It was another big Saturday in college hoops yesterday. From Kentucky keeping its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, to Georgetown sealing the deal on the Carrier Dome, we’ve got it all.
What about Kentucky? They needed a win and got one. And it was a big one. Missouri came in fresh off an upset of #5 Florida on Tuesday night, but once again showed that it’s a team that can’t be trusted outside of Columbia. The loss drops them to 1-6 on the road in the SEC, and playing in half filled arenas like LSU doesn’t make me that optimistic that they’ll suddenly figure it out in March. Kentucky isn’t dead yet and the win keeps them in, barely, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. But the stretch gets tougher for UK, they still have Florida on their schedule March 9th.
Memphis keeps on winning, and who cares if it’s against inferior competition? Winning 18 in a row is incredibly hard to do, and Memphis makes it look easy. In their game yesterday, an 89-73 drubbing of Southern Miss, the Tigers scored 29 baskets on 25 assists. That’s a truly unselfish team. Memphis gets a chance to showcase itself to the nation on Tuesday night, in an ESPN2 game at Xavier. The Musketeers, are 15-11 and have yet to play Atlantic Ten leader St. Louis, but dropped a close game to VCU last night. It’s a must win for both teams. For Xavier, they need a quality win to bolster a resume that includes an early season win over Butler and Purdue, but also includes a loss to Wofford and Vanderbilt. For Memphis, the Tigers need to keep winning, and dropping a game to Xavier will give all the naysayers in America plenty of ammunition to launch at Memphis come March.
What has happened to Miami? Their luck finally ran out at Wake Forest last night, dropping their first game in ACC play, and it wasn’t even close. The Hurricanes were out hustled and out played by the smaller Demon Deacons, and deserved to lose by more than 15. Give them credit for fighting back, but their last four games are very troubling ahead of a rematch with Duke next Saturday. The loss likely drops Miami from its perch as a #1 seed, and they will have to beat Duke, probably twice, to get it back.
Gonzaga is now going to be the #2 team in America. And good for them. The Zags have done well this season and are getting every teams best shot out West. The 1-2 punch of Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos, is as good as it gets in America. Factor in Elias Harris, and this team is scary good. They’ve got a big one at BYU next week, and if they win that one, they’ll likely win out and earn a #1 seed in the Los Angeles regional.
Speaking of teams out West, St. Mary’s finally put it together in a win over Creighton. Guard Matt Dellavedova is as good as it gets when it comes to directing an offense. The win yesterday likely gives St. Mary’s enough ammunition to sneak in as an at-large team if it doesn’t beat Gonzaga in the West Coast tournament. Meanwhile Creighton is in trouble. They need a big win over Wichita State next Saturday to assure themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina picked up a huge win and finally seem to be putting all the pieces together. They’ll be a tough out in March and could be the dark horse candidate to steal the ACC’s crown. The victory over N.C. State was huge in terms of seeding. They’re now in sole possession of 3rd place and would get Duke in the semi finals. UNC still gets the return game with the Blue Devils on March 9th in Chapel Hill, and if they get that one, they could be scary.
Villanova and Georgetown picked up two huge wins yesterday. For ‘Nova, they turned away a good Marquette squad and further boosted their resume. They now have wins over Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville. If they keep this up, and sneak another win out next week over Pitt, then they’re gonna be dancing come Selection Sunday.
And finally we get to the game of the day. Georgetown-Syracuse more than lived up to its billing. Saturday morning I said that for the Hoyas to win, Otto Porter had to be big. He was that and way more as Georgetown went on the road and picked up a huge victory in front of a sell out crowd of 35,012 inside the Carrier Dome. The biggest part of the victory? It now gives John Thompson III’s squad sole possession of first place in the Big East.
It was a wild Saturday and this next week promises to be even better. As the final days of February tail off, we will quickly move into the best month of the year, March. Let the Madness begin, almost.