Northwestern, Penn State lead huge night of upsets on Wednesday

Before getting into Thursday’s action, wow–what major upsets in the Big Ten:

Northwestern continues to tread water, but winning at Wisconsin raised some major eyebrows across the country.  Led by the 10 for 15 shooting and season high 30 points from Drew Crawford, Northwestern overcame a sluggish first half to hold the Badgers to only 26.3 percent shooting (a rather anemic 15 for 57 from the field, 5 for 24 from long distance) in a 65-56 win.

The Wildcats pulled to within a half game of being tied for fourth in the conference with not only the Badgers, but also Minnesota.  Their 11-11 record is good enough to be just 1/2 game ahead of perennial cellar dwellers in Penn State.

Speaking of Penn State, they won at the other impossible location for any road team to win in the Big Ten, at Ohio State.  This was the first time since PSU entered the Big Ten in 1993 that both schools won on the road.  D.J. Newbill’s three tied the game to send it into overtime and his pull-up jumper over Aaron Craft with two seconds to play won it in overtime 71-70.  The bigger telling story in this upset at Columbus was having PSU shoot 28 of 58 (for 48.3%), while holding the Buckeyes to 21 of 55 shooting.  Penn State also won the rebounding battle, 31-27.  A major surprise was seeing Aaron Craft only score 8 points during the entire game.

Form held throughout the rest of the nation, in spite of several mid-major teams canceling games throughout the South due to the massive ice and snow storm paralyzing more than 2/3 of the nation this week.

  • Andrew Wiggins scored 29 as Kansas remained unbeaten in Big Ten play winning a huge game over once dominant Iowa State, 92-81.  KU outscored the Cyclones 46-38 in the second half to win going away.
  • Syracuse and Arizona continue to remain undefeated, with Arizona surviving a major scare at Stanford, 60-57.

Thursday’s action saw Cincinnati win a huge AAC matchup in Louisville and stayed unbeaten in conference play (five days after the Cards’ Chase Bohannon decided to transfer to Colorado State)  69-66.  The Bearcats continue to climb towards a top 3 seed position moving their overall record to 20-2, and their RPI entering the contest was 20.

Florida and Connecticut rolled to easy wins, while Michigan outdistanced Purdue in West Lafayette, 75-66.

Another light schedule is on tap for Friday, but two games to keep an eye online include:

7 p.m. Eastern, Princeton at Harvard–battle for first in the Ivy League, the only conference not to have a post-season tournament.

9 p.m. Eastern, Murray State at Austin Peay, two perennial Susan Lucci-wannabes (one and done in past NCAA Tournaments) will square off.

Time to gear up for Saturday’s twinbill in New York on Fox Sports One:

12:30 p.m. Eastern, St. John’s hosts Marquette, while at 3 p.m. Michigan State tangles with Georgetown.  Wichita State will also be hosting Evansville at 3 p.m. Eastern time to try and keep their undefeated season going into the final full month of the regular season.

As the warm air finally returns to the South, pray that the Midwest’s next round of snow does not add to the misery most people are currently suffering with.  The extreme cold was one thing, but the extra snow is just too much to deal with.

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Doug McDermott makes more history, Michigan State pulls out nailbiter at Iowa

Only four games involving Top 25 teams on Tuesday night, but there were was some excitement.

Doug McDermott’s cold-blooded three from 25 feet away with only 2.5 seconds remaining gave Creighton a much needed Big East conference win vs. St. John’s, 63-60.  The Red Storm (then known as the Redmen) were making their first appearance in Omaha since 1966.

McDermott’s line:  15 of 26 shooting in 37 minutes, scoring a season high 39 points after St. John’s tied the game late at 60. 

In icy Baton Rouge, LSU canceled classes due to the freezing rain that shut down portions of Interstate 10 (even worse–snow did in fact scrub the Auburn-Alabama game, which will be made up on Saturday in Tuscaloosa) but 12,124 hearty souls managed to get into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and watch their Tigers upset Kentucky 87-82.  Helping the cause inside the half-empty arena was over 50 percent shooting for LSU, 32 for 63 led by the 29 points from forward Johnny O’Bryant III.  Julius Randle was held to only six points (UK only shot 32 of 73 for the entire game).  The ‘Cats drop to 15-5, 5-2 in SEC play.  LSU improved to 13-6 and nudged one game back of UK at 4-3 in conference play.

