College Basketball Nation: Kansas State


PITTSBURGH — Quick thoughts on Syracuse’s 75-59 win against Kansas State in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Overview: Syracuse found the easiest way to change the narrative on its NCAA tournament run — play like a top seed.

Since the brackets were revealed Sunday, most everyone has wanted to talk about everything but the Orange’s actual basketball abilities — the premature loss in the Big East tournament, the suspension of Fab Melo, the controversial win against UNC Asheville.

Syracuse played a smart, decisive game against Kansas State, using every bit of its most powerful weapon — its bench — to win the game. The Orange's reserves outscored the Wildcats' depleted bench (without Jamar Samuels) to the tune of 33-0.

It was more than just a wave of players, it was how those players performed. The Orange took smart shots, shared the ball and, defensively, forced Kansas State (an average-shooting team) out of the paint.

There are still issues to overcome, namely Syracuse’s Achilles' heel of rebounding. The Orange were beaten on the offensive boards badly, 22-8, and will struggle especially against a team that is adept on the glass.

But the team that everyone has picked to lose finally reminded everyone why it was chosen as one of the favorites to win.

Turning point: Jordan Henriquez, who kept the Wildcats alive on most of their possessions with yeoman’s work on the boards, picked up his third foul with his team trailing 36-32. Though he didn’t sit long, Henriquez couldn’t afford to be as aggressive and the Wildcats’ offense fell apart.

Smelling the blood in the water, the Orange took over. Scoop Jardine led the charge, scoring six points and dishing out two incredible assists in a Syracuse dash that stretched the lead to 55-42. K-State could never recover.

Key player: Jardine, who’d been only average since the Big East tournament, played his best game in weeks. The senior scored 16 points and dished out eight assists, leading a Syracuse offense that looked far more in sync than it has in recent games.

Key stat: Kansas State shot just 4-of-17 from the arc. You cannot beat Syracuse if you can’t shoot. Sounds simple? It is.

The other equally big one: 33-0, that was the difference in the bench scoring between the teams.

Miscellaneous: Both teams were down a player. On Tuesday, Syracuse announced Melo would be out for the duration of the Orange’s NCAA tournament run because of eligibility concerns, and just 20 minutes before tipoff, Kansas State announced that Samuels was being withheld for similar worries. ... Without Samuels, Thomas Gipson was pressed into service. Gipson usually averages 17 minutes per game. He'd hit the 20-minute mark by the first media timeout of the second half. ... Vice President Joe Biden, a Syracuse alum, was in town for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Biden served as the grand marshal.

Next game: Syracuse will meet Vanderbilt or Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 in Boston. It’s the Orange’s first regional semifinal appearance since 2010. Syracuse lost that year to Butler and has not made an Elite Eight appearance since its national title run in 2003.

Behind the box scores: Saturday's games

February, 12, 2012
2/12/12
8:34
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A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Saturday.

Indiana State 78, Southern Illinois 68
Indiana State made all 12 of its 3-point attempts Saturday, the most 3-pointers without a miss in a single game in NCAA history. The previous record for most 3s without a miss was nine, done by Minnesota against Penn State on Jan. 11, 2009.

Lipscomb 99, Stetson 91 (OT)
Lipscomb scored 25 points in the extra session, one shy of the NCAA Division I record for points in an overtime period. The record of 26 was done by Vermont on Jan. 24, 1998, against Hartford.

Duke 73, Maryland 55
Duke’s Miles Plumlee had 22 rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench, the most rebounds by a bench player since Sean May had 24 against Duke on March 6, 2005 (May did not start that game because it was North Carolina’s Senior Day). Plumlee is the first player this season with at least 20 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes of playing time.

Michigan State 58, Ohio State 48
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger had 17 points, 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers in the Buckeyes’ loss Saturday. It’s the first "triple-double" using points, rebounds and turnovers in Division I this season. Jerrell Williams of La Salle had the last one on Jan. 19, 2011, against Duquesne.

Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 66
The Jayhawks’ Jeff Withey had 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in the win. He’s the first player to reach all three of those levels in the same game since VCU’s Larry Sanders put up the exact same line on March 9, 2009, in the CAA championship game against George Mason.

Texas 75, Kansas State 64
Texas attempted 48 free throws to Kansas State’s 12. That free throw differential of 36 is the largest in a game involving a Big Six team this season and the third-largest overall. Texas’ 48 free throw attempts are the second most by a Big Six team on the season (Washington attempted 59 on Jan. 10 against Seattle).

Texas Tech 65, Oklahoma 47
Oklahoma scored just six points in the paint, the fewest points in the paint in a game by a Big Six team this season.

St. Bonaventure 69, Duquesne 48
Florida Atlantic 86, North Texas 81 (2OT)
St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson scored 21 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the Bonnies’ win, and North Texas’ Tony Mitchell scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Mean Green’s double-overtime loss. They became just the sixth and seventh players this season to record a 20-20 game. Nicholson’s 23 rebounds are the second most in a game this season, trailing only UAB's Cameron Moore, who had 24 on Dec. 28.

Seattle 100, Longwood 99 (OT)
Seattle’s Chad Rasmussen was 6-for-17 from the field in the Redhawks’ win, with all of his attempts coming from 3-point range. That is the most 3-pointers attempted in a game without attempting a 2-point field goal.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff 64, Southern 58
Trillion of the Night: Jamar Harris of Arkansas-Pine Bluff played 12 minutes without accumulating a single stat in his team’s 64-58 win over Southern.

