As usual, we’ll start with some news from today…
- The nation’s #1 shooting guard, Xavier Henry, announced to the world on Sportscenter during the 24HoCH that he will attend Memphis next season. His brother, CJ Henry, is already a Tiger. This is very good news to Calipari, who watched his team clank three after three last night (2-19) in their game against UMass, because Henry’s range easily extends out to 22 feet. Additionally, it shows that for elite guard prospects, Memphis has become the NBA stopover de rigeur.
- The 2012-16 Final Fours will be chosen from these ten locations tomorrow: Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Texas, Phoenix, San Antonio and St. Louis. North Texas? Is that supposed to mean Amarillo? Texarkana? Paris?
- Finally, this guy over at USA Today has nothing on our John Stevens liveblog of the 24HoCH.
- Oh, and Steve Lavin changed his haircut.
Game of the Night. UNC 77, Kentucky 58. It wasn’t the GOTN in terms of play on the court, but it was definitely the game with the most attention (as it should be, given the historical importance of the two programs). What was striking was just how overmatched Kentucky looked against Carolina’s defense. Every pass was an exercise in precariousness, as UK often simply looked as if they were trying to hang onto the possession rather than actually running a play to score the ball. UNC forced 17 turnovers in the first half, 28 for the game, and it honestly felt like more than that. Part of the blame is on Kentucky’s huge gaping achilles heel – the lack of a competent point guard – but UNC clearly had a gameplan to cover those passing lanes and keep the ball away from UK’s only consistent scoring threat, Patrick Patterson. Patterson ended up with 19/11, but that was mostly in the second half after the game was well in hand. You may ask why we thought a game that was largely played in a 12-18 point range was ‘well in hand,’ but it was patently obvious to anyone watching that UK simply couldn’t put together enough good offensive possessions to make a serious run against the Tarheels. Thing is, we didn’t feel that Carolina was all that great offensively. They shot only 41% from the field, led by Deon Thompson’s 20/9, but their offense wasn’t as fluid as we would have expected from a team returning so many pieces. Of course, we realize two starters are out injured, one of whom you may have heard of before. When Carolina gets to full strength again, bad news for the rest of the ACC and the nation – Roy may indeed have his best team since his 2005 national champs. For some further thoughts, check here for the UNC viewpoint and here for the Kentucky one.
Upset of the Night. UAB 72, Arizona 71. Very mild upset, but beating Arizona at home still qualifies. An extremely entertaining game, it had one of the more bizarre endings you’ll ever see. Is Russ Pennell already on the hot seat at Arizona? A few more unconscionable mental lapses by his players in late-game situations and he will be. UAB had blown a 14-pt second-half lead when Arizona rebounded a FT miss and put it back in to tie the game with 0:27 left. That’s when freshman Kyle Fogg inexpicably decided to foul a UAB player! Keep in mind that the game was TIED. Clearly he had forgotten that minor fact. So a timeout ensues and then UAB predictably goes to the line and misses the front end of the 1-and-1. Arizona misses a contested shot, UAB gets the rebound, and this time, Jamelle Horne (a sophomore) chases down Paul Delaney III and INTENTIONALLY FOULS him at 0.8 seconds as he’s running upcourt. AGAIN, THE GAME IS STILL TIED. Delaney hits one free throw and effectively finishes a game that should have been going to overtime. Are the Arizona players this dumb or is Pennell not telling them to keep the score in mind while they’re playing??? (be sure to check John Stevens’ liveblog comments on this here) Chase Budinger played solidly, leading Arizona with 27/5, while Jordan Hill came off the bench for 13/22. UAB’s Robert Vaden had 20, including four of their thirteen threes, in the winning effort. UAB now moves on to MSG to play Oklahoma next Wednesday night.
- Oklahoma 82, Davidson 78. How ridiculous is Steph Curry? He had an off night (12-29 FGs) and he still dropped 44 on a good Sooners defense designed exclusively to contain him. Does anyone not enjoy watching this kid play? Just as soon as he throws up a tired, forced jumper that goes wide left by three feet, he’ll turn right around and drop a 25-footer right in someone’s grill. This seems to be the Davidson MO – play major conference teams tough on the road in Nov/Dec, then beat them at neutral sites in March. As for Oklahoma, the Griffin boys combined for 41/27, but really we just have one question – what’s going on with Blake Griffin’s eyes? He looks more crosseyed than Stuart Scott at a Carolina sorority party, but his game doesn’t seem affected by it. OU actually had a 21-pt lead with 12:53 remaining, but they were able to hold on largely because of great foul shooting (26-31). Oklahoma will bring the Griffin dunking show to MSG next week, where they will play UAB.
- Purdue 78, Loyola (IL) 46. All you really need to know about this game is that it was 40-14 at halftime. We’re sure Loyola was content to leave the NIT with its upset over Georgia in tow, but Purdue is a really good team. E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell led the way with 14 and 13 pts, respectively, but it was a solid team effort from the Boilers, placing five guys in double figures. Purdue will play BC on Wednesday night.
