College Basketball Nation: Marquette

3-point shot: Big East’s big plan

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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1. The Big East will announce its conference schedule on Thursday and according to at least one source the league will end the season as it should -- with its highest-profile series between Georgetown and Villanova in Philadelphia. The Big East has a few historical rivalries and the chance to build a few long-term matchups like Creighton-Marquette and Butler-Xavier. The Big East has the opportunity to maximize its traditional teams, especially rivalries and now has a real chance to bookend its first season as a 10-team league with quality games. The Big East and its television partner Fox had already announced a New Year's Eve opening day of five games -- St. John's at Xavier, Seton Hall at Providence, DePaul at Georgetown, Villanova at Butler and Marquette at Creighton. The conference is making the right call in highlighting its two highest-rated teams for television on the final game of the regular season.

2. Nebraska coach Tim Miles said his players were "stunned" when they walked into the Cornhuskers’ new 15,147-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena. "The new facility is off the charts,'' said Miles. "Every seat is sold for men's basketball games, for every concert.'' Miles needed a home opener that popped. He said he thought immediately of Florida Gulf Coast after watching "Dunk City" in the NCAA tournament. "Once they exploded, nobody wanted to play them so they were an easy pick,'' said Miles of the Nov. 8 game on BTN. "I told [new FGCU coach] Joe Dooley that you're getting an $85,000 [guarantee] check to go 0-1. The Big Ten put us on the road for the first two games [at Iowa and at Ohio State after a nonconference game at Cincinnati] but gave us a great opener in Michigan (Jan. 8, ESPN2) with our students in session. The story is our arena, our practice facility. The team, we'll see. We're young.''

3. Miles' former assistant and successor at North Dakota State, Saul Phillips, got a five-year extension to stay with the Bison last week. Phillips is that rare breed who loves where he is at a level out of the limelight and doesn't look at his gig simply as a stepping stone. Phillips took the team he built with Miles into the 2009 NCAA tournament in their first season eligible in Division I. So, why stay? "I have too many winter coats that would go to waste if I moved,'' said Phillips in jest. "I love my AD here. That's a big part of it.'' Phillips would like to see the Bison get a new arena, something MIles is enjoying at his new gig. "We've raised 30 million privately on a 34-million-dollar arena,'' said Phillips. "We get that done and we can be a good mid-major year in and year out.''

Heslip's treys send Baylor to Sweet 16

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
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ESPN Stats & InformationBaylor guard Brady Heslip made nine 3-pointers en route to 27 points in leading the Bears to an 80-63 win over Colorado.

In the Baylor Bears’ Big 12 semifinals victory over Kansas on March 9, Brady Heslip made four of seven 3-pointers to help put his team over the top.

That was just a prelude to Saturday’s performance, when Heslip exploded for nine 3-pointers and helped push his Bears to the Sweet 16 for the second time in the last three seasons.

From the start of the Kansas game through Saturday's victory over Colorado, the sophomore is shooting a scorching 61 percent (22-for-36) from beyond arc.

All of Heslip's 27 points came via the 3-point shot, as he did not attempt a free throw and missed his only 2-point field-goal attempt.

Here’s a snapshot look at the other early-evening statistical highights in the Men’s Basketball Championship.

South Region
(1) Kentucky 87, (8) Iowa State 71

Kentucky scored its most points since scoring 87 against Loyola (Md.) on Dec. 22. The Wildcats join Ohio State as the two teams (so far) who have made the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons.

Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field, something it has done in both Men’s Basketball Championship games so far. The last time the Wildcats shot 55 percent or better twice in the same tournament was in 1998, when they won the national championship.

(4) Indiana 63, (12) VCU 61
The Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002, when they lost in the National Championship game. Indiana is now 15-0 against non-conference teams this season.

Indiana had 22 turnovers, its second-most in a Men's Basketball Championship game in school history. The most for the Hoosiers was 23 in 2002 against Duke, a game that Indiana also won.

But the Hoosiers clamped down on the Rams in the final 12:19, forcing more turnovers (5) than they allowed points (4). VCU shot 2-for-15 from the field to close the game (all in half-court sets), 0-for-8 from 3-point range, and 0-for-2 on free throws.

