Illinois, Irving headline the week that was
Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 5.
Team of the week: Illinois
Last week: Beat North Carolina 79-67; beat No. 24 Gonzaga 73-61 in Seattle
The Illini have had one slip so far this season, losing in overtime to Texas in New York. But that's a quality defeat, and this team hasn't showed any signs of a tailspin. Illinois has had a hard time finding consistency in nonconference play since it reached the title game in 2005. That's not the case now. The Illini bounced back by beating Maryland the next day, then got fully back on track this past week. They bounced North Carolina by 12 points behind Mike Davis (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Demetri McCamey (eight assists), then went to Gonzaga-friendly Seattle and knocked off the Zags, also by 12.
That's two double-digit wins over a pair of teams ranked in the preseason top 12, whether they were deserving in retrospect or not. The Illini had balance against Gonzaga, getting contributions from Davis, McCamey, Mike Tisdale, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul during key moments. Illinois still has one more major nonconference event: the Braggin' Rights game against Missouri in St. Louis. If it wins that toss-up game, Bruce Weber's group should be 12-1 heading into the rugged Big Ten season.
More teams that impressed us
Virginia: This was a close call, and the Cavaliers easily could've been the pick for team of the week. It was a pretty remarkable week, after all. The same team that lost by 21 to Stanford and 106-63 to Washington won road games at No. 13 Minnesota and at Virginia Tech against the rival Hokies, who had such high hopes heading into the season. Seems hard to believe, but the Cavs should be favorites in each of their next seven games before ACC play.
Miami: After an embarrassing loss to Rutgers earlier in the season, it would be hard to imagine a better week for the Hurricanes, who crushed Ole Miss, then were clutch down the stretch in a win over West Virginia. That's two significant victories for a program attempting to gain relevance in the city and within the ACC.
San Diego State: The undefeated Aztecs continue to roll with double-digit home wins over Saint Mary's and Wichita State, two very talented mid-majors. SDSU continues to impress.
Duke: The beat goes on, as the Blue Devils beat No. 6 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, then beat Butler by 12 in New Jersey. Duke is finished with nonconference challenges.
UCF: Is this the season the Knights finally reach their potential? Under first-year coach Donnie Jones and sophomore Marcus Jordan (yes, that guy), UCF sits at 7-0 after a week in which it upset No. 16 Florida in what could be a signature victory for the program.
Kansas State: The Wildcats played their first true road game of the season and won by five points at dangerous Washington State. K-State handled the adverse situation, dealt with a tight game, came up with a key defensive stop late and left the Palouse with a solid road win.
Purdue: The Boilermakers shook off a loss to Richmond in Chicago the previous week to win a key road game at Virginia Tech. Then they smoked Alabama back home this past weekend.
Florida Atlantic: Yet another team from the Sunshine State, and this one is clearly the most surprising. The Owls hadn't done a whole lot heading into this past week, but out of nowhere, Mike Jarvis' team won at Mississippi State and beat a South Florida team that had been playing well. Sounds like a Sun Belt contender to me.
Player of the week: Kyrie Irving, Fr., G, Duke
A first-team preseason All-American came out of the Triangle, but maybe it should've been Irving and not North Carolina's Harrison Barnes. Irving scored 31 points in a variety of ways as he helped Duke beat Michigan State in the headline game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Then, against Butler in East Rutherford, N.J., he wasn't the featured scorer in the first half, had the lane clogged on him and couldn't get untracked early. But Irving saved his best for last, scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half, including two key 3s that put away the Bulldogs. Irving said he sprained his right toe and was limping noticeably after the game. But he did make another appearance in the game even after hobbling off the court. Irving is clearly a gamer, a player and a major reason the Blue Devils are the overwhelming favorite to win the title.
Michael Glover, Iona: In his team's 2-0 MAAC start, the junior forward contributed 69 points and 25 rebounds and made 73 percent of his shots. Glover put up a 39 and 14 against Canisius and a mere 30 and 11 against Niagara. In the latter contest, he was 14-of-17 from the field.
