ATB: Holiday Hoops? Yes, Please.Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010
The Lede. If you’re anything like us, and we suspect that you are, you spent tonight stationed in front of your television (hopefully HD) for anywhere between four to six hours, munching on way too many Christmas cookies, filling your stomach with eggnog or some similar milky concoction, and watching game after game of college hoops. Now Texas, now Michigan State and Illinois! On, Mizzou! On Gonzaga, on Kansas and Cal! To the top of the polls! To the top of the key! Now get out on the break! Fill those lanes! Throw it down, all! It was Holiday Hoops at its best this evening, with several marquee matchups on the tube and nothing else on our agenda other than to nod knowingly when the Significant Other Unit started complaining about finishing the shopping. This guy pretty much nailed it when he said that having the holiday spirit combined with some great hoops on the TV tonight equaled one incomparable thing: bliss.
Your Watercooler Moment. What the Hell is Wrong With Michigan State? Nothing. The Spartans are who they are. They were never the second-best team in America — not this year, not last year, nor the year before. In explaining why there’s nothing wrong with them, we got a little word-happy and decided to turn it into a separate post, which is located here. Just remember that March basketball is a different animal than December basketball and that Izzo knows and understands this, and you’ll be fine.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Whelliston’s Red Line Upset Record. The Mid-Majority’s record of what he calls “red line upsets” was equaled tonight with ten teams from mid-major leagues defeating major-conference teams. The Las Vegas Classic was particularly inspiring for the little guys, as New Mexico dropped Colorado and Northern Iowa got past Indiana. The others: North Texas over LSU, Siena over Georgia Tech, Dayton over Seton Hall, Cleveland State over South Florida, Seattle over Virginia, Furman over South Carolina, Green Bay over Wyoming, Butler over Utah, and Northern Arizona over Air Force (note: Whelliston considers the Mountain West a major conference). And nice representation among the power leagues, with the MWC dropping three games and the ACC, Big East and SEC grabbing two a piece. Shockingly, the Pac-10 had none tonight (and yes, Oregon State played — see below).
- Tristan Thompson. The 6’8 freshman forward was seemingly everywhere for Texas tonight, dropping 17 points and grabbing 15 boards (six offensive) against the typically beefy Michigan State front line. He’s had his ups and downs this season, but tonight was his best performance of the year, and if Rick Barnes can convince this human pogo stick to crash the glass like this on a nightly basis, Texas suddenly becomes a darkhorse Final Four candidate this year.
- Jordanesque. Coming off the bench nursing a sprained ankle to hit several key FTs down the stretch to get a big road win? That’s what Marcus Jordan did tonight at UMass in a tight contest that could have gone either way, the first such exposure for UCF as a nationally-ranked team. We’re not going to oversell this — after all, he only scored seven points in fifteen minutes — but UCF is turning into one of the better stories of this college basketball season, and a large part of it due to Heir Jordan.
- Cal Exposes KU’s Weakness? KU did not react well tonight to a team that was clearly inferior in talent but decided to bring the noise with physical play all over the floor. After Marcus Morris’ elbow to Harper Kamp’s head resulted in the ejection of the talented forward, Cal went on a 13-0 run to force Kansas to respond. This was a chippy game, and we just didn’t like the way the KU players were acting during it; if a team like Mike Montgomery’s Bears can get into the Jayhawks’ heads, we imagine that better teams will be able to capitalize on it as well. Something to watch for especially as Big 12 play arrives in January.
- Mean Green. North Texas is a team to keep an eye on again this March, as they’ve already scalped two BCS conference teams in Texas Tech and LSU after tonight’s 20-point throttling of the Tigers in Baton Rouge. The ‘other’ Tristan Thompson, a guard averaging 18/4 is the player to watch on this team, but the Mean Green are offensively balanced with all five starters putting up double figures nightly. On this night it was Josh White’s 19 points that led the way, but this team can score with most anybody and will be dangerous again in the postseason.
- Out Like a Lamb. Kentucky has had an unbelievable number of really good freshmen over its history, but none had ever scored as many points in a game (32) as Doron Lamb did. The previous record was held by Jamal Mashburn, a fair player in Wildcat lore, with 31 versus Georgia twenty seasons ago. The forgotten star rookie on the UK squad this season nailed seven of eight threes and in fact only missed one shot the entire afternoon. John Calipari’s rotation is frighteningly shallow, but with Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Lamb playing well, they can match up with anybody in at least three key positions.
… and Misses.
