The Horizon League finished its regular season on Saturday. The first round matchups for the tournament are all set. Of course the favorite to win the conference tournament is Butler. The Bulldogs went a perfect 18-0 in conference. The Bulldogs played without star forward Gordon Hayward – the assumed Horizon League Player of the Year – and still managed to defeat Valparaiso on the road on Friday. Butler will be playing at home and receives a double-bye into the semifinals. The team joining Butler with the double-bye on the other side of the bracket? Wright State. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Much more on the Horizon League Tournament, the season that was, and everything else.
How did they/I do? Here is the media’s preseason poll compared with what actually happened this season in the Horizon League. For fun, I’ve also included what I said in preseason.
2/2. Wright State
3/4. Cleveland State
5/5. Green Bay
7/9. Youngstown State
Everyone knew who the top two teams were going to be coming into the season. Wright State returned a veteran team and Butler is a monster with its talent. After that it gets murky. Apparently both the media and I overrated Cleveland State just a smidge. I’m happy though that I had every school within two places of where the actually finished. Green Bay outperformed expectations a bit and since the Phoenix get Youngstown State at home to start, expect to see them in Indianapolis.
The Face of the 2009-10 Season. #4 Kentucky 64, #12 Connecticut 61. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was any doubt whatsoever about who the face of college basketball was, is, or will be this season, consider it no more. The buzz was already there. There have been sketchy highlights of Johnathan Hildred Wall from Raleigh, NC, dressed in a Kentucky uniform and easily floating game-winners over Miami and Stanford; there have been a couple of filthy dunks and drives against North Carolina that had you out of your seat shaking your head when you saw them on SportsCenter; but there wasn’t this. No, not this. This being a nationally-televised game with no other competition on the tube where the too-young-to-know-how-good-he-is Mr. Wall emphatically and with reckless abandon introduced himself to the sports world beyond the hoops diehards, shouting from the top of New York’s Empire State Building to the rest of the world… “I am College Basketball.” Dramatic? Possibly. Truthful? Absolutely.
Sure - Why Not??
John Wall (25/2/6 stls) scored twelve of the last fifteen points of the game for his team, and as our RTC Live correspondent Ballin is a Habit put it at the game, “Garden security should kidnap Wall and throw a Nate Robinson jersey on him. Who will know?” That’s the point. Wall is probably nearly as good as anyone on the Knicks (or Nets) roster, and the star-studded NYC crowd was electric tonight as they knew this was but a first glimpse of WonderWall and that they would be seeing this kid play for a very long time at the Garden. When it came down to the last five minutes of the game tonight, the scoring went back and forth, but as you were watching the action you already knew where the ball was going when Kentucky got it. You also knew what the result would be — several clutch jumpers followed by a strong and-one when Wall drove from the left side, absorbed contact, and still finished the play to put UK up two with a half-minute left. After a Kemba Walker (12/8/6 assts) miss and Ramon Harris FT for Kentucky, UConn took and missed a couple of threes to finish the game and push Calipari’s team to 9-0 and John Wall into hype overdrive.
We’re just as guilty as anyone of being awed by the guy, but the last time we saw a freshman player who was so spectacular (must-see tv) was when Kevin Durant was dominating everyone in his path at Texas. You tuned in because you sensed that anything could happen when Durant had the ball, and people are starting to sense that about John Wall as well. One key difference in their careers at this point – Wall has already won three games down the stretch by himself. We’re not sure that even Durant did that before Christmas of his freshman season! John Wall — the 2009-10 Face of College Basketball.
Upset of the Night. Green Bay 88, #23 Wisconsin 84. Students RTC’d after the Fighting Phoenix of Green Bay upset the flagship university of the state in overtime tonight (send pics or vids!) in a classic trap game for Bo Ryan’s Badgers. Bryquis Perine (22/3/3 stls) and Randy Berry (13/12) led the way for UWGB, who, despite having ten fewer boards than Wisconsin were able to force 18 turnovers from normally surehanded Badgers to grit out the win. For the Phoenix, this was the first win in their last fifteen games against Wisconsin, and the Badgers will now face home games against Marquette and UW-Milwaukee in the next two weeks to try to regain state supremacy.
Another Upset. Oral Roberts 60, Missouri 59. We had a feeling that this would have upset written all over it, and sure enough it did (complete with a mini-RTC at the end – see below video). Missouri fans have to be beating themselves up over this one, though, as the Tigers had a ten-point lead on the road with just over five minutes remaining and they couldn’t close out the game. Michael Craion’s layup with 0.9 seconds remaining (first video) capped a 15-4 closing run for ORU that gave the Golden Eagles their second win over a BCS team this season (although a considerably better one than Stanford). ORU got 21/7/4 assts from Dominique Morrison and 10/13 from Kevin Ford, and it was just enough for Scott Sutton’s program to pull off the upset tonight. One major concern for Mizzou has to be that they only attempted three FTs tonight (making one), which signals a lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end.
And a Third. Harvard 74, Boston College 67. Is this an upset after how well Harvard has been playing and especially after last year’s Harvard win at BC? Well, it is still Harvard, so we’ll say yes. Jeremy Lin continues to impress, dropping 25/3/4 assts just a few nights after ripping the Connecticut defense up for thirty, and BC is at some point going to have to realize that winning a single ACC game doesn’t mean they can take the next night off (as they did last year as well). The Crimson shot 50% from the field, held BC to 38%, and stood toe to toe with the bigger Eagles on the boards. Furthermore, when crunch time came around, Harvard, especially Lin, calmly walked up to the line and sealed the win, which is something winning programs tend to do. It’s been a foregone conclusion that Cornell would once again own the Ivy League this year, but could Harvard challenge the Big Red in the Ancient Eight?