Mike Scott, Virginia: In UVa's stunning road wins at Minnesota and Virginia Tech, the team's senior leader threw together a pair of double-doubles: 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Gophers and 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Hokies, including a game-clinching offensive board.
James Nunnally, UC Santa Barbara: As the Gauchos picked up two impressive double-digit victories, Nunnally stole some of the spotlight from Orlando Johnson by scoring 29 (11-for-14 field goal shooting) against Loyola Marymount and 34 at Santa Clara. He was 17-of-19 from the charity stripe and 8-of-11 from the 3-point line.
More performances that wowed us
Austin Freeman, Georgetown: Freeman scored 31 points and connected on 6 of 11 shots from behind the arc as the Hoyas blew an 18-point lead, rallied at the end of the regulation and ultimately knocked off Missouri in overtime.
J.T. Terrell, Wake Forest: In an otherwise dreadful season in Winston-Salem, the freshman guard provided a bright spot by contributing 32 points, including a last-second game-winner against Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Darren Moore, UC Irvine: In a 90-82 win at San Diego, the senior guard scored a career-high 30 points and added 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. How's this for efficient? Moore was 9-of-9 from the field, 3-of-3 from 3 and 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut: All he did against UMBC was post his first career triple-double (24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). Ho-hum.
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: His basket with nine seconds left in regulation forced overtime at Virginia Tech, and he also contributed a go-ahead shot late in overtime as the Boilermakers beat the Hokies 58-55 behind Johnson's 29 points.
Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: In a 71-58 win at Western Illinois, the junior forward was 14-of-18 from the field and 6-of-7 from behind the arc, finishing with 35 points and six rebounds.
Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: It was in a losing effort (barely), but when a player steps into KU's Allen Fieldhouse and puts up 33 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists -- and shoots 11-of-15 from the field, 5-of-6 from 3 and 6-of-7 from the free throw line -- he deserves recognition.
Andrew Goudelock, Charleston: After pouring in 28 in the team's close loss at North Carolina, the senior guard contributed 33 points (13-of-19 FG) and six assists in the Cougars' 82-73 victory over rival Davidson.
Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State: Sure, it took two overtimes, but 30 points and 18 rebounds is 30 points and 18 rebounds. The senior put together the game of his life in OSU's 92-87 win at La Salle.
Noah Dahlman, Wofford: He is a known quantity in the SoCon but probably doesn't get enough love nationally. Dahlman scored 37 points and grabbed eight boards in his team's 75-69 victory at Elon.
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: When struggling UNC needed a win in the worst way, the big man came through -- notching a career game in a 75-73 win over No. 11 Kentucky. Zeller had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks as he shot 8-of-13 from the field and connected on 11 of 12 free throws.
Scores that caught our eye
• Memphis 78, Arkansas State 71 (OT) -- The Tigers jumped out to a 23-5 lead against 1-6 Arkansas State and then inexplicably let the Red Wolves climb all the way until Memphis finally rallied from four down in overtime to eke out the win. Always-positive Josh Pastner didn't even bother putting a positive spin on this one (see below).
• UCF 57, Florida 54 -- Another win for Conference USA, but this one was followed by elation -- at least on the Central Florida side. Much as he did a couple of years ago, Gators coach Billy Donovan called out his veterans afterward and questioned the team's leadership (also see below).
• Miami 79, West Virginia 76 -- Notice that just about everyone in the state of Florida seems to be playing well except for the Gators and Noles? It's hard to believe this is the same Canes team that lost 61-45 to lowly Rutgers. They've won four in a row since, including wins over Ole Miss and WVU.
• Miami (Ohio) 75, Xavier 64 -- The other Miami notched an impressive victory as well, taking out the intrastate Musketeers rather easily. Xavier had been playing with fire for a while with several close wins. Not this time.
• East Tennessee State 73, Dayton 68 -- Let's just call it like it is: This has not been a good start to the season for the Atlantic 10. The league's so-called upper half is dropping way too many games like this. Before this, Dayton scored 34 points and was doubled up by Cincinnati. After this, ETSU went out and lost to South Carolina-Upstate. Not good.
