Posted on: March 11, 2011 2:25 am

Thursday Wrap-up

NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker was terrific.

UAB was not.

Here's Thursday's Wrap-up to recap a busy day of college basketball.

Best game: Kemba Walker began things by delivering the shot of the postseason -- and possibly the entire season -- to give Connecticut a 76-74 victory over Pittsburgh and propel himself into Madison Square Garden lore. The New York kid wowed the New York crowd with a stepback jumper at the buzzer that got Pitt's Gary McGhee so crossed he'll likely refuse to ever again switch on a ball screen. Yes, it was that bad. And that great. Suddenly, Kemba at MSG is the best show going. A date with Syracuse in Friday's Big East semifinals is on deck.
Other best game: Kansas missed 20 of 25 3-point attempts against Oklahoma State and needed the Cowboys to miss a heave at the buzzer to escape with a 63-62 win in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar combined to go 2 of 14 from 3-point range for the Jayhawks. So on second thought, this wasn't really one of the best games in terms of beautiful basketball. But it was close. And close is usually fun.

Team whose dream remained alive: Colorado proved "it's hard to beat a team three times in a season" is among the dumbest things dumb people say by beating Kansas State for the third time this season. The Buffaloes have now beaten the Wildcats by scores of 74-66, 58-56 and, most recently, 87-75. So the third time was actually the easiest of all three times … and probably enough to ensure Colorado receives an at-large bid regardless of what happens against Kansas in Friday's Big 12 semifinals.

Team whose dream was crushed: UAB had a questionable resume despite winning Conference USA and entered the league tournament with work to do. Unfortunately for Mike Davis, the Blazers did not do the required work. They instead lost 75-70 to East Carolina in the C-USA quarterfinals. Where I'm from, that's called locking down an NIT bid.

Performance I hope you witnessed: Ben Hansbrough's 23-point, seven-assist effort in Notre Dame's 89-51 blowout of Cincinnati wasn't as highlight-worthy as Walker's memorable outing, but it was still an impressive performance for the Big East Player of the Year. Hansbrough was 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He's the main reason why the Irish have gone from unranked in the preseason to the verge of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Performance I hope you missed: Jackson Emery took nine 3-pointers and missed eight of them. That's not a violation of BYU's Honor Code, but it ought to be. Yes, the Cougars overcame a halftime deficit and beat TCU 64-58 in the Mountain West quarters. But what they really did is provide another 40-minute sample that suggests they miss Brandon Davies just as much as most anticipated, and that's going to be an issue come Selection Sunday.

Three other things worth noting

1. Southern California's 70-56 victory over California means the Trojans have an opportunity to get a sixth top-50 win in Friday's Pac-10 semifinals against Arizona. But would that be enough? Honestly, I'm not sure. Because though the Trojans have better wins than most bubble teams, they also have worse losses -- specifically three outside of the top 200. My advice: Go for the automatic bid, Kevin O'Neill, just to be safe.

2. St. John's suffered more than a 79-73 loss to Syracuse in the Big East quarters. The Red Storm also lost D.J. Kennedy to a torn ACL that ended his season prematurely and will send Steve Lavin's team into the NCAA tournament short a key contributor. Kennedy was averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

3. Washington State's Klay Thompson returned from his one-game suspension and dropped 43 points in an 89-87 loss to Washington. So Thompson was high -- or at least in a car with a substance you use to get high -- last Thursday and the nation's highest scorer this Thursday. That's impressive.

Final thought: No team has ever lost its conference tournament opener and gone on to win the NCAA tournament.

You've heard that before, right?

You heard it when Pittsburgh lost to Connecticut, didn't you?

Of course you did. We all did. And though it's a statement that's 100 percent true, it's also misleading because it fails to recognize that we've never had a league as large and strong as the Big East that requires a true national title contender to open its league tournament with a game against a team the caliber of Connecticut. Bottom line, there are plenty of reasons to think Pitt won't win a national championship. But the fact that the Panthers lost to a nationally ranked UConn team on a ridiculous stepback jumper from an All-American on Thursday shouldn't be among them.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 10:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2010 8:12 am

Five points in a half? Really, Cal?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- I'm not one of those who sits around and complains about "slow" basketball or even "bad" basketball. But there's no denying what I've spent the past two days watching here at the Old Spice Classic has been mostly ridiculous.

I've watched eight games -- four each day -- and seen nine teams shoot under 40 percent from the field, three shoot under 30 percent from the field. The winners of three of the eight games have won despite scoring in the 50s, and one of those winners spent Friday participating in the silliest half of basketball I've ever seen.

