West Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

For our second-to-last regional analysis we look to the West, which has 2 of the most storied programs in the history of the sport as its top two seeds.

Teams
#1 UCLA: The Bruins seem to be the popular pick among analysts. We can clearly see why. They have experience (and no UF to go through this year), an inside game, an outside game, and a solid coach. Ben Howland has done an excellent job getting the Bruins to play defense, which has long been a trademark of Howland’s teams. When you combine that commitment to defense with talented offensive players and the easiest region in the tournament, you have all the makings of a championship team. The big question with UCLA is their health. Pac-10 POY and uber-freshman Kevin Love (lower back spasms) and his sidekick inside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained ankle) will have to be near 100% for them to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Duke: Coach K (everyone’s favorite leader who happens to coach basketball) has done an outstanding job utilizing this flawed team’s strengths while managing go cover up its huge hole in the inside most of the season. The Blue Devils have several outstanding perimeter players in Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson, and Jon Scheyer, but they have absolutely nothing inside unless they drive by their guy on the perimeter. While ESPN (and the rest of the media) would love to have the Blue Devils advance to the Final 4, we think they rely on the outside shot too much. One of the nights they will have an off night and unless it’s in the first round, their opponents are too talented and the Blue Devils are too weak on the inside for Coach K’s squad to overcome it. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Xavier: When the casual basketball fan first looks at the bracket, this seed might confuse them. However, the Musketeers have been solid all year-long and they are ranked #12 in both polls. The Musketeers play solid defense and have an extremely balanced attack with 6 players averaging between 10 and 11.7 PPG. They should be a formidable team in the West and could give the Blue Devils all they can handle if both teams get that far. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Connecticut: Before you get too excited about Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, you should realize that this isn’t a typical Connecticut team well other than their star point guard having a history of trouble with the law (A.J. Price joins the proud legacy of Khalid El-Amin and Marcus Williams). Price has turned into the leader of the Huskies. If Calhoun’s team is going to uphold his tradition of doing well in the tournament, Price will need help from shot-blocking savant Hasheem Thabeet and the teams 4 other players who average double figures (most notably Jeff Adrien). The Huskies will be hard-pressed to get by the Bruins in the Sweet 16 where their season will likely end, which is assuming they even get by a game San Diego team in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Drake: After graduating 4 starters from last year’s team, Drake vastly exceeded expectations this year going 28-4. To be honest, before this year we never would have imagine Drake with a seed this high. One interesting note is that Drake starts Klayton Korver (younger brother of former Creighton star Kyle Korver). We thing the Korvers have a Roger Clemens-like obsession with naming their kids. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Purdue: You have to admit that it’s sort of weird watching the Boilermakers without seeing the comb-over. We like Purdue’s talent and hustle, but we think they are a year away from making a run in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#7 West Virginia: Bob Huggins has done a good job keeping the program at a respectable level and avoiding the Morgantown cops. They face a tough matchup in the first round against a very athletic Arizona team. Win or lose we are predicting there will be couches on fire in West Virginia after the game. Schedule/Roster.

#8 BYU: The Cougars are led by Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted along with strong team defense. The Cougars are a legit team that gave UNC a tough game earlier in the year after knocking off Louisville. If they survive their first round game against the Aggies, they will have to play UCLA in a virtual home game for the Bruins. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Texas A&M: After starting the season 15-1, the Aggies have been up and down. The question is which team will show up in Anaheim. Regardless of which teams show up, we can’t see them getting by UCLA in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Arizona: Kevin O’Neill managed to get the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament despite the unexpected and temporary absence by Arizona legend Lute Olson. While the media has widely killed the Wildcats inclusion in the tournament, we think they are very dangerous primarily because of their strong schedule and NBA-quality talent (Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger). Schedule/Roster.

