Originally Published: December 6, 2010

Illinois, Irving headline the week that was

Illinois V. UNCJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesBefore taking out the Zags in Seattle, Illinois boosted the Big Ten by beating North Carolina by 12.

Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 5.

Team of the week: Illinois

Last week: Beat North Carolina 79-67; beat No. 24 Gonzaga 73-61 in Seattle

The Illini have had one slip so far this season, losing in overtime to Texas in New York. But that's a quality defeat, and this team hasn't showed any signs of a tailspin. Illinois has had a hard time finding consistency in nonconference play since it reached the title game in 2005. That's not the case now. The Illini bounced back by beating Maryland the next day, then got fully back on track this past week. They bounced North Carolina by 12 points behind Mike Davis (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Demetri McCamey (eight assists), then went to Gonzaga-friendly Seattle and knocked off the Zags, also by 12.

That's two double-digit wins over a pair of teams ranked in the preseason top 12, whether they were deserving in retrospect or not. The Illini had balance against Gonzaga, getting contributions from Davis, McCamey, Mike Tisdale, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul during key moments. Illinois still has one more major nonconference event: the Braggin' Rights game against Missouri in St. Louis. If it wins that toss-up game, Bruce Weber's group should be 12-1 heading into the rugged Big Ten season.

--Andy Katz

More teams that impressed us

Virginia: This was a close call, and the Cavaliers easily could've been the pick for team of the week. It was a pretty remarkable week, after all. The same team that lost by 21 to Stanford and 106-63 to Washington won road games at No. 13 Minnesota and at Virginia Tech against the rival Hokies, who had such high hopes heading into the season. Seems hard to believe, but the Cavs should be favorites in each of their next seven games before ACC play.

[+] EnlargeChris Wright
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelIn Kansas City, Chris Wright saved the Hoyas with a 3 in the final second of regulation.
Georgetown: The Hoyas went to Kansas City and were one shot from being beaten by Missouri. Yet key shots by Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark throughout the game ensured that they left a hostile environment with an overtime win. Georgetown then outdistanced WAC favorite Utah State 68-51 in a solid week of work.

Miami: After an embarrassing loss to Rutgers earlier in the season, it would be hard to imagine a better week for the Hurricanes, who crushed Ole Miss, then were clutch down the stretch in a win over West Virginia. That's two significant victories for a program attempting to gain relevance in the city and within the ACC.

San Diego State: The undefeated Aztecs continue to roll with double-digit home wins over Saint Mary's and Wichita State, two very talented mid-majors. SDSU continues to impress.

Duke: The beat goes on, as the Blue Devils beat No. 6 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, then beat Butler by 12 in New Jersey. Duke is finished with nonconference challenges.

UCF: Is this the season the Knights finally reach their potential? Under first-year coach Donnie Jones and sophomore Marcus Jordan (yes, that guy), UCF sits at 7-0 after a week in which it upset No. 16 Florida in what could be a signature victory for the program.

Kansas State: The Wildcats played their first true road game of the season and won by five points at dangerous Washington State. K-State handled the adverse situation, dealt with a tight game, came up with a key defensive stop late and left the Palouse with a solid road win.

Purdue: The Boilermakers shook off a loss to Richmond in Chicago the previous week to win a key road game at Virginia Tech. Then they smoked Alabama back home this past weekend.

Florida Atlantic: Yet another team from the Sunshine State, and this one is clearly the most surprising. The Owls hadn't done a whole lot heading into this past week, but out of nowhere, Mike Jarvis' team won at Mississippi State and beat a South Florida team that had been playing well. Sounds like a Sun Belt contender to me.

--Andy Katz

Player of the week: Kyrie Irving, Fr., G, Duke

A first-team preseason All-American came out of the Triangle, but maybe it should've been Irving and not North Carolina's Harrison Barnes. Irving scored 31 points in a variety of ways as he helped Duke beat Michigan State in the headline game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Then, against Butler in East Rutherford, N.J., he wasn't the featured scorer in the first half, had the lane clogged on him and couldn't get untracked early. But Irving saved his best for last, scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half, including two key 3s that put away the Bulldogs. Irving said he sprained his right toe and was limping noticeably after the game. But he did make another appearance in the game even after hobbling off the court. Irving is clearly a gamer, a player and a major reason the Blue Devils are the overwhelming favorite to win the title.

