friday afternoon, a New Year’s Day tilt between the #4 (Purdue) and #6 (West Virginia) teams in America resulted in the Boilermakers running away with the game 77-62. JaJuan Johnson was awesome on the interior (25/10), completely outplaying the WVU big men Da’Sean Butler (17/7) and Devin Ebanks (11/6) and showing that when he, Robbie Hummel (18/2) and E’Twaun Moore (15/3 assts) are clicking, the Boilermakers can play with anybody in America. Oddly, WVU shot the ball ok enough to win, and was absolutely scorching from deep (9-12 3FG), but it was the 17 turnovers that did them in. Time and time again a poor possession on the WVU end (in large part because of their lack of a true PG) led to Purdue points on the other end. This game was arguably the ‘biggest’ game of the preconference schedule, and Purdue made a real statement as to its legitimacy in this one.
The unexpected loss was #5 Syracuse, who has looked so fantastic this season, dropping a game to rebuilding Pittsburgh on Saturday. There were quite a few people in the preseason who were writing off Pitt after what was admittedly huge personnel losses from last season, but those people obviously don’t know or care to know that Jamie Dixon is a phenomenal coach (same as Bo Ryan at Wisconsin). He always figures out how to win with the team he’s got. His guards attacked the Syracuse zone to the tune of ten threes while holding their own on the boards and forcing Syracuse to miss most of theirs (1-13 from deep). A 55-point second half behind Ashton Gibbs’ 24 /8 and Jermaine Dixon’s 21/5/4 assts/5 stls for the game gave Pitt its defining win for the season, and it was clear throughout the second twenty minutes that the Panthers were the more aggressive team. Syracuse’s Wes Johnson (19/6) didn’t have his usual double-double, but the Cuse players are going to have to remember that Big East foes know how to play against their zone and will need to adjust accordingly.
There are four unbeatens remaining. You may have heard of them. #1 Kansas, #2 Texas, #3 Kentucky, #4 Purdue.
Bluegrass Bloody Brawl. #3 Kentucky 71, Louisville 62. This was an ugly, ugly game, and the tone was set from the first eight seconds when it was clear that one of Rick Pitino’s primary strategies was going to be to rough up the young Wildcats in an attempt to get in their heads. It worked with Louisville’s first target, Eric Bledsoe, as he was sent to the bench almost immediately, but it never fazed DeMarcus Cousins (18/18/3 assts) or John Wall (17/4), who were subject to repeated hacks and hard fouls throughout. This game was a turnover-filled foulfest that included five techs, but when Louisville came back to take a one-point lead at 42-41, it was Wall (who later said he’s not even close to fulfilling his potential) who once again took over the game and made several key plays to give the Wildcats breathing room. This put UK at 15-0 and at its best start in forty years, making the Wildcat faithful apoplectic over the possibility of what lies ahead. UK will most certainly lose a game or several in the SEC, but what’s even more amazing to us is that John Calipari is now 86-6 over the last two-plus seasons. Those are John Wooden/Coach K in their prime type of numbers (before you get all crazy, we’re not saying Calipari is as good as those guys… yet).
Welcome to the Machine. #1 Kansas 84, #19 Temple 54. If this is how it’s going to be when Kansas takes on a hostile crowd in a road environment, the rest of the Big 12 has to be quaking in their boots right now. KU came into Philadelphia as only a six-point favorite, but they left looking like they were playing a different kind of basketball. In fact, it was KU who looked like the defensive dynamos, holding the home team to an icy 25% from the field that matched the weather outside in Philly. Temple came into the game with a top-ten defense that Kansas lit up for 40 points by the half. It only got worse in the second half as KU dropped another 44 points (shoting 55% for the game), which was a full 18% better than Temple’s other opponents had on average managed this season. Twelve Kansas players scored, and KU served notice to RTC and the rest of America that they’re rounding into shape quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.
Upset of the Weekend. Maine 52, Boston College 51. There was a lot of chalk this weekend, and anything can typically happen in conference play, but for an America East team to go into an ACC building and come out with a win is a big deal. Maine got 15/7 from Sean McNally while holding BC to a chilly 33% from the field, and the Eagles are going to have to find more than Joe Trapani and Reggie Sanders if they hope to survive in the rugged ACC slate this year.
Ridiculous Line of the Weekend. Virginia Tech 103, Seton Hall 94 (OT). Perhaps no other score caught our eye all weekend as much as this one from a neutral court in Cancun, as Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson went nuts for 41/5, including a ridiculous 20-21 from the line. His previous scoring high was 24 points and his high for FT attempts was six. Yeah, he more than tripled that output on Saturday night. SH had foul trouble to Herb Pope and Jeremy Hazell, but it’s still an impressive win for the Hokies to go 12-1.