#11 Baylor: One of the feel good stories of the tournament, Scott Drew has turned this program around. Baylor relies on 5 guards and 1 forward for their offense. If you couldn’t tell, they (like Duke) doesn’t have much on the inside. Unfortunately for Baylor, their players aren’t as good as Duke’s. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Western Kentucky: Led by Courtney Lee (20.4 PPG), the Hilltoppers snuck in under the radar most of this year playing in the same conference as South Alabama. Lee will have to have a big game if Western Kentucky is going to knock off Drake in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#13 San Diego: This is one of the most interesting teams in the tournament. They have shown people that they can beat big name schools this year (wins versus Kentucky and Gonzaga). Despite being the third best team in the West Coast Conference this year, the Toreros will be a stiff challenge for a UConn team that isn’t your typical Jim Calhoun powerhouse. One thing is certain is that the Toreros will not be in awe of the Huskies having played a strong non-conference schedule this year. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Georgia: The media’s darling last week will be put in an interesting situation in the first round. Can you have a SEC team be a legitimate underdog against an Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tournament? The answer is yes, but can anybody outside of Athens, GA root for them? We say no. We hope Dennis Felton and the Bulldogs enjoyed their ride. Schedule/Roster.

#15 Belmont: Belmont will get a few minutes of fame playing against TV favorite Duke. Unfortunately, they won’t be on TV long as they will likely fall way behind Duke early in the game and their game is paired against the USC-Kansas State game. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mississippi Valley State: Jerry Rice’s alma mater will last all of about 5-10 minutes against a UCLA team playing in Anaheim, CA. That’s about all you need to know about them. Schedule/Roster.

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ATB: Flowers Blooming in Austin

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.29.07

Recap. ESPN2 stepped it up today with its sextuple-header from Noon to Midnight. And heck, at least half of those games were worth watching. Ok, maybe four of the six.

Games We Watched. Wisconsin 67, #7 Texas 66. We started the day with this game, which once again proved to us just how good of a coach Bo Ryan is. Every year we see all these methodical players in those Wisky uniforms, and every year we underrate them because of it – you watch, by March this will once again be a top 3 Big Ten squad. Lesson learned, as winning in Austin today was a fantastic win, and oh my, how they got it done! The Badgers’ Michael Flowers hit the game-winning three with two seconds remaining, and then proceeded to steal the inbounds pass in the corner while flying out of bounds. He then made the smartest play we’ve seen all year – 99% of players would have a) tried to call timeout; b) thrown the ball back into play; or c) simply landed with possession – in all three cases it’s a hustle play but Texas would get the ball back. Instead, Flowers had the presence of mind to launch the ball high into the air, knowing fully well that the last two seconds of the clock would expire while the ball floated out of reach of everyone on its way back to the ground. Brilliance. As with its previous game versus Michigan St., Texas once again showed that it has problems with beefy front lines (making its win against UCLA even more impressive, in retrospect). DJ Augustin (16/4/9 assts) and Damion James (21/15) had nice games for the Horns, while Brian Butch also added 21/11 for the Badgers.

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#11 Tennessee 82, Gonzaga 72. Every time we’ve watched the Zags lately, we have a lingering feeling that they should be better than they’re showing. Granted, Josh Heytvelt clearly isn’t himself yet, as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. But we just wonder if there aren’t issues beneath the surface on this team. In this game, Chris Lofton continued to struggle shooting the ball (4-13), but the rest of the Vols more than made up for his output, as the troika of Smiths combined for 39/14/10 assts. Tayshaun’s cousin, JP Prince, had another fine game, going for 12/3 in only 18 mins – he seems to have a knack for making timely plays. No doubt this is an impressive nonconference win for the Vols, but we still ultimately have questions about how deep a team playing this style can go into March.

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Oklahoma 88, #24 West Virginia 82 (2OT). This was the game of the day, no doubt. West Virginia probably should have won this game several times, but Oklahoma simply would not quit. Yes, we were impressed with OU’s frontline dominance (Longar – 22/4; Griffin – 18/16), but the guy who continually made big shots and dropped superb dimes down the stretch for the Sooners was Austin Johnson (13/4/9 assts). Color us impressed with his heady play and court vision tonight. One play in particular, where the camera from the baseline showed AJ never looked up yet still found Griffin right on the money flying to the hole for a lob, was sick. How did OU lose to Stephen F. Austin??? On the other side of things, WVU looked solid as well. They didn’t shoot that well (41%), but their players clearly remembered the Beilein backdoor cuts, as they used the play several times in the second half to get easy buckets. All the hallmarks of a classic Huggins team are already there – hustle, defense, scrappiness – the only thing missing is the Thuggins personnel that will start showing up in Morgantown next year.

