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.
#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.
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.
#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…