Blowout Weekend. On paper, it looked to be a dog of a weekend, and for the most part it turned out that way. Among nearly 150 games, you’re bound to find some good ones, but among the Top 25 there were twelve games where the favorite won by 10+ points and of the six “upsets” involving ranked teams, even three of those were blowouts the other direction. Maybe everyone knew that the sports world’s focus would be on the Super Bowl, so they figured they’d save some drama for the rest of the month. Whatever the case, we’re expecting some much better games this week during ESPN’s self-described Rivalry Week.
Game of the Weekend. Illinois 78, #5 Michigan State 73. For the second consecutive weekend, ESPN got lucky in that the best marquee matchup of teams happened to coincide with their Gameday game. In a wild Orange Krush environment in Champaign on Saturday night, it was Demetri McCamey who brought the noise with a 22/11 assts night that included six threes, every one of which seemed to be of the timely variety. Perhaps his biggest of the night was with less than a minute to go, a shot that effectively put the game away from the Illini. MSU got a huge night from Draymond Green (17/16), but it seemed as if the Spartans lacked a little of their usual poise with their star point guard acting as an assistant due to his ankle injury (18 turnovers, six from his replacement, Korie Lucious). It didn’t seem to bother the Illinois students who RTC’d afterward in a questionable display for a program of that caliber. The win puts Illinois in a virtual tie with Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State just one game back in the loss column behind MSU, but we’re not sold on the long-term viability of that team as much as the others. Still, they were the better team on this night, largely due to McCamey’s heroics, and we’re thankful that the Big Ten race has now gotten a lot more interesting.
Notable Upsets This Weekend. The theme here? Home teams.
Oklahoma 80, #10 Texas 71. It was Wayman Tisdale Day at Oklahoma, and the Sooners used the inspiration from the sweet-shooting big man and musician to jump out on the reeling Longhorns behind 20/10 from Cade Davis and 24/5 from Tommy Mason-Griffin. The Horns once again looked indecisive and like a team without on offensive identity in this one, and it didn’t help that they were a putrid 10-27 from the foul line. Can Texas find their mojo in time for a visit from #1 Kansas on Monday night?
UNLV 88, #12 BYU 74. This was a good old-fashioned asskicking, as UNLV jumped out to a 47-18 first-half lead and never looked back. Tre’Von Willis had a career-high 33 points as his team hit their first nine three-point attempts and effectively walloped the Cougars from their perch atop the conference. BYU star Jimmer Fredette had 21 points, but he worked for it on 4-15 shooting. The MWC might have three teams that are NCAA-worthy this year if you include New Mexico in that mix.
Richmond 71, #17 Temple 54. It was Richmond that appeared to have one of the nation’s top defenses (and offenses!) on this night as the Spiders moved into a four-way tie in the loss column by torching Temple. The Spiders shot 58% from the field and held Temple to just 32% behind Kevin Anderson’s 29/5/3 assts on 11-17 shooting. With the Pac-10 looking like a one-bid league, could the A10 be a four-team league this year including some combination of UR, Temple, Rhode Island, Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte?