Tag:Florida
Posted on: March 8, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Projecting the first-round destinations

Posted by MATT JONES

I am a dork. Let’s get that out of the way right up front, because otherwise what I am attempting to do below will make no sense. While everyone else on the internet is giving their latest Bracketology projections and attempting to define the bottom half of the field of 68, I have a completely different goal. I want to try and get in the tournament committee’s minds and figure out exactly where the top seeds in the NCAA tournament will play their first round games .

Now this may seem like a silly enterprise, as on the surface it seems impossible to predict. If the process was random, with 68 teams and 8 different locales, projecting any team to any first round destination would be complete folly. But the process isn’t random and there is some logical basis to the assignments. In fact, if you understand two rules, projecting the assignments of some top teams can come rather easily:

1. The committee will try to put teams seeded in the top 4  teams in their region close to home.

2.  Duke will play in the state of North Carolina

Those two rules if not officially set in stone, are nearly always followed and thus give us some logical basis to begin a projection. At this point, our resident bracketologist Jerry Palm has these teams as the top 4 seeds:

  1. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
  2. Duke, Syracuse, Purdue, San Diego State
  3. North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida
  4. Louisville, Kentucky, St. Johns, BYU

While the order of those teams may change a bit and a couple of teams could crash the group (Vanderbilt, West Virginia, UCONN), it is likely that the vast majority of these teams will represent the 16 top seeds. For this year’s tournament, there are eight cities hosting first round games:

Cleveland
Chicago
Denver
Tucson

Washington DC

Tampa
Tulsa
Charlotte

Each city will be the host site of two of the top 16 seeds. So using our two rules above, we can begin projecting teams to particular sites based upon location. Cleveland is just a hop, skip and a jump from two No.1 seeds, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Tulsa is the closest to Kansas and Chicago is virtually an extension of Notre Dame. So after placing the top seeds, the list looks like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame
Denver:
Tucson:
Washington DC:

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas

Charlotte

Duke is a 2 seed and Charlotte is in North Carolina, thus making the Blue Devils a lock for the banking capital of America due to Rule No. 2. Purdue is within a quick drive to Chicago and Tucson is the only host city anywhere close to San Diego State. Syracuse would probably prefer to be in Cleveland, but because that locale is full, Washington DC becomes the most likely destination.

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas
Charlotte:
Duke

North Carolina is apparently still located in North Carolina and thus placing the Tar Heels in Charlotte ensures a packed house for each session. Tulsa is the location closest to Texas, making the Longhorns a likely candidate for that beautiful city. Tampa is in Florida and has a huge arena to fill, potentially enticing the fickle Gators fans to make the short drive. Wisconsin has no obvious destination, as nothing left is very close to Madison. But with Denver in that same general part of America and only one other western team, the Badgers seem likely headed for the Rockies:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse
Tampa:
Florida
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

This is when it starts to get tricky. BYU is the farthest west and can’t play on Sunday, meaning that Tucson is the likely home for the Cougars. St. John’s is in New York, which likes to think of DC as its dorky extension, thus sending the Red Storm to the nation’s capital. Louisville and Kentucky are both not close to either remaining destination, but the Cardinals are slightly farther west, sending them to Denver and Kentucky to Tampa. That makes the final split look like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin, Louisville
Tucson: San Diego State, BYU
Tampa:
Florida, Kentucky
Washington DC:
Syracuse, St. Johns
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

Of course it is just as likely that the committee follows none of these parameters and just does what it wants. But if logic is used, you can book your travel destinations now.

Posted on: February 26, 2011 11:19 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 11:31 pm
 

Darius Miller takes Cats to another level

Posted by MATT JONES


SEC play has been rather predictable for Kentucky this season. While Vegas has put UK as a favorite in every one of its conference games, the actual results have followed a different path. If John Calipari’s team is on the road, chances are high that it will be involved in a winnable close game that ends in a heartbreaking defeat in the last minute. Conversely, if Kentucky is in Rupp Arena, a different team will emerge. This UK team will build a a large margin over its opponent sometime in the second half, making its difficulty in end-of-game scenarios irrelevant.

Saturday’s game against Florida followed the same general pattern. Kentucky turned a one point halftime lead into a 12 point spread midway through the second half and held on for a 76-68 victory. Part of the performance was similar to what Kentucky has shown in all home games this year. Its talented freshman overwhelmed their older counterparts on Florida and were able to win the “talent vs experience” battle. But what was different about the game may also give Kentucky hope for different results during the March battles away from Rupp Arena. 

Junior Darius Miller scored a career high 24 points, putting on a performance that Kentucky coaches have waited to see since he arrived on campus. Due to his status as a Kentucky high school legend, Miller has been a player for whom much has been expected. Since he arrived in Lexington three years ago, fans and coaches have patiently waited to see Miller blossom into nothing less than a star, as his combination of height, athleticism and quickness makes him a matchup nightmare for any defender. Yet in his first 2 1/2 seasons in Lexington, he has preferred instead to defer to teammates and has all too often become a forgotten member of the team, leading some fans to refer to him as “Disappearius.”

Not anymore. During SEC play, a new more aggressive Darius has been unleashed and the result of that assertiveness was seen in his career-best performance on Saturday. Guarded by the slower Chandler Parsons, Miller’s strength and quickness allowed him to exploit the matchup, both inside and outside. Miller ran Parsons off screens for open three point looks and when switches led to a different defender, he would move inside to score in the post. With Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones closely guarded, Miller became a defender for which Florida had to account, allowing him to create double teams and open looks for his teammates. The performance allowed for an offensive flow that has been rare for John Calipari’s team, especially in recent weeks on the road.

But most importantly for Kentucky, Darius Miller made the big play when the Cats had to have it late. Prior to the game, Calipari said, “I need another guy. I need another guy who wants the ball and goes and makes a play to win the game.” With 4:30 left in the game and Kentucky up 66-58, Miller made that play to seal the victory. After Doron Lamb missed an open three, Miller jumped over Florida center Vernon Macklin to grab a crucial offensive rebound. After one pass to Knight, Miller curled to the side to drain an open three that sent Florida to a timeout and most UK fans to the exits.

After the shot, Miller stuck out his tongue and gave a somewhat uncharacteristic loud scream. It was a striking departure in character for the player that has previously showed so little emotion on the court that one was left wondering if he consistently had a pulse. But complaints about this show of personality from UK coaches, or anyone else, will be nonexistent. On a team that starts three freshman and a senior with virtually no experience, Miller has to be not only a leader, but one that gives the team swagger. 

Afterwards Calipari said, “I need Darius to be that good in every game because I know he can be. He has the ability to take us to another level.” That other level is where a team has the ability to find a way to close out games on the road and on the neutral courts where the NCAA Tournament is played. On Saturday, Darius Miller showcased that he can be the catalyst to a big win over a ranked opponent in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. For Kentucky to reach its potential and make a March run, he will have to repeat that performance outside of the state that he has always called home.  



More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Florida, Kentucky
 
Posted on: February 26, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: February 26, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Saturday Preview: Jimmer... Kawhi... be there!



Posted by Eric Angevine

Featured Game: BYU @ SDSU, 2:00 p.m. ET, CBS

Raise your hand if you legitimately thought you'd be waiting breathlessly for a top-ten matchup in the Mountain West when this season began. All eyes are on Jimmer and Kawahi as the Cougars attempt to seize control of the MWC by winning in Viejas Arena. BYU already owns a convincing 71-58 home win in the series, and we could see a third matchup for the auto-bid when the league tourney starts in March. So, in case you couldn't tell, this is "kind of a big deal" in San Diego.

