- North Carolina
- Ohio State
Posted on: April 19, 2011 9:56 am
Only Terrence Jones and/or Brandon Knight returning to Kentucky will keep North Carolina from being No. 1 in the preseason polls, and even then it'll be debatable. For now, though, I'm operating under the assumption that both will enter and remain in the NBA Draft, which would make my preseason top five look like this:
Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 12:16 am
NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker dominated at Madison Square Garden again.
Tom Izzo suddenly has a dangerous basketball team again.
And Jimmer went Jimmer in a bigtime way.
Here's Friday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.
Best game: Big East semifinals. Connecticut vs. Syracuse. Did you really think it would end in regulation? "I didn't want it to go six overtimes again," said UConn's Kemba Walker, whose brilliance ensured it would not. The Huskies instead closed this one out in the first OT and advanced to Saturday's title game with a 76-71 victory over the Orange two years after the two schools played that six-overtime classic in this same building. Walker finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and six steals, then spent some time chatting outside the media room with President Bill Clinton. Meantime, UConn coach Jim Calhoun used part of his postgame press conference to praise his star and highlight, for the 87th time this week, that one Big East coach didn't vote Walker First Team All-Conference. "He's the Most Valuable Player on any team in the country," Calhoun said. "I'm going to keep saying it."
Other best game: North Carolina was down double-digits to Miami at the half, at which point I openly wondered whether Larry Drew was back to playing point guard for the Tar Heels. Turns out, he was not. And that was never more obvious than when Kendall Marshall, Drew's more-talented mid-season replacement, drove into the lane in the final seconds of a tie game and found Tyler Zeller all alone under the basket for an easy layup at the buzzer that gave North Carolina a 61-59 win in the ACC quarterfinals. It was a play that capped an incredible run that allowed the Tar Heels to overcome a 19-point deficit in the final 10 minutes. It also reminded me of what Zeller told me about Marshall last week. "He does a lot of things that make our jobs easy," Zeller said. "He can pass you the ball and you just have to lay it up." As Miami now knows, that's exactly right.
Yet another best game: Virginia Tech probably secured an NCAA tournament bid with a 52-51 win over Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals, but the Hokies couldn't celebrate until Derwin Kitchen's shot at the buzzer that initially seemed to give FSU the win was waved off. The officials huddled around a monitor and correctly concluded that the ball was still in Kitchen's hands when time expired, but just barely. It was a wild scene in Greensboro. Seth Greenberg cried and everything.
Team whose dream remained alive: Whether Alabama can get an at-large bid remains debatable because the Crimson Tide have seven losses outside of the top 50, but their 65-59 overtime win against Georgia in the SEC quarters definitely enhanced their case. The Crimson Tide now have four top-50 wins to help offset those troubling losses, and they're at no risk of taking another "bad" loss before Selection Sunday (provided they meet Kentucky in the semifinals). As for Georgia, man, who knows? The Bulldogs have a better body of work than Alabama despite two losses to Alabama. But a bubble team blowing a double-digit second-half lead to a fellow bubble team is never a good final impression to leave with the Selection Committee.
Team whose dream was crushed: Jerry Palm projected Tulsa as the winner of C-USA's automatic bid after UAB lost Thursday, which means Tulsa entered Friday in the Field of 68 here at CBSSports.com. I'll be honest, it just looked weird. But that projection will change as soon as my colleague updates his projections because UTEP beat Tulsa 66-54 in the C-USA quarterfinals and eliminated the Golden Hurricane from NCAA tournament contention. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.
Performance I hope you witnessed: Walker's 33 at MSG was the biggest story of the night ... right up until Jimmer Fredette dropped 33 on New Mexico in the first half and finished with a career-high 52 in BYU's 87-76 win in the Mountain West semifinals. The CBSSports.com National Player of the Year was -- ready for this? -- 22-of-37 from the field, and only one of his points came on a free throw. If the members of the Selection Committee want to do the nation a favor, they'll put BYU and UConn in the same region and give us a possible Jimmer vs. Kemba matchup two weekends from now.
Performance I hope you missed: Wisconsin and Penn State did nothing to help the Big Ten's reputation as a slow and boring basketball league. In fact, they might've cemented the reputation by playing a game in which the winning team scored 36 points and the losing team scored 33. Penn State was the winning team, if you care.
Five things worth noting
1. Nolan Smith suffered a toe injury in the second half of Duke's 87-71 win over Maryland in the ACC quarterfinals and did not return. Mike Krzyzewski said afterward that he wasn't sure if Smith would be back before the end of the ACC tournament but stressed the most important thing is making sure the ACC Player of the Year is available for the NCAA tournament, which will begin for Duke, presumably, next Friday in Charlotte.
2. Memphis finally looked like a team with a roster built to overwhelm C-USA opponents during a 76-56 win over East Carolina in part because Joe Jackson finally looked like somebody worthy of the nickname "King of Memphis." The McDonald's All-American has gone from a local high school legend to a freshman starter for the Tigers to a part-time reserve in less than a year, and it's been tough on him. But Jackson was tremendous against ECU while scoring a career-high 24 points. He made 8-of-12 field goal attempts, 3-of-3 3-point attempts and 5-of-5 free throw attempts, and now the Tigers are just a win over UTEP away from earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
3. Southern California played its Pac-10 semifinal against Arizona without head coach Kevin O'Neill, who was suspended by his athletic director after a Thursday night incident with an Arizona booster. Assistant Bob Cantu coached the Trojans in O'Neill's absence. They lost 67-62 and are almost certainly headed to the NIT.
4. Ohio State entered this week in position to get a No. 1 seed regardless, but that doesn't mean the Buckeyes wanted or needed to lose their Big Ten tournament opener to Northwestern (if only because there's nothing cool about losing a Big Ten tournament opener to Northwestern). Thanks to Jared Sullinger they avoided the upset. The CBSSports.com National Freshman of the Year finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds in OSU's 67-61 overtime win. Worth noting is that Sullinger shot 18 free throws, i.e., just as many as Northwestern's entire team.
5. If you're surprised Tom Izzo has Michigan State operating at a high level then you haven't been paying attention for the past decade. Somehow, someway, this is what Izzo does. Regardless of whether the Spartans are great, good, average or terrible from November to March, by St. Patrick's Day each year Izzo gets them straight. So of course Michigan State will play in the Big Ten semifinals thanks to a 74-56 win over Purdue that took the Spartans off the bubble. They're now guaranteed to make the NCAA tournament. They'll probably make the Sweet 16, just because.
Final thought: Providence fired Keno Davis Friday and folks immediately started trying to explain why this didn't work. Among the common theories was because the Big East school hired him "with just one year of head coaching experience," which is both wrong and silly. Understand this: Davis didn't fail at Providence because he lacked significant prior experience. He failed at Providence because the school decided to hire the country's hottest young coach in April 2008 with little regard to how he fit with the Friars program. Davis was a bad fit -- and I hope Providence realizes that before it lures its next coach. Hire somebody with experience if you want; I'm not saying that's the wrong route. All I'm saying is that projected greatness and fit are way more important than past experience, and you can look elsewhere in the Big East to see it. Pittsburgh hired Jamie Dixon with zero years of head coaching experience while Marquette hired Buzz Williams with one. Things seems to be going well for those two programs, don't they?
Bottom line, what somebody has done at another school is important, sure.
But it's not nearly as important as what you think somebody can do at your school going forward.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 2:25 am
NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker was terrific.
UAB was not.
Here's Thursday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.
Best game: Kemba Walker began things by delivering the shot of the postseason -- and possibly the entire season -- to give Connecticut a 76-74 victory over Pittsburgh and propel himself into Madison Square Garden lore. The New York kid wowed the New York crowd with a stepback jumper at the buzzer that got Pitt's Gary McGhee so crossed he'll likely refuse to ever again switch on a ball screen. Yes, it was that bad. And that great. Suddenly, Kemba at MSG is the best show going. A date with Syracuse in Friday's Big East semifinals is on deck.
Other best game: Kansas missed 20 of 25 3-point attempts against Oklahoma State and needed the Cowboys to miss a heave at the buzzer to escape with a 63-62 win in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar combined to go 2 of 14 from 3-point range for the Jayhawks. So on second thought, this wasn't really one of the best games in terms of beautiful basketball. But it was close. And close is usually fun.
Team whose dream remained alive: Colorado proved "it's hard to beat a team three times in a season" is among the dumbest things dumb people say by beating Kansas State for the third time this season. The Buffaloes have now beaten the Wildcats by scores of 74-66, 58-56 and, most recently, 87-75. So the third time was actually the easiest of all three times … and probably enough to ensure Colorado receives an at-large bid regardless of what happens against Kansas in Friday's Big 12 semifinals.
Team whose dream was crushed: UAB had a questionable resume despite winning Conference USA and entered the league tournament with work to do. Unfortunately for Mike Davis, the Blazers did not do the required work. They instead lost 75-70 to East Carolina in the C-USA quarterfinals. Where I'm from, that's called locking down an NIT bid.
Performance I hope you witnessed: Ben Hansbrough's 23-point, seven-assist effort in Notre Dame's 89-51 blowout of Cincinnati wasn't as highlight-worthy as Walker's memorable outing, but it was still an impressive performance for the Big East Player of the Year. Hansbrough was 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He's the main reason why the Irish have gone from unranked in the preseason to the verge of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Performance I hope you missed: Jackson Emery took nine 3-pointers and missed eight of them. That's not a violation of BYU's Honor Code, but it ought to be. Yes, the Cougars overcame a halftime deficit and beat TCU 64-58 in the Mountain West quarters. But what they really did is provide another 40-minute sample that suggests they miss Brandon Davies just as much as most anticipated, and that's going to be an issue come Selection Sunday.
