ATB: Tennessee’s Wild, Zany, Ridiculous Ride of 2010-11Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2011
The Lede. There weren’t a multitude of games tonight, but that never stopped us before. And in fact, there were quite a number of good storylines coming out of a Tuesday night of college basketball. From the zaniness that is UT basketball to Calipari’s foul mouthed motivational techniques to Jimmer’s bombs to the continuing humiliation of a Clemson visit to Chapel Hill, it’s all here.
Your Watercooler Moment. Tennessee’s Season is a Four-Month Comedy Show. Honestly, if you told us that the next thing Tennessee plans on doing is crushing Connecticut by 40 points in Hartford this weekend followed by Bruce Pearl chaining Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris to a dogsled to get back to Knoxville after the game, we’d probably just shake our heads and figure that you were telling us the truth. It’s just been that kind of a season for the Vols, and all indications are that it’s only going to continue on the crazy track. Witness tonight’s game-winning play against Georgia in Athens. With Bruce Pearl still watching his team from home during his eight-game SEC suspension, UT’s Tobias Harris threw up a wild airball from the corner as regulation time was running out. Somehow Brian Williams reached over the top of Georgia’s Chris Barnes and, as the refs all swallowed their whistles, wrestled the ball from behind Barnes’ head as they both fell backwards. Williams then threw the ball toward the rim while pulling Barnes down on top of him, and, of course… it went in. He later went on to say that he’s “Kobe mixed with a little Dirk,” clearly aware of the fact that Kobe and Dirk both get away with murder down the stretch of close games. You can watch the sequence below, but with the win tonight, the Vols have safely navigated the more difficult half of the SEC schedule with Pearl suspended — UT will play LSU and Alabama at home with road trips to Ole Miss and Auburn next. Again, we wouldn’t be shocked if they lost to Auburn and won the other three at this point — it’s been that kind of a season in Knoxville.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Jimmer Pulls Up From the Marriott. Yeah, his range is ridiculous, as witnessed by this jumper from Al Dillard/JJ Redick-range during the first half of BYU’s win versus TCU this evening. Fredette only went for 21/5 assts tonight, bringing down his nation-leading scoring average to 25.8 PPG one week after torching rival Utah for 47. The Cougars moved to 4-0 in the Mountain West, though, with the easy win, but they’d be smart to focus carefully on their road trip to play Colorado State this weekend prior to the massive showdown against SDSU next week. The CSU game has all the markings of a classic trap game.
- As Austin Freeman Goes… When the preseason Big East POY (that he was chosen over Kemba Walker shows just how big of a leap the UConn guard made this season) plays well, as he did tonight (10-13 FG for 28 points and five rebounds), Georgetown is quite good. In Freeman’s nine most efficient performances of the year, the Hoyas are 9-0. In his six least efficient performance, Georgetown is 1-5. If that seems like a lot to place on the back of a single player, it is, especially in the rugged Big East. We love Jason Clark and Chris Wright, but we’re just not sure how often he’s going to get sufficient help from his backcourt mates on the nights where he’s off.
- Vital Signs at Northwestern. Things were looking pretty bleak for Northwestern after an 0-3 start in the Big Ten followed by a crushing overtime loss at Michigan State over the weekend, but we can say that at least the Wildcats are keeping hope alive by beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. Tonight’s win over Michigan behind John Shurna’s is but the latest example. At 3-4, Northwestern is going to eventually have to beat some of the better teams in this league to get serious consideration for the NCAAs, but they haven’t completely shot themselves in the foot yet.
- Alabama Turning a Corner? It’s easy to ignore the SEC West this season, very easy in fact. But we’ve been keeping an eye on Alabama the last couple of weeks, and if you can ignore the oft-anemic offense and focus exclusively on the Tide’s strong defense, you’ll note that Anthony Grant’s team has played well in its 3-1 SEC start. In that division, “playing well” is damn near worthy of headlines given just how bad everyone, including Bama, has been this year. With its complete shutdown of the Kentucky offense for most of the game tonight, though, it’s becoming clear that Alabama might be the only non-gimme in the western half of the conference this year.
