ATB: #1 is the Pitts

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2009

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When Rush the Court rushed the court. Providence 81, Pittsburgh 73. We’ll have a more thorough review of Providence’s huge upset of Pittsburgh in our recap of RTC IV early tomorrow morning, but we’ll talk about it here as well because it was the story of the night. Obviously we covered the action quite extensively in our RTC Live post of the game, but we have to say it’s a pretty amazing thing to be standing between a group of rabid fans and the court that they are about rush.  We’d also like to point out that we were the only media members to stay there for the buzzer and the fans’ RTC.  In fact, we ended up out there on the court to celebrate the moment with them (pictures to follow tomorrow).  Whether it was the “Curse of #1″ (teams are now just 8-5 as the #1 team since UNC lost to Boston College) or the fact that the Friars and their fans were pumped up for Senior Night, but Providence dominated this game from the opening tip. (Ok, maybe not the tip, which DeJuan Blair won, but everything afterwards) The Friars jumped out to a 15-4 lead just 5 minutes into the game thanks to some hot shooting and some poor ball-handling by the Panthers. Providence led by double digits for most of the game as they were able to force the issue getting to the FT line 29 times compared to 15 for the Panthers, but Pitt showed some of their mettle by cutting the lead to 5 with 50 seconds left on a layup (and push-off) by Blair. The Friars hung tough though shrugging off their tendency to give away big leads this year and held on by hitting their free throws down the stretch. I’m not sure what the loss means for Pitt at this point except that the #1 overall seed is officially up for grabs, but it probably would have been anyway on March 7th when UConn travels to western Pennsylvania. Jamie Dixon’s squad was killed by turnovers and the free throw disparity. The Panthers had 18 turnovers overall with 5 coming from Blair, who had a better stat line (17 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes) than we thought from just watching the game.  He even managed to play 30 minutes despite fouling out as he picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a 13-second stretch midway through the 2nd half. Pitt got a strong performance from Ashton Gibbs (15 points) off the bench and a solid one from Sam Young (16 points and 8 rebounds), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the turnovers and free throw disparity. For Providence, this game was huge. The win, which was their first over a #1 since they beat Michigan in 1976, puts them at 9-7 in the Big East with a strong chance at a 10-8 conference record (PC is at Rutgers and Villanova to finish the season). None of the Friars had an exceptional game but everyone on the team played well (Weyinmi Efejuku with 16, Sharaud Curry with 15, Jonathan Kale with 13, Geoff McDermott with 11, and Randall Hanke with 10). They also did a great job handling the ball (18 assists with just 9 turnovers) as well as pressuring Pittsburgh (forcing 18 turnovers while allowing just 12 assists) and holding their own on the glass against the #1 rebounding team in the country (-6 rebounding margin). For more on this game and the aftermath, check back in the morning for a complete post.

We Have a BCS Conference Regular Season Champ. LSU 81, Florida 75.   Possibly the biggest question-mark team going into the NCAA Tournament is going to be this LSU Tiger team of Trent Johnson’s.  Last season with largely the same group of players but a vastly inferior coach, LSU went 13-18.  Currently LSU is 24-4 and 12-1 in the SEC, which makes them the regular season champions.  The problem is that the SEC is so incredibly weak this season that it’s difficult to discern how good LSU actually might be.  Their OOC schedule was pitiful, and they lost to every good team they played, but in watching this team this evening, they “looked” like a typically talented and athletic SEC team of any other year.  But can they get past their weak conference to make a run in the NCAAs – that’s the difficult question to answer.  Marcus Thornton had 32/5/5 assts in the winning effort.  What about the Gators, now 8-5 in the SEC with an RPI still in the 40s?  Nothing really impresses us about this team.

A Bubble Team You Probably Haven’t Considered. Texas A&M 57, Nebraska 55.  At first glance, a game between two middling Big 12 teams wouldn’t arouse much interest, but a little closer analysis shows that this buzzer-beating shot by A&M’s Josh Carter to cap a huge comeback from down 18 pts may have put the Aggies back onto the bubble.  Consider that A&M is now 6-7 in the Big 12, has two games against bottom-feeders Colorado and Iowa St. (+ Missouri) and has an RPI at #40.  Their SOS is 33d, and they boast wins over LSU (looking better and better) as well as Arizona (also looking better and better).  It says here that an 8-8 TAMU team gets in, which is why this shot was enormous.  Nebraska, incidentally, is also 6-7, but their RPI and overall profile are significantly worse than A&M’s.

Some Other Games For Your Fat Tuesday.

  • Iowa St. 71, Baylor 62.  How does a top-25 caliber team lose eight of its last nine games without any significant injury?  The Bears really had almost no chance of an NCAA bid prior to tonight, but this loss to a bad ISU team was the coffin nailer.
  • Boston College 72, Florida St. 67.  RTC considered going live at this bubbly game instead of Providence-Pitt.  Glad we went with the game in Rhody, but BC probably guaranteed itself a bid with a minimum .500 record in the ACC after tonight.  Tyrese Rice hit the dagger three with 20 seconds remaining to lock up the game for the Eagles.
  • Ohio St. 73, Penn St. 59.  Jeremie Simmons came off the bench to hit four threes as OSU moved into a four-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten at 8-7.
  • Syracuse 87, St. John’s 58.  Cuse dominated from start to finish, shooting 65% behind Jonny Flynn’s 21/8 assts.
  • Northern Iowa 69, Illinois St. 67 (2OT).  UNI got an unlikely tip-in to keep the pace in the MVC with Creighton, who…
  • Creighton 65, Missouri St. 59.  …rallied from a double-figure second-half deficit behind Casey Harriman’s three triples in that half.
  • BYU 69, San Diego St. 59.  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette dropped twenty of his 28 pts in the second half as the Cougars made a huge comeback (theme of the night) to get a key road win to stay one game off the Mountain West pace behind Utah.
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ATB: Griffin Sits, Kansas Benefits…

