|Elston Turner stunned the Rupp Arena crowd on Saturday, scoring 40 points as Texas A&M upset Kentucky. (Getty)|
By Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello
(Before you get to my thoughts, here's Parrish's column from Raleigh.)
Now, that's a good win for NC State, naturally. It disrupts order in the ACC and it also plays into the fact that, by the way, Mark Gottfried's team was picked to win the league this season. Remember that. Also remember that Duke didn't have Ryan Kelly today and that is absolutely an asterisk worth tacking onto this victory. State fans: enjoy this. You have such a fun team to watch when it's clicking. C.J. Leslie was awesome during and after the game. But Feb. 7 is the road rematch for your team, and I'm already anxious as hell to see how that one plays out.
Sidebar for Duke here is Seth Curry leaving the game. Initially it was worry over an aggravation to Curry's right leg injury, but turns out NC State left some moisture on the court, and in fact Curry tweaked an ankle. If that's the case, he shouldn't be out too long, if at all.
Colorado State struggled to win road games last season, and it looked like the Rams were headed for the same fate this year -- especially after San Diego State took an 18-point halftime lead on the heels of 10 first-half 3-pointers. But the Mountain West doesn't have blowouts this season, so Colorado State came all the way back to send it to overtime. In the extra period, it was all Chase Tapley. Prior to the game, it was unclear if Tapley (flu) would even play -- but he scored 12 points in overtime in the 79-72 victory.
There's just not much left to say about how fun the Mountain West is going to be this season. Every night, seemingly every game -- just awesome. Close games, tight conference race, possibly five or six NCAA tournament bids.
UNLV was on the losing end of three close games this season, and the Runnin' Rebels nearly dropped another to Air Force on Saturday. But Bryce Dejean-Jones hit two free throws to tie the game in regulation, then hit the game-winning jumper in overtime to put UNLV over the top. Anthony Bennett continued his freshman dominance with 22 points and 16 rebounds. The Rebs didn't look great, especially against the Falcons' zone, but with road games at San Diego State and Colorado State up next, they couldn't afford to drop this one.
Don't count out the Tar Heels: That's how it's done, North Carolina.
The Heels, on the heels of that home loss to Miami a couple of days ago, went into Florida State and got a 77-72 win that, I'll be honest, I wasn't sure it was capable of getting. I still question the long-term health and prospects of this team, but at least it took care of business and will keep the vibe healthy.
Florida State remains enigmatic. If anything, the game could be seen as a microcosm of what the ACC will be this year. Solid league, not the worst among the powers, but there's going to be inconsistency with nearly every team except the top and bottom two, most likely.
Biggest resume-booster: Ole Miss cements itself as possible fourth bid in SEC.
Actually, one could say that Ole Miss has the third-best resume in the conference right now, given the way Kentucky is playing. The Rebels had a gaudy 12-2 record, but the best wins were at Tennessee and against Rutgers. Saturday answered some of the questions, though, as Ole Miss got 22 points from Murphy Holloway and easily handled No. 10 Missouri, 64-49. The SEC is very down this season, but at least now it looks like it will get a fourth bid to the NCAA tournament. If Ole Miss can continue to stockpile wins against the bottom of the league -- and also pick up another Missouri-esque win, the Rebels will go dancing. This was a monster win for the profile.
Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: Connecticut, for playing like it has nothing to lose.
Notre Dame had only lost once coming into Saturday, and that was all the way back in the middle of November to Saint Joseph's. So, on the road, the Huskies handled Notre Dame 65-58, and what I loved about watching this game in spurts (there was so much afternoon hoops I could barely keep up) was to see how well and hard these players continue to chase for Kevin Ollie. The man earned his contract and then some, and even now, in a season that doesn't have playoff opportunities in the waiting because of APR punishments from the NCAA, he's able to motivate this team.
UConn is going to arguably be the best spoiler in the history of college hoops. Or at least since the days when leagues only got one berth to the NCAA tournament. UConn hosts Louisville on Monday. Lined up to be a great one.
No soup for you: Illinois, what was that?
We'll seldom fault even the best teams for going on the road in-league and dropping games against inferior teams. Wisconsin is not as good as Illinois, but still, a 74-51 final -- including Illinois only putting up seven points in the first 15 minutes of the game -- is not a good look. Thank goodness John Groce's team got that win against Ohio State (and we'll see what the Buckeyes are made of at home against Michigan on Sunday), otherwise this would be an 0-4 Big Ten team.
UW has now won 11 of the last 15 meetings vs. Illinois, by the way. And Badgers senior Jared Berggren notched his first career double-double (really surprising to me), with 15 points and 12 snares.
No matter how poorly Kentucky has played this season, no one has really been concerned about its postseason prospects. After all, the Wildcats have three lottery picks, all the losses were to very good teams, and there are still two months left in the season. Well ... it might be time to show concern. Goodman wrote about this earlier today, but Kentucky simply isn't an NCAA tournament team right now. Losing to a mediocre Texas A&M at home by double-digits isn't acceptable for a team with this much talent. Since the season-opening win over Maryland back in early November, Kentucky's best wins are over Vanderbilt and Marshall.
We can't give Turner just a cursory mention, though. The senior A&M guard is having the best season of his career -- and he decided Saturday at Rupp Arena would be the perfect time to knock down six 3-pointers en route to 40 points. It was one of the best individual performances of the season.
Roadies: Kansas State got a good league win at average West Virginia. The Wildcats escaped with a 65-64 outcome but it highlights just how many teams played well enough to earn wins away from home Saturday. Let us tick off the ones who've already done it: K-State; UConn; UCLA; Marquette; Georgetown; North Carolina; Butler; Ohio; Virginia Tech. And more to come tonight, certainly.
