College Basketball Nation: Virginia TEch

Behind the box scores: Thursday's games

March, 2, 2012
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 Thursday:

Texas Southern 54, Alcorn State 51
Texas Southern won despite recording only two assists. That’s tied for the fewest assists by a team in a win this season.

UNC-Asheville 91, Charleston Southern 64
UNC-Asheville shot 28-for-30 (93.3 percent) from the charity stripe in the victory. The Bulldogs now have three of the top seven single-game foul line percentages of the season (min. 30 attempts).

Clemson 58, Virginia Tech 56
Clemson won despite shooting 0-for-10 from 3-point range. The Tigers are the eighth team this season to win a game in which they missed at least 10 3s without making one.

LIU-Brooklyn 80, Sacred Heart 68
LIU’s Jason Brickman handed out 13 assists in the win. It’s his third 13+ assist game of the season; only UNC’s Kendall Marshall and Iona’s Scott Machado have more such games.

Alabama A&M 73, Jackson State 53
Jackson State’s Keeslee Stewart shot 0-for-10 from the field off the bench in the loss. He’s just the second substitute this season to attempt double-digit field goals and not score a point.
When Virginia Tech forward Allen Chaney transferred from Florida last summer, the Hokies hoped he would add some much-needed size to a team with its sights set on an (eventual, anyway) NCAA tournament berth. That has not gone according to plan.

Chaney fainted in April following a workout in Blacksburg, Va., and had to be revived via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by a trainer. Tests revealed no abnormalities; Chaney was diagnosed with nothing more than dehydration and was cleared to do some light shooting drills. That's when things got a bit more serious: Chaney had another episode soon thereafter, which, unless he chugs four Red Bulls before every shootaround (from personal experience, let me assure you this is a terrible idea) indicated the problem was something more serious than a mere lack of water.

With that in mind, Chaney underwent a diagnostic procedure on his heart last Tuesday. The doctors at the University of Virginia's hospital believe Chaney's issue is related to a viral inflammation of the heart. They can probably explain it better than I can:
The procedure "involved evaluating the electric activity of his heart," the doctor, Mark Rogers, said yesterday in a press release. "Based on the results of this, we are recommending that another heart specialist evaluate him further. At this point, the consensus is that the abnormality in the study is most likely related to a viral inflammation of the heart. We certainly anticipate Allan's return to the court when it is deemed safe for him."

That last part is the major Hokies-related news: Just how soon can Chaney return to the court? The answer is ... well, there is no answer. The virus requires six to 18 months to run its course, with the "only steps to recovery includ[ing] rest and avoidance of physical exertion." That's the major bummer for Chaney, who waited an entire year to get on the court for the Hokies only to have the prospect of playing this season ripped right out from under him.

As of now, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg says he doesn't know when Chaney will be back, or if he'll be able to kick the virus before the 2010-11 season runs out. Chaney recently spoke to NBA veteran Juwan Howard, who missed a large portion of the 2005 season thanks to that exact condition.

It's not a given that Chaney's absence will drastically affect the Hokies' chances of making the tournament in 2010-11. After all, Malcolm Delaney and company were on the cusp of the bubble last year, and the core of that team will all return this year. It's almost beside the point, though, because this is just kind of a bummer. There's no getting around it.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
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."
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Wayward beer truck delays tipoff

February, 27, 2010
No, I'm not making that up.

Maryland-Virginia Tech was slated to begin over an hour ago, at 4 p.m. ET. It's now 5:25 p.m. on the east coast, and the Terps and Hokies are not yet playing basketball. Why not? This is the best part: A Bud Light truck ran into a fire hydrant outside Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va., breaking a water main and delaying the game's scheduled tip time by three hours.

D1scourse's Patrick Stevens has a photo of the, um, disaster. The hydrant clearly caught the worst of the encounter, no doubt thanks to the steel reinforced armor required for transporting beer, our nation's most valuable and cherished resource. OK, OK -- so it's just a minivan. But hey, no beer spilled, no harm, no foul.

In the meantime. Maryland and Virginia Tech will now tip off at 7 p.m. ET. That's a big game for both teams, but especially for Virginia Tech, whose 20-point loss to Boston College Wednesday threw the Hokies' at-large chances back into jeopardy. A win over Maryland would be a nice little tournament boost for a Tech team desperately trying to compensate for one of the worst non-conference schedules in all of Division I.

Look at the bright side: If Tech doesn't win, at least their fans will have some surplus beer in which to drown their sorrows. Think positive, people!

