Sunday, February 28, 2010
Kansas, Kentucky Beaten, Syracuse Rises
Three of the top four-ranked teams in the country were on the courts Saturday as college basketball nears its frenzied finish. The top two - Kansas and Kentucky - found out what finishing means, while #4 Syracuse dominated Villanova at home and may end up ranked #1 when the new poll comes out on Monday.
After Tennessee beat #2 Kentucky, 74-65, denying the Wildcats from clinching at least a tie in the SEC East, the Oklahoma State Cowboys showed the rest of the Big 12 that #1 Kansas was not invincible.
James Anderson diligently poured in 27 points to lead the Cowboys to their 85-77 upset of the Jayhawks, keeping a tourney bid in sight. Anderson did it all, from everywhere on the court, hitting 9 of 19 shots, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, adding 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Anderson, the fifth-leading scorer in the nation at 22.6 ppg, has scored in double figures every game this season, and has helped the Cowboys to a 20-8 record, and an 8-6 mark in the conference. Combined with Texas' loss to Texas A&M, the Cowboys are now tied for 6th place in the Big 12, likely a spot good enough to earn an NCAA tournament bid. Their final two games before the conference tourney are against A&M and Nebraska.
Later in the evening, 34,616 fans who found their way through nearly two feet of snow to set an NCAA on-campus crowd record, were rewarded by their hometown Syracuse Orangemen, who dispatched Villanova, 95-77, to take control of the Big East conference at 14-2. The Orange now have a two-game lead over the Wildcats with two games to play, ensuring at least a tie for the regular season title. With just St. John's and Louisville left on their schedule, the Orange look assured of winning the conference outright.
The #3 Purdue Boilermakers will see if they can stay close to the top when they face Michigan State this afternoon. With a shot at the Big Ten title, Purdue will have to do it without their star forward, Robbie Hummel, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Tip time is just after 4:00 pm.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Butler Completes Perfect Horizon Season
The Butler Bulldogs extended the nation's longest winning streak to 18 games and completed their Horizon League schedule with a perfect 18-0 season, knocking off Valparaiso, 74-69, as Willie Veasley cashed 4 of 6 3-pointers and 7 of 12 overall to pace the Bulldogs.
Butler long ago clinched the Horizon championship, and will enter the league tournament as the clear #1 seed. The Bulldogs won despite missing their best player, Gordon Hayward, who missing the game with a back sprain.
Notable: Cornell took a major step toward the Ivy league title with a 50-47 win over Princeton, as Jeff Foote led the Big Red with 19 points. Cornell leads the Ivy at 10-1 with three games remaining on their conference slate. Handing Princeton its third conference loss (two at Cornell's hands) gives Big Red some breathing room at the top. Harvard is currently in second place at 8-3, with Princeton third at 7-3.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Cousins, Kentucky Get Revenge; Hummel Out for Season
Avenging their only loss of the season, the #2 Kentucky Wildcats cruised past SEC leading-scorer Devan Downey and his South Carolina teammates for an 82-61 win, boosting their gaudy record to 27-1 and 12-1 in the conference.
The Gamecocks had no answers for Kentucky's powerful front line, as DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson ruled the lane on both ends of the floor. Cousins finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, his 18th double-double of the season. Patterson provided a team-high 23 points, 8 boards and 4 blocked shots.
Kentucky leads Vanderbilt by 2 games in the SC East, with 3 to play, though their remaining games are against Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, among the best in the league, though the Wildcats have already beaten each of them. The Tennessee and Georgia games are on the road. Kentucky finishes their regular season at home, hosting Florida.
Notable: In the midst of one of the best seasons in school history, the Purdue Boilermakers suffered a devastating blow as star forward Robbie Hummel has been ruled out of the season with a torn ACL. The injury took place in Purdue's 59-58 win over Minnesota Wednesday night.
With just three games left in the regular season, the Boilermakers lead the Big Ten at 10-3, though they face a tough test Sunday when they host Michigan State. A loss by Purdue opens the door for both the Spartans and Ohio State to capture the conference title. Purdue was ranked #3 - their highest ranking of the season - and has won 10 straight Big Ten games after dropping their first three.
The blow to the Boilermakers will be significant. Hummel was second on the squad in minutes, scoring and rebounding. He was CBD's Player of the Day three times this season.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Buckeye's Turner a Stat Machine
Whenever Ohio State's Evan Turner is in the linuep, the Buckeyes have an excellent shot at winning - against any team in the country. Wednesday night, Turner put his seemingly-limitless talents on display against Helpless Penn State, and the result was a statistical eye-opener, in addition to being another Ohio State victory.
Turner scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Buckeyes to a 75-67 win, their 11th in their last 12 games against conference opponents. Turner usually does much more than just pour in the points, and his effort against the Nittany Lions was no exception as he racked up 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a couple of blocked shots. While it wasn't a double-double, of which Turner has 12 this season, it was close to a triple-double, something the 6'7" junior has accomplished twice in '09-10.
The win kept Ohio State's hopes for a Big Ten championship very much alive, everything hinging on the outcome of Michigan State's trip to Purdue on Sunday. Should the Spartans pull off the upset, the Buckeyes, Boilermakers and Spartans could all easily finish the regular season at 14-4, with the tiebreaker falling Ohio State's way as they split with Purdue and hold a win over Michigan State in their only meeting this season. The Spartans have already lost to Purdue once, so another loss would give Purdue the edge, at 15-3, should they close out the calendar with wins over Indiana and Penn State, so Sunday's Purdue-Michigan St. rematch looms the biggest Big Ten game of the season.