Missouri @ Kansas State, 12:00 p.m., ESPN: As K-State attempts to get off the bubble and into the field, they need every advantage they can get. Facing a ranked Missouri team in the Octagon of Doom, where they are bound to struggle with the non-stop noise, is a big one. A win would give Frank Martin's Wildcats the perfect resume boost to go with their upset of the Kansas Jayhawks, which also happened in Manhattan, KS. | Video Preview

Syracuse @ Georgetown, 12:00 p.m., CBS: This is our first chance to see what Georgetown is capable of with Chris Wright out for a full game. The senior guard is supposed to be healed in time for the NCAA tournament, but it would surely behoove John Thompson III to find an adequate substitute for the short run, or risk a drop in the postseason seeding process. Keep an eye on that starting lineup. | Video Preview

Wichita State @ Missouri State, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2: The atmosphere in Springfield, MO should be electric. School officials are calling for a "Maroon-out" as Cuonzo Martin's Bears (14-3 MVC) host Wichita State (14-3) in the final game of the season for both teams. Winner gets the No. 1 seed in the conference tourney, which could mean the difference between an auto-bid and a Selection Sunday spent in a full-on cold sweat. Missouri State owns a road win in the series, but several weeks have passed since then. | Dennis Dodd

St. John's @ Villanova, 2:00 p.m., CBS: Simply put, both of these teams are in the Big Dance barring a complete collapse to end the season. The story here is really St. John's on the road. We know they can win, and win big, in MSG, but what will they do in a hostile environment with a top-25 ranking to defend? Also, could a Jay Wright vs. Steve Lavin throwdown be a reality series on the Fashion Channel? | Video Preview

Memphis @ UTEP, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2: Will Tim Floyd keep his jacket on today? Can Memphis continue to claw its way back into the national consciousness under Josh Pastner? It's a battle of C-USA frontrunners.

Florida @ Kentucky, 4:00 p.m., CBS: Our Matt Jones has secured an All-Access pass for this one, so we fully expect to see him occupying John Calipari's chair while the energetic head coach paces the sidelines. OK, maybe he won't be that close, but he's already teasing us with tidbits of what we'll learn about how the Wildcats tick. Watch the game so you can compare the TV experience to Matt's up-close-and-personal take. Oh, and because it's a hee-youge game between ranked SEC teams in one of the nation's most venerated arenas. That too.

Arizona @ UCLA, 4:00 p.m., FSN: This was supposed to be the Year of the Huskies in another weak season in the Pac-10, but it's turned into more of a redemption story. Arizona is back in form as Sean Miller rebuilds the team that stumbled without Lute Olson in command, and Ben Howland is raring to make the Bruins' absence from the NCAA tournament a one-year aberration. Should be a hot one in Pauley Pavilion.

Duke @ Virginia Tech, 9:00 p.m., ESPN: The Hokies have a lot of work to do if they want to get off the bubble and into a bracket, and this one game could be the linchpin of the entire image rehab process. Seth Greenberg's team has made a fairly frequent habit of upsetting top-ranked ACC teams. The Washington Post has a nice recap article about the Hokies' recent battles with No. 1 teams that gives the lowdown. | Video Preview

View the full schedule

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:33 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 10:35 pm
 

Billy Donovan has Florida relevant in March again

Posted by MATT JONES

Admit it, you haven't thought about Florida basketball at all this season. I can't blame you. Billy Donovan and the Gators have given college basketball fans little reason to care about their exploits not only this season, but really over the last few years. Following the perfect storm of chemistry and talent that led to the 2006 and 2007 NCAA titles, the Gators have become perpetual disappointments, going from the elite of college basketball to a team languishing in the netherworld of NIT berths and NCAA first-round flameouts. 

This season started with little difference. The Gators followed up a thorough whipping by Ohio State with two losses to in-state rivals Central Florida and Jacksonville. The signal was clearly sent to the world that once again Donovan's group could be an afterthought, good for a couple of Tuesday night games versus Kentucky and Tennessee, but little else of interest. There was no reason to think that Florida would even win the SEC, much less matter nationally, so we could all go back to speculating whether Billy D should have followed his initial instinct and gone to coach the Orlando Magic.

But now Florida may be requiring us to pay them attention once again. After Thursday night's 71-62 victory over Georgia in Gainesville, the Gators moved to 11-2 in the SEC and 22-5 overall. While the rest of the SEC East's top contenders have fallen all over each other in a race towards mediocrity, Florida has won games in a very quiet, under-the-radar style. John Calipari and Bruce Pearl have gotten the headlines, but Billy Donovan has the wins. His team has one of the most balanced starting lineups in college basketball and now looks potentially undervalued at No. 13 in the polls.