RTC Live. We were courtside for a couple of games over the weekend; one involved a pair of ranked teams but wasn’t terribly competitive, the other had a rather tasty finish:
- Florida 62, North Carolina State 61. Florida’s Chandler Parsons was 1-5 from the floor on Sunday against the NC State Wolfpack. Lucky for him, that lone bucket was a 75-foot desperation heave as time expired in overtime that won the game for the Gators, 62-61. The shot of Parsons’ life was made possible by Farnold Degand’s missed free throw with 2.6 seconds left, which bounced off the front of the rim and into the 6’9 junior’s hands. Throughout the game, fundamental mistakes hindered the Wolfpack’s ability to maintain a lead against the poor-shooting Gators (3-24 from three point range). Although he led the Pack late in the game, Javier Gonzalez (13 pts, 6 rebs) only had one assist to offset his six turnovers. NC State only hit 52.6% of their free throws, with Degand missing four crucial attempts late. Key to the Florida win were point guard Erving Walker (13 pts, 6 asst) and center Vernon Macklin (14 pts on 7-10 FG). Wolfpack forward Tracy Smith led all players in points and rebounds, with 21 and 9, respectively. “This hurts worse than any other loss I’ve had,” said Sidney Lowe in his postgame conference. Both Florida (11-3) and NC State (10-4) came into this game in need of a win against a major-conference opponent after recent setbacks. Thanks to Chandler Parsons’ good fortune, Florida has that win, and NC State is left to head into ACC play (after a Wednesday meeting with Holy Cross) searching for answers.
- #11 Michigan State 91, #25 Northwestern 70. Well, that was fun while it lasted. The number to the left of Northwestern’s name is going to be gone after this week, seeing as how the Wildcats dropped their first two Big Ten games, including a blowout against MSU on Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Spartans got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it against the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 zone and especially in transition. If you let the Spartans run on you, they’ll destroy you. Kalin Lucas scored 21 points and added 4 assists and 6 rebounds to lead MSU, and Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers contributed 17 points apiece. John Shurna was a one-man band for the Wildcats and while it worked for the first 18 minutes, it wasn’t sustainable. If Kyle Rowley and/or Luka Mirkovic don’t start showing up, Northwestern is toast in the Big Ten.
The Insanity of the Pac-10. The Pac-10 started conference play this weekend, and as you might imagine in a conference where there are a couple of pretty-good teams and a bunch of others that scream mediocrity, the results were a little odd. To begin with, Oregon, the same team that lost to Montana and St. Mary’s at home and got eviscerated at Mizzou in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, went 2-0 with road wins at both Washington and Wazzu. The game against Washington State on Thursday night went to double-overtime, but Tajuan Porter’s 31/3 with Michael Dunigan’s 22/12 was enough to hang on and get the win. Well that and the fact that Wazzu was T’d up after going up two with 0:02 on the clock in the first OT for players coming onto the court (where’s the Butler timekeeper!). Oregon followed up that lucky bounce with a shocking eleven-point win at #16 Washington, breaking the Huskies’ 16-game winning streak in the process. Dunigan again had a big game with 20/14. USC continued to impress with two solid wins over the weekend as well, getting two low-scoring home wins against the Arizona schools. Unfortunately, after those two wins had visions of NCAA Tourney sugarplums dancing in the head of Trojan fans, the school placed itself on a one-year ban from postseason play. This is especially disappointing considering how the addition of Mike Gerrity and Kevin O’Neill’s defense has transformed this year’s team. It’ll be interesting to see how the team responds to this news — whether they shut it down for the rest of the year or make winning the Pac-10 their “championship.”
Takeaways. There were so many games over the weekend, we’re only going to do a quick takeaway on the ones that caught our eye here.
- #7 Duke 114, Pennsylvania 55. Penn’s worst-ever loss shows the killer-instinct that Roy Williams wishes he could find in his team this year.
- #13 Georgetown 66, St. John’s 59. Georgetown moves to 10-1 but be careful – the Hoyas started out at 10-1 last year and finished at 16-15 (not that we think this will happen again, though).
- #14 Tennessee 66, Memphis 59. This was without question Tennessee’s best win of the year and was reason to think bigger in 2010 before this happened.
