College Basketball Nation: Texas

Behind the box scores: Saturday's games

February, 19, 2012
2/19/12
8:27
AM ET
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:

Note of the Day
Sixteen players had 10 or more assists Saturday, six more players than on any other day this season.

Oklahoma State 90, Texas 78
Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page made all 20 of his free-throw attempts as part of a career-high 40 points. The 20 free throws without a miss match the most by any player since the start of the 1996-97 season. As a team, Oklahoma State made 43 free throws, matching the most by any team this season (Colorado State on Nov. 22).

Northwestern State 100, Campbell 86
Like Page, Northwestern State’s William Mosley attempted 20 free throws on Saturday; unlike Page, Mosley made just five of his 20. No player since the start of the 1996-97 season had missed 15 free throws in a game before Mosley did it in Saturday’s win. There were 93 free throws attempted in this game by both teams combined, most in a game this season.

Montana 94, Hawaii 79
Montana sophomore Kareem Jamar had 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the win, the first triple-double of his career. The 21 points match the third-highest total of his career, the 11 rebounds are the second most he’s had in a game, and the 11 assists are four more than his previous career high.

Washington State 72, Arizona State 50
Arizona State finished with 50 points despite scoring only eight points in the first half. They are the second team this season to score fewer than 10 points in the first half and still score at least 50 for the game. Eastern Michigan scored nine in the first half of a 71-50 loss to Virginia Tech on Dec. 22.

Virginia 71, Maryland 44
UVA won by 27 points despite being tied at halftime, matching the largest margin of victory by a team trailing or tied at halftime against a Division I opponent this season. Hawaii trailed South Carolina State by one at the half in a 27-point win on Dec. 29.

Marshall 73, SMU 68
SMU scored 54 points in the second half after scoring 14 in the first half. In their previous game, the Mustangs scored just 28 points.

South Alabama 66, Western Kentucky 61
South Alabama’s Javier Carter had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks off the bench in the Jaguars’ win. The eight blocks are the most by a bench player this season.

Behind the box scores: Saturday's games

February, 12, 2012
2/12/12
8:34
AM ET
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
AM ET
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.

Rick Barnes just blew your mind

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
11:25
AM ET
ESPN The Magazine's Elena Bergeron has a fantastic piece about Texas' struggles in 2009-10 in the March 8 issue of the mag. (Heads up: The link is Insider, but you're one of those by now, aren't you?) It covers all the old standbys -- too many minutes for too many guys, too much inconsistency on the wing and at the point, too many fresh faces unused to the rigors of college basketball, and on and on. Where Bergeron's piece differs from the standard gnashing of teeth about Texas' utterly disappointing season is that it also has a dash of the new, the most startling of which is Rick Barnes' admission that he'll gladly sacrifice national titles if it means sending his players to the NBA.

[+] EnlargeRick Barnes
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireRick Barnes prioritizes his players' futures over national titles.
Uh-oh. I have a feeling people aren't going to like this:
"We would love to win a national championship, but we're not obsessed with it because we're obsessed with these guys trying to live their NBA dream," Barnes says, with a nod to their predecessors. "What's happened to Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford -- I'd give up a national title for all of our guys to be able to live their dream."

That sound you hear is Texas basketball fans uniformly and repeatedly slamming their heads against the wall. Guys! Stop it! You'll hurt yourselves!

You could understand the fervor, though. Rick Barnes has always been a phenomenal recruiter; the knock against the coach is that he's failed to turn any of that talent into a national title team. That, after all, is supposed to be the underlying goal of every college basketball coach at every college basketball program, especially one as big and rich and competitive as Texas. That's what it's all about: a national championship.

Not to Rick Barnes. This is what someone who is fond of using such terms would call a "paradigm shift." Coaches who aren't coaching for titles, but for their players to reach the NBA? Coaches who don't see NBA success as a byproduct of building a winning college basketball program, but instead see building that program as a byproduct of NBA success? Texas fans aren't the only ones who aren't going to be happy about this. Everyone who takes college basketball's title seriously -- too seriously, sometimes -- just had their minds blown. You mean you, you ... don't care about winning the Final Four? What?!

The reality, however, is far less shocking. The bottom line is that many coaches, to varying degrees, believe privately what Barnes just said publicly. They want to win, sure. But first they want to recruit, and this is the way you recruit the best players to your team year after year.

