Player of the week: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
It's a good thing Cleveland State lost to Detroit earlier in the week or it would be hard not to give Norris Cole this honor after his historic 41-point, 20-rebound, 9-assist performance on Saturday. But alas, the Weekly Watch's player of the week award has rules and we don't deviate. You must win all the games in the week to get the honor.
-- Andy Katz
More performances that wowed us
-- Brett Edgerton
Team of the Week: Pittsburgh
The Panthers had every excuse to drop at least one game, perhaps two, in a daunting road swing through West Virginia and Villanova. Ashton Gibbs, the team's top scorer and lead guard, was out this week with an MCL injury. Pitt was going against two teams that have strong guards.
More teams that impressed us
-- Andy Katz
Observations from the week that was
• College coaches who have been tossed aside or chose to leave at a higher level have resurfaced quite well this season and are proving that they can check their egos at the door and be successful at a lower level. Cliff Ellis, who had his share of success at Clemson and Auburn, is leading quite a run at Coastal Carolina with the Chanticleers atop the Big South with a 15-0 mark and the longest win streak in the country at 22.
Dan Monson was pushed out of Minnesota midseason and resurfaced at Long Beach State, where he has the 49ers at the top of the Big West with a 10-2 record and on their way to a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Bobby Cremins, who left Georgia Tech and who has the court named after him in Atlanta, has led a resurgence at the College of Charleston with a 12-2 mark atop the South Division in the Southern Conference and in position to get to the NCAA tournament. And in the Sun Belt, the home of so many second and third chances, the two division leaders are led by former big-time coaches in Mike Jarvis (St. John's) at Florida Atlantic in the East and John Brady (LSU) with Arkansas State in the West.
• I'm guilty every season of overreacting to early-season losses. UCLA and Florida are the two latest examples. The Bruins lost at home to Montana and didn't look good in New York in November. Now the Bruins are in position to possibly win the Pac-10 with a 9-3 league record and nonconference wins over BYU and St. John's that may make them an at-large lock fairly soon. Meanwhile, Florida has assumed its place atop the SEC East with a two-game lead, finishing off close games at home and on the road because of its experienced perimeter and inspired play from Chandler Parsons, who played 37 minutes with a bruised hip/thigh that will likely keep him out of practice all week (Florida doesn't play again until Sunday at LSU). How Florida lost at home to Jacksonville and South Carolina is still hard to fathom. But it happened and the Gators are hardly worse off for it now that they're 20-5 overall and 9-2 in the SEC. When will I and others learn to chill over odd losses in November and December? (Remember St. John's losing to Fordham and St. Bonaventure in back-to-back games?) Well, probably never.
For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
• Florida State will have to circle the wagons. If the tournament were seeded today, the Seminoles (18-7, 8-3 ACC) would be in. But the tournament isn't being seeded today. It's being seeded in a month, right around the time FSU's best player -- forward Chris Singleton -- could be returning from the fracture he suffered in his foot in Florida State's win over Virginia Saturday. It almost seems certain FSU will take a couple of extra losses in the next month. The question is whether the Noles can avoid a late-season collapse and, if they don't, how the committee -- which does consider injuries, team makeup, and relative results when selecting and seeding teams -- will treat a team that may or may not be getting its best player back in time for the tournament.
• Kentucky still hasn't solved the road. Here's a fun fact about the Wildcats, courtesy of A Sea Of Blue's Glenn Logan: Kentucky's five SEC losses -- all of which have come on the road, the most recent of which was Saturday's 81-77 loss at Vanderbilt -- have come by a total of 17 points. With a few breaks here and there, a few late buckets down the stretch, a few conversions instead of turnovers and, yes, a little luck, Kentucky could just as easily be 10-0 in the SEC. But we're not talking horseshoes or hand grenades. We're talking hoops. In college hoops, you're judged based on how many of those close road games you win. For a variety of reasons -- "lack of experience" is the most frequently cited analysis regarding this freshman-heavy team -- Kentucky hasn't gotten the job done.There are positive and negative conclusions to draw. You could argue that this doesn't matter; after all, there are no true road games in the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, you could argue that playing on the road is a pressure situation, and so are games in the tourney, and if you melt in one you're likely to melt in the other. Plus, UK has done some pretty serious damage to its chances of landing a seed higher than No. 4 or 5. In other words, Kentucky is not nearly as bad as its record implies. But there are reasons to be concerned all the same.
For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
What's On Tap
7 p.m.: West Virginia at Syracuse (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Kansas at Kansas State (ESPN)
7 p.m.: George Mason at VCU (ESPNU)
8 p.m.: Maryland at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
9 p.m.: Michigan St. at Ohio State (ESPN)
9 p.m.: St. John's at Marquette (ESPNU)
6:30 p.m.: Wisconsin at Purdue (BTN)
7 p.m.: Georgetown at Connecticut (ESPN3)
7 p.m.: Louisville at Cincinnati (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Vanderbilt at Georgia (ESPNU)
8 p.m.: UAB at Memphis (CBS-CS)
8 p.m.: UTEP at Southern Miss
9 p.m.: Oklahoma St. at Texas (ESPN2)
10:30 p.m.: New Mexico at SDSU (the Mtn.)
7 p.m.: Richmond at Temple (CBS-CS)
7 p.m.: Minnesota at Penn State (ESPN)
8:30 p.m.: Washington St. at Arizona (FSN)
7 p.m.: VCU at Wichita State (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Connecticut at Louisville (ESPN)
Noon: Pittsburgh at St. John's (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Notre Dame at West Virginia (CBS)
1 p.m.: Georgia at Tennessee (CBS)
1:45 p.m.: Texas at Nebraska (ESPN3)
4 p.m.: Boston College at UNC (ESPN)
5 p.m.: Missouri St. at Valparaiso (ESPN2)
6 p.m.: Washington at Arizona (ESPN)
7 p.m.: UNLV at Colorado St. (the Mtn.)
7 p.m.: George Mason at No. Iowa (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Utah State at Saint Mary's (ESPN2)
9 p.m.: Texas A&M at Oklahoma St. (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Illinois at Michigan St. (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Ohio State at Purdue (CBS)
1 p.m.: Cleveland St. at Old Dominion (ESPN2)
10 p.m.: UCLA at California (FSN)
O'Neil: Three questions
• So who's No. 1?For the first time in a long time, there isn't a clear-cut answer. The likely candidate is Kansas, the team that was sitting right behind Ohio State in the most recent top 25. But there's no chance it'll be anywhere near a unanimous decision. The Jayhawks lost in their head-to-head game against the nation's third-ranked team, Texas, so how will pollsters account for that? And what to make of Ohio State? The Buckeyes lost to Wisconsin, but lost in a gym where the Badgers never lose. How much should Ohio State be penalized for that, if at all? Mix in the Pittsburgh conundrum -- what to do with a team that is 11-1 in the country's toughest league and beat Texas head-to-head -- and it all should make for an interesting (and ultimately meaningless) debate.
