What really gets us all juiced and lathered up are statistics that appear self-evident only after someone shows you how to figure them. You know, the kind of thing where we say, “wow, that makes a lot of sense,” and yet, we never thought of it ourselves. Forest for the trees and all that.
So it was with particular interest that we were alerted to a post made earlier this week by our friends at the Virginia athletics blog, Dear Old UVa. This post attempted to get to the bottom of the question about whether UVa coach Dave Leitao was properly utilizing his players on the offensive end of the court. So how would you measure such a thing? With the help of KenPom’s statistical treasure trove, they were able to cross-tab players’ offensive efficiencies with their percentage of team’s possessions used. This produced a relatively simple graphical representation of every player in the ACC which quickly shows which players are being utilized properly or improperly (see below).
On the above graph, you can easily see that Jeff Teague and Ish Smith, for example, are being properly used by Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio. Teague has a very high percentage of possessions used and his offensive efficiency is relatively high. Smith has a low efficiency and therefore is being used more sparingly on the offensive end. The graph can also tell you when a player might be over- or under-used. As an example, Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert has an efficiency in the same ballpark as Ish Smith, yet he uses significantly more possessions for the Jackets – an example of a player who is overused given his skill set at this time. The converse of course is true for players with high efficiencies but low possession utilization.
We love this stuff, so we’ll try to find some more of this kind of thing as we get closer and closer to the NCAA Tournament. The data is as rich as it will get this season, so hopefully we’ll be able to do so.
1:00pm. Welcome back to another day of BGTD. There are only 2o games today, but there are five of particular interest that we’ll be tracking. Villanova @ Syracuse and Illinois @ Ohio St. at 1pm, Wisconsin at Michigan St. @ 3pm, Wake Forest @ Duke at 7:45pm, and Arizona at Arizona St. at 10pm. Pretty strong day. Let’s get it started in upstate NY…
1:02pm. Before we get going, we want to touch on this story from the LA Times yesterday that UCLA has stopped recruiting local 6’11 prep star Renardo Sidney even though by mid-last week the Bruins were still considered the front-runner. Certainly UCLA could use a big man with guard skills such as those that Sidney has, so what gives? Color us jaded, but all we could think of when we heard that UCLA so abruptly dropped Sidney was this story written by Gregg Doyel about a Pac-10 recruit who was charging $10k per on-campus visit a few years ago. Did Sidney finally give UCLA his price? Was there a package deal that Ben Howland wasn’t willing to stomach? Not surprisingly, USC (of OJ Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Reggie Bush) is now considered the leader. Let’s see what happens later today when Sidney announces his college choice at 4pm PDT.
1:13pm. Villanova looks fantastic thus far, with seven scores in eight possessions, including three threes from Dwayne Anderson. If you’re still reflecting on yesterda’s wild Saturday, here’s Andy Katz’s article focusing on how quickly things can change.
1:23pm. Nova is getting whatever it wants offensively, and the Syracuse crowd still looks asleep (the players aren’t much better). Uh-oh alert – Clemson is already down double-figures at Georgia Tech – remember the Tigers lost a road game last weekend at bottom-feeder Virginia.
1:45pm. Cuse is coming back here just before the half, now down 2, behind Devendorf, Rautins and Flynn. Clemson is also back in the game, after getting down by as much as 15 to Ga Tech. Illinois appears like they’ll hit their total from the Illini’s last game vs. OSU in the first half (up 26-24 with 2:30 left).
2:00pm. Nova goes into the half with a six-pt lead, 46-40. Neither one of these teams is playing much defense – both sides are shooting 55% from the field. The key difference is that Villanova has been able to get to the line eight more times than the home team. Clemson fought back to tie things up at Georgia Tech, and Xavier is ripping GW 36-20 at halftime.
2:05pm. Seth Davis just got on board the RTC train with the Duke Swoon at halftime of the Syracuse-Nova game, predicting that the Devils will be the highest ranked team to lose early next month. Not sure if Duke will lose tonight, but there are two things in Wake’s favor… 1) Duke will play man-to-man, which helps Wake penetrate to the rim; and 2) Wake has shown this year a propensity to take ranked teams seriously, home or away. The Deacs get into trouble when they’re playing teams they don’t respect.
You know that you’re coming to the end of the regular season when the McD’s Burger Boys are announced. This annual rite of late winter signals that it’s time to hunker down and prepare for some warmer weather and a little thing called March Madness, and this game always gives us a peak of some of the next few years’ stars to watch. Last year’s F4, for example, featured freshmen Kevin Love, Cole Aldrich and Derrick Rose – all three were Burger Boys in 2007, not to overlook Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and James Keefe from the 2006 game, and Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green and Super Mario Chalmers from the 2005 game. In all, a total of twelve McDonald’s All-Americans played in last year’s Final Four, and you can expect a multitude most seasons.