Notable: Bubble teams going backwards include San Diego State (20-8, 9-5), as the Aztecs lost, 82-68, at BYU; Dayton (18-9, 7-6), a 49-41 loser to Temple; Minnesota (16-11, 7-8), losers at home to Purdue, 59-58; and Oklahoma State (19-8, 7-6), a 69-59 loser at Texas. South Florida, which suffered a crushing, 74-49 loss at the hands of Villanova, was probably already off the bubble and out of the post-season picture before they took the court against the Wildcats. They're now 6-9 in the conference.
The shocker of the night came from the Norte Dame Fighting Irish (18-10, 7-8), which bombed Pittsburgh, 68-53, just days after the Panthers knocked off Villanova, 70-65. The Irish played their third straight game without senior star Luke Harangody, who is out with a bone bruise to his right knee, and are currently tied for 8th place in the Big East with Seton Hall, UConn and Cincinnati, all at 7-8. With their final three games against Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette, the Irish need to win two of those to even be in the NCAA conversation, plus, they'd likely have to win at least two games in the conference tournament. It's a tough road ahead.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Rautins, Jackson Propel Syracuse Past Providence
Just in case anybody was thinking Syracuse could suffer a late-season letdown, Andy Rautins and Rick Jackson sent a loud reminder the the Orangemen can score from anywhere on the floor.
After trailing at the break to Providence, 52-47, Syracuse put on a show of offensive firepower and defensive skills, outscoring the Friars, 52-33, en route to a 99-85 victory, their 26th, against just 2 losses. Jackson was a powerhouse inside, hitting on 13 of 17 shots for a career-high 28 points to go with his 9 rebounds (6 offensive). Rautins, who has emerged as the team leader this season, matched Jackson in the points column, going 10-for-16 from the field, including 8 of 12 3-point attempts. He fell just one point short of his own career high.
While those two were playing Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, their teammates were slamming the door on the overmatched Friars, who had hit 10 of 19 three-pointers in the first half. In the second half, they went just 4-for-14 from beyond the arc, with Syracuse defenders challenging almost every shot.
The 99 points scored by Syracuse was the best offensive output they've had against any Big East opponent this season by far. Their previous high was 85, also scored against Providence.
In first place at 13-2 in the conference with just three games left on the regular season schedule, the Orange earned a double bye in the upcoming Big East tournament as they are certain to be one of the top four teams. Syracuse is one game up on Villanova, whom they host on Saturday. A win there would virtually assure that the Orangemen are corwned Big East champs.
Notable: Keep an eye on the Florida Gators. With their 75-62 win over Tennessee Tuesday night, they're in a good spot in the SEC East, at 9-4 (20-8 overall). With three games left on their schedule, the Gators are hoping to win two of them. They play at Georgia on Saturday, then host Vanderbilt on March 2 before finishing up on the road, at Kentucky, March 7.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Jayhawks Storm Sooners, Nab Share of Big 12 Title
With their 81-68 victory over Oklahoma, the Kansas Jayhawks clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular season championship Monday night.
As Kansas has rolled to a 13-0 record in the conference, they've built a 3 1/2 game lead over their nearest rival, which just so happens to be neighboring Kansas State, ranked #6 in the nation with a 22-4 record and a 9-3 mark in the Big 12. Kansas will host the Wildcats on March 3, in a game which all but likely will determine the conference champion. That pivotal match-up is sandwiched by a pair of road games for the Jayhawks - at Oklahoma St. this Saturday and against arch-rival Missouri on March 6, also a Saturday.
The #1 ranked team in the nation, Kansas will be tested over the final three-game stretch preceding the Big 12 tourney.
With every win, the Jayhawks continue to tweak their offense, lately calling on freshman forward Xavier Henry to pick up more of the scoring load. Henry has responded well, scoring in double figures in each of his last five games. After scoring 24 in Saturday's win over Colorado, Henry hit the mark on 9 of 13 shots Monday night, including 2 of 4 3-pointers for a game-high 23 points. He also added five rebounds as Kansas improved to 27-1 overall.
Notable: The UConn Huskies are on the bubble, but they took a big step forward Monday with a solid 72-63 win over #8 West Virginia. Tall and talented, the Huskies cannot be counted out before the Big East tournament. They are as capable a team as can be found in the Big East, and could spring more upsets, setting up a mid-range seeding in the NCAA tourney. At 17-11 and 7-8 in the Big East, Connecticut faces Louisville, Notre Dame and South Florida in their final three regular season games, and they are all winnable.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Blue Devils Cruising Towards ACC Title
At the start of the season, not much was made about Duke's chances other than they'd likely be a high seed when March came around. Now, it appears that the Blue Devils may be able to nab a #1 seed in the NCCA tourney, as they've plowed through their ACC opponents with relative ease.
Sunday's ho-hum, 67-55 win over Virginia Tech offered a glimpse of what to expect when Duke comes calling. Their "big three" of Kyle Singler, Nick Smith and Jon Scheyer combined for all but four of Duke's points, with Singler leading the charge with 25 points on 7-for-15 shooting, which included 4 of 9 3-pointers and a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line. Singler also added 10 boards for his 5th double-double of the season.
Scheyer scored 15 and Smith tallied 24. The other players to score were center Brian Zoubek, who had 3 points but held sway in the lane with 16 rebounds. Miles Plumlee had a single point from the foul line.