There's also something to be said for actively wanting your players to play in the NBA. Given the inequities in college basketball -- Barnes made millions of dollars this year; All-American forward Damion James got room and board -- this is not an ignoble goal. Barnes wants his guys to make money and do well at the next level -- by next level here, let's be very clear: in the NBA -- more than he wants to win at all costs. That's not the worst thing in the world, is it? Heck, it might be borderline admirable.

Just don't expect Texas fans to agree.
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 8 West Virginia 81, No. 20 Georgetown 68: A few things either learned or observed while watching last night's relatively easy West Virginia win over Georgetown:

1. Da'Sean Butler is a Mountaineer through and through. It's not like this is a revelation. But in a sport that requires us to nibble at the edges of teams' personalities so often, that requires us to keep half an eye on everyone and never a full eye on anyone, hearing Da'Sean Butler's fully emotional, front-and-center response to his final home game in Morgantown was borderline revelatory:
"I definitely wanted to win on my Senior Night against a good team like them," Butler said, his voice cracking. "When I was taken out at the end of the game, it just kind of hit me, like I'm not playing here anymore and it just took off from there. I thought about everything and I had every emotion possible. Happy, sad, scared -- just getting ready to grow up. You never know what's out there."

Any graduate who hasn't been overwhelmed with that feeling -- that sinking "What am I going to do now?" thing that ruthlessly invades your gut during your final months at school -- didn't like college all that much in the first place. Heck, we've all felt that before. We can capital-I Identify. Not to get all syrupy here, but that's a little taste of what makes sports so very awesome sometimes. It was cool. (Oh, and it didn't hurt that Butler finished his storied Morgantown career -- he ended up third in scoring all-time behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley and holds the school record with 100-plus double-figure scoring games -- with a tidy 22 points, six rebounds and six assists.)

2. Austin Freeman is very important to Georgetown's ability to handle the ball on the perimeter, score on the perimeter, penetrate from the perimeter -- Austin Freeman is pretty much the best thing about Georgetown's perimeter, and when he's out of the game, his team suffers. Duh, right?

3. West Virginia doesn't always have to outrebound you to win. The nation's top offensive rebounding team by efficiency didn't outwork its opponents on the offensive glass Monday night. What the Mountaineers did do was rarely turn the ball over and get to the free throw line at a high rate. Georgetown played even with WVU ... except in those two categories. It was more than enough.

4. There was one somewhat important bit of postseason seeding on the line here (besides Georgetown's potentially plummeting NCAA tournament seed, of course): Big East tourney seeding. With the win, the Mountaineers sealed a direct double-bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Skipping those early conference tournament games means fewer opportunities to lapse and have a bad upset. This is, obviously, a good thing.

No. 25 Texas 87, Oklahoma 76: Oklahoma led by three with just under 10 minutes remaining. This is all you need to know about the relative ugliness of Texas' first half -- and the relative ugliness of the past month and a half of Texas' season. The Longhorns have suffered some bad losses in that time. A home loss to a sub-.500 Sooners team -- one with its own dire share of personnel and chemistry issues -- would have been the worst.

Instead, Texas fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Damion James got 24 points a win on Senior Night, and freshman J'Covan Brown, who suffered a neck injury and was carted off the floor at Texas A&M Saturday, returned to score 15 points and notch five assists in relief duty.

Everywhere else: Pretty quiet night last night. Get the full download here.

Saddle Up: A Hoya redemption?

March, 1, 2010
3/01/10
3:51
PM ET
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Monday night's briefer-than-usual rundown.

No. 20 Georgetown at No. 8 West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: There's no mystery as to why Georgetown fell off a cliff in this week's coaches' poll; the Hoyas have lost three of their last four, including a loss at Rutgers and Saturday's blowout at home to a desperate, bubble-riding Notre Dame team. This is the mark of the Hoya in 2010: inconsistency. Georgetown has the talent to play with anyone, and can blow out very good teams on its best nights -- see the Jan. 30 Duke rout, easily Georgetown's best win of the season -- but the Hoyas are prone to frequent letdowns against lesser squads. A win at West Virginia would right the ship, so to speak. Georgetown has no hope of a Big East title now. But ending the season with a win over a top 10 team at a place like Morgantown is the sort of boost any psychologically inclined Georgetown fan would love to see. It couldn't hurt the Hoyas' tournament seeding, either.

The Mountaineers have the chance to close their season on a similarly uplifting note. Tonight's game is big enough; Saturday's at Villanova is even bigger. Win both of them and Bob Huggins' team could put itself in position to snag a No. 2 seed on Selection Sunday. The Mountaineers are miles ahead of Georgetown on tempo-free paper, and are still doing what they've been doing all season long: rebounding an insane number of their misses on the offensive end and creating second possessions at a higher rate than anyone in the country. Against Georgetown's mediocre defense -- the Hoyas are just No. 132 in opposing offensive rebound percentage -- it's safe to expect more of the same.

Oklahoma at No. 25 Texas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: This is another in a long list of combined Oklahoma and Texas games that looked pretty awesome before the season started. Then Willie Warren and the Sooners had an inexplicably disastrous year, rendering them a non-entity in the Big 12. Warren has been sidelined with mono and will miss tonight's game thanks to an ankle injury as the Sooners look to avoid their first seven-game losing streak in -- get this -- 41 years. Meanwhile, Texas is Texas, and you already know this story. Rick Barnes can't decide on a rotation, the Longhorns on the floor can't seem to figure out their roles, and a team that began the year by winning its first 17 games and rising to No. 1 overall is now a fringe top 25 team entirely gone from the Final Four picture. If North Carolina and UCLA showed up in Austin, Tex., tonight, we could hold a star-studded convention of the year's most disappointing teams.

Everywhere else: Morgan State and Utah State will both try to avoid upsets tonight; other than that, Monday's offerings won't do much for you. (Unless you're trying to do some deep scouting for minor conference tournament predictions, in which case, can I look at your notes?)

Saddle Up: Life on the bubble

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
3:40
PM ET
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Wednesday night's rundown.

Don't let anyone tell you the college basketball regular season doesn't matter. It does. Wednesday night doesn't boast a single match up between top 25 teams, but it does have at least four games featuring bubble (or barely bubble) teams with a chance to immediately boost their at-large chances. A quick gander:

No. 3 Purdue at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: Don't look now, but Minnesota has a chance to make the NCAA tournament. I know, I know -- it's a distant chance. But it's a chance. After a 16-point win over Wisconsin on Feb. 18 and a subsequent blowout at Indiana, Tubby Smith's team is at 16-10 and 7-7 in the Big Ten with four games to play. A win tonight would be the Gophers' third in a row, and would give them a much-needed quality win for the résumé. Then, with a win over the No. 3 team in the country in their pocket, the Gophers would have three winnable games -- at Illinois, at Michigan, and at Iowa -- to play. Win out, and that gets Minnesota to 20 wins, an 11-7 conference mark, and serious at-large consideration. Easy, right?

OK, not so much: Purdue is playing its best basketball of the season right now, and the Boilermakers are in the thick of a Big Ten title race with Ohio State and Michigan State. There will be no letdowns. If Minnesota wants to sneak into the tournament, it will be earned.

South Florida at Villanova, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN360: South Florida, much like Minnesota, is nowhere to be found in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket. At 16-10, the Bulls share much the same burden as the Gophers, which is not how the animal kingdom works at all, but that's OK, because we're actually talking about college basketball. Anyway, stay focused: South Florida very much needs a win at Villanova -- not an impossible feat, given Nova's prodigious fouling habit and overall defensive vulnerability -- to stay in the bubble picture. At the very least, fire up your laptop to watch Dominique Jones take on the porous Wildcats. Bubble talk or no, that ought to be a treat.

San Diego State at BYU, 9 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports: San Diego State has had two prior chances to prove itself worthy of an at-large bid. The first was Jan. 23's 71-69 loss to BYU at home. The second was an 88-86 loss at New Mexico. Swap either one of those incredibly close and no doubt disappointing results, and SDSU isn't sitting there wallowing among the first four out. So here you go, Aztecs. Last chance. You get BYU and Jimmer Fredette in Provo with a tournament at-large on the line. You've proven you can play with the best teams in your league. Now you must, thanks to the selection committee's totally unfair and not cool at all focus on "wins," win.

No. 21 Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: You already know the story here: Right now, Notre Dame shares two things with the aforementioned South Florida Bulls: a 6-8 Big East record and a fringe chance of making the NCAA tournament. How to remedy that? The Bulls have the better of the opportunities tonight, but Notre Dame has the more winnable. The only problem? Luke Harangody is expected to sit out again for the Irish, a knee injury that's come at the worst possible time for the perennially bubble-bound team.

Everywhere else: Both of these teams are already in the tournament, so they get shoved all the way down here to the flotsam, but tonight's best game is no doubt Oklahoma State at Texas, where Texas will experience life without Dogus Balbay for the first time ... There's also Texas A&M at Baylor, a match up of two very capable and tourney-ready Big 12 teams ... Dayton didn't fit up top, but it too needs a bubble win over Temple to make a late case for tournament inclusion ... UTEP will try to continue its conference dominance at Southern Miss ... Virginia Tech can't afford to lose to Boston College ... Florida State at North Carolina will be on your television whether you like it or not ... Xavier will go to St. Louis in tonight's other big A-10 match up ... And Clemson will play at Maryland as the Terps try to keep edging toward that elusive bracketology respect.
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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.

Afternoon Linkage: Big Ten shakedown

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
1:49
PM ET

Forde observations: Big win for SDSU

February, 13, 2010
2/13/10
6:35
PM ET
Six o'clock thoughts:

  • San Diego State would love to make the Mountain West Conference a four-bid league, but the Aztecs could actually cut it to two. Their victory over UNLV might come closer to pushing the Rebels out of the tournament than getting Steve Fisher's team in it. This was a two-loss week for UNLV.
  • Texas' 40-point detonation of Nebraska only reinforces the talent at Rick Barnes' disposal -- and only reinforces the puzzlement over why that talent can become so dysfunctional at times lately.
  • How bad is the Pacific-10? Right now it's a one-bid league, and the team that looks like the best of the sorry lot -- California -- might not play enough defense to even win a game in the NCAAs. The Golden Bears won, but were lit up at home by Washington State's Klay Thompson for 28 points and the Cougars shot 51 percent from the field, but couldn't hold a second-half lead (again).

The Morning After: Big Ten in flux

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
8:37
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap post. Try not make it awkward.

[+] EnlargeE'Twuan Moore
AP Photo/Al GoldisPurdue's E'Twaun Moore scored 25 points against Michigan State.
No. 6 Purdue 76, No. 10 Michigan State 64: Well, now we've got a Big Ten race. As recently as eight days ago, it seemed an undefeated Michigan State team was primed to run away with the Big Ten. No more. Kalin Lucas sprained his ankle. The Spartans were blown out in Madison and then edged at Illinois. And Tuesday night, with a clearly laboring Lucas in the lineup, the Spartans couldn't stop a balanced, thorough, complete Purdue team. That leaves us with a logjam at the top of the Big Ten, one that should provide plenty of entertainment as the season winds down, and one that ought to leave Tom Izzo and company less than thrilled.

Then again, it was probably only a matter of time before Michigan State came down to Earth a bit, right? That's not even the best way to phrase it, I guess, because a loss to Purdue doesn't constitute some sort of statistical correction. The Boilermakers are just good. Robbie Hummel can score and direct from distance. E'Twaun Moore has what Steve Lavin might call a "complete toolbox, the hammer, the screwdriver, the bandsaw." (I just made that phrase up, but it sounds like something Lavin would say, only less awesome.) Chris Kramer is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. And, perhaps most importantly, JaJuan Johnson is becoming a dominant force in the paint.

Johnson has been good in the past, but he hasn't always gotten the touches his high level of efficiency should demand. He hasn't needed to; Hummel and Moore and even Kramer can handle the scoring load just fine, thanks. But Johnson is a uniquely effective weapon for the Boilers. He can score in the paint, stretch defenses with outside jumpers and, on the defensive end, disrupt any interior shots with his freakishly long arms. (I hope that's not mean to say. Those arms are freakish.) Purdue has its own flaws. It's not a perfect team. But the Boilermakers are solidly balanced enough to play with anyone anywhere.

Oh, and Michigan State fans? Don't freak out. Your team is banged up and in the middle of the toughest part of their Big Ten season. There are worse places to be than 9-3. You'll be all right. Probably.