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#1 Memphis 76, #18 Arizona 63. This was one of those games where Arizona was never really out of the game, but they were never really in it either. Not once did we ever have a suspicion that an upset was actually brewing, even though Arizona regularly cut the second-half lead to two possessions. Every time Memphis needed something, they’d get it from CDR (17/5) or Shawn Taggart (15/7) off the bench. Jerryd Bayless (knee) was sitting out for Zona, and the Cats clearly needed his offense, as Chase Budinger (20/6) and Nic Wise (10/4/5 assts) were left to their own devices most of the time. We’re still not sure what we think of Memphis – having defeated the toughest teams on their schedule (Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Georgetown and Arizona), and with only two home nonconference tests remaining (1/26 v. Gonzaga; 2/23 v. Tennessee), we could be looking at a strong possibility of an unbeaten regular season (31-0). Games at Houston (1/30) and at UAB (2/16) figure to be the toughest conference games on their schedule, but both are likely wins. We pretty much agree with Steve Lavin’s comment tonight during the broadcast, though. If Memphis goes into the NCAAs unbeaten, they will most definitely not win the national title.

Upset Alert. #25 Dayton 80, #8 Pittsburgh 55. Look at the A10 again. What an asskicking the Flyers put on Pitt tonight. Things really couldn’t have gone much worse for Pitt – Dayton’s Brian Roberts exploded for 31 pts on their vaunted perimeter defense, and Levance Fields went out with an ankle injury in the early second half. This was a statement game by Dayton, and we heard the message loud and clear. We bet they wish they could get that George Mason loss back now (67-56 in their second game of the year). Winthrop 76, #17 Miami (FL) 70. Was it an upset? Only in the sense that Miami was heretofore unbeaten this season, but Winthrop is undoubtedly the stronger program overall, so we’ll call this one a very minor upset. The Eagles haven’t had a great nonconference run (7-5) this year, but they have beaten two ACC teams (Ga Tech is the other). The question is what will happen to Frank Haith’s Hurricane team now that they’ve tasted their own blood? They get one more breather (v. Penn) before the ACC games start. There are now seven unbeatens remaining.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Kansas 86, Yale 53. KU continues to roll with 18 steals in this game.
  • #5 UCLA 76, UC Davis 48. Davis had 13 rebounds for the game. Thirteen!
  • #6 Michigan St. 93, Wisconsin-GB 75. Raymar Morgan with 24/8.
  • #9 Georgetown 78, American 51. Roy Hibbert isn’t getting any better, is he (one measly board)?
  • #12 Marquette 77, Savannah St. 37. There are too many D1 teams.
  • #13 Indiana 97, Chicago St. 59. DJ White with 21/15/4 blks. See above re: Marquette.
  • #14 Texas A&M 83, Florida A&M 54. DeAndre Jordan’s FG% actually dropped from this game (6-8 FG).
  • #16 Vanderbilt 92, UT-Martin 85. Surprisingly close home win for Vandy. AJ Ogilvy with 21/9.
  • #19 Villanova 71, Lasalle 58. Dante Cunningham with 12/12 and Scottie Reynolds with 19/4.
  • Boise St. 73, #21 BYU 70. Trent Plaisted held to 12/9. Is Boise (9-3) worth watching this year?
  • #22 Rhode Island 85, Georgia Southern 80. Will Daniels blew up for 28/8.
  • #23 Clemson 78, Samford 45. Before ESPN, were there any good games this time of year?

Other Notable Scores.

  • San Diego 81, Kentucky 72. Prepare for the full-scale mutiny in Lexington soon.
  • Washington 73, LSU 65. Another second-half meltdown for John Brady (LSU led 41-27 at halftime).
  • Florida Gulf Coast 60, Penn 30. Um, Penn had six points at the half in this one. Ugh.
  • Furman 67, Howard 62. The Purple Paladins earn their first win (1-11)!
  • Illinois St. 80, Creighton 67. Early MVC battle for primacy between good teams.
  • Drake 62, Wichita St. 54. Staying in the Valley, Drake is now 10-1.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Mississippi St. (-3) v. Missouri (ESPN FC) 1:30pm – game of the day – MSU needs this one.
  • Wake Forest (-11.5) v. Air Force 2pm. nice intersectional contrast in styles of play.
  • Georgia Tech (-4) v. Florida St. (FSN) 5:30pm - ACC matchup pitting teams vying for 8-8 on Selection Sunday.
  • UNLV (NL) v. Minnesota 7pm - probably Tubby’s toughest test so far in GopherLand.
  • UNC (-24.5) v. Valparaiso (FSN) 7:30pm – Valpo is 10-2, but it won’t matter…
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ATB: Weekend Recap

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.11.07

Recap. Apologies to everyone, but we’ve had a serious family matter to attend to in recent days, so we’ve lost a little of our mojo in keeping up with the blog. The good news is that Saturday was really the only decent day’s worth of games over the last four days. So here are the highlights (some of which we saw) from last weekend.

Games We Watched. Arizona 78, Illinois 72 (OT). The big news surrounding this game was the re-emergence of Lute Olson on Friday long enough for his wife to notify everyone that she is a money-grubbing Republican operative and Olson are getting a divorce and he needs time (i.e., the rest of the season) away from the program to put his personal life back together. What we saw: for the second consecutive game, Kevin O’Neill’s Wildcats got themselves down big early (12-0 to start the game), only to gut out a second half comeback led by Jerryd Bayless (20/5 assts) to win against a tough opponent. Sure, it took a fortuitous no-call for UA guard Nic Wise, who quite obviously signalled for a timeout that his team didn’t have, to get them into OT, but a road (Chicago) win is a road win. Arizona sophomore forward Jordan Hill added 23/14 for the Cats, who we’re starting to think might have a little toughness in them this year after all. As for the Illini, they have only themselves to blame with their feeble 10-22 from the foul line for the game. #19 Pittsburgh 79, Washington 78. This was another fantastic game. Pitt picked up a hard-earned road win in a venue where UW simply doesn’t lose very often (33 straight against non-conference opponents). The game was close throughout, and it was ultimately decided with a five-minute video review of Washington’s Justin Dentmon’s runner at the buzzer that dropped through the net after bouncing around the rim several times. In the olden days before video review of buzzer beaters, UW walks off with that win and Pitt goes home 8-1, but not now. The officials concluded (rightly, although it was extremely close) that Dentmon’s shot was after the horn and therefore Pitt was the winner, much to the communal chagrin of the Washington crowd. Great non-conf win for Pitt. #14 Indiana 70, Kentucky 51. We watched this one out of a sense of history and tradition of the sport, but we wish we hadn’t, in retrospect. E-Giddy didn’t even play and still the Hoosiers rolled up the Cats and smoked them like a fat Cohiba. The story of the game was that IU guard Jordan Crawford (20 pts on 5-10 shooting) completely and totally outplayed his older UK brother, Joe Crawford (10 pts on 4-15), to the point where even Billy Packer was gushing. If any game encapsulated the frustratingly enigmatic career of former HS stud Joe, this was it. DJ White added 16/13 for the Hoosiers (his fifth straight dub-dub), while UK’s only legit player, Patrick Patterson, finished with 15/5. Oh, and we don’t have the time nor inclination to get into all the Alex Legion nonsense, but if you’re interested, he’s leaving UK (possible destination: Michigan?) and ASoB discusses it much more in-depth than we can.