Duke, leading the ACC at 11-2, is being chased by 9-3 Maryland. The Terrapins may have their opportunity for at least a share of the conference title March 3rd, when Duke visits.Duke has already bombed Maryland once, 77-56, and their Sunday win sent the Hokies back to 8-4 in the ACC standings. In the meantime, the Blue Devils continue to make strides towards a top NCAA seeding and possibly a very deep run in the winner-take-all tournament.
Notable: The Pitt Panthers suffered through one of their worst shooting performances of the season, but bailed themselves out by hitting 26 of 34 free throws (76%) as they upset #3 Villanova, 70-65. Ranked #19 before their game, the Panthers will move up considerably in the national rankings due out Monday.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Purdue, Hummel Ready for Big Time
Tthe race for first place in the Big Ten conference is now down to three teams - Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State. After Saturday's 75-65 victory over Illinois, it now appears that the Boilermakers have the upper hand heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Robbie Hummel posted his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 22 points and snatching 12 rebounds for Purdue, which won for the 9th straight time, including wins over conference rivals Wisconsin, Michigan St. and Ohio State. At 11-3, the Boilermakers are tied with the Spartans, a game ahead of the Buckeyes (10-4) and two games better than Wisconsin (9-5).
With just four games remaining on their slate, the only obstacles between Purdue and the Big Ten regular season championship are their next two games: at Minnesota on Wednesday and home for a rematch with Michigan State on Sunday, Feb. 28. Should they manage to win both of those games, the championship would likely belong to them, along with a possible #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Purdue has not won the regular season title since 1996, when they won their third straight, then under coach Gene Keady.
That was before the conference installed a post-season tournament. The Boilermakers won that last season under head coach Matt Painter, and look to win both the regular season and tournament titles this time around.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Big Red Steaming Toward Ivy league Title
If it's Friday, it must mean Ivy League hoops. Unlike most other conferences, which take Friday's off, many of the Ivy League schools - where the focus is on academics - play almost exclusively on weekends, meaning cramming games onto the Friday night fare.
Last Friday, Cornell was suffering through its worst game of the season, a 79-64 loss to lowly Penn at the Palestra. The Big Red quickly made amends, beating Princeton the following night before heading back North to Ithaca, NY.
This Friday found the Cornell troops at Harvard, where Ryan Wittman and his buddies dispatched the Crimson smart set with a 79-70 win. Wittman, a 6'6" senior forward, scored a game-high 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting, which included 6 of 12 from beyond the arc. He also collected 6 rebounds and blocked a pair of sots as Cornell won their third straight game - all on the road - and continued to lead Princeton by a 1/2 game at 8-1 in the conference standings. Princeton improved to 7-1, coasting past Yale, 81-52.
Wittman has scored in double figures every game except one this season, when he scored just 4 points at UMass in Cornell's second game of the season.
Cornell travels again, to Dartmouth, Saturday, before returning home to prepare for next Friday's 7:00 pm home showdown with Princeton.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Rautins Stars as Syracuse Downs Georgetown
The first meeting this season between age-old rivals Georgetown and Syracuse resulted in a less-than epic performance as the Orangemen dusted the Hoyas by an easy 73-56 score at the Carrier Dome. On Thursday night, it appeared that the Orange had Georgetown's number again, despite the game being played on the Hoyas' home floor.
Taking the lead right from the start, Syracuse extended a 44-31 half time gap to eventually lead by as many as 23 points before the Hoyas put together a mid-to-late second half run that cut the lead to 1, at 71-70, with just over a minute remaining. Having lost both of their big men - Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson - to fouls, the Orange responded with a basket by super sub Kris Joseph and a pair of Andy Rautins free throws that sealed up a 75-71 victory, Syracuse's 9th straight road win without a loss and 7th in Big East play.
Rautins, who scored 15 points and had six steals in their first encounter, emerged as the game's high-scorer with a season-high 26 points on 6-for-11 shooting, which included 5 of 9 3-point scores. A 74% free throw shooter, Rautins canned 9 of 11 from the line and hauled in 7 rebounds.
Though Syracuse blew most of their impressive lead, they did not look rattled at any point of the game, especially in the final minute. With legendary Jim Boeheim on the sidelines and floor leader Rautins directing traffic in the 2-3 zone scheme, Syracuse virtually wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament with their gritty performance, to say nothing of their shining 25-2 record. They also managed to slip 1/2 game ahead of Villanova in the Big East standings, at 12-2. The 11-2 Wildcats play at Pittsburgh and host South Florida before heading up to play Syracuse next Saturday (Feb. 27), in their only meeting this season, a game that should decide the Big East champion.
Notable: Both #13 Gonzaga and #14 Wisconsin suffered losses to unranked opponents Thursday, the Zags falling Loyola Marymount, 74-66, while the Badgers were thumped by Minnesota, 68-52. Late-season losses have a way of deflating a team's seeding at the Big Dance, especially the kind of drubbing taken by the Badgers. Minnesota is about as bubbly a team as there is in the country, with a 6-7 conference record and 15-10 tally overall. The win was more important for their post-season than the damage it did to Wisconsin's.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Fredette's 36 Points Lift BYU; Texas Irrelevant; Purdue Tops Buckeyes
With a scorer like Jimmer Fredette (tied for 14th nationally at 21.5 ppg), the BYU Cougars could make quite some noise in the NCAA tournament. The 6'2" junior guard poured in 36 points Wednesday night, leading the Cougars to a 92-70 road win at Colorado State. Fredette hit 12 of 22 shots, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range, adding 5 boards and 6 assists for one of his best games of the season. His high point total was 49 at Arizona. He scored 36 in recently in a home game against the Utah Utes.
