The Big Ten race all but ended last night in West Lafayette. Wisconsin, the only team in striking distance of Michigan State at two games back fell on the road to Purdue in a taut 60-57 finale. UW's Trevon Hughes missed an open bankshot with five seconds left that would have put his team on top, and the Boilers bagged a couple insurance free throws. Purdue took advantage of Wisconsin's weakend frontcourt by pounding the boards to the tune of a 34-20 edge. Robbie Hummel was the chairman of the boards, grabbing 12. With a three-game lead in the loss column, Tom Izzo is set to coast home to a second straight conference title.
Out here in Maryland, where I live, it's a great day for my mother-in-law. She comes home from successful surgery, and does so to find her beloved Terps in sole possession of first place. Co-leader Virginia lost in overtime to
Virginia Tech last night, as Hokie guards Malcolm Delaney and Lorenzo Hudson blitzed the Cavs for 45 points. On the opposite side of the country, Cal kept the rest of the Pac-10 at arms length with a 78-70 win over Arizona. Balance wasn't exactly the order of the day. Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle and Jamal Boykin combined for 71 of the Golden Bears' points, but Mike Montgomery's club is 6-2 and only Arizona is within a game in a race that once had five teams breathing down Cal's neck. Arizona kept on pace with a 76-68 win over Stanford, thanks to a heavy free throw advantage on their home floor. The 'Cats shot 27-of-34 from the stripe, while Stanford only got 16 chances at the line.
It sets the stage for the weekend, where Cal travels to Arizona in Sunday's biggest game. The talent mismatch is substantial. The Wildcats do not have the horses to match up with Cal's ability to score from inside and out. Don't be fooled by the scoring
imbalance against Arizona State. The Bears have four legitimate scoring threats in their starting lineup and they seem to be clicking as a team. Homecourt advantage counts for something, but not this much. Look for Montgomery to pulling away in the West by the time Sunday night arrives. That evening, Maryland goes to Clemson and Virginia travels to North Carolina for an FSN doubleheader that will either further clarify or muddy the ACC waters.
Kansas State gets another crack at taking down a top team on their home floor when Kansas comes to town for ESPN's prime Saturday game. I haven't been high on the Jayhawks this year, but they seem to be playing better of late. A win here would send a definite message that they are past their early season sluggishness and rounding into the form everyone else expected of them.
And the biggest game of the day will go at 4 ET on ESPN. Vanderbilt goes to Kentucky, a game the Wildcats suddenly must have
or fall two games out in the SEC race. The frenetic home crowd of Lexington realistically gets it for them. But if the Beal-Tinsley backcourt combo for Vandy can handle pressure and not force turnovers, it could give their low post game with A.J. Oglivy time to settle in and make this a good one. The 'Cats need Patrick Patterson to step up.
See you here again Sunday night.