Thursday, January 31, 2008
Kansas beaten; Memphis rolls on
The top-ranked Memphis Tigers stand alone as the only undefeated team in the nation, at 20-0, after the Tigers defeated Houston, 89-77 and #2 Kansas fell at Kansas State, 84-75.
It was the Jayhawks' first loss of the season. They are 20-1.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Tigers, Jayhawks Remain Unbeaten
The top two teams in every poll, Memphis and Kansas kept on winning on Saturday. The Jayhawks, ranked a strong #2, had the easier time of it, taking to their home court against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team they had already defeated, 79-58 on the road. Kansas got 18 from Darrell Arthur and 17 out of Brandon Rush in a 84-49 walkover win to get to 20-0. The result was hardly in doubt, as the Jayhawks built a 44-17 lead by halftime.
Memphis had a little more difficulty, but kept the Gonzaga hopefuls at bay, winning 81-73, for their 19th straight win. Chris Douglas-Roberts poured in 21 points for the Tigers, but Derrick Rose had a monster game, with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. The Tigers should be able to coast along through their relatively easy Conference-USA schedule until they host SEC powerhouse Tennessee on Feb. 23.
Speaking of the Vols, Chris Lofton hit 7 3-pointers and tallied 27 points to lead Tennessee past Georgia, 85-69. Tennessee shot 57% from the field. The Volunteers are 17-2 overall and tied for first place in the SEC East with Florida at 4-1.
After knocking North Carolina out of the #1 spot last week, the Maryland Terrapins found the Duke Blue Devils a little tougher act to follow, dropping a 93-84 decision at College Park. DeMarcus Nelson scored 27, and Gerald Henderson had 23 for 16-1 Duke, the only team in the ACC without a loss in the conference. Mark down Feb. 6, when the Devils play at North Carolina.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Tennessee Shuffled; A&M Un-Bear-Able
Upsets are a way of life in the upper echelons of college basketball. Kentucky is making them part of their routine in the SEC.
After handing Vanderbilt their first loss of the season ten days before, skeptics figured the Wildcats couldn't do the same against the deeper, more experienced Volunteers from Tennessee on Tuesday night. As it was, Kentucky had lost two straight after the upset of Vandy, both on the road, to Mississippi St. and Florida.
The skeptics were wrong.
Kentucky used their size advantage inside to upend the #5 Vols, 82-76 as Patrick Patterson scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Though star guard Chris Lofton led the way for the Vols with 22, including 5 3-pointers, his offense wasn't enough down the stretch. Kentucky had trailed by 10 in the second half, but Joe Crawford hit back-to-back treys to tie the game with 11 minutes remaining.
The teams traded leads as time wore on, but the Wildcats played solid defense and came away with another unlikely upset at Rupp Arena, where they are 2-0 in SEC play.
The Volunteers fell to 16-2 and 3-1 in the conference, a half game behind the Gators in the SEC East.
Baylor 116 Texas A&M 110, 5 OT
The Aggies probably wish they could start their conference schedule over again. They began play in the Big 12 with a 14-1 record and were fresh off a confidence-building 79-53 romp over LSU. They beat Colorado handily in their conference opener, 86-69, but then lost 2 straight, at Texas Tech and Kansas State.
Heading back to their home court against Baylor should have been just what the doctor ordered to snap them back to life. Instead, they ended in a battle to the death in five overtimes with the Baylor Bears, finally coming out on the wrong end of the score with their third straight loss, 116-110.
The Aggies continue to slide through the rankings, dropping to #16 last week and falling, now that they are now 15-4.
Baylor, on the other hand, should move up on Monday if they can get past 13-5 Oklahoma on Saturday. The bears are tied with #2 Kansas at 4-0 atop the Big 12 standings.
The Bears were led by junior guard Curtis Jerrells, who scored 36 points, including 20-24 from the foul line. Jerrells and his teammates actually won big time at the line, hitting 39-47 (.830) to the Aggies' 36-59 (.608).