Keep in mind that aside from the top ten or so consensus players (this year, guys like Boynton, Henry, Sidney, Cousins and Favors are on that list), there is a fair amount of political posturing that goes into these selections. Don’t believe us? Then check some of the names of the last ten McD’s games and their career stats (you’ll notice a lot of “rep” schools on this list:
Rolando Howell – 2000 (South Carolina): 10/6 in 4 yrs
Neil Fingleton – 2000 (UNC/Holy Cross): 3/2 in 3 yrs
Michael Thompson – 2002 (Duke): 5/2 in 4 yrs
Travis Garrison – 2002 (Maryland) – 8/5 in 4 yrs
Ivan Harris – 2003 (Ohio St.): 6/2 in 4 yrs
Jawan McClellan – 2004 (Arizona): 8/3 in 4 yrs
Bobby Frasor – 2005 (UNC) – 4/3 in 4 yrs
Eric Boateng – 2005 (Duke/Arizona St.) – 3/2 in 3 yrs
Lance Thomas – 2006 (Duke): 5/3 in 3 yrs
James Keefe – 2006 (UCLA): 2/3 in 3 yrs
Another thing to remember is that while the McDonald’s game annually has many of the best players, it’s not the end-all. Here’s a list of this year’s collegiate stars who never sniffed the grease, special sauce and Ronald’s creepy smile while still a prep star, yet turned out ok.
Hasheem Thabeet – 2005 (UConn) – ranked #64
Terrence Williams – 2005 (Louisville) – ranked #44
Welcome back to another edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. I’m back as your semi-regular host after a day off with John Stevens covering for me. Today is a kind of weird day of basketball with the best games later in the day going head-to-head against the NBA All-Star game. So hopefully everyone will be sticking with us throughout the day and the real basketball fans (the ones who actually like defense and competition) will stay with us into the night.
1:00 PM: Our early games today are Illinois at Indiana on CBS and Clemson at Virginia on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com. We’ll be updating you with highlights of those games throughout the day, but like always if there is something going on that we are missing or we make a mistake leave us a message in the comment section.
1:10 PM: Illinois is up 10-7 early. Bruce Weber‘s club must be riding high after their amazing comeback at Northwestern in their last game. Clemson is tied 3-3 in Charlottesville with 15:54 left in the first half. I’m guessing today is Sean Singletary day at UVA today based on the parts of the pre-game that I caught. Singletary, a 3-time 1st team All-ACC player, is one of three players in ACC history (Danny Ferry and Johnny Dawkins being the others) to have 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds.
1:25 PM: Illinois is up 15-7 as we go to a TV timeout. CBS just showed a graphic about Indiana’s tough losses this year by featuring the games they led, but lost. You know the Hooisers are having a bad year when having a lead of 2 points at some point during the game is highlighted as a tough loss. Meanwhile, UVA is up 16-7 with 11:54 as they head into a timeout as well.
1:30 PM: I just noticed the electronic board on the side of the court at Assembly Hall. I guess it’s a nice fan friendly feature and probably generates some revenue through ads, but I think it looks horrendous in this famous arena. I haven’t noticed it at Cameron Indoor, but I think they should avoid it in the historic arenas.
1:40 PM: Jeff Jordan just hit a jumper for Illinois. As we noted before, he was recently was given a scholarship at Illinois. For those of you who haven’t seen him play, we think you might have missed his only big play of the day if his performance this season is any indication of what we can expect today. He’ll probably be out there quite a bit since Indiana is awful so watch for #13 on Illinois.
1:45 PM: UVA is up 22-16 coming out of a timeout with 5:11 left in the first half. Illinois is up 27-13 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half. I’ll be focusing on the UVA-Clemson game for now unless the Illinois-Indiana game gets interesting.
1:55 PM: UVA is up 33-25 at half. That 3 by Terrence Oglesby with a little over a minute left in the first half was Clemson’s first of the day after the Tigers missed their first 10 straight. The Cavaliers might have a chance if the Tigers continue to have difficulty hitting from the outside. Trevor Booker has had a big first half with 10 of Clemson’s 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as none of the other Tigers are playing well today. Illinois is up 38-21 at half.
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)…
Statement Game #2. Connecticut 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 #2. Dayton 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.
We’re back today with another edition of BGTD. Today’s edition won’t be a long as yesterday’s BGTD because today’s games aren’t nearly as good as yesterday, but there are several worth watching. For a quick run-down of the games we’ll be focusing in on today, check out today’s Set Your Tivos. As always, you’re invited to join in on the comment section to tell me if something interesting is happen elsewhere or to correct my mistakes.