Saddle Up: Five about Friday

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
11:36
AM ET
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the day's best basketball action. We're officially into that oh-so-awesome part of the season when a healthy portion of your daily hoops regimen will be happening, you know, during the day, necessitating Saddle Up's move to the morning. So let's do this.

Just like Wednesday and Thursday, let's open Friday with five themes to watch for as the conference tournaments heat up.

1. The Patriot League -- the L-ingest league in the world. Apparently, a precursor for success in the 2009-2010 Patriot League conference tournament involves a name that starts with the letter "L." Hey, I don't make the rules. I merely report them. But is there any other conclusion to draw from the Patriot League final, a matchup of No. 3 seed Lafayette and No. 1 seed Lehigh? With the exception of the various at-large bids being traded back and forth by sundry bubble teams, the Patriot League final is today's only surefire tournament bid producer, the lone automatic qualifier decided Friday. Thus far, this week's automatic qualifiers have almost uniformly survived down-to-the-wire games to get to the tournament. Let's hope the Patriot League finale is no different.

2. Don't know what I want, but I know how to get it. Anarchy in the Big East! Every top seed in the Big East tournament but West Virginia lost Thursday, which leaves us with the rather random pairings of Marquette-Georgetown and Notre Dame-West Virginia, and it's officially anyone's tournament. It's hard not to like West Virginia, which stumbled late against Cincinnati but hit a last-second Da'Sean Butler three to get past a suddenly pesky Cincinnati team. West Virginia is the most athletic team left in the bracket, and now has a clear opportunity to do what Butler said they were planning on doing when the Mountaineers finished their season-closing win at Villanova last Saturday -- win the Big East tournament and get a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Notre Dame is no simple matchup though; it will be interesting to see if West Virginia's length can disrupt a suddenly potent Irish offense.

3. Quick: Give me two words you hate to hear if you're either Ole Miss or a Wall Street banker. SEC and bubble. See what I did there? Really, though, the Ole Miss Fighting Admiral Ackbars had the best day of their season in a while yesterday. While other SEC teams (better ones, like Tennessee) duked it out in the first round of the tournament, geographically fortuitous Ole Miss sat back and watched the action unfold. By the end of the day, thanks to teams like Memphis and UAB helpfully losing, Mississippi was promoted into the NCAA tournament by one Mr. Joe Lunardi. Now comes the real work: Actually winning a game in the SEC tournament and holding on to that spot. The Rebels will face Tennessee today, and a win would bolster what to me looks like a pretty shaky tournament case. A loss? Say bye-bye.

4. Three cheers for chalk! Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a good conference tournament upset as much as the next person who loves college basketball with a deep, burning, passionate, unquenchable love. But it's also nice to see the de facto best teams in a conference duke it out in that conference tournament's semifinals. That's what we've got in the Big 12 today, where No. 1 seed Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Texas A&M and No. 2 seed Kansas State gets No. 3 seed Baylor. Look out for the Bears here -- no team has inspired quite so many "I think this team is dangerous!" comments in our last two days of live-chatting, and the Bears' late-night win over Texas proved why. Baylor is deep, athletic, balanced and smart. They score. This tournament is still Kansas' to win, and unlike its Big East counterpart, there is no parity to discuss here. Just dominance at the top. Refreshing, huh?

5. You're watching the Mountain West tournament, right? Because you should be watching the Mountain West tournament. Unfortunately for those of us who don't live in America's most beautiful 1,000 square miles or so and thus don't get The Mtn., the Mountain West's take on the Big Ten Network, watching the early rounds of the Mountain West tournament has been a challenge. HOWEVA, if you have CBS College Sports -- which comes on a sports tier package with cable providers and DirecTV -- you can watch the rest of the tournament, as Mountain West games have switched over to the more available network. This is a good thing. Why? Because Jimmer Fredette is doing ridiculous things with the ball in his hand, for one. He scored 45 points in Thursday night's win over TCU. (That's almost half of his team's 95, by the way.) On the other side of the bracket, New Mexico and San Diego State will duke it out, the Aztecs with an NCAA tournament bid on the line. So, yeah, find a TV, and make sure that TV has plenty of channels.

Bonus thing, per the usual: In just a few minutes, I'll be chatting from 12 p.m. ET to 6 p.m., right here, same as Wednesday and Thursday. These chats are a great time. Be there.

Today's Big 12 tournament games

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
10:50
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A few quick hitters before the quarterfinals Thursday:

Texas Tech vs. Kansas, 12:30 p.m. (ET): The Red Raiders had lost seven in a row before beating Colorado in the first round. Colorado had just put 101 points on the Red Raiders last Saturday in a win at Boulder. So clearly Pat Knight’s defensive message got through as the Red Raiders held the Buffaloes to 67 points. But can the Red Raiders pull off the upset of the week by beating top-ranked Kansas? Well, the last time they met, KU stomped on Tech by 26 points. This will be an interesting test for the Jayhawks. This is a game they should win by double figures. If the focus is there, KU should walk to the semifinals. I’d like to see how Sherron Collins steps up his leadership role with the postseason now at hand. I don’t see how the Red Raiders can keep the KU bigs, notably Cole Aldrich off the backboard.

