Year the Fourth. Welcome to the fourth season of Rush the Court’s continuing coverage of college basketball. If you’ve lurked around these parts before, you already know that our After the Buzzer (ATB) feature is something we try to do most every weeknight of the season and quite a few of the weekends — pretty much any night there are nationally-interesting games going on somewhere. If you’re new to this joint, the concept behind this feature is that we want to prepare you, Mr. College Basketball Citizen of the World, to face a new day armed with the knowledge you need in order cast forth into a hostile environment of hoops poseurs, charlatans and frauds. We’re going to be experimenting with this piece over the next couple of weeks as the fresh, shiny new season gets underway, so let us know in the comments if there’s something you find particularly interesting or sucky.
Scotty Hopson Must Lead His Team This Year (UTsports.com)
Your Watercooler Moment: D2 Shows It Can Ball With the Big Boys (or, at least the SEC). There were three games that counted tonight in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but for realz games that counted in the standings were actually not the most newsworthy part of tonight. Rather, it was Exhibition Madness tonight, as no fewer than two SEC teams dropped games against D2 opponents and a couple of other BCS teams required a total of three overtimes to sneak past two more. The biggest “upset” took place in Knoxville, as the University of Indianapolis (Butler, is that you?) whomped Tennessee 79-64 behind a 60% shooting second half where the visiting team nearly doubled up the Vols. The Indy backcourt of Adrian Moss and Darius Adams torched UT, going for 47 combined points and getting to the line an astounding thirty times. Meanwhile, over at Auburn, Tony Barbee’s new team shot 7-20 from the line as the Tigers dropped a close one against Columbus (AL) State, 54-52, a team picked to finish twelfth in its thirteen-team D2 division. Not to be outdone, state rival Alabama was taken to double-overtime prior to pulling out a 73-68 win against Alabama-Huntsville. It’s been a number of years since we have actually been able to state without equivocation that the SEC was a legitimate basketball league, but despite what columnist John Clay says, if tonight is any indication we may still be a ways off.
Moving away from tonight’s SEC disaster for a moment, Indiana stormed back from a 13-point deficit with seven minutes remaining against Ferris (MI) State, converting a gigantic four-point play by freshman Victor Olapido and surviving a buzzer-beater by FSU that was waived off to win 78-65 in overtime. It’s not as if anyone in Indiana is expecting IU to compete for a Big Ten championship this season, but Hoosier faithful are expecting improvement. Sneaking by D2 teams — even good ones — by the hair of your chin isn’t exactly inspiring the faith.
Does It Matter? Enhhhh… probably not much. The past few years have been lightly littered with examples of good teams dropping games in the exhibition season. In 2009, Syracuse lost to Le Moyne — the Orange went on to become a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; in 2007, #8 Michigan State was shocked by Grand Valley State while Ohio State lost to Findlay — that season the Spartans went to the Sweet Sixteen while the Bucks won the NIT. There are undoubtedly other examples over the years, but we’re inclined to believe that the only real lesson learned here is that the truly elite (national-title caliber) teams do not lose these games while very good ones sometimes do. But we’re not sure that anybody actually believes this year’s Tennessee team (and most definitely, Auburn) is a legitimate threat to go deep in March anyway.
Oh Right, Real Games. The 2kSports CvC began today with four games at home sites around the country, keeping in mind that the four host schools this week are already slotted into the semifinals round next week in NYC. We’re biting our tongue once again about the absurdity of these games starting four days prior to everyone else, but hey, it’s college basketball on the television and we’ll take it. The best game of the evening was Rhode Island visiting #5 Pittsburgh and giving the Panthers pretty much all they wanted before succumbing down the stretch on FTs and a key block by Gilbert Brown. The Pitt backcourt of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker was outstanding, going 15-28 from the field to combine for 46/7/11 assts, but URI’s ability to bomb the threes (14-32) very nearly allowed the Rams to pull off the road upset. We have faith that Pitt will be very good this year, but URI with its four seniors is an intriguing team to watch in the Atlantic 10. In the other games, #16 Illinois rode reserve guard Brandon Paul’s scorching shooting from deep (6-8) to a huge first half lead and never looked back, winning 79-65, while Texas woke up in front of about 150 people in Austin to obliterate Navy 83-52 behind Jordan Hamilton’s extremely effective night (26/10). Tell us if you’ve heard this one before — the Horns dominated the boards (+20) while throwing up a house of bricks at the foul line (19-34). In the last game, Maryland and Seattle ran up and down and all over the court at the Comcast Center with the Terps easily prevailing 105-76 despite an alarming 29 turnovers. Normally, we’d talk about what the next matchups in the bracket will be on Wednesday night, but that’s not useful here as they’ve already been established for months.
Tonight’s Quick Hits.
- ESPN’s New Home Court of College Hoops Ad. Kinda diggin’ it. Especially the last few seconds. (anybody got a clip?)
- Jordan Hamilton. Looked like the player we were promised last year, smoothly dunking and shooting his way to a 26/10 night. If he plays like that all season, he’s an AA.
- Jordan Williams. While we’re talking about Jordans blowing up, Maryland’s star dropped 17/15 on Seattle and will need a lot more of those this year.
- Scotty Hopson. The anti-Jordan with three points, three turnovers and one assist in a five-foul fiasco that didn’t actually count, yet gives us pause about believing that the talented player will ever make the leap to stardom at UT.
- Cory Joseph & Tristan Thompson. The talented Texas freshmen showed flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of looking completely lost, but if Rick Barnes can bring them along slowly, this will be a very good duo in Austin.
- Victor Olapido. Underhyped IU freshman saved the Hoosiers from an embarrassing exhibition loss by scoring the last eight points in regulation and providing a key block with two seconds left. Rare to see such clutchness out of a rook.
- Talib Zanna. Starting for injured Pitt forward Nasir Robinson, the 6’9 Zanna may have Wally Pipp’d him with 9/11 in his collegiate debut.
- Texas Fans. Look, we know you’re a football school, but come on… the sparse attendance for tonight’s game vs. Navy was ridiculous.
Tweet of the Night. Was it real or was it fake? The Twitterverse went a little nutty when a tweet went across the wires earlier tonight where Duke super-recruit Austin Rivers supposedly wrote the following during the Indiana-Ferris State game:
He immediately retracted the statement, saying that his Twitter feed had been hacked by someone. Cynics such as this one have noted that all of Rivers’ preceding and subsequent tweets came from an iPhone, suggesting that either Rivers himself actually made the offending tweet or someone picked up his phone and started playing while he was away from it. Either way, we’re really, really, really hoping that Duke and Rivers somehow gets to play IU and “Creme” next year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge or elsewhere (we know, extremely unlikely).