Better late than never? I thought I already put this up, and then I had to edit it to update some things. Sorry about that. Something should be up on late Friday/Saturday.
DPI WEEKEND REVIEW
Five Most Notable Games of the Weekend
(#14) North Carolina State 84, (#1) Duke 76 – The Wolfpack knocked the Blue Devils from the top of the ranks, beating Ryan Kelly-less Duke in Raleigh behind strong games from C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, and perhaps most of all, Richard Howell, who pulled down 18 rebounds in Kelly’s absence.
(#5) Indiana 88, (#3) Minnesota 81 – Indiana looked in top form in a win over the Gophers, going up by 23 by halftime on Minnesota, who stormed back and almost pulled the trick on the Hoosiers, who got stellar performances out of all five starters.
(#29) Mississippi 64, (#16) Missouri 49 – Murphy Holloway led the Rebels with 22 points as Ole Miss moved to 2-0 in the SEC with Saturday’s upset of the Tigers, who shot 2-for-18 from downtown and committed 19 turnovers in the road loss.
(#21) Kansas State 65, (#82) West Virginia 64 – Shane Southwell’s late block ensured the victory over West Virginia for the Wildcats, who improve to 2-0 in the Big 12 with the win, and who jumps into the Top 20 of the DPI as a result.
(#29) Ohio State 56, (#1) Michigan 53 – In Sunday’s premier matchup, this Big Ten rivalry did not disappoint, with the Buckeyes building a big lead over the Wolverines, which only opened the door for Michigan’s wild comeback that fell just short, as they became the last unbeaten team to lose a game.
The Best Weekends
(#21) Marquette – Coming off a somewhat disappointing nonconference season, the Eagles needed a fast start in the Big East – and that’s exactly what they’ve gotten. An overtime win over (#32) Connecticut brought them their first win, and last weekend’s one-point upset of (#57) Georgetown netted Marquette a 2-0 mark in conference play. They would face another solid foe in (#37) Pittsburgh on Saturday, taking to the road for the first time during Big East play. Marquette led at halftime, and held a small edge over the Panthers throughout the entire second half until Lamar Patterson’s buzzer-beating three, which sent the game to overtime. The Eagles’ junior guard Vander Blue stepped up in a big way in this game, especially considering that Junior Cadougan – one of the team’s three best players – sat out the entire second half with an injury. Blue was clutch in the extra period, making all eight free throws he attempted on the way to a seven-point victory for Marquette. The win moves the Eagles to 3-0 in the Big East, a very noble mark considering the level of competition they’ve faced so far. Marquette joins some terrific company in Louisville and Syracuse as the conference’s only remaining undefeated teams.
(#77) Evansville – After beating (#116) Northern Iowa earlier in the week, the Purple Aces hosted (#17) Wichita State in a crucial early conference game. Evansville traded leads with the Shockers throughout the game and with only five minutes remaining in the contest, the score was tied at 56. The Aces hit two three-pointers over the next couple minutes, eventually taking a 64-58 lead over Wichita that they would not relinquish. Colt Ryan, who contributed to all of the Aces’ points during their crucial 8-2 run late in the game, led Evansville with 24 points and eight assists. The win pulls the Aces into a tie with Wichita for second place in the Missouri Valley, with both teams trailing (#3) Creighton, who has yet to lose a conference – and are the owners of Evansville’s only defeat. While it was a good week for Evansville – who, despite being a six-loss team, lost five of those games to opponents ranked 77th or higher in the DPI – the Aces still seem unlikely to threaten for an MVC regular season crown.
(#75) Stony Brook – The Seawolves came into this weekend undefeated in the America East conference and were looking to stay that way as they hosted (#222) Hartford, who were also unbeaten heading into Saturday. Stony Brook went on a 20-3 run midway through the first half to build what eventually became a 29-point lead in the second half. Four players were in double figures for the Seawolves, including Tommy Brenton and Dave Coley, who also added ten and nine rebounds, respectively. Hartford eventually cut the deficit to a more respectable 14 points, but the fact remains that the Seawolves dominated in this contest, and demonstrated supremacy in the conference. Beating the Hawks also means that Stony Brook stands alone as the sole unbeaten squad in the America East Conference at 3-0, and they are joined only by Albany in the DPI Top 100.
The Worst Weekends
(#45) Kentucky – The Wildcats had not scored a truly solid victory since their season-opening win over Maryland, so they were looking to gain some credibility by beating conference newcomer (#34) Texas A&M. Kentucky did beat Vanderbilt in their SEC opener, but it was a two-point win over a sub-.500 team that included a contentious late-game jumper from Nerlens Noel. None of those factors add up to a huge confidence boost in Lexington, but Thursday’s result was certainly much more satisfying than Saturday’s. The Aggies’ Elston Turner decided to go bananas on the Cats, dropping a cool 40 points – including 25 in the first half. Despite Turner’s ridiculous game, Kentucky had the game tied with 4:30 remaining, but the Aggies went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes that sealed the victory for them. Noel – who had a great game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and seven blocks – disappeared offensively in the second half, only attempting one shot in the last 16 minutes. This is only the Wildcats’ first SEC victory, but more than a conference game, Kentucky lost out on a real chance to establish legitimacy for a young team still trying to come into its own. This week’s win over (#122) Tennessee helped smooth things over in Lexington.
(#183) Illinois State – Look, I get it. I know I’ve been talking about these guys a lot, but every time I think they’re destined to pull out of this slump, they dig deeper into it. On Saturday, the Redbirds hosted Drake, one of two other MVC schools lacking a conference win at that point. Going into halftime, it looked like Illinois State was poised to avoid their fifth consecutive Missouri Valley defeat, but the Bulldogs came out firing in the second half, erasing the nine-point deficit and taking a lead before the first TV timeout. This was part of a larger 19-4 Drake run that spanned the first six minutes of the half, and ISU trailed by as many as 15 before rallying to bring the game as close as four points with under a minute to play. Drake hit their free throws, however, and preserved their victory. After Southern Illinois beat Indiana State on Saturday, the Redbirds now stand alone as the Missouri Valley’s lowliest squad, and their 0-5 mark has tarnished what was a promising nonconference performance from Illinois State. The Redbirds lost again this week, to move to 0-6.
(#133) George Mason – It was one step forward, two steps backs for the Patriots this week, as they trounced lowly (#334) Old Dominion on Thursday, only to fall to (#266) UNC Wilmington over the weekend. George Mason took to the road on Saturday for their contest against the Seahawks, who came into the matchup with an 0-3 record in the Colonial. Sherrod Wright was yet again a one-man show for GMU, scoring a team-high 25, including 15 in the second half. Although they held a lead with 6:30 left in the game, a 10-3 Seahawks run swung the momentum in favor of UNCW, who rode Chris Dixon’s 30-point performance to their eventual victory. The loss moves George Mason to 2-2 in the CAA, and furthermore, drops them below (#91) Northeastern – the conference’s last remaining unbeaten team – in the DPI. While they have arguably the conference’s best player in Wright, the Patriots will need to regain some consistency in their play if they want to grab the Colonial bid this season.
Six Teams Who Have Surprised Early On In Conference Play:
(#168) Auburn – After a dismal nonconference performance – in which the Tigers lost games to (#177) Rhode Island and (#228) Winthrop – Auburn has now won three straight games, including their first two SEC matchups. After the loss to Winthrop, the Tigers lost by two points at Illinois before beating (#69) Florida State at home. Then Auburn surprised (#141) LSU, scoring a five-point victory over their similarly-nicknamed opponents. This weekend, Auburn kept the streak alive, holding off Frank Martin’s (#155) South Carolina squad, 74-71, on the road. The Tigers looked early on like one of the worst power conference teams in the nation, but their recent string of victories has shelved that distinction for now. Rob Chubb had a double-double on Saturday, putting up 16 and 10 against the Gamecocks, to go along with Frankie Sullivan’s 17 points. The Tigers lost to Arkansas in overtime on Wednesday, though, which spoiled the fun a little bit. Still, it’s a surprising start for a team who looked awful in the first few months.
(#138) Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons didn’t have the worst few months of the teams on this list, but it certainly was nothing to write home about. Losses to (#107) Seton Hall, (#114) Richmond, and (#143) Nebraska aren’t horrible, but Wake Forest was blown out by 26 points against (#108) Iona. Still, they ended on a high note by beating (#88) Xavier, before losing their ACC opener to (#6) Duke. Since then, Wake Forest has reeled off consecutive wins over Virginia and (#153) Boston College to move to 2-1 in conference play. Leading scorer C.J. Harris dropped in 29 in Saturday’s win over the Eagles, and the Deacons have jumped up 42 spots in the last seven days alone. Wake Forest lost to (#89) Clemson on the road, but has a chance to redeem themselves in Blacksburg on Saturday to face (#129) Virginia Tech.