• South Carolina 64, Clemson 60 -- Throw in a home loss to Michigan a few days earlier, and you've got a not-so-fun week in the life of first-year coach Brad Brownell. But give credit to the Wolverines, who received a much-needed confidence boost, and to the Gamecocks, who ended a six-game losing streak to their bitter rivals.
• Wisconsin 87, NC State 48 -- Cue the annual Sidney Lowe hot-seat stories. This was supposed to be the season the NCAA tourney drought ended -- and it still might be -- but the Wolfpack looked positively horrific against the Badgers, albeit without veteran leader Tracy Smith. It was the third-worst beatdown in the 12-year history of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
• Morehead State 75, Murray State 65 -- Maybe we all pegged the wrong national sleeper out of the Ohio Valley? The Racers returned everybody from an NCAA tourney winner, but the Eagles have been a more impressive group so far. In this big early-December matchup in the OVC, MSU's Kenneth Faried stole the show as usual with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
• Utah Valley 70, Oregon State 68 -- Seems it's time to start wondering if the Craig Robinson era is really working. Sure, he inherited a mess, but the signs of progress are starting to grind to a halt. This team lost to Seattle for a second straight year, handed 1-6 Texas Southern its only win of the season and followed up the Utah Valley debacle with a 83-57 meltdown at Colorado.
• Missouri 83, Oregon 80 -- Oregon State is playing the way Oregon was supposed to play this season, except the Ducks didn't really get the memo. Dana Altman's depleted bunch had no business nearly rallying from 20 down to scare the eighth-ranked Tigers, but that's exactly what they did. They aren't good by any means, but they aren't nearly as bad as most of us had thought.
• Air Force 57, Evansville 56 -- This is probably more than real Evansville than the team that somehow won at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler. But then again, who exactly are the Air Force Falcons? The program has struggled mightily in the past couple of years, and things looked no differently after a loss to Division III Colorado College on Nov. 17. But AFA hasn't lost since, picking up four straight Division I wins.
• Montana 66, UCLA 57 -- So the Bruins took that controversial Kansas loss really hard, eh? Montana isn't bad by any means, but a team that lost by 15 to 1-6 Nevada probably shouldn't be walking into Pauley Pavilion and strolling out with an easy victory. The Grizzlies shot 52 percent and held UCLA to 31 percent. The reeling Bruins have dropped four in a row.
• USC 73, Texas 56 -- Oh, Texas. Ever the temptress. Just when it looked as though it was safe to jump back on the Longhorns' wagon, Rick Barnes and crew go out to SoCal and lay an egg, shooting 32 percent and getting blown out by an SC team that has losses to Rider, TCU and Bradley on its résumé.
-- Brett Edgerton
The week in quotes
• "I've made mistakes, I clearly did, but what I was hoping for was that some other dumbass would get on the front page and take me off the hook. I miss Lane Kiffin."
-- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl speaking to boosters (Knoxville News Sentinel)
• "Bad calls happen. It's just unfortunate what happened at that point of a game where it would decide a game. I got a lot of phone calls from people expressing that they felt bad for us from all over the country."
-- UCLA coach Ben Howland on Malcolm Lee being whistled for a foul with 0.7 seconds left in a tie game at Kansas
• "We do need MIT drastically, because [commissioner John Marinatto] is not figuring this one out."
-- Louisville coach Rick Pitino joking to The Associated Press about the Big East adding a 17th member (TCU)
• "Our issues are bigger than this loss. We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better."
-- Florida coach Billy Donovan after his team's 57-54 to UCF
• "One of my closest friends in coaching [Jim Boeheim] said, 'You're playing where, and what's your schedule for the next five games?' He said, 'I think you're nuts.' And Boeheim's won a lot of games."
-- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli on hosting Minnesota and playing road games against Drexel, Villanova, Princeton and Creighton to start December
• "This is my second year as head coach. I have never been more disappointed in a group of guys and the way they played. Absolutely disappointed in them. We got outplayed by Arkansas State, and we were fortunate to get the W."
