ATB: Selby Debuts at Kansas

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2010

The Lede.  Did you spend the weekend getting your Christmas shopping finished or watching basketball games?  It was quite a bit of both around the RTC compound, and we learned that should you not under any circumstances expect Tennessee to handle pressure well or question your significant other whether she already has “enough shoes.”  These are hard and fast rules that are inviolate, and the quicker we learn those two maxims, the better off we’ll be.

Your Watercooler MomentHelp Save Kyrie’s Toe (h/t Beyond the Arc).  In the spirit of the holiday season, Duke fans ask us to dig deep to pray for the return of their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving this season.  Fairly clever, even for a bunch of Dookies (especially enjoyed the Durham… New Jersey… bit).

Season Debuts.  The semester break has started most everywhere and there were several significant and long-awaited debuts over the weekend.

  • The most anticipated such debut, of course, was at Kansas where point guard Josh Selby came off the bench and pretty much won the game for his team down the stretch against USC.  His five threes included two in the last four minutes that each time regained the lead for the Jayhawks, the second without which would have more than likely ended the KU 64-game homecourt winning streak.  So we know that Selby is a difference-maker — his offensive scoring punch and playmaking abilities provide a dimension to the Kansas attack that the Jayhawks previously didn’t have.  But does he make KU better?  Keep in mind that from what we saw on Saturday, Selby needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective — he took a team-high eleven shots and handed out only one assist (to four turnovers).  Will team chemistry be affected by this?  How will it play with the juniors and seniors who have been through the wars and earned their places as the team leaders?  We’ll admit that we could be very wrong about this, but something just didn’t rub us the right way about how Kansas played on Saturday.  Maybe it was a one-time adjustment to bringing on the talent of a player like Selby, but we have our misgivings.
  • Fordham transfer and USC point guard Jio Fontan also made his debut in the same game as Selby, and his fifteen points as well as leadership were the primary reasons that the Trojans had a realistic shot at knocking off Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.  He only had two assists on this day, and in fact it was his fifth turnover when he stepped on the sideline that ultimately proved the difference, but Southern Cal looked nothing like the same team that Rider destroyed in the Galen Center or TCU punched in the mouth three weeks ago.  Fontan will make a world of difference for the Trojans, and in a Pac-10 that appears to be punctuated with mediocrity up and down the standings, his ability to lead talented big men such as Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson means that USC could surprise some people.

  • It seems like this saga has gone on forever, but Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney finally suited up for the Bulldogs in a game that counted on Saturday against Virginia Tech.  It didn’t help.  MSU got throttled by its ACC foe by 31 points, but Sidney had a semi-successful first outing, going for 12/3 on 6-11 shooting despite committing four turnovers and fouling out of the game.  The fouls came as a result of the fact that Sidney is still by all indications playing 10-15 pounds above his ideal game weight.  Additional weight leads to fatigue, which of course results in slow feet and reaching.  We have to ask the question, though — Sidney has been at Mississippi State for roughly eighteen months now prior to his first game of live action.  He hasn’t been injured;  he’s been suspended.  Couldn’t he have gotten himself into amazing shape by now?  We’re not going to throw the kid under the bus just yet, but it’s a major red flag that he’s had a year-plus to get ready for this weekend, and he wasn’t able to get after it.
  • New Mexico’s Drew Gordon, formerly of UCLA, also got his first minutes of the season in a blowout win over The Citadel.  He scored 11 points and pulled down three rebounds in a fairly typical outing for the big man.  UNM is 9-1 now, but they’ve essentially been the forgotten team in the Mountain West this year, as San Diego State, BYU and UNLV rode unbeaten records deep into December.  Steve Alford’s team one slip was a bizarre blowout loss at California, but with Gordon, Dairese Gary, Emmanuel Negedu and others in tow, we should fully expect the Lobos to make another run at the MWC title again this season.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits… [ed. note: for our Boom Goes the Dynamite instant analyses from games on Saturday, check out part 1 (early games), part 2 (mid-afternoon) and part 3 (evening) here.]

