Player of the week: Tu Holloway, Xavier
Holloway had one of the top lines of the week with a career-high 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and an amazing 17-of-17 mark at the free throw line in Xavier's impressive 85-62 win at Richmond. During the preseason, Richmond's Kevin Anderson -- the reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year -- understandably received more attention than Holloway. But X's 6-foot point guard was the star Saturday, and has been all season.
While Anderson scored 10 points, was just 2-of-9 on 3s and didn't get to the line, Holloway dominated the ball and ultimately laid down a statement that he should be the A-10 player of the year. The junior is having a stellar season, averaging 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists and shooting 45 percent overall and 86 percent at the line. The Musketeers desperately needed it after a multitude of injuries and attrition in the preseason looked like it might set back the team's chances to win the league. But Holloway, who had 22 points earlier in the week against George Washington, hasn't let that happen. Xavier is 7-0 in conference play, and the artist formerly known as Terrell Holloway is a big reason for that.
There were plenty of other contenders this week. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes (a game-winning 3 to beat Miami, career-high 25 points to beat NC State), Louisville Peyton Siva (game-winning bucket to beat West Virginia and then critical shots in a double-OT win at Connecticut) and Georgetown's Austin Freeman (30 points in a win at Villanova) were all worthy candidates. But Holloway's was the most complete performance -- on the road -- in a critical conference showdown.
-- Andy Katz
More performances that wowed us
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: Hazell nailed a 3 on the Pirates' first possession at Syracuse and never looked back, hitting five from deep on his way to 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals in a stunningly easy 90-68 win at the Carrier Dome.C.J. Wilkerson, North Carolina Central: Wilkerson started off a 3-0 week for the Eagles with a 41-point (15-15 FT), six-assist performance at North Carolina A&T. He followed up with 25 and 18 in two more wins for NCCU. Wilkerson is averaging 31.3 ppg in his past three road games. Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech: No one at Georgia Tech had pulled off a triple-double since Kenny Anderson in 1989. Shumpert did just that in a victory over Virginia Tech, putting up 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists -- not to mention seven steals and some stellar defense on Malcolm Delaney.
-- Brett Edgerton
Team of the Week: Louisville
The Cardinals had their best week of the season and as a result are in the thick of the race for the Big East title. At home Wednesday, Louisville was down 11 points in the second half to West Virginia, but as they've consistently found a way to do this season, the Cards stormed back at the KFC Yum! Center. The UL pressure turns up, key plays are made and suddenly the game turns. It happened against Marquette and then again versus the Mountaineers as the Cardinals won by one on a Peyton Siva drive to the bucket in the closing seconds.
The Cardinals then came back from nine down in the second half against No. 5 Connecticut in Storrs, winning in double overtime as Siva once again was the aggressor. He converted a number of key drives to the basket, not backing down while finishing the plays at the rim. Louisville, which has won four of its past five to gain sole possession of second place (6-2) in the Big East, now gets suddenly red-hot Georgetown on the road Monday and still has to travel to Notre Dame and West Virginia. But the Cards also have five more home games, including first-place Pitt, making a top-two finish a reasonable goal -- something that would have been unthinkable in the preseason.
More teams that impressed us
-- Andy Katz
More scores that caught our eye
Lipscomb 73, Belmont 64: You might not know much about this Nashville rivalry, but trust us when we say Lipscomb loved nothing more than putting an end to the Bruins' record-setting battering of the Atlantic Sun. The fact that the Bisons rallied from 18 down at home to pull it off made it even sweeter.
-- Brett Edgerton
Observations from the week that was
• Harrison Barnes has arrived. We're so quick to judge in today's society. We want everything now. We're all guilty of lacking patience. Barnes just took time to adjust to the college game and the role he was handed as an elite freshman, expected to come in and lead North Carolina. Barnes still isn't shooting lights-out overall (especially from 3), but he is now making timely shots. He beat Miami on a 3-pointer in the final possession. Sure the Hurricanes fell down defensively, but Barnes still had the confidence to take and make the shot. Then he led the Tar Heels with a career-high 25 points in a blowout win over NC State. Barnes continues to be a difficult matchup and should only get better as the season progresses.
For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
• Michigan State just might be a bubble team. How far have the Spartans fallen? After suspending veteran guard Korie Lucious for the season, Tom Izzo's team lost to Michigan and barely survived in overtime to Indiana in back-to-back games in East Lansing. The Spartans had already plummeted from their lofty preseason perch, when they were ranked the No. 2 team in the nation after their injury-riddled run to the Final Four in April. But after their first home loss to the Wolverines in 14 years, MSU isn't just "worse than expected." The 13-8 Spartans are -- say it ain't so! -- in danger of losing out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since Izzo's second season at the school (1997). "Disappointing" doesn't begin to describe this team.
For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.