Nebraska vs. Texas A&M, 3 p.m.: The Huskers pulled the stunner of the first day with a crushing win over Missouri. The Huskers ran with Missouri and sprinted past the Tigers. But will Nebraska be able to get out against Texas A&M? Would they want to do such a thing? The Aggies probably were prepping to face Mizzou in a high-octane affair. That won’t be the case now in what could be a grinder of a game. I’m not sure the Aggies would allow Nebraska to shoot over 50 percent the way it did against Missouri. I’m looking forward to seeing how Brandon Richardson and Ryan Anderson, who went off for the Huskers against Missouri get free against the Aggies. Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes for the Aggies are two of the better guards in the conference and Bryan Davis’ ability to board will prove vital.

Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State, 7 p.m.: The Cowboys were able to easily beat Oklahoma with a mortal 11 points from James Anderson. OSU got quality production out of Keiton Page, who went for 24 points and Obi Muonelo’s 15. The Cowboys also made 11 3s. Oklahoma State was one of three teams to win at Kansas State during the season. So the Cowboys go into this game with a lot of confidence. The more intriguing storyline will be how K-State handles its role as a favored player in the field. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente are coming off a disappointing home loss to Iowa State. There has to be some pride in play to get going on a high note heading into next week.

Texas vs. Baylor, 9:30 p.m.: This may be the best game of the quarterfinals. It pits two teams that when they play to their potential could be playing in the championship game Saturday night, or, at the very least, the second weekend in the NCAA tournament. Damion James went back to being an all-American in the win over Iowa State in the first round with a 28-point, 16-rebound performance. The Longhorns got key play from Gary Johnson, Avery Bradley and Jai Lucas. J’Covan Brown only played three minutes as Justin Mason got the start at the point. The best news for Texas was the high percentage of shooting from Dexter Pittman, finishing 7-of-9 with five boards. Baylor crushed Texas last Saturday 92-77. The key will be whether LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter can get free against the Longhorns, and who wins the tussles inside between Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy and Texas' Pittman and Johnson. This should be an up-and-down affair at the Sprint Center.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
1:57
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Winners from Saturday

Notre Dame: The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field. The Irish are earning their way into the field.

Duke: The Blue Devils likely earned the fourth No. 1 seed with a hammering of North Carolina on Saturday night. Duke also clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Blue Devils passed the eye test of a team that could get to Indy.

Saint Louis: The Billikens won at Dayton, completing a season sweep of the Flyers and finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Rick Majerus has done an outstanding job with a club that is void of upperclassmen. The Billikens could be a sleeper to win the A-10 in Atlantic City next week.

Baylor: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Big 12 tournament, it could be Baylor. The Bears ran away from Texas and looked like a team ready to get busy in the postseason.

Kansas: The Jayhawks may have locked up the No. 1 overall seed after winning at Missouri on Saturday. Kansas got inspired play from its key contributors and once again heads into the conference tournament on a high.

Louisville: The Cardinals had to win two of there games this week and did. Louisville beat Connecticut, then lost at Marquette before beating Syracuse on Saturday. That gave the Cardinals a sweep of Syracuse and a likely bid to the Dance in the final game at Freedom Hall.

Tennessee: The Vols did something Lane Kiffin couldn’t do, taking a 17-0 lead on the road in the SEC. Tennessee lit up Mississippi State and had the look of a team that could be a major factor in an SEC tournament that they'll play in their home state just a few hours away in Nashville.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Dorenzo Hudson, survived a nasty moving screen by Gani Lawal on Malcolm Delaney and gutted out a win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies dismissed any doubt about their candidacy with a win.

Washington: The Huskies kept alive their chances of an at-large berth by winning at Oregon State. That win doesn’t get them in the dance, but a loss would have been crushing.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and they had to beat UCLA to stay in the field. They did, sweeping the L.A. schools this week. But here’s the deal: ASU and Washington are heading for a showdown in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. Loser is out, winner has a pulse.

Memphis: The Tigers had a great week, winning at UAB and crushing Tulsa at home. The Tigers get the sweep of the Blazers. If you’re looking for a second C-USA team to go along with league champ UTEP, it could be the Tigers. They may get a third shot at UAB in the semifinals.

Maryland: The Terps won at Virginia. Yes, UVA was playing without Sylven Landesberg, who has been suspended for the season due to academics, but the Terps still won a road game. That means Maryland gets a share of the ACC title. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for this squad.

Pitt: The Panthers lost to Indiana early in the year without Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. Pitt could have lost to Providence at home, but when it mattered most the Panthers have come up huge. They beat Rutgers as expected Saturday but that meant Pitt got the No. 2 seed after beating West Virginia and Villanova at home in February. Jamie Dixon has done a phenomenal job with the Panthers. There is no reason Pitt should be No. 2 in the Big East with what it lost.

Losers from Saturday

Rhode Island: Had a shot to convince the selection committee that it was worthy, but lost at UMass a week after losing at St. Bonaventure. The Rams didn’t beat the top three teams in the A-10 (Xavier, Temple or Richmond). URI must win the conference tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started a must-win game down 17-0. Mississippi State has blown two chances to win a key home game – to Kentucky and now Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn’t do anything Saturday to convince the selection committee.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets may still get into the field. But they gave the selection committee a reason to pause after losing at home to Virginia Tech, sans Dorenzo Hudson, who was hurt. The Yellow Jackets finished seventh in the ACC and had only one conference road win.

