This is a big week in college hoops. And it started with quite a bang last night.
The folks at K-State maintained their rep as Goliath slayers by taking down Kansas in an overtime thriller. They can add the win to a resume that already included wins over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas. That’s an NCAA Tourney team, folks. (Side note: Georgetown, a team that beat K-State by 27 in November, is starting to look like a tourney team too. The Hoyas entered February 11-9 and 3-6 in Big East play but have since knocked out four straight W’s including their February 1st upset over MSU.) The other big shock last night was…whatever you want to call the beating Iowa State took at West Virginia. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State’s dynamite senior forward, entered the night fresh off of a 48 point, 18 rebound performance against TCU. He only managed six points in the loss and WVU dropped 102 (whut) points on the Cyclones. Iowa State is incredibly good, but defensive issues continue to plague the team.
Miami also beat FSU last night and the Noles, after looking like world-beaters early in the season, are trending toward the NIT. Later on, Virginia beat Maryland to get to 20-5. We’re still waiting for an explanation for that 35 point loss to Tennessee though.
But enough looking backwards. This blog is supposed to be about looking ahead right!? Tonight’s slate is awesome. Florida-Tennessee should be great, with Florida facing a tough road test. San Diego State will face a road test also, at Wyoming. And scuffling Oklahoma State will hit the road to face Texas. The Cowboys won’t be playing with Marcus Smart (he’ll get a DNP fan-pushing blues) but they really could use a win–they haven’t won since January.
The pearl of tonight’s slate: Michigan at Ohio State. Or, as my brother Charlie would call it, RIVALRY TOWN. Great teams+rivalry+primetime (should)=fun. The Buckeyes will host and Thad Matta’s team has gotten back to playing like Ohio State following a disastrous January filled with Aaron Craft turnovers, brick-filled shooting nights for Lenzelle Smith Jr., and generally awful offense. Ohio State entered January undefeated but went 2-5 on the month. February’s been much better. The Buckeyes tipped off the month with a huge, if ugly, one point win over Wisconsin. They followed it up by stifling Iowa on the road before cruising by slumping Purdue. It’s warm again in Columbus (not literally). In the other corner, John Beilein’s Wolverine team has spent Big Ten play stepping out of the shadow of last year’s final four team by beating, well, just about everyone. They’re 9-2 in conference play with wins over Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State. They’d love to add Ohio State to that list. This Michigan team might be better than last year’s on the defensive end and while they don’t score as easily–losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t help on that end–Nik Stauskas has emerged as an absolute star (recent slump aside) and the Wolverines get plenty of offense from an assemblage of sources. The game shouldn’t disappoint.
Wednesday night will be ACC night. For starters, Syracuse will head to Pitt and their Oakland Zoo. The first time the two teams played was pure gold as Syracuse narrowly defeated the Panthers in an outstanding game. This one should be equally excellent. And someone (the guy writing this blog) has a strange feeling that Syracuse will finally lose their first game of the year at the hands of Jamie Dixon’s feisty group. Picking against Syracuse this year has not burned anyone, after all.
After the Cuse-Pitt game, Duke will face UNC. You might have heard of that rivalry too, it’s kindofa big deal. Duke’s rocking and rolling at the moment and the Blue Devils feature arguably the nation’s best offensive attack. Jabari Parker and friends destroyed BC and the Eagles’ less than stellar defense this weekend to get to 19-5. Coach K’s team is looking more and more like a final four caliber squad. UNC is playing well too. After getting trounced by UVA on national TV in a game that left Roy Williams looking absolutely miserable, the undeniably talent-rich Tar Heels have won five straight. Sure, those victories came against some of the ACC’s weaker teams (honestly, what the hell happened to the bottom half of the conference?), but UNC is playing better. They’ll test Duke.
Now, for a not so bold prediction: if you sit down at the telly for some college hoops tonight or tomorrow night, you’ll probably see some pretty good ball.