Louisville and Notre Dame each went to the New York area last night looking to solidify their bubble position, and each were handed big losses for their trouble. Let's start with Louisville, who was apparently distracted by Rick Pitino's alleged flirtation with the Nets, because I don't know what else can explain a terrible 74-55 loss to St. John's. The Red Storm got 14 points and 8 rebounds off the bench from Justin Burrell. As for the Cards, we could go persue the box score endlessly for problems, but let's just leave it at this--the backcourt of Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith turned it over seven times and had only three assists. That's a bad assist-to-turnover ratio if it were reversed.
Across the border in New Jersey, Notre Dame lost Luke Harangody to an ankle injury and a high-scoring game to Seton Hall, 90-87. Jeremy Hazell showed why he deserves to
be mentioned in the same breath as South Carolina's Devan Downey and Georgia's Travis Leslie whenever we talk about the nation's most obscure, but explosively talented guards. Hazell went off for 35, and we can't forget to mention Eugene Harvey dishing ten assists or Herb Pope hauling in nine rebounds to help the Pirate cause. Harangody had to ice his ankle down and it looks like this isn't permanent. But Michigan State's Kalin Lucas suffered a similar injury and the two games he either missed or was half-strength turned the Big Ten race from a landslide to a logjam. A similar situation in South Bend spells the difference between NCAA & NIT.
Looking ahead to the weekend, there's good games each day involving the conference leaders, highlighted by Saturday's ACC showdown between Maryland and Duke (1 ET, CBS). The game is in Cameron and the inclination is to default to the Blue Devils. But Maryland has played as well as any ACC team in Durham
and Chapel Hill and won't be intimidated. Duke has the better star talent with Singler, Scheyer and Smith. But Maryland is more balanced, and if they can turn off one of Duke's three faucets and avoid a turnover meltdown, they'll win. If they're in the game at halftime, they'll get it done in the second half and I believe they will.
In other action...
ESPN's Gameday crew is in Lexington, where Tennessee is in town. The Vols are coming off a tough loss at Vanderbilt earlier this week and will be ready to play. But being ready isn't the same as being good enough, and Tennessee isn't. Wayne Chism is the only player Bruce Pearl has who could start on Kentucky, and in front of a rabid home crowd, the Wildcats will not be beaten. I'm looking for John Wall & Eric Bledsoe to dominate the Volunteer backcourt.
Ohio State goes to Illinois (1 ET, CBS) in a game where the winner will stay in a tie for first in the Big
Ten. In a race that currently has four tied at the top and Wisconsin a game back, trailing even by a game is a significant deficit. Illinois is the team playing very well, coming off the wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin, but I really like Ohio State. They've got star power with Evan Turner, and the supporting cast seems to be clicking. Normally, picking them to win on the road in Champaign might be too much, but I suspect the Illini are set to run out of steam.
The enormity of Louisville's loss to St. John becomes even more apparent when you see that Syracuse is up next in the Carrier Dome (1 ET, ESPN). The Cardinals just are not getting consistency anywhere in the lineup. They get some random good performances, but nothing to really rely on. I suppose if it all clicks, they could pull the upset, but that's never something to predict out of the blue. The Orange are steady up front and fundamentally sound. That and the homecourt advantage
is too much for the 'Ville to overcome.
Everyone have a good weekend and see you Sunday night to rehash it all.