Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Archive for November 24th, 2008

For Xavier The Road Gets Even Tougher

Posted by Patrick on November 24, 2008

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Coming off three huge wins at one of the premier non-conference college basketball tournaments, the Xavier University men’s basketball team looks like it’s picking up right where it left off last season when Sean Miller’s squad made the Elite Eight for only the second time in the school’s history.

This weekend in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Xavier took home the championship after three very close victories. In the first game Xavier took on Missouri winning 75-71 mostly because the Tigers had a terrible night from the free throw line. The next night the Musketeers played Virginia Tech, a team that missed the NCAA tournament just narrowly last season and is looked at as a bubble team once again this year. Even though Xavier trailed at halftime, they did not look like they were ready to give up a chance to play in the championship game. The regulation buzzer sounded with the score all knotted up after the Hokies had a great chance to win the game on their last possession. In overtime with the score tied, Jeff Allen of Virginia Tech converted a tip-in to give the Hokies a 62-60 lead with just three seconds left. Then, Xavier guard Dante Jackson threw up a half-court heave that banked in giving Xavier a 63-62 thrilling victory and its fourth win of the season.

Tournament favorite and 12th ranked Memphis advanced from the bottom half of the bracket to take on Xavier in the championship game. The Musketeers trailed only once, but it was still a very close game and Xavier’s leads never extended past six points. In the end, free throw shooting was Memphis’ downfall and Xavier went home with the championship trophy despite freshman center Kenny Frease fouling out midway through the second half.

The newly released polls show Xavier at #16 in the AP poll and #20 for ESPN/USA Today’s. With a 5-0 record, and picked to finish second in the conference behind Saint Joseph’s, the Musketeers look like they are still going to have a large say in what happens in the NCAA tournament. However, their slate of games is anything but easy, and some may even say that their non-conference schedule is one of the hardest of any A-10 team.

This Saturday, Xavier takes on Miami (OH), a team that lost to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion by just five points and also caused plenty of trouble early for Pittsburgh. Miami is just 1-2 but their record is very misleading; they play great defense and can be a very dangerous team from behind the arc if left open.

The Musketeers then have two home games against Auburn and Ohio, two improved teams since last season. Xavier then travels to rival Cincinnati, a sleeper in one of the best Big East conferences ever seen in terms of talent and depth. After that, Xavier faces Kyle Singler and the Duke Blue Devils which should provide one of the best tests of the season for both teams as they prepare for their conference schedule.

Xavier then battles Robert Morris, a team that has been very good in the Northeast Conference these past few seasons. They’re also slated to face the inexperienced but dangerous Virginia Cavaliers.

While the Atlantic 10 is down this season compared to years past, there are still many teams that will contend with Xavier for the conference crown: Saint Joseph’s (picked ahead of Xavier in the Preseason A-10 poll), Saint Louis (just upset Boston College at home), and Rhode Island (played Duke to wire at Cameron Indoor). Xavier has crossed a major roadblock winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but they have a very long way to go to not only win their conference, but to have a shot at gaining a respectable seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Led by coach Sean Miller, who has taken Xavier from mid-major level to high major in just five seasons, and players such as Derrick Brown, BJ Raymond, and CJ Anderson, Xavier appears early like it will be a powerhouse once again this season.

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Storylines After Two Weeks

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Puerto Rico Xavier Memphis Basketball

What have we learned so far after two weeks of college basketball? That Samardo Samuels looks to be a force. That Wisconsin and Washington State keep on playing great defense. That Wesley Matthews finally wants to be the best player on Marquette. That Arizona doesn’t know that fouling in a tie game is a poor idea. That ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon was a roaring success. That Jimmy Baron is the best outside shooter in the nation other than Stephen Curry. That Duke loves dominating in November. That scheduling Mercer is a bad idea. That NJIT needs to rethink the whole Division I thing. That DeJuan Blair can be totally unstoppable. That it’s going to be a long year for Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

Okay, those are pretty important. But what are the single most looming and captivating stories that we should take away from the first two weeks of college hoops? Here’s a few:

1. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are the best players in the nation.
Okay, we’ll give Tyler Hansbrough an opportunity to reclaim his crown when he’s finally healthy, but these three superstars and eventual lottery picks have certainly filled up the box score while facing “weaker” opponents (should point out that Oklahoma did play Davidson). Harden is averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, including a line Sunday against Pepperdine where he made 11 of 13 two-point shots. Curry hasn’t let anyone down looking for an encore performance, averaging 34 points and shooting 43% from deep. Almost as important for Davidson? 8.8 APG and 2.8 TO/PG, meaning he’s made a smooth transition over to point guard. How about 26 PPG and 19.8 RPG for Blake Griffin? Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain to me. He’s played incredible this season, and even though it’s incredibly early to be ranking Player of the Year contenders, I’m going to do it anyway: Griffin is #1. Of course, these are all small sample sizes (three or so games). But there’s no denying these three are producing up to expectation and much more.

2. This freshman class is nowhere near last year’s crop.
Watching most of the top-ranked players in this years recruiting class struggle mightily in their transition to the college game, it’s hard to not think back and appreciate the likes of Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose dominating from day one on their respective teams. Beasley was putting up record numbers instantly, Love was clearly the best player on a Final Four squad right away, and Derrick Rose might have been the best point guard in the nation a year ago. Someone like DeMar DeRozan is a prime example. I expected him to dominate right away for the Trojans, and while I still think he’s a phenomenal player, the transition has been a difficult one initially. DeRozan has yet to top 14 points in five games and disappeared in two key USC losses vs. Seton Hall and Missouri.  Tyreke Evans has made 2 of 16 threes and went 4/16 in their battle with Xavier Sunday for the Puerto Rico championship. Jrue Holiday seems like more of a two or three-year college player. It’s been the Big East froshies looking the most comfortable: Samuels, Walker and Monroe.

3. Xavier is once again one of the top non-BCS schools in the nation. I hesitate to call them a mid-major at this point. They’ve undoubtedly graduated from that label, so I’ll go with non-BCS. Memphis should take some notes after freshman Terrell “Icewater” Holloway (I made up that nickname, just go with it and make me happy) sunk free throw after free throw to capture the Puerto Rico championship Sunday. B.J. Raymond is an excellent three-point shooter, Derrick Brown is a powerful scoring forward and Kenny Frease will continue to develop inside. Sean Miller also has solid players like C.J. Anderson, Jason Love, Dante Jackson and Jamel McClean at his disposal. Not many programs can rebound this quickly after losing players as important as Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Credit Sean Miller for re-tooling this quickly and building a Sweet 16-caliber squad.

4. The Big 12 looks stronger than ever. Some laughed when I said the Big 12 is deeper and more loaded than ever when I wrote their preview last month. It’s real early, but this conference could challenge the ACC for #2 in the rankings. We expected Texas and Oklahoma to come out firing. Contenders Kansas and Baylor are also playing well early (should get a nice gauge of KU after the CBE Classic). But it’s the bottom half of the conference playing exceptional basketball that’s the real story. Missouri played well over the weekend against stiff competition, almost beating Xavier in the first game of the tournament. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are scoring like crazy. Even Kansas State and Iowa State are dominating weak competition and avoiding the upset bug like some other high majors (Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, etc.) Combined, the Big 12 is 39-2 as a conference. That’s a good record.

5. It could be a down year for Los Angeles basketball.
Stress the word “could.” Southern Cal has been the #1 disappointment in two weeks of play- DeRozan hasn’t played like himself, Hackett is a turnover machine, they’ve shot 26% from deep and 64% from the line. The reason I used “could” instead of “will” is because I have faith DeRozan will explode sooner than later, and Tim Floyd the type of coach who can turn the ship around. UCLA should also improve as the season goes on as Holiday, Morgan, Lee and the other young players get more acquainted with the college game. They desperately need the passive and often uninterested Josh Shipp to bring his game to another level because Alfred Aboya isn’t going to score 20 points on most nights. Early on, the Bruins look more like a Sweet 16-caliber team than a Final Four contender we’re used to seeing in Westwood, while USC could be bubble-bound.