Connecticut: The Huskies had an awful week, losing at Notre Dame and then losing at South Florida on Saturday. The Huskies now probably have to get to the Big East semifinals to crawl back into the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were teetering on the bubble before the Billikens bulldozed the Flyers late and stole a win. Dayton now probably has to win the A-10 tournament to get a bid.

Villanova: The ‘Cats may have played themselves out of a No. 2 seed by losing at home to West Virginia. Villanova also fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament. ‘Nova can still make a magnificent run, but it made the journey more difficult.

Kansas State: The Wildcats lost their third home game in the Big 12 by falling to lower-level Iowa State (also lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State). The Wildcats blew a No. 2 seed with the home loss Saturday.

LaSalle: The Explorers were supposed to be a sleeper in the A-10. They won’t even make the tournament in Atlantic City. The Explorers will join winless Fordham in sitting out the conference tourney.

Oklahoma: The disaster season came to a conclusion with a sad effort against Texas A&M. The atmosphere was awful and the Sooners sunk.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were handed the second-worst loss under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Duke and limp into the ACC tournament. It was just awful.

UAB: The Blazers had a huge week with games against UTEP and Memphis. They lost them both and pushed themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got hammered by Memphis and limp into hosting the conference tournament next week. Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.

A few nuggets:
  • Georgetown coach John Thompson III said late Saturday night that Austin Freeman felt fine after the game, his first since being diagnosed with diabetes. Freeman scored 24 points in the win over Cincinnati. Freeman missed the West Virginia game last Monday. Thompson told me that the Hoyas will continue to monitor Freeman’s blood-sugar level and don’t anticipate any problems going forward this season.
  • Notre Dame got Luke Harangody back for the win at Marquette. Harangody played 11 minutes off the bench. Irish coach Mike Brey told me late Saturday night that Harangody will continue to come off the bench this season. He said ‘Gody told him to use him however he wants to ensure the team wins. Brey said the Irish have become mentally tougher in the past few weeks. The Irish were 4-2 without Harangody, beating Pitt and Connecticut at home and winning at Georgetown.
  • KVAL-TV reported that Oregon coach Ernie Kent has been fired and that he was told on Feb. 22 by Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti. No one will be surprised if this does occur, but Kent told me in a text late Saturday night that this is the same story he has heard the past four years. Meanwhile, Bellottti sent this statement out late Saturday night after Oregon’s win over Washington State: "Ernie and I have talked, and we will continue to talk through the Pac-10 Tournament."
Hey, remember Iowa State? That team with forward Craig Brackins? The team that, before the season, seemed to have a plausible, if not probable, shot at the NCAA tournament? The team that, since starting 10-3, had lost 13 of its past 17 and gone 0-7 against teams in the AP Top 25? The 14-16 Iowa State Cyclones? Yeah, that team.

[+] EnlargeCraig Brackins
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesCraig Brackins scored 19 points during Iowa State's upset of Kansas State.
Remember them now. The Cyclones just took down No. 5 Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., ruining the Wildcats' hopes of snagging a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed and likely saving coach Greg McDermott's job in the process.

Oh, and there's this: In beating Kansas State, the Cyclones snapped a 21-game losing streak to ranked teams, and improved -- "improved" being a relative term here -- their record to 8-104 in their past 112 games on the road against said ranked teams. Um, yeah: This was a big win.

It was likewise a big loss for Kansas State. Frank Martin's team had risen to No. 5 in the country, and with Purdue fading in the wake of the Robbie Hummel injury had positioned itself as the likely fourth No. 1 seed, at least according to Joe Lunardi's latest bracket. With today's loss, that chance is gone, and the fourth No. 1 seed is again in flux.

That seed, by the way, will almost certainly go to Duke, assuming the Blue Devils finish off the blowout they're working on against North Carolina. (The Devils are up 40-19 with 4 minutes left in the first half as of this writing.) Purdue's out; Villanova's home loss to West Virginia today certainly disqualifies them; New Mexico, Lunardi's other No. 2 seed, seems unlikely to garner a No. 1. That leaves Duke as the top overall candidate, barring, perhaps, a run to the Big East tournament title by West Virginia, or a similar performance from Ohio State in the Big Ten.

There's still time for that, though. Tonight, Iowa State will be primarily concerned with celebrating the one bright spot in what has been an otherwise brutally disappointing season. Tournament seeds -- not even in the NIT -- don't apply here. A bit of redemption, on the other hand, does.

Video: Kansas wins Big 12 title

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
11:33
PM ET

No. 2 Kansas routs its rival, No. 5 Kansas State, 82-65 to win its sixth straight Big 12 title.
Jacob Pullen & Sherron CollinsIcon SMIJacob Pullen and Sherron Collins figure to play prominent roles in Wednesday night's showdown.
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. The big nights are coming faster and more furious than at any point during the season -- I've barely recovered from Saturday -- and Wednesday night is no exception. Here's the rundown.

No. 5 Kansas State at No. 2 Kansas, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN360: This one doesn't need much by way of explanation. The in-state rivalry. The Big 12 title implications. The seeding possibilities. The two-point Kansas win at Bramlage on Jan. 30. A freaky Frank Martin. Sherron Collins' senior night. The packed Allen Fieldhouse crowd.

Yeah, It's safe to say this is going to be a big game. A very, very big game.