The win moved BYU closer to Mountain west leader New Mexico. BYU is 9-2 in the conference; the Lobos are 10-2 and have a win over the Cougars in hand, though the rematch will be at BYU next Saturday. No matter the outcome of that game, both teams are locks to make the Big Dance, and the conference could end up sending as many as four teams to the tourney. Both San Diego St. and UNLV stand at 19-7 overall, and, with the dearth of quality in the PAC-10, those two could slip in behind the Lobos and Cougars.
Notable: The eyes of Texas may be upon coach Rick Barnes, but his players must take much of the responsibility for the Longhorns' horrible showing in conference play. The Longhorns lost for the 6th time in their last 9 outings, dropping an 82-77 decision at Missouri Wednesday night.
While still 20-6 overall, Texas is tied for 6th in the Big 12, at 6-5, and looks like a team that will make an early exit in the NCAA tournament. There are just 5 games remaining in conference play for the Longhorns, and three of those are on the road. The team just looks irrelevant at this point.
Purdue ended Ohio State's 6-game win streak while extending their own to 8 with a 60-57 win on the Buckeyes' home court, pulling the 10-3 Boilermakers to within 1/2 game of Big Ten leader Michigan State (11-3). With a road win over the Spartans in hand, Purdue will have ample opportunity to take home the Big Ten hardware. They host Michigan State on Sunday, Feb. 28. A win would virtually assure them of the conference title, since they close out with a home game against Indiana and a road game at Penn State. Those two have a combined record in conference of 4-22.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Virginia Tech a Serious ACC Contender after Win over Wake
Malcolm Delaney, the ACC's leading scorer at 21.2 points per game, upped his average and helped the Virginia Tech Hokies overcome a 9-point second half deficit and roar back for an 87-83 win over Wake Forest.
Delaney scored 31 points before fouling out late in the game, but by then he had helped push the Hokie lead to 7 points. The Deacons scored six points nearing the end of the game, but could get only to within three points as Tech players hit 3 of 6 free throws. His point total was the second highest of the season, just one short of the 32 he scored in a 61-50 loss at Temple, back on November 27. The junior guard hit 9 of 11 shots from the field, including 3 of 8 3-pointers and converted 10 of 13 free throws. He also added nine boards and 3 assists.
The win improved Virginia Tech to 22-4 overall and 8-3 in the conference, a game back of 9-2 Duke, setting up a showdown for the league title on Sunday, when the Hokies invade Cameron Indoor Stadium to play the Blue Devils. The tip is slated for 7:45 pm and is will be available to cable subscribers of Fox College Sports - Atlantic (FCSA) and MSG Plus (MSGPL).
Notable: Kentucky's freshman sensation John Wall certainly has to be considered for Player of the Year honors after his cool determination helped the #2 Wildcats secure an 81-75 OT win at Mississippi State Tuesday night. Wall nearly had a triple-double, with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Kentucky's 25-1 record is the best in the nation, along with #1 Kansas, though the Wildcats face a tough schedule down the SEC stretch with a trip to Vanderbilt on tap for Saturday. Following that contest, a rematch with the only team to have beaten them - South Carolina - Thursday, Feb. 25 and another road trip, to Tennessee, on the 27th. The wildcats finish up with a game at Georgia and a home finale with Florida.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Wild, Wild East: Villanova Falls to UConn
With the post-season staring them in the eye, the UConn Huskies had their head coach, Jim Calhoun, back from medical leave and a trip to Villanova standing between a lost season and respectability. The Huskies had lost 8 of their last 11 games and needed a road win over the Big East leaders to salvage any hope of making it to the Big Dance come March.
What they got was a career-best game from point guard Kemba Walker and a resounding 84-75 triumph that signaled to the rest of the Big East that the Huskies were not yet dead. Walker scored 29 points, hitting 14 of 16 free throws in the process, to go with 9 boards, 3 assists and a pair of steals. The sophomore guard's frequent forays into the lane turned into baskets, free throws and 11 offensive rebounds (4 by Walker) while the swarming Husky defense limited Villanova's shooters to just 40% from the field and a 40-29 rebounding edge.
Villanova's loss was just their second in the conference, dropping them into a tie with Syracuse at 11-2 for the Big East lead.
Where the Huskies tread from here is a matter of the calendar. At 5-8 in the conference, but 15-11 overall, they still are not under the radar of the selection committee. They have an upcoming road game vs. Rutgers, then host West Virginia and Louisville before finishing off the regular season at Notre Dame and South Florida. Winning at least four of their final five games looks to be essential, ensuring that UConn would finish up at least .500 in the conference. A good showing in the Big east tournament then might get them into the field of 65.
What should concern the Huskies is the overall depth of the Big East. Only two teams - DePaul and Providence - have losing records, meaning there are 14 Big East teams eyeing post-season fun. UConn will likely have to get some help.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Buckeyes Tie Spartans for 1st in Big Ten with Win over Illini
No matter which team emerges from the logjam atop the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes have served notice that they will be a team to reckon with down the regular season stretch and into tourney time.
Heading into Sunday, the Buckeyes were tied with the Fighting Illini and Purdue at 9-3 in the conference, all 1/2 game back of 10-3 Michigan State. After a dominating first half which left the Buckeyes up 36-20 at the break, Ohio State stormed to a convincing 72-53 road win. Led by Evan Turner and his 16 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists, the Buckeyes ended the day tied for first in the Big Ten.
Turner, who leads his team in points per game, assists, rebounds and steals, has established himself as a front-runner for Big Ten player of the year along with several national honors. The 6'7" junior swingman has posted 8 double-doubles and two triple-doubles this season.
