ATB: Wild Weekend Across the Hoops Universe

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

The Lede.  What a weekend.  Unless you care about the Pro Bowl (and really, other than gamblers, who does?), we here in the college hoops universe had the sports world to ourselves, and the weekend gods in charge made sure that we had a wild and woolly preview of March even though the calendar still said otherwise.  Fully half of the ranked teams in the RTC Top 25 lost over the weekend, and quite a few others including two of the top three teams in America hung on by the skin of their teeth.  What this shows us once again is that there are no dominant teams in basketball this year; even though Ohio State remains undefeated, they’ve had numerous close encounters and it’s clear that the Buckeyes are merely one of a dozen teams with the goods to win six straight this spring.  It should be a wild ride through the remaining five weeks of the regular season; if this weekend’s results are any indication, we should all down a few anti-vertigo meds and strap ourselves in.

St. John's Made the Garden Rock Again Today (Getty/N. Laham)

Your Watercooler MomentDuke Destroyed in the Garden.  The last time we saw the Duke Blue Devils so thoroughly undressed as they were in today’s matchup with St. John’s at the Garden, many observers at the time believed that Coach K had lost some of his touch on the recruiting trail and his teams simply could not compete at the highest level of college basketball anymore.  On that day, Villanova used a dominant second half to rattle the Devils with its superior quickness and athleticism, forcing Duke to fire off 22 bricks from beyond the arc (versus five makes) in the game and generally embarrassing a team that had been ranked as high as #1 at one point that season.  Today’s game against Steve Lavin’s fun group of Johnnies was not entirely dissimilar.  Duke looked generally slow, uninterested and incapable of making an outside shot (shooting 5-26 from deep after starting out 1-19) while SJU had all the energy and emotion of a home crowd desperate for a winning program again.  Whether this is emblematic of a bad day for Duke or indicative of a deeper set of problems, we’ll have to see how February goes before making that decision.  Make no mistake, though, today’s result was a major red flag for the defending national champs.  Teams that win titles don’t find themselves down 50-25 to anybody, much less unranked teams.

We have much more on this destruction of Duke from our correspondent’s report from the game here.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Ashton Gibbs and Jared Sullinger.  A couple of big-time players making big-time shots in the clutch with their teams on the verge of defeat.  #1 Ohio State appeared to be in serious trouble when David Lighty got the ball into Sullinger deep in the post off a steal.  He was fouled and subsequently hit 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining and all the noise and pressure of the Northwestern students weighing on him at the time.  Just another day at the office (21/8) for the impressive freshman.  At Rutgers, it was the junior Gibbs (24/4) who played the role of Mr. Clutch, drilling a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down and the Panthers clinging to a precarious one-point lead.  His three gave Pitt just enough breathing room to keep Rutgers on the fouling strategy, ultimately unsuccessful as Pitt hit twelve down the stretch to salt away another win.
  • The Texas Defense.  It’s starting to scare us.  We know that the Longhorn defense is already the most efficient in America, but to put the clamps on an offensive juggernaut like Missouri in holding the Tigers to 58 points (25 below their season average) is ridiculous.  In six Big 12 games, they’re holding teams to 54 points per game, a statistic that is particularly amazing when you consider that three of those wins were against teams in the top 15.  If Rick Barnes can coax a little more offense from his young team, the Horns might end up as the best team in America by March.
  • Kemba Walker as Mere Mortal.  UConn’s NPOY candidate was thoroughly outplayed by a younger rival, Louisville’s Peyton Siva, on Saturday afternoon in UL’s double-overtime win in Storrs.  Siva had 19/4/7 assts/3 stls, but it was his repeated drives to the hole in the extra periods that allowed the Cards to open up a lead and ultimately win the game.  Walker had another rough shooting game, going 7-23 for 20/4/4 assts, but in unlikely fashion, the clutch guard missed jumpers at both the end or regulation and the end of 2OT that missed.  We’ve gotten so used to him making those shots down the stretch that frankly we’re shocked when he doesn’t come through.
  • Manhattan’s Half Courter. Who knew that a Sunday battle between two MAAC bottom-feeders could end up making the ATB?  Yet, after Michael Alvarado nailed a half-court shot off the window to give the Jaspers a one-point victory, here it is.

and Misses.