-- Memphis coach Josh Pastner on his team's lackluster overtime win over Arkansas State
• "When I first started out here, I was the Ticket Man. I probably could have got put in jail. I had tickets in every pocket. I'm going all over campus trying to give 'em away, and now we're a hot ticket."
-- San Diego State coach Steve Fisher on the excitement surrounding his 8-0 Aztecs
Observations from the week that was
• Conference play is a different deal: Just when it seemed that Old Dominion was ready to become a Top 25 team after beating Xavier and Richmond (its only loss being a narrow one to Georgetown), the Monarchs went out and lost to Delaware. The loss in their Colonial opener means the Monarchs are suddenly in a hole in the conference. And as much as ODU has put itself in position to become an at-large team, it can't afford to lose to teams that are likely to finish in the bottom half of the conference.
• Jon Leuer continues to rise: The Wisconsin big man was one of the handful selections for the U.S. select team that scrimmaged with the national team during the summer. He quietly has become one of the best scoring forwards in the country. Leuer is the reason the Badgers have a shot to finish in the upper half of the Big Ten and be back in the NCAA tournament yet again. He scored 22 and 29 in decisive wins over NC State and South Dakota. He's efficient with his shooting, gets to the line (7-of-8 against the Wolfpack) and rebounds at a high rate.
For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog
• Georgetown will contend for the Big East title: Give credit to the
Hoyas: John Thompson III gave his team a brutal nonconference schedule, a series of tests filled with road games and tough mid-major opponents. Thus far, his team has passed with flying colors. The Hoyas' most impressive victory came in what was essentially a road game against Missouri in Kansas City, when Georgetown fought back late to force overtime and win the most thrilling game of the season to date. And then, with a tough road matchup with Temple looming next week, Georgetown thoroughly handled Utah State, one of the nation's best mid-major offenses, in what could have turned into a sneaky trap game. Thompson's team could have been forgiven for having a loss or three by this point in the season. Instead, the Hoyas have taken that tough schedule and made the most of it.
For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog
The week ahead
7 p.m.: Memphis vs. Kansas (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Georgia at Georgia Tech (ESPN2)
9:30 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Syracuse (ESPN)
7 p.m.: North Carolina at Evansville (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Vanderbilt at Missouri (ESPNU)
9:30 p.m.: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky (ESPN)
10:30 p.m.: San Diego St. at California (CSN)
11 p.m.: Gonzaga at Washington State (FSN)
9 p.m.: Butler at Xavier (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Georgetown at Temple (ESPN2)
6:30 p.m.: Utah at Michigan (BTN)
Noon: UNLV at Louisville (ESPNU)
2:30 p.m.: Wisconsin at Marquette (ESPN2)
3:15 p.m.: Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh (ESPN)
4:30 p.m.: Washington at Texas A&M (ESPN2)
5:15 p.m.: Indiana at Kentucky (ESPN)
6 p.m.: Arizona vs. BYU (BYUtv)
7 p.m.: VCU at Richmond
8 p.m.: Missouri State at Oklahoma State
8:30 p.m.: Gonzaga at Notre Dame (ESPN2)
2 p.m.: Villanova at La Salle (ESPNU)
4 p.m.: Boston College at Maryland (FSN)
6:15 p.m.: Clemson at Florida State (FSN)
Katz on the week ahead
O'Neil: Three questions
• Is the Big East really as good as we think? The league that many expected to be in a rebuilding season has been surprisingly solid early, but this week presents some big-game challenges across the board. Syracuse, undefeated and yet displeasing to Jim Boeheim's eye, faces Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday; Notre Dame, also unbeaten with a nice win over Wisconsin, will try to slow down Kentucky at Freedom Hall on Wednesday; unblemished Georgetown will hit the road for a tough test at Temple on Thursday; and yet another Big East unbeaten, Pittsburgh, will host the only unbeaten team in the SEC, Tennessee, on Saturday at the Consol Energy Center. I'm already sold on the Big East's talent. This week could convert a lot more people.