VCU attempted 30 3-pointers (and made 9), its most in a game since 2006.

West Region
(3) Marquette 62, (6) Murray State 53

Marquette held Murray State to 31.3 percent shooting from the field. That's the lowest shooting percentage by a Marquette opponent in a Men's Basketball Championship game since Arkansas shot 31.2 percent to beat Marquette in the 2nd round of the 1995-96 tournament.

Those are the two lowest opponents’ field goal percentages by a Marquette opponent, covering all but its first tournament appearance in 1955 (for which the box score does not list team field goal percentages).

East Region
(4) Wisconsin 60, (5) Vanderbilt 57
It's the first time in school history that Wisconsin has made consecutive trips to the Sweet 16.

Vanderbilt shot only 26 percent from 3-point range, its fourth-worst shooting percentage from long-distance in a game this season and its second-worst shooting on 3-pointers in an NCAA tournament game.

Behind the box scores: Wednesday's games

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
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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 Wednesday.

Portland 74, Santa Clara 70
Santa Clara committed just one turnover, the fewest by any team in a loss this season. The Broncos committed the lone turnover down two points with seven seconds left in the game. The previous team to commit no more than one turnover in a loss was Fairfield on Feb. 12, 2009 against Marist.

Cincinnati 72, Marquette 61
Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson blocked seven shots in 13 minutes off the Bearcats’ bench. That’s tied for the second-most blocks by a substitute this season, but Jackson did it in the fewest minutes played. The last player to block seven shots in 13 minutes played was Rutgers’ Hamady N’Diaye on Feb. 10, 2007 against Cincinnati.

UNC 88, Maryland 64
UNC’s Tyler Zeller made 20 of 23 free throw attempts in the victory, tying him with Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham and Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page for the most made free throws in a game this season. Zeller broke Tyler Hansbrough’s Smith Center record with the 20 makes, which was also one shy of both UNC’s and the ACC’s all-time record.

Seattle 111, Longwood 74
Seattle’s Sterling Carter scored 28 points in only 16 minutes of action. The last player to score that many points in that few minutes played was North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside on Nov. 18, 2008 (also 28 points in 16 minutes).

Mercer 61, Lipscomb 53
Lipscomb’s Deonte Alexander shot 4-for-22 from the field (18.2 percent) in the loss. That’s the worst shooting performance this season for a player with at least 20 attempts.

Lehigh 70, Colgate 57
Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum recorded seven steals in the win, tied for the third-most takeaways by a player this season.

Saddle Up: Five about Friday

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
11:36
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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.

Marquette 57, St. John's 55

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
4:42
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NEW YORK -- What did you think? Marquette was going to win in a blowout?

Thirteen of the Golden Eagles’ 30 regular-season games were decided by four points or less. Two went overtime. Why should things change in the Big East Tournament?

Against St. John's, they blew the lead, missed free throws and made Buzz Williams squirm.

But the heart-attack kids survived a huge second-half rally by a desperate St. John’s team to advance to the quarterfinals.

