1. I had a chance to watch Kentucky and Florida play last night and came away very impressed with the Gators. To win your conference you must protect your home court and the Gators are doing that, having won twelve in a row in Gainesville. The Gators defend better than any team in America and are #2 in Ken Pom’s Defensive Efficiency and #1 in Offensive Efficiency rankings while their backcourt is led by star Kenny Boynton who continues to improve.
The scary injury to Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel takes a little away from this victory. Throughout Big Blue Nation, Kentucky fans cringed at the sight of their star player and likely #1 pick in this years NBA Draft come down hard and grab his left knee. Early prognosis is that it will take an MRI to find out what happened. He did fly back to Lexington last night. Our prayers go out to him.
2. Michigan State is for real. And I mean that. They pushed Indiana to the final buzzer in Bloomington on January 27th and had a few plays gone their way they would have beaten the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall. Last night they welcomed Michigan to town, in a rivalry game that could have easily determined who has the upper hand in the Big Ten regular season title race. A Spartan win gave them the outright lead with just under a month to go.
It wasn’t the win that was surprising. It was how Sparty won. MSU dominated their rival Michigan en route to a 75-52 win. Gary Harris and Derrick Nix combined for 32 points and helped spur an offense that shot 48.4% from the floor. For Michigan, it was a cold shooting night as a team that lives and dies by the three settled for long shots instead of feeding the inside, going 6-19 from deep. Their 16 turnovers didn’t help and you won’t beat anybody with that many turns, especially on the road, especially against Tom Izzo’s squad.
3. During the Florida-Kentucky game the idea of Miami being a #1 Seed on Selection Sunday was discussed between Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman. I’ve watched a good deal of the Hurricanes and am the most impressed with what they’re doing to the ACC. The last team not named Duke or North Carolina to have at least an 8-0 start in the conference was Ralph Sampson’s 1981 Virginia team. And Miami is 10-0.
But I’m not entirely sold on them yet. We will discuss them Friday in depth as part of our team by team analysis of contenders and pretenders, but at the moment they are probably in the middle. I do believe they are the most consistent team in American right now especially after the rout of North Carolina last Saturday. Miami still has Virginia on their schedule and a road trip to Cameron Indoor in March so we will see just how good this Hurricane team really is.
3a. Prayers go out to Steve Lavin and his family after the death of his father. Lavin missed St. John’s 77-58 loss to Syracuse over the weekend to be with his family and will not coach the game against Louisville on Thursday night. Lavin is one of the finer coaches in basketball and one of the best all around guys. He lead UCLA to an Elite Eight and four Sweet Sixteens in the late 1990s. Lavin took time away from the team in 2011 to battle prostate cancer.