(#14) Miami (FL) – It seems safe to say that the Hurricanes have a really good team this year. Besides a puzzling loss to (#120) Florida Gulf Coast and a terrible Christmas weekend which included a 19-point loss to (#7) Arizona and a heartbreaking buzzer-beater from (#73) Indiana State’s Jake Odum, Miami has been a force this year. The Canes are 8-1 against the DPI Top 100 this season, including a very impressive win over (#27) Michigan State. Miami is 3-0 in the ACC, having beaten (#135) Georgia Tech in their opener, plus (#66) North Carolina and (#58) Maryland last week. Big man Kenny Kadji led the Canes in scoring in both victories, and he and fellow giant Julian Gamble swatted away 12 total shots between the pair. Miami traveled to Chestnut Hill and survived a big test against Boston College ahead of a huge test at home against a Ryan Kelly-less Duke.
(#51) Washington – The Huskies looked amiss early in the season after suffering losses to (#82) Albany and (#176) Nevada, and barely scraping past (#166) Cal State Fullerton, but Lorenzo Romar’s squad has returned to form of late. Since the loss to Nevada, the Huskies have won seven of eight, including their first three Pac-12 games, a defeat to Connecticut the only speed bump in that stretch. Their conference opener was a win in the Apple Cup over rival (#150) Washington State, and then they traveled south to face the Bay Area schools this past week. On Wednesday, the Huskies came into Berkeley and whipped (#71) California soundly, scoring a 15-point victory over the once-ranked Bears. Then, over the weekend, Washington went to Palo Alto and pulled the NorCal sweep, eking out a five-point victory over Stanford. C.J. Wilcox put in 27 points for the Huskies on the evening, his third game of as many points this year. The Dawgs stand with (#31) UCLA and (#33) Oregon as the Pac-12’s only unbeaten teams. The Dawgs stayed undefeated this week, toppling (#68) Colorado, before hosting (#195) Utah this weekend to try to keep it up.
(#19) Oklahoma – Since a disappointing upset at the hands of (#43) Stephen F. Austin, the Sooners have reeled off four straight victories over Top 100 opponents including (#76) Ohio, (#106) West Virginia, and most recently, (#56) Oklahoma State. Their victory over the Mountaineers was actually their second of the season, although the first matchup happened during a preseason tournament, so it did not count towards Big 12 play. Oklahoma’s win in the Bedlam game against rival OSU was proof positive that the Sooners will be a mainstay in the Big 12 race this season. Romero Osby, Buddy Hield, and Amath M’Baye led the Sooners on Saturday, as they have for much of the season, as well as Steven Pledger. Sparked by an 18-7 second-half run in which all three players scored, Oklahoma held off the Cowboys in Norman to improve to 2-0 in conference play, sitting as one of four teams with an unblemished Big 12 mark.
(#216) Mississippi State – Owners of a poor 5-7 nonconference record and the SEC’s lowest DPI score, the Bulldogs had little room for error come the SEC season. They’ve kept afloat to the tune of a 2-0 record in the conference, notching wins over South Carolina and (#188) Georgia – the second- and third-worst teams in the conference, respectively. The victories, albeit over nobody major, show that Mississippi State is on the right track. After Trivante Bloodman led the Bulldogs with 18 earlier in the week as MSU spoiled Frank Martin’s SEC debut with the Gamecocks, it was Jalen Steele and Craig Sword doing the heavy lifting for Mississippi State on Saturday. Steele had team-highs with 21 points and seven rebounds, and scored eight straight points during the second half to break open a nine-point lead for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State won their second straight SEC game and their third overall, bringing their record back to .500 –but only temporarily, as the Bulldogs fell to Alabama on Wednesday.
Half a Dozen Teams Who Have Disappointed So Far In Conference Play:
(#56) Oklahoma State – There’s no denying the skill level on this team – Markel Brown, Marcus Smart, and LeBryan Nash are all immensely talented players – but the production just has not been there lately for the Cowboys. In the past four games, Oklahoma State has lost three matchups against Top 50 teams in (#9) Gonzaga, (#20) Kansas State, and rival (#19) Oklahoma. Their only victory in that timeframe was a drubbing of (#242) TCU on Wednesday, which is not nearly as impressive a win as any of the other three would have been. The Cowboys were simply outshot on Saturday in the Bedlam matchup with the Sooners – OSU shot 28.6% from long range, compared to 61.5% for Oklahoma. OK State will look to get things back on track on Saturday with a win over Big 12 bottom-dweller (#187) Texas Tech, before a tough stretch of games including two ties with (#55) Baylor and a trip to Lawrence to face (#2) Kansas. At the moment, the Cowboys have the look of an 8-10 seed, a team who will likely play its way into the tournament, but won’t make a great deal of noise once they get there. For their sake, I hope they can prove me wrong.