Saddle Up: Life on the bubble

February, 24, 2010
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.
  • Bob Huggins was not pleased with the officiating in Monday night's loss to Connecticut, so much so that he earned himself an ejection in the final minute -- one of those "I'm sick of this, I'm getting kicked out, which ref do I insult first" coach's decisions you see from time to time. After the game, though, Huggins was less direct: "You saw it. You're allowed to report on it. I'm not," Huggins said when asked about the effect of 46 fouls and 65 free throws -- 42 of them by UConn -- on the way the game played out. "That's a tremendous advantage."
  • Northern State coach Don Meyer announced Monday that he will retire after the current season is over. Meyer is the NCAA's all-time wins leader in college basketball for all divisions, followed by former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight and current Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. Magee plans to stick around a little while longer; Jameson Fleming at the Bleacher Report picked Magee's brain and found out why.
  • Did BracketBusters work? And just what does "work" mean? The Dagger's Jeff Eisenberg writes: "If the purpose of the Bracket Buster event is to help more mid-major teams play their way into the NCAA tournament, then there's no denying that this year's event was a colossal failure. In addition to Old Dominion and William & Mary, Siena's at large hopes vanished after a blowout loss at Butler and Wichita State's did so as well after falling at Utah State. [...] The solution to this, of course, would be to pit mid-majors against big-name opponents in the BracketBuster event, except few if any teams from the power six conferences would have anything to gain by such a format." Ballin' Is A Habit responds: "The bottom line? No matter who you play, you must win games to make the tournament. Old Dominion, Siena, and Wichita State lost games that would have helped their tournament resume. William & Mary lost a game it should have won. If ODU and Siena had both won, and that win helped the two teams to earn an at-large bid, people would be singing a much different tune about BracketBusters. So until a situation arises in which a team winning their BracketBusters game has a negative effect on their tournament résumé, I think BracketBusters is working just fine."
  • Hokies fans are predictably giddy about their team's late-season rise into the NCAA tournament bracket; here's a roundup of Virginia Tech's newfound bracketology love.
  • Gasaway's Tuesday Truths. More on this later, but Maryland is much, much better than the RPI folks seem to think. Oh, and here's more Gasaway, this time taking on the Purdue homers who insist on claiming this team is "old-fashioned" and "hard-nosed" (which they are, sort of) while completely ignoring what's made the Boilermakers of 2010 so much better than last season's counterparts: the offense!
  • Nebraska is 1-11 in the Big 12 and 13-14 overall, but Nebraska's athletic director isn't putting coach Doc Sadler's head on the chopping block. Rather, he's extending the always-welcome-when-it-seems-sincere vote of confidence, saying Sadler is the "right guy to get this thing done."
  • Michigan State's Kalin Lucas was frustrated Saturday. After losing to Ohio State in East Lansing -- and scoring a mere nine points on 3 of 13 shooting -- Lucas decided to pull a LeBron and blow off the postgame media question-and-answer session. On Sunday, Lucas called head coach Tom Izzo to apologize and tell him he felt bad about "leaving his teammates to explain" the loss. On Monday, Lucas joined Izzo at the coach's weekly news conference, where Lucas apologized to the media for ditching out. All things considered, a pretty classy move.
  • Doug Gottlieb (Insider) says he's heard Jim Calhoun has five-year contract extension from UConn "on his desk" and that Calhoun should sign it, thereby ignoring folks like me who think now's as good a time as any to experience the joys of retirement.
  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp has some lighthearted fun with Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, and the many faces of A.J. (Of special note is Ogilvy's hair, which reminds of the kids I used to play club soccer with -- they loved to frost their tips. Like aging 90s country chicks and their relationship to mullets, I have an irrational soft spot for this hairstyle.)
  • Speaking of lighthearted fun, let's hope this budding Kent State sideline reporter -- and heir to the "Boom Goes The Dynamite" guy's legacy of student reporter hilarity -- can laugh at himself in the morning.
  • Barry Alvarez confirms: The Big Ten is indeed looking for another school, and has hired a research firm to look into 15 potential expansion additions. Not on this list? Texas and Notre Dame.

ACC all but vanishes from top 25

February, 23, 2010
The Atlantic Coast Conference had a pretty special streak going for, oh, three decades or so. That streak? Since 1977, when No. 5 North Carolina was by itself in the poll, the ACC has had at least two teams in the AP top 25 every time the poll was collected.