- Boston College 82, St. John’s 70. The Johnnies won’t get two more games at “home” in MSG next week, after losing to BC, who we are officially adopting as one of our surprise teams in the ACC this season. The addition of Vermont transfer Joe Trapani (19/4/3 blks) has really improved this team, which already had an all-conference performer in Tyrese Rice (28/5/9 assts).
Midnight in the Garden of Memphis and Moraga. Ok, actually 11pm tipoffs locally in both places, but the ESPN 24HoCH kicked off last night with two entertaining games, and not one BCS school was involved! Check JS’ liveblog of these games, but these were our thoughts.
- St. Mary’s 99, Fresno St. 85. In a last-minute moment of clarity, we actually threw caution to the wind and drove over to this game last night. God, how great would it be to go back to college?? Patty Mills was typically awesome, but his show-stopping speed didn’t come through live as much as we thought it would. He was still money, though, going for 27/5/6 assts with 19 of those points coming in the first 17 minutes of the game. St. Mary’s played well, but they were never able to completey finish off Fresno – their defense and shot selection looked a little suspect at times. Diamon Simpson didn’t have his best game, but he still ended up with a dub-dub (10/10) and a couple of nasty blocks in the interior. St. Mary’s will be heard from this season. The play of the day week month year decade century millenium epoch occurred halfway through the first half, when Fresno’s Paul George (25/10) took one hard dribble from the right wing and seemingly cocked his arm back into the 1980s before throwing a hellacious dunk over everyone on earth. Seriously, the entire arena breathlessly gasped for air after that throwdown. We’ve attended hundreds of games in our life – mostly college, but some pro – and that dunk ranks in the top three we’ve ever seen in person – it was utterly superbulous.
- Memphis 90, UMass 68. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. The bricks thrown up in the first ten minutes of this game rivaled anything we’d seen in a while (see shot chart below – bricks are in red font). Maybe it was the combined 7-43 (16%) three-point shooting that put us in a bad mood, but we got so fed up with this game that it inspired us to make the drive to Moraga instead of watching the second half. Things heated up in half two, at least for Memphis, who were led by Antonio Anderson’s 15/12/5 assts. The Tigers began pulling away from UMass on the basis of continued poor shooting by UMass, and eventually Memphis’ athleticism and size put down the Minutemen. It says something about Memphis in that they were able to win so convincingly despite only shooting 39% for the game, only hitting two threes and getting outrebounded.
Other Games of Interest.
- Georgia 61, E. Michigan 60. Dennis Felton saves his job for another day. The Dawgs were down by as many as 11 pts in the mid-second half before rallying to nip the Eagles
- Baylor 90, Centenary 55. Baylor hit an absurd 64% in a romp over Centenary. JS in the liveblog had a lot of good things to say about the Bears.
- USC 73, New Mexico St. 60. Taj Gibson had 22/10/5 blks to lead the Trojans to a 2-0 star. Demar DeRozan had a disappointing night with 7/6.
- Ole Miss 89, South Alabama 71. Ole Miss rallied from the bad news that it had lost its best defender today (Eniel Polynice) by pulling away from South Alabama, led by David Huertas’ 27 pts.
- San Diego 65, Nevada 51. USD’s Rob Jones led the way with 23/5 on 10-12 shooting, and teammate Gyno Pomare had 12 pts in his first game back. Nevada freshman Luke Babbitt had 20/12 in his debut.
- Indiana 60, IUPUI 57. For what it’s worth, Tom Crean has already earned his salary by going 2-0 this year.
- Gonzaga 80, Idaho 46. We swear we saw a score on the bottom line that said Gonzaga 17, Idaho 1. Things did not improve.
- Tennessee 91, UT-Martin 64. We were excited to see Lester Hudson in this one, but UT held him in check (20/4/5 assts on 7-22 shooting). Backup center Brian Williams dropped 21/12 on the visitors.
- Syracuse 76, Richmond 71. It took everything Syracuse had to avoid the upset at home, but starting backcourt Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf combined for 49/6/7 assts in the game, which was tight throughout.
- Texas 76, Tulane 51. Damion James with 16/8 as Texas rolled, holding Tulane to 31% shooting and putting five players into double figures.
- Arizona St. 59, San Diego St. 52. Tough loss for SDSU, as they led much of this game behind Kyle Spain’s 17 pts. ASU’s James Harden had 18/5 as he keyed his team to a late 18-8 run to win the game.
On Tap Wednesday (all times EST).
- Wake Forest (-18) v. UNC-Wilmington – 7pm
- Villanova (-19) v. Niagara (ESPNU) – 7pm
- Butler (-15) v. Ball St. – 7pm
- Michigan St. @ IPFW – 7pm
- Auburn v. Mercer – 8pm
- UIC (-5.5) v. N. Iowa (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
- Alabama v. Florida A&M (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm