After the Buzzer: Huskies, Saints And SilverswordsPosted by jstevrtc on November 25th, 2010
Your Watercooler Moment. If you actually find yourself anywhere near a watercooler on Thursday and you’re hoping to avoid discussing this ”football” thing that’s evidently popular on this holiday (yeah, we don’t get it, either), there was definitely ample material in the way of college basketball on Thanksgiving Eve to keep the conversation lively. Alaska and Hawaii always make their presence felt in the basketball world this time of year, and on Wednesday we had an unlikely champion crowned in Maui and the beginning of the festivities in the Great Alaska. And that snickering you hear — assuming it’s not still coming from Kemba Walker – might be coming from a couple of non-Division I schools that made turkeys out of a couple of bigger foes.
Today’s Quick Hits…
- My Name Is Walker. During the ESPN broadcast, commentators Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas both rhetorically asked, “How do you guard him?” Absolutely none of Wichita State, Michigan State, or Kentucky had the answer. Give him space, he drills jumpers. Body him, and he blows by you into the paint, which means you’re in trouble. Just as noteworthy as his scoring ability is that Kemba Walker smiles just as big after making a pass that results in a bucket as he does after hitting a shot himself, as his six assists against the Wildcats prove
- Ha Ha, Chaminade You Are. There’s only one good thing about seventh place: it’s not eighth. When you’re D-II Chaminade and you knock off a Big 12 opponent in your own tournament, though, it’s a life-altering result. Oklahoma outshot Chaminade from the field and both teams hit six treys, yet the Silverswords were able to pull this off. Head coach Matt Mahar, seen crying with his father after the game, told reporters in the post-game press conference, “For our university and our team, this is something we’ll never forget.”
- Our Who of the Wha? That’s Our Lady of the Lake University, or OLLU. It’s a small Catholic college in San Antonio, home to around 2,600 young higher-education-seeking souls. They’re called the Saints. And now they own a victory over D-I Texas State from the Southland Conference on Wednesday. According to Mid-Majority, for reasons you should already know, when a school from the “other 25″ conferences beats a school from one of the power six conferences, it’s a Red Line Upset. When a D-II or D-III school knocks off a D-I school in a non-exhibition, it’s a Black Line Upset. When an NAIA school like OLLU does it to a D-I school…well, they don’t even have a name for that. The “It’s just Texas State” argument doesn’t even come close to holding water, here. This win by the Saints is the biggest story of the night that you won’t hear about.
- Gopher Bites. Minnesota already owns victories over West Virginia, North Carolina and a tough Siena team, and after a tidy win over North Dakota State on Wednesday their turkey and stuffing will be washed down by the sweet taste that accompanies a 6-0 record. Blake Hoffarber grabs a lot of headlines, but Trevor Mbakwe is ballin’ like a champ, averaging 14 PPG and 9.4 RPG so far.
- Basketball Jones. Kentucky’s only bright spot on Wednesday was the continued excellence of Terrence Jones. He had to sit for most of the first half after picking up two early fouls, but he still managed to offer up 24 points which included a perfect 4-4 from three and 8-11 overall. He’s already skilled at using his powerful frame to finish in the lane, and his thunderous dunk early on looked to set the tone for his ‘Cats. When Jones had to sit, though, that was when Kemba Walker went to work and showed how he was having none of that.
- Some Late Lavin Love. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how the next step in the Steve Lavin rebuilding effort at St. John’s had started on a positive note. In Alaska, the Red Storm were taken to overtime by a game Ball State side before prevailing 78-73, paced by a great game from Justin Brownlee (20/8/3 blks/2 assts on 8-11 shooting).
- A Knight Without Armor. Kentucky’s Brandon Knight is an elite talent, but he was just a rumor defensively against Connecticut, letting his man get into the lane repeatedly. To be fair, he wasn’t the only Wildcat who disappointed in that aspect of the game; Connecticut set up time shares in the paint, yet still found themselves with several wide-open three attempts. Kentucky is quick and getting physically tougher, but UConn, en route to a ridiculous shooting night, was quicker and outhustled UK. Despite his 13 and 24 points against Oklahoma and Washington, respectively, Knight contributed only six against the Huskies, and leaves Maui with eight assists and 18 turnovers in his three games there. No cause for alarm, ‘Cats fans — he’s just five games into his college career.
- Is That Not A Scoreboard? Utah did not light up the one at the Smith Spectrum (Utah State’s home gym) very well, mustering a flimsy 37.9% shooting night from the field and 21.1% from three-point range in a rivalry game. Utah State is indeed the superior team, so it’s no surprise that USU got a chance to unleash another edition of ”Winning Team, Losing Team,” but Utah only really seemed to care about this game for the first three minutes of the second half. We expect more interest from a team playing an in-state rival.
- Capel’s Conundrum. You should know that Chaminade’s win wasn’t the result of some gimmick scheme by head coach Matt Mahar and his staff. Chaminade held a lead throughout most of the game, then gave it up, then regained it. We know on which side most of the God-given hooping talent lies, so Oklahoma cannot not blame personnel losses for this. Mahar plain outcoached Jeff Capel, who now has to find a way to reconnect with his team as well as examine his own level of motivation during these tough days for the Sooners.
- Disappointment from Delvon. Props to his Michigan State squad for bouncing back and getting a win over a Washington team that played pretty well in the Maui consolation, but Delvon Roe wouldn’t mind if the game films from this tournament fell out of the video guy’s bag and into the Pacific on the way home. In 24 minutes of play against UW, Roe was scoreless, getting up only one shot attempt and pulling just four rebounds. Against UConn on Tuesday, in 22 minutes of floor time he added just five rebounds and five points to the cause before fouling out.
Tweet Of The Day. Here’s longtime Kentucky-based writer Larry Vaught from his website Vaught’s Views with a subtle comment on how the post-game presser audio system made John Calipari about as happy as his team did on Wednesday:
Connecticut 84, #10 Kentucky 67. It was billed as a battle of old regional rivals with one, UConn’s Jim Calhoun, looking to prove to his critics that the wily old veteran hasn’t exactly lost his touch, and the other, Kentucky’s John Calipari, looking for validation that reloading with blue-chip recruits every year is the way to run a program. As it turned out, it was Calhoun, coming to Maui with a chip on his shoulder and a pistol named Kemba Walker in his holster, who announced via three wins and a tournament championship that the Huskies were never that far removed from the national picture after all. As Calhoun said after the game, “Connecticut is still Connecticut,” and he was visibly miffed that anyone would suggest otherwise. It helps when you have quite possibly the best point guard in the country at your disposal, as tournament MVP Kemba Walker was phenomenal, utilizing his talents off the bounce to repeatedly shred the Kentucky defense for drives and layups in ways that his counterpart Brandon Knight should learn from. But it was also the play of big man Alex Oriakhi, a beast of a sophomore forward who pulled his third double-double of the young season, that helped UConn take control of the boards and force Kentucky to make shots on the first attempt (a difficult proposition at 37%). This was something that the Wildcats were ill-equipped to do tonight. UK isn’t as bad as it looked on thisday nor are the Huskies as good, but the primary takeaway from the Maui Invitational finals is that the salty dog Calhoun can still coach a little bit and although his Huskies may have been down last year, they are not likely to stay there any longer. Expect to see Connecticut enter the national polls next week in the high teens and stay there throughout much of the rest of the season.