ATB: Kroger Kontroversy, Chris Mack’s Dunk, and a Bunch of Non-Upsets…

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. This was the first full weekend of conference play, and as expected, teams that hadn’t played many legitimate road games prior to the turn of the new year found life away from home in hostile environments to be considerably tougher than lacing another game up at home. It wasn’t the best of college basketball weekends, nor was it the worst, but as we begin to settle ourselves into competition within the family for the next two months, it’s time to separate legitimacy from fraudulence through actual play on the court around the nation. Let’s jump into this weekend’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Kentucky Student’s Half-Court Shot Causes Kroger Controversy.

Meet Vincent Swope. No, he actually isn’t an SEC official, he just plays one when he attends Kentucky basketball games at Rupp Arena. The freshman who has turned a referee getup into his game-day trademark in UK’s eRupption Zone was selected to shoot a half-court shot worth $10,000 during Saturday’s game versus South Carolina. As you can see above, his heave from mid-court was true. According to published reports, shortly after the ball found the bottom of the net and Swope ran around the court rightfully celebrating his newfound riches, a representative from Kroger Foods, the contest sponsor, approached him suggesting that he had violated the terms of the contest by stepping over the half-court line. In the pantheon of snaky moves, Kroger’s reported attempt to screw a young student out of his winnings due to a technicality would have reached a new level of shady business dealings. Luckily, Matt Jones at Kentucky Sports Radio became aware of the situation and immediately mobilized his legion of Twitter followers to #occupyKroger in an anti-corporate social networking throwdown that would make Ralph Nader and Naomi Klein proud. Within an hour of the game’s finish, Kroger had caved and in fact called Jones himself to beg for his forgiveness, asking him to pass along to Swope that the company would make good on his prize. As of Sunday evening, Swope says that he hasn’t yet received the money, but we’d wager that Kroger has learned its lesson and won’t drag their feet too long on paying him. Great work from KSR/Jones in ensuring the right outcome here.

[ed. note: Kroger reached out to us, taking the stance that the company never suggested to Swope that he would not be paid for his shot. This contradicts Swope's accounting of the sequence of events to Matt Jones, but it appears that Kroger will in fact pay the freshman his winnings, which is all anyone wanted in the first place.]

Then, There Was This. Chris Mack Gives Up His Knee For a Xavier Win. In an exceptionally odd situation, Xavier head coach Chris Mack jumped in the layup line during Friday’s practice and, after dunking the ball once, ended up tearing his patellar tendon in a freakish accident trying to do it again. Andre Walker said afterward that Mack’s injury was “really weird… a freak accident,” and to that sentiment we certainly agree. First of all, props to Mack for trying just about anything to get his team off the schneid (XU had lost five of six before beating Fordham Saturday) and for still being able to dunk a basketball at the age of 42, but he probably should have wowed the players just once and left it at that! What a weird season it’s already been at Xavier.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • Upsets? It’s Called Conference Play. If you looked down the list of Top 25 teams losing Saturday and Sunday, you might make the common mistake of assuming there were a lot of upsets. But the truth is that in most of these cases, it was simply a function of teams playing other good teams on the road in conference play. Missouri loses at Kansas State, Connecticut loses at Rutgers, Georgetown loses at West Virginia, Mississippi State loses at Arkansas, Florida loses at Tennessee. Is there really any outcome there that shocks you given what you already know about these teams this year? Maybe the size of the margin between Missouri and K-State, and perhaps UConn in Jim Calhoun’s first game back. But not really. Even Notre Dame’s double-overtime take-down of Louisville in the River City wasn’t completely out of left field given how the Cardinals have been playing lately. The beauty of this time of the year is that we can finally start to separate the pretenders from the contenders, and this weekend was only the beginning.
  • Game of the Year Candidate Out West. Everybody knows that the Pac-12 is what the Pac-12 is this year — not good — but one of the consequences of having a lot of mediocre teams is that the games tend to be fairly competitive. While the rest of the country had already moved on to its Saturday night raging, Stanford and Oregon State put together a four-overtime, 60-minute performance that had more flip-flops that the election season. From an officially-reversed Josh Owens’ game-winner at the end of regulation to Jared Cunningham’s 4OT 35-footer that was painstakingly close to dropping in the bucket, the 103-101 classic was a real treat to anyone who could find it on their cable package. The Stanford victory was the longest game in either program’s history. Check out the highlights from the instant classic below.

