The story Saturday wasn't about Jimmer Fredette.
He scored 32 points, but BYU lost a tough conference road game at New Mexico.
No, the stories that should headline the night deal with four players:
Xavier’s Tu Holloway.
Louisville’s Peyton Siva.
North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes.
Kansas’ Thomas Robinson.
Holloway scored 33 points, making all 17 of his free throws attempts in Xavier’s stunningly easy 85-62 win at Richmond. Holloway has found a way to get fouled and is making 86 percent of his free throws. Holloway should be the favorite for A-10 Player of the Year. And while Duquesne is the surprise at 6-0 in conference play, Xavier’s Chris Mack should be the coach of the year with the Musketeers at their rightful spot atop the standings. Mack has coached XU to a 7-0 mark despite a plethora of early-season injuries and issues. He’s maximizing the talent of big man Kenny Frease as well, who is averaging 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. He’s scoring 14.1 points and shooting 63.8 percent in the A-10. “We’ve got competitive kids,’’ Mack said Saturday night. “We kept working. We’ve made no excuses. Holloway and our inside game has been great.’’
Siva led a comeback against West Virginia earlier in the week that helped keep Louisville on track for a possible second-place finish in the Big East. And Siva was the best player in Storrs on Saturday. That’s right. He was the best player on the court on this day. Siva made big shot after big shot, including a bucket to essentially win the game after slicing through UConn’s defense. Siva finished with 19 points and seven boards. Kemba Walker, the favorite for Big East Player of the Year and one of the three likely finalists for national player of the year, scored 20 points, but missed -- for what seems like the first time this season -- a game-winning shot.
Barnes had quite a week. He hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Miami on the road and then dusted off NC State with 25 points. Barnes was a controversial preseason first-team All-America pick. He struggled to lead -- which is natural for a freshman -- and suddenly was deemed a disappointment. Maybe he just needed time to mature, like the rest of his team. And it's starting to like the blowout loss at Georgia Tech was more of a fluke than anything else. If there is a second-best team in the ACC this week, it’s North Carolina and a lot of that has to do with Barnes.
No one had a worse week in college basketball than Robinson. The Kansas Jayhawk lost his mother, Lisa, at age of 43. That left him and his 7-year-old sister Jayla without their mom. His grandparents had both passed away within the past month. Robinson missed the Colorado game earlier in the week and then was with his teammates and coaches in Washington D.C. for his mother’s funeral. He returned to the team Friday and after writing an emotional letter of thanks to the fans, coaches and teammates, he played Saturday and scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a resounding win over Kansas State in Lawrence. Here are thoughts on the rest of Saturday’s action:
Penn State has turned into one of the toughest outs in the Big Ten after beating Michigan State, Illinois and now Wisconsin at home. The Nittany Lions nearly beat Ohio State, losing with 46 seconds left, and lost at Purdue on a last-second shot. PSU coach Ed DeChellis said late Saturday his team just need to keep defending and rebounding and they will get that breakthrough road win. The Nittany Lions have the look of an NCAA-tourney team, but it would help their cause if they could beat Ohio State at home March 1 or steal a key road win.
NC State got drilled at North Carolina. Last week, Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said after losing to Duke that he thought the team could turn the corner on the season. The Pack then found a way to beat Miami at home by two, but since then lost by 10 at Clemson and 20 at North Carolina. “One, we’re not shooting the ball well," Lowe said Saturday night. "Tonight we had four starters go 5-for-25. The other thing is our bigs aren’t defending.’’ That will have to change if the season is going to be salvaged. The Wolfpack need to get on a roll or the pressure will mount.
Georgetown finally got its signature Big East win, on the road at Villanova. The Hoyas had won three straight against Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s. That’s not going to do much for the NCAA tournament committee. Winning at Villanova is a different matter.
Baylor and Colorado played and looked like a pair of NIT teams. The Bears won, but they are going to have to do more to get on the board. I jumped too fast on the Buffaloes as an NCAA tourney team.
Texas Tech coach Pat Knight has turned this season around a bit with a few wins, including knocking off Oklahoma State in overtime on Saturday. The loss is a crushing defeat for the Cowboys, who are now reeling.
Valparaiso beat Butler 85-79 in overtime at home for a two-game lead over the Bulldogs. Butler likely now has to win the Horizon League tournament for a chance at another magical tourney run.
Texas A&M lost at Nebraska. Winning on the road in a conference match is never an easy chore. But the Aggies are probably going to settle where they were projected, somewhere in the 3 to 5 range of the Big 12 but still in the NCAA tourney picture. Meanwhile, Doc Sadler's Huskers continue to play above expectations in their final year in the Big 12.
Purdue beat Minnesota by a dozen in what was probably the lock of the day. There was no way the Boilermakers were going to blow this home game after getting humbled at Ohio State on Tuesday.
Ohio State didn’t have to go against John Shurna since he was out for Northwestern with a concussion. Yet the game came down to free throws in the final seconds as Jared Sullinger made the decisive shot. Ohio State is 22-0 with road games still left at Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State if you’re looking for a possible loss.
Have to credit Auburn’s Tony Barbee for making the Tigers competitive. Beating South Carolina by 15 is a huge win for the growth of his program and respect within the SEC.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop was down when I talked to him earlier in the week. He has to be jazzed after knocking off Southern Conference favorite College of Charleston, 75-64.
Florida State is offensively challenged. The Seminoles can’t win when Chris Singleton scores just eight points. Losing by 18 at Clemson makes no sense, but watch out for the Tigers in the second half of the ACC season. Brad Brownell will have Clemson in the mix.
Portland is a tough team at home and perhaps it was only natural to expect Saint Mary's to have a bit of a letdown after its monumental last-second win at Gonzaga on Thursday. But seeing the Gaels on the wrong end of a 27-2 run to the start the second half was rather shocking.
Florida lost at Mississippi State, but the Gators are 3-1 in four SEC road games (wins at Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn). Florida coach Billy Donovan will take that.
Tennessee won again with Tony Jones as the acting coach, this time running away in the second half at Ole Miss. Should Bruce Pearl return? Seriously, the Vols are playing as well in the SEC as anyone else at this point in the season. Hard to explain how the Rebels have struggled so much.
Kentucky avenged a loss to Georgia. The Wildcats ultimately should win the SEC East, right? Trey Thompkins was a non-factor. Georgia can’t win if that happens.
How does Vanderbilt lose at home to Arkansas?
Hofstra had a bad week and doesn’t look like a CAA contender any more. The Pride lost at VCU and then to Drexel.
The shot of the night belongs to Weber State's Scott Bamforth, who hit a buzzer-beater from just inside the halfcourt line to beat a Northern Colorado team that was previously unbeaten (7-0) in the Big Sky.
Texas beat Missouri 71-58 at home, which is enough for me to maintain the notion that the Longhorns are still the second-best team in the country at the moment.