Ohio State has a big week ahead, hosting Purdue on Wednesday and traveling to Michigan State on Sunday.
Notable: Unless you haven't heard, the Big East is a very tough conference. Just ask the players or coaches of Syracuse and Georgetown, each of whom suffered out-of-the-blue upsets at the hands of Louisville and Rutgers, respectively. Louisville ended the Orangemen's 11-game win streak and dropped them into second place (11-2) in the conference with a 66-60 win. Villanova leads at 11-1.
Georgetown's loss to Rutgers was more of a shock. The Scarlet Knights had won only twice in conference play before knocking off the Hoyas, 71-68.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Longhorns Break Out of Funk with 40-Point Win
Losers of 5 of their last 7 games, the question marks popping up around the texas basketball program were almost too numerous to mention.
Why can't they hit free throws? What's wrong with Dexter Pittman? Who's going to score after Damion James? Are they an elite team or just another Big 12 also-ran?
A few of those queries were put to rest on Saturday when the Longhorns posted their biggest conference win of the season, a 91-51 embarrassment of visiting Nebraska, spearheaded by 25 points from freshman guard Avery Bradley. Bradley smoked in the first half, hitting all five of his three-point attempts. After hitting one more in the opening minutes of the second half, Bradley missed, but by then, the Longhorns were already up by more than 30 points. Bradley finished 9-for-12, hitting 6 of 7 3-pointers.
As for the other questions, Texas made 20 of 33 free throws (73%), Dexter Pittman only played 16 minutes (he's too slow and clogs up the offense), and beyond James, who only scored 13 points, a trio of freshman will need to continue to produce. There was Bradley's 25, J'Covan Brown's 12 points and Jordan Hamilton's contribution of 16.
Whether Texas returns to elite team status will be determined over the next three weeks. The Longhorns play four of their final six games away from home, and after that, the conference tournament, which should provide more answers.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Cornell's Loss to Penn Sets up Showdown with Princeton
Big Red rolled into Philadelphia's Palestra Friday night confident and, at 6-0, atop the Ivy League standings, a game ahead of 4-0 Princeton. With a scheduled trip to Jersey to play the Tigers on Saturday, al Cornell needed to do was knock off the pushovers from Penn, a team without much hope, 2-2 in the Ivy, but 3-15 overall.
What happened next was unthinkable and maybe the upset of the season, as Jack Eggleston and Zack Rosen went off for 24 and 22 points, respectively, propelling the Quakers to a blowout, 79-64 victory. Eggleston was 8-for-12 from the field, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. Rosen was 6-for-12 (3-5 on threes) and hit 7 of 9 free throws. The Quakers shot 56% for the game, hitting 11 of 21 three-pointers (51%).
The loss pushed Cornell into second place as they prepare to face Ivy-unbeaten Princeton Saturday night. The Tigers downed Columbia on Friday, 55-45, and will have the home court edge for the showdown with Big Red. Ivy league games usually don't get much attention, but this one's a big one. A Princeton win would put them head and shoulders ahead of the pack, whereas a loss would have them 1/2 game behind Cornell. A subsequent meeting of the two Ivy powerhouses is scheduled for Feb. 26 at Cornell.
Notable: It took three overtimes, but the Pitt Panthers finally held home court in the backyard brawl, downing West Virginia, 98-95. The loss won't matter much in the larger scheme for the Mountaineers. They're still looking at being a #2 or #3 seed come tourney time, but the win for Pitt was big, their third straight win and second over a ranked opponent this season. Pitt is the only team to have beaten Syracuse. So now, at 8-4 in the Big East and 19-6 overall, the Panthers are a lock to get an invite to March Madness.
Some nice games on tap for Saturday, including Michigan St. at Penn St. (noon), Maryland at Duke (1:00 pm), Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (8:00 pm) and Tennessee at Kentucky (9:00 pm).
Friday, February 12, 2010
PAC-10 Counting on Cal
If you're a fan of college hoops - and who isn't? - you might be thinking that the PAC-10 has almost no shot of competing in the Big Dance this season, and, you'd probably be right.
It's been 5 weeks since any representative of the PAC-10 conference has made an appearance in the AP Top 25. On January 4, the then 10-3 Washington Huskies made it all the way up to #24. The Huskies then proceeded to implode, losing consecutive games at Arizona and Arizona State, on January 8 and 10, both by 17-point margins, and just like that, they were gone. It hasn't gotten any better for Washington. In six tries, they've yet to win a road game, the latest coming Thursday when they visited the Golden Bears of Cal and proceeded to finish on the short end of a 93-81 tally.
With that result, Washington dropped to 6-6 in the conference and still holds a 16-8 record overall, but no road wins is likely to mean no NCAA invite. Besides, four of the final six games for the Huskies are away from home.
The other side of the equation is Cal, which has assumed first place in the conference at 8-4, and has a 16-8 record overall. Their 4-5 road record is also not a positive, along with earlier losses to Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico, all defeats by fairly sizable margins. Still, Cal is probably going to be one of the two teams - maybe three - which will represent what used to be a power conference.
In Thursday's win, Cal was led, as usual, by senior point guard Jerome Randle, who tossed in 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Randle is a nearly-unstoppable force, having scored in double figures in every game but one this season. He leads Cal in both scoring and assists and gives the whole conference hope that the Golden Bears might crack into the rankings sometime soon.
