ATB: New Year’s Weekend EditionPosted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2011
The Lede. Here’s hoping everyone had a very safe and happy New Year’s 2011. Just typing those numbers makes it hard for us to believe that there are ten-year olds who never experienced the awesomeness of the 1990s. Speaking of irrelevant references to timing, with the calendar change we’re now heading into the heart of the season. Frankly, the first two months in some ways seemed interminable, with far too many mismatches merely acting as a prelude for the conference season where the contenders and pretenders will be inevitably ferreted out. As a case in point, take a look at last year’s AP Top 10 from one year ago today. Texas, a first-round NCAA loser, was #2; Kansas and Villanova, both second round losers, were #1 and #6, respectively; the #9 team, North Carolina, ended up in the NIT. The lesson here is that there are no finished products yet — many teams have barely tested themselves, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a school with a lofty pre-conference record collapses after seeing its own blood on the road. Who will those teams be? We have some ideas but it’ll have to wait until later this week.
Your Watercooler Moment. Memphis Fan Ejected From Game. This is a no-brainer. There weren’t all that many great games this weekend, but an incident that took place near the end of Memphis’ 91-86 win over Tennessee State on Sunday is what will be talked about on Monday morning. After an on-court scrum where a prominent donor’s wife (is she really the spouse of the Lenny’s Sub Shop guy? — someone please confirm) got agitated from the front row and allegedly yelled at one of the TSU players to “choke on” his mouthpiece, the nearby referee Mark Whitehead threw her out of the game. Yes, you read that correctly, a fan! And not just any fan, but a middle-aged female fan who quite obviously presented a clear and present danger to the players on the floor, especially considering the way that she was pumping and waving around those blue pom-pons. (h/t Chris Littman for the video)
Your Watercooler Moment, Vol. II. Dear Ron: Don’t Eff With Jeannine Edwards — Signed, Billy Gillispie. This has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball per se, but it involves two media personalities who regularly cover the game and it’s hilarious nevertheless. SportsByBrooks reported over the weekend that ESPN commentator Ron Franklin (he of the Big Twelve games, mostly) condescendingly called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweetcakes” and “a-hole” during a production meeting prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Franklin was allowed to work that game but he was then pulled from the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast on Saturday night. We’re not sure if this is a much more common occurrence with female reporters or what, but people seem to enjoy talking down to Jeannine Edwards. Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie of course was widely ridiculed for his treatment of the sideline reporter during an Ole Miss game in 2009, and many people in Wildcat country believe strongly that particular embarrassment was the straw that broke his back as the UK coach. It’s undetermined what will happen to Franklin as a result of his latest comments, but it should be noted that he had a similar incident five years ago with Holly Rowe and he still remained with the company. Will Jeannine go two-for-two in her latest battle of the sexes? Let’s hope so.
This Weekend’s Quick Hits…
- Kansas: Best Team in America. So says Miami (OH) forward Antonio Ballard, whose team has had the privilege to play the top three teams in the polls so far this season. The Red Hawks lost to Duke by 34, Ohio State by 21, and Kansas by 27, but it was the athleticism of the Morris twins who combined for 38/15 coming off the bench that seemed to make the biggest impression.
- Illinois Starts off Big Ten 2-0. The Illini got a key home win on Sunday with its victory over Wisconsin in Champaign. Combined with a win at Iowa last week, and Bruce Weber’s team crystallizes just how important scheduling is in conference races. A winnable road game followed by a home game against a team they’ll likely battle all year in the second tier of the conference race. Contrast this with Minnesota who currently sits at 0-2 as a result of road games to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
- Syracuse, Cincinnati & St. John’s Do Likewise. With respect to SU and UC, again, scheduling. Syracuse feasted on two more home meals with Seton Hall and Notre Dame visiting the Carrier Dome, while Cincy got DePaul and the Hall to visit the Queen City. The anomaly of this group is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies. Somehow the same team that lost to Fordham and St. Bonnie managed to get Big East road wins at WVU and Providence last week. If his team is turning a corner, we’ll find out on Big Monday as they host Georgetown at MSG.
- Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham. And, oh-by-the-way, OSU is now 2-0 in the Pac-10. Is any other team in America as unpredictable as the Beavers? A few more of these by Cunningham, and maybe Craig Robinson’s team will become a team worth following again.
