DPI WEEKEND IN REVIEW
(January 5TH – 6TH, 2013)
Quick Hits on A Few The Weekend’s Most Notable Games:
(Note: Rankings next to team names in this section are from before that game was played.)
Saturday: (#82) Rutgers 67, (#10) Pittsburgh 62 – The Panthers fall to 0-2 in the Big East at the hands of the Scarlet Knights in New Jersey.
Saturday: (#60) Marquette 49, (#26) Georgetown 48 – Marquette follows up an impressive OT win over (#59) UConn with an upset of Georgetown at home.
Saturday: (#130) St. John’s 53, (#10) Cincinnati 52 – Apparently, the Red Storm got the memo about Big East upsets, topping the Bearcats in Cincy.
Sunday: (#9) Kansas 69, (#34) Temple 62 – The Owls wanted to take down another Top 10 foe in the Jayhawks, but KU holds up to Temple’s tough test.
Sunday: (#124) Virginia 61, (#44) North Carolina 52 – The Cavaliers established themselves as ACC contenders by stymying UNC, a team who looks a little lost.
Who Had The Best Weekend?
Major Conference: (#17) Kansas State – The Wildcats held court at home and beat (#42) Oklahoma State on Saturday, further bolstering their campaign as the Big 12’s second-best team. Rodney McGruder scored 11 points in the final seven minutes, including the tie-breaking three-pointer with 2:14 on the clock. His next triple came at 1:43, after Marcus Smart missed the back end of a double-bonus, putting the Cats up by five and proving to be the nail in the coffin for Oklahoma State. Nino Williams was huge in support of McGruder, scoring a career-high 17 points – including nine straight for the Wildcats at one point – in just 21 minutes. McGruder ended up with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including five three-pointers.
Mid-Major Conf.: (#14) VCU – Shaka Smart and the Rams faced a tough task on Saturday: keep their focus and take down a tough (#95) Lehigh team. Making this job much easier was the fact that the Hawks’ best player, and one of the best scorers in the nation – C.J. McCollum – went down with a broken foot with about five minutes left in the first half. This was not a game very typical of the Rams’ “Havoc” style of play, a style which had netted VCU at least 70 points in eight straight games. Instead, this game was played at a plodding pace, but Rob Brandenberg came up huge in the final minutes for VCU. He made threes, came up with three big steals, and even had a block late in the contest. Darius Theus added six steals and Briante Weber had three, as well. Treveon Graham led the Rams with 17 points.
Low-Major Conf.: (#122) Arkansas State – Well, beating (#36) Middle Tennessee is surely a great way to start the season… but could the Red Wolves complete the trick Saturday and beat (#129) Western Kentucky, too? Apparently, yes. The Wolves outrebounded the Hilltoppers and got a huge game out of guard Ed Townsel, who had 25 and five boards. Arkansas State recovered from a four-point halftime deficit to score 52 points in the second half, and they eventually topped WKU, 75-61. The victory puts ASU in a tie for second in the Sun Belt at 4-2, while they switched positions with the Hilltoppers in the DPI. The Red Wolves are now own the conference’s second highest rating in the Index, and these kids look like they could make the Sun Belt a three-team race this year.
Who Had The Worst Weekend?
Major Conference: (#102) Stanford – It’s never good to start off conference play by losing your first two games, but that’s exactly what happened to Stanford this weekend. The Cardinal had already lost earlier in the week to (#169) USC on the road, so they wanted to come into Saturday’s game against (#25) UCLA with a little extra fire. A win over the Bruins would not only negate the loss to USC, but would also firmly place Stanford among the contenders for second-place in the Pac-12 behind Arizona. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randall both scored 17 for Stanford this weekend, but the supporting cast did not show up fast enough, and the Cardinal dropped to 0-2 in conference play after a 68-60 defeat at Pauley Pavilion.
Mid-Major Conf.: (#106) Illinois State – Already having started 0-2 in conference, the Redbirds had a lot of work ahead of them coming into Saturday’s tilt with (#126) Northern Iowa. Illinois State had already faced two of the Missouri Valley’s tougher teams – (#74) Indiana State and (#7) Creighton – and were looking to regain some ground against some slightly lesser competition at home. The Panthers, however, balked at their role of slump-buster and beat the Jackie Carmichael-led Redbirds by ten. ISU now stands at 0-3 in the conference, and have already squashed not only the optimism brought about by a great start, but perhaps also their chances at going to the NCAA Tournament in March.