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2009

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So How Long Until Blake Griffin Returns? Kansas 87, Oklahoma 78.  Ok, so we’re fairly certain that OU would have beaten Texas in Austin on Saturday night had Blake Griffin not suffered a concussion that nobody can actually pinpoint when occurred.  But we’re not sure that OU would have beaten Kansas tonight at home even with Griffin in the lineup.  This KU team is proving that, despite losing six players to graduation and the NBA, Bill Self is running a self-sustaining program over there in Lawrence.  Actually, KU ’09 is starting to remind us a little of the Kentucky teams that went to the final game in 1997 and won another national title in 1998 playing with the backups of the 1996 championship team.  With Sherron Collins (26/3 assts) on the perimeter, Cole Aldrich (15/20/4 blks) in the post and a collection of young talent including Tyshawn Taylor (26/3 assts) and Marcus Morris providing depth, Kansas is proving they’ll once again be heard from this March.  As for Griffin, he did not look good over there on the OU bench tonight, constantly wiping his eyes and looking a little dazed.  We’re no medical professional, but how long will it take for him to recover from this – a few more days?  A week?  Two weeks?  OU goes to Texas Tech this weekend and Missouri next Wednesday, two road contests that suddenly look a lot more difficult if Griffin cannot get back on the court soon.

Stick a Fork in the Hoyas – They’re DoneLouisville 76, Georgetown 58.  How silly we were – we actually thought that Georgetown had a chance at winning this game and making a run at 8-10 in the Big East to get itself back on the bubble.  Not guh happen.  Georgetown looks a lot better in the layup lines and on paper than they actually are when the clock is running.  Louisville tonight shredded the GU defense by hitting its first nine shots of the game and first seven threes to take a quick double-digit lead that they pretty much never relinquished.  Earl Clark had 22/8/4 stls and T-Will had 10/12/7 as the Cards continued to impress by staying in the hunt for the Big East regular season championship at 13-2.  With two games at home (Marquette/Seton Hall) and a road game at WVU, Pitino’s team probably has the inside track on the title.  Pitt and UConn still have another game against each other, and Marquette has a murderer’s row schedule the next two weeks.  So why does Georgetown suck?  Frankly, their usually-solid defense has been suspect for a long while – the Hoyas are the 102d most efficient defense, down from 11th and 37th the last two years, and they don’t force turnovers.  Additionally, anyone with a little toughness can get a rebound against their front line – Georgetown ranks in the bottom third of teams in rebounds per game and the in the bottom fifty teams in rebound percentage.  Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summers’ combined 11.2 rpg simply aren’t getting it done.  Add those two things together and you’ve got an ok offense that is getting marginalized by poor (by Big East standards) defense, and a situation where the inertia of losing caused this team to lose its confidence midway through the season.

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ATB: Who Wants the Pac-10 Title?

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2009

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Farking.  The Word is Farking, Roy.  From last night’s post-game press conference vs. NC State.  So Coach, why didn’t you press Miami again?

Game of the NightUCLA 85, Washington 76. This game was essentially for the top of the Pac-10, because if Washington had won it would have been nearly impossible for UCLA to catch them in the remaining two weekends.  The Bruins therefore did exactly what they needed to do, essentially outscoring the Huskies in a key stretch of the late second half behind a Darren Collison mini-run and Josh Shipp’s 20/8 and Nikola Dragovic’s 15/8.  We know we were hyping UCLA a mere week ago before they lost both games on the Arizona swing, but their usually stalwart defense just isn’t what it used to be.  Washington was able to get most of the shots they wanted, and that’s the first time in several years we could say that about a team playing the Bruins.

Upset of the NightCharlotte 65, Xavier 60.  Xavier dropped into a tie for second-place in the A10 with three losses (behind Dayton with two) with this loss, XU’s third in the last four games.  Make no mistake, though, this is a bad loss for the Muskies, as Charlotte entered the game 10-15 overall and 4-7 in the conference.  Sean Miller had no explanation for why his team is faltering lately, having lost its last three road games, but they’ve had two of their worst offensive efficiency performances in their last two losses.  Xavier is still safe as far as the NCAA is concerned, but with games at St. Joe’s and home against Dayton looming, the Musketeers seed could really plummet with a couple more late losses.

Some Other Nonsense.

  • W. Kentucky 78, Arkansas-Little Rock 69.  WKU got a key Sun Belt win tonight to go take a one-game lead on UALR in the Sun Belt race for the outright title.
  • Wisconsin 68, Indiana 51. The Badgers couldn’t afford to lose this game, and they didn’t behind Trevon Hughes’ 21 pts.  The middle of the Big Ten is a mess, with five teams with either six or seven conference losses.
  • Villanova 82, Rutgers 72.  Rutgers hung in this game for thirty minutes, but Nova got it together during a decisive 12-0 stretch where Corey Fisher made several key plays.  You know what we really like about the Big East top six?  They just don’t lose to bad teams, Villanova included (only exception: USF over Marquette two weeks ago).
  • Gonzaga 91, Loyola Marymount 54.  The Zags clinched the top seed in the WCC Tournament for the ninth straight year behind Steven Gray’s career-high 23 pts.
  • California 78, Oregon 60.  The Ducks remain winless in the Pac-10 as Cal got one step closer to getting off the bubble with a win to go 9-4 in the conference.
  • USC 61, Washington St. 51.  USC keeps its slim hopes alive for an at-large by moving to 7-6 in the Pac-10 – what they really need is a win this weekend over UW, though.
  • St. Mary’s 65, San Diego 61. The Gaels continue to keep their head above water without Patty Mills leading their way.   Omar Samhan had 20/11 in the win.
  • Michigan 74, Minnesota 62.  Big bubble game goes to the Wolverines at home.  Both teams are now 7-7 in the Big Ten.  Tubby’s team may be wearing down, having lost four of its last five games.
  • Duke 76, St. John’s 69.  We don’t know why the Johnnies continue to schedule this game, it’s just embarrassing for SJU most years.  Should we read anything into SJU giving Duke a mild test when they’ve only won three games in the Big East this year?  Eh, probably not.

On Tap Friday (all times EST).  There’s one early Bracketbuster game worth keeping an eye on Friday night…

  • VCU @ Nevada (ESPNU) – 9pm.  Nevada isn’t getting into the NCAAs short of a run to win the WAC Tournament, but VCU is in a battle with George Mason and Northeastern to win the CAA, so this game could potentially help VCU move up a seed line should they take care of business in their tournament.
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ATB: Bubblicious

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2009

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Story of the Night.  There weren’t any particularly compelling games tonight from a national must-see perspective, but there were a multitude with bubble implications.  Our bracketologist will be posting his Your Bubble Has Burst tomorrow morning, so we’ll just do a brief rundown of observations from tonight’s key games.

