Game of the Weekend. #2 Kansas 81, #13 Kansas State 79 (OT). First, props to the K-State fans for stepping up on Gameday. They created an environment for this one that was as electric as any place we’ve seen this season. There’s no doubt their players felt the love, too. They needed to. If you think these teams thought this was just another game, think again. Sherron Collins was so amped up that he was dehydrated BEFORE the game started. Jacob Pullen was seen on two different occasions dry-heaving into a trash can at the KSU bench. If Kansas could manage a win in such surroundings, they’d be the presumptive #1 on Monday and would certainly deserve it. The first narrative hook came early when Bill Self yanked Cole Aldrich (18/11/3 blks) and evidently reminded him on how to use his size to eat up space on the inside, because he began to hit layup after layup and pull rebound after rebound. KSU stayed close even with Aldrich’s elevated play, but as the Wildcats’ shot selection began to fail them, KU built a five-point lead. This was quickly erased as Jacob Pullen began to get more touches, and KU’s halftime lead was a mere point. The Jayhawks managed to build it back to eight early in the second half, but KSU remedied that by settling for layups instead of bad looks from three, and by hitting the offensive glass HARD. After regulation time couldn’t decide it, and a neck-and-neck overtime, it’s only fitting that this game should be effectively decided by an incredible play by a big time player. With KU up by a point and thirteen seconds left, Sherron Collins — battling dehydration and muscle spasms the entire night — drove to the hole knowing he was going to take contact, knowing there was little chance he was going to land in any way except on his back, and banked in a lay-up for a three-point play. The Wildcats’ body language told the story. He couldn’t convert the free throw, but after a Cole Aldrich offensive board and two Brady Morningstar free throws (which proved to be vital, after Jacob Pullen drilled a long three at the buzzer), it was done. There were a few moments of celebration by the Jayhawks, but soon after, what you saw was more solemn pride and relief. True, there isn’t much difference between the one-loss teams at the top of the polls. But you can’t really have a three-way tie for #1, and the way the wins and losses have fallen — and after seeing what Kansas went through to win in Manhattan — the Jayhawks deserve the top position for now.
Finally, No Obama Jinx. #11 Georgetown 89, #7 Duke 77. Well, at least Duke shot 84.6% from the free throw line. And that’s because you can’t guard free throws. If you look at the numbers on this one, you might simply assume that the Hoyas “out-defended” the Blue Devils, since they held Duke to a 37% shooting day, including 31% (9-29) from three-point range. All due respect to the Hoyas, because that statement is formally true — in this case, though, it’s not profound. This wasn’t the Duke defense to which we’ve grown accustomed. If you were looking for that in this game, you saw it on maybe one of every five Georgetown possessions. Even more importantly, John Thompson III instructed his squad to be as selective with their shots as the admissions committees are with applicants at these schools. As a result, Georgetown took 16 fewer shots in this game than the Devils — but hit 72% of them (33-46), an unfathomable number against anyone, let alone Duke. All but maybe two of Georgetown’s attempts from behind the three-point arc were good looks, and they hit six of them (46%). What was it that forced Duke out of their usual game plan? Was it just Georgetown’s economical approach? The excellence of Greg Monroe (21/5/5)? The presence of Barack Obama and Joe Biden on the front row? RTC Live in the building? Hard to say. Maybe it was the fact that this wasn’t Cameron Indoor, since Duke has dropped four of the five true road games it’s played this year.