Any that I missed?

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Monday’s Selections

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Zach’s Picks: (Season Record: 38-38-1)

Saint Joseph’s (+9.5) over Texas- LOSS
Notre Dame (-13.5) over Indiana- WIN
WRIGHT STATE (+1) over Miami (OH)- LOSS
Syracuse (+3.5) over Florida- WIN
UNLV (-1.5) over TEXAS EL-PASO- WIN
Washington (+6) over Kansas- LOSS
Iowa State (-4.5) over HAWAII- LOSS
Alabama (-3) over Oregon- LOSS
Miami (-5) over San Diego- WIN
Connecticut (-4.5) over Wisconsin- WIN

Tommy’s Picks (Season Record: 43-33-1)

Texas (-9.5) over Saint Joseph’s- WIN
Notre Dame (-13.5) over Indiana- WIN
Miami (OH) (-1) over WRIGHT STATE- WIN
Syracuse (+3.5) over Florida- WIN
UNLV (-1.5) over TEXAS EL-PASO- WIN
Kansas (-6) over Washington- WIN
Iowa State (-4.5) over HAWAII- LOSS
Alabama (-3) over Oregon- LOSS
Miami (-5) over San Diego- WIN
Connecticut (-4.5) over Wisconsin- WIN

Patrick’s Picks (Season Record: 42-34-1)

Texas (-9.5) over Saint Joseph’s- WIN
Notre Dame (-13.5) over Indiana- WIN
Miami (OH) (-1) over WRIGHT STATE- WIN
Florida (-3.5) over Syracuse- LOSS
UNLV (-1.5) over TEXAS-EL PASO- WIN
Kansas (-6) over Washington- WIN
Iowa State (-4.5) over HAWAII- LOSS
Oregon (+3) over Alabama- WIN

San Diego (+5) over Miami- LOSS

Connecticut (-4.5) over Wisconsin- WIN

Posted in Daily Selections | 3 Comments »

Weekend Roundup (11/22-23)

Posted by Tommy on November 24, 2008

Saturday, 11/22: After such an exciting week in college basketball, Saturday’s slate was pretty pedestrian, taking a back seat to the late-season action of college football. The Paradise Jam played its consolation semis, the Las Vegas Invitational featured Kentucky vs. Delaware State and Pitt vs. Indiana (PA), while Texas Tech and Eastern Kentucky squared off in the Legends Classic. Although there weren’t any noteworthy games on Saturday, there were plenty of close ones.

The Mercer Bears, apparently unafraid of challenging major conference opponents, took Georgia Tech to overtime Saturday afternoon. After a 16-0 Bears run, Mercer extended their lead all the way to 18 with 12 minutes in the second half. The Yellow Jackets trailed the entire game until Zach Peacock’s pair of free throws tied the game at 69 with 32 seconds left. Gani Lawal, who had a team-high 27 points, blocked James Florence’s bid at a game winner to send it into overtime, where the Jackets never looked back. Florence gave the Bears 26 points and E.J Kusneyer contributed 22. Keep an eye on these Bears come March.

Gardner-Webb, another team that isn’t scared to play with the big boys, gave the Sooners a run for their money on Saturday. Oklahoma seemed to be running away with the game after they rallied to an 11 point lead with 5 minutes in the second half, but Gardner-Webb cut the deficit to five at the half. If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin’s career highs with 35 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, the Sooners probably would have fallen to the Bulldogs, who had a five point lead with six minutes left in the game. Griffin is certainly looking like the National Player of the Year right now after his huge performance last night. He’s averaging 26.0 PPG and 19.8 RPG.