--Andy Katz

Other contenders

Michael Glover, Iona: In his team's 2-0 MAAC start, the junior forward contributed 69 points and 25 rebounds and made 73 percent of his shots. Glover put up a 39 and 14 against Canisius and a mere 30 and 11 against Niagara. In the latter contest, he was 14-of-17 from the field.

Mike Scott, Virginia: In UVa's stunning road wins at Minnesota and Virginia Tech, the team's senior leader threw together a pair of double-doubles: 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Gophers and 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Hokies, including a game-clinching offensive board.

James Nunnally, UC Santa Barbara: As the Gauchos picked up two impressive double-digit victories, Nunnally stole some of the spotlight from Orlando Johnson by scoring 29 (11-for-14 field goal shooting) against Loyola Marymount and 34 at Santa Clara. He was 17-of-19 from the charity stripe and 8-of-11 from the 3-point line.

--Brett Edgerton

More performances that wowed us

Austin Freeman, Georgetown: Freeman scored 31 points and connected on 6 of 11 shots from behind the arc as the Hoyas blew an 18-point lead, rallied at the end of the regulation and ultimately knocked off Missouri in overtime.

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AP Photo/Mary Ann ChastainIt was not a particularly pleasant week to be a Clemson Tiger.

J.T. Terrell, Wake Forest: In an otherwise dreadful season in Winston-Salem, the freshman guard provided a bright spot by contributing 32 points, including a last-second game-winner against Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Darren Moore, UC Irvine: In a 90-82 win at San Diego, the senior guard scored a career-high 30 points and added 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. How's this for efficient? Moore was 9-of-9 from the field, 3-of-3 from 3 and 9-of-12 from the free throw line.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut: All he did against UMBC was post his first career triple-double (24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). Ho-hum.

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: His basket with nine seconds left in regulation forced overtime at Virginia Tech, and he also contributed a go-ahead shot late in overtime as the Boilermakers beat the Hokies 58-55 behind Johnson's 29 points.

Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: In a 71-58 win at Western Illinois, the junior forward was 14-of-18 from the field and 6-of-7 from behind the arc, finishing with 35 points and six rebounds.

Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: It was in a losing effort (barely), but when a player steps into KU's Allen Fieldhouse and puts up 33 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists -- and shoots 11-of-15 from the field, 5-of-6 from 3 and 6-of-7 from the free throw line -- he deserves recognition.

Andrew Goudelock, Charleston: After pouring in 28 in the team's close loss at North Carolina, the senior guard contributed 33 points (13-of-19 FG) and six assists in the Cougars' 82-73 victory over rival Davidson.

Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State: Sure, it took two overtimes, but 30 points and 18 rebounds is 30 points and 18 rebounds. The senior put together the game of his life in OSU's 92-87 win at La Salle.

Noah Dahlman, Wofford: He is a known quantity in the SoCon but probably doesn't get enough love nationally. Dahlman scored 37 points and grabbed eight boards in his team's 75-69 victory at Elon.

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: When struggling UNC needed a win in the worst way, the big man came through -- notching a career game in a 75-73 win over No. 11 Kentucky. Zeller had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks as he shot 8-of-13 from the field and connected on 11 of 12 free throws.

--Brett Edgerton

Scores that caught our eye

Memphis 78, Arkansas State 71 (OT) -- The Tigers jumped out to a 23-5 lead against 1-6 Arkansas State and then inexplicably let the Red Wolves climb all the way until Memphis finally rallied from four down in overtime to eke out the win. Always-positive Josh Pastner didn't even bother putting a positive spin on this one (see below).