80% free throw shooting will serve any team well, especially come March. Beware the Bears.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Syracuse takes Georgetown to OT
It was not easy for the 15-2 Hoyas, who overcame a 7-point deficit in the final five minutes to force overtime. Syracuse's phenomenal frosh, Johnny Flynn, scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Georgetown was also outrebounded by the Orangemen, 38-29.
Flynn, averaging 15.4 points per outing and has been held to single digits just once in the last 16 games, was largely stymied down the stretch, ending the night at 9-23 from the field, though he was 4-10 from beyond the arc.
Georgetown retained their first place standing in the Big East at 5-1 while Syracuse fell to 3-4. West Virginia, DePaul and Cincinnati are all a game back at 4-2, with five more teams deadlocked at 3-2.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Shakeup in the Top 25
(the current poll results are over in the left-hand column)
However, considering the level of overall talent in the ACC, it was to be expected that the Tar Heels were going to lose at least a couple of games in the conference. Now, losing to a very green and unranked Maryland team may surprise some, but the Terrapins always have a team capable of ruining any opponent's plans, and they always make the NCAA field of 65.
Coach Gary Williams consistently puts a solid product on the floor, has a NCAA championship to his credit and is in his 19th season at the University of Maryland, so, no surprise that the Terps beat the Heels, but doing it at Chapel Hill does raise some eyebrows.
What is interesting is to find another ACC team - Duke - jumping past their arch-rivals into the #3 spot behind Memphis and Kansas, both of which remained undefeated. Memphis made the top spot (in the AP Poll) for the first time since 1983, before any of the current players were even born. Duke knocked up Clemson pretty good on Sunday, 93-80, and were given the credit they deserve. The Blue Devils are just a one-point loss at Pitt from being undefeated themselves.
Other Top 25 teams that lost on Saturday:
Mississippi, 80-77, at Auburn
Pittsburgh, 62-59, at Cincinnati
Texas A&M was outscored 40-21 in the second half in its 75-54 thumping at Kansas St.
Miami, 79-77, at NC State
Arizona State, 67-52, at Stanford
UCLA, 72-63, at home to USC
Sunday's solitary Top 25 loser was Marquette, 89-73, at Connecticut. That's two straight losses for the Golden Eagles and their third in the Big East (3-3).
It's fascinating to note that the biggest upsets - North Carolina and UCLA - were on their home courts. Really great teams don't lose many on their own floors, so it bears watching if these two stumble as tourney time approaches.
Things are still pretty fluid and no team has demonstrated clear superiority, though, as stated in a previous post, Memphis appears on track to make it to the tourney unbeaten. For Kansas, accomplishing that feat would make them odds on to win it all. For now, the Jayhawks look to be gilt-edged, but the Big 12 is hazardous.
Looking ahead, #23 Drake is at Creighton and #5 Tennessee should cruise at Kentucky Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, #16 Texas A&M travels to Baylor, looking to avoid their second straight road loss. #4 North Carolina visits Miami. The Tar Heels don't want to lose their second straight, while the Hurricanes seek respect and a return to the Top 25.
On Thursday, the Dayton Flyers (19) travel to Xavier (22). The winner will take at least a share of the Atlantic 10 lead.
We'll be updating those games and others in the days ahead. Tonight, Syracuse visits Georgetown. While the 'Cuse is in somewhat of a downtrend, they'll give the Hoyas a game, but Roy Hibbert, who terrorized the Irish to the tune of 21 points in Saturday's 84-65 pounding of Notre Dame, looks to be putting his complete game together.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Butler Busted; Louisville Routs Marquette
The mighty may not have fallen, but some mites got bitten on Thursday night.
In the mid-majors, Butler met their match as the Cleveland State Vikings upended the #12 Bulldogs, 56-52, with a pressure defense that forced the visitors into their poorest shooting performance of the season.
Butler could only manage 18-53 field goals (.340) including a mere 6-23 from beyond the arc, as Cleveland State played tight defense and got inside scoring from J'Nathan Bullock (14 points) and timely sharpshooting from Joe Davis, who hit 5 of 7 from the field with 3 of 4 threes for 13 points. Cedric Jackson was also on his game, hitting 4-6, tallying 14 for the game.
Butler star A.J. Graves was hounded all night, and finished with a dismal 2 of 11 from the floor and 5 points, matching his worst outing of the season, a 73-66 win over Valparaiso.
The loss was the second of the season for the Bulldogs (16-2), both to Horizon League opponents. Their first loss was at Wright State, 43-42 on December 8, and had won 8 straight since. Cleveland St. improved to 13-5, but won their 6th straight in the Horizon League without a loss, improving their lead over Butler to two games.
Louisville 71 Marquette 51
Everybody's healthy again for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals and they're making some noise in the Big East.
David Padgett scored 17 points and hauled in 10 rebounds and Terrence Williams pitched in a game-high 20 points as the Cardinals won their 4th straight and 8th of their last 9, routing 15th ranked Marquette, 71-51.
Louisville improved to 3-1 in the conference and are in a 4-way tie for first place with Notre Dame, Pitt and Georgetown.
Marquette shot just 30 percent from the field and fell to 3-2 in the conference and 13-3 overall.
Tennessee 80 Vanderbilt 60
The Vols showed everybody who's the boss in the SEC with a consummate victory over #16 Vanderbilt.
Wayne Chism showed his versatility with a game high 20 points, hitting 8 of 13 shots from the floor, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith each chipped in with 14 as the #6 Volunteers improved to 15-1. Vandy won 16 straight to open the season, but have dropped two straight, the first a 79-73, double overtime loss at Kentucky this past Saturday.
Monday, January 14, 2008
KU Goes to 18-0; Top 25 Upsets Update
The Jayhawks sent a message to the rest of the conference with a pair of dominating performances in their first two Big 12 games, whipping Nebraska, 79-58 on Saturday, and then thumping Oklahoma, 85-55, Monday night.
Brandon Rush scored a team-high 19 in the win over Nebraska and followed that performance with 16 points against the Sooners. Darnell Jackson led the team in the Oklahoma game with 17 points on 8-10 shooting. The two wins put the Jayhawks at 18-0.
Over the weekend, a handful of notable upsets shook up college hoops and the Top 25.
It all began Saturday afternoon when Kentucky took undefeated Vanderbilt in double overtime, 79-73, followed by UCLA's dismissal of Washington State from the unbeaten club, 81-74.
But the biggest upset of the day took place in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes unceremoniously dumped Michigan St., 43-36. Iowa actually shot just 28% and won, as the Spartans weren't much better at 31%, hitting just 16 of 52 shots. Michigan St. turned the ball over 18 times for their second loss of the season.
Also on Saturday, the Missouri Tigers shot the lights out (56% and 12-26 on 3's) and walloped Texas, 97-84. Six Tigers scored in double figures. The Longhorns subsequently fell from #13 to #19 in the USA Today/ESPN poll.
In the Big East, Cincinnati knocked #16 Villanova down one notch after beating them 69-66.
On Sunday, Oregon kicked Stanford right out of the Top 25 with a 71-66 win and on Monday, #15 Pitt struck with an upset of #5 Georgetown, setting the stage for more Top 25 changes to come.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Vandy, Washington State Eliminated from Unbeaten Ranks
UCLA knocked Washington State off their lofty perch, handing the Cougars their first loss of the season, and it was mayhem in Lexington as Billy Gillispie had his team focused on a win. With the undefeated Commodores in town, Kentucky entered the game losers of 6 of their last 8, with an overall record of 6-7. This was their first SEC game.
Rupp Arena has seen it's share of upsets, but on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats exposed Vanderbilt's weakness and smothered the previously-unbeaten Commodores, 79-73.