Beyond the Bears, the conference is still pretty wide-open, though mediocre. Arizona, Arizona St., UCLA and USC all have winning records in the conference, but the Bruins, at 11-12, look to be outclassed this season. Best bets on making the field of 65 are Cal, and both of the Arizona teams.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Duke's Scheyer, Singler Stomp Tar Heels
They weren't exactly sharpshooters from inside the 3-point line, but Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler shot well enough from outside the arc to bury North Carolina right in the Tar Heels' back yard at Chapel Hill, 64-54.
The guard-forward combo combined for 2/3rds of the Blue Devil scoring, 43 in all, sending North Carolina to their 4th straight conference loss, 4th straight home loss, and dropped them to a 2-7 record in the ACC, just 1/2 game ahead of last place NC State (2-8). 8-2 Duke expanded their ACC lead to a full game over idle Maryland (6-2) and Wake Forest (7-3). Maryland's scheduled home game with Virginia was cancelled due to the fierce storm which dumped nearly 4 feet of snow on College Park over the past 4 days.
Singler was the man in the first half for Duke, while Scheyer scored most of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Singler was 7-for-18 overall, but 4 of 5 from 3-point range as the Tar Heels allowed him open looks in the early going. He finished with 19 points and 9 boards. Scheyer was 7-for-20, but 5 of 9 from outside the arc, adding 4 assists and 5 rebounds. As a team, the Blue Devils had one of their worst shooting nights of the season, hitting just 31% from the field, though they managed 50% (9-18) from 3-point land. The dynamic duo had all of the treys.
North Carolina didn't fare much better, hitting 35% from the floor and a woeful 5 of 18 (28%) on threes. Carolina's overall record now stands at a mediocre 13-11, nearly assuring that they will not be invited to the Big Dance in March. It's a sorry state of affairs in Chapel Hill, less than a year removed from cutting down the nets as national champions. Of course, losing players like Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Danny Green did put a very large dent in Carolina's overall game.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Vandy Dumps Vols Again, Chasing Kentucky
Two weeks ago, the Vanderbilt Commodores stormed into Tennessee and thumped the Volunteers, 85-76. To prove that they are at least the second-best team in the SEC (after Kentucky), on Tuesday night, they hosted the Vols and chewed them up even worse, in a decidedly one-sided 90-71 smack-down.
6'7" sophomore swingman, Jeffery Taylor provided plenty of Vandy offense, scoring a career-high 26 points and assisting on 3 other hoops. He also snatched 7 rebounds as the Commodores built an insurmountable second-half lead and turned what was supposed to be a competitive game into an outright laugher.
Despite similar records (now both teams are 18-5), the Commodores weren't getting the respect they deserved in the polls, ranked #22 before Tuesday's game. Tennessee is at #12, but sure to drop following their poor showing on the road.
Vanderbilt is just a game behind 8-1 Kentucky in the SEC East, at 7-2, and will have a chance to even the score on February 20, when the Wildcats come to town. Kentucky has already beaten Vandy once, 85-72, but that was back on January 30, at Rupp Arena.
NOTABLE: Georgetown's Greg Monroe turned in his 9th double-double effort of the season in the Hoyas' 79-70 win at Providence, but the 6'11" forward's results had a different twist for a big man. while he scored 12 points, he also dished 12 assists while adding 7 rebounds. All of his other double-doubles have been of the points plus rebounds variety.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
KU Slugs Texas, Closes in on Big 12 Title
As many expected, the Kansas Jayhawks emerged from their visit to Texas Monday as clearly the class of the Big 12, corralling the Longhorns with a no-contest, 80-68 decision.
While the match-up was endlessly hyped on ESPN as part of "Rivalry Week," what occurred on the court was something closer to a victory lap for Kansas and confirmation that Texas may not even be Top 25 material.
The Jawhawks continued their march through the otherwise-competitive Big 12 with their 9th straight win without a loss. Since their closest pursuers are Kansas State and Texas A&M, both 6-3, Kansas should be able to lay claim to the regular season title either on Feb. 20 or 22, when they host Colorado and Oklahoma, respectively, maybe sooner.
As for the Longhorns, now losers of 4 of their last 6 conference games, their focus is likely to be on getting a couple more wins in the conference, finding another scorer besides Damion James (24 points), and hoping to get seeded something along the lines of an 8 or 9 in the NCAA tournament. Of course, there are still 7 or 8 games left in the conference schedule and the Big 12 tournament, but this Texas team has the look of a one-and-done unit when crunch time comes.
Kansas improved to 23-1 overall and will likely remain in the top spot on the AP Poll, which kept them there for the second straight week. The most recent poll was released just prior to their game with the Longhorns.
Marcus Morris again proved to be one of the most complete players in the country, scorching Texas for 18 points and 8 rebounds. Following a 1-point performance in a 71-66 win against Cornell and a 5-point game in Kansas' only loss, at Tennessee, 76-68, Morris has stepped up his game in conference action, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 boards.
Kansas appears headed for a #1 tourney seed, almost certainly in the MidWest region.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Terps Stomp Tar Heels; Carolina 2-6 in ACC Play
Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints on winning Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17, over the Indianapolis Colts. But, while the pre-game festivities were taking place in South Florida, some developments on the basketball court were noteworthy.
#3 Syracuse (sure to move up in this week's poll) turned a close game into a rout with a late, second half run, dumping the Cincinnati Bearcats, 71-54. The 'Cuse now has the best record in the nation, at an impressive 23-1, and is 1/2 game to the good over Villanova in the Big East standings. The 9-1 Wildcats suffered their first conference loss of the season Saturday at Georgetown. SU is 10-1 in the conference.