  • UCF.  Just a couple weeks after defeating Florida for the program’s best win in history, the Knights took on Miami (FL) with another chance to impress on Saturday.  And impress they did.  Behind 23/3/5 assts from Marcus Jordan, UCF came back from an eight-point halftime deficit in the Orange Bowl Classic and stayed unbeaten at 10-0 with the win.  The Knights have two more games in the nonconference slate before heading into Conference USA play, and at this point with Memphis struggling. you have to wonder if UCF isn’t the favorite in that league this season.  Still a long way to go, but with a balanced offense and defense led by the young “Heir Jordan,” Central Florida is one of the better stories of this season thus far.
  • 88 in a Row.  Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut Huskies tied UCLA’s men’s record of 88 victories in a row on Sunday with a 31-point victory over Ohio State.  That’s an absurd number of games to win in a row at any level of the sport, and although we hesitate to compare anything in the modern era of basketball to what the Wizard of Westwood was able to accomplish, it’s clear that Auriemma has redefined what the word dynasty means on the women’s side of the game.  His team will go for the record Monday night against Florida State, and just to provide a little perspective as to the dominance of the Huskies during this run… the average margin of victory through the 88-win streak has been a ridiculous 33.3 points per game.  Wow.

… and Misses.

  • Keon Lawrence.  The Seton Hall guard is a shell of the player he once was at Missouri, averaging a mere 3.6 PPG in 21.7 minutes of action each night out after Sunday’s 0h-fer (his second of the year).  Of course, if we had five years of probation staring us in the face for driving the wrong way down the Garden State Parkway while intoxicated, we might not be as concerned about basketball either.  He’s doing some things other than scoring, though, giving the Pirates 3.3 RPG and 3.2 APG during his time on the floor, but much bigger things were expected of the enigmatic player upon his return to Jersey.
  • Sidney Lowe.  Short of a miraculous run through the ACC that seems incomprehensible to us at this time, Sidney Lowe appears to be on his last legs as the coach at NC State.  The Wolfpack have had four opportunities this season to get a name-brand win, and they’ve come up short on all four, most recently with a home loss against Arizona on Sunday.  Tracy Smith remains on the shelf with an injury, but Wolfpack fans are tiring of the many excuses — there comes a point where a coach is either going to win games or he’s not.  And after five years in Raleigh, NCSU appears no closer to competing with the elite teams across the nation that it did when Lowe arrived.
  • Calipari’s Ejection and Fib.  Did you hear that Kentucky coach John Calipari got thrown out of his team’s easy victory on Saturday against Mississippi Valley State?  Afterward, Cal told the assembled media that he had never been tossed out of a game before, “college or pro.”  Which, of course, as Calipari-haters jumped all over immediately in the Twitter-verse, is dead wrong.  Whether the UK coach didn’t remember that he had been dismissed from a game fourteen years ago at UMass or if he was simply fibbing, the stakes were a little different here.  In the UMass ejection, his 26-0 Minutemen were on the verge of losing their undefeated season to George Washington, whereas here UK was well on its way to another blowout win over MVSU.  He must have used the magic words on referee Mike Stuart.

Photo Fav.  With the Wooden Classic taking place on Saturday in Anaheim, it really hit home that the Wizard isn’t around anymore to see it.

Wooden Was There in Spirit on Saturday

Tweet of the Weekend.  From a twitpic by Temple’s Rakeem Christmas, can we just say that the hair-writing trend is one that we’re not at all enjoying as a resurgence…

What Does It Say?