  • Ranked Teams.  We alluded to it above, but it needs to be delved into a little more here.  In the RTC Top 25 (above, left), the following teams lost this weekend: #2 Duke, #6 Villanova, #8 Connecticut, #9 BYU, #10 Syracuse, #11 Missouri, #13 Texas A&M, #15 Wisconsin, #17 Washington, #19 Minnesota, #20 Vanderbilt, #22 Florida State, and #23 St. Mary’s.  Several others, including #1 Ohio State, #3 Pittsburgh and #23 Michigan State barely survived.  This made slotting our new Top 25 ballot nearly impossible, but it goes to show that the number to the left of a team’s name is merely for entertainment purposes only.  Teams are just too familiar with each other in conference play to let something like a ranking get in the way.
  • Duke’s Supporting Cast.  If Steve Lavin’s plan was for his defense to let Nolan Smith (32/7/4 assts/3 stls) and Kyle Singler (20/2) get theirs offensively while shutting everyone else down, his team executed it to perfection.  The rest of the Blue Devils were 9-26 from the field and 2-13 from behind the arc today, and nobody dressed in blue seemed capable of playing defense as SJU shot 58% from the field.  If Duke has designs on making a run at the Final Four again, they’re going to have to get consistent production from somewhere aside from those two players.  With the news that Coacah K does not expect Kyrie Irving to play again this season, we’re not sure where that’s going to come from.
  • Trap Games.  BYU and St. Mary’s were both victim to this phenomenon over the weekend, following huge program-defining wins the previous week.  The scheduling gods were not their friends, as BYU was forced to travel to the toughest home environment in the MWC — New Mexico’s Pit — just three days after The Jimmer and company ripped apart previously-unbeaten San Diego State.  The Lobos have been very inconsistent this year, but they held Fredette in check for much of the first half and were able to get a big late performance from Tony Snell on both ends of the court to pull off the upset.  By the way, memo to Wazzu, Indiana and others, New Mexico’s students not only know the proper time/place to RTC (see below), but they did so with gusto, breaking the student bleachers in the process!  As for St. Mary’s, it was clear that he was going to have trouble getting his team up for a game 48 hours after defeating rival Gonzaga in Spokane for the first time in fifteen years, but the level of letdown has to be alarming in that Portland went on a 27-2 run after halftime to completely lay waste to the Geals.  Mickey McConnell, star of the Gonzaga win, was the only SMC player to show up (32/3), but both of these teams are going to have to learn how to handle success if they hope to once again advance in March.

Photo Fav.  It was a Coaches vs. Cancer weekend, as coaches around the nation wore tennis shoes in support of the battle against cancer.

This Is Something We Can All Agree On...

RTC Live.  Some excellent games this weekend on the RTC Live front.