12:15 PM: Not much is going on yet. Just a couple of games featuring teams near the bottom of the Big East and MAAC. In the Big East contest, Seton Hall leads Rutgers by 2 with 11:49 left in the first half. Meanwhile, in the MAAC, Canisius is beating St. Peter’s 31-19 with 4:02 left in the first half. And that’s the last time you will hear any of those programs mentioned today (and for probably quite a while) unless something crazy happens (like a brother walking out on the court). I’ll be back around 1 PM when the real games start.
1:00 PM: Ok. We finally have some decent games getting underway pretty soon. Purdue at Illinois on CBS and Alabama at LSU on ESPN360. We’ll be following these games on BGTD.
1:20 PM: Pretty entertaining start with Illinois up 11-7 on Purdue with 15:41 left in the first half. It looks like we might have an entertaining Big Ten game today.
1:30 PM: Illinois is holding onto a 6-point lead with less 9:53 left. Matt Painter needs E’Twaun Moore to step it up (0 points so far) if he wants to steal one on the road. In other news, the CBS guys just made a joke about Jeffrey Jordan getting a scholarship.
1:45 PM: Illinois has opened up a 10-point lead with 4 minutes left. If the Boilermakers aren’t careful, they could get run out of the gym by halftime. In the SEC, LSU has a 13-point lead on Alabama with less than 4 minutes left in the half.
1:55 PM: Nice little run by Purdue to cut it to 3, but Demetri McCamey just converted a 3-point play to slow some of their momentum. Purdue responds with a basket to make it a 4-point game at half. Moore has just 2 points at half. Purdue has to be happy to go into half only down by 4 with Moore’s low output.
2:00 PM: Louisville and St. John’s are playing a close game midway through the first half. LSU is up by a dozen at half. We’ll be back in a bit when something interesting happens. I’ll probably be following the Purdue-Illinois game, but will be keeping an eye on the Louisville game.
2:05 PM: Seth Davis says Alabama is willing to pay north of $2 million per year for a head coach. He calls it “Tubby money”. The two guys he mentioned were Jeff Capel and Mike Davis.
2:15 PM: They just played “American Boy” by Estelle. I know it’s a promo/lead-in to a Grammy Awards mention, but couldn’t they have picked something a little better for a men’s college basketball game?
2:20 PM: Illinois has opened up a 9-point lead as Purdue calls a timeout. The Boilermakers have been lucky to stay in this game without Moore’s scoring and Robbie Hummel‘s continued absence.
2:30 PM: Purdue has cut it back to 4, but has not been able to take the lead as Illinois has led the entire way. Thanks to Scott for pointing out the awful Louisville-St. John’s game, which St. John’s leads 22-19. I’ll keep an eye on the 2nd half on ESPN360.com.
2:45 PM: Quick run-down of the scores. Illinois is up 51-40 on Purdue with less than 9 minutes left in the game. Charlotte is up 55-49 on Dayton with 7:56 left (potential upset there). NC State is up by 14 at half on Virginia Tech. Louisville is down by 1 at St. John’s early in the 2nd half. LSU is crushing Alabama.
Today’s schedule is a lighter than yesterday, but there are several solid games today.
#13 Purdue at #21 Illinois at 1 PM on CBS: Both teams looking to bounce back from road losses in the Big Ten. The homecourt should be pretty big here as Illinois is 13-1 with their only loss coming by 2 points against a Clemson team that is pretty good (just ask Coach K about the Tigers). If Purdue was at full strength, they might be able to give them a challenge, but they will be without Robbie Hummel. Purdue coach Matt Painter will have to rely on E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson to have big games against Bruce Weber‘s squad. Watch the Mike Davis-Johnson match-up because Johnson will have to dominate Davis in order for the Boilermakers to win.
Creighton at Northern Iowa at 2:05 PM on CBS Affiliates (in Iowa), ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Yes. Sometimes we think it’s worth watching the “little guys”. This match-up, which features the top 2 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (Creighton is tied in 2nd with Illinois State), might end up being the most compelling match-up of the day. The Panthers don’t have any player who puts up huge numbers, but they have 5 players averaging between 9.5 and 11.5 PPG with Adam Koch leading the way (11.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG) and Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 PPG and 3.3 APG) close behind. The Bluejays have a legitimate go-to-guy in Booker Woodfox (16.3 PPG). The last time these two teams met Northern Iowa escaped with a 3-point win. Johnny Moran had a big day for the Panthers scoring a season-high 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. I doubt Moran will be able to duplicate the effort, but it should be a close game as the Panthers have a tendency to play close games (only have a +/- of 4.7 PPG despite their 17-6 record).
