Originally Published: December 13, 2010

Tennessee, Cuse's Jackson highlight past week

Melvin GoinsJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesMelvin Goins and Tennessee took out another Big East foe in Pitt.

Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 12.

Team of the week: Tennessee

Last week: Beat Pittsburgh 83-76

If the Big East is the top conference in the country, as the league's coaches have professed recently, what is Tennessee? The Volunteers have beaten the conference co-favorites -- Pitt and Villanova -- away from Knoxville. Tennessee must be considered one of the contenders to get to the Final Four in Houston, and it has emerged as the SEC East favorite.

Try to find two better wins than the Vols have right now. It's probably a futile task. Tennessee won the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 26 with a 10-point win over the Wildcats in New York. On Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Vols dominated the Panthers from the opening tip. The game was at the Consol Energy Center, but it was as close to a home game as Pitt has had outside the Petersen Center. Yet the game wasn't nearly as close as the seven-point final margin.

Tennessee's schedule continues to be challenging, with Oakland (a one-point loser to Michigan State) up next, then a road game at Charlotte (which shouldn't be too tough considering the 49ers' struggles, but it's still on the road). USC and Memphis will visit in the next month, and a trip to UConn on Jan. 22 is also on tap. Add in the round-robin in the SEC East, and the Vols might end up with a top-five strength of schedule in March. It's not a reach to make a case for Bruce Pearl to be the coach of the year through the first two months of the season, either. He won't win the award because he'll have to sit out eight SEC games, but if there were an award for nonconference games, he'd win it.

-- Andy Katz

More teams that impressed us

Syracuse: The Orange unleashed a beatdown on Michigan State in the Jimmy V Classic that should go down as one of the more impressive nonconference wins of the season.

Missouri: The Tigers' overtime win over Vanderbilt was one of the more entertaining games we've seen this season. Mizzou has the look of a team that few will want to play in March.

Wisconsin: The Badgers swept the in-state games, beating UW-Milwaukee and then Marquette in Milwaukee. Wisconsin was in desperate need of a quality road win after losing at UNLV and to Notre Dame at the Old Spice Classic.

[+] EnlargeWashington State
AP Photo/Dean HareWashington State looks like a contender for the Pac-10 title.

Washington State: The Cougars faced a must-win game when they hosted Gonzaga after losing to Kansas State. Wazzu won handily and looks like a Pac-10 contender.

BYU: The Cougars took care of Vermont in Jimmer Fredette's homecoming in Glens Falls, N.Y., then took apart Arizona behind Fredette again (33 points) in a comfortable win in Salt Lake City.

Boston College: Is this really the same team that lost to Yale? Since then, the Eagles are 7-1 and have wins over Texas A&M, Cal, Indiana, Providence and Maryland, the last of which came Sunday night on the road behind Biko Paris' career day (22 points, 6-of-10 from 3). No one could've reasonably expected this 8-2 start for first-year coach Steve Donahue.

Xavier: The Musketeers escaped with a close shave against Butler to give them some much-needed momentum.

Richmond: The Spiders returned home from a win over Arizona State to beat in-state rival VCU by 12. Richmond appears to be the new favorite in the A-10.

Nebraska: There's no way the Nebraska team that was below-average in Puerto Rico last month looked like a team that could go on a roll. Yet Doc Sadler's Huskers have won six straight, including victories over USC, Creighton and, this past week, TCU.

Quinnipiac: The NEC favorite beat Rhode Island by seven at home after taking out Lehigh earlier in the week. Beating URI could help the Bobcats in seeding if they win the conference's automatic bid in March.

Fairfield: The MAAC favorite got off to an awful start, losing three of its first four games. But the Stags went to Siena and crushed the Saints to put themselves at 2-0 already in the league.

-- Andy Katz

POW: Rick Jackson, Sr., F, Syracuse

The preseason hype about Syracuse was focused on Kris Joseph and freshman Fab Melo. But if the Orange were to choose an MVP so far this season, it could be only Jackson. He has anchored the team, mentored the youthful big men on the back line of the zone, become the rock of this team and, most importantly, their most productive frontcourt player. Jackson was dominant in Syracuse's Jimmy V Classic win over Michigan State with 17 points and 16 boards. He was efficient in making 8 of 15 shots. The Orange crushed Colgate at home this past weekend as expected, but Jackson didn't take a day off. He was just as effective with another double-double (18 and 10), his eighth in 10 games. If he keeps up this pace, he'll be a lock for first-team all-Big East status and a real candidate to be Big East Player of the Year. Fredette's 33 points in a win over Arizona was high on the list, but Jackson's performance against the Spartans was more significant.

-- Andy Katz

Other contenders

Jimmer Fredette, BYU: With every eye in the gym on him, Fredette handled his much-hyped homecoming in Glens Falls, N.Y., by scoring 26 points and dishing out five assists in a 86-58 win over Vermont. Then he torched Arizona for 33 and added nine boards in a 22-point blowout in Salt Lake City. Think the Cats will be happy to see Fredette in the NBA? That's 82 points in the past two seasons against Zona.

