|WEEKLY DISH: LONGHORNS MAKE STATEMENT
January 25, 2011
Mike, SCS.com Staff Writer
Another week and another ridiculously long winning streak snapped as Kansas lost at home for the first time in 70 games. BYU’s Jimmer Fredette went off for 40 yet again as the Cougars will get set for their big showdown with undefeated San Diego State on Wednesday night. Syracuse dropped two in a row this week after its 18-0 start while the SEC remains the nation’s most unpredictable conference. There are only two remaining undefeated teams after losses by Syracuse and Kansas. Texas had a week to remember as it knocked off a pair of top ten schools to take sole possession of first place in the Big XII. Here’s what I’ve observed and what to look to for:
1. Sunshine State Shining: Gators, Seminoles in First Place
The Florida Gators and the Seminoles of Florida State are in first place in their respective conferences. Despite losing at home to South Carolina last week, Florida has responded nicely to playing the SEC West. The Gators followed an indescribably ugly 45-40 victory at Auburn with an impressive 32-point-win over Arkansas. Losses this week by Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina have Florida in sole possession of first place in the SEC East. Florida State started the week with an ugly win of its own, winning at Miami 55-53. The Seminoles returned to Tallahassee on Saturday night and thumped a Boston College team that was previously 4-1 in ACC play. Florida State is tied with Duke for first place in the ACC at 5-1, but currently hold the tiebreaker due to the Seminoles win over Duke earlier this month.
2. Jimmer Goes for 40 Again
BYU’s Jimmer Fredette may very well be the best player in the country. Early last week, Fredette torched arch-rival Utah for 47 points. On Saturday night, BYU’s talented senior added another 42 points as the Cougars notched their 19th victory of the year with a 94-85 win over Colorado State. Fredette is averaging 26.7 points-per-game on the year, but nearly 43 in his last three road games. BYU will host undefeated San Diego State on Wednesday; BYU has won nine in a row.
3. Syracuse’s Orange Feeling Blue
After an 18-0 start, Syracuse has dropped two in a row following a 83-72 home-loss to Villanova on Saturday. The Orange began the week by falling at Pittsburgh 74-66; Syracuse got off to a horrendous start in the contest as it fell behind 19-0 and did not score for more than eight minutes to begin the game. Syracuse was able to get back into the game, but the Orange never took the lead before suffering their first loss of the year. Syracuse returned home on Saturday to take on Villanova. The Orange’s leading scorer returned after missing the Pittsburgh game as forward Kris Joseph came back to score 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting. The Syracuse defense however had no answer for the Wildcats as Nova shot 50 percent from the field while going 11-for-24 from beyond the arc. Villanova was also 22 of 24 from the charity stripe. Syracuse dropped from third to tenth in the national rankings after its 0-2 week.
4. Ohio State, San Diego State: The Last Two Unbeatens
The week began with four teams unblemished, but that number was cut in half. Only top-ranked Ohio State and San Diego State remain with a zero in the loss column. The Buckeyes blew out Iowa by 22 on Wednesday night and had to come from behind to knock off Illinois on Saturday. Ohio State fell behind by as many as eight in the second half, but a 14-0 run midway through the second gave Ohio State the lead for good. Freshman Jared Sullinger scored 27 points to go with his 16 rebounds as top-ranked Ohio State improved to 20-0. The Aztecs of San Diego State played just once this week beating Air Force 68-55 to run their record to 20-0. San Diego State’s visit to ninth-ranked BYU on Wednesday night will be its first match-up with a ranked opponent since playing at Gonzaga in mid-November.