 Against Georgia, the Gators showcased what has fueled their latest run of success. Their dynamic "feast or famine" scoring guard Kenny Boynton scored 12 straight points in the middle of the second half to turn a tied game into a 10 point lead that the Gators would not relinquish. His ability to create points quickly is unmatched by all but a handful of guards in America and when he plays under control, he can be a thrill to watch. Teammate Chandler Parsons, returning after injury, added 16 points and found a way to contribute on both ends of the floor, despite being in the middle of a continued shooting slump. And former Gator centerpiece Alex Tyus continued his secondary role as the team's do-it-all big man, getting key late stops against Georgia star Trey Thompkins.

 With the win, it is time to officially take Florida seriously. But are they simply a good team with a strong conference record, or are they a real March threat? The Gators have won most of their close games, but they are in involved in way too many of them against teams that true contenders would outclass. How can a team that I should take seriously be involved in a nip and tuck game against LSU, score only 45 points in a road victory versus Auburn and lose at home to South Carolina? Whereas the other top teams in America beat down their worst opponents, Florida is the SEC's generous soccer mom, giving everyone a chance to stay in the game, no matter how untalented.

The next three games will tell us a great deal about how good Florida really is relative to the other national contenders. Billy Donovan's team will go on the road to Kentucky and Vanderbilt with a game at home against Alabama for the regular season conference title sandwiched in between. While the Gators have won against the Wildcats and Commodores at home and swept Tennessee in Gainesville and Knoxville, this stretch represents the three toughest games on the Gators’ SEC schedule.

Whatever happens during the final stretch, what is clear is that quietly Billy Donovan has brought relevance back to Gainesville. Florida is situated in a position to win its first SEC title since 2007 and will be a dangerous lurker in a top seed’s bracket come Tournament time. We don’t yet know just how good this Florida team really is. But the Gators are finally back in the discussion. And that in and of itself represents great progress.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Florida
 
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:41 pm
 

The Real Bracket Busters

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Let’s face it: NCAA Tournament pools are won by people who pick the right sleepers to reach the Final Four, and those that have the foresight to spot a high-seeded bust when they see them. Those cute, 12-over-5 upset picks that everyone in your office had? That doesn’t do it. The big money (figuratively speaking, of course) is made when you choose the middle-range seeded team that makes a deep run, or when you have a top-seeded team getting knocked out in round two.

We are only nearing the end of February, but it’s time to look at some teams that can a) ruin your bracket or b) carry your bracket to the top of the standings. The teams in Group A that I will discuss are potential high-seeded teams that I don’t think have the necessary make-up to make a deep run in March. Group B teams are squads that will likely be seeded five through eight or lower, but have what it takes to pull off a few upsets and end up in Indianapolis.

Don’t Trust These Teams

Villanova: If you’ve been following me on Twitter this season, you would know I’m not a fan of the Wildcats. Losses in six of their last 11 games has magnified my lack of confidence. They lack leadership, they don’t get consistent inside production from Antonio Pena or Mouphtaou Yarou and their offense falters when they can’t hit outside shots.

Florida: The Gators have looked a lot better in recent weeks, winning five in a row heading into a tough finishing stretch. I’m still not sold on them, though. The frontcourt, despite plenty of talent, is soft defensively, while the backcourt of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton is inconsistent. Moreover, neither Walker nor Boynton is a true point guard.

Louisville: Rick Pitino has done a tremendous job with the Cardinals this season, but this team simply doesn’t have a lot of talent. They don’t rebound the ball well at either end, they don’t attack the rim and they turn it over too often. Preston Knowles is the go-to scorer, but he is struggling of late. When Terrence Jennings isn’t producing inside, the team is one-dimensional.

Connecticut: Clearly, I’m not sold on most of the Big East contenders this season. The Huskies have the kind of player who can carry them to a Final Four in Kemba Walker, but when he goes cold, this team can be picked off. They don’t shoot the ball well, and the freshmen have been inconsistent. Defensively, they allow far too many offensive rebounds. UConn will go as Kemba goes.

