Game Plan: Maurice Creek is still here
Game Plan is our new Monday morning primer, designed to give you everything you need to know about games that were and the games that will be in college hoops this week. Send us feedback and submissions via email and Twitter.
It's been five years. God, five years already? Five years! Five national champions, five teams of five All-Americans, five draft classes, thousands of college basketball games, hundreds of injuries, and more minutes than I'd like to even attempt to count have passed between the two best games of Maurice Creek's career.
You might remember the first. It was Dec. 12, 2009. Creek was one of Tom Crean's intriguing freshmen then, but no one had any illusions about the fixture at hand: First-year Kentucky coach John Calipari was bringing John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe to town, and Indiana was going to get rocked.
Finally, mercifully, the next great game in Creek's career came Sunday night against Maryland.
The injury-plagued road that Creek traveled between that 31-point Indiana night and Sunday's 25-point, 11-shot clinic against the Terps has been well-documented in this space. The short version is that no player in the past five years -- not even Purdue's famously unlucky Robbie Hummel -- suffered a more brutal string of injuries than did the one-time blue-chipper at IU.
Now Creek is playing efficient minutes -- he'd hit 21 of 46 from 3 entering Sunday night, with a 122.4 offensive rating -- and hitting step-back game-winners for a GW team that has already upset Creighton this season. I'm sorry, friend, but if that doesn't warm your heart, you may want to see a doctor.
ICYMI: TOP STORIES
1. Oregon and Ole Miss score ALL OF THE POINTS (box score): Some fun facts from last night's 115-105 OT Oregon win in Oxford, Miss. (and I won't put parenthetical exclamations behind any of this, but assume their liberal application throughout):
- The Ducks scored (about) 1.3 points per possession in an 87-possession game. They shot 58.5 percent from the field, 61.1 percent from 3.
- Mike Moser had 24 points and 10 rebounds; Johnathan Loyd had 23 points and 15 assists and made 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
- Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson shot 23 -- yes, 23 -- 3-point field goals. He made 10. He scored 39 points. The Rebels still lost.
In closing, here is the link to the WatchESPN replay. That is all.
2. Askia Booker cashed in on Colorado's karmic debt and downed a much-better-but-still-deeply-flawed Kansas team in the game of the weekend, and one of the best of the season to date. Booker also (probably) created the first-ever euro-step buzzer-beater. Productive afternoon, that.
3. Baylor won Friday's "Basketball Showdown" over Kentucky 67-62. Baylor was good. Kentucky's defense was kind of a mess; its flaws were pushed to the fore. Also: Jerryworld was morbidly quiet. You'd think something called "Basketball Showdown" that isn't an original Nintendo cartridge would be more exciting. Hmph.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Wisconsin's 48-38 win at Virginia on Wednesday wasn't just about two teams playing slow: The Cavaliers scored 38 points in 57 possessions, an average of 0.67 points per trip. They also shot just 3-of-22 at the rim and made three shots total outside the paint. OK, OK, I know that's more than one stat. But jeez. (Hat tip: Synergy, via Luke Winn)
THE GAMES YOU NEED TO SEE
Tuesday: Kansas at Florida, 7 p.m. ET [ESPN]: Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin was cleared to practice and will play Tuesday, according to the Gainesville Sun, and boy, is that good news for Florida. Even a banged-up Wilbekin is a massive improvement on whatever (literal) five-player configuration Billy Donovan would have cobbled together. Kansas, meanwhile, continues Bill Self's march of doom: The Florida date is the second of two consecutive true road games, and it will be fascinating to see how Andrew Wiggins and the young Jayhawks respond to the challenge ahead. Also: Casey Prather is really good. That too.
Friday: Iowa at Iowa State, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU): It's been a while since both flagship Iowa teams faced each other as members of the Associated Press Top 25; frankly, the last half-decade has been pretty rough. But Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes are 9-1, Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones are 7-0, both teams are not only rebuilt but playing exciting, up-tempo basketball, and my friends have been arguing for weeks over which team is better. You probably have to be from Iowa to get how big this game is but yeah. Big game.
Saturday: Arizona at Michigan, 12 p.m. ET (CBS): Michigan's three losses do little to diminish this circled-since-September matchup with Arizona, now arguably the nation's best and most well-rounded team. The Wolverines will be starving for a big win in front of a frenzied crowd. Arizona's size, offensive spacing and elite rim protection would almost certainly be too much for Mitch McGary & Co. on a neutral court. But in Ann Arbor? So you're telling me there's a chance
Saturday: Tennessee at Wichita State, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2): It's still early in the season, but we're rapidly approaching put up-or-shut up time for Tennessee, which entered the season with the returning SEC Player of the Year (Jordan McRae), a bruising front line (Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon) and SEC title contention buzz. The Volunteers have already lost to Xavier and UTEP. That's hardly an irreparable situation, and I'm not saying a win at Wichita State is required (harsh, man) but we need to see something, you know?
Saturday: Kentucky at North Carolina, 5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN): North Carolina has lost to Belmont and UAB, and beaten Louisville and Michigan State -- the latter of which came Wednesday in
Ann Arbor East Lansing. It's enough to make a college basketball analyst's brain turn into mush. But if the likely explanation is that the Tar Heels struggle to lock in except against obviously good opponents, Roy Williams should have no problem getting his team ready for Julius Randle, James Young and the rest of the occasionally brilliant, occasionally unglued Kentucky Wildcats.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Enjoy the basketball, everyone.