Charles Jenkins, Hofstra: Against Binghamton, he recorded 40 points and six assists. Against Florida Atlantic, he "slumped" with 32 points and six assists. For the week, Jenkins made 23 of 36 shots, 6 of 11 3-pointers and 20 of 24 free throws. For the season, he's averaging 25.3 ppg and is shooting 59 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3. He's good, folks.

Marshon Brooks, Providence: PC had a three-game week, and Brooks probably wishes it had played more. The senior swingman started the week with a career-high 33 points plus eight rebounds in a win over Brown and closed it by posting the same stat line in a win over Alabama. Wedged in between was a 28-and-10 performance in a two-point loss at BC for the surprisingly decent 10-2 Friars.

-- Brett Edgerton

More performances that wowed us

Will Clyburn, Utah: His line of 23 points, 13 boards, 7 steals and 4 assists in a 67-60 win over Pepperdine certainly could come in handy when the Utes face that daunting elite tier of the Mountain West.

[+] Enlarge
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireKentucky's Terrence Jones was a beast against Notre Dame.

Terrence Jones, Kentucky: John Calipari's latest freshman phenom didn't do a whole lot against Indiana, but he could be excused after carrying the Cats to a victory over previously unbeaten Notre Dame with his fifth double-double of the young season (27 points, 17 rebounds).

Vincent Council, Providence: Teammate Marshon Brooks wasn't the only one to shine in the 91-64 rout of Brown. The sophomore guard from Brooklyn scored 19 points and tied a school record with 16 assists.

Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State: Want perfection? Moses, who was coming off a 30-point, 18-rebound effort at La Salle, posted a career-high 31 in a 17-point win at Tulsa. He attempted 12 shots. He made 12 shots. His only blemish was one missed free throw (6-of-7).

Klay Thompson, Washington State: Thompson seems to be over whatever shooting slump plagued him late last season. In a rousing 81-59 romp over intrastate rival Gonzaga, the Cougars star contributed in a variety of ways with 24 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and 7 steals.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: It wasn't enough that Cooper put up 29 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 steals. He also decided to hit the winning basket in the Bobcats' 67-65 win at Illinois State.

Ramone Moore, Temple: The junior guard picked a nice time to have a career game. The Owls needed a win over Georgetown and got it thanks to 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting from a guy who hadn't scored more than 16 in any other game this season.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: After mourning the death of his uncle, Sullinger arrived from the funeral home and threw together 40 points (12-for-17 FG) and 13 rebounds in a surprisingly competitive game against IUPUI. It was the first 40-point game by a Buckeyes player in 24 years.

Scott Christopherson, Iowa State: The Cyclones won in Iowa City for the first time in eight years, and Christopherson was the main reason. He scored a career-high 30 points, including 24 in the second half of the 75-72 victory over the Hawkeyes. He shot 7-of-12 from behind the arc.

Darius Morris, Michigan: After posting 19 points and 12 assists against an NAIA school earlier in the week, the Wolverines' emerging guard proved it wasn't a fluke by scoring 19 again and contributing 10 assists and four steals in a win over Utah.

Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton: The senior center notched career highs in points (30) and rebounds (18) and added three blocks during his team's 82-75 win over Saint Joseph's.

Scotty Hopson, Tennessee: It took a couple of years, but the McDonald's All-American is certainly putting all that tantalizing talent to good use. In his team's thorough domination of third-ranked Pitt, the junior scored a career-high 27 points and barely missed in the process, shooting 10-of-13 from the field, 3-of-3 from behind the arc and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.

-- Brett Edgerton

Scores that caught our eye

Iowa 51, Northern Iowa 39; Oklahoma State 84, Missouri State 70: It seems pretty clear that the Missouri Valley will be a one-bid league for the fourth straight season.

San Diego State 77, California 57: It also seems clear that SDSU is the top team on the West Coast. Washington certainly has a claim, but the fact that the 10-0 Aztecs already have six wins away from home, including this one in Berkeley, gives them the label for now.

Maine 68, Massachusetts 56: The Black Bears entered Amherst 2-5. This result, combined with the 104-79 beatdown applied by Seton Hall a few days later, renders the Minutemen's 7-0 start moot.

Sacred Heart 56, Hartford 55: One of the craziest comebacks we can remember. Sacred Heart was down 20 (51-31) with eight minutes to go and managed to outscore the Hawks 25-4 for the miracle win, decided only after Stan Dulaire hit the winning free throw with no time left on the clock. Teammate Jerrell Thompson scored five points and grabbed a key steal in the frantic final 38 seconds.

Michigan State 77, Oakland 76: We're not here to put down the Golden Grizzlies, because they're a solid team playing a beastly schedule. And we're not even saying the Spartans played particularly bad in this one. But is it not a little troublesome that a meager performance like the Syracuse loss was followed up with a one-point win over a Summit League team?

North Carolina 96, Long Beach State 91: The 49ers were coming off an 81-53 loss to Utah State yet went into Chapel Hill and connected on 10 3s, shot 52 percent overall and lit up the scoreboard for 91 points. Yep, we'll put this one in the troublesome category as well.

