Quick roundup from Saturday’s slate:
Ohio State, even at 3-3 in the Big Ten, may be the toughest challenger for Michigan State in the Big Ten now that Evan Turner is back. The Buckeyes' win over Wisconsin comes off a victory at Purdue. They next host Northwestern and then step out of conference at West Virginia, which may not be able to handle Turner. Turner had five turnovers and four fouls against the Badgers, but still made money plays, scoring 15 points.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said late Saturday he was hoping Louisville coach Rick Pitino would call a timeout in the final 20 seconds so he could set up a shot for Brad Wanamaker. Pitino did call the timeout and Wanamaker was open in the corner off the inbounds for the 3-pointer that essentially sent the game into overtime. Dixon also reminded me that the Panthers didn’t look so hot in November and December because they didn’t have their two of their top three guards (Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon). “Who has their most experienced guards out?’’ Dixon said. “You can’t be without your guards.’’ Dixon isn’t getting too giddy about the 5-0 Big East start. “We’ve still got a long way to go.’’
North Carolina may finish as low as fourth or fifth in the ACC. Georgia Tech, which has arguably the most talented frontcourt in the conference, finally closed out a significant road game by holding off the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, 73-71. This win will do wonders for the Yellow Jackets’ confidence.
Texas A&M showed tremendous poise to push Texas late in the game and proved that it will be a solid Big 12 team down the stretch. But the Longhorns have one of the top five players in the country in Damion James. His 3-pointer and blocked shot in overtime essentially won the game for the Longhorns in what was as large a performance as any player has made in a key game this season.
Northwestern had to beat Purdue to be relevant in the Big Ten. The Wildcats already lost at home to Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Wildcats made shots when it mattered most and Drew Crawford had two critical treys for the ‘Cats.
Purdue is now 2-3 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers were four games behind Michigan State last season. The Spartans are 5-0 in the Big Ten. The spread won’t be as large this season, but it’s already three games (I know they haven’t played twice yet).
Syracuse has a real shot to win the Big East (not breaking news here) but West Virginia won’t after losing at home to the Orange.
Tennessee has won four straight games -- Charlotte, Kansas, Auburn and now Ole Miss -- since the post New Year’s Day arrests. That’s significant and needs to be praised. Wayne Chism did a yeoman’s job with 41 minutes and 26 points. The Vols are clearly the second best team in the SEC.
Clemson won a game it was supposed to by beating NC State on the road. But it could be costly. Point guard Demontez Stitt picked up a sprained left foot, was put in a boot and is questionable for the Tigers’ next game at Georgia Tech.
Dayton was picked to win the A-10. Xavier may still be the team to beat. The Musketeers had a gutsy win over the Flyers at home, the kind of win you need to have if you’re going to win the league. Can’t believe the Flyers haven’t won at Xavier since 1981.
Maryland could be 3-0 in the ACC had it not whiffed late at Wake Forest in overtime. The Terps smashed Boston College 73-57. The Eagles are now learning how much it needs a leader and a big-time point (departed guard Tyrese Rice is looking more important now than ever).
Kentucky coach John Calipari told me Saturday that John Wall (seven turnovers) played his worst game of the year and the Wildcats still won (72-67 over Auburn). He also said he wasn’t ready for the ‘Cats to be No. 1 in the country, but he might not have had any choice if Texas had fallen to Texas A&M. It still might happen soon if the Longhorns lose to Kansas State Monday.
After beating Miami handily, could Virginia could be 9-7 in the ACC and make the NCAA tournament? The Cavs already have three quality wins (UAB, Miami and Georgia Tech). The Cavs may only lose one home game (Duke) and could easily steal a road win at maybe BC later in the season. Tony Bennett is your leader in the clubhouse for ACC coach of the year.
Washington looked like Washington should in a romp of Cal. But guess who may win the Pac-10? Arizona State swept the Oregon schools on the road and is alone atop the Pac-10 at 4-2. Wow.
Meanwhile, USC pounded UCLA 67-46 for the worst loss the Bruins have had against the Trojans since the 1940s. Credit the Trojans for still playing hard without a postseason bid.
Oklahoma showed it’s not done yet after following up a win against Oklahoma State by beating surging Missouri at home.
Love how Kansas State won a game it was supposed to by beating Colorado in Boulder in advance of hosting Texas Monday.