Ok, I’ll take the heat for it. KU goes down three days after I said that an under-manned Tennessee team had no shot. Sorry Gusto, no 40-0 for the Jayhawks this year and a different Big 12 team is, for now, #1. There were a number of surprising scores from over the weekend, so lets take a look.
#15 Tennessee 76 #1 Kansas 68
No Tyler Smith. No experienced depth in the backcourt. No problem. The Volunteers shocked the undisputed top team in the country, handing the Hawks their first loss of the season. It was hard to watch this game, mainly because the NFL playoffs were airing on another network, but I had to. Tennessee was in turmoil coming in, but give credit to Bruce Pearl for getting his team to focus in and shut down the high-powered foes from Lawrence holding them to 17 points below their season average.
Defense won this game for the Orange (as it normally does in games against teams who are superior talent-wise) as they held the Jayhawks to 13% below their season average shooting percentage, including 17% below their 3-point shooting average. Serron Collins finished with 22 points, but shot just 7-20 from the field going just 2-10 from behind the arc. Xavier Henry again disappeared in a big game, going for just 10pts (6pts below his season average) in taking just 7 shots.
Bill Self may have to face some tough questions about this one, mainly why they didn’t get the ball inside more and relied on the outside shooting so much. The trio of Aldrich and the Morris twins only got twelve shot attempts the entire game. Twelve! KU had a huge size advantage inside, but failed to get the ball to the wide bodies in the paint on a regular basis. A lot of credit for that can go to the Volunteers denying the entry pass, but with the talent that Kansas has I can’t imagine that they couldn’t create passing angles to get it there.
No team comes into the season with a stated goal of going undefeated, so all of Kansas’ goals can still be obtained. A huge win for Tennessee, but they will have to continually give this type of effort in an improved SEC and in games which wont hold such a lime light, which will not be easy. The pollsters are over-reacting to this. The Vols were not a top ten team with all the suspended players and certainly aren’t moving forward.
Notre Dame 70 #8 West Virginia 68
No one saw this coming. Notre Dame may have come into the day ten games over .500, but they didn’t have a signature win to their credit. They have one now. The game came down to the wire because of a ferocious comeback by the Mountaineers. The Irish were up by 20 at the half and WVU was another De’Sean Butler buzzer beating shot away from taking this upset away.
This win was great for Notre Dame considering the only other shot at a decent win was a game against UCONN (L 82-70). It should help them carry some momentum toward getting an at-large bid and was a nice start to a brutal five game stretch in which 1-4 looked like a probability.
For West Virginia, it’s not time to hit the panic button but they obviously are not playing up to the form they were in earlier in the season. The hole they dug themselves shows that they weren’t ready to play, which speaks directly to the coach. The comeback should give them some confidence moving forward which is a good thing considering the huge home game with Syracuse looming Saturday.
Scatter thoughts on other top 25 upsets from the weekend
Arizona 87 #24 Washington 70: This just proves what I was saying in my “yuck” post last week, that the Pac 10 is real bad. After Washington’s embarrassing weekend in the desert the conference is left with no ranked teams and the serious prospect of only getting the automatic qualifier into the tournament.
Missouri 74 #11 Kansas St. 68: Not a surprise as Columbia is a scary place to play for any team to travel to. The Cats should get back on track with a home game against A&M and a road trip to Colorado before welcoming the new number 1 Longhorns.
#17 Wisconsin 73 #4 Purdue 66: Another one that isn’t a shocker because of the Kohl Center’s presence (just ask Duke). Purdue remains the favorite for the Big Ten in my opinion, it’s doubtful that any team will win in Madison this year. For Sconnie they will face two tough ones on the road with a rejuvenated Northwestern and a desperate Ohio St.
UNLV 74 #15 New Mexico 62: The shimmer has worn off of the Lobos. My first Sweet Sixteen has a few duds on it and team Alford can qualify as one of those. After racing to a 14-1 start they’ve dropped their first two MWC games by double digits. For the Rebels, they have a big home game versus SDSU Wednesday and should compete for the conference title to the end.
#20 Georgia Tech 71 #5 Duke 67: The Devils really struggled shooting in this game, getting no production from one of their stars Kyle Singler (9pts-5rebs in 38 min.). Jon Scheyer went for 25 but shot under 50% from the field including just 3-13 from behind the arc. Duke struggled with the size of the Yellow Jackets and that could be their Achilles going throughout the season.
Mississippi St. 80 #14 Ole Miss 75: A really tough loss for the improved Rebels at home to their in-state rival. They can look at a lack of aggression as a big reason that they lost this game as they went to the charity stripe 20 less times than the Bulldogs. The loss looks even more daunting as the next 4 of 5 will be conference road games for Ole Miss.
Maryland 77 #18 Florida St. 68: The road in the ACC is just not a kind place no matter where you are playing. The Seminoles have to be happy that their next three are going to be at home. The ACC really is an enigma going forward, any number of teams could finish on top.
Monday night’s game between #4 Villanova and Louisville was incredibly entertaining, but at the same time disturbing. The refs decided to call 66 fouls. Sixty-Six. There were 94 free throws taken. Ninety-four. The Big East needs to sit-down and hold a serious bitch-out session of John Cahill, Michael Stephens, and Karl Hess (the refs), because they ruined that game.
Why do refs think that they need to control things at that kind of extreme level? How can they not know how frustrating this makes fans, players, and coaches? Yes the game was extremely physical, but in this case the refs have to adapt to the game that is presented. They needed to have a meeting with the coaches to stress the fact that the physicality of the game was out of control and needed to be toned down. Instead, the refs just continued to blow their whistles. While they needed to keep the game civil, they didn’t have to be the main story behind it.
Even the broadcasters were annoyed with what was taking place. At one point Jay Bilas quipped, “This game will have to be finished with freshman managers.” As it turns out he was wrong, but it was amazing that only two players fouled out of the game. The ESPN double-header would’ve been a 1 and a half header had the Bedlam game not gone to overtime. They didn’t get to the second game until there was under 7 minutes left in the first half.
The refs took away from the focus of what was a very good game (other than the 44 turnovers). ‘Nova came back from 17 down late in the first half. They were lead by their phenomenal All-American Scottie Reynolds who went for 36pts shooting 9-10 from the field including 5-5 behind the arc. The big question for the Cardinals (other than how to stop Reynolds, which every team has to wonder) is why they weren’t getting the ball into Samardo Samuels more. The sophomore went for 21pts, but was only 4-4 from the field while going 13-13 from the line. He was regularly open in the paint and the Cardinal guards couldn’t or wouldn’t send him the entry pass. I don’t know why Rick Pitino didn’t scream at his team to send the ball Samuels’ way, baffling.
The Big East’s biggest surprise has to be the Pittsburgh Panthers. After a shocking loss to Indiana at home by ten earlier in the year the Panthers have rattled off six straight wins including huge wins on the road against conference foes Syracuse and Cincinnati. The most brutal three game stretch of any team possibly in the country concludes Wednesday with a game at UConn. Pittsburgh’s schedule doesn’t get easier just because they get to go home, Louisville and Georgetown are next on the docket and then they head to Seton Hall. If they can get through all of this with even just one loss, this team could be top ten worthy.