ATB: Kansas Makes a Statement in Manhattan

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

Game of the Weekend. #2 Kansas 81, #13 Kansas State 79 (OT). First, props to the K-State fans for stepping up on Gameday.  They created an environment for this one that was as electric as any place we’ve seen this season.  There’s no doubt their players felt the love, too.  They needed to.  If you think these teams thought this was just another game, think again.  Sherron Collins was so amped up that he was dehydrated BEFORE the game started.  Jacob Pullen was seen on two different occasions dry-heaving into a trash can at the KSU bench.  If Kansas could manage a win in such surroundings, they’d be the presumptive #1 on Monday and would certainly deserve it.  The first narrative hook came early when Bill Self yanked Cole Aldrich (18/11/3 blks) and evidently reminded him on how to use his size to eat up space on the inside, because he began to hit layup after layup and pull rebound after rebound.  KSU stayed close even with Aldrich’s elevated play, but as the Wildcats’ shot selection began to fail them, KU built a five-point lead.  This was quickly erased as Jacob Pullen began to get more touches, and KU’s halftime lead was a mere point.  The Jayhawks managed to build it back to eight early in the second half, but KSU remedied that by settling for layups instead of bad looks from three, and by hitting the offensive glass HARD.  After regulation time couldn’t decide it, and a neck-and-neck overtime, it’s only fitting that this game should be effectively decided by an incredible play by a big time player.  With KU up by a point and thirteen seconds left, Sherron Collins — battling dehydration and muscle spasms the entire night — drove to the hole knowing he was going to take contact, knowing there was little chance he was going to land in any way except on his back, and banked in a lay-up for a three-point play.  The Wildcats’ body language told the story.  He couldn’t convert the free throw, but after a Cole Aldrich offensive board and two Brady Morningstar free throws (which proved to be vital, after Jacob Pullen drilled a long three at the buzzer), it was done.  There were a few moments of celebration by the Jayhawks, but soon after, what you saw was more solemn pride and relief.  True, there isn’t much difference between the one-loss teams at the top of the polls.  But you can’t really have a three-way tie for #1, and the way the wins and losses have fallen — and after seeing what Kansas went through to win in Manhattan — the Jayhawks deserve the top position for now.

Collins and KU Will be Back at #1 (KC Star/Rich Sugg)

Finally, No Obama Jinx. #11 Georgetown 89, #7 Duke 77.  Well, at least Duke shot 84.6% from the free throw line. And that’s because you can’t guard free throws.  If you look at the numbers on this one, you might simply assume that the Hoyas “out-defended” the Blue Devils, since they held Duke to a 37% shooting day, including 31% (9-29) from three-point range.  All due respect to the Hoyas, because that statement is formally true — in this case, though, it’s not profound.  This wasn’t the Duke defense to which we’ve grown accustomed.  If you were looking for that in this game, you saw it on maybe one of every five Georgetown possessions.  Even more importantly, John Thompson III instructed his squad to be as selective with their shots as the admissions committees are with applicants at these schools.  As a result, Georgetown took 16 fewer shots in this game than the Devils — but hit 72% of them (33-46), an unfathomable number against anyone, let alone Duke.  All but maybe two of Georgetown’s attempts from behind the three-point arc were good looks, and they hit six of them (46%).  What was it that forced Duke out of their usual game plan?  Was it just Georgetown’s economical approach?  The excellence of Greg Monroe (21/5/5)?  The presence of Barack Obama and Joe Biden on the front row?  RTC Live in the building?  Hard to say.  Maybe it was the fact that this wasn’t Cameron Indoor, since Duke has dropped four of the five true road games it’s played this year.

Obama Giving the Zebra Tips on Dipomacy (AP)

Upset of the Year? San Francisco 81, #8 Gonzaga 77 (OT). Considering the relative circumstances of both of these teams, we’re saying yes.  USF was rated in the mid-200s in all of the computer rankings, and Gonzaga was as high as #8 in the Coaches Poll last week.  The best win the home Dons had enjoyed this season was against middling San Jose State, and with blowout losses to Colorado, BYU, South Florida and Washington already in the books, there wasn’t much reason to believe that Saturday night’s game against a team they hadn’t beaten in nine tries and several coaches would end any differently.  Senior guard Dior Lowhorn (22/9) had other ideas, however.  After suffering through a frustrating and foul-plagued 14-point performance up to that point, Lowhorn found himself as wide open as you can be in the halfcourt with sixteen seconds remaining on the clock and his team down three.  Accustomed to being The Man, he fired away on the three, but like so many of his attempts from deep this season (17%), the shot was just inches off, bouncing off the rim and going into the left baseline corner.  Then, in a bit of good fortune that Lowhorn later described as miraculous (pointing upward), Gonzaga saved the ball right back into his hands as he stood in exactly the same position behind the three-point line.  He fired again, and this time the shot was pure as USF tied the game and after a Gonzaga miss, sent the game to overtime.  In the overtime period, Lowhorn was clearly feeling it, as he drilled two more threes (5-7 on the night) and sent the Zags to their first WCC conference loss in 22 games.  The biggest win for the USF Dons in five years resulted in apoplectic fans rushing the court, and RTC Live was there to take it all in.  What does this mean in terms of the WCC race?  Well, with St. Mary’s and Gonzaga now each with one loss, the February 11 game in Spokane suddenly takes on a LOT more meaning.

The Zags Go Down in the Upset of the Year

Pulling a Stan HoltOregon 67, USC 57. Normally a pedestrian Pac-10 game between two teams going nowhere wouldn’t make this space, but it’s not typically the case where a graduate student manager gets T’d up and costs his team the game.  Or at least a reasonable chance to win the game.  Oregon was leading 49-47 with 4:35 left in the game when, according to Kevin O’Neill, third-year student manager Stan Holt was given a technical foul for “screaming obscenities” at the referee.  Oregon used the call to go on a 13-3 run and effectively put the game away after that point.  O’Neill originally said that Holt was “gone,” but he backed off that post-game comment afterward.  Today it was confirmed that Holt was indeed given the ziggy and will no longer be a manager with the Trojan program.  Immediately after the incident on Saturday night, the Oregon student section started chanting “you’re fired” and it turns out they were right.

Conference Wraps.