What's On Tap
7 p.m.: Louisville at Georgetown (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Texas at Texas A&M (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Purdue at Wisconsin (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Vanderbilt at Florida (ESPN)
9 p.m.: Kansas at Texas Tech (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Penn State at Illinois (BTN)
9 p.m.: North Carolina at BC (ACC Network)
7 p.m.: Syracuse at Connecticut (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Marquette at Villanova (ESPNU)
9 p.m.: Duke at Maryland (ESPN)
9 p.m.: San Diego St. at Colorado St. (CBS-CS)
7 p.m.: Michigan at Ohio State (ESPN)
7 p.m.: Wofford at Charleston (ESPNU)
7 p.m.: Valparaiso at Cleveland St.
Noon: West Virginia at Villanova (ESPN)
Noon: Butler at Cleveland St. (ESPN2)
1 p.m.: St. John's at UCLA (CBS)
2 p.m.: Baylor at Texas A&M (ESPN2)
4 p.m.: Memphis at Gonzaga (ESPN)
4 p.m.: Kansas at Nebraska (ESPN3)
4 p.m.: UNLV at BYU (Versus)
5 p.m.: Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN3)
6 p.m.: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
8 p.m.: Arizona at California (CSN)
9 p.m.: Kentucky at Florida (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Michigan St. at Wisconsin (CBS)
2 p.m.: Ohio State at Minnesota (ESPN)
2 p.m.: Florida St. at North Carolina (FSN)
O'Neil on the wild Big East
O'Neil: Three questions
• Is the Big East really good or really mediocre?After an impressive nonconference season, league members are doing what league members do best: beating up on one another. With more unrest over the weekend -- Georgetown over Villanova, Marquette over Syracuse, Louisville over Connecticut -- the muddied waters of the Big East standings are becoming downright confounding. This much is clear: There is no dominant, unbeatable team in the conference. Pittsburgh may be closest, but the home loss to Notre Dame and the weekend scare at Rutgers prove even the Panthers are susceptible. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Those on the inside of the conference think it's further proof of how tough the league is, but those on the outside are wondering if this is another year when the NCAA tournament field will be stocked with Big East teams only to see them crash and burn their way out of the tourney in a hurry.
• Is San Diego State the best team in the Mountain West?The Aztecs lost the first showdown against Jimmering BYU, but are they more fit to win the league and do well in the NCAA tournament? That will be the burning question until the two face off again in late February, especially now that the Cougars lost to New Mexico over the weekend while San Diego State rebounded against Wyoming. The Jimmer Fredette Show unfairly masks the fact that BYU has a pretty good supporting cast around him. But the Aztecs also have a transcendent player in Kawhi Leonard, play suffocating defense (they're 12th in the nation in scoring defense) and are efficient on offense, connecting on 48.5 percent of their field goals. And oh, by the way, the Aztecs won at New Mexico by double digits two weeks ago. • Is it time to categorize Texas as a serious national-title contender? It seems like everyone is afraid to go all-in with the Longhorns, remembering all too well the crash-and-burn that left everyone stunned last season. But this Texas team isn't that Texas team. Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph have added something that this team was missing: a commanding presence in the paint in the form of Thompson and a great scorer in Joseph. The real separator, though, for Texas has been its defense. The Longhorns are holding Big 12 opponents to a stifling 54.3 points per game, including limiting high-powered Missouri to just 58 in a walkover win Saturday. Overlooked for so many of the other intriguing storylines in college basketball, UT is sure to catapult up the rankings this week, and this group of Horns doesn't look like it will be falling out any time soon.
-- Dana O'Neil
Katz on the week ahead
Places to be this week
Washington, D.C. (Louisville at Georgetown)
Two ranked Big East teams ought to be enough of a draw, but if that doesn't tickle your fancy, know that these two are coming off thrilling road wins over quality teams -- the Hoyas at Villanova, the Cardinals at UConn -- and, for whatever reason, tend to play some of the closest and most exciting games we've seen all season. In other words, this is not to be missed.
College Station, Texas
(Texas at Texas A&M)
Just after Louisville and Georgetown do what Louisville and Georgetown do, we get what might be the game of the week in College Station. The Aggies were swarmed by the Longhorns in these teams' previous meeting in Austin, but things are always easier at home, and the Aggies will be looking for a little revenge in the comfy confines of their own arena. Texas, meanwhile, has dominated the Big 12 early. This will be a good test of whether the Longhorns can keep that torrid pace or whether a slight correction is in store at Reed Arena.
Madison, Wis. (Purdue at Wisconsin)
As Michigan State fades and Illinois struggles, the Big Ten appears to be a three-team race between Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. This game will have a lot to do with how that race (or at least the one for second) shakes out, and whether either the Badgers or the Boilers can have something to say about OSU's current place in the Big Ten title driver's seat.
Hartford, Conn. (Syracuse at Connecticut)
Syracuse is reeling. After an 18-0 start, the Orange have lost their past four games -- including a 22-point home loss to Seton Hall last week -- and desperately need to rediscover the defense that led them to that 18-0 start in the first place. This is a tough spot to do so, but Connecticut has been somewhat vulnerable at home this season, playing with fire until it finally caught up to the Huskies in Saturday's loss to Louisville.