Here’s a few thoughts from the game:
  • The real question with the season officially over for St. John’s: What happens now with Norm Roberts? The Red Storm’s 17 victories this season were actually the most St. John’s has recorded under the chronically embattled coach, but is it enough to keep his job? Conventional wisdom says no, but conventional wisdom said no last year and he came back.
  • Give credit to the Johnnies. They were horrible in the first half, scoring just 17 points and shooting only 29 points but they came out aggressive and tough in the second half. Finding gaping holes in the Golden Eagles’ defense, they shot 55 percent and found a strength inside in the form of Sean Evans, Anthony Mason Jr. and Justin Brownlee. Evans had 10 of his 12 in the second half, Mason Jr., six of his eight and Brownlee all of his six points.
  • Marquette advances to another quarterfinal matchup with Villanova. The Wildcats scored on a buzzer-beater last year to oust the Golden Eagles. If they want to beat ‘Nova they’re going to have to shore up their defense. The Wildcats aren’t going to score 17 points in the first half.
  • Credit David Cubillan for the save in this game. He knocked down two of his four 3-pointers in the crucial last 10 minutes after St. John’s made it a game. His trey that didn’t even rattle the net with 1:15 left also proved to be the dagger.
NEW YORK -- Some quick thoughts here at the half of Game 2 at the Big East Tournament.
  • Of course what everyone is wondering once this game concludes is if it will have any bearing on Norm Roberts' job status. St. John's surprised a lot of people by keeping their embattled coach on at the end of last season but after another disappointing season, will be interesting to see what happens here.
  • Marquette, on the other hand, has a coach in Buzz Williams who would have been in the running for league coach of the year if Jim Boeheim hadn't orchestrated a stunning run at Syracuse.What's most impressive with Marquette's solid season after losing three 1,000-point scorers is how well the Golden Eagles play together. They're really smart on offense, patiently waiting for screens and cuts to find the extra man. In the first half, Marquette had seven assists on 10 made baskets.
  • That steady play is personified by Maurice Acker. The point guard, who ranks second nationally in assist to turnover ratio, has been up to his usual solid tricks. He's dished out three assists with just one miscue early.
  • Meantime the Johnnies look like the Johnnies of old -- really struggling on offense. St. John's is shooting just 29 percent and has missed all of its 3-point attempts.
Admit it. You've been thinking it. It's OK, I won't tell anyone. Plus, I've found myself thinking the same thing from time to time. We're all in this together.

[+] EnlargeLuke Harangody
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireLuke Harangody scored five points in 11 minutes in his return.
That oh-so-scandalous thought: "Wait, is Notre Dame actually better without Luke Harangody?"

The evidence is compelling. Since Harangody suffered the bone bruise that's kept him out of action since Feb. 11, the Irish have gone on a bubble-reviving run in the Big East (though not before losing to St. John's and at Louisville in overtime, not that the latter is anything to be ashamed of). Notre Dame has taken consecutive wins over Pittsburgh, at Georgetown and UConn. For the first four months of the season, with Harangody in the lineup, Notre Dame was a sub-bubble team. In the three weeks since his injury, Notre Dame has played themselves back into the tournament.

Let's put the notion to rest, at least temporarily; today, Harangody returned, and though his contributions were limited (11 minutes, five points, two rebounds), Notre Dame managed to beat a good Marquette team in Milwaukee with Harangody in the mix. So, no: The Ewing Theory doesn't quite apply here.

What is interesting is how Harangody's return will affect Notre Dame's suddenly well-rounded attack. In his absence, Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis have taken their games to a new level. On the whole, the Irish seem more fluid, more dynamic, able to score from more spots on the floor. Obviously Harangody is a very good player, but it's hard to deny the Irish haven't been somewhat freed by his injury. There's no compulsion to run a certain number of possessions through one player, albeit one very, very good offensive player.

So when Harangody returns in full will the Irish incorporate him into their newfound balance, making them even more dangerous on offense? Or will the Irish revert to their prior, non-Harangody selves? With the Big East tournament just a few days away, Notre Dame doesn't t have much time to figure it out. In the meantime, coach Mike Brey can take today's result as a minor positive. Maybe the Irish aren't better without their best player. Weird, right?
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 7 Ohio State 73, Illinois 57: There were zero upsets to speak of last night, and Illinois' bid for a tournament-securing win at Ohio State was no different. Instead, the night was a feel-good Buckeye festival. Thad Matta's team secured a share of the Big Ten title. Evan Turner got a national spotlight, not that he needed it (more on this below). And Mark Titus, the by-now-famous purveyor of Club Trillion, made the most of his senior night, notching one final trillion in front of hundreds of Club Trillion t-shirt-clad OSU fans -- not to mention raising a whole bunch of cash for sick children. Really, things couldn't have gone much better.