- Huskers Under the Radar. Fellow Big 12 bailer Colorado has been getting all the hype in recent days as the up-and-comer on the block with big wins over Missouri and K-State, but Nebraska has been perhaps more impressive by playing Mizzou and Kansas very tough in their buildings before losing. It showed tonight (and Vegas was all over it with NU as the favorite) as the Huskers torched Colorado with a 57% shooting night behind Toney McCray’s 18/8. Pomeroy predicts Nebraska to go 9-7 in the Big 12 race while Colorado goes 7-9, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes the rest of the pundits to catch on if both teams continue to play well.
… and Misses.
- 0-55 in Chapel Hill. Quite a few of Carolina’s long and notorious streaks have fallen by the wayside in the last several years, but the one that seems like it might go on forever is UNC’s domination of Clemson in Chapel Hill. Even in the horrid 8-20 Matt Doherty year of 2001-02, the Tigers couldn’t get it done. With Roy Williams’ team coming off a 20-point beatdown by Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Sunday night, there was a sense that perhaps tonight was finally the night. Nope. Thanks to a nearly five-minute scoring drought to close the game quite possibly fostered by their basketball demons, Clemson blew several chances in the second half to become yet another statistic in the historical record of the series.
- Selfishness and Blame Game. John Calipari got into it with his star player Terrence Jones while the ESPN HD cameras were in his mug, clearly exhibiting a level of motivational intimacy with the freshman that we haven’t even gotten in several years of marriage (see tweet below). He then proceeded to throw Jones under the bus in the postgame presser by calling him “the other guy” who apparently stole the final pass that was supposed to go to Doron Lamb for a three-pointer. We’ve wondered about the relationship between Calipari and Jones all year long, and this is certainly nothing new with Cal’s coaching style, but all too often it appears to us that Jones is more interested in his NBA prospects these days than winning SEC games. We’ll see how this plays out the next six weeks.
- Nineteen Ls in a Row. DePaul’s loss to Marquette by thirty points was the school’s nineteenth Big East loss in a row, dating back to a one-point victory over Marquette nearly one year ago. Perhaps more depressingly, the Blue Demons have now lost 42 of 43 conference games and there doesn’t appear to be any good possibilities on the horizon. The next most likely wins are in late February at home against bottom-dwellers South Florida and Rutgers.
Tweet of the Night. Hey, we won’t judge — Calipari can motivate his players however it works for him. But it’s still funny.
Georgetown 80, Seton Hall 75. Virtually all of the 7,593 fans who braved the cold and freezing rain to watch Seton Hall battle #19 Georgetown Tuesday night at the Rock in downtown Newark, New Jersey were there to see the return of Seton Hall’s leading scorer, shooting guard Jeremy Hazell. The senior was stalking Seton Hall’s most points scored record when he broke his left wrist last November. His return was further complicated when he was shot during an attempted robbery on Christmas. Cleared to play early last week Hazell logged his first return minutes on the road against DePaul (23 points in 30 minutes) and then Pittsburgh (nine points in 35 minutes). The guard, seven weeks away from his last game for Seton Hall, did not disappoint as the Pirates, down four at the half, stumbled out of the gate for the second half and saw the visitor’s lead grow to 10 then even before the fans had settled back into their seats. The Pirates then launched a furious, 11-minute, 24-9 rally that saw them erase the deficit and build a five point 57-52 lead that re-energized the Hall faithful, before falling to a Hoya rally, 80-75. There was, however one in attendance who was not ecstatic about Hazell’s nine point contribution to the Pirate run. With 0:08 left on the clock, the Hoyas up three and Seton Hall with the ball, Georgetown Coach John Thompson, III, called timeout and instructed his seniors to foul anyone rather allow Hazell to touch the ball. When asked in the post game press conference if he had ever employed the “last possession foul” strategy before, Thompson replied he had not, but that it was designed to deny Hazell the ball as “no one person can guard him…he is too crafty… too talented…” and prevent the senior from taking a three point attempt. “…and Julian [Vaughn, Georgetown’s center] promised me he would get the rebound…so we went ahead and fouled [Hall guard Keon Lawrence]…”. Hoya guard Austin Freeman paced all scorers with 28 points, with three other Hoyas scored in double figures. Senior forward Jeff Robinson paced Seton Hall with 21 points, with three other Pirates scoring 10 or more. Junior forward Herb Pope missed a double-double by one rebound, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds.