Posted on: February 27, 2008 2:53 am

What You Need To Know

Vandy beat a good team.

New Mexico still hasn't.

Here's Wednesday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Tuesday: Vanderbilt did what it always does to top-ranked teams that dare enter Memorial Gym, which is to say the Commodores sent them home humbled. Tennessee was the victim this time. The Commodores beat the Vols 72-69. They've now won their past four meetings against top-ranked opponents in Nashville, a stretch that includes last year's win over eventual national champion Florida. Shan Foster had 32 points for Vanderbilt. Jermaine Beal added 17.

Notable performance from Tuesday: Trent Plaisted hit two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining to finish with 23 points in BYU's 70-69 overtime victory at New Mexico. Plaisted made 9-of-15 field goal attempts to reach double-figures for the 22nd time this season, and it was an effort that ripped the momentum out of New Mexico's NCAA Tournament hopes because a win for the Lobos would've given them the signature victory they so desperately need. As it stands, Steve Alford's team is still winless against the Top 50 at, and now New Mexico must beat UNLV next week or run the risk of being omitted from the NCAA Tournament despite a current record of 22-6.

Notable game scheduled for Wednesday: Kentucky's attempt to get back into serious NCAA Tournament consideration will continue when the Wildcats host Ole Miss at Rupp Arena at 8 p.m. ET. UK got off to a horrendous start, and for a number of reasons. But Billy Gillispie now has a team that's won eight of its past 10 games -- including home victories over Tennessee and Arkansas -- and it's no longer absurd to think the Wildcats can earn an at-large bid, if only because the 'bubble teams' also under consideration for the NCAA Tournament are similarly underwhelming. At any rate, the experts who counted out UK long ago -- and yes, I'm including myself in that bunch -- might end up looking stupid if the Wildcats handle Ole Miss because they'll then be 16-10 overall and 10-3 in the SEC. Is that great? No. But it just might be good enough for this particular season.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 26, 2008 6:56 pm

Did Pearl promise to kick Vandy's ass too?

NASHVILLE -- I don't believe Bruce Pearl is delivering a pep talk at a bar today.

And that's unfortunate.

Because his pregame speech to Tennessee fans at Jillian's in downtown Memphis over the weekend was fabulous, if only because he explained how the plan was to "kick Memphis' ass." Honestly, can you think of any other high-profile coach who would yell and sing with fans before coaching the biggest regular season game of his career?

I can't.

But Pearl did.

And you can click this link to see it all go down.

Meantime,  we're about two hours from UT's first game ever as a No. 1 team, and it's not going to be an easy task. It's cold and windy here in Nashville, but Memorial Gym should still be wild enough to create a scene similar to the one at FedExForum three days ago. Of course, the Vols handled that OK, escaped with a 66-62 win over then-top-ranked Memphis. But they've dropped three of their past four games in this building, which is at least partly why Vegas has made Tennessee just a 2-point favorite.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 26, 2008 10:24 am
Edited on: February 26, 2008 10:24 am

What You Need To Know

Bill Walker struggled.

Dominic James did not.

Here's Tuesday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Monday: Texas took advantage of Bill Walker's 0-of-14 shooting effort and beat Kansas State to maintain its lead in the Big 12 standings. D.J. Augustin finished with 25 points and five assists in the 74-65 victory. KSU's Michael Beasley's got 30 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

Notable performance from Monday: Dominic James looked like something more than a 33 percent 3-pointer shooter against Villanova when he made 5-of-8 shots from behind the arc to finish with 25 points in Marquette's 85-75 victory. The junior point guard sank 9-of-13 shots overall, and Marquette has now won five consecutive games.

Notable game scheduled for Tuesday: Tennessee is No. 1 in the nation, but that ranking is at risk. The Vols are playing No. 18 Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym, where the Commodores have won 17 straight home games and three of the last four against UT. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 25, 2008 6:32 pm

The Poll Attacks

Kentucky is getting votes.

BYU broke into the Top 25 after a loss.

Here are the Poll Attacks, as easy as ever.

AP poll: Oh, Lord.

Here we go.

Some writer -- his name is Eric Boatright of the News Star in Louisiana, you should know -- has decided to start listing Kentucky on his Top 25 ballot despite UK winning only five more times this season than it has lost. The Wildcats are 15-10 overall and just 3-8 against the Top 100 and 9-9 against the Top 200. But Boatright apparently didn't consider any of that, instead choosing to be impressed by a recent road win over LSU (which is terrible) that was backed by a home win over Georgia (which is terrible) and a home win over Arkansas (which is terrible on the road, evidence being how the Hogs' best road win is at Auburn).