The most notable performance of the night -- other than Titus', obviously -- probably came from Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler, whose seven 3-pointers for 21 points (this scoreline math is refreshingly simple) helped bury the Illini in the second half. After the game, though, the only national topic was Turner. More specifically, the topic was "Is Evan Turner the player of the year?" Every analyst ESPN had to offer on Sportscenter proclaimed it to be true. The only dissenters? America. In a SportsNation poll, 37 percent of the country voted for John Wall as the player of the year; Turner notched 33 percent of the vote. Which means one thing, America: You're on notice. I know Wall might be the most familiar name, but it's March now. There's no excuse for this. Inform thyself. Wall is a great player, but Turner has had a better season, and he deserves the award. I thought we Turner advocates had settled this issue already -- seriously, you have no idea how good it felt to see the unanimous pundit praise for Turner Tuesday night -- but apparently not. We have more work to do. Turner bandwagon team ... assemble!

No. 19 Vanderbilt 64, Florida 60: Again, no upsets here: Florida, like Illinois, could have sealed an at-large NCAA tournament spot with a win over the sturdy Commodores on Tuesday night. It didn't happen. Still, the Gators acquitted themselves nicely in the loss; Florida held a typically efficient Vanderbilt offense to a mere 64 points on 60 possessions. Billy Donovan's team was undone by its poor shooting, though, hitting 21-of-50 2-point shots and just 2-of-13 from 3 for a paltry 31.8 effective field goal percentage. Even in a solid defensive effort, that's not going to get the job done.

The Associated Press wrap of the game seems to think that Florida significantly hurt its tournament chances with the loss, but that seems slightly overstated. Sure, Florida didn't help itself, but losing by four to Vanderbilt at home isn't the worst result in the world, is it? Florida might have more work to do -- but no more work than before Tuesday, right?

Everywhere else: Cincinnati likewise needed a big win to keep itself in the at-large conversation. They almost got it, but insert the old koan about horseshoes and hand grenades here ... UTEP clinched the outright Conference USA title with a hard-fought win at Marshall ... Missouri's Zaire Taylor almost perfectly recreated Tyus Edney's famous game-winner in a thrilling overtime win at Iowa State ... North Carolina became the second team in the history of college basketball to get to 2,000 wins; one wonders if the current players felt strange holding that 2,000-win plaque, given this season's ugliness ... Syracuse had no problems with St. John's on senior night ... Baylor won at Texas Tech, handing Pat Knight's team its sixth straight loss ... Minnesota suffered a major letdown at Michigan, one which officially puts the final nail in the the already almost-entirely-assembled Gophers' coffin ... Trevor Booker did manly things in Clemson's win over Georgia Tech ... and Marquette shredded Louisville's zone in a 21-point win in Milwaukee.
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Tuesday night's rundown.

Illinois at No. 7 Ohio State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Of any team facing bubble implications to play tonight, Illinois' situation is perhaps the most fluid. A win at Ohio State puts the Illini in the absolutely-in pile; a loss leaves them right about where they are now, if not worse off. Losing would make the Illini would 18-12 overall, the sort of record the committee will not be perfectly thrilled with, and Illinois would still have to fend off loss No. 13 when Wisconsin comes to Champaign, Ill. on Sunday.

The good news is Illinois has proven capable of beating top Big Ten teams on the road before. The bad news is that Illinois' style plays right into the Buckeyes' hands: Few teams prevent free throws quite like the Buckeyes, and few teams refuse to pocket their jump shots and attack the rim quite like the Illini. If Illinois can reverse this trend for a night -- if they can get Demetri McCamey to attack the basket and get forwards Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis some good looks against Ohio State's somewhat undersized, shallow front line -- Bruce Weber's charges have a chance. If not, well, Ohio State is better and more efficient than Illinois in just about every aspect of the game. Things don't bode well.

No. 19 Vanderbilt at Florida, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of bubble teams in need of help ... Florida, come on down. Joe Lunardi has Florida as a No. 10 seed in the tournament right now, but thanks to a close loss at Georgia (which is actually not that horrible loss, given how well Georgia has played at home this season), Florida could use a big win tonight before a daunting trip to Rupp Arena on Sunday.