UCF 57, Florida 54 -- Another win for Conference USA, but this one was followed by elation -- at least on the Central Florida side. Much as he did a couple of years ago, Gators coach Billy Donovan called out his veterans afterward and questioned the team's leadership (also see below).

Miami 79, West Virginia 76 -- Notice that just about everyone in the state of Florida seems to be playing well except for the Gators and Noles? It's hard to believe this is the same Canes team that lost 61-45 to lowly Rutgers. They've won four in a row since, including wins over Ole Miss and WVU.

Miami (Ohio) 75, Xavier 64 -- The other Miami notched an impressive victory as well, taking out the intrastate Musketeers rather easily. Xavier had been playing with fire for a while with several close wins. Not this time.

East Tennessee State 73, Dayton 68 -- Let's just call it like it is: This has not been a good start to the season for the Atlantic 10. The league's so-called upper half is dropping way too many games like this. Before this, Dayton scored 34 points and was doubled up by Cincinnati. After this, ETSU went out and lost to South Carolina-Upstate. Not good.

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AP Photo/Andy ManisJon Leuer averaged 25.5 ppg in Wisconsin's two wins this week.

South Carolina 64, Clemson 60 -- Throw in a home loss to Michigan a few days earlier, and you've got a not-so-fun week in the life of first-year coach Brad Brownell. But give credit to the Wolverines, who received a much-needed confidence boost, and to the Gamecocks, who ended a six-game losing streak to their bitter rivals.

Wisconsin 87, NC State 48 -- Cue the annual Sidney Lowe hot-seat stories. This was supposed to be the season the NCAA tourney drought ended -- and it still might be -- but the Wolfpack looked positively horrific against the Badgers, albeit without veteran leader Tracy Smith. It was the third-worst beatdown in the 12-year history of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Morehead State 75, Murray State 65 -- Maybe we all pegged the wrong national sleeper out of the Ohio Valley? The Racers returned everybody from an NCAA tourney winner, but the Eagles have been a more impressive group so far. In this big early-December matchup in the OVC, MSU's Kenneth Faried stole the show as usual with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Utah Valley 70, Oregon State 68 -- Seems it's time to start wondering if the Craig Robinson era is really working. Sure, he inherited a mess, but the signs of progress are starting to grind to a halt. This team lost to Seattle for a second straight year, handed 1-6 Texas Southern its only win of the season and followed up the Utah Valley debacle with a 83-57 meltdown at Colorado.

Missouri 83, Oregon 80 -- Oregon State is playing the way Oregon was supposed to play this season, except the Ducks didn't really get the memo. Dana Altman's depleted bunch had no business nearly rallying from 20 down to scare the eighth-ranked Tigers, but that's exactly what they did. They aren't good by any means, but they aren't nearly as bad as most of us had thought.

Air Force 57, Evansville 56 -- This is probably more than real Evansville than the team that somehow won at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler. But then again, who exactly are the Air Force Falcons? The program has struggled mightily in the past couple of years, and things looked no differently after a loss to Division III Colorado College on Nov. 17. But AFA hasn't lost since, picking up four straight Division I wins.

Montana 66, UCLA 57 -- So the Bruins took that controversial Kansas loss really hard, eh? Montana isn't bad by any means, but a team that lost by 15 to 1-6 Nevada probably shouldn't be walking into Pauley Pavilion and strolling out with an easy victory. The Grizzlies shot 52 percent and held UCLA to 31 percent. The reeling Bruins have dropped four in a row.

USC 73, Texas 56 -- Oh, Texas. Ever the temptress. Just when it looked as though it was safe to jump back on the Longhorns' wagon, Rick Barnes and crew go out to SoCal and lay an egg, shooting 32 percent and getting blown out by an SC team that has losses to Rider, TCU and Bradley on its résumé.