No more: As of yesterday, Duke is the only 2009-10 ACC team left in the top 25, breaking the conference's 30-year multiple-team streak.

The good news for the ACC is that things aren't quite so bad -- seven different ACC teams have held a poll spot at some point this season, and Virginia Tech and Maryland are just outside the poll in that ever-so-close "others receiving votes" pile. (Va. Tech tallied 76 votes this week while Maryland nabbed 57 votes this week, putting both teams just behind UTEP.) And there is still Duke, sitting pretty at No. 5. It's not as though the ACC is quite in dire Pac-10 poll drought levels yet.

The bad news, however, is that the ACC is demonstrably sliding a bit in recent weeks. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and Clemson and Florida State and (most obviously) North Carolina aren't sniffing much of the poll anymore. That isn't the worst thing in the world, NCAA tournament-wise, but it's also not the most encouraging sign for conference partisans or, for that matter, for Duke, which would rather appreciate its conference mates putting up a fight as it seeks another signature win and a spot on the tournament's No. 1 line. If that win doesn't come from Maryland or Virginia Tech, it might not come at all.

The Morning After: Hey hey, Hokies

February, 17, 2010
The Morning After is our semi-daily look at last night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75: The most obviously intriguing part of Tuesday night's Kentucky-Mississippi State match up -- at least before the game began -- was the interior battle between two of the country's best big men, Jarvis Varnado and DeMarcus Cousins. By the end of regulation, that was no longer the case. Varnado was on the bench, thanks to five fouls. Cousins was on the floor, grabbing rebounds and dominating in the paint. And the game had become so much more.

DeMarcus Cousins
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisKentucky's DeMarcus Cousins, left, finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds against Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi State.
It's always tough playing Kentucky (duh, Eamonn, thanks for the brilliant analysis); it's even tougher when your all-world defensive player and team-leading rebounder gets his fifth foul with plenty of time left in the second half (hey, you're welcome). Really, Mississippi State deserves credit just for pushing the game to overtime, because it was unlikely they'd make it that far after Varnado's foul-out. They did, though, and they gave us a thrilling game in the meantime, pushing Cousins and John Wall and Patrick Patterson to their best in a hard-fought SEC road win.

A few other notes:

1. Mississippi State fans celebrated their team's loss by throwing water bottles and other junk onto the floor. Combined with their racist and God-knows-what-else text messages to DeMarcus Cousins before the game, this was not a particularly strong national showing for the denizens of Starkville. Seriously, guys? Water bottles?

2. Kentucky fans will be happy to see Patrick Patterson playing well again. After drawing criticism earlier this season, Patterson looked like a dominant big man at times on Tuesday night; his contributions made the whole Varnado-Cousins faceoff a moot point.

3. John Calipari used all three of his remaining timeouts in the last six seconds of regulation, which resulted in a double-teamed DeAndre Liggins hoisting a prayer (which, to his credit, almost fell) from the baseline corner as time expired. I'm guessing this is not the shot Calipari wanted, but you'd think with all those timeouts, the Cats would have been able to get something better.

In any case, great game. Kentucky rolls on. State completes a valiant effort in a near-loss to an uber-talented, highly-ranked team. And Mississippi State fans get to spend some much-needed time in the corner. Everybody wins. (Well, you know, except Mississippi State. They actually, like, literally lost. But you know what I mean.)

Virginia Tech 87, No. 25 Wake Forest 83: Virginia Tech couldn't get no respect. This is the Hokies' fault -- building a 20-4 record against one of the worst schedules in recent memory (No. 340 in strength of schedule, to be exact) has a lot to do with scheduling; you almost have to try to play a non-conference slate as bad as Va. Tech's. I mean, just look at it. It's ... it's breathtaking. And not in a good way.

Nevermind that, now. The Hokies may have started their season with dreck, but they're ending with their most difficult and important games, and so far, so good.

It wasn't just that Virginia Tech won; it's how. Trailing by 11 with 16 minutes to play, Malcolm Delaney led his Hokies on a comeback, scoring 10 of his 31 points (he finished with nine rebounds, too), making big bucket after big bucket to get his team its all-important second win over a top 50 RPI team. As big as this game was for the Hokies' national respect, it should do just as much for Delaney's -- the guard just so happens to be leading the ACC in scoring at 21.2 points per game. I bet you didn't know that. What I didn't know was whether to believe in Virginia Tech. Another win or two like Tuesday night's, and we won't have a choice.

