The great games don’t let up just because we’ve headed into the latter part of the afternoon. Even though it’s January, quite a few late afternoon games have NCAA Tournament implications. Let’s see what’s going on out there…
- K-State in Serious Trouble. No team in America has been more disappointing this season than Frank Martin’s Wildcats. Not Michigan State, not North Carolina, not Gonzaga, not even Memphis. In what seems like an eternity ago, K-State was ranked in everyone’s top five coming into the season and the Big 12 media even picked them to win the conference for the first time ever. After this afternoon’s loss to Texas A&M (who is quickly moving into Bo Ryan/Wisconsin territory with their annual ascent up the rankings no matter the personnel), KSU sits at 1-4 in the Big 12 with two games remaining against Kansas and a pair against Missouri and Texas still to come. It’s clear that the loss of Denis Clemente has impacted the Wildcats far more than anyone expected, but the NCAA Tournament is starting to appear like a mirage unless they can figure out things in a hurry.
- Maybe Pearl Should Stay Suspended. It made for a great storyline that Bruce Pearl returned to the sidelines today for a one-game respite from his SEC-mandated eight-game suspension. But the truth is that Tennessee hasn’t looked all that much different with Tony Jones running the team than it did with Pearl over there on the sidelines. Despite Kemba Walker’s lowest point output of the season (16 points), Tennessee wasn’t able to capitalize, all too often depending on Scotty Hopson’s wild forays to the rim (and turnovers) to produce points. UT is without question the most enigmatic team in the country this season, and it wouldn’t surprise any of us if the Vols ripped off its next four before losing six in a row. You just never know with this team.
- Muskies Doing What They Do. The Xavier-Temple game in Cincinnati was a pretty important Atlantic 10 matchup because the Musketeers once again are unbeaten in league play and Temple came in with a single loss. We’re not sure how XU keeps doing this year after year, but they are doing it again. Just a couple of weeks ago it appeared that Temple was by far the class of the A10 and could quite possibly run away with this thing. The Muskies did it today with its highly efficient offense, putting four players in double figures and hitting 53% of its shots and 8-13 from deep. Temple seemed generally flustered on its end of the court in showing that the only way they could score was to bang out threes (11 today). As a result of today’s game, XU already has a two-game lead over its biggest rival for the crown on its way to its fifth-straight regular season Atlantic 10 title. Wow.
- Texas Breaks KU’s Homecourt Winning Streak. Texas exorcised a whole host of demons today by going into Allen Fieldhouse and defeating Kansas, 33-33. The streaks broken — KU’s 69-game homecourt winning streak; KU’s unbeaten season; Texas’ 0-9 record in Lawrence. We’ve been saying for a while that among teams populating the top 35 in the country, it’s Rick Barnes’ Longhorns who might have the biggest upside of any team in America. They are absolutely loaded with athletic talent, and with Jordan Hamilton on the wing as a playmaker, they have one of the very best players in the country at getting points when they need them. After falling behind 18-3 in the early going and looking on the verge of another Allen Fieldhouse nightmare, Rick Barnes’ team kept its composure and continued playing defense. The rest of the game: 71-45. Teams not named Kansas don’t make those kinds of runs in Allen Fieldhouse. We feel that this game says more about UT than it does about KU, but Kansas isn’t going anywhere in March if Josh Selby continues to struggle (2-9 FG, 4 points, 1 assist).