Just because you wanted to stay up and watch the entire 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon on ESPN doesn’t mean you had the juice to do it. And let’s face it: DVR isn’t the same experience.
So before your co-workers spoil it for you, here’s what you missed this morning:
Gonzaga sparked Final Four talk after its lockdown defense fueled the Bulldogs’ 84-50 win against West Virginia. Gonzaga’s talent is rarely questioned, and the Bulldogs have dominated the WCC for more than a decade. But they’ve fallen short of expectations in the past. Gonzaga hasn’t been gritty enough in the late stages of the season. The 2012-13 squad, however, not only executed offensively (26-for-50 from the field), but it also smothered the Mountaineers (3-for-26 from beyond the arc, 18 turnovers) with its defense. Gonzaga didn’t reveal many flaws in the lopsided win. The Bulldogs looked very dangerous.
Get a notebook. Write down this name: Guy Landry Edi. The Gonzaga senior was an X factor for the Bulldogs. He scored 14 points (7-for-10 from the charity stripe) and grabbed seven rebounds. He was active on defense and aggressive on offense. The preseason Gonzaga chatter centered on Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos, but the Bulldogs have so much depth, proven by Edi’s performance.
West Virginia fans, settle down. It’s far too early for pessimism in Morgantown. Yes, the loss was embarrassing. Can’t deny that. West Virginia took bad shots, and when they didn’t fall, the Mountaineers resorted to more bad shots. It was ugly. La Salle transfer Aaric Murray (14 points) was the only player who registered double figures for Bob Huggins’ squad. But it will take time for Huggins to build chemistry within a program that starts multiple transfers. The talent is there. Two months from now, West Virginia could be a dangerous squad.
You missed a great game between Davidson and New Mexico. Davidson took a 22-6 lead eight minutes into the game. But the Lobos fed off the energy in The Pit and surged in the second half as they secured an 86-81 win. The teams were locked in a 70-70 tie with 3:20 to go. Tony Snell’s 3-pointer with 1:10 to play gave the Lobos a six-point lead. Davidson just couldn’t close the gap. But the Wildcats fought hard. Great effort by both teams.
Give New Mexico coach Steve Alford credit for in-game adjustments on defense. The Lobos were a different team on defense in the second half.
Snell (25 points), Kendall Williams (17 points) and big man Alex Kirk (14 points) just changed the conversation in the Mountain West. Alford’s squad was resilient as it overcame a 16-point deficit. That trio stepped up and led the turnaround. Those guys are talented enough to make New Mexico a contender in the MWC again. It might not be a two-team race in 2012-13.
Grab another notebook. Write this down: “Dear NCAA tournament selection committee: Please don’t pit my favorite squad against Davidson in the early rounds. Please.” Buy some stamps and ship that note to Indianapolis. Trust me, Davidson is on the “teams to avoid in March” list. I knew it was stacked -- this is basically the same team that beat Kansas in December -- but I didn’t realize that Bob McKillop’s squad had this level of depth. De’Mon Brooks (22 points, 7-for-14) is one of the top combo forwards in the country. And I just can’t see his co-star, Jake Cohen, going 2-for-12 again. Yes, the Wildcats couldn’t maintain their lead in the second half, but they looked really good most of the evening … morning.
Hawaii’s Vander Joaquim tore his MCL in late September. On Tuesday morning, the 6-foot-10 center scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 73-60 win over independent Houston Baptist. How does a guy recover that quickly? Amazing. The Warriors lost multiple contributors from last season’s team, but Joaquim could make Hawaii a contender in its first season in the Big West. Hawaii’s defense remains a concern. In the second half, the Warriors (265th in defensive efficiency last season) were outscored 37-35 by a program that finished 309th in offensive efficiency in 2011-12.
Rider and Stony Brook were tied 41-41 with 4:10 to go. And that’s really all you need to know about Stony Brook’s 54-46 victory over Rider. They combined for 35 turnovers. They collectively shot 9-for-34 from beyond the arc. But that’s what happens when you play at 6 a.m. St. John’s transfer Nurideen Lindsey (17 points) will keep the Broncs alive in a lot of MAAC games this season. Stony Brook’s offense will demand more contributors with playmaker Bryan Dougher gone.
Can we fast-forward to Jan. 17? That’s the day that Valparaiso faces Detroit on the road. Bryce Drew’s Crusaders are a smart team that doesn’t waste many possessions. I know that game is going to be a battle in the Horizon League. You can’t make too many grand projections based on Valparaiso's 69-46 win over a Northern Illinois squad that finished 3-13 in the MAC last season (2012-13 could be another tough year for Mark Montgomery’s program), but they hit 54.2 percent of their 3-point attempts. Ryan Broekhoff, a strong candidate for Horizon League Player of the Year, had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Matt Kenney added 16 points off the bench. Northern Illinois shot 29 percent from the field. It was nice performance for the Crusaders.