The Wildcats consistently fed their big man, Patrick Patterson, in the first half, and he not only ate the Commodore's lunch, but polished off dinner and enjoyed a nice dessert and a cup of coffee. The 6'8" freshman, pounded the ball inside to the tune of a game-high 22 points on 7 for 12 shooting with 8 of 11 free throws and 12 rebounds.
In the second stanza and overtime, it was all Ramel Bradley, who scored 18 points - including the game-clincher with 32 seconds left in the second OT - after being held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
It was ugly for Vandy from the start, as Kentucky led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Patterson led the way with 14 points in the opening period, which ended with Kentucky holding a 10-point lead, 32-22.
The Commodores closed the gap in the second half as Shan Foster and Alex Gordon turned up the shooting. Vanderbilt's freshman sensation, A. J. Ogilvy delivered a key basket with under thee minutes to play cutting the lead to 3, but was limited to 16 points on 6-11 shooting. Foster cut the lead to 2 points (63-61) at the 1:45 mark on a deep three-pointer.
After Kentucky's Ramel Bradley hit a short jumper and a free throw by Vandy's Jermaine Beal made it 65-62, Kentucky turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with under 40 seconds to play, giving the Commodores life. Foster banged home his 4th three pointer of the game to tie it at 65-all with 17 seconds to play.
In the first overtime, Ogilvy scored a key put-back with 4 seconds remaining to force another extra 5 minute period.
Foster finished with 20; Gordon tallied 12.
Patterson improved on his averages of 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, leading the Wildcats in both departments.
The losses leave just three undefeated teams in the NCAA. North Carolina pounded in-state rival NC State, 93-62. Memphis and Kansas played late games.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Five Undefeated... for How Long?
North Carolina (16-0)
Washington St. (14-0)
There they are, five teams with a cumulative record of 75-0. By this time next month, odds are that there will be three or less, maybe none, though the team which stands out as having the best chance of making it through not only January, but February and into March - the Memphis Tigers.
Having already knocked off three ranked opponents (USC, Georgetown and Arizona), the next test for John Calipari's Tigers might not be until February 23, when they host the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are currently ranked #8 and just knocked Mississippi from the ranks of the undefeated, 85-83, this past Wednesday.
Before they get to that game with the Vols, Memphis faces a schedule made up nearly exclusively of Conference-USA opposition. In a league that was severely watered-down when Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette jumped to the Big East a few seasons back, the Tigers face an undistinguished group of teams including the likes of Marshall (9-4), Rice (3-11), Tulsa (8-4) and Southern Miss (8-7). On January 26, Gonzaga comes calling, but the Zags aren't the Western powerhouse they used to be, having already dropped decisions to Texas Tech, Washington St. Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The Tigers swept their conference games last season and they're likely to do it again. There simply isn't any measurable competition in the league that can stand up to the formidable inside game of Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier who combine for 19 points and 17 rebounds per outing. Nor can anyone match up with leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts (16.9 ppg) or the quickness of point guard Derrick Rose (4.5 apg).
Should the Tigers get past the Zags and the Vols, they should make a serious run at least to the Final Four.
If any other team has the skills and schedule to run the table, it's probably not going to be Vanderbilt. The Commodores have Tennessee on tap for Jan. 17 and the arduous itinerary of the SEC is simply too tough for anyone to get through unscathed. Besides, Vandy hasn't even played a ranked opponent yet. They're good, but finishing conference play with less than four losses would be accomplishment enough.
Out West, Washington State has defied skeptics and the odds, compiling a 14-0 record. Their big test comes tomorrow, Jan. 12, when they travel down coast to #5 UCLA. If they win that, the Cougars still have to wend their way through the tough PAC-10, including trips to Arizona, Arizona St., Stanford and Oregon. Good luck.
That leaves Kansas and North Carolina. While the Tar Heels are heads and shoulders better than almost every team in the ACC, the rivalries run deep and the games are hard-fought. If Roy Williams can guide his troops to an undefeated run through one of the toughest conferences in the country, hand them the trophy. The same applies to the Jayhawks, who face serious challenges in the Big 12 from Texas, Texas A&M and sneaky-good teams like Oklahoma, Kansas State and Missouri.