Martin's team can secure a shot -- an outside shot, but a shot -- at a share of the Big 12 title if it wins tonight, but that's probably less of a concern for K-State than A) Beating its hated, abusive basketball big brother on the brother's own floor in Collins' last home game and B) Making a case for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed. A win would without question put Martin's team on the selection committee's top line. First, though, the Wildcats have to figure out a way to do what they do best -- get to the free throw line -- while preventing the Jayhawks from doing the same. Kansas State is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the line. This is the sort of offensive attribute (alongside great outside shooting from Jacob Pullen) that gives the Wildcats hope against anyone, including a Kansas defense designed to keep opponents out of the lane. In the first meeting, Kansas won the battle of the freebies. The Wildcats can't let that happen again.

Oh, and as you've probably noticed, no, tonight's game isn't being televised. It stinks, I know. But look at the bright side: You get to test out ESPN360. It's actually pretty awesome, so don't knock it until you try it. And no, I'm not just saying that because I work here. Promise. Though I would totally say that anyway. I'm completely shameless. Which brings me to my next point: If you can't watch the game, come here for our live chat from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. I'll be here, as will a bunch of your favorite college hoops heads, answering questions and live-blogging throughout the evening. Don't miss it.

No. 4 Duke at No. 23 Maryland, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of big games, well, ahem. This qualifies. It would mean as much in College Park even if the Terrapins didn't have so much riding on the game, for there is little hatred in the country -- in college basketball or elsewhere -- quite like the purely distilled brand Maryland fans brew for all things Duke. And anytime Greivis Vasquez gets this sort of spotlight, you can expect sparks to fly. It's going to be rowdy.

There are more than taunts on the line here, though. With a win, Gary Williams' team could pull even with Duke at 12-3 in the ACC with one game each left to play. It won't be easy. After occasional stumbles, most of them on the road, Duke has quietly morphed into the most efficient offense in the country, and the Devils are finally starting to play the sort of defense that anchored them in last year's campaign. After a 1-4 start on the road, Duke has won its last four away from Cameron. Maryland's is no easy task. But the Terps have been underrated all year, though, and tonight is the perfect opportunity to showcase -- to the tournament committee, especially -- just how far perception lags behind reality.

Everywhere else: While you're futzing around with your laptop -- and totally chatting with us, remember! -- Connecticut and Notre Dame will be slugging it out on ESPN for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Neither team is guaranteed a berth, but both teams can nary afford a loss, and both teams would surely benefit from the win. ... Kentucky will face a test at Georgia, where the pesky Bulldogs have taken down Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia Tech and Illinois this season. ... Indiana travels to No. 6 Purdue, which should be a nice break from the post-Robbie Hummel meat-grinder Purdue is facing these days. ... Memphis and UAB will duel for bubble considerations. ... Oklahoma State at Texas A&M is an interesting battle between two tourney-worthy Big 12 squads. ... A-10 leader Temple will visit a St. Louis team that has streaked into the tourney-sphere in the last half of the season. ... The fading Demon Deacons have another battle on their hands at Florida State tonight. ... and lowly Fordham, the last team in Division I without a conference win to its name, will try to get that first win over Xavier tonight.

The Morning After: Hard-Boiled

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
9:27
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily look at last night's best hoops action. Try not to make it awkward. Oh, and sorry about that headline. I couldn't help myself.

No. 4 Purdue 60, No. 12 Ohio State 57: Any time you face a player as good as Evan Turner, the conventional strategy is simple: Make someone else beat you. It might not have been conscious, but Purdue's execution in last night's impressive road win at OSU was the exact opposite. It let Turner get his points (and his assists, and his rebounds, and pretty much anything else he wanted, because what are you going to do, triple-team him?) and the rest of the Buckeyes couldn't step up in time. By the time OSU started hitting the shots it usually makes to complement Turner's brilliance, it was too late: Purdue is simply too smart, too hard-nosed and too complete on defense to spot it 15 first-half points. OSU and Turner made a valiant comeback, but it was too late.

Purdue's defense didn't stop Turner -- he went for 29 points, seven rebounds, and five assists -- but what it did do was isolate Turner from the rest of his teammates. Purdue swarmed OSU with that patented man-to-man defense, and Ohio State's offense turned simple. There was no motion, no movement, none of the things that the Boilermakers kept wowing with on their own offensive end. Instead, Turner would bring the ball up the floor, receive a screen or an iso call, go to the hoop and oftentimes score. But even a player as good as Turner can't rebound all of his misses. Even Turner can't find himself on back cuts. Even Turner can't make every shot. Ohio State had six assists all game; Turner had five of them.

In the end, it's games like these that set Purdue apart from the Big Ten pack. The Boilermakers have elite talent -- JaJuan Johnson is perpetually slept on; sooner or later we'll learn -- but they also have the depth and style, that hard-nosed, lockdown defense thing that you can feel when you watch them, to outlast mercurial teams like Ohio State. Matt Painter's boys are not perfect, and they're not Kansas, but they're the closest thing the Big Ten has to a Final Four favorite. That much is no longer in dispute.

Louisville 91, Notre Dame 89, 2OT: Which team needed this one more? Louisville, coming off an upset of Syracuse and trying to fight its way back into safe bubble territory? Or Notre Dame, whose bubble hopes are almost entirely waned, but who could maybe take a win at Louisville to the committee as a résumé-builder? Hard to say. What I do know that is that a Louisville win -- in which Samardo Samuels scored a career-high 36 points, including 16-of-19 from the free throw line, marking the only real difference between these teams in Four Factors land -- moves Louisville into legitimate tourney consideration, and just might move Notre Dame off the bubble for good. Such is life in the middle of the Big East.