Make no mistake: That's what a win over Vanderbilt would be. Big. The Commodores have been a steady force in the SEC all season. Their only league losses have been to Kentucky and a blowout at Georgia -- there's that pesky Georgia team again -- and while not a great defensive team, Kevin Stallings' bunch is very difficult to stop on the offensive end. Vanderbilt's attack is nicely balanced between forwards A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor, and guard Jermaine Beal, all who shoot a plus-50 effective field goal percentage. Florida's lack of a true post presence could hurt them against the 6-foot-11 Ogilvy. Then again, Florida's strength isn't its size; it's speed. Make Ogilvy work away from the hoop on defense -- the sudden offensive brilliance of forward Chandler Parsons applies here -- and the Gators can make Vanderbilt exceedingly uncomfortable. And then we can stop talking about the Florida's bubble issues forever. I'm cool with that.

Everywhere else: Cincinnati doesn't share Illinois' and Florida's bubble anxiety -- it's entirely out of the picture, now -- but a win over Villanova couldn't hurt matters, I guess ... Gonzaga would put the cap on another WCC title season by topping Cal-State Bakersfield tonight ... With a win at Marshall, UTEP would seal the outright Conference-USA crown ... Baylor will put its third-place standing in the Big 12 on the line at Texas Tech ... Likewise for Missouri at Iowa State ... Minnesota plays at Michigan in yet another battle of the upper midwest's most disappointing teams ... and deadlocked Big East teams Louisville and Marquette will play a game both teams want, but don't necessarily need, in regards to NCAA tournament hopes. Marquette is involved, so it's a safe bet the game will come down to the wire. That should be fun.
Call it karma, superstition, luck, statistical correction, or The Force. Whatever it is, Marquette is finally reaping its benefits.

The Golden Eagles won at Seton Hall in overtime Sunday, bringing their record to 10-6 in the Big East and 19-9 overall. Marquette was likely already in the tournament before the win, and beating Seton Hall isn't exactly anything to brag about (though the Pirates have been much tougher this year than any other time in the recent past). No, what makes Marquette's win somewhat remarkable is that it continues the Eagles' season-long adventure of close games -- games Buzz Williams' team is finally winning.

We've been over this before, but Marquette's early winter was best described as "unlucky": Lazar Hayward and company were playing respectably efficient basketball but losing close game after close game. By Jan. 23, Marquette had lost eight of its first 19 games by a combined total of 25 points. Throw out the Eagles' nine-point loss at Wisconsin, and you have seven losses on 16 points. Granted, you have to win close games to expect respect, but it was clear from the tape that Marquette was playing quality basketball. They just didn't have the finishes to show for it.

No more. Since their Jan. 23 loss at Syracuse (by five points, naturally) Marquette has won eight of its last nine games. The last three -- wins at Cincinnati, at St. John's, and at The Hall -- have all come in overtime by a grand total margin of six points. The close losses that seemed ready to send a solid Marquette team to the NIT have faded (thanks in part, too, to the Eagles hitting a less difficult stretch of schedule). Instead, the close wins are stacking up.

Marquette was already a tournament team; now they have the wins to justify it. The bad juju has, for the moment at least, been lifted.

Saddle Up: Big night in the Big East

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
4:00
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Saddle Up is our nightly look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Thursday night's rundown.

No. 5 Syracuse at No. 10 Georgetown, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Sunday, Syracuse lost to Louisville. Sunday, Georgetown lost to Rutgers. Do those losses in any way diminish what we're likely to see at the Verizon Center tonight? Not even in the slightest.

If we've learned anything this season, it's that even the best Big East teams are prone to the occasional disappointment. Syracuse can lose at home to a bubble team. Georgetown can go to Rutgers and lose to one of the worst major conference teams in the country. (Villanova can give up 103 points on the road. You get the point.) And then these teams can come right back and play thrilling, high-level, Final Four-quality basketball. It's only fair for us to expect that much tonight.

Syracuse and Georgetown might be the two teams most familiar to basketball watchers -- it feels like both have been on national TV twice a week for months now -- but for the sake of the February newbies, let's do some previewin'. Jim Boeheim's team thoroughly dominated Georgetown at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 25 for two reasons: Georgetown shot poorly and readily gave the ball away. The former is maybe a bit unlucky, as Georgetown typically posts a 56-plus effective field goal percentage. The latter is all Cuse. Georgetown tried desperately to break into Syracuse's zone, and this led to 19 turnovers and a 28 percent turnover rate. Georgetown couldn't stop Syracuse on its own end, so those blown possessions were especially disastrous, and Syracuse rolled to an easy win.