Illinois 63, No. 13 Wisconsin 56: Don't look now, but Illinois is 9-3 in the Big Ten. And don't look now, but the way Illinois has put themselves in the thick of the Big Ten race after a shaky start is worthy of serious respect. Beating a Kalin Lucas-less Michigan State team at home is one thing. Going to Wisconsin and handing the Badgers their sixth loss (and their first-ever to an unranked team) at the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan is entirely another. Demetri McCamey deserves much of the credit -- McCamey scored 27 points on an efficient 11-for-17 shooting Tuesday night, adding seven assists (though he did have five turnovers, which I suppose we can let slide). Forward Mike Tisdale was likewise efficient, scoring 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting. The Illini have plenty of flaws, and there's no question they caught Wisconsin on a particularly bad shooting night -- the Illini aren't a great defensive team this year, at least not yet -- but when Illinois is shooting this well, it's hard to blame their opponents for their success. They deserve the credit, and with the aforementioned Michigan State loss, they deserve to be in the thick of the Big Ten race. Now all Bruce Weber's team has to do is play this well the rest of the season. Easy, right?

No. 24 Vanderbilt 90, No. 12 Tennessee 71: 43. 43! That's the number of free throws the Vanderbilt Commodores shot in their 90-71 win over Tennessee in Nashville last night. There's a reason the Dores scored 90 points -- the Volunteers fouled 29 times in 40 minutes. Vanderbilt's free throw rate -- a ratio of free throws to field goal attempts -- was a mind-boggling 84.3 percent. Of course, Vanderbilt actually had to make these free throws. They did, hitting 37 of those 43. (Exclamation points are also applicable here. Thirty-seven made free throws!) And that's almost all you need to know: Vanderbilt built a big lead early, protected the ball, got good looks, and got to the line so often my head is literally spinning even as I type this.

In any case, it's a great win for Vanderbilt -- both for the team's tournament chances and for its in-state bragging rights. Bruce Pearl has done an admirable job keeping Tennessee tourney-bound in the wake of the Tyler Smith New Year's Day fiasco. Tuesday night -- a chippy, ugly affair, punctuated by the constant clang of Tennessee's misses -- was not in that vein.