Missouri 82, No. 17 Texas 77: Is Texas going to drop out of the Top 25? This is the Longhorns' sixth loss in nine games, and while there's nothing wrong with losing at Missouri -- Missouri is a tough out, to be sure -- a team as talented as Texas losing so many games in the stretch run of its season, just as the country's elite are hitting their stride and doing their best work, ought to be hugely discouraging to voters. Take a gander at those Big 12 standings: Texas is 6-5 in the conference, behind Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Baylor and, yes, Missouri, which moved to 7-4 with Wednesday night's win. Texas is one of the most-talented teams in the country. How does that happen? Anyone with a really good answer -- something besides "Rick Barnes plays too many players" -- wins a cookie. Not kidding. I will mail you a cookie of your choosing. Just please help me understand this, because I am so very confused.

Everywhere else: Duke was over the ledge in the first half at Miami, trailing by 12 at halftime and apparently doing another of its incomprehensible road loss routines, but credit the Devils for the turnaround: Duke won 81-74 in an impressive comeback victory. Sure, it's just Miami, but a road ACC win is a road ACC win. Especially for Duke. ... It was a night of survival for highly ranked teams, and Kansas State's near-loss at home to Nebraska was no exception. ... West Virginia withstood Providence's second-half rally. ... St. Louis got a huge win for itself and for the prospect of six A-10 teams in the NCAA tournament with its win over Rhode Island. ... Tennessee got a challenge from Georgia, but pulled away for the nine-point win. ... Florida State rolled at Virginia, a doomer for the Cavaliers' faint NCAA hopes. ... South Carolina did itself no favors by losing at Arkansas; as fun as it would be to have Devan Downey in the NCAA tournament, it's not looking good.

Saddle Up: Get home early

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
4:02
PM ET
Saddle Up is our daily look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Wednesday night's rundown.

No. 4 Purdue at No. 12 Ohio State, 6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: If you're one of the college basketball fans who doesn't live in a market that carries the Big Ten Network, or that doesn't have DirecTV, well, man. I'm sorry. That's no good. Because tonight is one of the biggest games the Big Ten has had in years, and you're going to have to follow along on the Internet. You're also going to have to rush home from work; a 6:30 p.m. ET start time is mighty unfriendly to those Big Ten fans who live in the central time zone, which is most of them.

[+] EnlargeEvan Turner
Robin Alam/Icon SMIExpect Purdue to try to smother Ohio State star Evan Turner.
Sneak out early. Duck your boss on your way out. Put up an out-of-office notification email. ("I'm not in the office, because I'm watching an awesome basketball game. Please direct all urgent issues to Person X, and don't bother me for the next few hours, nerds.") Do what you need to do, because the battle between the fighting Evan Turners and Matt Painter's steadfast and solid Boilermakers team is full of implications. If Purdue wins, they make a very strong case to displace Villanova as the fourth No. 1 seed and might cruise to the Big Ten title. If Ohio State wins, it boosts its own tourney resume and gets the added bonus of a foot forward in the Big Ten title race. The Big Ten is loaded at the top; tonight's result should provide some measure of separation.

The most notable match up on hand is, obviously, Evan Turner versus, well, anyone Matt Painter decides to send Turner's way. The Boilermakers are great at harassing opposing guards, and the one chink in Turner's armor is his tendency to turn the ball over. Expect Painter to try and smother Turner with multiple defenders as soon as he crosses the half-court line, and maybe before. E'Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer will play a prominent role, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Robbie Hummel try to keep Turner from dominating inside.

That's a solid strategy, but it leaves Purdue open to Ohio State's biggest non-Turner strength: shooting. The Buckeyes hit their outside shots. That efficiency means Turner doesn't need to dominate the scoreline for OSU to stay productive on offense; he merely needs to be enough of a distraction to dominate the other team's gameplan. If Purdue can find a balance between keeping Turner away from the areas he usually owns, as well as keeping OSU's shooters from getting too many kickouts and easy, Turner-delivered looks, Purdue has a great chance to win. But that, as with anything Villian-related, is easier said than done.

Whatever both teams decide to do, the numbers would point toward a close game: Ohio State is the country's eighth-best offense; Purdue is its seventh-best defense. Ohio State has the No. 24 defense in the country; Purdue has the No. 24 offense. Both teams have their eyes on deep tournament runs, and both teams are hitting their late-season strides. Like I said, rush home from work. Screw your personal file. This one is worth it.

But that's not all! Bonus previews, notes, and errata: Be sure to check out Hammer And Rails' lengthy preview of tonight's game; same goes for Boiled Sports, who says the anticipation "almost feels like a football game," which, were I a Purdue basketball player, would offend me. For the OSU-interested, you can find excellent fan-centric previews at Eleven Warriors and Buckeye Battle Cry. The Big Ten Network seems rather excited about tonight's game, too. And don't forget the implications. So many implications! (I like writing the word "implications." Implications. OK, sheesh, I'll stop.)

