Game of the Night. Georgetown 74, Connecticut 63. The Big East is going to be two tons of fun this season, with game after good game coming at us over the course of the next two-plus months. It all began tonight, and the result confirmed two of our inclinations that we had about both of these teams but hadn’t been able to prove just yet. First, UConn is only a national title contender when Hasheem Thabeet as an offensive force shows up to play – otherwise, they’re just another nice top twenty team. In the Huskies’ four games against ranked opponents, Thabeet has been held under double-figures in points and rebounds three times (exception: 19 pts/14 rebs against Miami (FL)). He put up a pathetic four points on four shots tonight. Credit to the Georgetown defense for minimizing Thabeet’s touches in the paint, but UConn simply must get their senior big man the ball more often to maximize their potential this year. Second, Georgetown’s starting five is as good as anyone in the country, and if they can stay healthy (a big “if” given the wear and tear they’ll take during the Big East regular season), then the Hoyas will once again be knocking on the door of the Final Four. All five starters can score the ball, shoot a high percentage from the field AND the line, rebound and play hard-nosed defense. The x-factor is freshman center Greg Monroe, who showed signs tonight of becoming a dominant low-post presence in addition to a guy who can draw the defense out to the three-point line (2-2) for JT3’s team. If he develops into a consistent threat by February, then the Big East may once again be hearing Hoya Paranoia. The problem will be if Georgetown starts to wear down later in the season, as only guards Jason Clark and Omar Wattad have been given significant time to spell the starters. As for this particular game, Georgetown was simply the tougher, smarter, more confident team in the first five minutes as they ran out to an 18-3 lead, and those five minutes were the difference in the game. UConn several times got the margin within one possession, but each time Georgetown would answer with a big three or dunk. It’ll be very interesting to see how the Hoyas show their maturity this weekend against Pittsburgh at home.
Wayne Chism Injured. Tennessee 89, Louisiana-Lafayette 62. Normally we wouldn’t give this sort of game a special mention, but on a relatively light night, a potentially serious injury involving one of the best players on the SEC’s only really good team is worth highlighting. Tennessee forward Wayne Chism landed hard on his back after blocking a shot in a game where he had already tallied 18/15. He was taken off the court in a neck brace and stretcher (see below), but according to Andy Katz, Bruce Pearl texted him later to say that Chism will be ok. That’s certainly good news for Vol fans, who will be facing tough games with Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky in the next two-plus weeks.
Big Five Matchup. Villanova 62, Temple 45. Nobody seems to think that Nova is very good, but they continue to dominate the rest of their Philadelphia city rivals, winning 18 of their last 19 matchups among their Big Five counterparts. Temple has fallen apart since its Dionte Christmas explosion a few weeks ago vs. Tennessee, now losing three in a row to Kansas, Long Beach St., and now Villanova. There would be no Xmas theatrics tonight, as Nova held him to 4-19 shooting and 13 points. VU was down by eight in the early second half until Temple went the next 11.5 minutes without a field goal, with Corey Fisher blowing up from three (4-4) to put the Wildcats on his back to take the lead and put Temple in the rearview mirror. So how good is this Villanova team? We’ll find out soon enough, with a road trip to Marquette and Louisville visiting Philly in the next two weeks.
Other Games of Mild Interest.
- Baylor 79, Portland St. 66. No repeat tonight for Portland St. after shocking Gonzaga last week, mostly because Zag giant-killer Jeremiah Dominquez was completely shut down (1-9 for 2 pts) after dropping 25 in last week’s upset. Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn came off the bench for 22/6.
- Arizona 71, Weber St. 65. Nic Wise scored 23 pts as the Cats played without Jordan Hill, who was nursing a leg injury.
- Memphis 60, Cincinnati 45. Tyreke Evans had 14/10/8 assts (and 7 tos) in a game where Cincy couldn’t very well throw it in the ocean (26%) when they weren’t throwing it to Memphis (20 tos).
- Davidson 79, Charleston 75. A late 10-0 run by Charleston drew the Cougars within two of Davidson in this SoCon matchup, but Stephen Curry hit one of two FTs and Andrew Goudeleck’s three caromed off to preserve Davidson’s 38th consecutive victory within the conference. Curry had 29/9/7 assts on 11-25 shooting.
- Buffalo 62, Colorado 60. Buffalo might be a team to watch in the MAC after giving UConn all it wanted a while back and now beating a Big 12 team at a neutral site (Hawaii).
On Tap Tuesday (all times EST). The most intriguing matchup is in the Big 10, where we’ll get to see how legit Illinois is, but we’re also interested in how Clemson, Oklahoma and BYU handle relatively tough road tests. Butler-UAB and Dayton-GMU are also good mid-major games.
- Florida v. Stetson (ESPN FC & 360) – 1pm
- Houston v. UMass – 2pm
- Syracuse v. Seton Hall (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
- Butler v. UAB – 7pm
- Dayton v. George Mason – 7pm
- Illinois v. Purdue (ESPN2) – 7pm
- Clemson @ South Carolina (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
- Kansas St. v. Wagner (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
- Southern Miss v. Ole Miss – 8pm
- Oklahoma @ Arkansas (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
- BYU @ Tulsa – 8pm
- New Mexico St. v. New Mexico (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm
- Mississippi St. v. San Diego (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm