Weekend Wrap. We just looked at the calendar again to make sure it was late February, and sure enough it is. We’re currently just three weeks away from Selection Sunday, and yet this weekend didn’t have the feel of one so close to the end of the year. Part of the reason is that we’ve come to expect more insanity at this point, as teams who are safely heading to March Madness let their guard down a little to the benefit of those who are not feeling as secure. Put in short, where are the upsets? In the top 25 alone this weekend, there was, what, one? #25 Wake Forest went to Raleigh and lost to the Wolfpack, who are quickly going nowhere. Who else? #3 Villanova losing at #21 Pitt – arguable, at best. If you remove the OSU-MSU game from consideration, in sixteen other games involving ranked teams only Baylor’s road loss at Oklahoma State is even up for discussion. And it’s really not. That said, even though there weren’t a bunch of upsets this weekend, there were a lot of good games. Still, with twenty-one days leading up to the Soiree, we’re ready to start seeing a little more mayhem.
Shades of Redick vs. Morrison. We’re loving us some NPOY discussion this late into the season, reminding us of the season four years ago when Duke’s JJ Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison played ‘top this‘ from opposite ends of the country throughout the year. This season the two primary contenders only reside about 200 miles apart, but each is incredibly important to his team’s fortunes and as of now, the college hoops world is falling squarely into rival camps — you’re either a John Wall or an Evan Turner guy. Arguments pro and con are filling up the airwaves and bandwidth and we expect that with each passing game the intensity of partisanship will get stronger. This weekend didn’t solve anything, and in fact, may have exacerbated the dissension — depending on whom you ask, both Turner and Wall helped their case this weekend in big road wins for their teams.
- #2 Kentucky 58, #19 Vanderbilt 56. For about 38 minutes of yesterday’s game in Memorial Gymnasium, John Wall was the invisible all-american. He had eight points on 2-10 shooting, and had effectively been shut down by the tough, physical Vanderbilt defense. But when it came winning time, he once again made just enough plays to give his team the win — first, by driving to the hole and somehow securing the ball after it got stripped so that he could still find his head to lay it in to put UK up three, and second, by blocking a last-second three attempt (a terrible decision, btw) by John Jenkins that could have tied the game with four seconds remaining. He was also 3-4 from the line in the final minute to give the Cats just enough cushion to survive yet another close finish. By our count, that was no fewer than the fifth time this season that Wall has saved his team in the clutch. Whether it’s luck or skill that he keeps making plays in these pressure-packed situations, or some combination thereof, we are absolutely certain that he embraces them. And all the great ones do. Vandy will be kicking themselves over this loss for some time, as they had multiple chances to make open shots and really put Kentucky in a tough spot, but the shots wouldnt fall (2-20 from three), and UK effectively wrapped up the SEC regular season title with this one.
- #12 Ohio State 74, #11 Michigan State 67. Evan Turner used the Breslin Center to do his best Michael Jordan vs. the Jazz impression, fighting off flu-like symptoms to the point where he was unable to eat anything prior to the game on Sunday morning. After a listless first half where he only scored four points and missed seven of his first eight shots, he was able to come through when his team needed him most in the second half, scoring twelve points in the final nine minutes to hold off MSU. Like Wall, Turner (20/10/6 assts) was picked up by his teammates prior to his strong finish, with William Buford offering 18/10 and David Lighty 13/9 themselves. The scary part for OSU fans is that Thad Matta only used six players today, and four of those played the entire game. As for the Spartans, defending conference POY Kalin Lucas had a rough night, shooting 3-13 for only nine points today. The Buckeye win ties OSU with Michigan State one-half game behind Purdue with three games left to play in the Big Ten race. While the rest of America is entranced with the talents of Mr. Turner, the question we have is: does anyone in Columbus care?