|If not for Truck Bryant, center, WVU would have lost its fourth straight game Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Matt Norlander
I always love Super Bowl Sunday for the obvious reasons -- the food and friends and bloated American nature of it all -- but also because we now get at least one or two decent hoops games before the pigskin takes over. This afternoon, a few tilts of weight took place. Let's do a quick rundown on what happened and what it means.
1) West Virginia went into Providence and needed 45 minutes to get a win (87-84). It was a stop-the-bleeding W for WVU. Truck Bryant hit a layup to send the game into OT, then hit the game-winning 3 with no timeouts left and 3.3 remaining. Providence's Vincent Council missed a game-tying 3 to send it another five. The Mountaineers should be a tournament team; it was just two weeks ago, when WVU beat Cincy, that people thought his team could possibly be the Big East's second best. I never bought into that, but I have come around on this team getting to the bracket that matters.
Beating Providence was paramount to that journey. The Friars are dangerous yet not that good. (What I mean by that: Provy is growing and getting better, will probably steal a game at the Big East tournament, but this team isn't formidable just yet.) Now WVU has home game it has to win against Notre Dame and Louisville ahead. It's not out of the woods yet in the Big East. At 6-5, it's still totally possible this team finished 9-9 in the Big East. I don't think WVU is as good as everyone wants to make it -- a lot of that is due to the fact Kevin Jones is ridiculously valuable and talented -- but I'm going to enjoy watching what this team does/does not do in February.
2) On CBS, Draymond Green showed no effects of his bum knee. Michigan State handled Michigan at the Breslin Center, winning 64-54, splitting the season series. Green out-rebounded U of M, 15-14. Tom Izzo's group shook off that horrifying 42-41 L at Illinois and will remain a top-five KenPom team. Now, here's what to target. On Saturday, MSU goes to Ohio State. That's going to be a lot of fun -- and I think Michigan State stands a good chance at winning.
As for the Wolverines, the team is still very good. I love Trey Burke's game more and more. Here's the issue: it's stop and go with them. The past seven games have alternated wins and losses, which is better than streaks of consecutive losses, but February's when teams need to know how to reel off four and five straight. Overall, it looks like Michigan's not as aggressive as it should be, but part of that is Beilein's slow-boil approach.
3) The other game of note also came from the Big Ten and was very big for Tubby Smith. Nebraska's not too good, but Minnesota improved to 17-7 by winning on the road against the Cornhuskers, 69-61. The Big Ten can possibly send eight teams to the NCAAs because Minnesota's incredibly getting by without Trevor Mbakwe, but boy does the road ahead look scary. Gotta steal at least two games, for sure.