Everywhere else: Duke gets a chance to prove itself on the road against a decidedly mediocre Miami (FL) team, which should be no problem, except this is Duke on the road, and, well, you know ... West Virginia goes to Providence, where Bob Huggins' men will attempt to sidestep the recent plague of Big East upsets ... Nebraska plays Kansas State in Manhattan; have fun, Huskers ... Your sneaky-good game of the night? Texas at Missouri ... Georgia has played well on the road in the SEC; their next challenge is at Tennessee ... Notre Dame, barely hanging on to a bubble spot, will face fellow bubblers Louisville at Freedom Hall ... In a stacked A-10 with six possible NCAA tournament teams, Rhode Island at St. Louis means a lot ... and two fringe ACC bubble teams will try to sort themselves out when Florida State goes to Virginia.
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 16 Wisconsin 67, No. 5 Michigan State 49: Phew. Instead of trying to weave all of this into a coherent narrative -- because who do I look like, F. Scott Hemingway? -- let's take it piece by piece:

  1. Shooting. Northwestern's student section wears athletics-department-sanctioned T-shirts that just say "make shots." Most teams' yearly student T-shirts say something like "Year Of Destiny" or "Returning To Glory" -- ostensibly inspirational things designed to rouse fervor in a fan base. Northwestern's was simple and direct, and still the most literally true T-shirt of its kind I've ever seen. It's brilliant, and I love it. Why? Because sometimes basketball is simple. Sometimes you don't make shots -- in Michigan State's case behind the arc, where the Spartans shot a scorching 12.2 percent -- and that makes all the difference. Michigan State only took nine threes. That's is low-risk, low-reward basketball, and without the defense to back it up on the other end, they didn't make nearly enough to slow the Badgers down. Sometimes, you've just got to make shots. First, you've got to take them.
  2. No offense to Wisconsin's players, but ... Is it possible that Bo Ryan is the best system coach in college basketball? Let's define system coach first. Let's say a system coach is a guy who seems to be able to plug just about any combination of his type of players into a basketball team and emerge with a winning product year and year out. Bo Ryan is this person! Wisconsin's recruits aren't anything to sneeze at, but they're also rarely at the elite national level. It never seems to matter. Ryan wins anyway. Heck, his best players -- Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer -- can be in foul trouble and injured, respectiviely, and Ryan can get 19 points from Jason Bohannon and 17 from Jordan Taylor as the Badgers roll to an easy win. No offense to Wisconsin's players, who are obviously very, very good at basketball and deserve plenty of credit for their success ... but we should start some sort of offseason reality show challenge thing wherein Ryan tries to coach a team of out- of-shape rec league players against Big Ten competition. I'd never bet against this team. (OK, yes I would. But you get the point.)
  3. Kalin, Kalin, Kalin. Losing your first Big Ten game on the road at Wisconsin is no big deal. Losing your star point guard to injury is. It's still uncertain how long Kalin Lucas will miss with the ankle sprain he suffered in Tuesday night's second half, but any amount of time gone from the court is time the Spartans will dearly miss him. Last night's Wisconsin win has repercussions for the Big Ten going forward, but none are more important than the condition of Lucas' ankle.
No. 3 Kentucky 85, Ole Miss 75: Our own Pat Forde checked in late last night with some of his postgame thoughts, so read those if you want a recap. I have but one thing to add: Did you see Eric Bledsoe's alley-oop? Late in the second half, John Wall -- whose performance will officially put to rest any worries about his frustration with head coach John Calipari -- lightly tossed an oop over a defender's arms. As Bledsoe jumped to catch the pass, the defender barely grazed the ball, slightly altering its trajectory to the near side of the hoop, opposite from where Bledsoe jumped. But somehow, Bledsoe managed to adjust his jump in mid-air, extend his arms completely, grab the floating pass on the near side of the basket, scoop it up, and make the bucket. In a year of silly Kentucky highlights, this was easily the best. So far.

Everywhere else: You have to hand it to Seton Hall, who plays tough on the road in the Big East. But the Pirates just aren't there yet. In the meantime, Scottie Reynolds & Co. keep rolling, now 9-0 in conference and officially prompting my roommates asking me if Reynolds can win the player of the year. If this keeps up, he just might. ... Syracuse had few problems with Providence, and the highlight package is worth a look if only for Friars forward Jamine Peterson's off-the-backboard-to-himself dunk ... Nebraska couldn't follow up its first Big 12 win with another, losing to Kansas State in Lincoln ... Rutgers, once again off the schneid, beat St. John's in Piscataway, doubling the Scarlet Knights' conference win record ... Miami cut the lead to three with just five minutes left at Wake Forest, but C.J. Harris' 12 points helped the Deacons stave off a comeback ... BYU jumped all over TCU and never looked back, going to 7-1 in the Mountain West ... and Northwestern stayed just-barely-alive in the race for its first-ever NCAA tournament berth, beating an officially bad Michigan team in Evanston.

Saddle Up: Big one in the Big Ten

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
3:40
PM ET
Saddle Up is our nightly look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Tuesday night's rundown:

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 16 Wisconsin, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Michigan State is good on the road. Wisconsin is good at home. Immovable object, unstoppable force, you get the idea: Something's got to give in Madison tonight, and I have no idea what it will be.

Someone has to win, though, and if the tempo-free numbers have anything to say about it, that someone should be Wisconsin. The Badgers are No. 5 in the country in adjusted efficiency while the Spartans are No. 18, a difference that largely comes down to the Badgers' defense. Wisconsin doesn't force many turnovers, but they prevent teams from hot shooting nights and they rebound on the defensive end better than any team in the country. Michigan State has been getting better and better lately, so their numbers might not be a true reflection of their current state, but it's hard to look at Michigan State's strength -- offensive rebounding -- and think the Badgers don't have a serious advantage when it comes to the boards.

