• The Big East is on quite a roll this week.
Connecticut was dominant in dispatching Miami and Wisconsin to win the Paradise Jam in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.Tuesday, Notre Dame outlasted Texas, 81-80, in the best game to date in this young season behind a monster performance by Luke Harangody (29 points, 13 rebounds) in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational. Late Tuesday night, Syracuse came back from 13 down to beat Kansas in overtime, 89-81 to win the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn was sensational in leading the Orange, scoring 25 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer on Syracuse's last possession in regulation.
Andy Rautins (three 3s) made key buckets, Paul Harris was a defensive stopper (two blocks and 14 boards), and the Orange got solid inside play from Arinze Onuaku (19 points, 12 rebounds). The Orange switched to man-to-man coverage, which was a brilliant move to get out of the Orange's ineffective zone.Syracuse certainly looked like a top-five Big East team. The Big East season is looking like it will be an epic battle from teams 1-11. • The Atlantic 10 made a few bold moves with its conference tournament, beginning in 2010. But one of them could prove to be a gamble. The A-10 will go to a different format for the tournament, with opening-round games on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at campus sites. The quarterfinals will begin on Friday, March 12 and then semifinals on Saturday, March 13 and the final on Sunday, March 14 at a site to be determined. It's the Sunday finish that's the issue. The selection committee can't make a conference finish its tournament on Saturday. But the committee has made it clear that it is easier for them to fully evaluate the conference, as one member told me again Tuesday, when the conference tournament concludes on Saturday. It's obvious that the A-10 went to this format and date change to get the game televised on CBS. That is a coup for the conference since it will be featured heading into the "Selection Sunday" show. But there is a chance it could cause trouble for the conference. Let's say Xavier was playing Temple in the final and Temple was the possible at-large team and Xavier had won the regular-season title. If Temple were to win, then Xavier's and Temple's seeding could be affected as the committee hurriedly tries to finish the bracket in the afternoon. They may have to pre-slot the winner and loser. The committee has had to deal with this issue with the Big 12 recently. The Big 12 didn't want to deal with the Sunday finish and moved its conference title game to Saturday night in 2009. Playing a Sunday final also can mean a quick turnaround if a team has a Thursday first round, having to leave on Tuesday. A team playing in a Sunday final may not get home until late Sunday night or Monday morning. • Creighton coach Dana Altman should just stay away from Arkansas. He took the Razorbacks job and then withdrew to remain at Creighton in the spring of 2007. Altman took the Bluejays back to the state Tuesday to face Arkansas-Little Rock. Mike Smith's tip-in with 7.1 seconds left gave the Trojans a 71-69 victory. • Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay picked up his best win to date with the Flames. Liberty won at Virginia on Tuesday night, beating the Cavs behind Seth Curry and Kyle Ohman each scoring 26 points. • Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt did the inevitable Tuesday by putting in highly anticipated freshman guard Iman Shumpert into the starting lineup at the point. Shumpert scored 12 points, grabbed five boards and dished out eight assists in 28 minutes in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
• Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado just floods the stat sheet every time he plays. He had 19 points, 12 boards and six blocks in the Bulldogs solid road win at St. Bonaventure on Tuesday. Varnado will have to be in any conversation for SEC player of the year if this keeps up post-Jan. 1.• Boston University's only loss so far was in overtime to George Washington. The Terriers picked up a huge rivalry win over CAA-favorite Northeastern, 83-75, behind Corey Lowe's 27. • Arizona beat Santa Clara, 69-66, in the NIT consolation -- in Athens, Ga. Count Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating among those not amused by the format. Keating said he doesn't understand why there wasn't a West Coast NIT consolation site. Having Arizona and Santa Clara shipped to Athens made no sense to him. He said once Arizona couldn't host the event because of a women's game then the NIT should have turned to the Broncos. He said Santa Clara had kept Toso Pavilion open for the dates.
Meanwhile, travel was a bit odd for this event. Santa Clara was originally given the option of flying to Charlotte and then busing to Athens. But Keating contacted Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell and figured out that they could charter from Phoenix together. So Santa Clara flew commercial from San Jose to Phoenix and then met up with Arizona and the two teams chartered together to Georgia. Santa Clara was scheduled to fly home commercially on its own Wednesday.