- Mike Tisdale’s Brain Fart. With thirty seconds left in a one-point game, you never, ever, ever, ever put a referee in a position to make a call that he’s required to make given the circumstances. Yet that’s what Illinois big man Mike Tisdale did when he ran up behind Missouri’s Laurence Bowers on a breakaway and lightly pushed the Tiger with two hands in his back as he elevated. Even though Bowers barely felt the shove and still managed to put down the layup, it allowed Missouri to take a five-point lead after the two technical FTs and a seven-point lead after the subsequent inbounds play led to another easy bucket. Let’s be clear — Illinois was already in trouble for allowing Bowers to get free on the breakaway and potentially go up three points (plus one); but Tisdale’s gaffe effectively ended the game and gave Mizzou Braggin’ Rights for the second straight year.
- Michigan State’s Starting Frontline. Wow, Izzo’s front line shot a horrid 3-18 from the field tonight, and in comparison with what Tristan Thompson was doing to them on both ends, the trio of Delvon Roe, Draymond Green and Adreian Payne looked like washed-up has-beens. Of course, Roe and Green in particular won’t have many nights where they’re both so offensively challenged, but we think we’re well past the point where we should expect the duo to “break out.”
- Virginia’s Schizophrenia. There were a lot of upsets tonight, but none was as perplexing as Virginia’s 59-53 loss to Seattle in Charlottesville. UVa is the same team that went to Minnesota and won in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, then followed that up by beating rival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Yet the Wahoos got creamed by Stanford in Palo Alto and lost to Washington by 500 points in Maui before settling into a bunch of home wins against nobodies until tonight. Shooting 10% from three is never a good thing, but Virginia fans must really not have a clue what they’re going to get from Tony Bennett’s team on a nightly basis.
- Playing Transitive Property Games. Tonight Oregon State, who as we all know has already lost to Seattle, Texas Southern, Utah Valley and Montana this season, pounded the Illinois-Chicago Flames, 74-54. UIC of course defeated in-state rival Illinois over the weekend, the same team that went to Seattle and easily handled Gonzaga a few weekends prior. This certainly means that Oregon State is better than the Zags, right?
Tweet of the Night. Longtime RTC reader Hemogoblin (“with a goblin”) came up with this one during the Kansas-Cal game upon a Bak Bak sighting… kudos.
RTC Live. Heading into the long holiday weekend, we had two games going on tonight…
Dayton 69, Seton Hall 65. The Dayton Flyers found win number ten at the Rock in Newark, NJ, home of the Seton Hall Pirates. Down by 14, 40-26 at the half, the Flyers’ defenses had been picked apart by Hall point guard Jordan Theodore, who dished four dimes in the first 20 minutes, setting up the Pirate front court where Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson, Eniel Polynice (who had four assists of his own) and Fuquan Edwin had combined for 30 of the Hall’s 40 points. Coach Gregory challenged his new guards, freshman Jawan Staten and transfer Josh Parker to shut down their Pirate counterpart and move the ball around more aggressively on the offensive end. The guards responded, and the Flyers won the first four minutes of the second half 11-6, slashing the Hall’s lead to nine. If the Pirates’ defensive looks had confused them in the first half, the Flyers backcourt simply outran them in the second four minute “period,” scoring eight points on three successive fastbreaks. The fouls piled up on the Pirates as Patrik Auda sat with his fifth foul at the 8:40 mark as Seton Hall’s thin front court became thinner. Dayton sub Matt Kavanaugh scored a team-high 15 points on 5-7 overall shooting and 5-6 from the line. The Hall’s Jeff Robinson matched Kavanaugh’s 15 points with 15 of his own, on 6-11 (1-2 from beyond the arc) overall shooting and 2-2 from the line. Seton Hall’s already thin frontcourt rotation became even thinner with the news that sophomore forward Ferrakohn Hall had, despite playing 18.4 minutes per game through the NJIT game, left the program earlier in the day and would seek to transfer immediately.
Louisville 114, Western Kentucky 82. Louisville found a home away from home on Wednesday night. In their first game away from the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals (10-1) shot 16-of-30 from 3-point range and had little trouble dispatching host Western Kentucky, 114-82, at Diddle Arena. Louisville guard Peyton Siva scored a career-high 29 points to lead all scorers, and four other Cardinals — Rakeem Buckles, Kyle Kuric, Preston Knowles and Chris Smith — all scored in double figures. WKU forward Sergio Kerusch scored 21 points to lead the Hilltoppers (5-7). The game was close for 15 minutes, but Louisville finished the first half on a 21-6 run and then scored 20 points in the first five minutes of the second half. The Cardinals led by as many as 36 points en route to the win.