  • Florida St. 80, Miami (FL) 67.  FSU moved into a four-way tie for second place in the ACC with this win, and has seemingly positioned itself for its first NCAA bid in many a year (last app: 1998) heading into the final three weeks.  Miami, on the other hand, now at 4-8 in the league needs a minimum of three of its next four to remain alive.
  • Florida 83, Alabama 74. UF hit twenty wins for the 11th consecutive season behind Nick Calathes’ 22 pts.  There are now four teams (incl. Florida) tied at 7-4 at the top of the SEC East.
  • Georgetown 65, S. Florida 40.  Georgetown got the first of several it needs to make a run at 9-9 in the Big East behind Greg Monroe’s 12/10.
  • West Virginia 79, Notre Dame 68.  Both of these teams really needed this game, and WVU got it after getting behind early in the first half.  “Gody had 26/13 in the losing effort, and now ND absolutely must get four of its final five to get to 8-10 in the Big East.
  • Penn St. 38, Illinois 33.  We already talked about this abomination elsewhere.
  • Citadel 64, Davidson 46.  No Steph Curry meant Davidson shot only 25% and got run out of the gym at home tonight.  How will the NCAA Cmte. view this loss w/o Curry?
  • Louisville 94, Providence 76.  Louisville went on a second-half 22-3 run to put Providence’s hopes of getting a signature win to rest behind Earl Clark’s 13/10/7 assts.  Four Big East teams are tied in the loss column with two losses each.
  • Wake Forest 87, Georgia Tech 69.  Wake got payback for its most confounding loss of the season behind James Johnson’s 24/11 to get to 7-4 in the ACC.
  • Ole Miss 81, Tennessee 65.  There’s literally nothing that impresses us about this UT team, of course that’s true of the entire SEC.
  • UNC 89, NC State 80. Tyler Zeller made his second debut of the season, contributing eight minutes of depth in the frontcourt.  He didn’t help the UNC defense, though, who allowed NCSU to shoot 54% from the field for the game.
  • Memphis 90, SMU 47.  Memphis won its seventeenth game in a row in an absolute destruction of Matt Doherty’s team.  All five Tiger starters reached double figures.
  • Virginia 75, Virginia Tech 61.  Va Tech is flailing right now, having lost four of its last six games, while UVa won its second in a row after having started 1-8 in the league.
  • Wisconsin-Milwaukee 63, Butler 60.  Butler has now lost two in row, leaving UWGB only one game behind in the Horizon race.  There was some funny business going on with the game clock in this one – ah, such is the life of mid-major world.
  • Mississippi St. 75, South Carolina 70.  These middling SEC teams are starting to all look the same to us.
  • Kansas 72, Iowa St. 55.  KU is really good at avoiding letdowns in games like this despite their relative youth and inexperience.  Cole Aldrich had 22/11 in the win.
  • LSU 72, Arkansas 69. LSU moved to 10-1 in the SEC with a hard-fought road victory at Arkansas.  The Tigers erased an 18-pt deficit and used an 11-1 run in the final few minutes to pull out the win.
  • Northwestern 72, Ohio St. 69.  We really wish that NW had pulled out that Illinois game last week so that we could realistically put them on the bubble.
  • Wyoming 77, UNLV 68. Terrible loss for the Rebels, who are slipping out of any contention for an at-large bid.  Hard to believe this team won at Louisville two months ago.
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ATB: Kevin Stallings Doesn’t Think Jeannine Edwards Asks Bad Questions

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2009

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ESPN Ruins Gillispie-Edwards Part III. If you read our post on this today, you know that we sorta saw this coming.  As much as ESPN tried to officially act that the blogosphere doesn’t exist, they undoubtedly knew that the biggest attraction of tonight’s games was the potential for another icy conversation between Jeannine Edwards and Billy Gillispie.   So short of a major blowup by Gillispie, the game producers weren’t about to let that happen.  Instead they gave us the amiable  Vandy coach, Kevin Stallings, who wasn’t about to berate Jeannine Edwards for her questions.  Thanks, WWL.

Update: The Nashville Tennessean reported today that Edwards made the decision to “cut her losses” by interviewing Stallings instead of Gillispie.  Avoidance – the classic, tried-and-true female strategy. 

Vanderbilt 77, Kentucky 64.  As for this game, Kentucky is now in serious trouble of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991.  With Patrick Patterson on the shelf because of a sore ankle, UK only had one offensive weapon, and Jodie Meeks’ 26 wasn’t enough as UK dropped to 18-8 and 7-4 in the SEC.  In a normal year for the SEC, they’d be in good shape, but this league is shaping up as a 3- or 4-bid conference, and UK’s RPI is hovering in the 60s with games still looming at South Carolina and Florida.   We figure UK needs to go 4-1 the rest of the way to remain squarely in the conversation.  Anything less and it’s SEC Tournament run or bust.

Purdue 72, Michigan St. 54.  Purdue got Robbie Hummel back for this game, and Purdue is a much better team when he is on the floor.  The Boilermakers held MSU to 33% shooting from the field, and it was clear early in the second half that Tom Izzo’s squad wasn’t going to make a comeback in this one.  MSU is really capable of laying gigantic eggs on occasion, even now that they have all their pieces back, and we’re not sure what that means for the Spartans come March, but it’s probably not a good thing.

Some Other Games on a Quiet Tuesday Night.

  • Clemson 93, Maryland 64. Clemson dropped 59 on the Terps in the second half behind Trevor Booker’s 11/14, including at least one jaw-dropping follow slam.  The Tigers moved into a five-way tie for second in the ACC (all with 4 losses).
  • Marquette 79, Seton Hall 67.  Wesley Matthews had 24/4/4 assts in a game where Marquette only woke up in the mid-second half to put Seton Hall away.
  • Creighton 89, Evansville 84.  Creighton has gotten itself in position to become the second MVC team into the Tourney (the bracket matrix has CU on the brink) with their seventh straight win.
  • BYU 73, New Mexico 62.  Jonathan Tavernari had 22/7 as BYU kept the pace with San Diego St. at 8-3 in the Mountain West.