Boston College at #6 Wake Forest at 4 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Will Wake come out as flat as Duke did after their 27-point loss? I’m sure that Dino Gaudio will mention that sometime before the start of this game. The last time these teams played, RTC was there and the Demon Deacons dominated the Eagles. The match-up at guard featuring Tyrese Rice and Jeff Teague could be interesting, but I would expect to see Ishmael Smith on Rice. If Wake has shaken off the shock from their blowout loss at Miami, they should be able to win this game relatively easily utilizing Al-Farouq Aminu, Chas McFarland, and James Johnson on the inside.
#25 Washington at Stanford at 5:30 PM on Fox Sports: Despite their nearly identical overall records (16-6 versus 14-6), the Huskies are well ahead of the Cardinal in their quest to land a NCAA tournament bid as they sit 7-3 in the Pac-10 compared to 4-6 for the Cardinal. Lorenzo Romar will be looking to get his Huskies out of their recent skid (losing 2 of 3) when they travel to The Farm. This game will likely come down to which team’s trio of stars plays better. The Huskies are led by Isaiah Thomas, Justin Dentmon, and Jon Brockman while the Cardinals are led by Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Mitch Johnson. The PG match-up of the freshman Thomas against the senior Johnson should be particularly entertaining as the winner of that duel will probably end up winning the game. I’d look for the Huskies to ride Thomas and Brockman, who comes in averaging a double-double and doesn’t really have anybody on Stanford who can slow him down, to a road victory.
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.
Game of the Day #3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.
Worth Watching West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).
#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.
#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.
#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.
Keep an Eye On Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey needs Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.
Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.
USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports:Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).
The Lead. There were seven ranked teams playing conference road games tonight, and only three of them survived. One of the survivors, the Greatest Team of All-Time, did so by a sliver. It’s a rough life playing on the road in the conference, and did anyone else notice that the calendar is turning to February very soon? The shortest month of the year is when all those gaudy 20-2 records suffer scrutiny, as great teams start to hit their stride, and merely good ones begin taking their lumps. We have a sneaky suspicion that it began tonight – let’s lock in for the ride.
Game of the Night. Wake Forest 70, Duke 68. This game was everything that was anticipated, and a little more. Sick dunks, clutch shooting, and some tremendous hustle and defense were the markers on both ends of the court. Oh, and one really bad call. Call us crazy, but we’re not sure how you call a travel on Duke when a player is lying beneath him on a rebound, but the call was moot (Wake still would have possession on the inevitable and ensuing jump ball). Still, as we watched this game, we had much the same sentiment we had two weeks ago when Wake “upset” North Carolina, which was, Wake appears to have the superior talent on the floor. Now, the Deacs certainly showed signs of youth and inexperience in the last few minutes (missed FTs, poor decision-making) when Duke fought back to tie the game, but we never once thought Duke might actually win the game (ok, one time, and that was when James Johnson failed to hustle after the rebound after Jon Scheyer missed what would have been the go-ahead three – but no others). Wake’s defense was once again spectacular, harassing the Duke shooters into 33% from the field (and 18% from three), including nine blocks and ten steals. But the fact of the matter is that Duke plays every possession and Wake tends to take some off (both mentally and physically), and that’s why the Deacs didn’t run away with it in the second half. Wake got dub-dubs from Al-Farouq Aminu (15/10, including a filthy follow flush, below) and James Johnson (13/11) to help pick up for Jeff Teague (11 pts on 4-14 FGs), who Duke swarmed all over the court. Duke got good nights from their only two consistent scorers, Kyle Singler (22/12) and Gerald Henderson (20/8, including a nasty flush in his own right, also below), but Scheyer struggled (2-10 FGs) and there was no other production for the Blue Devils. Wake has now won five of its last six home games against Duke, and definitely gotten a huge leg up on the ACC regular season race with wins over Duke, UNC and Clemson so far. One final note:
HEY WAKE FANS! This delayed rushing the court nonsense has to end. You’re a top five team. You’re a national title contender. Act like it.
Life On the Road is Tough.
Villanova 67, Pittsburgh 57. Just another night in the Big East, right? Playing in the last college basketball game in the Spectrum (site of the greatest NCAA Tournament game of all-time), VU’s Reggie Redding channeled Christian Laettner and went 10-10 from the line for 18 pts. It also helped that Villanova was able to get DeJuan Blair in foul trouble and limit his effectiveness in the form of 7 pts in only twenty minutes of action. This game, along with the Louisville loss two weeks ago, showed just how vulnerable the Panthers are when Blair is not on the floor – in the four games this season where he has had 4+ fouls, Pitt has been outscored by 4 total points and is just 2-2 in those contests. In all other games, they’re +324 total points and 16-0. No other player in America has such a huge impact.
