Game Plan is our Monday morning primer, designed to give you everything you need to know about games that were and the games that will be in college hoops this week. Send us feedback and submissions via email and Twitter.
ICYMI: TOP STORIES
Doug McDermott ties season-high 39 as Creighton dominates Villanova again, this time 101-80. The line: 39 points, 13-of-17 shooting, 4-of-6 from 3, 9-of-9 from the free throw line. The milestone: Those 39 points pushed McDermott above Larry Bird -- Larry Bleeping Bird -- to 13th on the all-time scoring list. The upshot: Creighton is now in the Big East driver’s seat in its first season in something called the Big East, its first not as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. That's all impressive. The conference change, the Bluejays’ bonkers offense, and especially the 6-foot-8 Iowan at its center, whose statistical brilliance and locked-in national player of the year status offers us a chance to sit back, relax and savor it all. So, you know, do that. Savor it. Even Jay Wright is on board.
Wisconsin locks up its tournament bid with 75-62 home win over Michigan. Our own Chantel Jennings had the story on Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky, who put up a McDermott-esque night: “Kaminsky was the difference in the Badgers’ 13-point win. He scored 25 points on 16 field goal attempts, shot 11-of-16 from the floor, and picked up 11 rebounds, one block and one steal in just 29 minutes of play against Michigan. Defensively, he held the Wolverines in check. With strong perimeter defense not giving up anything easy from the outside, Kaminsky stayed solid inside, holding the Michigan post combo of Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan to just eight points and 11 rebounds combined. ... Kaminsky felt himself being more confident, being more vocal on Sunday. He said he wanted the ball on every single possession and that he felt his teammates trying to feed the hot hand. Never was that more important than when the Wolverines cut Wisconsin’s 15-point halftime lead to just three points with six minutes remaining in the game. The Michigan crowd had found itself invested again in the game and Kaminsky -- demanding the ball, imposing all 7 feet of his height -- hit a jumper, rebounded a Michigan miss, hit another jump shot and then another one and an and-1.”
Temple upsets SMU. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how upside-down that headline is. How strange a college basketball world we live in when Temple beating SMU in its own gym is considered an upset? But it really was an upset. Temple, 7-17 and 2-10 in the American, playing without Anthony Lee, knocked off Larry Brown’s No. 23-ranked Mustangs 71-64 on Saturday afternoon. The win has more than just catharsis for Temple, or a letdown for SMU. It was also a really bad loss where the Mustangs’ NCAA tournament hopes are concerned. For one thing, Temple’s RPI is down in the 200-ish range. For another, it cements the notion that SMU -- which played a bad nonconference schedule and hasn’t beaten a good team on the road all season -- can’t replicate the high-level stuff it does on its own floor elsewhere in the country. The Mustangs’ profile is still much better than most of the bubble teams you’ll see in the next few weeks, but the schedule/road knocks are key selection committee pet peeves to be avoided at all costs.
Stat of the week: In two games against Villanova, Creighton scored 197 points in 135 possessions, an average of 1.46 points per possession. It also shot 30-of-50 from 3. Against every other team in the country, Villanova is a daunting defense. Against Creighton, it's Boston College.
One more thing about McDermott, via ESPN Stats & Information: Doug McDermott has been held scoreless once in his career and has been held to fewer than 10 points in 10 of his 135 career games. Seven of those games were during his freshman season (2010-11).
GAMES YOU NEED TO SEE
(For two more in-depth previews of big games to come earlier in the week, check back for Monday morning’s “Planning for Success” series.)
Duke at North Carolina, 9 p.m., ESPN: The weather issues that strained the entire east coast last week are coming back around on the Blue Devils just eight days later. On Thursday, Duke plays the first of a two-games-in-three-days series at North Carolina and versus Syracuse. At least there’s not much travel involved, because ouch.
VCU at UMass, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Rams suffered just their third loss of the A-10 season Saturday at Saint Louis, while UMass spent last week pulling off some sort of weird, inverted win-at-GW-lose-to-George-Mason-at-home D.C. combo platter. Anyway, this is a really good A-10 game, not only for standings purposes or tournament seeding but because both teams are athletic and fast and a lot of fun to watch.
Louisville at Cincinnati, 12 p.m. ET, CBS: The last time these two met, it was at the Yum! Center, and Cincinnati came away with one of the more impressive road victories of the season -- putting Louisville into so deep an early hole that loads of turnovers and defensive pressure in the final 20 minutes weren’t enough to climb out. Sean Kilpatrick is the big matchup for Russ Smith on the offensive end, but Justin Jackson's insane defensive versatility is really what makes that Bearcats' defense go.
Syracuse at Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: The latter half of Duke’s crazypants Thursday-Saturday turnaround is also the reprise of the best game of the season to date. It seems hard to imagine Syracuse at Duke coming anywhere close to the Feb. 1 classic that the Orange won 91-89. But then again, we thought Creighton might cool off against Villanova the second time around, and you saw how that went.
San Diego State at New Mexico, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2: After last week’s results -- when SDSU lost for the first time since Nov. 14 (at Wyoming) and New Mexico fell to Boise State 71-70 on the road -- the Lobos still trail the Aztecs by one game in the Mountain West Conference race. This game is slightly important, in other words, and it’s also a rather awesome matchup of really good Aztecs defense and a really good, underrated Lobos offense led by sneaky All-American candidate Cameron Bairstow.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK