The College Basketball Notebook

January 10, 2010 10:03 PM

A Fitting End To An Upset Weekend

Tennessee’s 76-68 upset of top-ranked Kansas tonight wasn’t the most consequential game, being a non-conference affair. But it was a fitting cap to a weekend that had upsets spread out across the board. It also underscores just why I have been arguing that Kansas is not a top team. The Vols were a team hurt by suspensions and got nothing from Wayne Chism down low. Say what you will about the power of homecourt advantage, but a true top-ranked team doesn’t get beat in that spot. On that note, let’s go conference-by-conference…

Georgetown beating UConn in the nation’s capital can’t be called a shock, particularly given the Hoyas were a slight favorite. But for those of us who turned off the game midway through the second half with the Huskies pushing their lead to sixteen points, finding out that G’town had pulled it out, did qualify as a major surprise. Turnovers did UConn in. Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson combined to turn it over ten times and only combined for 21 points. Not what Jim Calhoun needed from his star backcourt on the road in a big game. It was Georgetown guard Austin Freeman who put on the show, scoring 33 points.

Notre Dame moved out to 3-1 in the Big East with a clutch win at West Virginia, thanks to a huge edge on the free throw line, 17-2. This was a theme throughout a lot of the notable games. In of itself, that’s not all that remarkable. What was interesting is that the free throw edge went to teams who were being outrebounded. Read through enough boxscores and there tends to be a correlation between the two, as interior strength generally gets you to the line. In this case, a 38-31 Mountaineer rebounding advantage was not enough to win, as they lose a 70-68 decision.

Marquette’s hard luck continued, as they lost their third heartbreaker in Big East play. This one came in Philadelphia, as Villanova used a balanced offense to get a two-point victory. And a top individual performance came from Providence’s Jamine Peterson, who scored 29 points and dominated the boards, to the tune of 20 rebounds in his team’s win over Rutgers.

Georgia Tech’s win over Duke was the one that captured the headlines. Duke’s rebounding problems continue. Their entire starting front line combined for 11 boards—or barely more than half the production of Jamine Peterson by himself. The Dookies didn’t get the whistles either, being called for 24 fouls and giving Tech a nice edge in points from the line. Kyle Singler had a bad game, while Tech’s Ganai Lawal scored 21. While I think this is clearly a nice win for the Yellow Jackets, I’m more inclined to see it as evidence that Duke is not a serious national power. It’s basically a pretty good team that’s well-coached, but has its share of holes—like about 15-20 other schools in the country.

North Carolina took advantage of the opening afforded by their rivals, winning a home game against Virginia Tech. As usual, it was the Tar Heel frontline that was too much to handle, with Ed Davis’ 20 points and 11 rebounds leading the way. Miami nipped Wake Forest 67-66 behind 23 points and 11 rebounds from Dwayne Collins.

Wisconsin’s win over Purdue was hailed as an upset, the 20th-ranked team knocking off the unbeaten fourth-ranked team. But I don’t see it that way. Wisconsin is on a par with Purdue and Michigan State as contenders in the Big Ten race, and the Badgers winning this game in Madison should’ve been seen as them simply holding serve in what will be a ferocious race for the conference championship. (I should note, by way of full disclosure, that I’m a Badger fan, born and bred in Wisconsin). UW got 47 points from its three guards, starters Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, and backup Jordan Taylor who was big off the bench. Forward Jon Leurer was held in check scoring-wise, but his 10 rebounds were vital to Wisconsin edge on the glass.

Illinois’ is 3-0 in the Big Ten, and while they haven’t played anybody, you have to respect any team that wins three in a row in league play. The victim this time was Indiana. Elsewhere, the Michigan disappointment continued, as they were beaten by Northwestern. And everyone had to be heartened by the return of Ohio State’s Evan Turner to the lineup. His presence wasn’t immediately felt in a loss at Minnesota, but in the long term he gives the Buckeyes a chance to compete. Given that his injury was a broken back, it’s just good to see him healthy again.

BIG 12
Missouri upset Kansas State 74-68 in a mistake-filled game, where the two teams combined for 40 turnovers. The K-State frontcourt scored only 10 points. And a team I really like, Baylor, lit up Oklahoma 91-60. The Bears got 28 points and 7 rebounds from LaceDarius Dunn scored 28 points and got 7 rebounds, and his running mate Tweety Carter put in 18 and dished out 10 assists. Baylor isn’t going to challenge Texas, but they’ll make a lot of noise before this season is over.

The upset here was Mississippi State taking down Ole Miss. A free-throw line edge spelled the difference here too, as the Bulldogs had a 22-8 advantage on their in-state rivals. They were also tough up front, with forwards Kodi Augustus and Jarvis Varnado each getting a dozen boards. And they got help from the backcourt, where Dee Bost scored 25 points, including 9 of 12 from the line, indicating he was likely creating action on dribble-drive penetration, the kind that creates room and opportunities for others.

Florida is in serious trouble, losing to Vanderbilt. Their guards were great, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combining for 50 points. Vandy’s own guard, Jermaine Beal countered with 24 and the Commodores had a post presence with A.J. Oglivy, who scored 24. Kudos for a spectacular individual effort to South Carolina’s Devan Downey, whose 33 keyed a road win over Auburn.

Southern Cal seems to have a lot of the life sucked out of them by AD Mike Garrett’s decision to remove them from postseason play, as a pre-emptive effort to stop an NCAA investigation into the program. Count me among the cynics who believe Garrett is just trying to keep the NCAA out of looking into the football program. Pete Carroll’s decision to skip town for the Seattle Seahawks may be further evidence that the NCAA posse is on its way to Los Angeles.

But back to hoops. Washington is ranked #22, but if you’ve been following them their 17-point loss to Arizona tonight didn’t come as any shock. The Huskies are not playing well, and once Quincy Poindexter was a no-show, the result was a fait accompli. Cal beat USC in spite of standout guard Patrick Christopher only getting six points. The Trojans only got three points all day from the line in a 56-50 loss, and you won’t beat any decent team with that few freebies. Arizona State got its second straight win and got back into the league race by shutting down Washington State star Klay Thompson and holding the Cougars under 30 percent from the floor. And UCLA shot itself in the foot. An otherwise good game was ruined by turnovers. Guards Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll contributed 12 of the Bruins’ overall 22 miscues in a loss to Stanford.

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