  • ACC.  This league is a real mess right now, with all twelve teams having between two and five losses.  The biggest surprise of the weekend continues to be UNC’s serious struggles, especially at home.  Against Virginia tonight, the Heels shot 36% from the field, hit only half of their free throw attempts, blocked a mere ONE shot with all their size, and allowed the Hoos to shoot 52% in the DES Center.  Not only was it a loss, it was a blowout loss!  UNC is now 2-4 in the ACC with trips to Blacksburg and College Park this upcoming week followed by a home date with Duke.  In other words, it’s do-or-die time for Roy Williams’ club, and 1-2 won’t get it done.  Virginia with that win, and Maryland along with Duke, lead the league with two losses due to the Terps’ loss at Clemson this afternoon.  Maryland depends so much on Greivis Vasquez’s production, and when he has a poor outing as he did today (10/3 with 9 turnovers), they just can’t score enough points against good defenses.  FSU remains interesting, now at 4-3 after winning at BC yesterday — these are the type of games they would have lost in previous years — and just when we thought Virginia Tech was coming on strong, they played a terrible game at one-win Miami (FL) today.  As we said, the league is just a mess — call it a better version of the Pac-10 this year.  There are no great teams (Duke is the best), and instead there are about 7-8 teams that we’d rank in the #20-#50 range — good enough to win one game against just about anybody, but equally likely to flake out in the next game against a lesser opponent.
  • Big East.  Saturday’s games in the Big East were marked by even play, as the five league games were decided by a total of twelve points.  The biggest game was probably the WVU-Louisville matchup, and Rick Pitino’s Cards continue to be the team of almost this year.  The Cards clearly got jobbed on the final play that gave WVU the winning margin and inspired Pitino to later say that he is “tired” of the officiating, but the fact of the matter is that Louisville held a 12-point lead with seven minutes left and were unable to maintain it.  They keep finding new and interesting ways to lose leads, but Da’Sean Butler (27/3/3 assts) was a big part of their losing the lead (and game).  UConn continues to put themselves in a precarious bubble situation, losing another game even though the Huskies were +23 on the boards and +9 on blocks (the difference-maker: also, +14 on turnovers).  Marquette’s Jimmy Butler hit a driving shot with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the Golden Eagles their first road win of the year.  On other hand, Syracuse didn’t show up against a motivated DePaul team on Saturday, but they did what great teams do, which is find a way to win when things weren’t going their way.  Down eighteen at one point, the Orange used a late 16-2 run to take control and put down the pesky Blue Demons.  Despite Villanova’s unblemished record, Syracuse is the best team in this conference.  Two other surprises were Notre Dame giving Rutgers its first conference win on Saturday, and South Florida’s win over Pitt on Sunday.  USF’s Dominique Jones went for 37 again today, his fifth game in his last seven with at least 28+ points, as he seems intent on leading the Bulls into the conference bubble picture along with the likes of Louisville, Notre Dame and Marquette.  Pitt has come back down to earth commensurate with their talent level this year, losing three of four.  The Panthers are still a good, NCAA-worthy team, but they were never going to realistically be a top ten team this year.
  • Big 12.  The big game of the weekend was already mentioned above, but there were a few other results of note over the weekend.  First, Texas dropped the third of its last four games at Baylor on Saturday, and although the previous two were understandable (@ K-State, @ UConn), this loss was in Austin.  Rick Barnes has to be concerned about the way his team is playing; despite so much talent on his squad, he’s having trouble finding consistent offense after seniors Damion James and Dexter Pittman.  It’s not panic time yet, but we’d like to see UT get big road wins at the Oklahoma schools this week to put us a little more at ease.  Next, Missouri ripped the hot Cowboys of Oklahoma State behind a bombardment of three-pointers (17) and the Tigers’ usual forcing of lots of turnovers (22).  Mizzou put five players into double-figures (including three off the bench), but more impressively, the Tiger defense was able to shut down everyone but OSU’s James Anderson (31/8) and Matt Pilgrim (21/9).  The other interesting result was zero-win Nebraska embarrassing Jeff Capel’s Oklahoma team by 17 points in Lincoln.  Preseason wunderkind Willie Warren put up a 4/2/2 assts performance, which seems almost impossible considering his god-given abilities.  Is it safe to say that Oklahoma, at 12-9 (3-4) with zero road wins in conference is almost finished this year?  Something is seriously off with that team.