College Park, Md. (Duke at Maryland)
Duke will have to make sure the road woes it suffered in Saturday's blowout loss to St. John's don't carry over through this week, because playing Maryland at Maryland is perhaps the toughest ACC test the Blue Devils will face the rest of the season. The Terps are still one of the most stalwart defenses in the nation, and Maryland brings an unmatched level of Duke-directed scorn every time the Blue Devils come to College Park.
Fort Collins, Colo. (SDSU at Colorado St.)
San Diego State's conference title chances got a big boost when BYU -- which memorably beat the Aztecs in Provo last week -- lost at New Mexico on Saturday. But SDSU will have to tread lightly if it wants to avoid another MWC loss. Colorado State has quietly become one of the tougher outs in the Mountain West.
Cleveland (Valparaiso at Cleveland St.)
Who would have predicted that this game -- and not a Butler-Team X matchup -- would be a game to watch in the Horizon League in early February? But it is, not only because Butler has struggled, but because Cleveland State (9-2) and Valparaiso (8-2) have put together solid conference records.
Los Angeles (St. John's at UCLA)
Rare is the "Places To Be" inclusion that features as much off-court intrigue as on-court importance, but this game surely qualifies. Saturday's date is the first time first-year St. John's coach Steve Lavin will return to his former home at Pauley Pavilion, and you can bet the Johnnies are riding high after Saturday's home win over Duke. Beyond all the Lavin storylines, this game could have major bubble implications.
Fairfax, Va. (ODU at George Mason)
Last time these two met, Old Dominion escaped with a 69-65 win in Norfolk. The rematch takes place in Fairfax, and this one has CAA title implications baked in. George Mason is in second place in the Colonial at 9-2; ODU is third at 8-3. If either team plans to chase down first-place VCU (10-1), winning this showdown would be a pretty good place to start.
Lincoln, Neb. (Kansas at Nebraska)
Beware the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Thanks to their hard-nosed defense, the Big 12's traditional punching bag is punching back in its last season in the conference. The latest example came Saturday, when NU toppled Texas A&M in Lincoln. The Huskers could present similar problems for the Jayhawks this weekend.
Gainesville, Fla. (Kentucky at Florida)
Kentucky has had a few road struggles in the early portion of the SEC season, and this is yet another challenge. Meanwhile, Florida will be eager to rebound from its loss at Mississippi State. This is a tough week to do so -- the Gators welcome Vanderbilt to Gainesville on Tuesday before UK and "College GameDay" come to town -- but hey, that's better than having to play those two teams (or even one of them) on the road, right?
Minneapolis (Ohio State at Minnesota)
The Buckeyes had one of the most impressive seven-day periods in college hoops last week, but followed it up with a near-escape at Northwestern on Saturday, the type of performance we've seen often from the Bucks this season. Minnesota is still plugging away without backcourt leader Al Nolen (and guard Devoe Joseph, who transferred earlier this season), and would do itself a major bubble-related service if it can find a way to hand Ohio State its first loss of the season on Super Bowl Sunday.
-- Eamonn Brennan
Brennan on Purdue-Wisconsin
Upset pick of the week
Maryland over Duke, Wednesday: The Terrapins have one shot to convince the selection committee that they are worthy of a bid. If Maryland doesn't beat Duke at home, the Terps will be just like a host of other teams: difficult to separate and without much distinction. Maryland has an inside presence in Jordan Williams that can cause problems for the Blue Devils. Maryland lost 71-64 in Durham on Jan. 9 when Williams scored 23 points. But the Terps were just 3-of-14 on 3s. They've got to have better balance to pull off this upset, and that means Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie, Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard have to make shots. Someone also must defend Nolan Smith off the dribble and Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins from the 3-point line. Kyle Singler can get his share of points (he had 25 in the first meeting), but if Smith and the perimeter are checked, the Terps can win this one in College Park.
-- Andy Katz
Leung on USC-UCLA
Week in quotes
• "We didn't have the size and strength to compete with them. There was a lot of ring-around-the-rosy stuff. It's hard to win a game over 40 minutes that way."
-- Northwestern coach Bill Carmody to the Associated Press after a loss to Minnesota.
• "My Twitter went crazy, text messages. No one even said, 'Way to play.' It was all, 'How are your boys?' I can promise you they still work."
-- Florida forward Chandler Parsons to the Palm Beach Post on the reaction to being hit below the belt by teammate Vernon Macklin's celebratory towel snap.
• "Man did I really mess up this time
off 2 the gym I go!"
-- Michigan State guard Korie Lucious in a tweet on the day he was dismissed from the team for the season due to conduct detrimental to the program.
• "It was a funny chant. I guess they turned it into a verb
an action verb."
-- BYU guard Jimmer Fredette after fans chanted "You got Jimmered" in the final moments of a win against San Diego State.
• "I played tonight because I cannot sit around too long. I know my mother wouldn't want me to sit around crying forever, but I keep going on and striving to reach my goals."
-- Kansas forward Thomas Robinson after recording 17 points and nine rebounds against Kansas State in his first game since his mother's funeral.
Saunders on Jimmer Mania