Low-Major Conf.: (#95) Lehigh – Having already lost by more than 20 points to both (#53) Baylor and (#33) Pittsburgh to open the year, the Hawks really needed a marquee nonconference win to have even an astronomical chance at an at-large berth in March. A game in Richmond against VCU provided just such an opportunity, and Lehigh came out and made the Rams play at their tempo – a far cry from VCU’s “Havoc” style of play, as I discussed above. More devastating than the eventual loss to the Rams was the loss of all-everything guard C.J. McCollum. Without McCollum – who will miss 6-8 weeks with his broken foot – the Hawks are left to play with one hand tied behind their back, essentially. Coupled with the failure to nab a good nonconference win, their chances in the Patriot League were hampered by their star’s injury. (#55) Bucknell now looks like the heavy favorites to secure the league’s top seed later this season.
Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other
Six Teams Who Came Back From Tough Losses:
(#18) Illinois – The Illini came home to Champaign following their loss to (#118) Purdue on the road and trounced (#23) Ohio State, a team who has now lost all three games against ranked opponents this year. Brandon Paul led the scoring efforts with 19, and Nnanna Egwu was huge in this game, putting up 16 and eight boards on the Buckeyes. While the team still needs to clean up its play – they had 18 turnovers to just 12 assists – the Illini bounced back nicely from a somewhat embarrassing loss to the Boilermakers. A win like this certainly lends a bit of credence to a team that has been widely (and rightly) questioned throughout their hot start to the season.
(#36) Middle Tennessee – It was close, but no cigar for the Blue Raiders against Arkansas State earlier in the week when Middle Tennessee lost a close overtime game in Jonesboro. They came into Saturday facing one of the Sun Belt’s hotter teams, South Alabama, who was 4-1 in conference play going into the weekend. Bruce Massey and Shawn Jones led Middle Tennessee to victory in Mobile, both scoring in double figures in just over twenty minutes of play. The game was nip and tuck throughout the first half, but the Raiders pulled away in the second, going up by as many as 15 before the Jaguars cut it all the way back to two. Luckily for Middle Tennessee, South Alabama missed a layup with less than a minute to play, and Massey was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound, making two clutch free throws to seal the 60-56 victory.
(#39) Michigan State – Elsewhere in the Big Ten, the Spartans of Michigan State displayed why Illinois should have been a little red in the face over losing to Purdue. Sparty crushed the Boilermakers in East Lansing, 84-61, led by Gary Harris and his six three-pointers. After losing a hard-fought game to an exceptional (#4) Minnesota club earlier this week, Michigan State really needed a game like this to keep confidence in the Big Ten season. And while Purdue may not exactly be the best barometer for success, Spartans fans have to be encouraged by the performance. They will look to continue their success on the road, traveling to (#57) Iowa on Thursday to square off with the Hawkeyes.
(#67) Florida State – Florida State is now 0-3 against teams from states with whom they share a border, what with (#197) South Alabama’s season-opening upset of the Seminoles, the loss to (#190) Mercer at home, and then Tuesday’s defeat at the hands of (#177) Auburn. Just in case you’re thinking, “Well, Auburn is an SEC team at least!” – Florida State and (#108) Charleston are the only two schools in the Top 275 of the DPI who have fallen to the Tigers. That’s not really a morale-booster heading into ACC play, but don’t tell that to Leonard Hamilton’s team. They came to (#105) Clemson ready to play, and despite Michael Snaer’s off-night offensively, the Seminoles left victorious. One worrisome note, however, is that FSU let a 16-point lead in the second half dwindle back down to three before they eventually put the Tigers away.
(#91) DePaul – The Blue Demons will likely end up in the bottom half of the Big East this season, but this is a pretty decent team. While it might be tough for them to steal victories from the conference’s better squads, they should be able to pile up some wins against the Big East’s more mediocre offerings. They failed to do just that on Tuesday, falling at home to an upstart (#65) Seton Hall team who has eyes on the Big Dance. This weekend, the Demons took to the road and traveled to (#131) Providence, a team not unlike both DePaul and Seton Hall. Led by Cleveland Melvin, DePaul picked up the road win and avoided the pitfall of an 0-2 start, which is often a kiss of death in the Big East.