Matt Costello compiled a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but it was Keith Appling who proved to be huge down the stretch scoring 16 as Michigan State came back from a 30-26 halftime deficit and force overtime.  In the extra period, Mike Gesell missed a layup at the buzzer and Gang Green managed to escape and end the 20 game home winning streak at Carver-Hawkeye for the Hawks (that’s what the locals say on 1040 AM, WHO Radio in Des Moines), upending Iowa in Iowa City 71-69.  The Spartans pulled to within a 1/2 game of undefeated Michigan in Big Ten play, while Iowa is still in the tournament mix at 5-3 in the conference, 16-5 overall.  Roy Devyn Marble had 21 points to lead all scorers for Iowa, who shot a miserable 18 of 48 for 37.5 percent.  Michigan State was 25 of 59 for 42 percent during the 45 minutes of play, but it was Iowa’s free-throw shooting that made the game closer than it actually was.  Iowa toed the line 43 times and made 30, but missed 13 foul shots.  Michigan State on the other hand–was 11 of 20 for the game.

Finally, Wichita State padded their undefeated record to 22-0 outdistancing Loyola of Chicago, 57-45.

The Shockers remain with Arizona (who won on Sunday, and Syracuse who survived by hitting a lot of free throws in the final seconds at Miami on Saturday) as the only undefeated schools.

A huge ACC game will take place on Saturday with Duke traveling to Syracuse.  Duke upended Pittsburgh on the road Monday night, in what was Coach K’s 901st win as Blue Devils coach.  The countdown towards 1,000 continues.

Especially to those in the south, where heat is sometimes hard to come by–please try your best to stay warm.  And please bring some of that semi-chilly air back to the north where it should be.

What a crazy week this has been

Creighton bounces back, Nebraska gets a huge win, and Northwestern stands by Purdue in something bigger than sports

Monday had Ethan Wragge drain threes from anywhere and everywhere inside the First Union Center in Philadelphia.

In fact, Wragge did not miss in his first 7 attempts as the Bluejays hit their first nine shots from long distance.  This was all in the first 7 minutes and 15 seconds before National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott finally got in the act nailing a trey of his own from the top of the key.

The final score was 96-68, and the old record of 20 treys was broken at 21 (thank you, Kyle Korver).

Also Monday, Virginia upended North Carolina 76-61 while Kansas bounced back at home.  Ohio State was the latest possible Number 1 seed to slip down to a 2 or 3, thanks to losing in Nebraska of all places, 68 to 62.

But the “let’s put things in proper perspective game” took place in Evanston on Tuesday night.

I am sure you all know by now about the Electrical Engineering TA and the tragic circumstances that claimed the life of a 21 year old Wisconsin native.

The tragedy took place several hours before Purdue played at Northwestern.  Forget that the ‘Cats won in overtime.

The real fact is that some members of the NU student body cleverly went bare chested and spelled out this statement:

ab

Sure, the people down in West Lafayette are still emotionally

and probably physically shaken by this senseless tragedy.

Again, this is a blog about college basketball.

My only comment about the events from Tuesday the 21st is simply this:

Violence is never the answer.  Never has been, never will be.

There are other avenues that students can take if they have difficulties in understanding a professor or just merely trying his/her best to get more than a passing grade on that semester’s/trimester’s final exam.

That is why there are crisis centers on many college campuses.

Yes, I realize we live in a different world than when I was a student in college during the first half of the 1990’s–where pretty much people came and went without too many cares in the world.

It only takes a few senseless acts to ruin it for many people–students, faculty, other administrators, support people, and alumni deeply touched like former superstar point guard Robbie Hummel who expressed both anger and concern in his statements leaked online shortly after the tragedy.

It is just…why do people have to do such stupid things to get their 15 minutes of fame?  If someone knows the answer to that question, more power to you.

Now before my stomach asks me to drink some more ginger ale, let us get back to the real reason why this blog exists:

To talk about the games that could impact the Big Dance and once the Big Dance comes, to celebrate it and enjoy it!

Also, to keep track daily of Arizona, Wichita State, Syracuse, and Murray State.

Why did I mention Murray State?

