While last weekend was probably the most hyped non-conference weekend of the season, this weekend had perhaps the best games. We had double overtime thrillers, upsets, buzzer beaters, and two more undefeateds biting the dust. Let’s start with the buzzer beaters.
The Southern Illinois-Butler game certainly lived up to its billing, as both teams played with tournament intensity, especially on the defensive end. The Salukis, as expected, held Butler’s three-point gunners to well below their season averages from beyond the arc, and contained AJ Graves most of the night. Southern Illinois would have easily won the game, but for free throws. While Butler went 21/30 from the free throw line, Southern Illinois made only 3 out of 12 free throws, unacceptable for a team that plays so many close ballgames. And, of course, it bit them in the end. After the Salukis missed yet another free throw, Graves drove down the court with 5 seconds left and hit a 35 foot 3-pointer as the horn sounded to give Butler the hard-fought victory. Southern Illinois has almost no room for error left after another tough loss against a quality opponent.
The second buzzer beater came in the Texas-Wisconsin game. Both teams came out looking sluggish, probably due to the 10 AM start in Austin to accommodate ESPN. Wisconsin’s number 1-ranked defense in the nation (according to Ken Pomeroy) was able to largely contain Texas’s high-scoring guards by forcing them into bad shooting nights. While Augustin and Abrams got their points, it took them quite a few more shots to do it. Inside, Connor Atchley was dominated offensively and defensively by Brian Butch, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. On the final play of the game, Wisconsin set a high screen for Michael Flowers with Butch, and while Flowers’ defender hesitated for a split second to double Butch, Flowers drained the game-winning 3 from the top of the key. This Wisconsin team looks remarkably different from the team that was blown out by Duke just a month ago, and is probably going to finish second in a really bad Big Ten.
Join me after the jump for more upsets, and two undefeateds losing
Just ten days ago, Pittsburgh was on top of the basketball world. Having vanquished Duke in what so far is the game of the year in Madison Square Garden, Pitt enjoyed a top-10 ranking, an undefeated season so far, and thoughts of a Final Four run. How quickly fortunes change in college basketball. On Saturday, the Panthers took on the Dayton Flyers, another extremely solid team out of the A-10, and were blown out of the building. Worse still than the loss was the injury to senior point guard LeVance Fields, who broke his foot. Fields will be out at least until the end of February. With the loss of Mike Cook for the season, this means that Pitt is down two starters for the foreseeable future. Without Fields, the Panthers will struggle somewhat in the physical Big East, but Dejuan Blair and Sam Young are good enough to keep Pitt in the hunt for a top-3 finish in conference.
Another team that was riding high coming into the weekend was Miami. Off to their best start in school history at 12-0 and its highest ranking in a decade. They were facing their final non-conference test against Winthrop in a neutral site game in Tampa. The Eagles have been (comparatively) disappointing this year after last year’s great campaign; they lost 3 starters and their coach. However Winthrop is still a very dangerous team who should be favored to win the Big South yet again. They were able to contain Miami’s star point guard Jack McClinton, and pulled off the upset, roaring back from an early second half 11-point deficit to win 76-70. It will be interesting to see how Miami responds to this los, especially in ACC play.
Finally, Oklahoma looked to be another disappointing team early in the season. After a lackluster performance in the Preseason NIT an a loss to Stephen F. Austin, Jeff Capel’s team looked more like Oklahoma State than Texas. However the Sooners responded with back to back wins over Arkansas and Gonzaga coming into Saturday’s showdown at West Virginia. The Mountaineers controlled this game for the first 35 minutes, but let Oklahoma back into the game. Oklahoma forced overtime, and then double OT, fouling out both of West Virginia’s starting forwards by double overtime. In that second extra period, Oklahoma’s Longar Longar and Blake Griffin took over inside, propelling the Sooners to an 88-82 victory. While I am still skeptical of both of these teams, this game showed that both Oklahoma and West Virginia will probably on the right side of the bubble come March.
Odds and Ends: Sam Houston State’s undefeated season finally came to an end in overtime at San Diego State on Friday. …Illinois dropped another puzzler at home, this time to a 4-7 Tennessee Tech team that is just flat out bad. More on the decrepit Big Ten later this week…Eddie Sutton whiffed on his first attempt for win 799 with San Francisco this weekend; he will try again Monday…Mississippi State got a big win against Missouri which could turn their disappointing season around…Memphis continued its dominating start, clobbering an injured Arizona team by 17…Boise State continued its surprising start, beating BYU 73-70.