That's what prompted Boatright to vote Kentucky 23rd -- that home win over a Georgia team that is 1-8 in true road games and that home win over an Arkansas team that is 2-5 in true road games. As for me, I still can't figure out how a team that isn't even considered a legitimate bubble team for the NCAA Tournament can be ranked 23rd on somebody's ballot. But maybe I'm just thinking too much.

Coaches poll: BYU dropped out of the rankings after a Dec. 29 loss at Boise State and didn't resurface in the subsequent seven weeks. Three straight wins didn't get the Cougars in on Jan. 28. Five straight wins didn't get them in on Feb. 4. Six straight wins didn't get them in on Feb. 11. Eight straight wins didn't get them in on Feb. 18, and I was starting to get emails from BYU fans who were wondering what they had to do to break back into the Top 25.

Answer: Lose to San Diego State, of course.

BYU dropped a 69-65 decision at SDSU late Saturday night, and it was so late that most of the coaches who vote in the Coaches poll must've already been asleep. How else do you explain a team going from unranked to ranked after losing to an unranked opponent?
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 25, 2008 1:54 am
Edited on: February 25, 2008 1:54 am

What You Need To Know

Drew Lavender is good at free throws.

Kyle McAlarney is amazing at 3-pointers.

Here's Monday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Sunday: Drew Lavender sank four free throws in the final 35 seconds to help Xavier to a 57-51 victory over Dayton that secured at least a share of the Atlantic 10 title. Meantime, Dayton has now dropped eight of its past 11 games, and there's little reason to believe the Flyers are going to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament given how it's late February and they are in 12th place in the A-10 standings.

Notable performance from Sunday: Kyle McAlarney further damaged Syracuse's NCAA Tournament hopes by scoring 30 points to lead Notre Dame to a 94-87 victory over the Orange. The junior guard made 9-of-11 3-point attempts to set a school record for 3-pointers in a game, and I'm sure he can't wait to see that Syracuse zone again.

Notable game scheduled for Monday: Kansas State has dropped two straight, and now the schedule really gets tough with a game against Texas. After that, it's Kansas. So don't be surprised if this two-game losing streak becomes a four-game losing streak, though any opponent is vulnerable when Michael Beasley is playing well. The fabulous freshman is coming off a 44-point effort. He's really good. But he'll need to be better than usual for KSU to upset the Big 12-leading Longhorns. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 24, 2008 2:23 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2008 2:34 pm

Memphis proved it can't shoot great forever

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- You know when I figured Memphis would lose to Tennessee?

When the Tigers were leading at halftime.

Memphis was up 35-34 at the break, and so the locals were thrilled. But the problem for the Tigers was that they needed to sink eight 3-point attempts to gain that slim advantage, and anybody who has watched this team routinely miss shots -- Memphis ranks 227th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage -- knew that pace would fall off eventually, and by eventually I mean drastically.

"They can't beat us from three all night," UT coach Bruce Pearl told ESPN's Erin Andrews at halftime. "They just can't."

What came next was predictable.

Memphis took seven 3-pointers in the second half and made exactly zero.

In other words, a really bad 3-point shooting team started shooting 3-pointers really badly.

And that's why the Tigers are gonna go from being the top-ranked team in the country to the second-ranked team in the state.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 23, 2008 3:18 pm

No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Tennessee is approaching

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- We're about six hours from tip-off and the buildup is unlike anything I've ever seen for a regular season contest. It's No. 1 vs. No. 2, and that has a lot to do with it. But really, this is much more than that because of the rivalry between the schools, coaches, players and fanbases -- all of which made for an interesting Friday night on Beale Street.

Every other person out was wearing Memphis gear or Tennessee gear.

Random bar conversations always drifted to free throw shooting and fullcourt presses.

The game is all the talk in this city. And though you've probably read a number of columns about the icy relationship between John Calipari and Bruce Pearl, I opted to mostly avoid the subject this week. Why, you ask? Because I wrote that column last season.

If you want to revisit it just click this link.

And while you're doing that I'm gonna shower and head downtown.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2008 7:56 pm

Kelvin Sampson is done (as am I for the day)

Kelvin Sampson resigned to avoid termination.

I'm glad he did it before dinner.

Because I'm hungry.

So I'm going to eat and I'll check back in later.
Category: NCAAB
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