UCLA and Florida have fallen a long way since meeting for the 2006 NCAA championship in Indianapolis, and then again at the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta. But both teams stepped and won last night. Neither one is earth-shattering, but both kept themselves in position to rescue their season.
The Bruins' position has been particularly bleak, but the mediocrity of the Pac-10 has kept them alive. They edged Washington at home 62-61. Ben Howland's team didn't shoot their free throws well, but they got enough of them to make the difference. Though they are just 8-10 overall, UCLA's 3-3 record in the Pac-10 keeps them as one of seven teams within a game of first place. The co-leaders at 4-2 are Arizona State and Cal. The Golden Bears moved into the tie last night when they hammered Oregon. Mike Montgomery is getting some nice consistency from his forward combo of
Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin to go with a strong backcourt.
Florida went to Arkansas and overcame bad shooting without a solid rebounding edge from their frontline and a big night from the backcourt. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combined for 40 points and to hit 10-of-10 from the line. The Gators are still in shape to be a factor in the SEC race if they can find some consistency.
There's not a lot of showdown games this weekend, but as usual, several that should draw our interest. At 9 ET on Sunday night on ESPN (or right about an hour prior to the finish of the Vikings-Saints game), Duke goes to Clemson. Both teams are two games back in the ACC standings and both have the capability to make that ground up. Both are coming off losses early in the week. With homecourt on their side, Clemson would seem to have a slight edge, but the Tigers have been one of those teams that always manage to disappoint in a
key situation. If the Blue Devils get some rebounding from Brian Zoubek, that will be enough support for the Scheyer/Smith backcourt, along with Kyle Singler to carry the day.
Guess who is in first place in the ACC and undefeated in league play. Yes Virginia, it's the Cavaliers. A mostly no-name outfit, led by guard Sylvan Landesberg goes to Wake Forest, who is one of four teams that are two games out. Wake's not great, but at home, they have enough to start pulling UVA back to the pack. Maryland is one game back and visits N.C. State.
Kansas State showed it could beat a top team this past Monday when they took out Texas. Now they have to show they can stay focused, as Oklahoma State comes to Manhattan. In the SEC, Tennessee has an interesting road test at Georgia, the one place where any of the four conference unbeatens (including Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State). And Pitt goes to Seton Hall, a venue where Louisville was just
dumped last night, as the Panthers try and stay a game back of Villanova in the Big East.
Sunday night's Duke-Clemson game will end too late for the normal evening wrap, so I'll be here bright and early Monday morning with a look back on the weekend that was.