Who Won the Week? Duke, Marcus Smart, and NJIT…Posted by rtmsf on November 22nd, 2013
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. And man, will those be tested this winter.
The Blue Devils went 3-0 in the past week – star freshman Jabari Parker had 21 points in each of the games, with 10 rebounds in two of them and nine in the other – vanquishing Florida Atlantic, UNC-Asheville and East Carolina to move to 4-1 on the season and to qualify for the New York portion of the NIT Season Tip-Off, where Arizona may await. But what Duke did off the court might be even more impressive, reeling in three five-star recruits: package deal Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones last Friday, followed by Justise Winslow on Thursday. Okafor, the nation’s top player according to Rivals, and Jones, the nation’s second-rated point guard, had agreed to play together in college despite growing up in different states; the pair has the potential to one-and-done their way to a national championship, especially with some strong supporting pieces around them. As a lanky wing defender capable of driving hard to the basket, Winslow and his talents fit right in with what Okafor and Winslow will bring to campus. Now, to get Parker to pull a Marcus Smart and come back to school…
(Related winners: Parker. Related losers: The rest of the ACC.)
LOSER: The rest of the ACC
Speak of the devil. (No, not the Devils. We already did that.) The conference gacked away a series of winnable games over the last week, which can’t help the status of a league hyped to be the best this season (if not all-time). North Carolina, missing Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, was felled by a last-minute three-pointer from Belmont’s J.J. Mann, at home on Sunday. Notre Dame led for only a few minutes in an 83-70 home loss Sunday to Indiana State, shooting 37 percent in the process. Maryland lost 90-83 at home to a beleaguered Oregon State squad, surrendering 60 points combined for the Beavers’ Roberto Nelson and Devon Collier, and 60 percent shooting, too. Georgia Tech turned the ball over 19 times and allowed two 20-point scorers for Dayton, which won 82-72 in Atlanta on Wednesday. North Carolina State lost only the sixth game the ACC has ever lost to the MEAC at home Wednesday, falling 82-72 to LeVelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad. Boston College fell Thursday to UConn 72-70 at Madison Square Garden, which is at least defensible, save for the fact that the Eagles got to New York despite losing at home to Toledo last week. (Hooray, predetermined tournament finals!) This one might come back to bite ACC squads in the butt come Selection Sunday, but until then… let’s just call this a forgettable week for the conference and move on.
(Related winners: Well, everyone who took advantage of this down week. Related losers: Any bubble teams in the conference whose RPI gets weakened by bad home losses.)
WINNER: Marcus Smart
Remember how Marcus Smart came back to school after getting bounced in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64? I do. (Thanks for the Sweet Sixteen trip!) You know who won’t ever forget that? Memphis head coach Josh Pastner. With 39 points, five steals, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks, Smart led his Oklahoma State squad to a 101-80 victory Tuesday in Stillwater. Oh, and on one of those blocks, he jumped straight over a hapless Tiger (look to your right). Demoralizing.
(Related winners: Oklahoma State. Related losers: Memphis, Josh Pastner.)
LOSER: Josh Pastner
Speaking of demoralizing, how must Memphis’ Josh Pastner feel knowing that he’s still yet to beat a ranked team as Memphis’ coach, going 0-13 in his career? It sure didn’t help that senior guards Michael Dixon and Geron Johnson went a combined 2-of-20 from the field against Oklahoma State, but every big-game loss that stacks up comes with one reason or another. At some point, his coaching has to back up his stellar recruiting. Otherwise, he’s going to end up squandering what was a spectacularly plum first job, given what John Calipari left behind when he went to Kentucky. With a sole NCAA Tournament win since taking over in 2009-10, it seems like that might be what’s happening here.
(Related winners: The aforementioned Oklahoma State. Related losers: Memphis.)
WINNER: New Jersey Institute of Technology
Division I’s last independent school, the nomadic NJIT, went 3-0 this past week, collecting victories at Army, New Hampshire and Maine to wrap up five straight road games to start the season. The Highlanders, who only play two games at home after Christmas this season, have been without a conference since they transitioned to Division I in 2006. Friday’s 89-85 win over the Black Knights was keyed by freshman guard Damon Lynn’s 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Sunday’s 71-63 win over the Wildcats was led by sophomore forward Terrence Smith’s 19 points and five rebounds. In Tuesday’s 88-82 win over the Black Bears, Lynn and Smith both stood out; the guard had a team-high 24 points, the forward a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double. Here’s to hoping the Highlanders find a home where they can compete for an automatic NCAA Tournament bid while Lynn and Smith are still in Newark.
LOSER: Brigham Young
The Cougars had Iowa State on the ropes in Provo, and had Cyclones star DeAndre Kane all sorts of ticked off when he was ejected, but somehow managed to lose Wednesday. Despite leading for a 26-minute stretch of time in the middle of the game, BYU handed the lead over with under six minutes to go and didn’t see it again, falling 90-88. Opportunities for wins against NCAA Tournament-caliber teams don’t come along often for the Cougars by nature of their West Coast Conference membership, so nailing down non-conference wins is crucial for Tyler Haws and Co. It seems like this missed opportunity might have implications come March.
(Related winners: Iowa State; Ejim, who had a game-high-tying 21 points before fouling out. Related losers: None.)