Other Good Games. #15 Marquette 81, Wisconsin 76. Tremendous win for Marquette, because Wisconsin just does not lose in the Kohl Center (28 in a row prior to this game). Surprisingly, it was the undersized Marquette interior players who played with abandon on the boards and won that battle (37-29) against the taller, beefier Wisconsin front line. Marquette is awfully tough to beat when Dominic James (20/5/6 assts) plays well. #13 Michigan St. 68, #21 BYU 61. This battle of ranked teams had upset written all over it, but give credit to MSU, who was down ten at the half on the road but managed to regain its composure and stick it to the Cougars in the second half (67% shooting). If you want an upset specialist for March, keep an eye on BYU as a #5-#7 seed, especially if their draw is out west. They’ve played UNC, Louisville and Michigan St. very tough already (defeating UL), and Trent Plaisted (19/8) is an interior stud. #5 UCLA 75, Davidson 63. Davidson must be getting tired of this same old song and dance by now: play a top ten team extremely well for about 30-35 minutes, only to have the other teams’ size and strength win out in the end. They have a really good team, but they probably should have scheduled more teams ranked in the 25-50 range in order to pick up a few more Ws (we still think they’ll beat NC State later this month). In this one, Davidson roared out to an 18-pt lead in Pauley Pavilion (32-14) before the Bruins awakened from their slumber and led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (21/8) and Kevin Love (12/12), took over the game. Davidson’s Stephen Curry didn’t shoot well (6-19) in a 15/4 performance. UCLA is showing signs of boredom, and their next really tough game isn’t until the Pac-10 schedule begins in January.

Upsets. It was a good upset Saturday. Dayton 70, #10 Louisville 65. The enigma known as Derrick Caracter signed a good behavior contract on Saturday morning, put up 16/7 in a home loss to Dayton, then proceeded to break said contract (curfew) that very night after the game. After getting busted by the coaches, he then stewed in his room for an hour before sneaking out AGAIN. Wow. So with Palacios and Padgett out injured until who knows when, and Caracter seemingly unable and unwilling to stay eligible, the word is that Pitino is tinkering with the idea of a five-guard lineup. A once promising season is bordering on the edge of disaster in Louisville these days. Dayton’s Brian Roberts lit up the Cards for 28 pts, as the Flyers (now 7-1) won against UL for the second straight year.

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Rhode Island 91, Syracuse 89. Staying with the A10 over Big East theme, how did Syracuse shoot 54% at home and still lose? Well, it didn’t hurt that URI was 12-18 from three and made its FTs down the stretch. This might be one of those games that doesn’t look like much of an upset a month or two from now (URI is now 10-1. with the one loss at BC). Jonny Flynn had 21/10 for the Orange. Wright St. 43, #9 Butler 42. Butler just can’t get past these guys, especially in Dayton. Three of Butler’s last six losses were to Wright St., and the MO for each one has been the same – stop AJ Graves. Graves was held to 6 pts on 2-11 shooting in the high -scoring affair (only three players combined reached double figures). Butler may get all the hype, but Wright St. under Brad Brownell has once again announced that it will be a contender in the Horizon. Stephen F. Austin 66, Oklahoma 62. OU’s losses to Memphis and USC are understandable, but how does the same team that blitzed Tulsa by 26 and TCU by 24 in its previous two games turn around and lose to SFA at home?

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Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Texas 80, Rice 54. Abrams, Augustin and James each with 18 pts.
  • #4 Kansas 84, Depaul 66. Brandon Rush came off the bench for 13 pts and one bench warrant.
  • #6 Duke 95, Michigan 67. Please, please, please end this series soon.
  • #7 Georgetown 87, Jacksonville 55. steady as she goes for Georgetown (59% FG).
  • #8 Washington St. 72, Portland St. 60. even more steady for Wazzu (69% eFG)
  • #11 Texas A&M 109, Texas St. 73. We’re just amazed that A&M played 18 guys in this game.
  • #16 Oregon 75, Utah 64. Another solid home win for Oregon.
  • #17 Gonzaga 85, Cal St. Northridge 59. Micah Downs (19 pts) and Matt Bouldin (18) led the way.
  • #23 Vanderbilt 90, Lipscomb 67. 26/10 for AJ Ogilvy as Vandy remains unbeaten. Could he be the next Bogut?
  • #25 Villanova 101, Temple 93. Scottie Reynolds was huge (27/6/9) in this Big 5 matchup.