Three other things worth noting
1. Southern California's 70-56 victory over California means the Trojans have an opportunity to get a sixth top-50 win in Friday's Pac-10 semifinals against Arizona. But would that be enough? Honestly, I'm not sure. Because though the Trojans have better wins than most bubble teams, they also have worse losses -- specifically three outside of the top 200. My advice: Go for the automatic bid, Kevin O'Neill, just to be safe.
2. St. John's suffered more than a 79-73 loss to Syracuse in the Big East quarters. The Red Storm also lost D.J. Kennedy to a torn ACL that ended his season prematurely and will send Steve Lavin's team into the NCAA tournament short a key contributor. Kennedy was averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
3. Washington State's Klay Thompson returned from his one-game suspension and dropped 43 points in an 89-87 loss to Washington. So Thompson was high -- or at least in a car with a substance you use to get high -- last Thursday and the nation's highest scorer this Thursday. That's impressive.
Final thought: No team has ever lost its conference tournament opener and gone on to win the NCAA tournament.
You've heard that before, right?
You heard it when Pittsburgh lost to Connecticut, didn't you?
Of course you did. We all did. And though it's a statement that's 100 percent true, it's also misleading because it fails to recognize that we've never had a league as large and strong as the Big East that requires a true national title contender to open its league tournament with a game against a team the caliber of Connecticut. Bottom line, there are plenty of reasons to think Pitt won't win a national championship. But the fact that the Panthers lost to a nationally ranked UConn team on a ridiculous stepback jumper from an All-American on Thursday shouldn't be among them.
Posted on: February 27, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2011 5:50 pm
... here's how my top four lines would look:
No. 1 seeds: Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, BYU
No. 2 seeds: Notre Dame, Duke, Purdue, Texas
No. 3 seeds: San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse
No. 4 seeds: St. John's, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida
Posted on: February 11, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2011 1:21 pm
Posted on: January 29, 2011 6:06 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2011 7:48 pm
I don't know if there's an elite team in the Big East.
They all seem flawed in some way.
But I'll still be surprised if the league doesn't put a record number of schools in the NCAA tournament, and I won't be shocked if one or two make the Final Four. The problem is trying to figure out which one or two because the league is a scattered mess after three top 10 teams took losses Saturday.
Yep, those two teams play each other next.
So Syracuse will either take its fifth straight loss or UConn will take its second straight loss.
There's no way around it.
Which is why Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun must be going crazy.
Both lost winnable games Saturday.
Now one of them is guaranteed to lose again Wednesday.
Posted on: January 15, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2011 1:38 am
PITTSBURGH -- Saturday was interesting complete with wild comebacks by Louisville and Tennessee, close calls by Kansas and Michigan State, and another questionable home loss after a nice win for Florida. But two games that could easily double as the semifinals for March's Big East tournament are scheduled for Monday. So I'm already over the weekend (even though the weekend isn't over) and ready for MLK Day.
Thank you, Villanova, for winning Saturday.
You too, Connecticut.
You too, Syracuse.
You too, Pitt.
Your results ensured Monday will bring two games between four top 10 teams with a combined record of 65-4.
The day-night doubleheader sets up like this:
Posted on: January 1, 2011 7:24 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 7:44 pm
The record can be attributed to the quality of the team on one level and to the advantageous schedule on another, and we'll all know at a later date what deserves more of the credit. You can do a lot of things in college basketball, but fake your way through the Big East isn't one of them. So Syracuse will either prove itself as a legitimate top five team or not in due time. But for now, all I know is this: The Orange are 15-0.
We can debate why.
But we can't debate that.
No, Syracuse hasn't gone on the road and handled a quality opponent (or even played a true road game). But Saturday's 70-58 victory over Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome means Jim Boeheim's team now owns wins over the schools ranked 15th (Notre Dame) and 20th (Michigan State) in the latest Associated Press poll, and the Orange haven't lost to a school currently ranked outside of the top 20, which isn't the case for No. 6 Pittsburgh, No. 8 Villanova, No. 9 Georgetown, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 12 Purdue, No. 13 Texas, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 16 BYU, No. 17 Kansas State and No. 18 Texas A&M. In other words, it's still hard to tell if the Orange are great, but it's already clear they're pretty darn good and better than expected.
And ranked appropriately.
(That's fair, right?)
Either way, I can't wait for Jan. 17.
That's when Syracuse plays Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center.
Syracuse will almost certainly enter 18-0; Pitt should be 17-1 or 16-2. The Big Monday showdown is this season's only scheduled game between the Big East powers. It could decide the league championship. More than anything, though, it'll give the Orange their first road game against a ranked opponent and provide context, one way or another, to this perfect record. Win at Pitt and any remaining doubters can be called haters. Lose at Pitt and what happens over the subsequent two weeks in games against Villanova (home), Marquette (road) and Connecticut (road) will be telling.
Like I said, everything will sort itself out in due time.
But what's important now is that Syracuse is 15-0 overall, 2-0 in the Big East.
Is that the start of something big?
Honestly, who knows?
But I do know this: It's a helluva start.