BYU: This comes with a caveat. I needed to choose a team in the top two seed lines, and I think BYU is the most vulnerable. Like Connecticut and Kemba Walker, the Cougars will go as far as Jimmer Fredette can take them. He is nearly impossible to stop, but he has been slowed down before, making BYU vulnerable. Depending on the match-ups, The Jimmer might be sent home early.

Don’t Overlook These Teams

Washington: Ken Pomeroy and his efficient ratings have pegged the Huskies all season as a team that is better than their record. Qualitatively, I would agree. Isaiah Thomas is one ofthe most difficult players to defend, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning provides an inside presence. Lorenzo Romar has multiple lockdown defenders, as well has plenty of experience.

Missouri: The Tigers have looked vulnerable at times in Big 12 play, but they are going to be a nightmare to play with only a couple of days of preparation. They get up and down the floor, forcing turnovers and getting transition baskets. Marcus Denmon leads a host of perimeter scorers, while Ricardo Ratliffe gives Missouri a go-to-guy on the inside.

Kansas State: This has nothing to do with the fact I picked the Wildcats to win the national title in the preseason. With Jacob Pullen on the perimeter, Frank Martin on the sidelines and loads of depth up front, Kansas State can match-up with anyone in the country. If the guards take care of the ball and the big men play to their potential, the Wildcats have what it takes to make a run.

Vanderbilt: With the tough finishing stretch the Commodores have, they will likely finish with a six seed or so. Look out for them at that spot, though. Vandy can beat you in a variety of ways, with John Jenkins hitting 3s and Festuz Ezeli scoring down low. Throw in Jeffery Taylor’s two-way talents and this is a tough offense. Defensively, they are disciplined and force tough shots. 

Illinois: If the Fighting Illini sneak into the NCAA Tournament, they are going to be someone no team wants to play. Despite their recent struggles, they still have the pieces to beat anyone in the country. Demetri McCamey leads a host of shooters, while Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale are tough inside. If the outside shots are falling, Illinois can get hot and make a run.

Photos: US Presswire (Corey Fisher, Isaiah Thomas)

Posted on: February 6, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 2:47 am
 

Kentucky's close game woes continue

Posted by MATT JONES

It was deja vu all over again for Kentucky fans Saturday night when Brandon Knight's three-pointer clanked off the side of the rim as time expired, giving Florida a 70-68 win over the Cats in Gainesville. For the fifth time this season, Kentucky went on the road, fell down by double digits in the second half, fought back to take the lead late, only to lose in the final minutes. Against North Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama and now Florida, Kentucky has seen golden opportunities to grab road victories slip through its fingers down the stretch, each time in a bit more painful and frustrating manner than the last.

Against Florida, Kentucky stormed back from a 13 point second half deficit on the back of Brandon Knight. The freshman put on a spectacular show in the second half, scoring in bunches against former AAU teammate Kenny Boynton. Knight finished with 24 points, his ninth game scoring over 20, which tied the all-time Kentucky record for most games by a Freshman over that point plateau. And when Knight found an open Darius Miller for three with 3:40 left to cap a 22-6 rally that turned a 55-42 deficit into a 64-61 Kentucky lead, it looked as if the Wildcats would escape with a hard-fought SEC road victory.

But, like The Situation after a night at the bars on “The Jersey Shore”, the young Cats once again could not close the deal. On the ensuing two possessions, the Wildcats missed a rebound assignment, allowing a Chandler Parsons putback dunk, and then immediately followed it up by turning the ball over when Brandon Knight ran into a teammate attempting to set a screen. A three point lead turned into a one point deficit and Kentucky was forced to play from behind over the final two minutes.

Even still, Knight ended up with a relatively good look at the end to win the game. But after making his other four three point attempts, Knight was unable to connect on the last, sending the Cats back home with another defeat. Unlike in previous close losses, UK wasn’t beaten this time by a mental error, defensive lapse or a late jumper. But they were beaten nonetheless, finding a new excruciating way to drop a close game on the road. This edition of John Calipari’s team has been the bizarro version of the UK group from last season. The Wall/Cousins/Patterson team was 8-2 in games that were within five points going into the last television timeout, while this group is a pitiful 0-5 in such scenarios.

