LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- I spent Thanksgiving watching Texas A&M lose at the buzzer to Boston College, Wisconsin hold Manhattan to 35 points, Georgia blow a double-digit lead against Notre Dame and lose in double-overtime, and California upset Temple here at the Old Spice Classic. For dinner, I ate nachos. With any luck, the rest of the weekend will provide similar entertainment. And better meals.
Let's do the Friday Look Ahead.
Best game of the weekend: Tennessee's Bruce Pearl has wanted the NCAA investigation into his program to stop being the main topic of conversation about his program for a while now, and he has a chance to make that happen Friday when the 24th-ranked Vols face No. 7 Villanova at New York's Madison Square Garden. Beat the Wildcats, and all anybody will be talking about is Tobias Harris and how the Vols just might win the SEC. For proof, consider that I haven't heard a word about Connecticut's pending NCAA case since the Huskies dropped Michigan State and Kentucky this week in Maui.
|Kansas' Marcus Morris will battle a fellow 6-foot-8 forward in Arizona's Derrick Williams this weekend. (AP)|
Yet another interesting matchup: Florida and Florida State are playing football on Saturday and basketball on Sunday. The football game will get most of the attention, but the basketball game features the two more relevant teams as it pertains to the sport they play. Also worth noting: Chris Singleton is tremendous. The Florida State forward has recorded a double-double in four consecutive games, and he's now averaging 17.4 points and 10.8 rebounds. Keep this up, and nobody will have to wonder whether Singleton will enter the 2011 NBA Draft like everybody wondered whether he would enter the 2010 NBA Draft. Provided there is a 2011 NBA Draft, he'll be in it (unless, of course, he hates money).
Guaranteed to be a blowout: The Missouri Tigers are 4-0, and they play really fast. The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions are 0-5, and they play really poorly. Those two schools play each other Sunday. If the game is close, I'll move to Pine Bluff.
Guaranteed to be an upset: I've filed two Friday Look Aheads this season, missed the "upset" pick each time. So take this for what it's worth (likely nothing), but the title game of the NIT Season Tip-off just seems like the type of game Pearl will win. It'll require Tennessee figuring out how to keep Villanova's guards out of the lane, and good luck with that. But either way, let the record show that Tennessee-over-Villanova is this weekend's upset (and keep in mind that the record is terrible).
Player trying to keep rolling: There are multiple reasons for Saint Mary's 5-0 start highlighted by a win over St. John's, and Mickey McConnell is certainly among them. The senior guard is averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field, 56.7 percent from 3-point range and 90.9 percent from the free throw line. I'm not sure McConnell can maintain those percentages against Texas Tech on Friday night. But if he does, I'm pretty sure Saint Mary's will move to 6-0.
Player trying to get rolling: Jacob Pullen's field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage are each down from last season thanks to Tuesday's loss to Duke in which the Kansas State star missed 11 of 12 shots. It was a bad night, no doubt, but Pullen can get it corrected, and Friday's tilt against Texas Southern seems like a good place to start the process considering it begins a stretch of five straight games against unranked opponents.
Three things you need to know
1. Georgia's Trey Thompkins suffered a preseason ankle injury and played Thursday for the first time this season. The SEC Preseason Player of the Year came off the bench and got 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 89-83 loss to Notre Dame. He's expected to play again Friday provided the overnight swelling is minimal.
2. UAB and Arkansas are meeting Friday night in a battle between schools that once employed Mike Anderson, and the odds of anybody in the state of Alabama noticing or caring have unofficially been placed at 78,000-to-1. Auburn and Alabama have a kinda important football game earlier in the afternoon, in case you hadn't heard.
3. Speaking of the state of Alabama, here's a strange fact: Alabama A&M will play Saturday at Alabama, and Alabama A&M actually enters with the better record. Alabama A&M is 2-1 while Alabama is 2-3 after consecutive losses to Seton Hall, Iowa and something called Saint Peter's. That's awful, obviously. But the good news is that it's still football season, which means it's possible 98 percent of the state remains unaware.
Final thought: Tim Abromaitis had exactly one scholarship offer from a Big East school.
It came from Notre Dame.
And Abromaitis nearly rejected it.
"I almost screwed that up," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. "I should've got him [to sign] and then told him [that I was planning to have him take a redshirt and play four seasons over a five-year span]. But I talked about it before he signed, and he hedged a little bit. Not good strategy."
No, it wasn't.
But it still worked out.
Abromaitis ultimately accepted the scholarship anyway, accepted his role, never questioned a thing, and now look. The lightly regarded prospect from Connecticut -- whom Brey signed despite the fact that he had never watched him play in person -- sank a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:49 remaining in Thursday's second overtime and finished with 25 points to lift Notre Dame past Georgia. Abromaitis has now scored at least 21 points in three straight games heading into Friday's semifinals of the Old Spice Classic, and his story is a wonderful story that serves as a reminder about how the stars of this sport can and do come from anywhere.
"He gave himself to us, and there was never any 'What about my spot?' or 'What about my minutes?' or 'What about my shots?'" Brey told me late Thursday. "It was just, 'Tell me what to do.' And I think that [attitude] really helped us teach him and coach him, and there's not many of those anymore, as you know."