ATB: Can We Stop Discussing Big 12 Home Teams Now?Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2010
Big 12 Home Teams No Longer Unbeatable. We saw the stat floating around on one of the ESPN360 feeds for the first time over the weekend, and by the early part of this week it was ubiquitous. Undoubtedly last week somebody in the Big 12’s stats department realized that the league’s home teams had only lost a single game all season (Northern Iowa’s victory at Iowa State in early December) and began marketing it as unassailable proof of the conference’s superiority. It’s a manufactured statistic, but anytime people start repeating such a meme it takes on a life of its own. By last night, after Kansas State and Colorado’s home wins to move the league to 114-1 on the year in their own buildings, you might have thought from listening to the announcers on the night’s games that we were in the midst of an epic realignment of the balance of power of the sport. Sigh… such is the 24-hour national news cycle. At any rate, tonight’s three games featured three really good Big 12 teams going on the road to a conference rival, and collectively those three teams — #1 Texas, #3 Kansas, Missouri — made mincemeat of that stat. Let’s not speak of it again.
- #1 Texas 90, Iowa State 83. Texas’ freshman crew continues to impress, as they combined for 46/11/7 assts in UT’s 16th consecutive win to start the season. This game was close for about a half, but UT came out and wrested control of the game in the second half behind Avery Bradley’s scoring (16 of his 24 in the 2d) and if this kid is going to keep playing like his last two games (22-28 from the floor, 7-7 from three), then Kansas’ Xavier Henry is going to have some serious competition for Big 12 FrOY this season. Up next to stay unbeaten: rival Texas A&M at home.
- #3 Kansas 84, Nebraska 72. Kansas found itself down double-figures very early on the road in this one, but the Jayhawks were able to stay composed and use their superior depth and experience to pull away from pesky Nebraska late behind turnovers and strong interior play. Cole Aldrich didn’t have a huge game (6/9/3 blks), but he didn’t need to, because Marcus Morris came off the bench to provide 19/7, including several timely plays during they key stretch where KU pulled away. Kansas doesn’t utilize the three-point shot to a great degree, but the Jayhawks hit thirteen tonight, including 4-5 from Sherron Collins (22/5 assts).
- Missouri 94, Texas Tech 89 (OT). Mizzou used its fullcourt press to force 18 Red Raider turnovers and get a great game from Marcus Denmon off the bench (20/6) to win a key road game in Lubbock tonight. The Tigers very nearly blew it, though, letting an 11-pt lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation and allowing the game to be sent to overtime on two FTs by Tech’s John Roberson. Then in the overtime period, it was Texas Tech’s Nick Okorie who had two FTs to give his team the lead, only to miss both of them with 20.4 seconds remaining and allowing Mizzou to hang on.
Clemson, You Simply Cannot RTC in This Situation!! #19 Clemson 83, #13 North Carolina 64. Surprisingly, this was over very early. Clemson came out and jumped on UNC with two large Trevor Booker-sized feet, and for the rest of the game the Tar Heels were one big turnover machine (25 total). Closest UNC came in the second half was 12. Booker’s 24/9/4 assts led Clemson to only their fifth win in sixteen tries against the Tar Heels, and their first since 2004. Message to Clemson fans: we at RTC agree that this was an important win and dealing with UNC has caused you some recent frustration. But you were FAVORED in this game, and UNC was only six spots ahead of you in the rankings. We hope you enjoy the win, because you deserved it. But this version of Gathering at the Paw (which we thought was a football tradition only) does not meet our criteria as a valid RTC. You simply cannot RTC when you’re the favored team!
