Here's what we learned on Saturday
January, 8, 2012
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com
A roundup of what we learned from some of Saturday's top matchups:
Rutgers 67, No. 8 Connecticut 60
What we learned: The Huskies are a suspect road team no matter who is the coach. George Blaney was at the helm earlier in the week at Seton Hall, and the Huskies were blown out. And with Jim Calhoun in charge again, the Huskies couldn't play catch up with a Rutgers team that now has two top-10 wins for the first time since the 1981-82 season. UConn was a brutal 4-of-19 on 3s and lacked leadership. Apparently no one wants to be the second-best team in the Big East, which saw three top-10 teams lose to unranked opponents Saturday.
No. 1 Syracuse 73, No. 20 Marquette 66
What we learned: Syracuse still has a tendency for defensive lulls. Marquette scored 47 points in the second half to make the game a lot more interesting than anyone could have imagined during a 23-1 first-half run by Syracuse. But the Orange continue to get tremendous balance from their deep rotation, and they continue to rise to various challenges from teams -- road environment at Providence and a tough challenge from Marquette this week -- and are always able to finish. This is the No. 1 team in America, and it deserves to be the No. 1 team in America.
No. 22 Kansas State 75, No. 6 Missouri 59
What we learned: K-State was in a desperate situation and responded. The Wildcats didn't play well at Kansas and couldn't afford to lose a home game, especially with Baylor coming to town Tuesday. Missouri was pummeled and suffered its first loss of the season after getting beaten badly on the boards and outscored 42-16 in the paint. The 59-point output was a surprise, considering how easily Mizzou had been able to score. But this game had the look of trouble, as the Tigers finally faced a team that exploited their lack of depth and talent inside. K-State is going to be in the hunt throughout the season, and Mizzou is still a Big 12 favorite with Baylor and Kansas. Neither of these teams is going away. (For Jason King's postgame story from Manhattan, click here.)
Tennessee 67, No. 14 Florida 56
What we learned: Cuonzo Martin doesn’t have the talent Bruce Pearl had, but his teams are playing just as hard in big games. Tennessee played well against Duke and Memphis in Maui, but the Vols put together their best performance of the season when it mattered most -- the SEC opener. Beating Florida at home for the eighth time in its past nine attempts is a strong indication that Martin's crew will be a tough out for anyone in the SEC, especially in Knoxville. The Vols' bench outscored Florida's 25-1, and the high-scoring Gators were held to just 56 points. Florida is now 0-4 on the road for the first time in 30 years. To believe in this team over the long haul, the Gators have to learn how to win in opposing arenas.
West Virginia 74, No. 9 Georgetown 62
What we learned: This was not an upset. That should be lesson No. 1. Yes, Georgetown had won 11 in a row and WVU was unranked, but the Mountaineers should have been expected to win this game at home, where they've beaten eight of the past 10 ranked opponents that have visited. The inside-out balance from Darryl Bryant (25 points) and Kevin Jones (22 points, 16 rebounds) made sure that became reality. The Mountaineers are an NCAA team and will be in play for a top-half Big East finish. Georgetown had exceeded expectations so far and had played like the second-best team in the Big East. The Hoyas, who were just 2-of-14 from 3, might come down a peg, but this loss is nothing to fret about.
No. 7 Ohio State 76, Iowa 47
What we learned: Iowa had a nice run with wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota, but neither of those two teams is close to Ohio State right now. OSU smacked the Hawkeyes with Jared Sullinger, who was a force in the middle with a season-high 28 points. The Buckeyes took care of business on the road, which as we've seen once again this week is no given among the nation's top teams in conference play. Iowa has improved under Fran McCaffery but isn't ready for prime time yet in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes didn't have a single player score in double digits.
No. 15 Kansas 72, Oklahoma 61
What we learned: The Sooners played well for the first half, but they simply can't compete for 40 minutes with a team such as the Jayhawks. Kansas is getting quality role play out of Travis Releford, who scored 28 points and set a career high for the second straight game. If KU can get this kind of performance out of Releford to complement Thomas Robinson, this team will be in the hunt for yet another Big 12 title.
More observations from Saturday:
* What's going on with these home courts that once were considered horror houses for opponents? Wisconsin, Pitt and now Louisville? The Cardinals now are 0-2 in Big East games at KFC Yum! Center after a double-overtime loss to Notre Dame, which saw its 16-game losing streak in the state of Kentucky come to a halt. This might end up being Mike Brey's best coaching job. The Irish, who had zero expectations from outsiders after the season-ending injury to star Tim Abromaitis, already have conference wins over Pitt and Louisville.
* Duke survived at Georgia Tech by seven, but the Blue Devils have serious defensive concerns after giving up 74 points to the awful Yellow Jackets, who scored 48 points in their previous game, against Alabama. Duke might not have won this game without the 14-of-14 free throw performance from Ryan Kelly. And what has happened to Austin Rivers the past few games?
* Virginia Tech lost on the road at Wake Forest. Yikes. Sorry, but if we're going to take the Hokies seriously on Selection Sunday, they have to win road games against the bottom-tier teams in their conference.