RTC Live.  It was a light weekend all the way around, but we managed to get a few of our correspondents out of the shopping malls and into the arenas on Saturday…

Wooden Classic.  Saturday afternoon at the Wooden Classic gave Southern California basketball fans a couple of entertaining games. In the matinee, St. Mary’s trailed for almost 36 minutes against Long Beach State, before putting together a 15-6 run to close the game and improve to 9-2 on the season. Sophomore Mitchell Young scored a career-high 28 points, more than a couple of those hoops coming off some of the nine assists handed out by Gael point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Mickey McConnell added 18 points for SMC, including eight of their final 12 points against a game 49er squad. In the main event, UCLA overcame a slow start against BYU with a 23-5 run in the middle of the first half to pull ahead of the Cougars. After BYU got back within six at halftime, the Bruins opened up the second half very sharply and built up their largest lead of the game at 61-48, before the Cougars came back to within two, and seemed to have all the momentum on their side with three UCLA starters saddled with four fouls. However, head coach Ben Howland went back to his starters despite their fouls difficulty and he was rewarded with some smart and gutsy play. Freshman center Joshua Smith, in particular, made key plays while playing with four fouls, such as when he stepped in front of a driving Jimmer Fredette and drew a charge, the fourth personal on BYU’s All-American candidate. Bruin sophomore forward Reeves Nelson led the Bruins with a career-high 23 points, including a monster dunk to put an exclamation point on the win, while Fredette led the way for the Cougars with 25 points in the first loss of the season for BYU. In what was the first Wooden Classic without its legendary namesake, it was an important win for UCLA, not only for its impact on this season’s record, but also as a way of showing respect for their program’s history. “We played for Coach (Wooden) today,” said Howland in the post-game press conference. “We wanted him to be proud of the way that we played, and I know he is.”

Murray State 69, Western Kentucky 60.  Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan scored 19 points — 16 in the second half — in leading the Racers over visiting Western Kentucky 69-60 on Saturday night in CSFB Arena. It was the 148th meeting between the two teams since the series started in 1932. WKU (5-6) trailed by just two points at the half but committed 17 turnovers and allowed 19 second-chance points in the game. Murray (7-4) capitalized, opening it up when Canaan scored 13 straight points for the Racers to pad the lead. The closest the Hilltoppers came after that was 65-60 with 1:16 to play. Murray scored the last four points of the game to seal it. Isacc Miles scored 10 points for the Racers, but Canaan’s 19 points led all scorers. Brandon Peters scored 16 points to lead WKU. Sergio Kerusch added 15, and Juan Pattillo scored 11 after coming off the bench for the first time this season.

Villanova 78, Delaware 59.  On a night when they should have been celebrating their football team’s gridiron win and looking forward to playing in the FCS Championship game next week, the Delaware Blue Hens men’s basketball team found themselves on the short end of 78-59 clawing contest with Villanova. And they were not doing very well. Despite forcing an eventual total of 17 turnovers the Blue Hens could not overcome a disastrous first 4:30 minutes in which they shot 0-5 and committed three turnovers as they staked Villanova to a 7-0 lead. Despite a 13-7 run over the next five minutes the Hens could not draw even, much less take the lead. As that run fell short, Villanova exhaled and took a 20-11 run to close out the first half, taking a 10 point lead, 34-24, into the locker room. The hapless Hens shot 6-25 from the field in the first half that included an appalling 1-10 from beyond the arc. They were redeemed by Wildcat fouls, eight of them, which put the Hens on the line for 11 free throws. And the Hens were perfect. Those free throws were 42% of Delaware’s first half points. The Hens overall shot a phenomenal 87% (20-23) from the line for the game. After cutting Villanova’s lead to five through the first five and a half minutes of the second half, Villanova took control of the game and pushed their lead out to 19. Though the Hens took another run at them, the Wildcats, with a combination of defensive rebounding and free throw shooting, kept them at an arm’s length. Corey Fisher scored a game-high 21 points on 7-13 overall shooting, 2-5 from beyond the arc and 5-8 from the line. Freshman guard/forward James Bell had his coming out party, scoring a career-high 10 points on 3-4 overall shooting, 2-3 three pointers and 2-2 from the free throw line.

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