Jamie Dixon, COY. #20 Pittsburgh 67, #15 Connecticut 57. On Tuesday night we saw Evan Turner inject himself right back into the Player of the Year race with his late-game tour-de-force in stealing that win at Purdue. Wednesday night gave us all a good look at a man who is likely the favorite for Coach of the Year (we just got some mean looks from people in Lexington) at this point — a certain Jamie Dixon of the University of Pittsburgh. Going to Hartford and playing Connecticut is a tough task for anyone, but getting UConn coming off a loss makes that trip even more treacherous. The Panthers didn’t care. They started the game by streaking to an early ten-point lead, immediately putting UConn on the defensive. The Panthers then led by 32-39 at the half and, even though they shot a tepid 39% from the field (23-59, and 4-12 from three-point range), held off the Huskies for the first part of the second half, causing the Hartford crowd to grow restless. Just like you knew they would, Connecticut then made their run, a 10-0 stretch that gave UConn a one point lead at 47-46. It was back-and-forth until the 5:00 mark, at which point Pitt took a lead (52-51) that they would not relinquish for the remainder. The stats show that Pittsburgh was able to hold off UConn by outrebounding them 26-13 in the second half and by hitting 17-20 at the free throw line. We say, however, that it was the intrinsic toughness of this Panthers squad that earned them this victory. To outwork UConn on the glass (both offensive and defensive) in their own building, to drive the lane and take contact with abandon in the way they did…that takes guts. And that’s a product of what Dixon has instilled in this team. If you’ve heard his players do interviews over the last couple of weeks, you’ve noticed that these Pittsburgh kids love talking about how great the chemistry is on their team and how much they’ve bought into Dixon’s mindset and vision for their squad. Everyone knows you have to have quality players (the “Jimmies and Joes”) to be competetive at all, especially in a cut-throat conference like the Big East. But team chemistry is the ultimate catalyst for success. Coaches can go whole seasons without having their players “buy into” what they’re trying to teach. Dixon has achieved this with a team that lost 60% of its scoring from last year and had been forgotten about by just about everyone up until they started their current seven-game win streak, the last three coming on the road in-conference against Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut. The Huskies now find themselves going out of conference to Michigan this Sunday, needing a win to stay ranked…and relevant.
Upset of the Night. Virginia 82, #18 Georgia Tech 75. No offense to the Wahoos (now 2-0, leading the ACC), but this is yet another example of why we cannot get on board with Georgia Tech as a legitimate threat for anything, ACC or nationally. They can’t handle success. They can get up for big games against Duke and Carolina, but when it comes time to take care of business on the road against vastly inferior teams in terms of talent, they lay gigantic eggs and expect us to forget about those stinky omelets the next time they play a team with a blue uniform. No way. Major props to Tony Bennett for doing the same thing he did at Wazzu — getting his kids to hustle and play hard regardless of the talent differential. If Tech had the same consistent motivation, they’d be in the top ten in everyone’s poll right now. UVa’s Sylven Landesberg had 22/6/5 assts, but it was the FT differential that allowed Virginia to win this game (23-26 from the line vs. 3-11 for the Yellow Jackets). That’s right. Three of eleven.
Greetings, Darrius Garrett. Richmond 70, Massachusetts 63. Someone explain to us how a player who came into tonight’s game against UMass with a total of 25 blocks on the season can reject fourteen in a single game? The 6’9 sophomore has a propensity toward swats, averaging 2.2 BPG in a mere 13.4 minutes per contest this season, but his previous career high was five and that was against Longwood. Tonight Garrett set both a Richmond and Atlantic 10 record with his fourteen, and if we assume UMass hit its regular tempo of 71 possessions per game, then Garrett by himself may have ended nearly 20% of their trips with his defensive prowess. Just phenomenal, and definitely a player to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the A10 race.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #5 Syracuse 81, Rutgers 65. Andy Rautins flirted with a trip-dub (23/8/9 assts) and Wes Johnson added 11/10 for the Orange as they claimed a Big East road win against Rutgers. Syracuse was comfortable by halftime, resting on an 18-point lead; The Knights, still looking for their first Big East win, got to within eight about midway through the second half but Syracuse was never really challenged thereafter.
- #7 Duke 79, Boston College 59. Boston College acquitted themselves well… for a half. Duke only led by a 38-35 margin at the half, but Coach K evidently preached a sermon of defense in the locker room at the break. The Blue Devils came out with some of the toughest defense they’ve played all season and turned a three-point halftime margin into a 15-point bulge by the first media timeout. Nolan Smith may have scored more points (24), but it wasKyle Singler’s 15/10 that really led his team.
