College Basketball By The Tweets: Upsets and Titles Abound Over Holiday WeekendPosted by David Harten on December 2nd, 2013
The word of the weekend is upset: U-P-S-E-T. That pretty much sums up the last few days in college basketball, where there seemed to be a lesser-team (at least on paper) beating a seemingly better team (again, at least on paper) in every time slot. If your team had a ranking next to it, chances are they were threatened at one point or another in their latest game or two. Along with those upsets came titles. This weekend marked the unofficial end of the early-season tournaments until a handful of Christmas tourneys come around, with winners being crowned in the Old Spice Classic, the Wooden Legacy and the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even when there wasn’t a trophy up for grabs, the games were just as compelling. Just ask North Carolina (making “upset Sunday” a regularity) or Creighton (which lost in a third-place game). Their losses weren’t softened by knowing that hardware wasn’t on the line.
First, it was Villanova having arguably the best time anyone had in the Caribbean. Initially, the Wildcats pulled off an upset of #2 Kansas 63-59 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday night. The Jayhawks shot just 18.9 percent from three-point range.
That’s good, but how do you validate it? Go out and beat no. 23 Iowa in the finals, winning the whole thing on Saturday, 88-83 in overtime. James Bell had 20 in the win.
Jay Wright may submit his application for consideration of a team’s best weekend in college basketball at any time.
On Sunday, the first eye-opener came when pupil beat student as Jarod Haase and UAB welcomed Roy Williams and North Carolina, and sent them packing with a 63-59 loss. Chad Frazier might be the best junior college newcomer in all of college basketball, finishing with 26 points in the win and averaging 18.4 points in his first eight games on campus.
Around the same time, VCU did something that will probably go unnoticed and unappreciated by a majority of the sports world. They went into Nashville and snapped Belmont’s 23-game home winning streak. Bruins coach Rick Byrd has run one of the most consistent mid-major programs of the last 20 years, and even if it is the Rams, it’s tough to go into the Curb Event Center and leave with a win, much less a 81-68 one.
The upset trend continued later Sunday night in a consolation game of the Wooden Legacy, with #20 Creighton falling to George Washington, 60-53. Kevin Larsen led the Colonials with 14 points, while Ethan Wragge did his best Steve Novak, with the big sniper hitting from deep and finishing with 16 points.
That loss centered around Doug McDermott‘s seven points in the contest. You read that right, SEVEN. He went 2-of-12 overall, and both those buckets were right at the rim. We can all go ahead and call what we saw Sunday night an aberration, because we’ve never seen it before from McDermott — bad play for an entire game on a big stage — and it’s safe to say it’ll be rare to see it again.
But what did we get from the Creighton/GW game? Grant Gibbs dunks! TWO of them! Here’s proof they actually happened for the sixth-year senior and arguably the best player Twitter follow in all of college basketball.
Speaking of rough nights for stars, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart found himself with the same designation. His line wasn’t totally disappointing (12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists) but he didn’t reach double figures until near the end of the game (more on the actual contest later) and didn’t have the same dominant performance we’ve become accustomed too. Maybe that’s on us, but it just wasn’t a Smart-type of line. He also wasn’t exactly 100 percent.
What everyone did learn is that Marshall Henderson, while he may be a changed man off the court, is seemingly the same dude on it. Still popping off at the mouth and jersey, and honestly, you shouldn’t want him any other way. Henderson and the Rebels held off Penn State in the Barclays Center on Saturday night, 79-76. Henderson finished with 19 points off the bench to tie for the team lead.
Now from one guy who was almost thrown off the team in Oxford to a guy who actually saw his time with a program end in Washington D.C., Georgetown decided to part ways with Greg Whittington, the team announced on Saturday. Whittington was declared academically ineligible halfway through last season, then tore his ACL prior to this year. So it’s safe to say he wasn’t going to be around much this season, anyway.
Getting back the games, Kentucky on Sunday night treated everyone to another game in the Barclays Center, as there have been many of the college basketball variety early this season, beating Providence, 79-65. The Wildcats pulled away midway through the second half, as Julius Randle played his first game where he didn’t record a double-double, with 12 points and eight rebounds.
And while Randle did what he normally does, Willie Cauley-Stein really showed that he might be the best big man Kentucky has not named Randle. He was a block and two boards short of a masterful triple-double.
Then someone asked Kentucky coach John Calipari was asked again about any potential coaching opportunities in the NBA. And this ensued.
And as the night ended, the marquee games came with trophies attached, with Memphis getting a measure of revenge on #5 Oklahoma State, 73-68, and winning the Old Spice Classic. The Cowboys blew out the Tigers in Gallagher-Iba Arena earlier this season, but were held to 26 second half points as Shaq Goodwin scored a game-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds in the victory. The win was especially important for Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who finally got a win over a Top 25 team in his career.
And how else should we end our night? Of course, an upset, as coach Steve Fisher and San Diego State topped #25 Marquette, 67-59, to capture the John Wooden Legacy. Golden Eagles center Davante Gardner battled the flu and Xavier Thames did a bulk of the scoring for the Aztecs with 29 points.
The word of the weekend for Wright and Fisher is awesome.