The answer is rather simple: If Georgetown wants to win, it needs to make perimeter shots -- sharpshooting guard Austin Freeman especially -- and use that to stretch Syracuse away from the hoop, where Greg Monroe can operate. Fortunately, the Hoyas have a tendency to turn up their offense at home. (See: "scorching-hot blowouts over Villanova and Duke" in your reference manual.) It's that simple: Make shots. Northwestern had it right all along.

No. 21 Pittsburgh at Marquette, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Fortunately for Marquette, in statistics, there are these things called "corrections." (I have no idea what any of this means, but I like to pretend I do.) The Golden Eagles have been putting up impressive tempo-free numbers all year, but suffered eight losses in their first 19 games thanks to a grand total of 25 points. When you throw out the nine-point loss at Wisconsin on Dec. 12, Marquette lost seven games by a grand total of 16 points. That is capital-U Unlucky.

Marquette is starting to show results, though: The Eagles have won their last five, and they have a chance to make a statement at home tonight against a Pittsburgh team that refuses to fade as the regular season winds down. At 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, Lazar Hayward is one of the best players in the Big East, and he's a lot like his team: You may not realize it, but there's a lot to like up in Milwaukee these days. Don't let that deceptively ugly record fool you.

Everywhere else: Wisconsin will travel to Minnesota, where the Badgers will find a 14-10 team so disappointing, they will get distracted and completely forget why they came. (OK, probably not. That would be weird.) ... Ole Miss will battle Vanderbilt for a tournament spot in Oxford ... and it's Thursday night, which means there's a bevy of Pac-10 games you can completely ignore. That might be foolish, though, because you never know. Maybe a second Pac-10 team sneaks in the tournament, and you have to figure out your bracket. Why be unprepared? That just seems reckless.
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If KU is No. 1, then who's No. 2?

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
3:09
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Polls are a snapshot of a team over the course of a week, a quick glimpse of who is playing well from Monday to Sunday.

Kansas deserves to be No. 1. The Jayhawks won at Kansas State in overtime in a place where Texas could not. The win will be enough to propel the Jayhawks to No. 1 in the country when the polls are announced on Monday.

But who is No. 2?

That’s where the debate gets interesting between late Saturday and Monday morning.

I would lean toward Syracuse. The Orange had quite a week. Remember, this is about what you have done during the week. It's not necessarily about a team's entire body of work.

Syracuse
Jerome Davis/Icon SMISyracuse rallied from a big early deficit to beat Georgetown.
Syracuse had one of the more impressive wins earlier in the week when the Orange steamrolled Georgetown in the final 30 minutes at home last Monday. That's the same Georgetown team that took out Duke in convincing fashion Saturday.

Villanova has quite an argument as well with a home win over Notre Dame for its only game of the week. But Syracuse has played a tougher slate than Villanova. Overall, if you compare their sole losses, then losing to Pitt, even at home, may be a tad better than losing at Temple. This argument has holes on both sides so deciding who is most worthy of the No. 2 spot right now might come down to how you feel about the pair. And right now, after Syracuse found a way to win at DePaul when it didn’t play well, the edge could go to the Orange.

Of course, the Kentucky nation would have an issue with the Wildcats not being No. 2 after dismantling one of the hottest teams in the country in Vanderbilt. The Wildcats looked quite special in running away from the Commodores. The question is does Kentucky get knocked down this week because it lost a game, even though it was on the road at South Carolina? The answer for now is yes. Remember the poll isn’t about where teams will finish in March but how they’re playing over the course of a week.

  • One thing is certain: Texas is dropping lower than No. 6 and Michigan State will at least stay put at No. 5 after a week in which the Longhorns fell to Baylor and Michigan State beat Northwestern.

  • Maybe I shouldn’t have dumped off my original sleeper team so early. UTEP beat UAB in double overtime in Birmingham to draw into a first-place tie with the Blazers in Conference USA. I still think UAB is the only team in the league that can get in as an at-large unless Tulsa wins at Duke.