Other Saturday notes:

  • Saint Louis held Tyrese Rice to 2-14 from the field in their 53-50 upset over the Eagles
  • UAB (4-0) looks like they can contend in the C-USA after their 77-62 rout at Old Dominion. Robert Vaden had 28 points.
  • Clemson got a hard fought win over Charlotte after Demontez Stitt’s free throws made it a four point game with 16 seconds.
  • Navy outlasted WIlliam & Mary in a 102-99 3OT win.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #3 Louisville’s balanced attack helped them prevail over Morehead State 79-41.
  • #6 Pittsburgh was led by DeJuan Blair’s 27 point, 18 rebound performance vs. Indiana (PA)
  • #10 Purdue held Coppin State to 46 points in their 20 point victory. Hummel had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • #14 Oklahoma relied on Blake Griffin’s 35 pt, 21 reb performance to rise above Gardner-Webb 80-76.
  • #17 Marquette struggled with their crosstown rivals Milwaukee in the 1st half, but ended up winning 100-80.
  • #18 Georgetown got 20 points from Greg Monroe in their 81-53 win over Drexel.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Sunday, 11/23: Sunday’s matchups were much better than Saturday’s, to say the least. #17 Miami and #2 UConn squared off in the first of the Paradise Jam semis. Jim Calhoun and the Huskies proved that they should still be considered one of the best teams in the country despite playing down to weaker competition such as La Salle. Thabeet led the way for the Huskies with 19 points, 14 boards and seven blocks. A.J Price seemed to get back on track with 13 points and 11 rebounds of his own. McClinton gave the ‘Canes 27 points and was 5-8 from beyond the arc. UConn had its way in the paint, outscoring Miami 48-30.

Wisconsin faced San Diego in the second semi of the Paradise Jam. San Diego was a sexy upset pick but Bo Ryan and the Badgers were having none of that. They put on a clinic on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Torreros to just 49 points. Trevon Hughes led the charge for the victorious Badgers with 22 of Wisconsin’s 64 points. Wisconsin will go on to face the Huskies in the finals of the Paradise Jam.

How about the job Sean Miller has done at Xavier? The loss of Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender had people questioning whether the Musketeers could make it back to the dance. Sunday’s win over #12 Memphis will squash whatever doubts there were regarding Xavier while raising some doubts about the Tigers. Derrick Brown, C.J. Anderson and B.J Raymond are three versatile forwards that are good on both ends of the floor. Xavier held Memphis to 32% from the field, but the Tigers didn’t help themselves with their continual woes at the stripe. Calipari can point directly at his team’s free throw percentage of 50% last night as the reason the Tigers didn’t win the game. Xavier completed their dramatic road to the Puerto Rico Tip-off finals with a nice resume win.

Missouri pulled off a big win against #19 USC in the consolation half of the Puerto RIco bracket. Demarre Carroll had 29 points off of 11-17 FG and 11 rebounds. The Tigers nearly shot 50% from the field but allowed the Trojans to shoot 46%. Missouri did a great job of neutralizing DeMar Derozan who was just 2-9 from the field with 8 points. Daniel Hackett had 11 points but committed eight turnovers. USC has not looked impressive in the least bit so far this season.

Seton Hall handed Virginia Tech their second loss of the season after beating the Hokies 77-73. The Hall outscored VIrginia Tech by 10 in the second half. Jeremy Hazell, who has looked great to start off the season, had 23 points to lead the Pirates. Robert Mitchell’s 15 and Paul Gause’s 14 also made up for an off night from team leader Eugene Harvey. A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney combined for 47 points in their losing effort.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #2 UConn blew past the Hurricanes 76-63 to advance to the Paradise Jam finals.
  • #3 Louisville demolished South Alabama 81-54 in the Billy Minardi Classic.
  • #5 Duke took care of Montana by a score of 78-58 despite the loss of Greg Paulus.
  • #12 Memphis’ woes at the stripe cost them again in their loss to Xavier.
  • #15 Arizona State was led by James Harden’s 33 points and 12 boards in their 61-40 W over Pepperdine.
  • #20 USC fell victim to the upset bug in their 72-83 loss to Mizzou.
  • #22 Wisconsin thwarted San Diego 64-49. Bo Ryan is still working his magic.

NW Wins Horse-Trailer Player of the Day: James Harden, Arizona State

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