- The nation's leading scorer did it again. Erick Green went for 28 and helped Virginia Tech get a 70-65 overtime win at improving Georgia Tech on Saturday. Yes, the unpredictable ACC.
- Richard Howell, you stud. It's rare when we throw two players from the same team into this category, but Howell's 18 boards and ...
- ... Lorenzo Brown played like the kind of point guard we expected to see him be back in November. Thirteen assists in NC State's signature win of the season.
- East Carolina made up a 17-point deficit to beat UCF, but the star of the game was UCF big man Keith Clanton, who had 36 points and eight boards in the loss.
- We'll touch more on Belmont in a moment, but Ian Clark has now scored 62 points in his last two games -- while taking just 29 shots.
- Bucknell won its first Patriot League game, as Mike Muscala had 20 points, 13 boards, seven assists and three blocks.
- Another all-around line came from Wyoming's Leonard Washington: 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocks.
Other action worth your attention
- It says something about Saturday's offering when we've gotten this far into the post and are just now getting to Indiana's 88-81 home win against Minnesota. The Hoosiers should've closed out the Golden Gophers well before things got in doubt with three minutes to go, but nevertheless, a good home W. Minnesota is not elite, but I continue to like this team. Here's what I loved about IU: All starters scored between 13 and 20 points. A balanced attack. And if you missed that first half: yowza. Such a fun team to watch when it's offense is clicking and skating down the court.
- UCLA went on the road and beat Colorado. You can read about UCLA's angle here. As for the Buffaloes, it's now a question of if this team can/wants to sustain success throughout the Pac-12. No reason to fret yet, but I am more cautious now than I was before over how truly good this group is. Just barely above the bubble talk come February?
- Twenty-seven percent. Thirty-eight points. That's all South Florida could muster against Louisville's defense on Saturday. Peyton Siva surpassed 1,000 career points and Gorgui Dieng had 16 rebounds.
- Ben McLemore had just two field goals for Kansas, but the Jayhawks didn't really need much in their 60-46 win over Texas Tech. We wanted another Superman performance!
- We covered all the Rotnei Clarke scary injury news over here. It should be noted that Butler overcame losing Clarke in the first half and got a good 79-73 win at Dayton, meaning Butler has started its career as an A-10 member 2-0, both of those Ws coming on the road.
- Maybe Brandon Ashley will be the Arizona freshman big man to separate himself (although we've heard that before). He had 12 points and seven rebounds as Arizona bounced back from its first loss with a win at Oregon State.
- Florida has sort of disappeared from the nation's eye with a couple losses in the mpast few weeks, but the Gators are still humming along. They got 20 points from Kenny Boynton and dominated the glass in a 22-point win over LSU.
- Listen, Texas isn't good this year, but I was curious to see how Iowa State would respond to getting a W ripped from its hands at Kansas earlier this week. The answer: Cyclones 82, Longhorns 62.
- No Kendall Williams for New Mexico, no problem. The Lobos cruised past Fresno State with 19 and 14 from Alex Kirk.
- Norlander clearly jinxed Saint Louis. After writing about the Billikens on Friday afternoon and how they had yet to lose since the passing of Rick Majerus, Temple went out and beat them on Saturday. The Owls remain inconsistent -- but still a tough out.
- Another Atlantic 10 team, VCU, won its 11th game in a row by knocking off St. Bonaventure.
- Alabama is now 9-6 overall after a 68-65 home win against Tennessee. Good of the Tide to hold serve on their court, but in reality this continues to hurt/demerit the SEC because Tennessee needed to get a good road win here. Trae Golden missed a 3 as time expired to give the Vols a shot at overtime, and now Tennessee has lost three in a row, matching Bama's 8-6 overall record, but is instead 0-2 in league play.
- Oklahoma had a let's-see-what-ya-got game at home against Oklahoma State. You know what? Lon Kruger's team will make the NCAA tournament this year. I'm convinced. Young group getting better and one that didn't wilt whatsoever against the Pokes. It ended 77-68.
- Murray State isn't the same team as last year, but the Racers still have Isaiah Canaan. He had 26 points as they held off Austin Peay.
- The two teams didn't even combine for 100 points, but Baylor moved to 3-0 in the Big 12 with a victory over TCU.
Delightful (and not-so-delightful) thoughts
-- A lot of players missed playing time today due to suspension or injury: James Southerland (Syracuse), Greg Whittington (Georgetown), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Leslie McDonald (North Carolina), Tray Woodall (Pitt), Clarke (Butler), Seth Curry (Duke).
-- Marquette is quietly off to a nice start in Big East play with victories against UConn, Georgetown and now Pittsburgh, on the road, Saturday. Buzz Williams gets it done with aplomb.
-- When's the next time Memphis will lose in Conference USA? The Tigers are starting to stockpile wins again, beating UAB on Saturday, and there's not an intimidating league game on the schedule until next month.
-- North Dakota State is already 6-0 in the Summit. The Bison still have to win the automatic bid, though -- and that means beating Nate Wolters when it counts.
-- Northeastern is your surprise CAA team. The Huskies are 4-0 in the league and got coach Bill Coen his 100th win Saturday.
-- Remember when we got all excited about Santa Clara for hanging tough with Duke for a half? The Broncos have lost three in a row, including Saturday's 84-62 defeat at the hands of BYU. In other WCC action, Saint Mary's beat San Francisco.
-- Rhode Island isn't good, but Charlotte might be. The 49ers improved to 14-2 after winning 58-50 at URI. Sleeper team in the A-10 this year, certainly. Not going to win the league, but who knows, maybe it finishes top three?
-- Obviously, John Thompson III is going to say he's in favor of moving forward with the Catholic 7, but he also indicated Saturday he'd like to see the league get ambitious and go after Gonzaga.
For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander and Jeff Borzello here: @JeffBorzello