On Tap Wednesday (all times EST).

  • Miami (FL) @ Florida St. (ESPNU) – 7pm.  Key bubble game in the ACC race.
  • Alabama @ Florida – 7pm.  Must-win for the Gators at home.
  • Georgetown @ South Florida (ESPN360) – 7pm.  Speaking of must-wins, Georgetown can’t afford a Marquette showing here.
  • Notre Dame @ West Virginia (ESPN360) – 7pm.   Who wants to make the NCAA Tournament, third edition.
  • Penn St. @ Illinois – 7pm.  PSU’s dwindling NCAA chances could really use an upset here.
  • Citadel @ Davidson – 7pm.  If Curry doesn’t play, Citadel could give DC a game here.
  • Drexel @ George Mason – 7pm.  A key game in the CAA for two teams trying to catch VCU and Northeastern (one game ahead).
  • Providence @ Louisville (ESPN2) – 7:30pm.  Despite being 8-5 in the Big East, PC’s RPI is not impressive (#69), so they need this game desperately.
  • Georgia Tech @ Wake Forest – 7:30pm.  Can Georgia Tech win its second game of the ACC season against the only team it’s beaten so far?
  • Tennessee @ Ole Miss (ESPN360) – 8pm.  UT can’t afford another bad loss.
  • NC State @ UNC (ESPN360) – 8pm.  NC State is playing better, but don’t expect an upset here.
  • Virginia Tech @ Virginia (ESPN360) – 8pm.  Can UVa pull another upset at home?
  • South Carolina @ Mississippi St. – 8pm.  Key bubble game in the SEC between two surprise teams.
  • LSU @ Arkansas – 8pm.  Can the Hawgs pull another home upset against a ranked team?
  • Ohio St. @ Northwestern – 9pm.  NW has proven tough at home, OSU had better bring its best game.
  • Oklahoma St. @ Texas Tech (ESPN2) – 9pm.  What a terrible nationally-televised game.
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ATB: Can ND Make the Recovery?

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2009

Starting with some News & Notes…

Tonight’s Big Games.

  • Notre Dame 90, Louisville 57. Hey T-Will, maybe you were right… some of the worst teams in the Big East can beat some of the best teams in the…  Big East.  You should recall that Carolina handled the very same team that just pasted you with your worst loss in BE history tonight.  The same team that had just lost its last seven games.  The same team that absolutely had no recourse other than to win this game (and damn near every other game) to try to get back into the NCAA Tournament this season.  The opportunity is there – out of the Irish’s final seven games, only the game at UConn is probably unwinnable.  4-7 in the Big East could turn into 8-7 if they simply handle their remaining home games (USF, Rutgers, Villanova, St. John’s).  Split the two roadies at WVU and Providence (+ the UConn L) and they can get to 9-9.  That’s why tonight’s game was such a must-win.  The Irish lit Louisville up for ten threes and 54% shooting behind Gody’s 32/17 while holding Louisville to 39% on the other end and a mere 16 pts from T-Will and Earl Clark.  Pitino said his team was embarrassed, and they should be – this humiliating loss more or less ensures that the Cards won’t be winning the 2009 national title – teams that lose by 30+ never win it all.  Go ahead, look it up.
  • Arizona St. 74, UCLA 67. Apparently UCLA can beat everyone in the Pac-10 except for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils.  This game was back and forth until a late block/charge call on Darren Collison went ASU’s way, essentially ensuring ASU’s second victory over UCLA this season.  Surprisingly maybe to people who haven’t watched much of UCLA this season but ASU shot 60% and hit eleven threes to keep the game competitive throughout; the Bruin offense is quite a bit further along than its defense this season, which is odd for a Ben Howland team.  Five Sun Devils ended up in double figures, but none more than 15 pts (James Harden and Derek Glasser).  This loss by UCLA really tightens up the top of the Pac-10, with five teams now within one game of first place.
  • Gonzaga 72, St. Mary’s 70. We checked into this one to see if St. Mary’s could parlay its raucous home crowd into an upset over Gonzaga without their star, Patty Mills, on the floor.  The answer was no, but one thing is fairly clear to us – St. Mary’s is the best team in the WCC with Patty Mills, and it’s really not close.  The Gaels were unbeaten and whipping Gonzaga when he was injured in Spokane, and the fact that they were this close at home with the mercurial Mills playing announcer (still can’t get over that accent…), convinces us that SMC is the better team.  Gonzaga has better individual talent in our eyes, but for some reason, they’re just not maximizing their potential this season (or any season).  Josh Heytvelt had 20/10 but it was his three missed FTs down the stretch that kept the door open for St. Mary’s, who had two possessions in the last ten seconds to win the game.  Keep an eye on SMC in the NCAAs, but forget about the Zags.

Other Games Heading into the Weekend…

  • Illinois 60, Northwestern 59. Utterly heartbreaking loss for NW and inspirational comeback win for Illinois in Evanston.  NW led 57-43 with 5 mins to go, but could only manage two more points as Demetri McCamey’s shot with 2.9 seconds hit bottoms for the Illini win.
  • Temple 61, St. Joseph’s 59. Ahmad Nivins had 21/6 in this Big 5 matchup that resulted in St. Joe’s taking its second A10 loss of the year.  Dionte Christmas had 19/11 for Temple.
  • Davidson 78, Wofford 61. Steph Curry Watch – 39/5/3 assts on 14-24 FGs (5-8 3FGs).
  • Washington St. 67, Oregon 38. Please tell us Ernie Kent is gone after this season.
  • Arizona 83, USC 76. The winner of this one was going to have a definite bubble advantage going into the last few weeks of the season, and both teams seemed to know it.  Arizona used a late 6-0 run fueled by USC turnovers to win its sixth in a row and go to 7-5 in the Pac-10.  Nic Wise had 27 pts and Chase Budinger had 25 pts in the win.
  • Utah St. 62, Idaho 53. USU struggled for a while in this one, but pulled away late to go to 24-1 (12-0) on the season.  Gary Wilkinson had 17/10.
  • Washington 79, Oregon St. 60. No letdown for the Huskies at home tonight, as Justin Dentmon had 28/7 assts to go to 8-3 in the Pac-10 (tied with UCLA).