In all five losses, the Cats have failed in a different manner, but they have each followed the same general pattern. After falling behind by a large amount, the Cats have stormed back to take the lead, only to crumble down the stretch. This closing problem is disturbing, as it suggests the problems are not rooted in a continued lapse in preparation or random cold shooting nights on the road. But rather, Kentucky has simply been unable to perform in winning time. When the games are on the line and Calipari’s group needs one basket, rebound, loose ball or defensive stop, it simply hasn’t executed.  Kentucky has found unique ways to be consistently anti-clutch, a death sentence for a team with Championship dreams.

Before the Florida game, Calipari told Dick Vitale that he didn’t much care whether Kentucky won the SEC regular season. That is good, as Kentucky’s chances of winning the conference regular season are quickly slipping away. The Cats are currently three games behind SEC West leader Alabama, and sit two behind Florida in the SEC East. Instead, Calipari told Vitale that he is only worried about how the team’s play will have an effect on the seeding in March, when he still believes his team can make a run.

In theory one could see how Calipari’s optimism about March is possible. His team has lost four games by a combined total of 8 points and is very close to being 20-2, instead of 16-6. However the difference in record is not one based on misfortune or a lack of luck, but rather a consistent inability to execute down the stretch and make winning plays as great teams must do.

Ohio State has been in five games in the Big Ten decided by five points or fewer. It is 5-0 in those games. Kentucky has been in five games in the SEC decided by five points or fewer. It is 0-5 in those games. The difference in the amount and margin of close games between the No. 1 team in America and Kentucky is quite small. But when contrasting Kentucky's poor performances down the stretch in game after game with those of the nation's best team, a paraphrase of W Clement Stone’s famous admonition about people comes to mind.  There may be little difference amongst the top college basketball teams in America, but what little difference there is, makes a big difference.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Florida, Kentucky
 
Posted on: February 1, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 7:04 pm
 

Big four game stretch coming for Florida

Posted by MATT JONES

Don’t look now, but the Florida Gators are sitting atop the SEC East. After being dismissed by most pundits following early season losses to Central Florida and Jacksonville, the Gators have bounced back to take the lead in the SEC East (the only division that matters in the conference), and have the two most important victories so far in conference play, road wins at Tennessee and Georgia. With most considering the conference to be a balanced five team race between those three teams, Kentucky and South Carolina, road wins are at a premium and the Gators have a leg up with two against the other top contenders.  

However Billy Donovan’s problem, both this season and in past years, has been holding serve at home. In the last decade, no team has gone on the road in the SEC and stolen more wins than the Gators, but very few have also lost more needless games at home. Tuesday night marks the beginning of a four game stretch for Florida that will feature three home games against Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee, which as a group will determine whether Donovan’s club can be considered a real conference contender.  

The Gators come into the stretch playing their best, but also most inconsistent, basketball of the season. Florida has the most balanced talent and scoring of any group in the SEC, with four starters averaging in double figures and the fifth, Alex Tyus, providing leadership and controlling the paint underneath.

They have shown a trait often lacking in non-Joakim Noah Florida teams, mental toughness, fighting back in Athens and Knoxville to win overtime battles in hostile environments. But a home loss to South Carolina and two horrific performances on the road in a win versus Auburn and a loss versus Mississippi State, have showcased that Florida seems to raise its play to the level of whatever name happens to be on the front of the opponent’s jersey.

Even with this inconsistency, Donovan’s team has an opening and a path to win the SEC East and stake its claim as the best team in the conference. With Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton, Florida has a dynamic set of perimeter scoring options, each of whom creates significant matchup issues for its opponents. While the Gators are vulnerable to a talented post presence, none of the three teams coming to Gainesville are situated to truly exploit that weakness.