• Does Memphis belong among the elite teams? The Tigers carry a lofty ranking and a 7-0 record but only one win against a decent team (Miami). There was also last week's troubling overtime scare against 1-6 Arkansas State. Tuesday night should tell us something about the young Tigers, who face Kansas in the Jimmy V. And although the game comes with an asterisk -- Josh Selby is still not eligible for the Jayhawks -- Kansas has been playing like an elite team. This game should give Josh Pastner a legitimate measuring stick for his squad.
• What's going to happen with Enes Kanter? The saga of the Turkish big man continues on now that Kentucky has asked the NCAA to rehear its case for Kanter. The university will make its argument based on the Cam Newton findings, and although I don't think it will work, I can't blame UK for trying. The Newton decision exposed a loophole the size of a sinkhole, and Kanter won't be the last player trying to use it to his advantage. My guess is some factors will work against him, though. There is proof that Kanter accepted money from his Turkish team, whereas the NCAA could never prove that Newton received money. The university, which presumably consulted the Kanter family through the process, already has agreed that Kanter accepted $33,000; Newton and his family never admitted to anything. And Kanter's payment came via a professional team that you'd assume would have records and documentations. Newton's case was based on the words of boosters. But the Newton decision surprised a lot of folks, so you never know.
-- Dana O'Neil
O'Neil on Georgetown-Temple
Places to be this week
New York (Jimmy V Classic)
Tuesday night offers us not one but two thoroughly intriguing top-15 matchups: Kansas-Memphis and Michigan State-Syracuse. KU looked great until a near loss to UCLA at home (a UCLA team that lost to Montana at home a game later, remember), while Memphis has yet to face another surefire NCAA tournament team this season. Afterward, Michigan State-Cuse offers a chance for the Orange to prove they're better than their unconvincing single-digit wins over Michigan, William & Mary, Georgia Tech and NC State. They'll be facing a Spartans team that has quickly re-established itself as the Final Four contender we thought it'd be before the season began.
Columbia, Mo. (Vanderbilt at Missouri)
The Commodores began the season with an impressive performance in Puerto Rico, but given North Carolina's struggles since, Vandy's win over the Tar Heels looks a little less impressive now. That won't be the case if Kevin Stallings' team can compete with Missouri in Columbia. The Tigers love to run, and Vandy is no slouch itself -- the Dores average 70.1 adjusted possessions per game -- so the result should be an entertaining, high-speed game with postseason implications baked in. Sign us up.
Louisville, Ky. (Notre Dame vs. Kentucky)
How real is Notre Dame's 8-0 record? We're about to find out. The Fighting Irish do have at least one impressive win -- a 58-51 neutral-site victory over Wisconsin -- but the meat of ND's nonconference schedule begins Wednesday night with a quasi-road game against Kentucky at Freedom Hall. Neither team forces many turnovers, and neither is particularly strong in the frontcourt, so it's a good matchup for Notre Dame and a good chance for Mike Brey's team to prove it can compete at the top of the Big East.
Berkeley, Calif. (San Diego State at Cal)
Speaking of 8-0, the San Diego State Aztecs are still unbeaten. California, meanwhile, continues to play reasonably well in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season (wins over New Mexico, Temple and at Iowa State). In other words, this is not an easy SDSU win, especially on the road. The Aztecs will need maddeningly inconsistent forward Billy White to play more like he did at Gonzaga (30 points, nine rebounds) than he did versus Saint Mary's (nine points, two rebounds).
(Gonzaga at Washington State)
It's never fun to play in Pullman, and that goes double when the Cougars have a Naismith candidate and prospective NBA first-rounder like Klay Thompson wreaking havoc on the perimeter. Thompson & Co. nearly downed Kansas State in Pullman, and Kansas State handled Gonzaga easily during the CBE Classic. That doesn't mean the Zags won't win, of course. But it does mean the 4-3 team coming off a double-digit loss to Illinois in Seattle has yet another major nonconference challenge ahead.
