From an internal standpoint, Kentucky has to ask itself what happened to Patrick Patterson. The forward was non-existent on the offensive end and he has not had a standout year. That’s been covered by the emergence of DeMarcus Couisins, who had 27 points and 12 boards last night in Columbia, but last night even Couisins wasn’t enough. Kentucky can be good with Patterson playing at an average level. If they want to be an elite team, they need him to be excellent.
Another frontcourt player that was a non-factor in the early part of the week was Georgetown center Greg Monroe. Syracuse shut the big guy down, holding him to eight points and four rebounds, before Monroe eventually fouled out. The Orange won the game easily, thanks to a 21-6 scoring advantage at the free throw line, a spread close to the final victory margin of seventeen points. Home cookin’ must have been going on throughout the northeast, because in ACC action up in Boston, BC had a 24-6 edge over Clemson at the line in a six-point win. Now I didn’t see either game, so maybe the fouls were justified—there’s no obligation of officials to call an even number of fouls each way, just the ones that are committed. But in each case, there was no appreciable difference in rebounding, an edge that often signifies control of the interior, which usually signifies being fouled more frequently. And in each case the unexpected edge went to the home team. Hmm….
How about Maryland? The Terps ran to 4-1 in the ACC by routing Miami. In of itself, beating the Hurricanes, even by an 81-59 count isn’t headline news this year. But this is two straight routs Maryland has hung on conference opponents. In a league with no great team, and for a program that’s often been maddeningly inconsistent, that’s a big deal.
In the Big Ten, Michigan State survived Michigan, 57-56. As predicted here, the Spartans got their aggressiveness to the glass back, with guard Durrell Summers grabbing ten rebounds—equal to the amount the Wolverines’ top three frontcourt players had. But as *not* predicted here, MSU couldn’t take care of the ball, losing turnovers 18-4 and keeping the game close. Had Michigan not launched 29 treys and instead tried to go inside, the result might have been different.
And the Big 12 saw a great game between Kansas State and Baylor, as each school tries to break the upper echelon. The Wildcats got the best of this one on the road, 76-74. It was a battle of the backcourts. Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn, so excellent all year, couldn’t get it going here with only nine points. And K-State hit their treys, with Jacob Pullen going 6-of-7 from behind the arc with 25 points. He was supported by his running mate, Denis Clemente, who popped in 17, as the ‘Cats get another big win. Winning on the road is, in its own way, even more significant than their win over Texas last week.
We’ve got some good games on tap tonight. Notre Dame-Villanova heads the ESPN card from Philadelphia. The Irish are getting support for Luke Harangody down low. Forward Tim Abromaitis has been playing very well on the offensive end. As usual, the issues for the Irish are going to be playing defense and getting some outside help. Villanova doesn’t look dominant, but they are undefeated and atop the Big East, so they are clearly doing something right. The concern is how long they can go relying too heavily on Scottie Reynolds without losing a game they shouldn’t. Reggie Redding and/or Corey Stokes need to play up to their billing as part of the best backcourt in America. I don’t know if those two will do it tonight, but I do think ‘Nova forces enough turnovers to win this one for the home crowd.
Florida State-Duke is in the late window, and I really can’t see the Dookies losing this one at home. Games of interest not on national TV are in the SEC, where you have Vanderbilt at Tennessee and Georgia visiting Florida. The Commodores can take sole possession of first place in anticipation of Saturday’s game with Kentucky. The post battle between A.J. Oglivy and Wayne Chism is the showcase, but who gets the support from the guards will decide the winner. And I really think Florida has the potential for a big year, with a nicely balanced lineup. But they have got to show the consistency. Let’s see them take care of a winnable game on their home floor against a decent foe, and do it with some authority.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s games, the highlight is Wisconsin’s visit to Purdue. When the Badgers beat the Boilers in Madison earlier this month, it jumpstarted a three-game losing streak for Matt Painter’s club. But it’s a different Wisconsin team due to injuries on the frontcourt and they are heavily reliant on airing the three-ball. Don’t bet on a team like that on the road against a disciplined opponent, especially now that Purdue center JaJuan Johnson has emerged from his January hibernation. And in the Pac-10, first place Cal goes to Arizona State, one of five teams who are a game back. It’s a great chance for the Golden Bears to show some consistency and take control of this league. They look like the best team. Now let’s see them win a road game against an often punchless opponent.
We’ll see you here tomorrow to look back at Wednesday’s games.