Of course, the numbers aren't the end-all. Still, this is Michigan State's biggest conference test of the season, and it comes as the Spartans just so happen to be playing their best basketball -- both at home and on the road -- of the year. This game is going to be slow, methodical, physical, defensive and awesome. Who else is excited?

Mississippi at No. 3 Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: OK class, quiz time. Who knows what everyone is going to be talking about before, during, and after Kentucky's home matchup with Ole Miss tonight? Yes, that's right: CalWallGate 2010. (I just made up that name. Pretty terrible, right?) Is John Wall still mad at John Calipari? Have the two reconciled their differences? Is this really a "teaching moment?" Expect this to be a topic of conversation, to say the least.

The more pertinent question is whether Wall can rebound from his string of merely human performances -- or whether he needs to. Kentucky is so talented, and so many of its possessions end up in DeMarcus Cousins' hands, that Wall doesn't have to take games over on the offensive end to get the Wildcats a win. He merely needs to control the game, keep his turnovers in check, find Eric Bledsoe for open looks on the perimeter, and get the ball inside to Cousins, and somewhat-overlooked forward Patrick Patterson, and the Cats should handle fringe top 25 opponents like Ole Miss with relative ease.

John Wall doesn't have do it all. He just has to do some of everything, and efficiently so. If he does, UK will be just fine.

Everywhere else: Villanova is on fire these days. Seton Hall will try to do what so few Nova opponents have been able to -- put out the flames. (Or at least toss a little water on them. Anything to quell the burning. OK, I'll stop now.) ... Meanwhile, the second of two Big East games featuring marginal road teams at vicious home foes -- this one would be Providence at Syracuse -- will be tipping off. ... Kansas State goes to Nebraska, which got its first Big 12 win of the year in Saturday's 17-point win over Oklahoma. ... BYU will continue its roll through the Mountain West when TCU comes to Provo. ... Northwestern is still a potential tourney team! Repeat: Northwestern is still a potential tourney team. Games like tonight's -- a possible home victory over Michigan; nothing flashy, but necessary for the committee's ease of mind -- are key to that cause. At 3-6 in the Big Ten, the Wildcats can't afford another bad one.

New top 25: Kansas back on top

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
2:53
PM ET
The week's new Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today top 25 polls are out, and what do you know? Kansas is back on top. Surprised?

Few should be. Kansas' ascension to the top of both polls was a given after its gutty overtime win at Kansas State Saturday. Had Kansas lost, the Syracuse-Villanova debate would have raged for at least a day, and then everyone would have remembered that the polls don't really matter at this point in the season, and then everyone would have calmed down. Kansas' road mettle prevented that dire scenario. We should all be thankful.

In the meantime, a big round of applause -- first person to do that thing where they clap in a circle (ha, "round" of applause, get it?) gets punched in the face -- for mighty Cornell. The Big Red dominated Jeremy Lin and Harvard on Friday night, and that win, along with their 18-3 record and high-profile near-toppling of Kansas on Jan. 6, earned Cornell the first ranking in the history of its basketball program. Banner day! According to ESPN research, Cornell is the first Ivy League team to land in the top 25 since Princeton in 1997-98, when the Tigers were ranked the entire season.

This is good news for a variety of reasons. The first? It's always good to see the Ivy League in the national picture. The second? Kids at Ivy League schools have it pretty rough, sports-wise and this is something to rally around. Third? More Andy Bernard jokes! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

K-State fans ready for Kansas

January, 30, 2010
1/30/10
7:04
PM ET
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- First visit to Bramlage Coliseum. And with Kansas visiting tonight, at least, it appears intent on living up to the hype.

The students flooded the morning Gameday broadcast to the tune of 8,000 strong, then ran outside to get in line for the game. They're primed -- and they have good seats. K-State puts many of them along the sideline instead of in the end zone, and the sidelines are very close to the court here. In other words, it's loud in here.

Kansas' veteran team has about seen it all on the road, however. If they're at all rattled, it hasn't showed during pregame. Some were sneaking a peek at the Baylor-Texas game on the TV in the media workroom.

Key to the game: whether K-State's dynamic but occasionally spastic backcourt can play with poise, and whether inside men Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels can bang with Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris inside. If the Wildcats achieve both those objectives, they have a solid chance at pulling the upset.
Can you feel it? It's that time of year, the time when every Saturday seemingly features at least one or two big, big games. This weekend is no different: Saturday sees No. 7 Duke at No. 11 Georgetown in D.C. and No. 2 Kansas at No. 13 Kansas State, the site of K-State's upset win over Texas earlier this month. Get primers on these two biggies, along with the rest of what's worth watching (see: Vandy-UK), with the Weekend Watch. Best. Preview. Ever.

And, as always, be sure to check back tomorrow for live coverage of DePaul-Syracuse (that's where I'll be) as well our usual buffet of up-to-the-minute updates on the happenings of the day. Heather Dinich (and the Prez) will be at Duke-Georgetown and Pat Forde will be braving the Octagon of Doom for KU-Kansas State. College basketball Saturdays are the best days of the week. There's only one way to improve them: By hanging out on the Internet! See you then.

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