ATB: No Road Blues, Pennsylvania Hoops Doldrums, and a Celebration of Buzz Williams’ Sport Coat…Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012
Tonight’s Lede. It wasn’t as crazy as Tuesday’s action, but Wednesday night around the college basketball landscape held plenty of interest in the form of a number of ranked teams going on the road, a near-complete meltdown among the major teams in the Keystone State, and a career night from a Marquette sophomore and its coach’s sport coat. Let’s jump into it…
Your Watercooler Moment. Northwestern Can’t Win For Losing. Poor Northwestern. It’s probably only a weird mind trick that the Wildcats seem to have lost about a dozen games like this over the last several seasons — games that if a few bounces had gone their way, they may have finally found their way into the NCAA Tournament — but just a week after a heartbreaking one-point loss at home against Illinois, Bill Carmody’s team once again found itself on the short end of a game that they’ll file under what-could-have-been at the end of the season. Facing the prospect of a 1-3 Big Ten start with games in the next week against Wisconsin and Michigan State, the Wildcats had Michigan down in Ann Arbor by 10 points in the second half and managed to find ways to lose (or not win, more accurately) the game both in regulation and overtime. Northwestern had what looked to be the final shot at the end of regulation, but a drive by Drew Crawford ended in a weird traveling turnover call that resulted in the extra period. Then, when presented with an opportunity to make three FTs with 0.3 seconds left to tie the game in overtime, Alex Marcotullio managed to miss the first attempt, rendering the next two rather useless. As noted above, a couple of different bounces and the Wildcats are sitting pretty at 3-1 going into a brutal part of its schedule. Instead, they’re now facing a difficult 1-5 start to conference play and a near-impossible situation to get to 9-9 and have a reasonable shot to make the NCAA Tournament (even in a deep conference such as the Big Ten).
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Road Wins From Syracuse, Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas. As we have learned from an eternity of conference play, no team is ever completely safe on the road in conference play. Tonight, though, four of the Top 10 teams went on the road and took care of business. It’s true that their four opponents — Villanova, Auburn, Iowa State, and Texas Tech, respectively — are not among the elite of each conference, but a road win is a road win is a road win. As described below, Kansas’ destruction of Texas Tech in Lubbock was the most impressive victory, but Missouri’s bounceback win in Iowa State against a dangerous Cyclones squad, Kentucky’s late push to finish off Auburn, and Syracuse’s surgically methodical taking apart of Villanova are all worth noting.
- Buzz Williams’ Jacket. How can you not love this thing? The Marquette head coach sported an outstanding jacket/tie ensemble tonight during the Golden Eagles’ win over St. John’s.
- Kansas’ Evisceration of Texas Tech. We mentioned KU briefly above as one of the highly-ranked teams that went on the road to get a nice conference win tonight. But KU’s complete and utter domination of Texas Tech is particularly noteworthy. After 15 minutes of a close game, Kansas put its heel on TTU’s neck as it ran out to a nearly 40-point lead over the next 20 minutes of action. After the early losses to Duke, Kentucky and Davidson, it appears that the Jayhawks are starting to find their groove this season. Tyshawn Taylor (15/5 assts) has been playing a bit more under control in recent weeks (the K-State game is a notable exception), but the emergence of Travis Releford (12/3 stls) and the continuing domination of Thomas Robinson inside (19/12) takes some of the offensive pressure off the sometimes skittish point guard. Bill Self’s team may not be the most talented team in the Big 12 this season for the first time in a long while, but choose against the Jayhawks at your own peril.
… and Misses.
- Pennsylvania Basketball. Wow. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not putting forth a very good basketball product right now. Its two flagship basketball schools on opposite ends of the state — Pittsburgh and Villanova — were both embarrassed at home tonight. The two schools are a combined 1-8 in the Big East after Rutgers held Jamie Dixon’s team to a miserable 39 points at the Pete, and #1 Syracuse went into Philly and ran out to a 19-point halftime lead and coasted home against the Wildcats. Both teams are playing awful basketball right now, with no signs that Dixon and Jay Wright can put things together before the seasons are lost. Penn State and Duquesne also took big losses tonight, leaving Temple (@ St. Louis) and St. Joe’s (vs. Fordham) as the only major basketball schools to get wins tonight. Still, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Villanova and Pitt in the Top 10 in America; right now, neither is even in the Top 10 in the Big East.
- Texas A&M’s Struggles. After a third Big 12 loss for the Aggies tonight against rival Texas, it’s time to start questioning whether Billy Kennedy is going to be able to turn this team around this season. Certainly A&M can be excused for the period that its star Khris Middleton was out of the lineup, but he’s been back in action for the better part of a month (19/10 tonight) and the Aggies’ offense is still putrid. One of their primary issues is a lack of consistent outside shooting, hitting only 25% of their three-pointers in the three Big 12 games they’ve played so far. Their next four games include away contests at Missouri and Kansas, so if the Aggies can’t protect home court and beat Oklahoma and/or Texas Tech, their season will be over before we get to February.
- Davante Gardner, Marquette (NPOY). The sophomore forward blew up for career-highs in both points (22) and rebounds (15) in a nice bounce-back win for the Golden Eagles over St. John’s.
- Thomas Robinson, Kansas. It only took 19 minutes for one of the top contenders for NPOY on the season to earn his eleventh double-double with 19/12 in a dominant road win at Texas Tech.
- Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss. Holloway came back from a sprained ankle to drop 19/14 on 8-11 shooting in a near-must win scenario against LSU tonight at home.
- Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida. The 6’5″ sophomore grabbed 14 rebounds, 11 of them on the offensive end, to ensure that UCF got by Houston tonight; he also added 21 points on 8-11 shooting.
- Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure. The Bonnie’s big man destroyed the Dayton front line for 30/13/6 blks in a key Atlantic 10 win over Dayton tonight.
Tweet of the Night. Andy Glockner brought up an interesting question tonight about decorum at the end of games. Agree or disagree?