Philadelphia (Georgetown at Temple)
Speaking of tough nonconference schedules, the Georgetown Hoyas just keep rolling along, playing anybody anywhere and coming out looking like a serious Big East contender for the trouble. Temple, meanwhile, is looking to regain some footing that was lost after defeats to Cal and Texas A&M in the Old Spice Classic. A home win over Georgetown would be a nice way to continue that process, but the Hoyas are already an experienced and proven road team.
Louisville, Ky. (UNLV at Louisville)
Vegas is still undefeated with wins over Wisconsin, Murray State and Virginia Tech. But this will be the first time the Rebels are truly tested on the road, and likewise the first opportunity for Louisville forward Terrence Jennings & Co. to prove that the Cardinals' season-opening blowout of Butler was less a fluke and more a sign of their team's unexpected improvement. UNLV has beaten Louisville in each of the past two seasons. Third time's a charm for the U of L?
Milwaukee (Wisconsin at Marquette)
College basketball has its fair share of quality rivalries scattered throughout the Midwest, and this is one of its more underrated. It also should be educational. Marquette is desperately in need of interior help, but the Eagles played Duke and Gonzaga to tight wins in Kansas City, and despite their apparent rebounding disadvantages, they won't be an easy out for a UW team that has struggled with versatile, athletic opponents.
Pittsburgh (Tennessee vs. Pitt) Tennessee clearly hasn't been distracted by the ongoing Bruce Pearl fiasco. In the Volunteers' NIT Tip-Off title win over Villanova, they played as though they'd never heard a thing about their coach's NCAA troubles. In this SEC/Big East Invitational tilt at the new home of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, the Vols will need to maintain that blissful ignorance against 9-0 Pitt, which has looked every bit as solid and composed as you'd expect a veteran Jamie Dixon team to be.
College Station, Tex.
(Washington at Texas A&M)
Washington has played up to par -- and looked like one of two plausible Pac-10 contenders in the process -- thus far. Texas A&M, meanwhile, has been surprisingly good, especially on the offensive boards, where it ranks No. 5 in the nation in offensive-rebounding percentage. This is a tough road matchup for the Huskies, a big opportunity for retooled A&M team and a sneakily interesting game on Saturday's slate.
Salt Lake City (Arizona vs. BYU)
No one can stop BYU's Jimmer Fredette. Through eight games, the national player of the year candidate is averaging 22.3 points and 4.1 assists per game. Likewise, no one can stop Arizona's Derrick Williams, who has established himself as the most efficient big man in the country in his sophomore season. Are we watching this game? Oh yeah. We're watching this game.
Richmond, Va. (VCU at Richmond)
Not only will this game have a nice in-state rivalry feel, but it'll pit two of the more impressive non-power-conference teams in the early portion of the season. The Spiders did lose to Iona but have beaten Purdue and Arizona State away from home. And the Rams won at Wake 90-69 and played well in New York (narrowly losing to Tennessee and beating UCLA).
-- Eamonn Brennan
Leung on Fredette's homecoming
Upset pick of the week
Arizona over BYU in Salt Lake City, Saturday: The Wildcats got torched by BYU and Jimmer Fredette last season when the All-American guard lit them up for 49 points. The reverse won't happen in Salt Lake City, as Derrick Williams has a chance to upstage Fredette at EnergySolutions Arena. Winning at the Marriott Center in Provo is nearly impossible for opposing teams, but putting this game on a neutral court (albeit not a neutral site) certainly helps UA's chances. Against Kansas, Arizona looked as good as a team could in a loss. The Wildcats are scoring well, getting balanced offense, have a star in Williams and, if they don't turn the ball over too much, have a real shot to get the signature win this team needs heading into the Pac-10.
Brennan on Michigan State-Cuse
Unbeaten roll call
Looking to remain unbeaten (19 left): Duke, Kansas, Baylor, Notre Dame, Pitt, Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Ohio State, Northwestern, Memphis, UCF, Cleveland State, BYU, San Diego State, UNLV, Tennessee