* Mississippi State joined Florida with its inability to take a step forward on the road, giving up 98 points and getting smacked at Arkansas. The second spot in the SEC behind Kentucky is now wide open (Vandy, anyone?).
AP Photo/April L. BrownArkansas freshman B.J. Young scored 24 points in a victory against No. 16 Mississippi State, which still can't be trusted on the road.
* Kentucky's Terrence Jones finally snapped out of his scoring funk with 20 points in a win over South Carolina. Will it be enough to turn him around? He had scored a combined 25 points in his previous five games.
* LSU won a game it should have won by crushing Ole Miss, even without freshman Johnny O'Bryant (broken hand). The surprising Tigers should finish in the top half of the SEC.
* Auburn scored only 35 points in a 30-point loss at Vanderbilt. What else can you say about that? Despite their record, it appears the Tigers are the worst team in the SEC.
* Cincinnati's two-point loss at home to St. John's was a reality check after the Bearcats had rolled off nothing but wins since the Xavier brawl. This is still the same team that lost at home to Presbyterian and Marshall, and it appears this is going to be an NCAA bubble team.
* Xavier finally got a little of its swagger back with a road win at Fordham, which had just beaten Harvard at home. XU beat the Rams despite Tu Holloway going scoreless. Mark Lyons scored 20, and the Musketeers finally made the plays down the stretch needed to win.
* Dayton now is a legit candidate to win the Atlantic 10 after beating Saint Louis and winning at Temple in the same week. The Owls hadn't lost at home in more than two years and were coming off a win over No. 3 Duke. Archie Miller might end up being conference coach of the year in his rookie season.
* Coach Alan Major is quietly putting together a nice turnaround at Charlotte after winning at Saint Joseph's by five to go to 2-0 in the A-10. The 49ers might work their way into what should be a wild league race.
* Indiana State lost at home to Missouri State to drop to 1-3 in conference play. The Sycamores have a nice nonconference win at Vandy, but they'll have to win the Valley tournament again to get back to the NCAAs. The 3-1 Bears, meanwhile, look like they have staying power in the MVC race.
* I can't figure out Illinois. This team shouldn't struggle as much as it does, yet beat Nebraska by only five at home and had to come back to do it.
* Baylor has one of the best point guards in the country in Pierre Jackson. He scored 19 off the bench in a road win at Texas Tech. He might be what the Bears were missing last season.
* If you haven't seen Isaiah Canaan and Murray State play yet, do yourself and favor and take a look. In a win at rival Austin Peay on ESPNU, Canaan scored Murray's first 16 points, made his first seven 3-point attempts and had 27 points by halftime. He finished with 35 as the Racers improved to 16-0 to start the season for the first time since 1936.
AP Photo/Mike Strasinger)In the first half alone, Murray State's Isaiah Canaan had 27 points and was 7-of-7 from 3.
* The same goes for Doug McDermott and Creighton. The sophomore star scored a career-high 44 points in a 92-83 win at Bradley. The Bluejays have recovered nicely from that surprising home loss to Missouri State to open Valley play.
* At 12-1, Ohio looked like a real threat to win a game or two in March. After back-to-back losses to Robert Morris and Bowling Green, the Bobcats look like just another contender in the MAC.
* I was asked a question during my ESPN.com chat Friday about the Mike Scott-Reggie Johnson matchup. I went with Scott. Thank goodness. Scott led Virginia with 23 points (Johnson had just seven) in a 52-51 Cavs win. It was their 12th victory in a row, the school's longest streak since the early 1980s.
* If you want to know one reason why the ACC is so down, just look at Florida State. The Seminoles were projected to be third and lost by 20 to a struggling Clemson team. That was a week after losing to Princeton at home. FSU went to the Sweet 16 last season, but it sure doesn't look like a tournament team in 2012.
* One thing we learned is Oral Roberts is the favorite in the Summit League. With Oakland down, Saturday's game between ORU and South Dakota State was a battle of the conference's two best teams. Well, the Eagles made an emphatic claim with a 97-75 runaway as Dominique Morrison (38 points) outshone Nate Wolters (22 points).
* After beating Washington State, Colorado is atop the Pac-12 at 3-0. Coach Tad Boyle thought this would be a rebuilding season. It appears he overestimated the Pac-12, which, to be fair, did have one of the most exciting -- if not well executed -- games of the day as Stanford won 103-101 at Oregon State in four (yes, four) overtimes. Good luck predicting the winner of this conference.
* Nevada was the favorite in the WAC before, but after beating Utah State at the vaunted Spectrum, it's now official. The Aggies are a bit down, but that's still a brutal place to play.
* Can't explain Texas A&M's free fall. Khris Middleton is back healthy, but he was bad Saturday and the Aggies (4-of-22 on 3s) got blitzed for the second straight Big 12 game. This time they fell by 24 at home to suddenly surging Iowa State, which snapped an eight-game losing streak to A&M and a 10-game road losing streak overall. A&M was a co-favorite with Kansas in the preseason poll, but the Ags are playing like perhaps the worst team in the conference.