- Bucknell Enjoys a Laettner Moment. Richmond blew seven of its final eight FTs down the stretch of its home game versus Bucknell today, yet still held a one-point lead with 2.3 seconds remaining after the Bisons called timeout having to go the length of the court. What happened next will go down in Bucknell lore, as Mike Muscala played the role of Christian Laettner… (h/t BIAH)
- The Most Discussed Toe This Side of Lebowski. Coach K said that Kyrie Irving had a new cast put on his toe over the weekend, and that they expect to know more after the docs have a chance to scan it this week. He specifically said Tuesday or Wednesday. America collectively holds its breath, because if Irving can come back this season healthy, the entire landscape of college basketball changes back to Duke and Everyone Else.
… and Misses.
- Coach K’s Philosophy on the ACC. This quote perplexed us mightily. “”You don’t win one of those [championship banners] without showing up every day in our conference. It’s just different. You don’t play for your total record. You play for your ACC record. That’s the way we’ve approached it, especially since the mid ’90s. And we get better as a result of doing that.” Far be it from us to question Coach K’s strategies, but Duke went to seven Final Fours in nine seasons from 1986-94; he’s gone to four since. Doesn’t that suggest that whatever Duke was doing prior to the mid-90s was working better?
- Retiring Oregon’s Mac Court. We would have liked to have seen the Ducks close out their historic old building with a win on Saturday night, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, the Pac-10 and college basketball lost one of its venerable venues, and as nice as the Matthew Knight Arena purports to be, it’s doubtful it will ever have the same character (or stains). In case you missed it, here was our eulogy for the building.
- Perry Jones’ Foul Trouble. In Baylor’s last five games, the superfrosh center has picked up four fouls in four of them, and his production has dropped accordingly. His 15/9 through the first seven games of the year has fallen to 9/6 over the last five, and Baylor has gone 2-3 as a result. If Baylor has dreams of making another great run through the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament, Jones will have to learn how to stay on the floor while still playing aggressively.
- Kentucky Fans Freeing Enes. Please, just stop. If he becomes eligible by the grace of God and the NCAA, then count your blessings. Otherwise, the “injustice” bent is really just… pathetic. (unless this was meant to be ironic, in which case it’s really cool)
Tweet of the Weekend. We all sorta knew this was true, but to hear recruits using it in this way must send chills up the spines of coaches at other schools from coast to coast.
Photo Fav. Georgetown’s Nate Lubick with this dunk against DePaul over the weekend that there are more ways to get horizontal on New Year’s than the ones you might expect.
RTC Live. Quite a few RTC Lives over the long weekend. Here are the recaps.
Arizona 76, Oregon 57. Arizona was truly dominant against Oregon, stifling the Ducks and forcing them to shoot themselves out of the game, all the while adjusting to Oregon’s ever-changing defenses. When the Ducks brought zone, the Wildcats shot threes and made them. When the Ducks went man-to-man, Derrick Williams got Oregon’s entire front line in foul trouble. The traps and presses Oregon attempted never worked, only generating backcourt turnover for the entire game. The Wildcats’ offensive explosion was led by reserve guard Kevin Parrom, who had career highs of 20 points and eight rebounds on 8 of 9 shooting and 4 of 5 shooting from three. Arizona shot 25 of 45 from the field, while Oregon shot 23 of 66 from the field and made only the first of its 17 three-point attempts. The Wildcats were able to launch their Pac-10 season with a road conference win, which is no easy feat. Oregon was handed its third consecutive defeat, and was seemingly out of the game from the opening tip.
Ohio State 85, Indiana 67. Ohio State guard William Buford and his Buckeye teammates will be ringing in the New Year with a smile on the ride back to Columbus tonight. Buford was impressive tonight from the outside, scoring a game-high 24 points off 8-15 shooting from the field, including 5-7 from three point land. It was not the heralded frontcourt of the Buckeyes, but rather their big, fast, and physical backcourt that easily dismissed the Hoosiers in Bloomington with their sharp-shooting and great ball movement. Give credit to the Hoosiers for battling the #2 team in college basketball, hitting big shots at times to rally. However, the Buckeyes consistently answered and quieted the raucous crowd. It promises to be an exciting Big Ten Conference season this year.
UConn 66, USF 61 (OT). After their loss at Pittsburgh earlier in the week, UConn struggled to put away a USF team that is still trying to figure out how to win close games without Dominique Jones as the Bulls fell to 3-9 in games decided by 10 points or less. The Bulls were in position to win the game as they led by nine points in the second half before going cold when Jim Calhoun switched to a zone defense that the Huskies rarely employ. UConn took the lead by 3 late in the final minute, but Anthony Crater hit a game-tying 3 with 28.4 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime when UConn was forced into a bad last second attempt after they were unable to get the ball to Kemba Walker. In OT, it was a struggle for both offenses, but UConn found a few more ways to score and held the Bulls scoreless until Crater hit a meaningless 3 before the buzzer.
