Saturday, January 16, 2010
By Dana O'Neil
Back in front of the scoreboard after a long day at my daughter's swim meet. A few things jump out at me from the afternoon portion of today's hoops schedule:
Pitt's overtime win against Louisville is, to me, another sign of the continuing maturity of a really young Panthers team. Granted Pitt was at home, where it loses about as often as the solstice, but to rally back against a very talented Louisville team and then have the composure to take over in OT is no gimme. That the Panthers were able to do both -- and negate 25 points from Samardo Samuels -- ought to convert the handful of nonbelievers that Pitt is for real.
Not sure why North Carolina's struggles are so stunning. Pitt loses four starters and everyone is stunned the Panthers are playing well; the Heels lose four starters and no one can understand why they aren't top five. The only thing that surprises me is that UNC probably is playing with less composure now than it was in December, but young teams do strange things and the powder blue uniforms don't negate the youth on this team. This is going to be a tough season for the Heels, with everyone in the ACC more than happy to take back some of the wins they sacrificed during the Tyler Hansbrough years.
The win over Missouri may be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners' survived the Tigers' freneticism and themselves, winning despite 20 turnovers. Oklahoma has been glossed over in the first of the season, and understandably so, but if the Sooners can get their act together and Willie Warren can consistently play up to his abilities, OU could be a dangerous team as the Big 12 season gets cooking.
The more things change in the Atlantic 10, the more they appear to stay the same. Sean Miller is gone. Xavier isn't. The Musketeers beat early league favorite Dayton for the 25th consecutive time, a mark of futility that extends to the Ronald Reagan era -- 1981. The "in transition" X men stand atop the A10 standings at 4-0, with equally surprising Temple right behind them.
And I have to send a note of condolence to Talor Battle. The Penn State guard is trying like heck to win by himself, but can't. Battle had 31 against hapless Iowa, but his teammates offered him no help, chipping in only 33 more. The Nittany Lions are 0-5 in the Big Ten and threatening to match their 0-10 start in 2003.
And by the way ... remember Michigan State? Overlooked after a rough December, the Spartans have quietly won five in a row after dispatching Illinois.