On Tap Friday (all times EST). Actually, another fairly good Big East game on Friday this week…

  • Villanova @ West Virginia (ESPN) – 9pm.  Villanova’s been hot, having won its last six games, but WVU sorta needs this one.  Should be an interesting environment on a Friday night in Morgantown.
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ATB: Hansbrough and Green Go Unbeaten at Cameron

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2009

Statement Game #1. UNC 101, Duke 87. The UNC seniors mentioned above joined a pair of former Deacs (Tim Duncan and Rusty LaRue) to become the only players to ever win all four of their games at CIS during their careers.  This year’s version of UNC’s win reminded us a little of last year’s, where UNC had an early lead only to watch Duke get hot and take the lead deep into the second half before UNC went on another late run to seal the game away.  Of course, the key similarity is that both years UNC has had the better team, and anyone who is buying into Duke as a legitimate title threat simply hasn’t been paying attention.  UNC carved up the Duke defense to the tune of 55% shooting, particularly during a devastatingly effective stretch where Ty Lawson got to the rim at will (wouldn’t you if Greg Paulus was defending you?) and the Carolina offensive juggernaut blew the doors off the place.  All five UNC starters hit for double figures, and although we certainly wouldn’t give the Carolina defense against Duke any major props, they were good enough in the second half to shut down the threes that the Devils were hitting in the first stanza (6 of their 8 were in the first half).  We believe that Duke still has 2-3 more losses ahead of it on its schedule, but the Heels seem to be finding their swagger again – they may only lose one more game the rest of the regular season.  Oh well, at least the Dookies won the Wiki battle (h/t Hugging Harold Reynolds)…

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Statement Game #2Connecticut 61, Syracuse 47.  UConn pulled away in the second half of this game, once again in large part due to Hasheem Thabeet’s defensive presence in the middle.  The big man had 8/16/7 blks on the stat sheet, but he influenced numerous other Syracuse possessions by forcing players to alter shots or simply think better of entering the lane.  We’ve never been high on Thabeet, but even we have to admit that the past month or so he’s been spectacular, and UConn looks like the best team in the country when he’s doing his thing inside (similar to 2000 Cincinnati with Kenyon Martin in the post).  Is Syracuse in trouble, now at 6-6 in the Big East?  Home games against Georgetown and Villanova the next week are key to ensuring that Syracuse doesn’t get itself into trouble with the NCAA Tourney Cmte. – they need a minimum of one, but preferably both of those.

Upset of the Night #1. NC State 82, Wake Forest 76.  Is it an upset anymore if Wake loses to a bottom-dwelling ACC opponent nowadays?  Apparently Dino Gaudio’s team is looking to become this year’s Clemson by becoming the last undefeated team who then falls into the NIT.  Impossible you say?  Consider that Wake is now 5-4 in the ACC with road games still at Duke, Maryland and Virginia… if this snowball turns into an avalanche, the Deacs could end up 7-9 or so going into the ACC Tourney and squarely on the bubble.  Just riddle us one question – how does an offensive talent like Jeff Teague play 36 minutes and only get three FGAs (he made two)?  Things are not right with this team.  Brandon Costner had 23/9 for NC State.

Upset of the Night #2Dayton 71, Xavier 58. In an entertaining game in the A10 tonight that Dayton led from start to finish, the Flyers ended a six-game losing streak against the Musketeers behind a balanced effort featuring Chris Wright’s 19/6.  Xavier had trouble shooting the ball from deep (3-14) and from the line (9-17), which resulted in a game where they could never quite get over the hump.  This was a huge win for Dayton in terms of the A10 standings, as now both teams are 8-2, only behind St. Joseph’s at 7-1 in the league.

  • Oklahoma 78, Baylor 63.  Baylor hung around for a while, but it was the same old story as OU won its 30th in a row against Baylor behind Blake Griffin’s 21 dub-dub of the year (18/10).  At 3-7 in the Big 12, the Bears are essentially finished at this point.
  • Kansas St. 85, Texas Tech 73.  K-State continues to surge, winning its sixth in a row behind a huge first half where the Cats ran out to a 49-25 lead.
  • Utah 67, San Diego St. 55. The Utes took a one-game lead on surprising SDSU in the Mtn West race with a home win where Shaun Green came off the bench for 21/10.
  • Purdue 61, Penn St. 47.  Purdue held conference scoring leader Talor Battle to zero points on 0-7 shooting in a convincing (and needed) win by the Boilermakers, now tied with Illinois and OSU for second place in the league at 7-4.
  • Drexel 62, Northeastern 58.  Drexel used a key second-half run to drop the CAA leaders to three losses, pushing Northeastern into a tie with VCU
  • Vermont 75, Boston U. 47.  UVM took control of the top of the Am East standings with a key home win behind Marqus Blakely’s 12/13/4 assts.
  • Memphis 63, Tulsa 37.  The Memphis defense is hitting on all cylinders right now, holding Tulsa to 36% shooting and forcing 24 turnovers in this shellacking.
  • LSU 97, Mississippi St. 94 (2OT).  Probably the game of the night, as Tasmin Mitchell blew up for 41/11/5 assts including a late three-point play that gave the Tigers their 20th overall win and to go 8-1 in the SEC.  Is LSU the best team in this sorry league?  They’re certainly playing like it.
  • Wisconsin 69, Iowa 52.  Wisconsin won its third straight to get to 6-6 in the Big Ten and put that nasty six-game losing streak well behind them.
  • Tennessee 79, Georgia 48.  UGa is right there with Indiana, Depaul and Oregon as the worst BCS conference teams in America.  There are now four SEC East teams at 6-3 in the league.
  • Northern Iowa 81, S. Illinois 55.  UNI shot 54% in a pasting of the Salukis to go to 12-2 in the Valley.
  • Creighton 79, Bradley 65.  Creighton kept the pressure on UNI by winning a wild game involving a cheerleader getting knocked out cold by P’Allen Stinnett, who contributed 15/3 tonight.

On Tap Thursday (all times EST).