(#112) George Mason – A loss to (#159) Northeastern on Wednesday sent the Patriots plummeting in the DPI, falling out of the Top 100. George Mason responded on Saturday during a trip to Williamsburg to face (#229) William & Mary. It was The Sherrod Wright Show, as the junior guard exploded for 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds, leading GMU to victory. The Patriots trailed by four going into the break, but they pulled ahead and then traded leads with the Tribe until the three-minute mark. The turning point came when the game was tied 61-all and Johnny Williams converted on a three-point play with 2:48 to go. A minute later, Wright completed one of his own, capping a 7-0 run for George Mason which put them up for good and sent them to 1-1 in the Colonial.
Half a Dozen Teams Who Made Bad Weeks Worse:
(#33) Pittsburgh – The Panthers ended 2012 with a bad taste in their mouths, having been beaten at home by (#13) Cincinnati to start off Big East play. While the Bearcats have stumbled a couple times recently, they are a very good team, and this loss should not have weighed too heavily on Pittsburgh, regrettable as it may have been. Their matchup with (#64) Rutgers was the first game of the day on Saturday, and Pittsburgh had a chance to redeem themselves for their earlier loss. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Rutgers had their eyes on an upset. The Scarlet Knights, who were crushed by (#9) Syracuse earlier in the week, made their first five shots – including three from downtown – on their way to a 14-point halftime lead. While the Panthers almost erased the deficit, they could only get as close as two points, eventually losing by five and going to 0-2 in the Big East. It will be an uphill battle for Pittsburgh from here on out.
(#31) Colorado – Out west, Colorado was looking for redemption after last week’s heartbreaking loss to (#3) Arizona after the controversial review of Sabatino Chen’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. The Buffaloes came in to Sunday up against an (#20) Arizona State team who was on the better side of an overtime game earlier this week, topping (#113) Utah in the extra period. It only took 40 minutes to figure out who the better team was that night, with Colorado dropping to 0-2 in the Pac-12 after losing 65-56. The Sun Devils’ Jordan Bachynski blocked nine of the Buffs’ shots – most of which weren’t going in, anyway. Colorado shot 2-of-19 from downtown and 35% overall. Andre Roberson finished with five points and now has nine fouls to only five made baskets in his last two games. Even Spencer Dinwiddie’s 19 points lose some of their sparkle when you see his 1-for-8 mark from downtown.
(#129) Western Kentucky – Western Kentucky was fortunate not to really lose ground when they lost earlier in the week to (#178) Arkansas-Little Rock, given that their chief nemesis, Middle Tennessee, lost in kind. However, while the Blue Raiders took care of business over the weekend, the Hilltoppers failed to do the same, squandering a halftime lead. Jonesboro proved as tough a place to play for Western Kentucky as it was for Middle Tennessee, and the Hilltoppers fell to Arkansas State, and likewise fell to 4-2 in the Sun Belt. Aleksejs Rostov had a big game off the bench, hitting 5-of-6 from deep and leading the Toppers with 17 points. WKU will be dangerous once they get guard Jamal Crook back, but in the meantime, Brandon Harris and T.J. Price will have to be more consistent in holding down the fort until he arrives.
(#232) Robert Morris – One moment they look to me like perhaps the Northeast Conference’s best team, and the next they are 0-2 and looking a little lost to start the new year. (#138) Bryant is a team that is playing well this season and beat the host Colonials on Wednesday. Robert Morris made matters worse when they lost by seven – again – to (#218) Central Connecticut State at home. This is the same Blue Devils team who became the first victim of (#302) St. Francis (PA). CCSU’s Kyle Vinales went nuts, scoring 34 points to lead the charge against RMU. The Colonials’ Velton Jones scored 22 of his own, but it was not enough to keep pace with the Devils. Robert Morris dropped 61 spots on the week as a whole, the third-worst fall of all 347 teams in the country.
