Story of the Day. The marquee games of the day were held in KC in the semis of the CBE Classic at the spanking new Sprint Center tonight. We’re still wondering why Kansas City built this thing (we hear the Sonics are available), but it looked like a nice joint for some collegiate hoops. #3 UCLA 71, Maryland 59. In this game, UCLA only had eight players dress out (Darren Collison in particular is still injured), but the Bruins under Ben Howland do what they always do – they uglified the game and ultimately imposed their will on the Terps. The first half looked like someone had greased the basketball, as both teams combined for 30 turnovers and only 46 pts. Advantage: UCLA, as they took a ten-pt lead into the half. The second half wasn’t as painful to watch, but Maryland never truly threatened to get back into the game – every Terp push seemed to be met with a UCLA player hanging off the rim on the other end. Kevin Love had a nice dub-dub (18/16), but we’re with Vitale in agreement that this kid is shy of 6’9 – maybe we’ll see him again next year after all. The only player that impressed on Maryland was Bambale Osby, who had several ridiculous blocks including one stuff of a stuff on Aboya that had us coming out of our seat. The bottom line is this – when UCLA gets Collison back running the show, they are without a doubt the most difficult matchup in the nation because of their defense, size and athleticism. They’re the only team around that can win games going away while shooting poorly (like tonight – 38%).
Michigan St. 86, Missouri 83. This was a much better game from a viewing standpoint. MSU looked very impressive in the first half, building as much as a 16-pt lead over the quasi-home team, but Mizzou looked equally as impressive in the second half as they charged back into the game, using the 40MoH pressure defense to fluster the Spartans on numerous possessions. MSU’s Raymar Morgan had a perfect night (19 pts on 6-6 FG and 6-6 FT), but it was Drew Neitzel (21 pts) and Goran Suton (17/8) who made the big plays late to secure the win for Tom Izzo’s team. We still think Indiana is the team to beat in the Big 10, but MSU can prove us wrong tomorrow night against UCLA. As for Missouri, we really like what Mike Anderson has already accomplished there – at any moment, we expect to see those twins he had at UAB throwing over-the-head passes 90 feet. The rebuild is over – Missouri could be an NCAA team this year.
Maui Invitational. Four games, four ho-hummers. Oklahoma St. 83, LSU 77. We thought this would be a close game, and we were wrong, as OSU ran out to an 18-pt halftime lead before nearly blowing the whole thing down the stretch (LSU got within three at the 1:46 mark). OSU was led by James Anderson (25 pts) and Terrel Harris (24 pts), but neither team really impresses us. Where has Anthony Randolph (5/5/5 turnovers) gone? Marquette 74, Chaminade 63. Visions of Virginia ’83 were dancing in the heads of local fans as Chaminade hung with Marquette for much of this game, but Jerel McNeal and his 22 pts held off the upstarts in the last five minutes for the win. Duke 83, Princeton 61. A completely outclassed Princeton team was overwhelmed from the opening tip against Duke, falling behind 24-4 in the first seven minutes of the game. Kyle Singler continued his impressive November, tallying 21/12 in the blowout. Illinois 77, Arizona St. 54. The nightcap game started much the same way, as Illinois ran out to a 20-0 lead on Arizona St. before coasting the rest of the way. Illinois might be better than we thought, but frankly, we expected a better performance in the first game from Herb’s boys tonight. Oklahoma St. will play Marquette and Duke will play Illinois tomorrow. Our picks – Duke and Marquette.
Paradise Jammy. Baylor 62, Winthrop 54. Is Baylor a team on the rise in the Big 12? It would appear to be so after defeating Wichita St., Notre Dame and Winthrop in successive nights to win the Paradise Jam. We would have picked against Baylor in all three games. Georgia Tech 70, Notre Dame 69. The consolation game featured a three with two seconds remaining from Tech’s Matt Causey that gave the schizo Yellow Jackets the win. ND’s Luke Harangody had 22/11 in the loss.
The Atlantic Sun Strikes Again. Belmont 85, Alabama 83. Is Belmont winning on the road against a BCS team an upset anymore? No, especially against an SEC team these days, as the suckeastern conference has been taking it on the chin lately. Right now, who besides Tennessee (and maybe a very young Florida) looks worth a damn? As for this game, a review of the stats shows that both teams played pretty well – it was just that Belmont converted more plays down the stretch. Specifically, Justin Hare dropped a pullup J from the foul line with 2.2 seconds remaining to put the Bruins up two points. What’s amazing about this is that Hare has achieved Jordanesque end-of-game status at Belmont, as this was the thirteenth time he had hit a shot to win or send a game into OT in his career. Bama’s Richard Hendrix went for 25/10 in the losing effort.
On Tap Today (all times EST). The Maui continues, and the Game of the Year (so far) takes place in KC at the CBE.
- Indiana (-21.5) v. UNC-Wilmington 7pm – the only reason we wish we had the Big Ten channel is E-Giddy.
- Marquette (-3) v. Oklahoma St. (ESPN) 7pm - we have no idea what will happen in this game, sorry.
- Connecticut (NL) v. Gardner-Webb (ESPN FC) 7:30pm – didn’t we just do this?
- Tennessee (-22.5) v. Middle Tennessee St. (ESPN FC) 7:30pm – will Lofton wake up this season?
- Maryland v. Missouri (-5.5) (ESPN2) 7:45pm – this should be an exciting, uptempo game.
- Florida (NL) v. North Florida (ESPN FC) 8pm – when does Florida play a road game again – January?
- Vanderbilt (-14) v. Valparaiso 8pm – the way SEC teams have been falling…
- Duke (-7) v. Illinois (ESPN) 9:30pm - Illinois has the inside play to exploit Duke, but whither their guards?
- UCLA (-3.5) v. Michigan St. (ESPN2) 10pm – blood, guts, and glory. This will be a slugfest.
- Oregon (-5) v. St. Mary’s (ESPNU) 10pm – upset alert! SMC is legit, but Oregon has looked fantastic thus far. How will the Ducks fare in their first road test?