Other Notable Scores.

  • Boston College 81, Maryland 78. BC is much better than everyone thought, Maryland much worse.
  • Kansas St. 82, California 75. Cal shoots 51% and still loses their first game – three players with dub-dubs (Walker – 30/10; Beasley – 19/11; R. Anderson – 24/11).
  • Illinois St. 62, Cincinnati 52. Hard to argue Cincy is better off w/o Thuggins at this point.
  • Charlotte 71, S. Illinois 56. Make that three solid wins in a row for Charlotte.
  • East Carolina 75, NC State 69. Sam Hinnant dropped 30 on the incredibly overrated Wolfpack. Anybody still got NCSU third in the ACC?
  • St. Mary’s 69, San Diego St. 64. very nice road win for the Gaels (prior to tonight’s loss v. SIU)
  • Kent St. 73, George Mason 55. Another solid mid-major win for the Golden Flashes.
  • Georgia 72, Wake Forest 50. We still don’t think much of UGa, but Wake took it on the chin from the SEC last week.
  • Fordham 88, NJIT 44. Stony Brook 62, NJIT 53. NJIT’s quest for winlessness continues (0-12). Avg. margin of defeat = 25.0 ppg. Next game: Thurs. at Rutgers.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Xavier (-19) v. Cincinnati (ESPN2) 7pm – we love the Crosstown Shootout – XU should roll this year, though.
  • Maryland (-8.5) v. Ohio 8pm. the way the Terps have been playing, this could be interesting…
  • Wisconsin (-13.5) v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN FC) 8pm - the battle of Cheeseheads.
  • Vanderbilt (-3) v. Depaul (ESPN Classic) 8pm - winnable road game for Vandy to remain unbeaten.
  • Arkansas (NL) v. Texas-San Antonio (ESPN FC) 8pm - we still haven’t gotten a good feel for the Hawgs.
  • Colorado (-5) v. New Orleans 9pm – the Privateers with another shot at defeating a BCS team.
  • Boston College (-4) v. Massachusetts (ESPNU) 9pm – the battle of Chowderheads.
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ATB: Hey Mr. DJ, Keep Playin That Song…

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2007

ATB v.4

12.02.07

Game of the Day. #8 Texas 63, #2 UCLA 61. One thing lost amidst last year’s undoubtedly deserving Kevin Durant hype at Texas was that Rick Barnes brought in five other talented freshmen in the class of 2006 who accounted for nearly half of UT’s points and rebounds in their 25-10 campaign. Everyone already knows about the head point guard capabilities of DJ Augustin, but players such as Damion James and Justin Mason have been largely overlooked. No longer. Tonight the Horns, led by those three sophs + juniors Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams, went into Pauley Pavilion and earned a far more impressive win than the Durant-led Horns had all of last season. Midway through the first half, UCLA went through yet another of those confounding Howland-era droughts, going almost nine minutes without a field goal, and in the process allowed Texas to take a commanding lead during a 17-0 run. Augustin (19/4) in particular shredded the vaunted UCLA defense, repeatedly showing his Steve Nash-tutelage in the form of stepback jumpers and blow-by abilities. The expected UCLA run came in the second half, as Mbah a Moute (14/7) and Shipp (11/7/4 assts) led the charge. UCLA took back the lead at the 12-minute mark, and had a three-point lead as late as 1:15 remaining. Then the unexpected occurred, as Connor Atchley made a clutch three to tie the game with 1:00 left, and UCLA missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on its next possession. After forcing DJ Augustin into a horrible leaning airball from the right side, Kevin Love & Co. didn’t block out, allowing Damion James (19/10) to rise over the top for a strong throwdown and a 2-pt Texas lead with 0:09 on the clock. UCLA ran it upcourt and got a great look for Mbah a Moute from three, but it was off the mark and Texas secured a tremendous early-season win against the #1 team in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, breaking UCLA’s 25-game homecourt winning streak. We don’t have the database to check this, but we gotta figure this is one of the only times in Texas basketball history the Horns have beaten a #1 team on the road. More importantly, this win announced to the college basketball world that a Texas without Kevin Durant will be dealt with this season. Right now, no other team has two quality wins as impressive as their neutral court dismantling of Tennessee and this road win at UCLA. As for the Bruins, the key stat Howland should be worried about is rebounding (+2 Texas) – considering the size and prowess of Love, Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute in the paint, they simply got outworked tonight on the boards, and it came back to bite them hard on the putback by James that won the game.

