KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- I was standing on the court Sunday watching Thompson-Boling Arena fill up and talking to Bruce Pearl, who was dapper in his white shirt and orange suspenders. This was about 40 minutes before tipoff. After a couple of minutes, the conversation shifted from the week that was to the game about to be played, and I mentioned that it had the makings of a fun event before acknowledging I wasn't sure how much fun it would be to coach against the nation's No. 1 team with an inferior roster.
"But you've done this before," I said.
"I've done this before," Pearl repeated with a smile.
And then he went out and did it again.
Let's do the Monday Look Back ...
Best game of the weekend: Pearl took his six scholarship players, meshed them with three walk-ons and somehow led Tennessee to Sunday's 76-68 victory over No. 1 Kansas. The big shot came from one of the walk-ons, namely Skylar McBee. With less than 40 seconds to play, the freshman, who was raised 30 miles from campus, avoided a shot-clock violation -- that, if called, would've given Kansas the ball with a chance to tie -- by draining a 3-pointer that pushed the score from 71-68 to 74-68. Twenty minutes later, McBee was in the stands signing ticket stubs, his place in UT history cemented.
Worst game of the weekend: Those who were skeptical of Texas Tech's fast start are looking smart after the Red Raiders lost Saturday's Big 12 opener to Oklahoma State by an 81-52 margin. The game's first half featured a 29-1 OSU run sparked by 16 points from James Anderson, meaning Anderson outscored Texas Tech 16-1 in that run and nearly outscored the Red Raiders for the half (he had 25 compared to Texas Tech's 27), all of which led to Pat Knight requesting that reporters ask about Texas Tech's plans to hire Tommy Tuberville as its new football coach rather than the game. "I really don't know what to tell you," Knight said. "We thoroughly just got whupped."
Win to brag about: One of the biggest surprises (Baylor) played one of the biggest disappointments (Oklahoma) on Saturday, and the outcome was not a surprise even though the margin was shocking. Baylor 91, Oklahoma 60. Ekpe Udoh had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. He's seriously pushing Syracuse's Wesley Johnson for the "Transfer of the Year" award despite the fact that there is no such award. At least not yet. Between you and me, I'm thinking about inventing it. If I do, Udoh will be a finalist, guaranteed.
Loss to hide from: Arizona entered with a losing record featuring double-digit losses to Vanderbilt, Oklahoma and San Diego State in addition to a 30-point loss to BYU, and yet Washington couldn't handle Sean Miller's team Sunday. The Huskies lost 87-70 and fell to 1-3 in the Pac-10. Combine that with Oregon's loss to Oregon State and Washington State's 25-point loss at Arizona State, and it's pretty clear the NCAA should consider taking the Pac-10's automatic bid this season and letting the Mountain West have two.
Parrish: Top 25 (and one)
Bleacher Report: Weekend rewind
SB Nation: Hope on Rocky Top
Player who deserves improper benefits: I criticized Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins last weekend after he used his forearm to try to put Jared Swopshire's head through the Rupp Arena court. Among other things, I wrote that I was skeptical Cousins would be able to keep his cool in key moments, which is why it's only fair I point out how Cousins kept his cool in Saturday's 76-68 win over Georgia. He got dunked on, lost his headband once, and three Georgia players fouled out basically trying to guard Cousins, meaning he was fouled an awful lot. Still, there were no issues. Each time, Cousins just walked away and kept going about his business. If he learns to do that, Kentucky's going to be dangerous the rest of this season, and then Cousins will be super rich right after it.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Jon Scheyer has been terrific, and he's the main reason why Duke seems like the ACC favorite. But he can't do everything himself, certainly not against other talented teams, which is what the nation learned Saturday in the Blue Devils' 71-67 loss at Georgia Tech. "Jon had a good game, but we kind of rely on him too much," Duke forward Kyle Singler told reporters afterward. "We have to do a better job of helping him out." By we, I can only assume Singler was talking about himself. Singler was 2-of-13 from the field with four turnovers. He was 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Why I'm smarter than you think: I told you the same Maryland team that lost at home to William & Mary would beat No. 18 Florida State on Sunday, and guess what happened? Ah, forget it. You know what happened (Maryland 77, Florida State 68).
Why I'm dumber than I think: There are a number of things I could include in this category, most notably how I ran out of gas on Interstate-40 while driving to Knoxville because I got on the phone and ignored my fuel light. Brilliant. But the dumbest thing I did all weekend is spend entirely too much time arguing with Purdue fans about my blog following Saturday's 73-66 loss at Wisconsin. Even dumber: I'm going to use the "Final thought" to try to explain to them one more time why I wrote what I wrote. Wish me luck. God knows I'll need it.
Three things you should know before you go
|Buzz Williams' Golden Eagles have dropped three heartbreakers. (US Presswire)|
2. Tim Abromaitis last made an appearance in the Monday Look Back after taking a late five-second call in a December loss to Loyola-Marymount, but he's been consistently good ever since (as has Notre Dame). Abromaitis got 17 points and eight rebounds Saturday. Consequently, Notre Dame got a 70-68 win over West Virginia.
On tap: On Monday night, Villanova is at Louisville. On Tuesday night, Kentucky takes its perfect record to Florida. On Wednesday night, Pittsburgh visits Connecticut. On Thursday night, Gonzaga travels to St. Mary's.
Final thought: I'll say this for Purdue fans: They're a relentless bunch.
I've been called every name you can imagine -- and some you probably can't -- since posting Saturday's blog after the Boilermakers' loss at Wisconsin, presumably because I either wasn't clear enough in making my point, or Purdue fans can't help but miss the point. Either way, the point is this: In my opinion, Purdue doesn't have the necessary NBA players to win the national championship. Period. Purdue can win the Big Ten and/or make the Final Four, but 40 of the past 41 NCAA tournament champions have had at least three NBA players, and I don't think Purdue has three, which means I don't think Purdue can win it all.
It had nothing to do with the loss at Wisconsin.
(I suspect Kentucky, Texas and Kansas would probably lose at Wisconsin, too.)
The only reason I tied the blog to the loss at Wisconsin is because, at that very moment, we were down to three undefeated teams, and they just so happened to be the three teams with the best rosters (i.e., the most high-level NBA players). Until the Boilermakers left the group of undefeated teams, they had, I think, been artificially grouped with Kentucky, Texas and Kansas as national title contenders because they were also undefeated. So the point I was making was that with Purdue now among the one-loss teams, the conversation about who will win the national title would likely shift to Kentucky, Texas and Kansas, and that's a much better conversation, because that's the group from which are national champion is coming.
That opinion is not rooted in Purdue's loss at Wisconsin.
Nor has it changed since Kansas' loss at Tennessee.
My opinion is based strictly on the fact that 40 of the past 41 NCAA tournament champions have had at least three NBA players, and my belief that Purdue does not have three NBA players. It's nothing more than that. Perhaps three Boilermakers will develop into NBA players, at which point I'll be wrong. Or maybe Purdue will win it all despite not having three NBA players, at which point I'll be wrong. But as long as you'll concede that there's no evidence that Purdue has three future NBA players, you must also concede that the Boilermakers winning it all would require them doing something that's been done only once in the past 41 seasons.
In other words, I like my odds.
And I pray, on behalf of my inbox, that you understand.