On Thursday, they had to push their game against Tennessee State up four hours to a 3 p.m. local time tip-off because on their campus website, a quote from the TVA (their local power company) mentioned that a “potential power outage…could affect some portions of campus, but not the residence halls.”

It was lights out early and often as the Racers won going away 92-53, led by Jeffrey Ross lighting up the scoreboard with 25 of his 31 points coming in the first half.

Saturday has Syracuse on the CBS airwaves down in semi-chilly Miami, while other games on cable might merit some attention:

noon Eastern, Florida State at Duke

George Washington and George Mason

1:30 p.m. Kansas State at Iowa State

3 p.m. Notre Dame at Wake Forest

4 p.m. St. John’s at Butler (finally coming off their first Big East conference win)

5 p.m. Wisconsin at Purdue (first game at home since the tragedy)

7 p.m. Michigan at Michigan State (this game might mean a lot before their CBS rematch in Ann Arbor a month later)

7 p.m. Colorado at Arizona State

9 p.m. Kansas at TCU (both schools have identical 9-4 records)

11:05 p.m. San Diego State at Utah State

Continue to stay warm, especially for those in the Midwest continuing to get hammered with more snow and belted with gusty winds.  Sure hope nobody loses power, especially me!

Northwestern, Oklahoma, Utah, and Providence score major upsets

There were some cliffhangers on Saturday involving one of the three remaining undefeated schools at the Carrier Dome.  More on that in a bit, along with a Big 12 battle that nearly had Kansas saw its’ double-digit nearly melt away in the final seconds against Oklahoma State.

Northwestern earned their first Big Ten win of the season (almost an exact calendar year later when they won at Illinois on January 17, 2013), and ended a five-year losing streak in Bloomington at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers.  Both teams struggled with shooting in the first half, as the Wildcats were credited with only 8 field goals in 29 attempts (3 of 12 from long distance).  Meanwhile, the Hoosiers did not fare much better–6 of 31 from the field as Chris Collins’ bunch led 22-19 at the break.  Twice in the first half, Northwestern appeared to have pulled away from IU, leading by nine but could not put the game away.

Big Red Country did fight back for a few minutes in the second half before something really scary nearly happened.    Indiana nudged ahead 36-35 on Evan Gordon’s 3-pointer with 7:35 left in the game.  Hanner Mosquera-Perea then came up with a monstrous block on Kale Abrahamson on the other end, leading to Will Sheehey’s attempted layup.  Sheehey was fouled hard by Tre Demps, and could barely move while lying underneath the basket.  Medical personnel then helped him off the court, but thankfully would later return to finish the game scoring only two points.

With Sheehey hurt, Northwestern coach Chris Collins was allowed to pick an Indiana player to shoot the free throws. He chose Mosquera-Perea, who was shooting an incredible 75-percent for the season up to this point.  Hanner hit both freebies to give the Hoosiers a 38-35 lead with 7:15 to play.

Demps hit a trey of his own to tie the game at 38, then scored on Northwestern’s next possession to give the ‘Cats back the lead at 40-38.  Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had a miserable game statistically speaking (9 points, nearly 9 below his Big Ten leading scoring average at 17.9 ppg entering the contest), but his two free-throws knotted the score once more at 40.  The next time down the floor, Demps hit another three (as part of his 13 of 15 total during the second half), then converted Ferrell’s missed jumper into a driving basket to seal the deal at 45-40 with 2:24 to play.  Jordan Crawford shared game high scoring honors with Indiana’s Noah Vonleh tabbing 17 points and 11 rebounds (Vonleh actually did one rebound better than Crawford).

Indiana shot an anemic 25 percent for the game (15 of 60), as they slipped to 12-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play, while Northwestern improved to 2-4 in the league, 9-10 overall.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma got a statement win at Baylor, stopping the Bears’ 13 game home winning streak.  Leading the charge for Boomer Sooner was Buddy Hield, who scored a game high 19 points including 4 of 11 from three as part of his 7 of 14 shooting for the day.

What made this ending so zany was that Oklahoma nearly blew it in the final minute.

Freshman guard Jordan Woodard made two free throws with 29 seconds left to give Oklahoma a 65-58 lead.  Baylor’s 7-foot-1 inch center Isaiah Austin hit a trey from the top of the key before Sooners guard Jordan Woodard, a 78 percent free throw shooter up to this point, missed after being fouled with 18 seconds left.