  • Big Ten.  The most exciting part of the weekend with respect to Big Ten hoops was the ending of the Illinois-Indiana game in Champaign on Saturday, as Demetri McCamey nailed a driving floater at the buzzer to push the Illini into second place in the league (as a four-way tie with Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State).  Michigan State is running away with this league, now at 9-0 after beating the hard-luck Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday as well.  The conference is looking more and more like a five-bid league, as Minnesota got blitzed today in Columbus with Evan Turner giving his team another great all-around performance (19/3/8 assts/4 stls) and proving that his mere presence on the court makes his teammates play better (William Buford had 26/5/5 assts and Jon Diebler 19/6).  For our money, Purdue and Ohio State are the clear second tier teams of this league behind MSU, and we’re not entirely convinced that MSU is really that far ahead of either one of them (although the Spartans’ record certainly indicates otherwise).
  • Pac-10.  What can you say about this league other than nothing is predictable.  Well, one thing is predictable, at least from our viewpoint, and that is that Arizona is the best team in the league right now.  After dispatching Cal today in Tucson behind Nic Wise’s 30/3 stls, both teams are tied at 6-3 after one rotation through league play.  The difference is that it seems to us that Arizona is adapting to Sean Miller’s principles and is improving, while Cal appears to be much the same team we thought they were.  There should be no doubt that these two will be fighting it out the rest of the way, though, for the conference’s likely single bid to the NCAAs.  There are seven other teams bunched at 5-4 and 4-5, with Washington proving that they’re pretty good at home (4-1) and downright awful on the road (0-4) after beating Wazzu in Seattle on Saturday.  And if anyone out there can figure out the teams once known as UCLA (5-4), Arizona State (5-4), Oregon (4-5) or Stanford (4-5), let us know.
  • SEC.  The big battle between lame-duck #1 Kentucky and the rising Vanderbilt Commodores turned out to generally be a bust, as UK ran all over the visitors early and often, getting a double-digit lead and coasting the rest of the way.  DeMarcus Cousins could be supplanting John Wall as the top frosh on the young Wildcats, as the big man they call “Boogie” went for 21/10 and his twelfth dub-dub of the season.  Wall struggled shooting (4-12 FGs) and committed seven turnovers to go with nine assists on the day.  SEC West contenders Mississippi State and Ole Miss had different weekends, with the Bulldogs easily handling LSU to move to 4-2 in league play, while the Rebels fell to the suddenly-surging Arkansas Razorbacks (second straight comeback win) to also move to 4-2.  In one other game of interest, South Carolina avoided the big letdown by coming back from nine points down in the last ten minutes to get a one-point win over Georgia behind Devan Downey’s 33/3 on 12-20 FGs.  Tennessee also got a 20-footer from Scotty Hopson to beat Florida 61-60 in another down-to-the-wire thriller between these two old rivals.  The Pac-10 is getting the brunt of the heat this year for its dearth of good teams, but the more we think about this league, although five teams may make it into the Dance, we really only see one team — Kentucky — capable of making it to the second weekend.
  • Others. In the A10, there appears to be a clear separation between the top tier and the rest, with Temple, Xavier, Charlotte, Dayton, Richmond and Rhode Island all getting wins this weekend.  In the CAA, it’s George Mason who has risen to the top of the league with Northeastern knocking off ODU on Saturday to drop the Monarchs to a tie for second place at 9-2.  In Conference USA, three teams are now at 6-1 after UTEP used double-overtime to knock off UAB in Birmingham behind Derrick Caracter’s 20/13, and Tulsa got a road win at UCF.  The biggest surprise was Memphis losing its second CUSA game of the year, this time at SMU — yes, Matt Doherty briefly makes it back into the national consciousness.  In the Horizon, Butler is now 11-0 – that is all.  In the Ivy, the most anticipated game in some time resulted in Cornell laying waste to visiting Harvard 86-50, with all five Big Red starters reaching double figures.  In the Valley, Wichita State kept pace two games behind Northern Iowa as the rest of the conference remains a muddled mess.  The Mountain West saw BYU knocking off its rival Utah, New Mexico winning easily, and SDSU keeping UNM and UNLV within its sights with a win over Colorado State.  Over in the WAC, there’s now a three-way tie at first place (6-2) with Louisiana Tech losing to New Mexico State and Utah State keeping pace.

RTC Live. We had three RTC Lives this weekend but two of them have already been covered — the Duke vs. Georgetown game as well as the Gonzaga at San Francisco game.

  • Portland 74, Santa Clara 52.  Portland finished the first half of the WCC season in strong fashion Saturday night, throttling Santa Clara throughout. Portland ends up at 5-2 at the halfway point, a game behind co-leaders Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at 6-1. Jared Stohl hit 4-7 three-point shots to lead Portland with 16, followed by Luke Sikma’s 15 and T.J. Campbell’s 13. Robert Smith had 17 to lead Santa Clara, which is now in last place at 1-6.
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