The Lede. What a weekend. Unless you care about the Pro Bowl (and really, other than gamblers, who does?), we here in the college hoops universe had the sports world to ourselves, and the weekend gods in charge made sure that we had a wild and woolly preview of March even though the calendar still said otherwise. Fully half of the ranked teams in the RTC Top 25 lost over the weekend, and quite a few others including two of the top three teams in America hung on by the skin of their teeth. What this shows us once again is that there are no dominant teams in basketball this year; even though Ohio State remains undefeated, they’ve had numerous close encounters and it’s clear that the Buckeyes are merely one of a dozen teams with the goods to win six straight this spring. It should be a wild ride through the remaining five weeks of the regular season; if this weekend’s results are any indication, we should all down a few anti-vertigo meds and strap ourselves in.
Your Watercooler Moment. Duke Destroyed in the Garden. The last time we saw the Duke Blue Devils so thoroughly undressed as they were in today’s matchup with St. John’s at the Garden, many observers at the time believed that Coach K had lost some of his touch on the recruiting trail and his teams simply could not compete at the highest level of college basketball anymore. On that day, Villanova used a dominant second half to rattle the Devils with its superior quickness and athleticism, forcing Duke to fire off 22 bricks from beyond the arc (versus five makes) in the game and generally embarrassing a team that had been ranked as high as #1 at one point that season. Today’s game against Steve Lavin’s fun group of Johnnies was not entirely dissimilar. Duke looked generally slow, uninterested and incapable of making an outside shot (shooting 5-26 from deep after starting out 1-19) while SJU had all the energy and emotion of a home crowd desperate for a winning program again. Whether this is emblematic of a bad day for Duke or indicative of a deeper set of problems, we’ll have to see how February goes before making that decision. Make no mistake, though, today’s result was a major red flag for the defending national champs. Teams that win titles don’t find themselves down 50-25 to anybody, much less unranked teams.
We have much more on this destruction of Duke from our correspondent’s report from the game here.
This Weekend’s Quick Hits…
- Ashton Gibbs and Jared Sullinger. A couple of big-time players making big-time shots in the clutch with their teams on the verge of defeat. #1 Ohio State appeared to be in serious trouble when David Lighty got the ball into Sullinger deep in the post off a steal. He was fouled and subsequently hit 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining and all the noise and pressure of the Northwestern students weighing on him at the time. Just another day at the office (21/8) for the impressive freshman. At Rutgers, it was the junior Gibbs (24/4) who played the role of Mr. Clutch, drilling a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down and the Panthers clinging to a precarious one-point lead. His three gave Pitt just enough breathing room to keep Rutgers on the fouling strategy, ultimately unsuccessful as Pitt hit twelve down the stretch to salt away another win.
- The Texas Defense. It’s starting to scare us. We know that the Longhorn defense is already the most efficient in America, but to put the clamps on an offensive juggernaut like Missouri in holding the Tigers to 58 points (25 below their season average) is ridiculous. In six Big 12 games, they’re holding teams to 54 points per game, a statistic that is particularly amazing when you consider that three of those wins were against teams in the top 15. If Rick Barnes can coax a little more offense from his young team, the Horns might end up as the best team in America by March.