Arizona State 60, Oregon 55. In a contest strewn with poor shooting, tons of turnovers and fouls galore, Arizona State managed to eke out a 60-55 win over Oregon, the last men’s basketball game at historic McArthur Court. The Sun Devils were led by breakout performances from Carrick Felix (19 points, 6 rebounds), Brandon Dunson (14 points, 2 of 4 three-point shooting) and Ruslan Peteev (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks). Because of these role players stepping up their games, the Sun Devils were able to win without major contributions from any of their regular starters. Leading scorer Trent Lockett was out, allowing for Felix to start, while the other four Arizona State starters combined for 12 points on 5 of 17 shooting. Aaron Brooks may have been in the house as the honorary captain for the Ducks’ final game at 84-year-old arena, but it certainly did not help Oregon’s shooting, which drug it down for the second time in three days. The Ducks ran up a 32.1 percent shooting performance from the field, and made only 4 of 16 three-point shots. Somehow, the 25 percent showing from downtown was a marked increase from Thursday night’s game against Arizona that saw Oregon miss its last 16 three-point attempts after making its first of the game. Oregon saw exclusively a 1-3-1 zone from Arizona State, and until its outside shooting improves, it can expect to see it from each opponent it faces.
UNC 103, St. Francis (PA) 54. North Carolina came out swinging in the second half to finish off a lopsided victory over Saint Francis (PA), 103-54. The Tar Heels held the Red Flash to just over 25% from the field in the second half (including 0-7 from three). The size and athleticism were too much for Saint Francis to handle. Coach Don Friday stressed the learning experience from the game. The Red Flash have lost nine straight (most of which were on the road). Friday has a very young team, and it’s very tough to win road games with so much youth, especially against ACC teams that reside in Chapel Hill. On the other side of the court, the Tar Heels showed flashes of brilliance on both ends of the floor. Larry Drew II is still the starting point guard–and he appears to be for the foreseeable future. The Tar Heels dominated pretty much every area of the game. Eight players finished in double figures (compared to two for the Red Flash), which just goes to show how deep Carolina was today. They’ve gotten outstanding bench production the past couple of games, and they’ll need to keep it as they poise to battle for second behind Duke will in the ACC. The Tar Heels will open ACC play at Virginia next Saturday.
Villanova 81, Rutgers 65. “So how does this game rate…this team did on the toughness meter coach?” An odd question if asked in the postgame presser for any conference not named The Big East. In the Big East that is the measure… how tough was your team? How tough was the other team? Coach Mike Rice declared Rutgers “competitive… tough enough.” And for the first 20 minutes, they were. Unfortunately college games play for 40 minutes in two 20-minute halves, and the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers fell to the Wildcats of Villanova University 81-65 before a sold out Pavilion on Villanova’s campus in a game that was the conference opener for each team. Rutgers backcourt duo, James Beatty (14 points) and Mike Coburn (seven points) went nose-to-nose with Villanova’s Corey Fisher (19 points) and Maalik Wayns (nine points), so frustrated the senior guard about seven minutes into the second half that he drew a technical for a particularly emphatic trip of Beatty. The two Rutgers guards gave as good as they got before Beatty fouled out with 1:33 left in the game. If the backcourt duels were not quite Marquis of Queensbury, the frontcourt was trench warfare. Rutgers freshman Gilvydas Biruta, Jon Mitchell and Dane Miller were overmatched by Villanova all game long. Biruta picked up two fouls within the game’s first 6:30 and was shuffled in and out for the rest of the half, but not before picking up number three at the two minute mark. The Scarlet Knights needed his rebounding and shooting and Rice gambled that he could get both with some judicious substituting. The gamble backfired, and Biruta entered the second half with three personals. Frustration finally the got the better of him and in the last minute of play he threw an upper body extremity – the officials appear to have ruled it was a fist, but Coach Rice disputed the location, stopping the game for over five minutes while he conferred with the referees his thoughts that it was an elbow. The league should make a ruling next week. Down 37-33, Villanova started the second half with a 9-0 run that put the score at 42-37 and got the Cats back in the lead for good. The Wildcats matched their renewed offensive intensity with their defense as well, holding Rutgers to eight made second half field goals, a number equal to the Scarlet Knights’ number of turnovers (and only one less than their rebounding total for the half). Corey Stokes scored a game-high 23 points to lead Villanova, while Jonathan Mitchell paced Rutgers with 17 points.