Purdue notches top win as Gibbs gets top honor
Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Dec. 28, through Sunday, Jan. 3.
Team Of The Week: Purdue
Last week: Won at Iowa 67-56; beat West Virginia 77-62
The Boilermakers opened the Big Ten with a soft landing, playing at Iowa, arguably the 11th-place team in the league.
But Purdue hosted West Virginia on New Year's Day in a game between two undefeated and top-six teams; no other title contender played another potential NCAA No. 1-seed this week. The Boilermakers were dominant for most of the game, frustrating the Mountaineers with their tight half-court, in-your-face defense that will be their calling card throughout the season.
Purdue is doing it old-school, with its best players all upperclassmen. The Boilermakers are an elite team this season. No one should think otherwise. Purdue has emerged as the favorite to win the Big Ten, even over Michigan State. The systematic victory over West Virginia is one of the more impressive wins nationwide this season. Purdue is unlikely to lose at Mackey Arena, either. So if you want to get the Boilers, do so on the road.
The schedule is in their favor, with two of their last three games at home to end the Big Ten season, including one against Michigan State.
The Boilers want a No. 1 seed to give them an advantage on their path to pull a Sparty -- be the host school at the Final Four.
Pitt: The Panthers didn't have Gilbert Brown (academics) or Jermaine Dixon (broken foot) in practice for months. Now that they're healthy and whole, the Panthers have found their offense, beating DePaul as expected and then shocking Syracuse at the Carrier Dome to end the Orange's undefeated season. Pitt is 2-0, and if the Panthers win eight more Big East games, assuming a few are against the upper echelon, Pitt is once again an NCAA tournament team. Never doubt coach Jamie Dixon and pick him ninth again, Big East coaches. Never.
New Mexico: The Lobos were playing at home this week; once again, they have become nearly unbeatable at the Pit. But that shouldn't dismiss what they accomplished as they took out Texas Tech and Dayton. Holding off the Flyers' furious rally (14 points in the final two minutes) especially deserves praise.
Oregon: No other coach has more lives than Ernie Kent. The man is remarkable for constantly staring up from an abyss and finding a ladder to climb out. The Ducks were awful early, even with injuries, but started the Pac-10 with a sweep of Washington State and Washington. The former came with the help of an official's call that gave Tajuan Porter two free throws after Wazzu celebrated on the court; a bucket with 0.3 left on the clock gave the Cougars a lead, but Porter made the free throws to send the game into a second overtime and Oregon got the win in Pullman. The Ducks needed no help at UW, simply outrunning the Huskies in Seattle.
William & Mary: The Tribe won at Maryland to complete a rare Colonial sweep of two ACC road games (William & Mary had already won at Wake Forest). The Tribe then took care of business in the league, winning at Hofstra after trailing for most of the game. William & Mary has as good a profile as any team outside the traditional power-eight conferences (I'm including MWC and A-10 here), save Butler and Gonzaga, in the quest to get an at-large bid.
Player Of The Week: Ashton Gibbs, Pitt
Gibbs was tabbed as the starter once Walker decided against returning to the squad for a second summer. Gibbs was the lead playmaker for U-19 (and Pitt) coach Jamie Dixon, and it is paying huge dividends for the Panthers this season.
Replacing Levance Fields was a monster project, yet Gibbs is doing quite fine. He led the Panthers to a comfortable win over DePaul to start the Big East season by scoring 23 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out four assists, making 3 of 4 3s and 6 of 6 free throws. Then, in the stunner of the weekend, Gibbs was the elixir for the Panthers' offense in scoring 24 points (6 of 9 3s) and grabbing eight rebounds in the 82-72 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. In the two games, Gibbs made 14 of 22 shots (including 9 of 13 3s).
The Panthers are in the midst of a three-game Big East stretch at Syracuse (win), at Cincinnati on Monday and at Connecticut on Jan. 13. They need Gibbs to produce to have a shot in those games.
The Rest Of The Rotation
Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech: Malcolm Delaney was out for the Seton Hall game in Cancun, Mexico. No problem. Just have Hudson, who was averaging 9.8 points per game, score 41 in an overtime win against the Pirates; Virginia Tech moved to 12-1 on the season. He was 20-of-21 from the free throw line -- talk about clutch.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette lit up Arizona for 49 points, a McKale Center record, in a 30-point rout. Give him plenty of credit for one of the best performances of the season. Fredette sat out Saturday's game against Eastern New Mexico, a Division II school, with strep throat.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: Reynolds is suddenly the Robert Horry of college basketball. Reynolds made the shot of the NCAA tournament last season with a layup to beat Pitt in the Elite Eight. He's off to quite a Big East start with his shot to beat Marquette in the Big East opener. Reynolds scored 23, making 8 of 12 shots, including 3 of 5 3s. If the game is on the line, let Reynolds create.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky: You can debate whether Cousins should have been ejected. But he was given a technical foul, and the officials did review the tape of his scrum within the first minute of the Louisville game. Still, Jared Swopshire also got a technical, so the officials must have seen something on his end, too. What you can't argue against are the results from Cousins. He was a man among boys with 18 points and 18 rebounds, and he was the difference in Kentucky's rivalry win over Louisville.
Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford: In a shockingly easy 80-53 win over George Mason, Parakhouski was 11-of-15 from the field for 34 points and added 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. Then, in a win over UNC Asheville, the 6-foot-11 Belarus native had 31 points (12 of 13 from the field) and 7 boards. So, for the week: 65 points, 19 rebounds, 7 blocks, 23-28 FG (82 percent!) and 19-23 FT (83 percent).
Must Be Hard To Digest ...
• For Michigan that it was completely outplayed in the final minutes by an Indiana team that lost Maurice Creek, its best player, days before the game.
• For Tennessee to beat Memphis in a rivalry game and then 24 hours later for four players, including supposed star senior Tyler Smith, to be busted with two guns and marijuana in a rental car in Knoxville.
• For Connecticut to lose on last-second free throws by Lance Stephenson when Cincinnati's star freshman drew contact on the final possession.
• For Northwestern to be 0-2 in the Big Ten after being ranked; the losses came in an overtime game at Illinois and in a blowout loss to Michigan State at home.
• For Marquette to play so hard and so well, but not be able to finish two Big East games, losing on the road at West Virginia and at home to Villanova in the final possession.
• For Boston College to lack leadership. The Eagles have gotten up for the big names on the jersey -- beating Providence, Michigan, South Carolina and Miami in the ACC opener -- but were completely flat against Harvard and Maine. Yes, the Black Bears beat BC, by far one of the Eagles' most embarrassing losses the last two seasons.
• For Oklahoma to be pushed around so much in Spokane by Gonzaga, even if Tiny Gallon broke the backboard. The Sooners may need to clear NIT dates in March.
• For Old Dominion, once the favorite in the CAA, to get crushed by George Mason 71-55.
• For South Carolina to suddenly be completely askew after getting down by 21 at the half to Boston College and then being handled by 11 at home to Baylor after Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn dismissed forward Mike Holmes.
• For Arkansas to lose again at home by not blocking out Howard Crawford, who dunked UAB to a much-needed 73-72 win (after UAB got humbled earlier in the week at Virginia).
Places To Be This Week
Cincinnati, Monday: Suddenly Pitt is relevant again in the Big East, and this Pitt-Cincinnati game is a showdown between two 2-0 teams.
West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday: Minnesota is playing well and flying under the radar again, but winning at Purdue will be extremely difficult for any road team this season.
San Diego, Tuesday: The MWC begins in earnest, with new favorite New Mexico going to San Diego State. This is the Aztecs' chance to make their mark.
Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday: Cornell is as hot as any team in the country. Ryan Wittman went for 34 points in a win at La Salle. I'm interested to see how Kansas handles the Big Red machine. The Jayhawks should win, but this won't be a joke.
Storrs, Conn., Wednesday: Seton Hall could lose four straight if it can't beat Connecticut. The Pirates are reeling.
Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday: Charlotte caught Louisville without three players and won and now may get Tennessee without four.
Chicago, Wednesday: Iowa State needs a marquee win for everyone to notice. Here is its shot -- Duke at the United Center.
Atlanta, Saturday: Duke continues a rugged week by going to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets can't afford to lose a second home game after falling to Florida State.
Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday: UNLV goes to the Pit against the Lobos in what should be one of the better MWC games this season.
Madison, Wis., Saturday: This tricky road trip to Wisconsin could be one of the few losses for Purdue.
Portland, Ore., Saturday: Gonzaga opens the WCC at Portland. The Pilots were hot in November, not so much in December, so we'll find out if they're contenders or pretenders in the league with this one.
Oxford, Miss., Saturday: Ole Miss has been more consistent than Mississippi State, but both have found their rhythm. This should be one of the best rivalries within the SEC this season.
Berkeley, Calif., Saturday: USC is in position to challenge for the Pac-10 title, even though it can't advance to the NCAAs now with a self-imposed penalty. How the Trojans play at Cal will tell us a lot about this team going forward.
Knoxville, Tenn., Sunday: This one looked a lot better in the preseason. Kansas goes on the road again for a true road game, but no one knows if Tennessee will have its full compliment of players.
Kingston, R.I., Sunday: Suddenly, Temple at Rhode Island has major implications atop the Atlantic 10 standings.
7 p.m.: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Minnesota at Purdue (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Texas at Arkansas (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Georgia Tech at Georgia (ESPN360)
7 p.m.: Notre Dame at South Florida (ESPNU)
10:30 p.m.: New Mexico at San Diego St. (mtn.)
6:30 p.m.: Wisconsin at Michigan State (BTN)
7 p.m.: Memphis at Syracuse (ESPN2)
7 p.m.: Charlotte at Tennessee (ESPN360)
8 p.m.: Cornell at Kansas (ESPN360)
8 p.m.: Georgetown at Marquette (ESPN360)
9 p.m.: Duke vs. Iowa State (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Northern Iowa at So. Illinois (ESPNU)
10 p.m.: UNLV at BYU (mtn.)
7 p.m.: Butler at Wright St.
10:30 p.m.: Washington at Arizona St. (FSN)
Noon: UConn at Georgetown (ESPN)
Noon: Florida at Vanderbilt (ESPN2)
1:30 p.m. Purdue at Wisconsin (BTN)
1:30 p.m. Mississippi State at Ole Miss (ESPN360)
2 p.m.: Duke at Georgia Tech (ESPN)
2 p.m.: Kansas State at Missouri (ESPN2)
3:30 p.m.: Ohio State at Minnesota (BTN)
4 p.m.: UNLV at New Mexico (mtn.)
4 p.m.: Northern Iowa at Illinois State (ESPN2)
6 p.m.: Wake Forest at Miami (ESPNU)
8 p.m.: West Virginia at Notre Dame (ESPNU)
8 p.m.: Texas Tech at Oklahoma St. (ESPN360)
9 p.m.: BYU at UTEP (CBS-CS)
10 p.m.: Gonzaga at Portland (ESPNU)
10:30 p.m.: USC at California (FSN)
1 p.m.: Temple at Rhode Island
1:30 p.m.: Kansas at Tennessee (CBS)
2 p.m.: South Florida at Syracuse (ESPN360)
7:45 p.m.: Virginia Tech at North Carolina (FSN)
How About ...
• Wisconsin might have had the most impressive Big Ten win to date by smacking Ohio State 65-43 on New Year's Eve day. The Badgers won at Penn State on Sunday to start out 2-0 in league play and 12-2 overall.
• Wichita State (13-2, 2-1 MVC), Northern Iowa (12-1, 3-0) and Missouri State (12-2, 2-1 after loss at UNI on Sunday) all have stellar records.
• After sweeping the Arizona schools, USC was 2-0 in the Pac-10 for the first time since 2001-02 then the postseason ban was announced Sunday by the school for violations that occurred when O.J. Mayo played for the Trojans.
• Georgia Tech will remember the Charlotte road win as a quality W come March.
• Baylor winning twice away from home, quietly improving to 11-1 with a 70-47 blowout of Arkansas in Little Rock and an 85-74 win at South Carolina. Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh contributed 35 rebounds and 10 blocks in the two wins over the SEC schools.
• Kalin Lucas scoring 21 points in Michigan State's win at Northwestern after getting an earful from Tom Izzo on his lack of leadership.
• Gonzaga holding on and beating Illinois in Chicago less than 36 hours after a late-night win over Oklahoma in Spokane.
• Kansas dominating Temple by 32 in its first true road test.
• Cal crushing Stanford and nobody really noticing outside the Bay Area.
• Harvard's Jeremy Lin continuing to put up big numbers, going 8-of-9 for 21 points with four steals in a convincing win at Seattle.
• UTEP missing yet another chance for a quality win away from home. The Miners, who blew a shot to beat Ole Miss on a neutral court and beat Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, couldn't hold on to beat Texas Tech in Lubbock on Sunday.
• Iowa State would have been in serious trouble if it hadn't beaten Houston at home. It took two overtimes, but the Cyclones were able to escape with the win before they play Duke on Wednesday in Chicago.
• Ishmael Smith scored a career-high 28 points in the Skip Prosser Classic to lead Wake Forest to a 96-92 double-overtime win over Xavier on Sunday night. Smith is making Wake fans forget about Jeff Teague pretty quickly. WFU had an overtime win earlier in the week against Richmond, giving the Deacons a quality 11-2 start with significant wins (also beat Gonzaga in Spokane).
Highlights: Ohio State-Michigan
From Way Downtown
Chandler Parsons hit a 75-foot overtime shot to keep Florida on the path toward the NCAA tournament heading into SEC play. A loss at NC State would have been disastrous since the Gators have already fallen to South Alabama at home. The Gators were 2-of-23 on 3s prior to Parsons' shot.
Highlights: West Virginia-Purdue
• The Big West teams that beat UCLA are now seriously struggling. Long Beach lost its league opener to UC Riverside to drop to 6-8 while Cal State Fullerton fell to UC Davis and is now 5-7.
• All the good vibes about St. John's heading into the Big East are fading fast. The Red Storm got pummeled at home by lowly Providence on Sunday 74-59 to drop to 0-2 in the Big East. You can't let that happen this season. Playing without starting point guard Malik Boothe, who is nursing a strained groin from the Red Storm's loss at Georgetown on New Year's Eve, St. John's turned the ball over 23 times, resulting in 21 Friar points. The Johnnies hadn't totaled that many miscues since last February.