Providence 100, Syracuse 94. In what was a wild game at the Dunk (luckily Jonathan Xavier wasn’t out on supervised release), Providence nailed ten threes against the SU zone and held on down the stretch for a victory that now puts the Friars in a tie for third-place in the Big East. Who saw that coming? Syracuse nailed twelve threes on its own but simply could not get necessary stops at any point in the second half against the PC shooters, particularly Sharaud Curry (22 pts) and Marshon Brooks (17 pts). Syracuse, who has now lost four of its last five games in this rugged league, was led by Jonny Flynn’s 35 and Eric Devendorf’s 27, but Paul Harris didn’t bring much (8/6) and Arinze Onuaku was ineffective in fifteen minutes based on recent swelling in his knees. If PC can get to nine wins in this league (and they should, with 2 games against Rutgers and one against S. Florida), they should be in good shape for an NCAA invitation. Cuse has now lost four of five and has five more tough games upcoming – they need to win a couple of those to stay in the middle of the pack of the league.
Cincinnati 65, Georgetown 57. Georgetown has now officially fallen apart. Was it really only thirty days ago that the Hoyas went into UConn and eviscerated the Huskies with such precision? Now they’re 3-5 in the Big East with a road trip to league leader Marquette this weekend. And possibly even worse news – Dajuan Summers turned his ankle tonight and may not be available for a couple of games down the line. Georgetown already had a minuscule bench – how are the Hoyas to be expected to replace their best wing scorer? Cincy might be making a Providence-type run of its own now, after having won four of their last five games to move to 4-4 in the conference. But the bigger story of this game is of course what has happened to Georgetown, and can they recover?
UNC 80, Florida St. 77. It looked as if UNC was going to take its third loss of the season tonight in Tallahassee, but Ty Lawson’s running floater from THREE (see below) made sure that wasn’t going to happen. FSU stormed back in the second half behind Toney Douglas’ 24 (32 for the game), but the Noles couldn’t take advantage of a poor shooting night from UNC (38%) and a single-figure scoring night from Tyler Hansbrough (first time in 56 games). We’re becoming more and more convinced that this UNC team is the same team as last season. In Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller, they have two one more scoring option, but their defense is still marginal at best for a supposedly “great” team, and it’s not going to surprise us when these Heels drop 2-3 more games this conference season because of it. Wasn’t tonight, though.
Other Scores of Meandering Interest.
Ohio St. 72, Michigan 54. Is it safe to now say that Michigan has officially come back to earth? – this loss to OSU is four of their last five.
Louisville 80, South Florida 54. Louisville is really starting to play like the team we thought they’d be back in October. A second half 22-3 run finished off USF, behind 16 from Edgar Sosa (averaging 13 ppg in his last three).
Memphis 85, East Carolina 64. The Tigers won their 48th in a row against CUSA competition behind Antonio Anderson’s 28/8 assts.
Davidson 92, Chattanoooga 70. Stephen Curry had 32/5/8 assts in another easy win for the Wildcats.
St. Joseph’s 68, Richmond 58. Watch out, but with tonight’s road win, SJU is now 5-0 in the A10. And Ahmad Nivins (15/14) is a beast.
Kansas 68, Nebraska 62. Kansas got itself in an early 13-pt hole but was able to rally back and stay unbeaten in the Big 12.
Xavier 69, Charlotte 47. XU improved to 6-0 in the A10 behind a dominant performance from their defense, holding Charlotte to 31% shooting.
Florida 83, Georgia 57. Nick Calathes had a triple double (20/13/10 assts) in another game on the Dennis Felton death watch.
LSU 79, Tennessee 73. We think that Tennessee is pretty much garbage this year, and the fact that LSU can go into Knoxville (after losing to Xavier at home) confirms it.
Northern Iowa 59, Illinois St. 55. NIU continues to roll right along in the MVC (now 9-1).
Northwestern 77, Indiana 75. IU continues to get so very close to winning one of these games, but they can’t seem to get over the hump (now losing ten in a row).
Connecticut 71, Depaul 49. Not every Big East road team lost tonight. Depaul is an abomination, and Jerry Wainwright should be fired for this (0-8) disaster.
Kansas St. 88, Missouri 72. Mizzou had been rolling (4 Ws in a row), so this was a minor shocker. We guess 12-22 from three will do that, though (KSU).