  • Louisville @ Notre Dame (ESPN) – 7pm. Let there be no question about this game for Notre Dame – it’s a must-win.  Seven in a row cannot become eight.
  • Temple @ St. Joseph’s (ESPN360) – 7pm. A key A10 game between Big 5 rivals that could potentially result in a three-way tie at the top of the league.
  • Robert Morris v. Sacred Heart (ESPN360) – 8pm.   Your NEC game of the year!  Can SH pressure 11-1 Robt. Morris?
  • UCLA @ Arizona State (ESPN) – 9pm. The Bruins have been rolling lately, but will be put to the test in the desert against the team that last beat them.
  • Illinois @ Northwestern (ESPN360) – 9pm.  The Illini are in a battle for the #2 seed in the Big Ten, so they can’t afford to drop this one.  Of course, in their last two road games, they’ve scored a total of 86 pts.
  • USC @ Arizona (FSN) – 10:30pm.  These two teams are probably the most confounding in America this season.
  • Oregon St. @ Washington (FSN) – 11pm. OSU has been a lot more competitive than anybody expected this year, so UW should be vigilant here.
  • Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s (ESPN2) – 11pm. This was supposed to be an RTC Live event but SMC is apparently too world-renowned to give media access to “blog sites” such as RTC.  Wonder if that will still be true when Patty Mills is playing for pay and the Contra Costa Times won’t even show up? Patty Mills isn’t playing – go to bed.
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ATB: Define “Game Face,” Mr. Calathes

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2009

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First, Some News & Notes.

  • UCLA’s Drew Gordon may be slowed down by back spams in the Bruins’ next game at Arizona St. on Thursday night.
  • Pat Forde shows which schools are basketball-philic through an interesting analysis of attendance and success this season.
  • We give approximately a 1% chance that this girl is actually Duke forward Miles Plumlee’s girlfriend, and approximately 0.01% chance that she goes to school at Duke.  Everybody knows all the Dookies do their chasing of tails over at Carolina (with good reason).
Uncoached)
No Way She’s From Duke (photo credit: Uncoached)

Getting Down To Business With Rivalry Week.

  • Kentucky 68, Florida 65. This was the game of the night, by far.  For a while it appeared that Nick Calathes’ “game face” (according to Jimmy Dykes) was going to carry the Gators to their eighth victory in nine tries against UK, but Jodie Meeks’ (23/5) ridiculous nearly-falling-down-then-recovering three from the left elbow, followed by Calathes’ (33/7/3 assts) “choke face” missing all three of his FTs (the last intentionally) that would have tied the game, ensured that wouldn’t happen.  UK staved off what would have been another devastating home loss, and kept their NCAA hopes alive for a couple more weeks, whereas Florida is probably still ok unless they go on a severe drought (not impossible with this mentally fragile group).  But several other interesting things happened in this game.  First, Patrick Patterson was carried off the court midway through the second half with what appeared to be a sprained right ankle, and there’s no word on his status yet, but if he’s out for any significant amount of time, UK could be in serious trouble in the short term.  Second, the call where Walter Hodge was ejected for stepping on Perry Stevenson’s arm in what was clearly (to us) an accidental mis-step was a clear example of the Aubrey Coleman Effect – a month ago he would not have been thrown out of the game for that “offense.”  Finally, does any coach in American despise a sideline reporter as much as Billy Gillispie does Jeannine Edwards?  Seriously, the contempt is palpable.  In recent weeks, he’s spot-analyzed her question (conclusion: bad), pretended not to hear her and made a snide reference to she “would know better than him.”  What’s wrong, Billy G – did Ms. Edwards turn you down for a date at Harry’s?  (to be fair, Edwards is painful to listen to, but it just seems as if Gillispie has an elevated distate for her questions)

  • Michigan St. 54, Michigan 42. MSU gave one of its strongest defensive efforts of the year, holding its rival Michigan to 35% shooting and 17% from three on its home floor tonight.  This was especially true because UM, who had lost six of its last eight, really needed a signature late-season win to showcase along with its early season victories over Duke and UCLA for the NCAA Tourney Committee.  MSU’s Delvon Roe had 14/10 as he continues to make his way back from multiple offseason knee surgeries – if he, along with Goran Suton, Raymar Morgan and an assorted cast of Spartans, are completely healthy come March, this is a different team than the one we saw UNC emasculate at Ford Field back in early December.
  • Villanova 102, Marquette 84. Seems like a long time ago when Marquette was undefeated in the Big East, doesn’t it?  Props to whomever we read today that predicted Villanova (not Marquette) would end up in the top 4 of the Big East Tourney (Katz?  Goodman?).  In a statistical oddity, Villanova hit between 54-59% of every shooting category, which is largely a good thing (except FTs, of course).  The Cats hit 13 threes en route to 59% overall to score 100+ pts for the second consecutive game.   Scottie Reynolds (27/4) and Corey Fisher (21/4) did the most damage, but this game was an offensive player’s paradise – nine players hit double figures.  Marquette was led by (who else?) Jerel McNeal’s 23/4/7 assts, but the Golden Eagles suddenly look like a team with severe limitations defensively.  They get a two-game breather before the crucible hits.

Other Games That Caught Your Fancy.

  • Florida St. 68, Virginia 57.  Is there a Dave Leitao watch yet?  If not, when will there be?  Does 60-55 (24-33 ACC) over four years cut it?  Regardless, UVa lost its eighth consecutive game, and FSU solidified its standing in third place in the conference (tied at 6-3 with Clemson).
  • Providence 77, South Florida 62. PC avoided the fate that befell Marquette at USF, and in so doing, continues to gum up the works in the second tier of the Big East for schools like Syracuse and Georgetown.
  • Texas 99, Oklahoma St. 74. UT easily avoided its first four-game losing streak in a long time by putting four players in double figures, led by AJ Abrams’ 20,and holding everyone except James Anderson (35 pts) down for OSU.
  • Clemson 87, Boston College 77. In a game that would potentially define the relative directions of both of these teams, Clemson played a strong second half behind Terrence Oglesby’s 21 pts (6 threes) and came away with a road win to go to 6-3 in the ACC.  RTC Live was there.
  • Minnesota 62, Indiana 54. The Gophers avoided a letdown loss they couldn’t well afford behind reserve forward Paul Carter’s 22/6 off the bench.  No other Gopher hit double figures.
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ATB: Misery in Missouri

Posted by rtmsf on February 10th, 2009

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Some News & Notes.

Your Gigantic Monday.