Everywhere else: Kentucky kept Alabama at bay for a relatively easy win at Rupp Arena; John Wall got his first double-double and DeMarcus Cousins got his seventh in his past seven games ... Providence had a legit chance to upset Georgetown Tuesday, leading 47-40 with 15 minutes remaining, but Georgetown rallied in time to take a nine point win in Rhode Island ... Texas couldn't win in Norman, but Texas Tech (barely) could ... Vermont and Boston played a barnburner, which Vermont won on a layup in the final 10 seconds ... Wichita State took another step back in the Missouri Valley, losing at the previously 0-13 Evansville ... and Wake Forest handled Boston College in Winston-Salem.
  • First, a few leftover Texas-Kansas notes: Mike DeCourcy writes that Kansas is making Big 12 dominance look easy. That causes Rush The Court to make a pretty trenchant observation: "Often you hear the media say that it’s a “wide-open field” as we’re heading up to the Tournament, only to say afterwards that Team X (as in UNC’s case last year) was “clearly the best team” after they win it all in April. I have a feeling that we’re going to by hearing the same contrasting platitudes this year, except that Kansas will be this year’s UNC." North Carolina occasionally stumbled during the regular season in 2009-10, only to roll through the tournament with nary a challenger. Kansas looks primed to do the exact same thing, only the Jayhawks already look dominant enough (and relatively stumble-free, at least so far) to win at all.
  • Yes, Bill Self has Twitter, and yes, he's using it to poke fun at Brady Morningstar: "Just got back to lawrence. Guys feel pretty good abt themselves. Different guys stepping up. Fun nite.how abt bradys ft. Never seen that."
  • In case you needed another look at that Texas-themed design on the back of the Longhorns' new Nike HyperElite uniforms, here you go. There's a star and some rays of light and a building, I think. It's actually kind of Art Deco, and I have a major soft spot for all things Art Deco. (Including Bioshock 2, which, yay, comes out today.) All it needs is an old-school train rolling through an idealized city and we'd be right there.
  • DeMarcus Cousins is an Alabaman, but that doesn't mean he has any love for his homestate school. Quite the contrary, in fact -- in this video by the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay, Cousins says he didn't attend Alabama because it was a "bad situation." When asked to elaborate on his coy response, the big man says he "doesn't really want to talk about it." Mobile Press-Register reporter Gentry Estes, who has an awesome name, says Cousins is probably referring to some hurt feelings over former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried's -- and then new coach Anthony Grant's -- decisions not to recruit Cousins due to concerns about his attitude. Whether Cousins would have attended Alabama seems unlikely anyway (why go to a transitional program when you can play for John Calipari at Memphis neé Kentucky?) but athletes still like to know they're wanted in their own backyard. Apparently, Cousins wasn't. So, yeah. If I were Alabama, I'd start devising ways to keep Cousins off the glass. A doubly motivated DeMarcus -- who has morphed into the most important and productive player in Calipari's lineup these last few weeks -- will be fearsome to behold.
  • You know what's confusing? Why Pierre Henderson-Niles would leave Memphis at this point in the season. Is the frustration with Josh Pastner -- or maybe it's the other way around -- so great that the two can't stick it out a while longer for the good of Memphis' tournament chances? Apparently so.
  • "The A-10 currently has six teams -- Rhode Island, Temple, Xavier, Charlotte, Richmond and Dayton -- in the top 43 of the RPI. That means when those teams start facing each other, which they will five times in the next 10 days alone, those games will be RPI helpers. Much like the Missouri Valley Conference in 2006, if results break the right way, all of these teams are going to have very strong computer profiles at season's end, with a series of league wins that should be very valuable in at-large consideration. This year, the A-10, literally and figuratively, could get a major at-large haul." That's SI's Andy Glockner on the A-10, which has a plethora of teams worthy of tournament consideration in 2009-10. It probably helps that the Missouri Valley isn't as good as it usually is, and of course it doesn't hurt that the Pac-10 is a one-bid league. Is this the year of the A-10? It's certainly looking that way.
  • Here's the story: Purdue blog Hammer And Rails runs a semi-joking post saying Syracuse is overrated because of the Orange's exhibition loss to LeMoyne. After Syracuse fans raid his house and threaten his family -- just kidding; they actually wrote very reasonable, well-received responses in defense of their club-- BoilerT does something people who spend their time arguing on the Internet never do: apologizes. It's a small victory, but this is what John Lennon was talking about, guys.
  • Athens Banner-Herald columnist David Ching makes the case for Georgia's Mark Fox as SEC coach of the year. It's no secret Fox has done a fantastic job in his first year in Athens; it's also no secret that coaches with his league record (2-6 in the SEC), no matter how hard their team plays, probably aren't going to win any awards.
  • Seth Davis says Georgetown learned from last year's letdown.
  • It's Tuesday, so here are your Tuesday Truths. Mr. Gasaway is especially good on why West Virginia looks better on paper than they do in person: "Take West Virginia last night. Please! (Har!) The Mountaineers have a really nice EM because they've been able to pummel teams like Rutgers, South Florida, St. John's, DePaul, and, yes, Pitt. Pummeling teams, even non-NCAA tournament teams, is a good marker of quality and I don't minimize that. Still, it's also true that Bob Huggins' team has seen its two main rivals, Syracuse and Villanova, come to Morgantown, and in those games the Mountaineers are 0-2, having been outscored by 0.06 points per trip. Looking ahead, West Virginia closes the season by hosting Georgetown and then going to Villanova. If they're smart they'll seize the opportunity to show what they can do against top-quality opponents."
  • Mike Brey isn't taking his foot off the pedal as Notre Dame hits the stretch run of the Big East. Brey wants to make the tournament. To ensure his players' complicity, he's started running two-a-day practices. Maybe a big deal, maybe not, but it's easy to see how that strategy would backfire, yes? Your players get mad at you and don't play hard, or, failing that, your players play as hard as possible but don't have the energy to compete late in games. It's a risky gambit, but like I said: Brey wants to make the tournament. He's putting his chips on the table. That's one way to do it.
  • Dan Hanner smartly explains the impact of RPI and how it relates to Northwestern's tourney chances.
  • Pete Thamel writes a brief vignette on Rhode Island 17-year-old high school player Andre Drummond, who Thamel says might be U.S. basketball's next great big man prospect.
As always, follow me on Twitter to send me your links and tips. Happy Tuesday, people. Try to stay out of the snow.

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