(#37) Pittsburgh – Talk about an up-and-down week. First, the Panthers dispatch of Georgetown in D.C., avoiding a third-straight Big East loss to open conference play. Then Pittsburgh loses at home in overtime to an overachieving Marquette squad to move to 1-3 in the early season. Jamie Dixon’s team has been hard to put a finger on this year, looking at times like a Big East contender, and at others like an afterthought. Lamar Patterson tried to carry the team on his shoulders over the weekend, hitting the buzzer-beater to send the game to an extra period, but the rest of the Panthers failed to follow suit. The Panthers headed across the state to beat (#83) Villanova on Wednesday before they go home to host the Huskies of UConn over the weekend. This is a part of the schedule that Pitt needs to do very well in, with games against (#136) Providence and (#147) DePaul on the docket as well, if they want to compete for a top spot in the conference this year. If they are still under .500 in league play by the time they face (#1) Louisville and (#8) Syracuse, it could be a tough road to the tournament for Pittsburgh.
(#57) Georgetown – The Hoyas had a rocky start to the week, losing by 28 to Pitt at home, but the salvaged some semblance of redemption in the form of a win over (#102) St. John’s on Saturday. The Hoyas were staring at the possibility of starting out 0-3 in the Big East, having lost their conference opener to Marquette as well. Otto Porter Jr. led the Hoyas in scoring in both games last week, although his nine-point performance in the loss to Marquette left a lot to be desired for fans in D.C. Better, though, was his 19-point, 14-rebound outing against the Red Storm in New York on Saturday. A week consisting of (#54) Notre Dame and Louisville at the end of the month could be a distraction for the Hoyas. Georgetown needs to keep focused and take care of business this week in order to get back over .500 in the Big East.
(#94) Stanford – Stanford came into the Pac-12 season on a little bit of a shaky note, losing to four Top 35 teams, but scoring a close win on the road against (#127) Northwestern. The Cardinal began their conference campaign in Los Angeles, losing to both (#170) USC and UCLA, before scoring a victory of the Cougars of Washington State at home on Thursday. The win was nice for Stanford, but Wazzu is one of the worst teams in the conference, so this is nothing to get too excited about. Worse still, the Cardinal lost on Saturday to Washington, a team on a hot streak right now. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle have been playing good ball recently, but the supporting cast has been inconsistent – namely Aaron Bright, who scored 21 points against Washington State and none against the Huskies. The Big Game looms for Stanford on Saturday as they face (#71) California at home in Palo Alto. The Bears have likewise struggled through the first two weeks of conference play, splitting their first four games. A trip to the mountains is ahead after that, as both teams hit the road to play Colorado and Utah.
(#149) Virginia – The Cavaliers started out so promisingly in the ACC, besting (#66) North Carolina in Charlottesville after a strong showing in nonconference play. Three losses to Colonial teams – George Mason, Delaware, and Old Dominion – had been the only missteps for a team who scored wins over (#22) Wisconsin and Tennessee. This week was a hard one for Virginia, however, starting out by losing in Winston-Salem to Wake Forest in a close three-point loss. Then, on Saturday, the Cavs were held to just 44 points in a stinging defeat to Clemson. Virginia returns home this weekend to take on Florida State in an order to regain some of the promise that had surrounded this team after they knocked off the Tar Heels. The Cavaliers drew a lucky schedule to only play Duke and (#23) North Carolina State once apiece, but they’ll need to avoid future slip-ups against the lesser teams in the ACC if they want to go to the Big Dance in March.
(#175) Texas – Like Virginia, a win over North Carolina was a momentary feather in the cap for this Longhorns team, who were quick to spend all the good will it had earned them. Texas lost their very next match against Michigan State, and have now lost their first three Big 12 matchups. On the road in Waco, Rick Barnes’ squad were able to force overtime, but couldn’t finish Baylor off. Then, last Wednesday, Texas hosted West Virginia in a second straight overtime tussle, with the Longhorns again coming up on the short end. As devastating as two close losses were for Texas, they at least maintained respectability by keeping up for 40 minutes with two talented ballclubs. Saturday’s 20-point loss to Iowa State damaged their credibility, and the Longhorns have a lot of work to do if they have any plans on being relevant in the Big 12 this season. The end of Myck Kabongo’s suspension cannot come soon enough for Texas, who get their star point guard back in mid-February.