  • Pittsburgh 70, West Virginia 59. As soon as Pitt beast DeJuan Blair picked up his second foul with fifteen minutes remaining in the first half, we immediately went into “upset” mode at the RTC compound.  In the Panthers’ two previous games where Blair’s effectiveness was limited by the whistles, Pitt lost both games (@ Villanova; @ Louisville).  Granted, both of those losses were road games, so maybe the key to beating Pitt is to get Blair in foul trouble away from the Steel City.  Sam Young (20/7) and Levance Fields (13/7 assts) picked up the slack while Blair was on the pine, and WVU never had enough offensive firepower or rebounding of their own to make a serious push at the Panthers.  What to make of Bob Huggins’ Mountaineer squad?  They’ve lost four of six, and they’ve pretty much beaten everyone and lost to everyone they were supposed to in the conference this year.  The computers love them, but their best win of the year was the destruction of Ohio St. in December; other than that, what?  At Ole Miss?  At Georgetown?  They play teams tough, but to date, they haven’t won many of these games.
  • Missouri 62, Kansas 60. Mizzou rode its rabid home crowd and pressure defense to a 19-6 closeout run capped off by Zaire Taylor’s 10-footer + the roll to knock rival KU from the ranks of the Big 12 unbeatens.  This is a classic example of a game where you can’t believe that the same team you watched for the first 3/4 of the game is the one you’re seeing down the stretch.  Kansas looked poised and in control throughout, whereas Missouri was the team that consistently had trouble putting two good plays together (case in point – watch the end of the first half).  But the bottom line was that Kansas went cold at the wrong time and that, combined with the TOs Mizzou was forcing all game long, led to the devastating run at the end of the game that gave Missouri the program-inspiring win.  The kind of win that can turn a so-so season into a superb one.  DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 22/7, but Bill Self’s club should really be kicking themselves after letting this one get away.  The Jayhawks looked like the better team.  Nevertheless, Missouri got the huge win in tonight’s Border War (RTC – justified or not?), and Zaire Taylor “can’t hear nothin’ you’re sayin,” Holly Rowe.  Looked like fun.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

  • Florida St. v. Virginia (ESPN FC) – 7pm.  FSU has gotten itself into a good spot (5-3) in the ACC race, but they can’t afford a letdown at home.
  • Providence @ S. Florida (ESPN360) – 7pm.   PC can’t allow another Marquette-style upset to happen here.
  • Michigan v. Michigan St. (ESPN) – 7pm.  This is a dangerous game for MSU and a necessary one for the Maize and Blue.  UM has won the last two in AA.
  • Marquette @ Villanova (ESPN2) – 7:30pm.  It’s Jerel McNeal vs. Dante Cunningham in the race between hottest players in the Big East.  Nova has won 25 in a row at home.
  • Texas v. Oklahoma St. (ESPN360) – 8pm.  UT cannot drop this one at home if the Horns expect to be playing in March Madness.
  • Florida @ Kentucky (ESPN2) – 9pm. This game used to be a battle for a #1 seed; now it’s a battle to stay off the bubble.
  • Clemson @ Boston College (ESPN FC) – 9pm. This is a key game for positioning in the top-middle of the ACC.  RTC Live will be there.
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ATB: What We Learned

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2009

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Weekend Wrap.  We did a pretty good job of keeping up with most of this weekend’s key games in semi-real time in our Boom Goes the Dynamite series (Saturday and Sunday), so with this weekend’s ATB we decided to test our viewing comprehension and determine what we learned over two days of high-level hoops.

  • The Mess in the Middle of the ACC. The Noles’ comeback win at Clemson put them at 5-3 in the conference, tied with Wake, Clemson and Virginia Tech at the halfway point.  Throw in Miami (4-6), who lost a heartbreaker at Duke but proved itself as more than capable in its previous outing against Wake last week, and you’ve got five ACC teams (Maryland too) fighting for anywhere from 2-4 more bids to the NCAA Tournament.  All but Maryland already have a marquee win and everyone but the Terps also have a top 50 RPI rating.  BC, with only two road games remaining, and Miami, with only one game left against the top four of UNC, Duke, Wake, and Clemson, appear most well positioned to take advantage down the stretch.
  • Marquette is a good, not great, team. The Golden Eagles benefited from a fortuitous Big East slate of opponents that averages #85 in KenPom’s ratings to date, with their best wins coming against Villanova and WVU at home.   Regardless of South Florida’s upset win on Friday night, their fortunes were poised to change, as six of their final eight games are against the KenPom top 35, four of which are on the road.  We love how Jerel McNeal is playing, and Buzz Williams should be commended for their 20-3 (9-1) record, but we’re afraid that their marginally effective defense will catch up with them in the last few weeks of the season.
  • Short of a miracle run, Georgetown and Notre Dame are officially DOA. ND’s best win all season is a one-point win over Texas in Maui, and it’s second-best win?  Probably fellow Big East swooner Georgetown.  The Irish have dropped seven Big East games in a row in all shapes and sizes, its RPI is at 81, and they just got humiliated on national tv by UCLA (including a putrid 5/1 effort from their usually consistent dub-dub machine, Luke Harangody).  So what’s wrong?  Put simply, they don’t play defense: the Irish are currently ranked #276 in the nation.  At 3-7 in the Big East, ND has eight more games to turn this wreck around, and they probably need to win a minimum of six of those to just get back on the bubble.  Highly unlikely.  In our mind, the Georgetown collapse is even more confounding because of the pieces they have on that team with Wright, Summers and Monroe.  Still, the Hoyas have dropped six of seven after their OT loss vs. Cincy on Saturday, and sit barely above ND in the conference standings (4-7).  There are seven games remaining on their schedule, and JT3’s team must win all three against the bottom-dwellers and split the remainder to get to 9-9.  With a strongish RPI (36), Georgetown is in better shape than its Catholic friends to the west, but the Hoyas simply cannot afford another slip-up (and in fact, they need a couple of upsets down the stretch to feel safe).
  • UCLA is showing signs of making another run. Behind Alfred Aboya’s rise (15/8 over his last four games), the Bruins suddenly have the look of a team where things are starting to click for Ben Howland.  The upcoming road trip to the Arizona schools may tell the tale, but UCLA’s last four opponents were beaten down with highly efficient offense.  You can always count on UCLA to defend, so what might stand in the way of a fourth straight trip to the Final Four for UCLA?  Probably only the lack of a go-to scorer who they can count on for instant points.  Regardless, those who wrote off UCLA around midseason will likely regret that decision.
  • Memphis shouldn’t be forgotten.  It was easy to write off John Calipari’s Tigers after losing all the players they lost from last year’s national runner-up team, but much like Bill Self’s Kansas team, there were plenty of pieces on that bench to make another run.  We don’t expect this version of Memphis to make it back to the F4, but they could definitely play into the regional round.  Their dismantling of Gonzaga in Spokane Saturday night was nothing short of masterful.  Gonzaga hadn’t seen defense like that all year long (incl. Connecticut), and they’re getting just enough offense from the troika of Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier to keep teams honest.  Watch out for this Memphis team next month.