"I've never seen a half like that," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, so that makes two of us. "Never had 21 points at halftime and been up 16."

(Well, who has?)

In case you didn't piece that together, allow me: Notre Dame and California played in a winner's bracket game Friday, and the Irish led 21-5 at the half. Seriously, it was 21-5. At. The. Half. The Bears shot 8.0 percent from the field in those 20 minutes. They had more than twice as many turnovers (11) as points (5), more than four times as many fouls (9) as field goals (2). It all contributed to one of the lowest combined point totals in a half since the shot clock came into effect in 1986, and thank god the Auburn-Alabama football game was on to serve as a distraction.

"I've never done the math and said, 'We're up 16 and we have 21 points,'" Brey said. "Never seen anything like it."

Me neither.

And hopefully we never will again.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 26, 2010 12:59 am
Edited on: November 26, 2010 8:13 am

At least I had Wisconsin winning

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Old Spice Classic is really developing into a nice event.

Especially the consolation bracket.

I watched four games spread over nearly 12 hours Thursday here at the Milk House, and I saw a bunch of things I didn't expect to see. Like Boston College beating Texas A&M a week after losing to Yale. And California beating No. 21 Temple in what was supposed to be (but doesn't really look like) a rebuilding year for the Bears. And Georgia blowing a 12-point lead in the second half of a double-overtime loss to Notre Dame. Had I been asked to predict all four first-round games, I would've nailed Wisconsin over Manhattan and missed the other three. It was a strange day, but also typical given that this is college basketball and it's still November. In 11 hours I get to do it all again.

Here's Friday's schedule:

(All times ET)
  • Boston College vs. Wisconsin at noon
  • Texas A&M vs. Manhattan at 2:30
  • Notre Dame vs. California at 5:00
  • Georgia vs. Temple at 7:30
The Irish and Bears are the lone teams here still undefeated on the season.

Notre Dame is 5-0.

Cal is 3-0.
Posted on: March 8, 2010 8:06 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2010 8:15 pm

The Poll Attacks

Texas A&M isn't getting enough credit.

Neither is Texas, for that matter.

It's time to Poll Attack!

AP poll: I, like most of you, thought Texas A&M might slip when Derrick Roland shattered his leg just before Christmas. But it didn't happen, and now the Aggies enter the Big 12 tournament with a 21-8 record featuring wins over Baylor, Texas, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Missouri (and zero losses outside of the top 50).

So we can argue where to rank Texas A&M if you want.

I have them 18th.

A little higher or lower is fine.

But there's no way to reasonably conclude that the Aggies don't belong in the Top 25 based on their body of work, and yet eight AP voters left Mark Turgeon's team off their ballots, among them Scott Johnson of the Daily Herald in Washington. Scott omitted Texas A&M but included California despite the fact that Cal has A) an inferior RPI, B) one fewer win, C) one more loss, D) four fewer top 50 wins, and E) four more losses outside of the top 50.

So I ask: How could anybody rank Cal but not Texas A&M?

It's insane.

But it's fine because without insanity there would be no Poll Attacks.

Coaches poll: I'm not going to spend too much energy defending Texas because the Longhorns have been disappointing, and they seem headed toward nowhere significant. But do you really believe there are 25 better teams in the country? With five wins over schools projected to make the NCAA tournament -- including Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Texas A&M -- and just two losses outside of the top 50, Texas clearly has one of the best 25 bodies of work, and it's not like Rick Barnes' team been losing one bad game after another.

The Longhorns have lost four times in the past month.

They lost to Kansas.

They lost at Missouri.

They lost at Texas A&M.

They lost at Baylor.

Obviously, that shows they aren't the nationally prominent team everybody once believed them to be, but it doesn't mean they aren't a legitimate Top 25 team. There's a middle ground, you know? And Texas belongs in that middle ground.

Are the Longhorns great?

Clearly not.

But there aren't 25 better teams.

Which is why I can't understand how UT only got seven points in the Coaches poll.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 2, 2009 4:46 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2009 4:47 pm

Dear Gary (on why I ranked Butler but not Cal)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Don't you have to Poll Attack yourself this week. One week ago you dropped Cal from the rankings for losing to two quality teams, but this week you kept Butler in the rankings with losses to two quality teams. It is not a perfect correlation, but with two losses, I don't understand how Butler remains in the Top 25 (and one).