With the Big East looking to send 7 or 8 teams to the NCAA tournament, one of the ACC standard-bearers has fallen on very lean times. On Sunday, the North Carolina Tar Heels suffered their 6th loss in 8 conference games, this time to a heady bunch from Maryland, who whipped North Carolina, 92-71. The 21-point margin was the worst of the season for the Tar Heels, but should propel Maryland (16-6, 6-2) - encamped in second place in the ACC - into the ranks of the Top 25.
The Terps took a 7-6 lead early in the game and never again trailed, widening their lead at various points of the game. Greivis Vasquez, who had 35 against the Tar Heels when the Terps beat them last season, proved Heel-killer again, scoring 26 points, including 6 of 11 3-pointers, and dished 11 assists. A talented senior guard who should be playing pro ball this time next year, Vasquez leads the Terrapins in both scoring and assists.
Currently, the ACC only shows two teams in the Top 25: #10 Duke and #21 Georgia Tech, but, while the Blue Devils lead the ACC at 7-2, the Yellow Jackets are tied for 6th place in the conference at 5-4.
As for the Tar Heels, don't look for them in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Maryland loss was their 10th of the season, against just 13 wins, and other teams in the conference are hungry to get at them. Having dominated the conference for so long, this Tar Heel squad enters conference games with targets on their backs. Other teams know their weaknesses - particularly on defense, and aren't opposed to exploiting them. North Carolina simply don't guard well individually and don't work well together, a recipe for disaster in any competitive environment.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Willis Hits Career-High 33 as UNLV Bombs BYU
Tre'Von Willis, a transfer from Memphis who sat out the 2007-08 season, scored a career-high 33 points as the UNLV Runnin' Rebels smacked down BYU, 88-74, putting the Mountain West conference up for grabs. The Rebels, BYU and New Mexico each hold a share of the lead at 7-2, though UNLV holds a slight edge with a win and a loss to BYU, and a win over New Mexico, who beat San Diego St. on Saturday, 88-86, in OT.
Willis, a junior guard, knocked down 11 of 20 shots, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. He also converted 7 of 9 free throws, adding 5 rebounds and 8 assists. willis leads the Rebels with 18 points per game and also is 85% accurate from the foul line, a valuable commodity come crunch time. The Rebels took control of the game in the early moments, establishing a 56-34 half time lead, and coasted to an impressive win.
Notable: 23 of the Top 25 teams in the nation were in action on Saturday, and in the 22 games which didn't include two Top 25 teams, there were 14 winners and 8 losers. The only game involving two Top 25 teams was in the Big East, where #7 Georgetown shot the lights out, thumping #2 Villanova, 103-90.
These results indicate that no team or rating in the Top 25 is sacrosanct, that on a given day, almost any team can be beaten, either by an unranked conference opponent or a lower-ranked team. How that will shape things coming into March remains to be seen, though Villanova's loss surely puts a #1 tournament seeding in jeopardy. Another team suffering free-fall is Texas, which lost for the 4th time in two weeks, immediately following their #1 national ranking. The Longhorns were nearly run off the court in the first half of an 80-71 loss at Oklahoma.
Continuing to be noticeably absent, the PAC-10 still doesn't have a single team in the Top 25.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Big Red Continues to Stomp Through Ivy
After dispatching with previously-perfect in conference Harvard in a very unfriendly manner last Saturday (86-50), Cornell's Big Red continued their domination of lesser Ivy league foes by thrashing Yale, 90-71, with 7-foot senior center Jeff Foote having another big game.
Foote hit 7 of 11 shots from the field for 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for his 7th double-double of the season. Unranked Cornell sports one of the better records in the nation at 19-3 are 5-0 in the Ivy League. Their remaining major test comes next Saturday (Feb. 13), when they travel to face Princeton (12-5, 3-0). The two teams have a return date at Cornell on the 26th of February. Those two games should decide the Ivy League champion, though Cornell currently appears unbeatable.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Singler Guides Duke Past Georgia Tech; Devils Top ACC
With Georgia Tech's big men - Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors - both in foul trouble from just about the very start of the game (Lawal picked up 2 personals in the first 33 seconds and Favors had three before the game was even 7 minutes old), one would have thought the Blue Devils would take the ball in deep for scoring opportunities. Instead, just the opposite occurred as Kyle Singler roamed free on the perimeter, hitting 8 of 10 3-pointers for a career-high 30 points. As Singler was pouring them in from long range, and the Yellow jacket insiders on the bench, #10 Duke (18-4, 6-2) easily sped past #21 Georgia Tech (16-6, 4-4), 86-67, to remain 1/2 game ahead of 5-2 maryland and Virginia in the ACC.
Singler hit only one of seven shots that wasn't from three-point range, but he added 4-of-5 from the foul line and pulled down 5 rebounds. The game was decided within the first ten minutes of play, as Duke took a lead and went ahead to stay. Singler canned one of his threes just before intermission, giving the Blue Devils a 45-33 lead. After that they were never threatened.
NOTABLE: Keep an eye on the Butler Bulldogs, who are about to wrap up the Horizon league regular season title. They are 12-0 in the conference, on Thursday knocking off Detroit, 63-58, following four consecutive wins on the road. Gordon Hayward scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, continuing to lead Butler in both departments. The Bulldogs are a perennial upset-maker in the NCAA tourney and appear poised for a deep run this year. 19-4 Butler is ranked #23 in the most-recent AP poll.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Buckeyes Bounding Into Tourney Contender
Ever since Evan Turner returned from injury to the Ohio State starting lineup, the Buckeyes have become a force to reckon with in the Big Ten, winning 7 of 9 games and vaulting into the national Top 25.