-- Brett Edgerton

The week in quotes

• "I've made mistakes, I clearly did, but what I was hoping for was that some other dumbass would get on the front page and take me off the hook. I miss Lane Kiffin."
-- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl speaking to boosters (Knoxville News Sentinel)

• "Bad calls happen. It's just unfortunate what happened at that point of a game where it would decide a game. I got a lot of phone calls from people expressing that they felt bad for us from all over the country."
-- UCLA coach Ben Howland on Malcolm Lee being whistled for a foul with 0.7 seconds left in a tie game at Kansas

• "We do need MIT drastically, because [commissioner John Marinatto] is not figuring this one out."
-- Louisville coach Rick Pitino joking to The Associated Press about the Big East adding a 17th member (TCU)

• "Our issues are bigger than this loss. We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better."
-- Florida coach Billy Donovan after his team's 57-54 to UCF

• "One of my closest friends in coaching [Jim Boeheim] said, 'You're playing where, and what's your schedule for the next five games?' He said, 'I think you're nuts.' And Boeheim's won a lot of games."
-- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli on hosting Minnesota and playing road games against Drexel, Villanova, Princeton and Creighton to start December

• "This is my second year as head coach. I have never been more disappointed in a group of guys and the way they played. Absolutely disappointed in them. We got outplayed by Arkansas State, and we were fortunate to get the W."
-- Memphis coach Josh Pastner on his team's lackluster overtime win over Arkansas State

• "When I first started out here, I was the Ticket Man. I probably could have got put in jail. I had tickets in every pocket. I'm going all over campus trying to give 'em away, and now we're a hot ticket."
-- San Diego State coach Steve Fisher on the excitement surrounding his 8-0 Aztecs

Observations from the week that was

Andy Katz

Conference play is a different deal: Just when it seemed that Old Dominion was ready to become a Top 25 team after beating Xavier and Richmond (its only loss being a narrow one to Georgetown), the Monarchs went out and lost to Delaware. The loss in their Colonial opener means the Monarchs are suddenly in a hole in the conference. And as much as ODU has put itself in position to become an at-large team, it can't afford to lose to teams that are likely to finish in the bottom half of the conference.

Jon Leuer continues to rise: The Wisconsin big man was one of the handful selections for the U.S. select team that scrimmaged with the national team during the summer. He quietly has become one of the best scoring forwards in the country. Leuer is the reason the Badgers have a shot to finish in the upper half of the Big Ten and be back in the NCAA tournament yet again. He scored 22 and 29 in decisive wins over NC State and South Dakota. He's efficient with his shooting, gets to the line (7-of-8 against the Wolfpack) and rebounds at a high rate.

For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog

Eamonn Brennan

The ACC is what we thought it was: The Atlantic Coast Conference entered the season with major questions about its depth. Would anyone challenge Duke? Would the conference deserve more tournament teams than the Mountain West? Who in the ACC's soft second tier would emerge by season's end? The ACC/Big Ten Challenge gave us plenty to chew on, but more than anything, it proved what most thought about the ACC before the season started: This is a mediocre conference. The list of ostensible challengers to Duke's throne -- Virginia Tech, North Carolina, NC State -- all lost their Challenge games in a variety of disappointing ways. (UNC looked out of whack in a loss at Illinois; Virginia Tech couldn't score in a tight loss to Purdue at home; NC State was blown out by 39 points at Wisconsin.) The Challenge provided a few surprises, including Virginia, which looked like a team on the rise in a surprise win at Minnesota and then followed it up with a win in Blacksburg. But overall, none of the ACC's teams looked all that impressive, and as of now, the conference clearly has fewer good teams than any other big six conference, save for the Pac-10.

Georgetown will contend for the Big East title: Give credit to the Hoyas: John Thompson III gave his team a brutal nonconference schedule, a series of tests filled with road games and tough mid-major opponents. Thus far, his team has passed with flying colors. The Hoyas' most impressive victory came in what was essentially a road game against Missouri in Kansas City, when Georgetown fought back late to force overtime and win the most thrilling game of the season to date. And then, with a tough road matchup with Temple looming next week, Georgetown thoroughly handled Utah State, one of the nation's best mid-major offenses, in what could have turned into a sneaky trap game. Thompson's team could have been forgiven for having a loss or three by this point in the season. Instead, the Hoyas have taken that tough schedule and made the most of it.

For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog


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