A wild week of college basketball is complete, so it’s time to look at the highlights (and lowlights, depending on who you are) for the week of February 3 - 9.
(5) Kansas and (16) Creighton Both Lose Two Games in the Week
Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks entered the week reeling from their disappointing defeat at home to Oklahoma State, a loss that ended the Jayhawks’ longest active home winning streak in the nation at 33 games.
Instead of coming into TCU with the intention of overcoming their heartbreak, Kansas dropped a stunner, 62-55. The win was TCU’s first Big 12 victory of the season.
Now, most teams would take a two-game losing streak as a motivator to perform at their highest level the next game.
Not the Jayhawks. Kansas went into Norman and dropped their third consecutive game to Oklahoma 72-66.
In the span of one week, Kansas went from a national title contender to having the media, and college basketball fans alike, asking, “What’s wrong with Kansas?”
Kansas wasn’t the only high-powered team that struggled this week, however, as Creighton dropped two games as well. The first came on the road at the hands of the red hot Indiana State Sycamores, 76-57 (it should be noted that the game was never as close as the 19-deficit made it appear).
If the first loss wasn’t bad enough, Creighton had to dust themselves off and attempt to handle the second hottest team in the Missouri Valley, Illinois State.
In a back-and-forth slugfest, the Red Birds came away with a 75-72 victory, knocking Creighton from the first-place position in the MVC. Not only did it knock the Blue Jays from first-place, it knocked them down to third in the conference (Wichita State and Indiana State own tiebreakers with both earning victories over Creighton).
It is far more likely that Creighton could be bounced from the rankings this week than it is for Kansas, but both teams are struggling. Creighton has Northern Iowa and Evansville on tap while it doesn’t get any easier for Kansas as they host (13) Kansas State on Monday night. If Kansas is going to get it figured out, they better make it a Sunday night date to do so.
- Miami Hurricanes Throttle North Carolina, Make the Argument for Top Ranking
One of the biggest surprise teams this season has been the Miami Hurricanes, who sit in first-place of the ACC standings. Miami is 10-0 in conference play and tout a 19-3 overall record for the season.
After dismantling North Carolina on Saturday afternoon, the argument has been made for the Hurricanes to earn the new No.1 ranking when the polls come out on Monday. It’s an extremely interesting debate, and quite possible to happen.
(1) Indiana lost on Thursday to Illinois, (2) Florida lost to Arkansas earlier this week, (3) Michigan lost a heartbreaker to Wisconsin on Saturday and (5) Kansas (well, we won’t add to their pain anymore). This leaves us with (4) Duke, presuming they defeat Boston College on the road Sunday, earning the next No.1 ranked team in the nation.
Except, what happened the last time Duke was ranked first in the country? Ah, yes, they got physically assaulted by the Hurricanes. Yes, Duke does only have two losses on the season, but the rankings are essentially determined by who is playing the best basketball right now and continuously winning. Arizona and Gonzaga are also respectable candidates for the top slot, but Miami has already taken down Duke. Do they have to prove themselves yet again?
On the other hand, does Miami even want to be ranked No.1 in the country? All that ranking would do is place an even bigger target on the backs of the Hurricanes, who already will have their hands full holding off the ACC for the rest of the regular season. Being labeled as the top team in the country just places more pressure upon your team to perform at the highest level possible, and no team has handled that pressure very well this season. Not that Jim Laranaga’s team couldn’t handle it, but is being ranked No.1 really that important in the grand scheme of the season?
It is not. Miami (FL) should be fully content being ranked in the top five and move on from there. Let Duke take on the burden of being top ranked team in the country, because they’ve handled it so well the previous two times (sarcastic tone).
South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters Goes on Scoring Tear
By now everybody has heard about the outstanding scoring performance from South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters on Thursday night, scoring 53 points on 17 of 28 shooting and nine three-pointers. That story doesn’t need to be told again.
What does need to be said, however, is the impressive follow-up performance Wolters had on Saturday afternoon against Oakland, scoring 36 more points on 12 of 20 shooting from the field along with six rebounds and seven assists for the game.
An 89-point total for two games isn’t too shabby for anybody, especially Wolters. Nate would have rather had both games end in victory for his team (because that’s the kind of person he is), but he got the nation’s attention this week. Wolters earned time on SportsCenter and was even named ESPN.com’s College Basketball Player of the Week.
On a side note: Wolters’ 53 points were the most scored in a Division-I game since Jodie Meeks of Kentucky had 54 in 2009. In Meeks’ next game, he came up just short, scoring 22 points.
Another side note: Wolters also broke SDSU’s career assist record to go alongside his career points record. In both games in which each of these accolades were accomplished by Wolters, SDSU lost conference road games.
5 Overtimes in South Bend
Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant went Reggie Miller on Louisville, scoring 12 points in a 29 second span to tie the game against (11) Louisville and send it into overtime.
Well, the game’s first overtime. The Fighting Irish and Cardinals played a total of five overtime sessions before Notre Dame finally came away with a hard fought 104-101 victory. Chane Behannan notched 30 points on 13 of 20 shooting for Louisville to go with 14 rebounds.
- New Mexico and Belmont Losses Open Up Conference Races
Alex Kirk of New Mexico and Anthony Bennett of UNLV had themselves a showdown on Saturday night. Kirk logged 17 points, 16 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots for the Lobos, but his efforts weren’t enough as the Runnin’ Rebels came away with a 64-55 upset victory in Las Vegas. Bennett also had 17 points along with 12 rebounds and a trio of blocked shots.
The loss cuts New Mexico’s lead in the Mountain West to one-half game ahead of Colorado State, leaving the door wide open for the MWC the rest of the season. UNLV and San Diego State are playing at high levels right now and Colorado State isn’t going away without a fight. It could be a fun race down the stretch.
Thursday night saw a battle of the Ohio Valley as Murray State (leader of the West division) took down the surging Belmont Bruins (leader of the East division) 79-74. While the Racers and Bruins are on opposite sides of the conference right now, the game was a good indicator to how these two teams match up against each other for a potential OVC Tournament Championship game.
Isaiah Canaan had 26 points and six assists for Murray State while Ian Clark dropped 22 points and added two steals for Belmont. Murray State needed this victory to ensure the selection committee did not forget about them if they were to miss out on winning the conference championship.
The Mountain West is about a four horse race while the Ohio Valley features two prized fighters. Both races will be worth keeping an eye on as we move closer to March.
* (21) Missouri proves to be who we thought they were. The Tigers dropped their sixth game of the season (all on the road) to Texas A&M on Thursday, only to handle Ole Miss at home on Saturday. Missouri is undefeated at home (16-0) but have only played seven road/neutral site games this season (1-6). Not a very good indicator come tournament time for Frank Haith and co.
* There are only nine teams who are undefeated in conference play after Belmont’s loss to Murray State: Miami (FL), Montana, Memphis, Harvard, Akron, Norfolk State, North Carolina Central, Gonzaga and Louisiana Tech
* After entering into a three-way tie for first in the Summit League, Oakland has knocked off Western Illinois, North Dakota State and South Dakota State in the past three weeks, all at home. SDSU’s loss Saturday leaves WIU as the sole leader (WIU travels to SDSU and NDSU this week).
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