- Wisconsin 65, #15 Ohio State 43. OSU obviously needs Evan Turner back sooner rather than later because 33% from the field isn’t going to cut it on the road in the Big Ten.
- #22 Gonzaga 83, Oklahoma 69. The Sooners aren’t an NCAA team right now; Willie Warren needs help beyond crushing backboards.
- Indiana 71, Michigan 65. Michigan is having a terrible year given the expectations, and losing to IU after they lost their best player does not help.
- Wake Forest 74, Richmond 68 (OT). Really good NYE game, and UR continues to impress. With Temple, Xavier, Dayton and Richmond, the A10 is going to be wild this year.
- Mississippi State 77, San Diego 68. Jarvis Varnado had 23/17, but when can we officially put a lid on the Renardo Sidney thing at this late point in the season?
- #17 New Mexico 68, Dayton 66. The Flyers gave a great effort, but this is one of those years where getting a win in the Pit will be all-but-impossible (Ws over Cal, Creighton, Texas Tech and the Flyers so far).
- UT-San Antonio 83, Houston 82. Houston was on our short list of teams to make a run at the CUSA title this year, but they’re struggling at 7-5 so far. Great win for UTSA though.
- #2 Texas 76, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 70. Texas was never really close to losing this game, but they were never really safe either, as Rick Barnes called it ‘disappointing’ after TAMU-CC’s Kevin Anderson lit his team up for 28/6/3 assts and his team was -6 on the boards.
- #10 UConn 82, Notre Dame 70. Ater Majok started and almost joined club trillion with his one rebound, one block, one turnover, two foul performance in four minutes of action. Stanley Robinson had 22/16 but both Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker had ten assists.
- #8 Villanova 74, Marquette 72. Huge road win for the Wildcats who went to their clutch leader Scottie Reynolds to hit the game-winner with 18 seconds remaining.
- Georgia Tech 76, Charlotte 67. The Yellow Jackets avoided a big collapse by blowing a 12-pt lead in the last eight minutes but Gani Lawal’s 29/10 ensured that wouldn’t happen.
- California 92, Stanford 66. Cal has looked a lot better since Theo Robertson (10/6/4 assts) rejoined the lineup a few weeks ago; this is the biggest margin of victory in the rivalry in 24 seasons.
- William & Mary 48, Hofstra 47. The Tribe, now 2-0 in the CAA, won its tenth game in a row for the first time in seventy years as W&M continues to build a strong resume toward earning its first NCAA bid ever.
- Rhode Island 63, Oklahoma State 59. URI got a nice nonconference win for the A10 with its late-game defense against OSU to finish the game (held the Cowboys to three misses late) at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
- Arizona 77, UCLA 63. Is it officially time to put UCLA on the ‘not interesting’ list for the rest of the season. Probably so.
- Baylor 85, South Carolina 74. Baylor moved to 11-1 with a strong nonconference win, as South Carolina continues to fade without Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes.
- UAB 73, Arkansas 72. It’s not that Arkansas is very good, but these are games that CUSA teams with aspirations of NCAA Tournament success need to win to improve their standing come March. A wide-open dunk by Howard Crawford with one second left won the game; UAB’s Elijah Millsap continues to impress (22/7/4 stls).
- #22 Gonzaga 85, Illinois 83 (OT). Gonzaga just keeps winning these kinds of non-conference games to bolster their stature — this time it was Elias Harris scoring on a reverse layup to win the game with 0:12 remaining, after the Illini had roared back from 21 down to take an 8-pt lead in regulation.
- #7 Duke 74, #18 Clemson 53. Duke’s vice-like defense held the Tigers to 12 first half points and the Blue Devils never trailed after being down 4-2 in the early going.
- Michigan 73, #15 Ohio State 64. DeShawn Sims (28) and Manny Harris (24) put together a late 11-0 run by themselves that helped UM earn their first Big Ten win as OSU continues to pray that Even Turner’s bones will knit faster.
- Iowa State 82, Houston 75 (2OT). ISU’s Marquis Gilstrap put the Cyclones on his back late, scoring eight points in the second OT; ISU has won four straight and was able to withstand 28/9 from the national scoring leader, UH’s Aubrey Coleman.
- Wake Forest 96, Xavier 92 (2OT). Al-Farouq Aminu poured in 26 points and snagged 18 boards, leading Wake to their second OT win over an A10 team in the last four days; is Xavier the best 8-5 team in the nation?
- #12 Kansas State 91, South Dakota 69. Quietly sneaking up the charts is KSU, now 13-1 and winners of ten straight; is it just us or do we hear nothing about this team at all?