Duke and Maryland kept pace with each other in the tightly packed ACC race last night. Kyle Singler was unconscious from three-point land, as he buried 8-of-10 on his to a 30-point night and keying a rout of Georgia Tech for the Dookies. Meanwhile, the Terps stayed a half-game back (tied in the loss column) with a tough win at Florida State. Greivis Vazquez was strong in all facets of the game, with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in leading his team to a four-point road win.
On other coast, things got even more packed. A week ago at this time, Cal had the chance to open up the conference race. But last night their frontcourt failed to show up and they fell to USC, 66-63, dropping them to 6-4 in league play. Arizona had a chance to take sole possession of first place in front of them, but fell apart in the second half while watching Washington's
Quincy Poindexter hang 30 on the board. With the Wildcats also falling to 6-4, the door was opened for the improbable--UCLA is now in a four-way tie for first. They overcame a huge 35-point and 10-rebound night by Stanford's outstanding forward Landry Fields with a balanced attack and pulled themselves up to 6-4 in the conference. Arizona State joins them after a win over Washington State.
Looking ahead to the weekend, the highlight comes early. Villanova goes to Georgetown on Saturday (Noon EST, ESPN). The Hoyas' loss to South Florida this week takes a little bit of the edge off, as any hope of a G'town rally in the conference race were eliminated. But it's still a very big game for Villanova, with Syracuse and West Virginia right on their heels. I think homecourt is decisive here--yes, I know it didn't help Georgetown against South Florida, but that was a sandwich game between this one and last Saturday against Duke. I look for Greg Monroe to
give the Hoyas a big edge inside and take away Antonio Pena. It will be a great battle in the backcourt, but with the homecrowd behind them, I see Austin Freeman and his mates at least running even with Scottie Reynolds & Co, and letting the Hoya inside game be the deciding force.
UCLA looks to continue its recovery when they host Cal in a regionally televised CBS game at 4 ET on Saturday. I've tried to stay positive on Cal, but these last two games have really punctured any belief in the Golden Bears. Ben Howland's a great coach and improvement throughout the season is going to be expected from his teams. If they can make it a slug-it-out, ugly kind of game, it can take away Cal's big edge in the backcourt, and I'll pick the Bruins to do just that.
Michigan State can keep the rest of the Big Ten at bay if they win at Illinois in ESPN's prime-time show on Saturday night. If Kalin Lucas can go, the Spartans have too much talent for
the Illini, who haven't gotten consistent play up front, an area that was supposed to be their strength. Demetri McCamey's had a nice year for Bruce Weber in the backcourt, but he alone is nowhere near enough to beat the Spartans. With Lucas, this game's a rout, without him, it's still a win for Tom Izzo, albeit a little tougher.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Maryland tries to keep it going with a home date against North Carolina. The Tar Heels kept collapsing last night with another loss at Virginia Tech. Gary Williams always wins games where he shouldn't and loses them where you can't imagine it possible. He beat great UNC teams in the Dean Dome the last two years. Therefore it follows he'd lose to a bad one at home this year. Call Carolina to regain a measure of pride as they desperately try to rally and still make the NCAA Tournament.
See you Sunday night to recap it all.