We're down to five now, but don't be surprised if there aren't any unbeatens come tourney time, though Memphis just may have the horses to get it done.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
A Few Facts about the Dayton Flyers
The Flyers are 13-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference, with wins over three ranked teams: Louisville (70-65), Pittsburgh (80-55) and Rhode Island (92-83). The only loss suffered by the Flyers was in their second game of the season, on November 17, at George Mason, 67-56. They've since won 12 straight.
The University of Dayton was founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary (the Marianists). It is a Catholic school which evolved from a boarding school for boys (St. Mary's School for Boys) built on 125 acres of farmland and became the University of Dayton in 1920. It is the largest private college in the state of Ohio.
Over the last nine years, UD has had 23 conference championships and 17 teams reach the post-season. The basketball program rates as one of the best in the nation, in an elite group graduating basketball athletes at a rate of better than 85%.
The basketball program has incredible fan acceptance. For seven straight years Dayton basketball has finished in the top 25 in the nation in attendance.
Head coach: Brian Gregory
Brian Roberts, 6'2" senior guard, leads the team with 4.6 assists and 19.4 points per game.
Chris Wright, 6'8" freshman forward, 6 rebounds (leads team), 10.4 points per game.
Marcus Johnson, 6'3" sophomore guard, 9.6 ppg.
Forwards Charles Little (6'6" junior) and Kurt Huelsman (6'10" sophomore) each average 4.9 rebounds per game and are the 4th and 5th leading scorers on the team.
Only six of the players on the team are from Ohio, but four of them - Roberts, Johnson, Wright and Huelsman - are starters. Oddly enough, Little, the other starter, hails from Cleveland... Tennessee.
Team colors: Red and Blue
Official website: www.udayton.edu
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
The SEC is the Place to Be
The Commodores, ranked #13 nationally, needed a huge game from freshman A.J. Ogilvy, who scored 25 points, more than picking up the slack from SEC scoring leader Shan Foster, who hit only 4-11 from the field and tallied 13 points. The Gamecocks kept the game close until Vandy pulled away in the final four minutes. Devan Downey led South Carolina with 22 points.
In Tennessee's 85-83 win, it was tighter down the stretch. The visiting Rebels led 83-79 with under two minutes remaining, but the Vols scored the final six points of the game, the last four on buckets by Tyler Smith, who finished with a team-high 21 points, the same number scored by JaJuan Smith, who had a hot first half with 16 points, including 4-6 shooting from 3-point range.
Mississippi's Chris Warren scored 24 to pace all scorers. With the win, the Vols and Rebels share identical 13-1 records as conference play in the SEC got underway. The two teams will not meet again during the regular season.
Both divisions look to be hotly contested. In the East, the main challenge for the Vols will come from Vanderbilt and Georgia. Florida, which won the division, conference and national championship last year, already has a conference win over Alabama, though they are nowhere near the same team that took the floor last season, having lost all five starters to the NBA.
In the West, Mississippi will have to contend with Mississippi St., Arkansas and Auburn, all of which were close to the division lead last season.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Hibbert's Double-Double Leads Hoyas; Big East on Fire
Georgetown joins Notre Dame and Syracuse atop the Big East standings at 2-0, followed by Connecticut and Marquette at 2-1 and a gaggle of six teams at 1-1. Pre-season favorite Pittsburgh is 0-1, after losing at Villanova, 64-63, on Sunday. The Panthers can begin to make amends with games against 1-1 South Florida and 0-2 Seton Hall this week, prior to hosting the Hoyas on the 14th.
For Hibbert, it was business as usual in the post, hitting on 7 of 9 shots from the field as Georgetown improved to 12-1 overall. It was Hibbert's 2nd double-double of the season.
Four other Top 25 teams in action on Tuesday all won.
#3 Kansas 90 Loyola (MD) 60 - 12 different Jayhawks tallied as Kansas improved to 15-0.