Old Dominion 74, Dayton 71: Maybe the Monarchs should move to the Atlantic 10. ODU is 3-0 against the league's upper tier this season with wins over Richmond, Xavier and the Flyers.

Fordham 84, St. John's 81: As with UMass, this past week sort of exposed the Johnnies, who lost to St. Bonaventure a few days before this stunner at Rose Hill, where Steve Lavin's team blew a 60-39 lead in the final 16 minutes. Let's give proper credit to Fordham and first-year coach Tom Pecora, though. The 5-4 Rams already have matched their win total from the past two seasons combined (5-51).

East Tennessee State 63, Mississippi State 62: It appears that someone needs Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost. Sure, this will be a different team with those two around, but back-to-back losses to Florida Atlantic and ETSU won't exactly help the résumé come March. Then again, the Bulldogs will get to play against the SEC West soon.

UNC Wilmington 81, Wake Forest 69: The Demon Deacons had gathered a bit of momentum by winning three straight, but Big Mo was nowhere to be seen during a game that the Seahawks controlled from start to finish. In a battle of new coaches, Buzz Peterson prevailed over Jeff Bzdelik.

San Francisco 50, Montana 48 (OT): If for no other reason than to point out that an overtime game didn't manage to reach the century mark in total points. Or that the Dons outscored the Grizzlies 4-2 in the OT session. Or that San Francisco accomplished something UCLA couldn't come close to doing the week before.

Kent State 56, South Florida 51: Stan Heath's return to Kent, Ohio, didn't go so well. Then again, not much has gone well for the former Golden Flashes coach since he left town after KSU's Elite Eight appearance in 2002.

-- Brett Edgerton

The week in quotes

• "You can slowly see him emerging as a leader. He's talking a lot more, and guys are listening. You have to earn leadership, and he's earned it."
-- Missouri coach Mike Anderson on Marcus Denmon after he scored 21 points in an overtime win over Vanderbilt while playing with a heavy heart the day after a cousin died of a gunshot wound.

• "I don't know if it is anything against Arizona, but I was able to have another good night."
-- BYU guard Jimmer Fredette after scoring 33 points against the Wildcats on Saturday and 49 against them last season.

• "Situation not looking good and I'm not feeling good ... smh worst thing ever"
-- Duke guard Kyrie Irving in a tweet, apparently referring to a toe injury that will keep him out indefinitely.

• "It's gut-check time for us. I'm as disappointed in that performance as I've been in any since I've been at Michigan State."
-- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after a 14-point loss to Syracuse.

• "If they're wearing short pants, they can beat you. You can't play the name on the chest. You play what's inside it. It was a huge win for us, especially after the Rider game."
-- USC coach Kevin O'Neill to the Los Angeles Daily News after a win over Northern Arizona.

Observations from the week that was

Andy Katz

Ohio State's Jared Sullinger has had the most impressive freshman performance: Sullinger scored 40 points and grabbed 13 boards in a win over IUPUI. He made 12 field goals and converted 16 free throws in the game. In the two road wins in Florida over the Gators and Seminoles, Sullinger was a force with double-doubles in both games. If Ohio State is to get to the Final Four, it will be because it has one of the top frontcourt scorers.

The MWC will be a sensational four-team race: San Diego State has the look of a potential second-weekend NCAA tournament team. The Aztecs are off to a fantastic start, regardless of venue. BYU dismantled Arizona and remains undefeated as well. UNLV did lose at Louisville, but the Runnin' Rebels had been impressive up to that point with wins over Wisconsin and Virginia Tech. And New Mexico has only one loss (at Cal).

For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.

Eamonn Brennan

Tennessee is the best team in the Big East: OK, so things don't exactly work that way. But the undefeated Volunteers are now owners of two separate road or neutral-site wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh, the top two presumed Big East title contenders to begin the season. If Tennessee belonged to the Big East and not the SEC, we'd be calling Bruce Pearl's team the new conference favorite. Instead, we have this: Tennessee is the hands-down SEC East favorite and a top-five team until further notice. And Pearl -- despite the varied issues that will continue to plague this season and his career until the NCAA rules on his decision to initially mislead investigators about his infamous barbecue with recruits -- deserves an endless amount of credit for his team's performance. No team in the country has two more impressive victories under its belt, and no team seems to consistently overachieve under difficult circumstances quite like Pearl's Vols.

St. John's will have to wait another year: Given the senior-laden lineup that Steve Lavin inherited in his first year at St. John's, some hoped the Red Storm would get to the NCAA tournament a year or two ahead of schedule. That was optimistic, to say the least. Lavin's team lost to St. Bonaventure 67-66 at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday, and followed that performance by blowing a 21-point, second-half lead in a 84-81 loss to Fordham on Saturday night. Lavin has a fantastic recruiting class on the way, and it shouldn't be long before the Johnnies are competing with the elite in the Big East, but it's probably time to revert to a more realistic NCAA tournament timeline.

For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.

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