Some News & Notes.

On Tap Monday (all times EST). Just a couple of Big Monday game border wars.

  • West Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ESPN) – 7pm.  In the last matchup, a 12-pt win by Pitt on 1/25, the Panthers hit 55% behind Sam Young’s 22 and Dejuan Blair’s 16/11.  As long as DB is on the floor, the Panthers should be ok in this one.
  • Kansas @ Missouri (ESPN) – 9pm.  KU brings its 8-0 Big 12 record to Columbia, where Mizzou if 14-0 and it’s clear that Mike Anderson has finally turned the corner with his style of play there.  While we know that Kansas isn’t anywhere near as good as last year’s team, they’re playing very well and Mizzou will have to bring its best tomorrow night to get this win.

Shameless Plug.

  • Keep an eye out for RTC Live returning on Tuesday night of this week, as Clemson visits Boston College at 9pm EST.  Rush the Court will be courtside live-blogging the game, and you will have a chance to submit questions so that we can ask coaches and players whatever you like.  Yes, you will even be able to ask Oliver Purnell to explain his reaction to this atrocity.
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ATB: Anybody Think Marquette is For Real Now?

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2009

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Friday Night Hoops. It’s rare that there’s enough going on to justify a Friday night ATB, but it’s also rare that a 9-0  major conference team goes down to a conference opponent who has proven they can only beat Depaul (2 Ws vs. the Blue Demons; zero against all others).

  • South Florida 57, Marquette 56. Thanks to the miracle of ESPN Full Court, we caught the second half of this one, and it was clear that Marquette got themselves into a maelstrom that they didn’t anticipate.  USF came to play, as they typically do at the SunDome (they’ve had tough losses to Louisville and Villanova this year in Tampa), but the story of this game was that the Marquette guards simply weren’t dialed in (4-24 from three), and it showed in their lackadaisical effort throughout.  Shooting 44% from the line didn’t help either.  Marquette can’t say that they didn’t have chances – Lazar Hayward will undoubtedly not sleep the next few nights re-living the easiest of easy putbacks that he blew with one second remaining in the game, and everyone except Jerel McNeal (22/4) seemed “off” tonight.    Marquette is still a good team, and not the first top 10 squad to get punked on the road this week, but with a veritable Murderer’s Row of games coming up in the last four weeks of the season, we think it’s time for the Golden Eagles to realize what they are – a really good team that is good enough to make the Sweet 16 with some nice matchups.   No more, no less.

Tune In Tomorrow! We’ll be back starting at Noon EST with our weekly feature, Boom Goes the Dynamite! Feel free to check in and make comments throughout the day’s games.  There are some good ones, including Syracuse @ Villanova and Memphis @ Gonzaga.

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ATB: It Wasn’t Lakers-Celtics

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2009

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Some Quick Notes.

The Battle to Finish Second Behind UCLA.

  • California 86, Washington 71.  Saw most of this game – great win for the Bears to keep a recently-wobbly shop afloat.  What struck us was how terrible UW’s defense was in this game – Cal nailed open shot after open shot in the second half and hit 52% for the game – we counted at least twelve possessions in a row where the Bears scored on their second-half run to put the game away.  Washington has a nice collection of talent, but Jon Brockman (4/15) didn’t show up on the offensive end tonight, and they really need him to be productive to become a good team.
  • Arizona St. 66, Oregon 57. It would be difficult for us to fathom, but could Oregon be this year’s Oregon St. and go 0-18 in the Pac-10?  The Ducks sit at 0-10 after tonight, and unless they can nip Arizona, Stanford, Cal or OSU at home, they might just join their state rival in ignominy.  James Harden came back from a 15-pt game last outing with a 36-pt explosion.  ASU, for the fifth time in conference play this season, had only two players in double figures.  This will be a serious problem for the Sun Devils in March.

Some Other Games on Your Thursday Night.

  • Gonzaga 93, Portland 78. With this road win, the Zags are well on their way to another conference regular season title.  Gonzaga now owns a two game lead over Portland and St. Mary’s, with tiebreakers over both.  All five starters hit double figures tonight.
  • Michigan 71, Penn St. 51. Michigan got a much-needed win over the suddenly-dangerous Nittany Lions tonight, behind 28/6/7 assts from Manny Harris.
  • Davidson 75, UNC-Greensboro 54. Steph Curry Watch – 28/8 tonight in Davidson’s 43d conference win in a row.
  • Xavier 83, Temple 74. XU keeps rolling in the A10, now 8-0 after BJ Raymond had his fourth straight 20+ pt outing (24 pts).
  • Butler 66, Detroit 61. Butler withstood a late Detroit rally behind Gordon Hayward’s 22 pts, including a late three (4-4 on the night) that gave the Bulldogs just enough breathing room to hang on.
  • Arizona 56, Oregon St. 53. OSU nearly got itself another win tonight, but Roeland Shaftenaar’s three to tie it at the buzzer rolled around the rim and came out.  Still, it’s safe to say that this Craig Robinson guy can coach a little, eh?
  • Wisconsin 63, Illinois 50. UW broke its six-game losing streak against an Illini team that shot only 33% from the field tonight.  The Badgers’ Jason Bohannon had 20/6 on 6-7 from three.
  • Utah St. 78, New Mexico St. 59. USU moved to 10-0 in the WAC with another easy win behing Gary Wilkinson’s 18/11.  NMSU’s Terrance Joyner did not play due to his arrest for carrying joints in his luggage at the airport.  Brilliant.
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