Everywhere else: Weirdly enough, Indiana was out-everything'd (not an actual word, but let's roll with it) by Michigan State last night but managed to hang tough until the second half, when the light-years-more-talented Spartans eventually pulled away ... Without suspended Jordan Eglseder, UNI rolled Creighton to clinch the MVC regular-season crown ... Baylor might have sealed its own tourney fate (in) as well as Texas Tech's (out; hey, this is turning into an episode of Project Runway), as the Bears gave the Raiders their seventh conference loss ... Meanwhile, two teams moving in relatively opposite directions in the Big East did exactly that Tuesday night, as South Florida edged Cincinnati ... and, not to rub any more salt in UNC fans' wounds, but you know it's bad when ESPN anchors stop during your highlight to talk about how much they're not used to seeing this sort of scoreline. Ouch. (Also: "Ed Davis, 0 points." Double ouch!)

Hokies vault into second place in ACC

February, 16, 2010
Virginia Tech flat took the game from Wake Forest tonight, and the Demon Deacons didn’t seem to mind much.

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Delaney
AP Photo/Don PetersenVirginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney scored 31 points against Wake Forest.
Credit the Hokies for coming back from an 11-point deficit with 16 minutes to play. And credit them with just taking over the game in the final nine minutes to win by four. Tech was better on defense, smarter with the ball, aggressive going to the basket and swarming on the glass in scoring arguably its biggest win of the season.

The Hokies take over sole possession of second place in the ACC, and might be ready to move into the Top 25 as well.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest is fully ready to move out again after breaking in at No. 25. The Deacons are undeniably talented and athletic, but have many flaws.

Most glaring: their defense is plagued by breakdowns, which is how you give up 55 second-half points. The biggest culprit against Tech was Wake’s best player – Al-Farouq Aminu. He was beaten several times off the dribble, lazy rotating to help stop penetration and disinterested in getting a hand up on shooters. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Aminu finished the game with 25 and seemed to lack energy in the final 10 minutes. He largely spectated while guard Ishmael Smith tried to keep Wake in the game by himself.

  • In the Guys You Have To Love Dept., save a spot for Michigan State power forward Draymond Green. In the Spartans’ 14-point victory at Indiana, Green made all five of his shots and finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists in just 19 minutes of playing time.

    He has beautiful basketball instincts. Green is a 6-foot-6 sophomore who rebounds like he’s 6-10 and passes like he’s 6-2. He has flypaper hands that inhale the ball yet also produce a soft shooting touch and deft assists. With season averages of 10 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals, he’s always got his hands on the ball.

  • Momentum is a fleeting thing in the Big East. With South Florida whacking Cincinnati to further muddle the turbulent superconference, only four teams currently have won at least two conference games in a row: St. John’s, Seton Hall, Pitt and Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won five straight. Rutgers could join that group but is getting licked early by DePaul.
Saddle Up is our nightly look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Tuesday night's rundown.

No. 2 Kentucky at Mississippi State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Unstoppable force, immovable object. DeMarcus Cousins, Jarvis Varnado. Even if Kentucky rolls over Mississippi State in Starkville tonight -- certainly no guarantee, despite Kentucky's vastly superior backcourt talent -- this matchup alone is worth your undivided attention. Cousins is a dominant freshman with a burgeoning skill set and one of the best interior offensive stat lines in the country. (Cousins gets a ton of offensive rebounds, takes a ton of shots, and makes most of them.) Varnado, meanwhile, is the best shot blocker in the country, and maybe of the past decade -- averaging five blocks a game this season, he's well on his way to setting the NCAA career record for blocked shots. He also leads the Bulldogs in rebounds, many of which come on the defensive end; he's one of the best in the country at that, too.

Unfortunately for Mississippi State, Varnado can shut down Cousins and the Cats can still roll. (Kentucky still has this dude named John Wall. I suppose he's pretty good.) Regardless of the outcome, though, Cousins-Varnado might be the year's best big man matchup, at least until we can get these two to play Cole Aldrich in a game of 21. You should probably watch.

No. 25 Wake Forest at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: While Indiana is taking its probable beating from Michigan State on ESPN at 7 p.m., you might also flip over to ESPN2, a game with actual tournament implications. (Though I suppose Michigan State could lose to Indiana, and that would have tournament implications ... but whatever, you see what I mean.) See, Virginia Tech is 20-4. That's a gaudy record. It was also amassed against one of the worst schedules in the history of college basketball, and I'm barely exaggerating: The Hokies are ranked No. 344 -- No 344! -- in nonconference strength of schedule this season. They have one win over a team in the RPI's top 50 (Clemson). Their best wins are over Seton Hall, Miami, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia (twice). Sorry, but this is not the résumé of an NCAA tournament team -- at least not yet. Tonight, Va. Tech gets its chance to prove the haters wrong, notch another RPI top-50 win and build momentum for its backloaded ACC slate, which includes games at Duke, vs. Maryland and at Georgia Tech. Contender or pretender? Tonight, the Hokies have a chance to answer.

