Wesley Johnson has transformed from a lightly regarded recruit who went to prep school and then Iowa State to a star at Syracuse and possible lottery pick who spent Friday dropping 25 points and eight rebounds on North Carolina. Just think, if Johnson had only been adopted by rich white people, then we could've made his story into a major motion picture. As it is, we're left with The Blind Side.
(Now playing at a theater near you.)
|Duke transfer Taylor King is averaging 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds off the bench. (AP)|
Best game of the weekend: I'm starting with Villanova's 79-67 win over Ole Miss in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off -- not because it was a great game, per se, but because it was a great performance by the Wildcats. They hung 52 points on the Rebels in the second half Sunday and looked very much like a team capable of returning to the Final Four. They're strong and experienced in the backcourt, solid up front and aided greatly by the addition of Taylor King, the Duke transfer who is an early candidate for the Big East's Sixth Man Award considering he's coming off the bench and averaging 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Worst game of the weekend: Rider won at Mississippi State on opening night, and suddenly everybody thought an upset at Kentucky might be possible, too. Instead, all we got Saturday was a 92-63 beatdown delivered by the Wildcats. The game was never close, a total letdown for folks who cheer for underdogs. But the good news is that it provided a fresh YouTube entry for John Wall, the freshman point guard who finished with 21 points and 11 assists while demonstrating how a between-the-legs-crossover-dribble at the free throw line can create an easy layup. Click this link and check it out, if you want. It's at the 1:09 mark, and it's ridiculous.
Win to brag about: It's unclear how good Saint Mary's is without Patrick Mills, but I know it's tough to go into McKeon Pavilion and leave with a victory either way, proof being how the Gaels were 32-2 at home the past three years. So Vanderbilt's 72-70 victory at St. Mary's late Friday was impressive, however you look at it. And yes, Vandy fans, I know I'm probably going to regret picking the Commodores fifth in the SEC Eastern Division. Honestly, I'm already regretting it (although Lance Stephenson could make me look less stupid if he somehow leads Cincinnati past the Commodores in the first round of the Maui Invitational).
Loss to hide from: Once upon a time, Jeff Capel signed a contract at VCU that required him to return to the Siegel Center with his new team if he ever left the Rams to coach at another college. On Saturday, Capel made good on that clause and took his Oklahoma Sooners to Richmond. The result was an 82-69 loss in which Willie Warren missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. And now that the terms of that contract have been fulfilled, I'm certain you'll never see Capel coach at VCU again.
Player(s) who deserve improper benefits: Mark Fox left a better team behind at Nevada than the one he inherited at Georgia, and a lot of that is because of the duo of Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt. In Saturday's 112-99 win over Houston , Johnson got 22 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while Babbitt had 14 points, three assists and 17 rebounds. Graded on the against-Tom-Penders curve, those numbers aren't as mindboggling, I know. But Johnson and Babbitt are probably still the two best players in the WAC, and plenty good enough to start at Georgia.
Player who should lose his scholarship: Edwin Ubiles averaged 12.1 field goal attempts per game last season while leading Siena to 27 wins, and those numbers are connected. The simple formula is Ubiles plus offensive aggressiveness equals victory. So you can imagine my disappointment -- considering I ranked Siena in the preseason while neither the AP nor coaches poll did -- when I realized Ubiles had just six field goal attempts in Saturday's 73-69 loss at Temple. Those numbers are connected, too.
Why I'm smarter than you think: I picked Washington to win the Pac-10 despite California being the overwhelming favorite in the league's official media poll. Obviously, I could still end up wrong. But it's worth noting Friday's loss to Ohio State dropped the Bears to 2-2. And though I'm well aware Theo Robertson's injury has played a role in Cal's struggles, is there any debating that Cal wouldn't again be the overwhelming favorite if the league's official media poll was updated today?
Why I'm dumber than I think: I thought the people who believed Syracuse could somehow be as good or better without Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris were silly. Turns out, I was wrong. This Orange team can absolutely be as good as that Orange team, and it might end up better. All it took to convince me was Friday's 87-71 win over North Carolina in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic.
Three things you should know before you go
1. UCLA starter Nikola Dragovic did not play in Friday's 75-64 victory over Cal State-Bakersfield after he was charged with felony assault for his involvement in an incident last month at a concert in Hollywood. Ben Howland has suspended Dragovic indefinitely, meaning it's unclear whether he'll play in the 76 Classic this week. But it has already been determined that Dragovic will not play Monday night against Pepperdine.
2. Miami notched a nice win over South Carolina in Sunday's championship game of the Charleston Classic, but it came with an asterisk because USC's Dominique Archie injured his right knee (while landing after a dunk) and missed the final 33 minutes. The Gamecocks were ahead by seven points when Archie left; they lost 85-70.
3. Michigan State's 90-60 blowout of Valparaiso on Sunday pushed Tom Izzo into a tie with Jud Heathcote atop the school's all-time list for wins. Both men now have 340. Izzo can pass Heathcote on Friday when the Spartans play Florida in Atlantic City.
On tap: On Monday, the Paradise Jam ends with a championship game between Tennessee and Purdue. On Tuesday, a pair of in-state rivals trying to build at-large resumes battle when Florida State meets Florida. On Wednesday, LSU and Connecticut play in the first game of the NIT Season Tip-off. On Thursday, the first round of the 76 Classic is headlined by Minnesota-Butler.
Final thought: I wrote a column last April explaining how I was less concerned about Stephen Curry's future than Davidson's because history suggests programs typically return to their rightful place when a transcendent player departs. I cited what happened when Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble left Loyola-Marymount, what happened when Doug Christie left Pepperdine, what happened when Keith "Mister" Jennings left East Tennessee State, etc. The point was that though North Carolina, Kansas and other power-league programs can endure losses and simply reload, it's much more difficult to maintain success outside of the BCS for pretty much everybody except Gonzaga, Memphis and Xavier.
Which is why I'm not surprised Davidson is 0-4.
I mean, I'm a little surprised, I guess.
But the moment Curry announced he was turning pro is the moment Bob McKillop's rebuilding job began, and rebuilding jobs at places like Davidson take time, way longer than just one offseason. Remember, before Curry enrolled, Davidson was the type of program that made the NCAA tournament once every four or five years, and when the Wildcats did it, they did it with little-to-no national recognition. So even though McKillop is tremendous and one of the gems of college basketball, it'll be tough for him to get Davidson back to where it spent the past three seasons, i.e., as a borderline Top 25 team serving as the darling of college hoops.
I look forward to following the effort.
I hope it happens.
But right now, Davidson just needs a win.