• How will the Bucks handle their first loss?Even if Ohio State had won at Wisconsin, this wasn't going to stack up as an easy week for the Buckeyes. On Tuesday they host Michigan State and on Sunday head to Purdue. Both teams have plenty of talent and are capable of going toe-to-toe with OSU. The Spartans are currently playing for their NCAA tournament lives and beating Ohio State would go a long way to restore some luster to Michigan State's résumé. Purdue, meantime, will be coming off a game against Wisconsin. If the Boilers win that one, this becomes even bigger. Remember, Purdue was undressed, 87-64, in Columbus last month. Ohio State has done a terrific job of handling the pressure of success all season, remaining a loose and relaxed group despite the bull's-eye that an undefeated mark carries with it. Can the Bucks handle a little bit of adversity equally well? • Does the NCAA Committee on Infractions get paid by the hour? Tennessee acknowledged Bruce Pearl misled NCAA investigators in September and Jim Calhoun stood before the COI on Oct. 15. And the Vols have yet to receive a notice of allegations and Connecticut has yet to receive its NCAA punishment. Pearl's eight-game suspension from SEC commissioner Mike Slive has come and gone, while the game between the NCAA's problem children has been decided -- and still nothing. As Andy Katz wrote last week, the NCAA promises that its work is progressing in the UConn case and presumably the same can be said about the Tennessee situation. But thanks to the sloth-like pace of the processes, both teams continue to play under a shadow. Being thorough is honorable, necessary and exemplary, but there is also a need here to give teams an answer. Just as asking Josh Selby and Enes Kanter to wait months to learn when and if they could play seemed unfair, asking these two schools to continue to cool their heels for nearly six months, unsure of what sort of punishment awaits them, seems a bit ridiculous, too.
-- Dana O'Neil
O'Neil on the No. 1 mystery
Places to be this week
Manhattan, Kan. (Kansas at Kansas St.): Kansas State's tourney chances were still very much alive before Saturday's devastating last-second, refs-at-the-monitor loss at Colorado. The Wildcats are now in much deeper trouble. Perhaps the only thing that could bring them back is an upset win over Kansas, so maybe it's convenient the Jayhawks come to Manhattan on Monday night. It's now or never, Wildcats.
Columbus, Ohio (Michigan St. at Ohio St.): Has Michigan State turned a corner? No, the Spartans' blowout home win over Penn State isn't going to revive this team's flagging at-large chances all on its own. But for the first time in a long time, MSU actually played some quality basketball against a decent opponent. If the Spartans have anything unexpected in the tank, they'll need all of it and more in Columbus on Tuesday.
West Lafayette, Ind. (Wisconsin at Purdue): Can the Badgers take their show on the road? If there's one frustrating thing about this Wisconsin team, it's that it doesn't always replicate its crazy efficiency in the Kohl Center in road conference games. Coming off Saturday's huge win over No. 1 Ohio State, Wisconsin will get a chance to do just that at Purdue, which has a gigantic week ahead with home games against the Badgers and Buckeyes.
Wichita, Kan. (VCU at Wichita St.): BracketBusters begins Friday night, and with the exception of Utah State's trip to Saint Mary's, this game might be the most intriguing fixture on the Busters docket. Both of these mid-major darlings could use a high-profile win to boost their at-large chances and their own conferences' odds of getting more than one team to the NCAA tournament in March.
Louisville, Ky. (UConn at Louisville): After three months of surprisingly impressive basketball, Connecticut appears to be sliding. The Huskies have lost three of their past five -- including winnable home games versus Louisville and Syracuse and a comprehensive blowout at St. John's -- and star guard Kemba Walker hasn't been the same player who catapulted himself (and his team) into the national conversation in November. The Huskies will have to rediscover their winning ways in a hurry here. As Syracuse discovered Saturday, beating Louisville on its own floor is no easy feat.
New York City (Pittsburgh at St. John's): St. John's has been walloping teams in Madison Square Garden lately -- most notably Duke and Connecticut. Pitt has been punching teams in the mouth on the road -- most notably Georgetown and Villanova. Unstoppable force, immovable object; you know the drill. But something has to give at the Garden on Saturday.
Tucson, Ariz. (Washington at Arizona): If Washington wants to dethrone Arizona and reclaim its top spot in the Pac-10 -- not to mention solidify its once-certain, now-shaky at-large hopes -- than it almost certainly has to get this game at the McKale Center. That will be easier said than done; the Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season lately in a stretch that has seen them win six straight Pac-10 games, including wins over UCLA and USC, at Washington State, and a gutty triple-overtime thriller at Cal.