- #8 Michigan State 60, Minnesota 53. In a typically low-scoring and bruising affair, MSU got its eleventh straight win in East Lansing against the Gophers tonight, using Kalin Lucas’ defensive intensity to shut down Blake Hoffarber (4 pts) and holding on down the stretch to move to 4-0 in the Big Ten. Kalin Lucas had 14/5 assts and Durrell Summers had 13/8 as the Spartans continue to show signs of improvement.
- #16 Wisconsin 60, Northwestern 50. The Badgers started life without Jon Leuer and got a vital conference road win against a Northwestern squad that is seeing its NCAA Tournament chances slowly slip away. It was tight the whole way, as neither side led by more than five until 2:58 left in the game when Wisconsin got up 55-48. It was Trevon Hughes (16/7/3) who broke Wildcat hearts, hitting four threes in a 3:57 span late in the second half.
- #9 West Virginia 69, South Florida 50. WVU took a while to get going, getting down by as many as 11 in the first half, but started the second with stifling defense that actually held the Bulls to 0-14 from beyond the arc in the half and 1-17 for the game. USF’s Dominique Jones went nuts for 28/9, but no other Bull scored more than six points. The Mountaineers didn’t fare much better (3-17) from three-point range, but after taking the lead back with 2:27 left in the first half, they never lost it.
- #17 Brigham Young 67, Air Force 49. After a tight first half, BYU went on a 13-0 run over a span of 6:56 to start the second, and held Air Force to 18 second half points. The Cougars’ Jimmer Fredette is still relegated to coming off the bench due to fatigue (mononucleosis will do that to you), but Jackson Emery took up the slack with 21/5/3 assts on 8-13 shooting, including five treys.
- #21 Temple 60, Pennsylvania 45. Following up after John Chaney is no easy task, to say the least. But Fran Dunphy is really getting the job done. He got a tough road win (technically) against his old employers at Penn by the efforts of Ryan Brooks (15/4/3 assts) and Juan Fernandez (12/3/3 assts) in a game that was closer than it should have been, given that Penn has but a single win on the season.
- #23 Ole Miss 80, Georgia 76. With 14.6 seconds remaining and Eniel Polynice inbounding the ball under his own basket, he self-passed the ball off of a Georgia player’s back, laying it in with 11 seconds to go to give the Rebels a four-point lead. It was a risky play but it worked, and it allowed Ole Miss to notch its first SEC win against a surprisingly tough Bulldog team in its first year under Mark Fox. Trey Thompkins had 21/7 in the losing effort, and it appears that a trip to Athens isn’t going to be an easy win anymore.
- Virginia Tech 81, Miami (FL) 66. Virginia Tech completely dominated this game from start to finish, at one point jumping out to a 35-point lead over the visiting Hurricanes. Malcolm Delaney had 28/4/9 assts and Jeff Allen added 14/10 in one of those games that makes you wonder if the Hokies are one of the top four teams in the ACC this year. They’re always tough at Coleman Coliseum, but they were also competitive in their two road losses, at Temple and UNC.
- UNLV 76, San Diego State 66. The Rebels moved to 2-1 in the Mountain West with its key win over the Aztecs tonight behind Tre’Von Willis’ 23 points tonight, 17 of which he scored in the second half in helping UNLV pull away in the last ten minutes of the game. UNLV will likely be favored in its next five games before welcoming BYU to Sin City for what should be a spectacular battle of MWC heavyweights.
- Utah State 79, Nevada 72 (OT). In a key WAC rivalry game between the two programs that seem to annually win this league, Utah State used some timely three-point shooting to outlast the Wolfpack in overtime for their first loss in Reno this season. The Aggies were down ten points with seven minutes remaining, but they didn’t panic in the road environment and were able to push through to send the game to overtime. Jared Quayle had 21/7/5 assts in the winning effort, which, believe it or not, was the first WAC road win for the team.