  • Kansas State Whomps Missouri, Knocks Tigers From Unbeaten Ranks. In a game that wasn’t at all close for its last 30 minutes, Kansas State took out all of its frustrations from last week’s loss to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on visiting and previously-unbeaten Missouri. As we’ve noted before, when Missouri’s guards are given the chance to run roughshod to open spots on the floor, they’re very difficult to beat. But K-State bumped the cuts of Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Matt Pressey, while at the same time rendering Phil Pressey’s penetration and open court play ineffective. With Ricardo Ratliffe in foul trouble, the Tigers had no other ways to score, as its season-low 59 points attests. The Tigers are a good team, but K-State provided the blueprint of how to beat them on Saturday.
  • What’s Going On With Wisconsin? The nation’s top defensive team is finding that teams accustomed to playing their grind-it-out style of basketball where players live in your shorts are not as intimidated by that style of play. After Michigan’s methodical whipping of the Badgers in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon, Bo Ryan’s team is now 1-3 in Big Ten play with its only win over newbie Nebraska.¬†After holding every team in the non-conference schedule (including UNC) to 61 points or fewer, Iowa (72), Michigan State (63), and the Wolverines (59) have found the holes in the Badgers’ defense. Furthermore, All-America candidate Jordan Taylor is having trouble shooting the ball this year, hitting at a 39.5% FG and 33.3% 3FG clip compared with 43.3% and 44.9% last season, and it’s affecting the Badger’s ability to give their defense a break — he struggled to a 12-point, 5-15 FG performance on Sunday.
  • Fear the Hall. With a road win over Providence on Saturday, Seton Hall is now 14-2 (3-1 Big East) and poised to join the Top 25 for the first time in a decade when Monday’s polls are released. Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore have been the story of the Hall’s renaissance this season, but on Saturday it was Fuquan Edwin’s career-high 24/9/5 stls that led the Pirates past the Friars. Like many teams in this situation, momentum is a funny thing, where winning begets winning and losing begets losing. But Seton Hall will not face another Top 25 team until the end of January (Louisville and/or Marquette), and Kevin Willard’s team is well poised to make a nice run at a top third finish in the Big East race this season.

Unbeaten Watch (Pomeroy percentage chances to finish regular season with zero losses). We came into the weekend with four unbeaten teams, and left it with only three after Missouri‘s no-show at Kansas State on Saturday.

  • Syracuse (7.7%). Syracuse ran out to a 23-point lead in the first half of Saturday’s game against Marquette, and held on when the Golden Eagles inevitably came back. The Orange just continue to roll, and with the rest of the Big East somewhat down in comparison, have a reasonable shot to get to February without a blemish.
  • Baylor (0.02%). Baylor outlasted a plucky Texas Tech team on Saturday, but will play both Kansas State and Kansas on the road in its next three games, so the 15-0 unbeaten start is unlikely to last much longer.
  • Murray State (38.7%). Austin Peay challenged Murray repeatedly Saturday night but Isaiah Canaan (35 points on 10-15 FG) and Ed Daniel (19/11) ensured that the Racers had an answer every time AP got close. Unbelievably, Pomeroy gives the Racers nearly a 40% chance to finish the regular season unbeaten.

*While we’re at it, there are still three winless teams this season — Binghamton (0-15), Towson (0-16), and Chicago State (0-15).

Buzzer Beating. Illinois State ran a modified version of the Hill-to-Laettner play on Saturday against Evansville, where Jackie Carmichael (17/7/4 blks) dropped a three-pointer off glass to win the game at the buzzer. It was the junior forward’s first-ever three in an ISU uniform.

St. John’s Moe Harkless also tipped in a basket at the buzzer to defeat Cincinnati on Saturday, but we couldn’t embed it. If you missed it, check out the video here.

Weekend All-Americans.

First Team

  • Doug McDermott, Creighton (NPOY). If McDermott keeps this up, he’ll be on everyone’s year-end NPOY lists, not just this weekend’s — he went for a career-high 44/8 on 18-23 shooting in an MVC win over Bradley. He trails the nation’s leading scorer, Damian Lillard, by only 1.1 PPG (25.2 PPG).
  • Isaiah Canaan, Murray State. During the first half of Murray’s game at Austin Peay, Canaan made everything he threw up, going for 27 points on his way to a 35/5 assts game that included seven threes on 10-15 shooting.
  • Royce White, Iowa State. White went for a trip-dub with 10/18/10 assts in a convincing home win over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Cyclones are a surprising 2-0 in Big 12 play already.
  • Damian Lillard, Weber State. The nation’s leading scorer moved his average up to 26.3 PPG with a 38/5/5 asst night where he hit 8-14 from behind the arc against Portland State Saturday.
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia. Remember this guy? He blew up for 22/16 in a big home win on Saturday for the Mountaineers over Georgetown to lead WVU to a 3-1 record in Big East play.

Second Team

  • Allen Crabbe, California. The sophomore wing went for a career-high 26/12 including six threes in a road win at Oregon on Sunday.
  • Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts. Morrison’s 38/7 on 11-15 FGs stole the show from the more heralded Nate Wolters in Saturday’s blowout win over South Dakota State.
  • Michael Glover, Iona. The Gaels’ big man dropped 31/7/4 blks in a dominant win over Marist to push Iona to 5-0 in league play already.
  • Wendell McKines, New Mexico State. McKines grabbed his ninth double-double of the season on Saturday with a 25/14/4 asst game against Louisiana Tech.
  • Carlon Brown, Colorado. The Buffs are off to a 3-0 Pac-12 start, in large part thanks to Brown’s play, as he went for 28/7 including six threes against Wazzu on Saturday.
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