(#191) Cal State Northridge – Second on that list of drop-offs are the Matadors of Northridge, who fell 75 spots this week. (Note: (#312) Prairie View A&M had the most precipitous drop at 79 places lost.)After earning my praises for beating Utah, Northridge has dropped three straight conference games to open up Big West play. A loss to (#330) UC Riverside on Thursday was bad enough, but getting shellacked at home by (#196) Cal State Fullerton really knocked the Matadors for a loop. Despite 20-point games out of Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell, Northridge couldn’t keep up with the Titan’s 12 three-pointers or D.J. Seeley’s 37-point performance. The Matadors were a Top 100 team just two weeks ago, but now look lost in the Big West, falling behind (#109) Hawaii, (#156) Cal Poly, and (#168) Pacific in the DPI – and stand with UC Davis as the only two teams without a win in the conference.
(#319) Old Dominion – The pain train kept on chugging in Norfolk, as the Monarchs fell to 2-13 on the season following a loss to (#174) Delaware at home. ODU shot poorly on Saturday, only hitting 33% of their shots. They failed to capitalize on 21 turnovers from the Blue Hens and showed almost no discipline, fouling 31 times to send Delaware to the line for 50 free-throw attempts. Fifty. And Delaware made them pay, hitting 41 of them. Old Dominion already looked like a team in trouble coming into this game, but one figured they might get a little better during conference play. Sadly for Monarch fans, the spiral continues downward for another week in one of the worst season folks Norfolk have suffered through.
A Few Other Games That Caught My Eye:
(Note: Rankings next to team names in this section are from before that game was played.)
(#20) Missouri 66, (#54) Bucknell 64 – These two teams traded blows for a full 40 minutes, with neither side ever going up by more than five. The Bison had a chance at the end after Phil Pressey missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds left, but a Mike Muscala turnover with four ticks remaining gave Missouri a chance to hit a pair of freebies to extend the lead to three. The Tigers fouled rather than letting Bucknell shoot a three, ensuring the victory. Muscala was fantastic, going for 25 and 14, while Pressey led the Tigers with 26.
(#33) Maryland 94, (#98) Virginia Tech 71 – In a very telling game for two of the middle-tier teams in the ACC, Maryland made their case as a legitimate squad in beating down the Hokies by 23. The Terrapins put up 53 in the first half, led by Jake Layman and Alex Len. Seth Allen had 14 of his 21 points in the second half for Maryland. Erick Green led the up-and-down Hokies with 28 points, raising his nation-leading average to 24.6 points per game.
(#56) Baylor 86, (#126) Texas 79 (OT) – This was a game that both teams could have used on their résumé later in the year, but the Bears reigned victorious in overtime on Saturday. It was a close game throughout, but Pierre Jackson took over in the extra period. He hit nine free throws and scored 11 overall in those five minutes, scoring as many points as the entire Longhorn team, and Baylor held court at home.
(#345) Kennesaw State 83, (#152) Mercer 75 – The Bears undid some good work from earlier in the week, losing on the road to Kennesaw State. Just days after beating their chief competition, (#117) Florida Gulf Coast, Mercer became only the second victory all year for the Owls, who are the lowest-rated team in the Atlantic Sun. One wonders if the Bears overlooked this one.
(#3) Arizona 60, (#113) Utah 57 – It was another night in the McKale Center, and another nail-biter. The Cats survived a torrid rally from the Utes. Jarred DuBois missed a couple threes in the final seconds that would have either given Utah the lead or sent the game to overtime. Arizona remains unbeaten on the year, one of four teams still able to make that claim. Solomon Hill led the Wildcats with 19 points and Mark Lyons had 12 despite a poor shooting night.
(#339) Mississippi Valley State 79, (#257) Alabama A&M 68 – Last but not least, to the SWAC. I generally have little to say about the Southwestern, but the Delta Devils – alma mater of one Jerry Rice – caught my eye this weekend when they got off the schneid and won their first game of the 2012-13 campaign. MVSU exploded for 54 second-half points, sparked by Davon Usher, who scored 23 of 27 in the stanza. Perhaps this will be a sign of things to come for Mississippi Valley, who played one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules this year.
Okie dokie, there you have it. I’m having a slight issue updating the rankings and tournament projections, but those should be up sometime tonight.Head on over and look at the newest Tournament Projections & Complete Standings. Then enjoy this upcoming week of college basketball and look out on social media for picks and upsets! There should be a week-in-review posted on Saturday.