Turner proved his value once again on Wednesday, as the Buckeyes hammered Penn State, 75-62, winning their 12th straight home game since a 77-73 setback to North Carolina on November 19. Turner led all scorers with 27 points, his second-highest point total of the season (he had a career-high 32 points in a 70-66 win over Purdue on January 12), to go with 10 boards, 6 assists and 3 steals. Turner played all 40 minutes of the game and, at 6'7", 210 pounds, is truly one of the most feared offensive players in the nation. He has the ability to can jumpers from the perimeter but can also take opponents off the dribble and is a great finisher near the hoop. He averages 50% from the field, 35.9 from 3-point land and is a 73.8 free throw shooter. He leads the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
Ohio State, ranked #13 in the most recent poll, has improved to 17-6 and is in a 3-way tie for second place in the Big Ten at 7-3 with Wisconsin and Illinois. Everyone in the conference is chasing 9-1 Michigan State.
Notable: dominique Jones only scored 29 points, but the South Florida Bulls won their school-record 4th straight Big East contest by downing the Georgetown Hoyas, 72-64, at Georgetown.
The Bulls continue to get outlandish scoring from Jones, the leading Big East scorer at 22.4 points per game. Over the 4-game win streak, he's averaged 35 points.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Onuaku Polices the Lane as SU Goes to 22-1
Arinze Onuaku, the 6'9" center for the Syracuse Orangemen, probably doesn't get enough credit for his work in the lane because of SU's reliance on Jim Boehiem's remarkably-effective 2-3 zone defense, but the big man in the middle does have a way of taking up space and discouraging traffic near the hoop.
In Tuesday's encounter with Providence, Onuaku delivered on both ends of the floor, scoring a season-high 20 points on 10-for-12 shooting, while keeping the Friars out of the lane defensively with 4 blocks and 7 rebounds, 3 offensive. Consequently, the #3 Orangemen turned a 3-point half time advantage into an 85-68 home win, improving to 22-1 overall and 9-1 in the conference, 1/2 game behind Villanova (9-0). Syracuse suffered its only loss of the season at home against Pitt, but that was a month ago, and the Orange have run off 9 straight wins while the Panthers have gone just 4-3 over the same span.
Syracuse will likely enter the NCAA's March Madness as a #1 or #2 seed, as their only remaining stiff challenges are at Georgetown (Feb. 18) and on February 27, when they host Villanova, a game that may decide the regular season Big East champion.
Notable: The selection committee for the NCAA tournament may have an easy time picking #1 seeds for this year's field of 65. Four teams: Kansas (20-1), Villanova (20-1), Syracuse (22-1) and Kentucky (20-1) have pulled away from the pack and are ranked 1-4 in the AP Poll. After them, only two teams in division 1 have two losses - BYU and Northern Iowa - though their conferences are not nearly the caliber of the Big 12, SEC or the Big East.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Hamilton's 27 Saves Texas
With Jordan Hamilton slicing through the Oklahoma State defense for a career-high 27 points, the obvious question is, "Where have they been hiding this guy?"
The Texas Longhorns overpowered Oklahoma State with a 40-24 second half, cruising to their 19th win against 3 losses, 72-60.
A freshman out of Dominguez High in Los Angeles, Hamilton played just 19 minutes, but put on a dazzling show of offensive skills, hitting 11 of 16 shots, including drives, dunks, jumpers and treys. He was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and was generally unstoppable in the second half as Texas pulled away from the Cowboys after trailing 36-32 at intermission.
Hamilton's previous high was 17 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After Monday night's performance, expect him to receive a lot more playing time and more attention from opposing defenses.
Texas, in desperate need of a win after dropping 3 of their previous four games, got a real lift from the frosh, whose exploits couldn't have come at a more-needed time. Adding him to the offensive arsenal will open things up inside for Damion James and slumping Dexter Pittman, who's averaged just over 6 points per game in his last 8 games.
Monday, February 01, 2010
No Keeping Up with Dominique Jones
In South Florida, the focus has been on football, but lately, 6'4" junior guard Dominique Jones has drawing fans into Tampa's Sun Dome to see the Bulls take on Big East rivals.
On Sunday, the Bulls hosted Pitt, but proved to be quite rude to their guests, as Jones went off for 37 points en route to a 70-61 win for South Florida. Pitching them in from everywhere on the court, Jones was 10 for 20 from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and 14-for-17 from the charity stripe. He also notched 8 boards and 3 assists as the Bulls won their third straight Big East game, for the first time in the program's history.
Jones has been unstoppable of late, recently scoring 46 in a win at Providence and then 28 at home vs. Seton Hall. Both games went into overtime, but on Sunday, the Bulls downed the Panthers without needing an extra period.
The loss was the third in the last four games for Pitt, currently ranked #17, though they may be out of the Top 25 when the new poll comes out on Monday. South Florida still has a way to go before making the rankings. They've improved to 4-5 in the conference and 14-7 overall.
Notable: Ohio State avenged an earlier loss to Minnesota with a blistering 85-63 home win. Point guard Will Buford went for a career-high 26 points, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The 16-6 Buckeyes are ranked #20 in the nation.
Virginia improved to 16-6, as Sylven Landesberg scored 29 points and the Cavaliers dumped North Carolina, 75-60, in Chapel Hill. The struggling Tar Heels are 2-4 in the conference and 13-8 overall. On their current path, North Carolina looks to be playing in the NIT come March.