#15 Marquette 61 Seton Hall 56 - Marquette survived a poor shooting night, hitting less than 33% from the field and committing 15 turnovers, to hold on for a home win over Seton Hall, 0-2 in the Big East.
#10 Indiana 78 Michigan 64 - Freshman sensation Eric Gordon led all scorers with 23 points, but D.J. White's performance was one for the record books, as the 6'9" senior forward scored 21 points and hauled down 23 rebounds, 8 of them on the offensive boards. White was the first Hoosier to record a 20-20 performance in over a decade (Alan Henderson, 1995). The Hoosiers are 13-1 and are tied with Wisconsin, Penn St., Michigan St. and Ohio St. at 2-0 in the conference.
#6 Michigan St. 78 Purdue 76 - The Boilermakers nearly pulled off a huge upset, rallying from a 16-point first half deficit to take a lead late in the game, but the Spartans held court at home to improve to 14-1, their 11th straight win.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Izzo's Spartans the Team to Beat in Big 10
This season, Izzo seems to have put together an elite, Top 10 team, making Michigan State the one to beat in the rugged Big 10 conference.
Entering Saturday night's conference opener against a solid Minnesota team, the Spartans were 12-1 and ranked 6th nationally. By the time the game was over, Michigan had added another win, buttressing their spot near the top of the national heap with an All-American performance from sophomore forward Raymar Morgan.
The 6'8" Morgan wore out the visiting Golden Gophers on both ends of the floor, scoring 31 points on 11-17 shooting while snatching 10 rebounds in Michigan State's 65-59 win. The points were a career high for Morgan, who ranks third in Big 10 scoring behind Indiana's Eric Gordon (23.5) and Penn State's Geary Claxton (18.6) at 18.4 per game. He's also tied for 7th in the conference 7.3 rebounds per outing and has registered three double-doubles this season.
Teamed with the playmaking, scoring and leadership abilities of senior Drew Neitzel and the inside presence of 6'10" junior Goran Suton, Izzo is looking forward to a Big 10 title and possible Final Four appearance later this year.
Michigan State's only setback this season was a tough 68-63 loss, November 20 at UCLA. Since then, the Spartans have knocked off three ranked opponents - BYU, Texas and NC State.
Looking ahead, key games include a Feb. 16 contest at Indiana, then two consecutive tough outings, Feb. 28 at Wisconsin and March 2, at home with the Hoosiers.
As Morgan continues to impress and improve and Izzo keeps pushing the fundamentals to his troops, the Spartans look to be the kind of team nobody will want to play come tourney time.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Kansas Forwards Dismantle Boston College
Jackson was 9-16 from the field and popped in 7 of 8 free throws, while Arthur was devastatingly accurate, hitting on 10 of 13 shots with a pair of free throws. Kansas shot 52% for the game and outrebounded the Eagles 32-20.
The two power forwards are primarily responsible for Kansas' perfect 14-0 record this season.
Sophomore Arthur leads the team in scoring at 13.1 points per outing, with Jackson, a senior, a close third, hitting for an average of 11.5 per game. Guard Mario Chalmers is second with 12.3. All five Kansas starters are averaging in double digits.
The two also do an exceptional job wiping the glass, combining for 13 rebounds per game. On Saturday, the pair was a force on both ends, as Jackson hauled down 9 boards and Arthur pulled in 7.
While Jackson will surely test the NBA draft following his final season at Kansas, Arthur may forego the remainder of his college career to go pro as well. In addition to leading the Jayhawks in scoring, he's second on the team in both rebounds and blocks and has scored in double digits in 13 of 14 games this season.
The inside presence of these two is going to make the Big 12 schedule - which begins next week - a nightmare for conference opponents.
The Jayhawks open on the road at Nebraska on January 12. Other key dates for Kansas are a pair of away games: at Texas, February 11 and Texas A&M, March 8, the final game of the regular season.
Watch out for Kansas come tourney time. Barring major injuries, they look like a lock for a #1 seed.