Monday, February 18, 2013
Turgeon gets much-needed win over Duke
Monday musings one month from Selection Sunday:
• Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn't need to beat Duke for his own credibility among the Maryland faithful. But let's be honest, the Terps' win over Duke on Saturday definitely helps the perception that Turgeon can compete with the top programs in the country. Turgeon is as competitive a coach as there is and wears his passion on his sleeve for everyone to see. Maryland probably couldn't have found a coach as similar to former coach Gary Williams as Turgeon is in terms of displaying his intensity for winning.
• Le'Bryan Nash is clearly benefiting from playing next to Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State. Nash wasn't ready for handling all of the attention a year ago as a sophomore. Smart is a highlight waiting to happen at both ends of the court and other players can be overshadowed as a result. That's fine. Nash was able to score 26 points in the Bedlam win over Oklahoma and not be the story. That's because Smart's line was that good: 40 minutes, 28 points, shooting 11-of-14 from the line with 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 block and 2 steals.
I'm in on Oklahoma State and could definitely see this team making the second weekend at the NCAA tournament.
• I'm not giving up on UCLA. Once this team gets in the NCAAs, the Bruins have too much talent to not be taken seriously. Now, they could easily be out in the first round, but I don't think anyone will be surprised if the Bruins are playing in the Sweet 16.
• The same goes for UNLV.
• Duke's Mason Plumlee may have lost any shot to win the Wooden Award after his performance against Maryland. That may sound harsh. But Maryland's Alex Len's 19 points and 9 rebounds as compared to Plumlee's season-low 4 points and 3 boards before fouling out may have disqualified the Blue Devils' star forward.
• Did anyone notice that Seth Allen had 8 turnovers for Maryland? Nope. All that matters is he made the play to try and draw contact in the Terps' final possession to get to the line and sink the game-winning free throws.
• Duke needs to get more minutes for Alex Murphy, if his hard-nosed, productive 8 minutes against the Terps (including a steal and a nasty flush) are an example of what's to come.
• Wisconsin's victory over Ohio State on Sunday should go down as one of the most impressive under coach Bo Ryan. Oh, and it likely means the Badgers could finish in the top four yet again under Ryan.
• Don't let the identical 6-7 Big Ten records of Iowa and Minnesota deceive you. These two teams are heading in complete opposite directions, as the Hawkeyes are winners of three straight while the Gophers have lost three of four and seven of their past 10.
• Was there any doubt Kansas wasn't going to respond after a three-game losing streak?
• Big men should watch the way Indiana's Cody Zeller runs the floor. That's something to be copied. It will distinguish him from other bigs in the draft whenever he comes out.
• Memphis coach Josh Pastner and Colorado State Larry Eustachy are doing probably the two most underrated coaching jobs of any ranked teams. The Tigers (22-3) don't have a true road loss this season -- one loss at home and two on neutral courts -- and they haven't lost since Dec. 15. Pastner said the Tigers like going on the road because of all the home pressures they face, especially with as many local players as they have. Meanwhile, Eustachy has the Rams calm, cool and collected in challenging New Mexico atop the Mountain West.
• Best team in the state of Florida right now? I was asked on "SportsCenter" Sunday and I chose Miami. It's probably a push. But the possibility of two Florida teams earning No. 1 seeds and playing in the Final Four is something.
• Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie deserves all of the credit that's been sent his way for keeping the Huskies focused with no postseason carrot. Donnie Jones should get some similar praise for keeping UCF motivated as well, since the Golden Knights can't take part in the postseason, either.
• If I'm Oregon head coach Dana Altman, Tony Woods' elbow to the back of Brock Motum's head would have me concerned. The Ducks gave Woods a second chance after he was pushed out at Wake Forest. Woods should be on his best behavior.
• Colorado's defense on Arizona State's Evan Gordon on the final possession could not have been worse. You could see the frustration on Buffs coach Tad Boyle's face as the game ended. But both teams have shown they are NCAA-worthy at times and I won't be surprised if both ASU and CU are in the field on Selection Sunday.
• Texas is 1-1 with Myck Kabongo. But this season could not have gone worse for Rick Barnes. Can he get a restart?
• Providence has the look of a spoiler in the Big East tournament.
• I'm not sure there are many teams that can match Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland on the perimeter when all three are making shots from beyond the arc or inside driving into the lane.
• If Akron (MAC) and Louisiana Tech (WAC) run the table in their respective leagues but lose in their conference tournament title games, should they get an at-large bid? I'd like to see both get rewarded.
• Kentucky's defensive problems are fixable, but the gap between the effectiveness of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein has to close or else the Wildcats may not have a real shot at making it to the NCAA tournament.
• Kentucky has to clean up at home over its next three games against Vanderbilt, Missouri and Mississippi State. However, the Wildcats' final three regular-season games will be extremely tough with road games at Arkansas, Georgia and at home against Florida. I'm not sure a 3-3 finish gets the Cats in safely without a decent run in the SEC tournament.
• One thing that was lost in the Kentucky defeat was the job Tennessee did. Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin may have needed that win nearly as much as Turgeon needed to beat Duke.
• If you haven't seen Air Force's Michael Lyons play then you're missing one of the top players in the country. Lyons may be the Mountain West Player of the Year.
• Not sure if there was a worse loss this week then Temple falling to A-10-winless Duquesne at home.
• I keep waiting for Baylor to turn it on defensively and make a run in the Big 12. I may have to wait until next year.
• If Harvard gets back to the NCAAs without Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, leaders on last year's team, it should go down as Tommy Amaker's best coaching job. Casey and Curry withdrew from the school amid accusations of improper conduct in a cheating scandal.
• North Carolina lighting up Virginia was impressive, but will it stick? Can you buy all-in with the Tar Heels? Not yet.
• VCU, Butler, Saint Louis or La Salle. Which do you have in the A-10? This may be the second-most competitive race for a conference title behind the Big Ten.
• If you had to pick just one between NC State or Kansas State to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, which would it be? I might lean toward the Wildcats.
• UConn's guards were discussing winning the Big East regular season after beating Syracuse Wednesday. But to have a shot they couldn't slip. The loss to Villanova essentially makes attaining that goal highly unlikely.
• Gonzaga, like Duke in the ACC, gets every team's best shot, its top crowd and most passionate effort. That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise if Gonzaga plays a tight road game.
• Indiana-Michigan looked like a series that could meet four times this season -- twice in regular season, Big Ten tournament and Final Four. Now I won't be surprised if it's Indiana-Michigan State.