Austin then hit another 3, carbon copy almost from his earlier attempt and Woodard found himself with the ball again and was fouled in the process.  Woodard made the second of two free throws with 9.1 seconds left, leaving Baylor with one more chance to tie the game and send into overtime.

After point guard Kenny Chery brought the ball down the court and got it to Royce O’Neale, his pass toward Austin was deflected by guard Cameron Clark.  O’Neale came away with the ball and turned while shooting haphazardly towards the basket.  However, the shot clearly came after the buzzer and the referee instantly waived it off.  Things won’t get any easier for Scott Drew, as Kansas provides the next challenge on Monday night.

But Kansas had some problems of their own in the final game of the CBS tripleheader.

Kansas was in command during the first half, leading 47-30 but the Cowboys came roaring back.  Markel Brown’s three brought OSU to within four, Kansas leading 54-50 with 13:35 remaining.  Kansas then extended their lead back to double digits at 75-64 after Naadir Tharpe made two technical foul shots with 4:05 to play.

Things got really interesting when Phil Forte nailed a three from the deep right corner with 3 seconds left.  Officials then put two more seconds back on the clock, then Frank Mason split two free-throws.  OSU brought the ball back down the court, but there was Mason coming up with the game deciding block some 19 feet away as Le’Bryan Nash’s game tying attempt was swatted away.  The real star for Bill Self had to centerJoel Embiid, who came up with a career high 8 blocks and put his name near the top of the list as far as Allen Fieldhouse great moments were concerned.

In Syracuse, Tyler Ennis was almost a one-man wrecking crew scoring 18 points in probably the best ACC game involving former Big East foes to date.  The Orange held off a gutsy squad from Pittsburgh, 59-54 as the Panthers had several chances to get the tying or lead basket in the final moments but was denied each time by some great defense.  With the win, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim passes Bob Knight for second place all-time in NCAA men’s coaching wins with his 938th triumph (Duke’s Coach K is the all-time leader, counting down to 1,000 victories which could probably be taking place by this time next year…depending on how Duke does in the Big Dance come March).

In other key games on Saturday night…

Louisville stunned UConn at Storrs in AAC action, 76-62 by using a 42 point second half to outdistance the Huskies.

But the bigger shocker was in Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center as the Friars ended the run of Creighton with Bryce Cotton played all 40 minutes while leading all scorers with 23 and holding Doug McDermott to a modest 21 point effort as Creighton suffered their first ever Big East loss 81-68.  It was Providence’s first victory against a nationally ranked team since Notre Dame when they were #21 in the nation on February 16, 2013.

Finally, Texas handed Iowa State its’ third straight Big 12 conference loss 86-76.  Boy, what a difference a week for Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones in that farm town in Ames.

However, probably a really huge blow for the Pac 12 and their deflating tournament hopes as once mighty UCLA went down at Salt Lake City to Utah, 74-69.  It was the Utes’ first win against the Bruins since the 1983 NCAA Tournament and their first win against the Bruins at home since, get this…way back in radio’s Golden Age of 1928.  UCLA hit only three of 18 attempts in the final 11:07 of the first half in helping give Utah an advantage that they would never relinquish.

It is only appropriate we close this blog with mentioning about the Bruins, since Sunday is the 40th anniversary of one of college basketball’s biggest upsets when Digger Phelps saw his Notre Dame Fighting Irish end the record 88-game winning streak of the then seven-time defending NCAA champions.

As this clip attests to the guts and true fortitude that the players and especially the fans around the Golden Dome showed on that chilly South Bend day, TVS via WMAQ, NBC5 in Chicago provided the frantic action in a very thrilling final four minutes of play:

Legendary announcer Dick Enberg and longtime Utah Jazz announcer Hot Rod Hundley really captured the historic moment well.  My, how much time has flown.

Look for Texas Tech and UConn to move up after some key wins

Texas Tech used their home court to their advantage on Wednesday, upsetting Baylor 82-72.  That game wasn’t much of a contest at halftime with the Red Raiders outscoring Scott Drew’s bunch 43-22 at the intermission.  Purdue also got a nice win at Mackey Arena beating up on Illinois in Big Ten play.