More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Arizona 78, #9 Texas A&M 67. With seven minutes to go in the first half, TAMU was already up twenty on Arizona and we were making plans to go get our Xmas tree. Arizona was once again showing absolutely no signs of life, letting yet another team brazenly come onto their court and push them around. That’s when UA freshman Jerryd Bayless (26/3/6 assts) decided to step up and make his presence known, sparking a late first-half run and leading the way in the second half for Arizona to get back and ultimately win the game. Will this game act as a turning point for Arizona? #4 Kansas 59, #25 USC 55. We admit that our expectations for this game were pretty low. Even though the game was at the Galen Center, we thought KU was way too disciplined, experienced and talanted to let USC’s young freshmen take this game. We were wrong in the sense that USC was able to hang with the Jayhawks the entire way. But we were right in that Kansas Mario Chalmers made the plays it needed to win the game. Chalmers’ 26-footer with 24 seconds left to essentially salt the game away was one of those shots where you initially think “he must have panicked” until it falls through the bottom of the net (which it did, dead center). Still, USC didn’t even play very well and was right there at the end – OJ Mayo was 6-21 from the field, Taj Gibson pulled another disappearing act (2 pts and fouled out again), but only Davon Jefferson (17/3) had a good game. We’re still not sure whether that tells us more about Kansas or USC long-term, though. Stanford 67, Colorado 43. Um, so much for Stanford having trouble with another road game, as someone in this space implied yesterday. Nebraska 62, Arizona St. 47. We obviously didn’t watch this game, but an eight-minute scoring drought by ASU that finished them off sounds an awful lot like Herb Sendek to us.

Big 12/Pac-10 Final Thoughts. The final tally was 6-5 in this matchup, with road teams winning five of the games. What did we learn? Probably not much, but looking at this slate beforehand we probably would have predicted the Pac-10 to win a couple more of these games, which may suggest that the league is a tad overrated from where pundits were projecting. Obviously, the bottom-dwellers of Oregon St. and Arizona St. are terrible teams. Washington and Cal are probably NIT-worthy. That leaves USC, Arizona, Stanford as NCAA first-weekend teams, with Oregon, Wazzu and UCLA as the likely second-weekend teams. In the Big 12, we see more talent at the top level with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. K-State, Baylor, Missouri and the Oklahomas will sort themselves out as NCAA/NIT-worthy, while Colorado, Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Nebraska look to be pretty bad teams this year.

Notable Scores.

  • Miami (FL) 66, St. John’s 47. Is Miami for real this year?
  • East Carolina 68, George Mason 65. Tough home loss for GMU today – let’s hope this doesn’t bite them come March.
  • VCU 85, Maryland 76. Eric Maynor blew up for 25/8 in the upset of the Terps. What’s going on, Gary?

On Tap Today (all times EST). Probably a night better spent doing something else, like, we dunno, talking to your wife/girlfriend.

  • Florida (NL) v. Jacksonville (ESPN FC) 7pm – Florida continues its quest to dominate the Sunshine State.
  • Arkansas (-10) v. Missouri St. (ESPN FC) 8pm. this border war game should be intriguing.
  • Wisconsin (-23) v. Wofford (ESPN2) 9pm - ESPN was obviously hurting for programming opposite MNF tonight.
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