That means that the table is set for Florida to go on a streak that could bring the Gators their first shot at a conference championship since its dynamic back-to-back NCAA title run. But in order to reach that goal, it must take care of business at home…something Billy Donovan’s team have shown a propensity to be unable to do in the last three seasons.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 15, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Five Takeaways from Saturday's games




Posted by MATT JONES

1.       Top two escape at home:  With Duke losing earlier this week to Florida State, next week’s top two teams will be Ohio State and Kansas. However both squads got quite a test from unlikely opponents at home on Saturday. Ohio State was forced to rely on a clutch performance from the top freshman in America, Jared Sullinger, who produced a key three point play with 13 seconds to go and the score tied, in order to beat surprising Penn State. The Buckeyes trailed at times in the game and looked more vulnerable than at any point in the past few weeks, potentially giving future Big Ten opponents insight into how to beat its multi-pronged attack. As for Kansas, it slept walked through much of the game, falling behind by ten points to Nebraska early in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks did just enough to survive down the stretch, but its 63-60 win suggests that its previous close calls to Michigan, UCLA and USC aren’t simply aberrations, but are par for the Jayhawks’ course. While both teams will go into next week, Nos. 1 and 2, they also both look quite beatable by virtually any team in their respective conferences

 

2.        No lead is safe:  Vanderbilt had to assume its quick 17 point lead against rival Tennessee would be enough to help it win in Knoxville and slam the door shut on the Vols’ bizarre season. But a late run led by Scotty Hopson helped the Vols to a comeback victory that gives them a slim sliver of life left in the SEC. With Bruce Pearl not yet halfway through his suspension, the win kept Tennessee from opening up conference play 0-3 and showcased that even though its fans were ill-prepared for the rivalry game (only 500 or so people showed up for a College Gameday taping before the game), its players weren’t ready to demolish the season just yet. Even more impressive was the absurd comeback by Louisville, which looked on the verge of NIT land when down 18 to Marquette at home with 5:44 left. But with a late dash of steals, quick scores and four Preston Knowles three-pointers, it made one of the more improbable comebacks in recent college basketball history. For Rick Pitino, the game means his team keeps its head above water in the Big East, while Marquette’s Buzz Williams has to live with one of the worst coaching and team collapses in recent memory.

 

3.       Florida disappoints again:  No team is more impossible to predict this season than the Florida Gators.  The same team that won impressively in road games at Tennessee and Xavier, has fallen at home to Central Florida, Jacksonville and today, South Carolina. The 72-69 loss to the Gamecocks comes right as I was about to take Florida seriously once again. It looked tremendous in its gutsy win over the Vols in Knoxville and the combination of Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker and Kenny Boyton seemed to give the Gators enough multiple scoring threats to make them scary in conference play. But now after the loss, we are left with the same Florida team that has disappointed so often in the last three years. Inconsistency, thy name is Florida.

 

4.       San Diego State and Texas A&M are legit:  If you saw San Diego State in the pack of unbeatens and determined that they were simply a fluke beneficiary of fortunate scheduling, I hope you took note of today’s 87-77 win at New Mexico.  The Aztecs controlled the game at the Pit, led by D.J. Gay’s 30 points and an impressively diverse set of offensive options that make them a terror to try and defend. While New Mexico isn’t a Top 25 team, it is talented and a win in one of the best home courts in America is proof that Steve Fisher’s group is not to be taken lightly. Similarly, if you were ready to assume that No. 13 Texas A&M was going to fade in Big 12 play, that conclusion also may need to be revisited. The Aggies won a hard fought 91-89 Overtime victory over Missouri that showcased what a talent it has in Sophomore Khris Middleton. His name spelling is similar to the Aggies as a team, surprising and orthodox, but potentially with the win over Missouri, now a contender for best in a suddenly deep Big 12 conference.

 

5.       A-10 and Conference USA Flops: Both the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA leagues consider themselves to be worthy of respect and national attention and often shun the notion that they are “second-tier” leagues in college basketball. When one of the leagues has a dominant team, it is thus good for its image as a potential national power, as showcased by St. Joseph’s and Memphis in recent years. Until today, both teams thought another such team could exist this year, but Temple and Central Florida both laid an egg in humiliating road defeats. Neither Temple’s 78-66 loss to Duquesne nor Central Florida’s 86-69 defeat at Southern Miss was ever close and both defeats exposed the weaknesses of the previously ranked teams. For now at least, both leagues will suffer from diminished attention due to the lack of power at the top of the standings.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com