-- Mickey

It's a fair question, Mickey, but I think I have a reasonable explanation. First, I always had Butler ahead of California, so Cal didn't have to fall as far as Butler did to drop out of the rankings. Beyond that, Butler was in both of its losses, meaning the Bulldogs could've won either game. They trailed Minnesota by just four points with 90 seconds remaining, led Clemson most of the game before losing in the final seconds. Meantime, Syracuse ran Cal off the court, won 95-73. Next night, Ohio State led the Bears by 24 early in the second half, point being that the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score of 76-70 indicated.

So Cal's two losses were worse than Butler's two losses, I think.

Thus, Cal drops out and Butler remains in.

Simple, right?
Posted on: November 23, 2009 9:19 pm

The Poll Attacks

I still have North Carolina ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one).

I'll explain why in the Poll Attacks .

AP poll: Do we suddenly believe Duke is better than North Carolina?

If so, I'm fine with it.

It's a reasonable opinion.

But most people didn't believe that in the preseason, and the majority of AP voters didn't believe it last week. Still, Duke jumped North Carolina in Monday's AP poll even though the only thing that happened between last week and this week is that North Carolina played Ohio State and Syracuse, i.e., two teams far superior to any team Duke has played. That's it. Thus, I kept UNC ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one) because I'm not going to vault the Blue Devils ahead of the Tar Heels -- who beat OSU but lost to Syracuse -- and rearrange the ACC's predicted order of finish simply because Duke's schedule didn't require it to play tough games before Thanksgiving.

Honestly, where would the Tar Heels be with Duke's schedule?

They'd be 4-0, right?

And where would Duke be with UNC's schedule?

Maybe 5-0. But probably 4-1. And perhaps as bad as 3-2.

Either way, if you had UNC ahead of Duke last week, and you moved Duke ahead of UNC this week despite agreeing with me that Duke would probably be no better than 4-1 against UNC's schedule, then your change atop the ACC is based on how the schedule makers at Duke and UNC did their jobs, and little more.

Again, if you think the Blue Devils are better than UNC, that's fine.

They might well be.

But if you only moved Duke ahead of UNC because Duke won last week and UNC lost last week, then your rankings have more to do with the schedules than the teams, and that's crazy.

Coaches poll: So what do you think California has to do to drop out of the rankings?

Losing a key player (Theo Robertson) to injury didn't do it.

Looking awful in two games in NYC didn't do it.

Being 2-2 with no good wins didn't do it.

So what will it take?

No question, Cal could end up being one of the best 25 teams in the country, at which point ranking the Bears 24th might make sense. But the coaches ranking them 24th now makes no sense unless what happens on the court doesn't actually matter. And it's not just that Cal lost; the nation's 24th-best team could reasonably lose to Syracuse and Ohio State. But Cal had no shot in either game, losing to the Orange by 22 points and falling behind by 24 points in the second half of an eventual loss to Ohio State. And though the absence of Robertson is a solid explanation, it's not like Robertson is back this week.

He's out indefinitely.

California should be, too.
Posted on: November 19, 2009 12:50 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2009 12:53 pm

Dear Gary (on my sh-t being together)

Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Dude, No. 13 California needs to beat Syracuse before they can meet North Carolina or Ohio State on Friday, and that ain't happening! Get your sh-t together if you want to be a college basketball columnist.

-- Stephen Leahy

Oh, Stephen, my sh-t is together. You see, the Coaches vs. Cancer has a championship game and a consolation game. So regardless of whether California beats Syracuse or loses to Syracuse on Thursday night, California will play North Carolina or Ohio State on Friday night. Just like I said. And California is a slight favorite in the game. So you're stupid on multiple levels, genius.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 9, 2009 1:56 am
Edited on: November 9, 2009 1:59 am

Welcome to Opening Day

It's disappointing that college basketball's Opening Day isn't more eventful, or even an event of some kind. There's no Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, no Black Eyed Peas concert, no nothing. Just four games that are, on paper, mismatches with Florida International's Isiah Thomas coaching against North Carolina serving as the only notable storyline.

That'll be fun until tipoff.

Then we'll have a blowout on our hands.

So, no, the nation is not buzzing about college hoops today.

Why would it?

But college basketball is here, regardless.

And for that, I'm thankful (even if I'm convinced there's got to be a better way to open the season).

Anyway, here's Monday's schedule:
  • Florida International at No. 6 North Carolina (at 7 p.m. ET)
  • Alcorn State at No. 16 Ohio State (7 p.m. ET)
  • Albany at Syracuse (9 p.m. ET)
  • Murray State at California (11 p.m. ET)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com