Thursday night saw UConn steal a win at Memphis, 83-73.  The Huskies outscored the Tigers 8-2 in the final minute of play.  Also of note, Vanderbilt got a much needed win at home against highly regarded Missouri, 78-75 as Rod Odom led the way with 24 points and hitting half of the team’s season-high three-point baskets.  And yes, Arizona continues to remain perfect easily outdistancing Arizona State.

A very light schedule for Friday, but Saturday is loaded:

Pittsburgh at Syracuse

Indiana State at Wichita State

Marquette at Butler

Oklahoma State at Kansas

Alabama at Missouri

UCLA at Utah

Michigan at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Illinois

Louisville at UConn

 

Committee will have extremely difficult task in seeding the 68 team field

According to an article on NCAA.com Thursday afternoon, current Wake Forest athletic director and current chairman of the Men’s Division I Basketball Committee has more than a Herculean task on his hands when it comes to choosing and then bracketing the teams come Selection Sunday on March 16.

Read on, and see what you think:

Tough challenge for committee seeding NCAA Tournament

 

Iowa State, Wisconsin suffer first losses

Saturday afternoon saw Iowa State get cold from the perimeter as Oklahoma played a nearly perfect game in ending the hopes of one of five remaining undefeated schools in Iowa State.

The Sycamores’ own worst enemy was shooting only 6 of 26 from long distance, while OU was 13 of 30 from three.  The game was tied at 39 at the half, but the Sooners also held their own on the rebounding end and scored 22 of 24 points on second chance efforts.

DeAndre Kane led the Cyclones with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists before suffering an ankle injury with 22 seconds left.  Guard Buddy Hield came up huge for the Sooners scoring 24 points, while forward Ryan Spangler had a nice effort compiling a double-double (16 points, and a team high 15 rebounds).

Continuing on with the latest Stock Up, Stock Down features on games from the last four days:

STOCK UP:

George Washington, for upsetting VCU on Tuesday night 76-66.  The Colonials are building quite a nice resume worthy of getting some major votes come Selection Sunday, with a 14-3 overall record (2-1 in the Atlantic 10) and several quality wins over Creighton, Rhode Island, Boston University, and the Jaspers of Manhattan.

Arkansas (RPI of 66), for knocking off Kentucky (RPI of 14) in probably the most heart-pounding finish of the season, 87-85 in overtime on Michael Qualls’ poster worthy dunk with only two tenths (.2) of a second showing on the clock.  The Razorbacks earned their first SEC win after dropping their first two in-conference games, including losing another overtime battle on Saturday to Florida.

Indiana (RPI of 56), for coming up huge defensively in knocking off previously unbeaten Wisconsin Tuesday night in Assembly Hall, 75-72.  The Hoosiers used a splendid effort of Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell when he deposited 25 points, including 10 of 24 shooting in 33 minutes of action.  Big Red also outscored Wisconsin’s bench 15-6, thanks in large part to Stanford Robinson’s 13 points (no relation to either Glenn Robinson).

Arizona, Syracuse, and Wichita State (RPI’s of 5, 7, and 10 respectively as of January 15)–the last of the nation’s unbeaten.  The Orange have critical tests with Pittsburgh visiting the Carrier Dome on Saturday for a 4 p.m. Eastern time tip, while paying a visit down south to Miami (Florida) and the always lurking Hurricanes the following week.

After surviving a very difficult test against an inspired bunch from UCLA on January 9, the Wildcats have a three game home stand coming up, with Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah waiting in the wings on January 16, 23, and 26.

Right now, it will come down to those two schools to see who grabs the overall number 1 seed.  Wichita State continues to impress, but a showdown against Indiana State looms on Saturday before visiting Illinois State on the 22nd.

Also, look out for Kansas State to move up the tournament ladder after beating Oklahoma on Tuesday night 72-66 at home.  Both schools are 13-4 and their RPI’s are close at 26 and 34 respectively.

STOCK DOWN:

Butler, for dropping their fifth straight Big East conference game, the latest an 88-60 drubbing at the hands of Doug McDermott and Creighton.  The National Player of the Year candidate scored 24 of his 28 points in the first half as the Blue Jays poured it on scoring 53 points in settling matters early in Omaha.

Duke, for losing on the road at Clemson on Saturday.

Notre Dame, for losing on the road at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Hope to provide another update sometime this weekend.  Please stay dry.