Everywhere else: The first game of Jordan Eglseder's controversially short suspension is tonight, when UNI plays Creighton in Cedar Falls. ... As mentioned above, Indiana will try to recover from its ugly Big Ten losing streak as MSU attempts to stave off a letdown. ... Texas Tech, still trying to play its way into the tournament, will go to Baylor, which already has. ... Dominique Jones and Lance Stephenson do anything for you? Cincinnati-South Florida sounds entertaining, at least. ... Less entertaining: Rutgers at DePaul. ... North Carolina will look to build on last week's near-miss against rival Duke with a trip to Georgia Tech. ... Drexel will play VCU in a matchup of putative CAA contenders.

Forde observations: Temper hinders Kentucky's Cousins

February, 13, 2010
Ten o'clock thoughts:

  • DeMarcus Cousins gave us a glimpse of what makes him both overpowering and maddening during the first half against Tennessee. He's the best offensive rebounder in the country -- and perhaps the most immature player in the country, too.

    I believe he's Kentucky's best player. He can get his hands on anything that comes off the glass, which is why the argument that he's dependent upon fellow freshman John Wall to get him the ball is a fallacy -- Cousins gets the ball for himself off missed shots.

    But Cousins also is addicted to cheap and silly drama -- throwing elbows, talking trash, arguing with officials. He was T'd up yet again in the first half against the Volunteers along with J.P. Prince. If he doesn't think opposing players and fans are going to continue to work on his hair-trigger temper, he's fooling himself.
  • Tennessee is outmanned, banged up, on the road -- and right in the game. Give the Volunteers credit for moxie, but you still have to wonder about their horrendous shot selection. If they continue to jack up long 3s early in the shot clock, they'll get run out of the gym eventually.
  • Kentucky has seen all kinds of zone this season without it costing them. But zones from better teams could be another matter. The Wildcats struggled in the first half against the Vols' zone and surely will see more of them as their SEC schedule stiffens down the stretch.
  • Good stuff from the ACC tonight, particularly Georgia Tech-Wake Forest (won by the Demon Deacons) and Virginia-Virginia Tech (won by the Hokies). It's not a very good league by its own lofty standards, but it is a competitive one. ACC tournament should be a big ball of messy fun.
  • Western Kentucky crushed Arkansas-Little Rock on the road, continuing to pull out of a midseason tailspin in which it lost six of seven games. The perennial mid-major power will finish in the middle of the Sun Belt pack in the regular season but figures to be dangerous in the league tournament.
  • Oregon State, which lost by 51 points to Seattle, won at Arizona. The Pac-10 is amazingly mediocre.

Saddle Up: Time to test Tech

February, 4, 2010
Saddle Up is our nightly preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Oh, come on. You can always record the new "Parks and Recreation." Catch it after the games! Anyway, here's Thursday night's rundown.

No. 19 Georgia Tech at No. 9 Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Purdue's rivalry showdown with Indiana will be on the main network tonight, but those of you unconcerned with Midwestern hoops provincialism will probably be more interested in this. It's a good one: Georgia Tech toppled Duke back before Duke's road woes were an apparent problem, back when Duke's record matched its gaudy efficiency numbers. Since then, Georgia Tech has become even more confusing: Is this the team that loses at Virginia? Or the team that wins at UNC? And what does a tight road loss at Florida State, followed by an all-cylinders-pumping home blowout of Wake Forest really mean? I have no idea. Georgia Tech is an enigma -- a dynamic squad with enough young talent (look no further than freshman Derrick Favors here) to compete for the ACC title, but who has put it all together once or twice thus far. Tonight's a legitimate chance for the Jackets to show us who they really are. Win at Duke, and the rest is gravy.

No. 7 Purdue at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: You've already heard plenty about What It All Means, what the rivalry says about the state of Indiana, and why, despite the Hoosiers' post-Kelvin Sampson morass, this is still a hot ticket in the Midwest. You'll no doubt hear plenty more of it tonight. For now, let's focus on the hoops. Since dropping three in a row to start the Big Ten season, Purdue has rattled off four straight wins. Much has been made of Purdue's lack of a "true" point guard, but the Boilermakers' best quality is that they never turn the ball over; they're the No. 7 team in the country in that all-important tally.

Purdue is also more than capable at turning other teams over, and that just so happens to be Indiana's worst quality -- the Hoosiers give the ball away on 22.3 percent of their possessions. Indiana is not as incapable of upset wins as last year. If the Hoosiers keep turnovers low and make enough shots to keep Purdue within striking distance, they have a chance. And hey, the home crowd never hurts; Indiana is much better in Assembly Hall than it is away from it. Still no one would expect Indiana to win this game, and the numbers back that up. The Boilermakers are tough, physical, and experienced, all qualities IU is still figuring out. This is a great rivalry, to be sure. Whether this year's version will live up to that history is less certain.

Everywhere else: You would have been forgiven for thinking Tennessee's season was effectively over after the Tyler Smith fiasco; you, me, and everyone else would have been wrong. The Vols are still in the Top 25, still fighting for the SEC title and still a viable NCAA tourney team. They'll try to keep their surprising run going with a visit to LSU, which has a chance to prove its not actually the worst major conference team in the country. ... Portland is one of Gonzaga's few fellow contenders in the WCC; pity for the Pilots they're stuck playing Gonzaga just after the Zags dropped their first conference game of the year. ... Butler welcomes a surprisingly tough Detroit team to Indianapolis; the return of former Indiana characters Eli Holman (who famously threw a potted plant in Tom Crean's office) and coach Ray McCallum should be interesting. ... Maryland will try to get back to its early ACC form with a tough road visit to Florida State. ... How could it possibly get any worse for UNC? Losing to Virginia Tech and going to 2-5 in the ACC would be a start. ... Finally, in the Pac-10, Cal will travel to USC and attempt to get a game up on Arizona in the conference standings; meanwhile, Arizona will have a daunting task at Washington.
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 12 Purdue 60, No. 15 Wisconsin 57: Michigan State is still in charge of the Big Ten, but Purdue and Wisconsin aren't far behind. That's the conclusion from Thursday night's thrilling 58-possession game (not an oxymoron!) in West Lafayette, where Purdue and Wisconsin battled for 40 minutes, neither team able to totally solve the other, until Trevon Hughes' last-second floater rimmed out and the Boilermakers finished the game with a three-point margin. Purdue made just two threes all game but made up for it by shooting 73.3 percent on its twos, while Wisconsin made up for a lackluster two-point percentage by making 47.4 percent of its threes. This made for an even matchup. The difference, however slight, could possibly be found in offensive rebounding; Purdue rebounded 37.9 percent of its misses while Wisconsin only grabbed 21.2. In any case, the margin is almost too slim to call, and this is your second tier in the Big Ten. Michigan State still reigns, but both Purdue and Wisconsin are right there, and both deserve your respect. That was Thursday night's lesson.

No. 22 Georgia Tech 79, Wake Forest 58: Anatomy of a thorough beatdown: Make a lot of shots (59.3 percent eFG). Stop the other team from doing the same (35.2 percent eFG). All else equal, um, yeah: You're going to win that game. Such was the case in Atlanta last night, as Georgia Tech laid the aforementioned thorough beatdown on Wake Forest, 79-58. Paul Hewitt said it best: "I'm not sure we can play much better than that." I'm not sure any team can. At least not any team in the ACC. Now it's up to Georgia Tech to replicate that performance. If they can, even sporadically, the Yellow Jackets ought to treat their fans to an awfully interesting couple of months.

Everywhere else: Ole Miss shot well on the way to a 10-point road win over Auburn ... Pitt rebounded from a slow start -- the Panthers trailed by four at the half -- to take a 63-53 win over St. John's in Pittsburgh; this was not a game Pittsburgh was allowed to lose ... Seton Hall and South Florida played into overtime, and that's when Dominique Jones took over, giving South Florida the two-point win ... Santa Clara pushed Gonzaga to the limit, causing even Ken Pomeroy to worry, but the Bulldogs rallied from a 14-point deficit to take the win ... Virginia Tech got an impressive win at Virginia in overtime; Tony Bennett has had the Cavaliers playing solid basketball, so a loss at home is something of a surprise ... Siena fought off another test from upstart St. Peter's ... and Cal took another step toward Pac-10 supremacy with a win over Arizona State in Tempe.