Senior Writer

Monday Look Back: Christmas craziness takes over


Josh Selby was good, Jared Sullinger was great and Tu Holloway might've been better than both. UCLA got a big win. Illinois took a terrible loss. It was a wacky weekend in college basketball. Let's review the highlights (and lowlights) in the Monday Look Back.

Best game of the weekend: There is nothing I hate more in this world -- besides rental car shuttles -- than Christmas shopping. I hate looking for and looking at stuff I don't care about, and I hate going from one store to the next and just bouncing around in general. But when you have a rare weekend at home, you do what the wife asks. So I was miserable Saturday from the moment I woke up until the moment I got back home and plopped down in front of the television in time to watch Cory Joseph hit a jumper over Dexter Strickland with 1.4 seconds remaining to give Texas a 78-76 win over North Carolina. I'll be honest, I didn't see the whole game (because I was buying stupid presents for people I barely know). But what I saw was terrific, and that's good enough to fill this space.

Texas' Cory Joseph lifts off on his game-winning jumper against the Tar Heels on Saturday. (AP)  
Texas' Cory Joseph lifts off on his game-winning jumper against the Tar Heels on Saturday. (AP)  
Worst game of the weekend: Michigan State cruised to a 90-51 win over Prairie View A&M on Saturday without Tom Izzo, who was serving a one-game suspension because his program employed an "Individual Associated With a Prospect" during a camp last June. Izzo was the first coach to be hit with the pseudo-mandatory suspension for the secondary violation. Michigan State finalized the punishment Friday so that Izzo would miss this specific game, which led to a great quote from Prairie View A&M coach Byron Rimm: "Tom Izzo has been one of my idols for a long time," Rimm said. "I really wanted to see him and go against him. ... But if you had to pick a game [to miss], I'd pick Prairie View, too."

Win to brag about: It seems like forever ago that Ben Howland took UCLA to three straight Final Fours because the Bruins struggled last season and have already lost four times this season. In other words, I don't know that any nationally relevant coach needed a big win Saturday as much as Howland needed a big win Saturday, and he got one in the form of an 86-79 victory over nationally ranked BYU. The win -- combined with a close loss at Kansas on Dec. 2 -- suggests the Bruins are capable of competing for the Pac-10 title even if an earlier loss to Montana might've suggested otherwise.

Loss to hide from: Tennessee played a rare Friday night game and lost. To Charlotte. By a 49-48 margin. Which would make sense if Tennessee hadn't spent the early part of this season beating Villanova and Pittsburgh. Or if Charlotte hadn't spent the early part of this season losing to Gardner-Webb, Coastal Carolina and Eastern Carolina.

Player who deserves improper benefits: I can't tell you how many readers e-mailed to suggest I use Kansas freshman Josh Selby for this space (for multiple reasons), and I considered it because he buried a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds and finished with 21 points in Saturday's 70-68 win over Southern California. But I'm not interested in making cheap jokes at Selby's expense because the combo guard really was impressive in his collegiate debut. So I'll instead go with Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, who got 30 points and 19 rebounds in Saturday's 79-57 win over South Carolina. He definitely deserves improper benefits, too. Or, at the very least, another Big Ten Player of the Week award.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn was tested by a quality opponent for the first time this season and he responded by missing nine of 13 field-goal attempts and four of six 3-point attempts in Saturday's 68-64 loss to Gonzaga. Dunn also turned the ball over five times, which contributed to Baylor's first loss in the month of December since 2006.

Why I'm smarter than you think: Who told you in the Friday Look Ahead that UCLA would upset BYU? (Don't act like you don't know. That's four straight "upset" picks, son!)

Why I'm dumber than I think: I've spent the past month touting Illinois as a dark horse pick for the Final Four, but do Final Four teams really lose games to Illinois-Chicago? For the sake of my earlier statements, I hope so. Because Illinois lost 57-54 to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday, and even Tennessee thinks that's unacceptable.

Three things you should know before you go

1. Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney got 12 points and three rebounds in Saturday's 88-57 loss to Virginia Tech. It was the Class of 2009 star's first official game in college. He missed all of last season and the first nine games this season because of an NCAA-imposed suspension.

2. Xavier's Tu Holloway finished with 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in Saturday's 83-75 win over Wake Forest. It was the first triple-double for a Xavier player since David West recorded one in 2001, which was fitting considering West was at the Cintas Center to experience the achievement and be inducted into the Xavier Hall of Fame (along with former Xavier and Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser).

3. Kentucky coach John Calipari was ejected in the second half of Saturday's 85-60 win over Mississippi Valley State. It was just the second time in a college coaching career that spans 19 seasons that Calipari has been ejected. Assistant John Robic coached the Wildcats for the final 6:26 of the 25-point victory.

On tap: Duke will play for the third time without Kyrie Irving when Elon visits Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday. UNLV and Kansas State will play in Kansas City on Tuesday. Missouri and Illinois play in St. Louis on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Georgetown's experienced guards (Chris Wright and Austin Freeman) will battle Memphis' freshman guards (Joe Jackson and Will Barton) at FedExForum.

Final thought: Sometimes you guys make me want to put my head through a wall.

Not all of you, of course.

Most of you are intelligent and reasonable, and if those words describe you then I want you to know that I love you to pieces. I'm not talking about the intelligent and reasonable readers. I'm talking about the idiots, and by idiots I mean anybody with an e-mail or Twitter account who sent me a note claiming that Tennessee's losses to Oakland on Tuesday and Charlotte on Friday proved that last week's subjects of the Poll Attacks knew what they were doing when they ranked Pittsburgh ahead of Tennessee despite the fact that Tennessee was, at the time, undefeated with a dominant win over Pittsburgh (in Pittsburgh).

My official response: No they did not.

As I've insisted many times, schools should be ranked each week by taking into account all the information available at the time of the ranking, and anything that happens after that happens after that. The future is irrelevant. In other words, Tennessee should've been ranked last week like a team that was 7-0 with wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh, and Tennessee should be ranked this week like a team that's 7-2 with wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh, and losses to Oakland and Charlotte. What happened Tuesday and Friday should have no bearing on how somebody ranked Tennessee last Monday, and if that's still difficult to understand, let me tell you a story about the Kansas Jayhawks.

You know KU, right?

Big 12 school. Great coach. Great roster. Wins a lot.

The Jayhawks had the nation's best body of work last season, so the NCAA tournament selection committee wisely made them a No. 1 seed. Nobody argued. But then guess what happened? Kansas went out and lost in the second round to Northern Iowa.

Seriously, Northern Iowa.

It was stunning.

Now let me ask you this: Did that loss mean Kansas shouldn't have been a No. 1 seed?

(That's a rhetorical question, by the way. We know the answer.)

Of course it didn't!

The Jayhawks undeniably deserved a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, and what happened against UNI didn't change that fact because what happened against UNI happened after Selection Sunday. The same logic should apply to ranking teams, which is why Tuesday's loss to Oakland and Friday's loss to Charlotte doesn't mean Tennessee wasn't worthy of a top five ranking last Monday. What it means is that Tennessee isn't worthy of a top five ranking this Monday, and those are two totally different things.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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