  • Here’s what’s great about the Ivy League. You go, you dress and maybe you can get into the game. Cornell played 18 players in the first strike against Harvard in the Ivy League chase.

  • San Francisco will not have another crowd like the one it had to beat Gonzaga late Saturday night. But credit the Dons, they did what Santa Clara and others in the league could not -- hold on to beat the mighty Zags. Other WCC teams tend to freeze when they have a chance to shut down the Zags.

  • The Big East will investigate how the officials handled the West Virginia-Louisville game, especially in going to the monitor to (ahem) look at the shot clock when they may have actually been looking at who should have possession on an out-of-bounds play. Official Mike Kitts didn’t make a call and when no call is made on the floor, the possession goes to the team with the alternating possession arrow, which was Louisville. The ball actually did go off Louisville and West Virginia got the ball. So while the call was right it was not handled correctly. Louisville coach Rick Pitino criticized the officials by saying he was “tired of the officiating.” The Big East says it will investigate.

  • Marquette’s Jimmy Butler told me Saturday he was speechless after making the game-winning shot to beat Connecticut. The Golden Eagles had been 1-7 in games decided in the final five minutes this season.

  • Notre Dame’s loss at Rutgers is the kind of defeat that can send a team to the NIT.

  • Siena’s win over Marist should clinch the Saints’ BracketBuster date at Butler. Announcements are due Monday.

  • Maybe the most bizarre event of Saturday occurred in the USC-Oregon game. USC manager Stan Holt got a technical foul after saying something to official Bobby McRoy, which led to the game becoming tied at 47-47 with 4:35 left. Holt left the bench and the Ducks went on a 10-0 run to essentially win the game 67-57. USC coach Kevin O’Neill was quoted in the Oregonian late Saturday night saying, “That’s on me and that will be rectified -- it already has been -- he’s gone. That’s incomprehensible to me, in a two-point game, that our manager would get a technical foul. It’s unforgivable, it’s unprofessional. I apologized to our team for it, also." Holt was a three-year graduate manager. The only remaining question was how he did he get home from Eugene after O’Neill clearly tossed him off the roster?

Marquette isn't this bad

January, 26, 2010
1/26/10
3:10
PM ET
Marquette's record doesn't look pretty. The Golden Eagles are 11-8 and 2-5 in the Big East, which puts them just above conference punching bags Rutgers and St. John's in the conference standings. If you merely glanced at Marquette's profile, you'd assume the Eagles were having the sort of down year you'd expect after the losses of seniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews.

But it isn't true. Marquette isn't having a great year, to be sure, but they're not nearly as bad as their record would allow. In terms of efficiency margin, Marquette is actually outplaying opponents by a half a point per game, which puts them even with Connecticut and a tenth of a point behind Pittsburgh, one of the surprise teams of the season. The Eagles are ranked No. 20 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings, ahead of a host of probably NCAA tourney teams. So why is Marquette's record so bleh? John Gasaway helpfully explains:

The numbers here suggest that the Golden Eagles are a solid NCAA team, but at just 2-5 in the Big East Buzz Williams' group is tied with the likes of South Florida and St. John's in the eyes of the committee. Marquette lost by one at West Virginia, by two to Villanova, by two at Villanova, by one at (brace yourself) DePaul, and by five at Syracuse.

None of these are particularly bad losses, but viewed in sequence, you get a team with a mediocre record and a bad at-a-glance NCAA resumé. It also doesn't help that Marquette's nonconference schedule was filled with RPI downers like Centenary, North Florida and Presbyterian. To be fair, Buzz Williams' team didn't get any help from Michigan's collapse (the Wolverines were No. 15 in the country when Marquette handily beat them) and Xavier's rebuilding year, but still, that's not a tough schedule, and Marquette didn't do itself any tournament favors before Big East play began.

Had Marquette won a few of their close games, the story would be much different, and the nonconference foes wouldn't really matter much. But the slimmest of margins has Marquette looking like a tournament long-shot already, even though they're playing some pretty darn good basketball.

And people say the college hoops regular season doesn't matter. Right. Tell that to Marquette fans.

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