Georgetown 69, Villanova 66.  Holding on to an eight point lead with 2:59 left to play, Georgetown held off Villanova’s third push of the half to preserve their fourth straight win in conference play, 69-66 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.  Putting their trap press on the Hoyas, Villanova forced three straight turnovers and converted those possessions into a seven-point run on a runner by Maalik Wayns, a three point score by Corey Stokes and two Wayns free throws. Georgetown then turned to senior guard Austin Freeman again with two minutes left to play. The senior did not disappoint, rebounding his own miss for a putback, hitting a 20-foot attempt on Georgetown’s next possession, then hitting two free throws with 0:14 remaining, which gave the Hoyas the three-point final margin. “He (Austin Freeman) made every play at the end – not just every shot, every play,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright after the game. “I love him – great kid too.”  Freeman scored a game-high 30 points on 10-19 shooting from the field (2-4 from beyond the arc) and a perfect 8-8 from the line. Guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns paced Villanova with 15 points apiece. Wayns converted 5-10 from the field and 4-5 from the line, including a critical one-and-one opportunity with 38 seconds left and a drive on Villanova’s next possession to cut the Hoyas’ lead to one. Fisher also shot 5-10 from the field and 4-6 from the line. The twin points combined for eight assists on three turnovers. Villanova’s two other seniors also scored in double figures. “It’s a curse (when you can get off a shot easily), we get off a lot of shots, we need to get better shots” said Wright, and for the first four minutes of the game the Wildcats pretty much had their way, winning the tip and scoring 10 points in their first six possessions, including four from sophomore center Mouphtaou Yarou and two apiece from Antonio Pena, Wayns and Fisher. Villanova’s 10-5 lead did not hold up however, as Georgetown charged back, outscoring the Wildcats 27-16 in the last 16 minutes of the first half, taking a 32-26 lead into the intermission.

Ohio State 58, Northwestern 57.   Northwestern, even without start forward John Shurna, gave #1 Ohio State everything the Buckeyes could handle as Thad Matta’s team escaped Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 58-57 victory. The Wildcats decided to slow the tempo down and try to force Jared Sullinger to beat them. He eventually did. The talented freshman scored 21 points, including the final game-winning free throw with 3.5 seconds remaining, and grabbed eight rebounds. The Wildcats managed to get one more look at the basket, but a 40-foot heave by Drew Crawford at the buzzer bounced off left and denied Bill Carmody’s squad the marquee victory they desperately need. Northwestern’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament are probably over and Ohio State will still be ranked #1 come Monday, but this isn’t one people will soon forget. Northwestern was led by Juice Thompson, who scored 16 points, and Mike Capocci – Shurna’s game fill-in – who finished with 11 points. Another freshman, Aaron Craft, came off the bench to notch 13 key points for the Buckeyes in the victory.

Duquesne 82, Dayton 64.  Dayton and Duquesne battled back and forth throughout the first half, with Duquesne going on a 19-8 run to start the first eight minutes of the second and never looked back. In that eight-minute run several things happened that proved to be enough for Duquesne to seal off Dayton: Dayton’s shooting from the field plummeted from 57.1% to 30.8% in the second whereas Duquesne improved slightly, Dayton didn’t hit one three-pointer whereas Duquesne hit three, Dayton picked up seven fould to zero for Duquesne, and Duquesne dished out five assists to Dayton’s one. That’s the ball game right there. It would have been even more of a blowout if Duquesne could finish from the line. They managed to shoot only 46% from the line for the night on 13-28. Duquesne will gear up for Xavier in a couple weeks, and Dayton will go back to the drawing board after today’s performance.

Tulsa 69, UTEP 68. On a night when Tulsa was in desperate need of a win to stay afloat in Conference USA, they got a complete team effort and won in dramatic fashion over the favored UTEP Miners, 69-68. Tulsa survived a lackluster performance from their two stars Steven Idlet and Justin Hurtt, and a shooting onslaught from the 2009-10 Conference USA Player of the Year, Randy Culpepper, by getting a stellar showing from the bench. The Golden Hurricane got 20 of its 40 first half points from reserve players. Hurtt, who is the conference’s leading scorer, struggled to find a rhythm all night, but was able to step up and score 15 second half points, including the game winner with 6.8 seconds to go. Culpepper proved that he is the best player in Conference USA, going 9-18 from the field and racking up 28 points, but the lack of production from the rest of the team would prove to be too great to overcome. UTEP now sits in a tie for first place with Memphis, and Tulsa climbs to just a game behind them. This win could prove to be a stepping stone for Tulsa as it tries to redeem a season that had a very rough start to it. If you are a UTEP fan, you just hope this loss will act as a wake0up call to a team that appears to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

rtmsf (3992 Posts)

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