Moraga, Calif. (Utah St. at Saint Mary's): If you had to pick just one BracketBusters game to watch -- and I advise against this, because there are plenty of good ones on the schedule -- this would be it. Utah State is the classic mid-major team with a gaudy record but no good wins. Saint Mary's has been more impressive in general, but could use a high-profile game to solidify an otherwise so-so at-large résum&233;. You don't want to miss this one.
Cedar Falls, Iowa (George Mason at Northern Iowa): As I said: You don't want to pick just one BracketBusters game. While the Panthers have struggled somewhat lately, they are still respected enough that if the red-hot Patriots were to win at VCU midweek and then pick up their 13th straight win at UNI, they'd be getting pretty close to at-large heaven.
East Lansing, Mich. (Illinois at Mich. St.): In case you needed another reminder why predicting college hoops can be so difficult, take note that this game is College GameDay's featured game of the week. Rece, Digger, Hubert, Jay and the rest of the crew will be at the Breslin Center this weekend, and there's no mystery why: In the preseason, this looked to be a major Big Ten battle. Instead, it's a meeting of the Big Ten's two most disappointing, uneven teams fighting for their respective lives. In that way, it will be interesting, but it certainly won't be the top-10 cracker we would have expected in October.
West Lafayette, Ind. (Ohio St. at Purdue): We don't do double entries very often in the Places To Be, but this game deserves it. If Ohio State is going to lose again before the Big Ten regular season draws to a close, it's likely to be at Mackey Arena, where the Boilermakers have yet to lose this season.
Norfolk, Va. (Cleveland St. at Old Dominion): Another BracketBusters must-watch. Cleveland State's Norris Cole just put a bow on a 41-point, 20-rebound, 9-assist game against Youngstown State, but can he do enough to get his team an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament? Old Dominion is in much better shape at-large-wise after its impressive road win at VCU this weekend, but like the Vikings, the Monarchs could certainly use every win over a plausible NCAA tournament team they can get.
-- Eamonn Brennan
Brennan on UConn-Louisville
Upset pick of the week
St. John's over Pitt, Saturday: Why not? I just got done lauding Pitt's week and tabbed the Panthers as the team of the week. But the Red Storm have been quite a story in New York this season with four RPI top-10 wins at home against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke and Connecticut. Why not a fifth? St. John's has the toughness, experience and up-and-down style to get Pitt out of its comfort zone on the road. The Panthers have handled all sorts of challenges so far this season and this is yet another one. But no one will be shocked if the Red Storm can pull off another "upset" at home, given the way they have made Madison Square Garden a happening place of late. The Storm should be playing for seeding at this point, and this win would only help their status with the selection committee.
-- Andy Katz
Leung on Utah State-Saint Mary's
Week in quotes
• "Halfway through the league, when you've won one game and you're not competitive in others, you start to make some decisions."
-- Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman on the midseason firing of coach Heath Schroyer.
• "I don't really play the stats when I'm out there playing. After the game, I heard I needed one more [assist], but I'm more happy we got the win."
-- Cleveland State guard Norris Cole on a 41-point, 20-rebound, 9-assist performance against Youngstown State.
• "You can only be out there for so long, because there are so many people trying to get closer and closer, it is suffocating almost. It is fun to celebrate with them, but once you can't breathe you're like, 'All right, I have to get out of here.'"
-- Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer on the postgame celebration on the court after beating top-ranked Ohio State.
• "I don't look at [Thursday's] game as David vs. Goliath, it might be Fred vs. King Kong or something, but you don't have a chance if you play with fear."
-- Loyola Marymount coach Max Good to The Spokesman-Review before a loss to Gonzaga.
• "He was playing so well, and all of a sudden, the runners, the agents, the third-party people, they're all telling him he's an All-American and this and that."
-- Illinois coach Bruce Weber to ESPN 1000 in Chicago on guard Demetri McCamey.