5. UCONN’s Walker Follows Game-Winner with Season-Low
Connecticut’s Kemba Walker has shown a knack for coming through in the clutch. At home against Villanova on Monday, Walker found his Huskies even with the Wildcats in the game’s waning seconds. Walker drove into the lane and flipped up a floater that hit all bottom to give UCONN a 61-59 lead with 2.5 seconds to play. A last ditch effort by Villanova came up no good as Connecticut notched its 15th win on the year. On Saturday, Walker was held to a season-low 16 points in UCONN’s 72-61 win over Tennessee. Walker was one of four Huskies in double-figures as Connecticut improved to 16-2. The Huskies could prove to be very dangerous if they can continue to get balanced scoring. Walker is still averaging 25 points-per-game, but his shooting percentage has gone way down since conference play has begun.
6. Duquesne, Xavier Quietly Atop Atlantic 10
Although neither have received much national exposure, Duquesne and Xavier sit tied atop a very underrated Atlantic 10 Conference. Each team boasts a 5-0 conference record and a 13-5 overall record. Neither have real impressive wins, but both should be tournament teams. Each has beaten Temple in conference play and both have a RPI inside of 60. Temple, Dayton and Richmond are all very good teams as well; the A-10 could be a four-bid-league come Selection Sunday.
7. Vandy Beats Down St. Mary’s
21st-ranked St. Mary’s entered Saturday’s match-up at Vanderbilt with a record of 17-2. The Gaels only two losses came to BYU (by only one) and San Diego State. In Memorial Gym on Saturday however, St. Mary’s had no answer for the Commodores. The Gaels allowed Vandy to shoot 52 percent from the field including 11-for-22 from three-point-land. Leading scorer Mickey McConnell fouled out with just six points as St. Mary’s suffered its worst loss of the year 89-70. The win for Vanderbilt was perhaps its most impressive thus far. The Commodores will have match-ups with Mississippi State and Arkansas before traveling to Florida. Vanderbilt is still very much in the mix in what remains a wide open SEC East.
8. Strong Bounce-back Week for Purdue
Purdue’s 15-1 start came to a grinding halt after losses last week to Minnesota and West Virginia. The Boilermakers appeared to be in the midst of a mid-season nose-dive as Purdue found itself trailing late at home against Penn State on Wednesday. Down 62-61 with just seconds to play and coming out of a timeout, JaJuan Johnson nailed a jumper to give Purdue the one-point-victory. On Saturday, Purdue shot 58 percent from the field to down 18th-ranked Michigan State 78-68. E’Twaun Moore scored 26 while JaJuan Johnson added 20 as the Boilermakers improved to 17-3. Purdue travels to #1 Ohio State on Tuesday before returning home for a rematch with Minnesota.
9. Longhorns Hook Aggies, Jayhawks
Texas is off to an impressive 4-0 start in conference play after knocking off a pair of top 10 teams this week. The Longhorns began the week by beating arch-rival Texas A&M 81-60 in Austin. Jordan Hamilton scored 27 points for Texas to go along with eight rebounds, but the Longhorns won with defense. Khris Middleton, A&M’s leading scorer, scored 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but no other Aggie reached double-figures as Texas handed A&M just its second loss of the season. On Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, the Longhorns defeated second-ranked and previously undefeated Kansas 74-63. The loss was not only the first of the year for the Jayhawks, but it snapped a 69-game-home-winning-streak. Texas fell behind 18-3 early and trailed by a dozen at the half. The second half however was all Texas as the Longhorns outscored Kansas 51-28 for the victory. J’Covan Brown hit three triples and scored 23 points off the bench to lead the Longhorns. Texas held Kansas to just 36 percent shooting from the field while outrebounding the Jayhawks 40-33. The Longhorns are currently 16-3 and in a prime position to make a run at a number-one-seed.
Top-ranked Ohio State should have its hands full once again as the Buckeyes host Purdue on Tuesday night. I just can’t mention the San Diego State-BYU match-up enough; the two Mountain West schools will meet Wednesday night in Provo. St. Mary’s will have a chance to take a commanding three-game-lead in the West Coast Conference over Gonzaga as the two meet Thursday night in Spokane. The Texas-Missouri game on Saturday has a chance to be one of the most back-and-forth, high-scoring match-ups we’ve seen all year. Oh, did I mention the San Diego State-BYU game is this week?