Thursday was a big night for the Virginia Cavaliers as they were looking for their first win at Duke since 1995, and a victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Devils would raise their ceiling even higher.
The first Saturday of the new year proved to be far more exciting than anticipated, much to the detriment of ranked teams who took their show on the road. Removing #7 Missouri and #20 Marquette, who both lost on the road to ranked opponents (more on both of those games below), five ranked teams lost to unranked opponents with four of the losses coming on the road. The Big East provided the most intrigue, with #8 Connecticut and #9 Georgetown falling on the road while #10 Louisville lost in double overtime at home. So which of the three defeats is most concerning?
The matchup between #10 Florida and Rutgers on Thursday night was hyped up due to the return of Mike Rosario, who transferred from the New Jersey school following two seasons in New Brunswick. But his return was a subplot in what turned out to be one of the best games of the calendar year, with the focus by the end being Mike Rice's young guards. Eli Carter led the way with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Myles Mack knocked down some big shots late in regulation and during the overtime periods to lead Rutgers to the 85-83 double overtime victory.
It can be argued that Vanderbilt's trip to #13 Marquette is the big game of the day on Thursday, especially when considering a Commodore resume that could use some added bulk. But there's also the first-ever conference game as a member of the West Coast Conference for BYU (11-3), and they're jumping directly into the fire thanks to the league schedule-makers. Dave Rose's Cougars visit Saint Mary's (11-2) in the league opener for both teams, and there are some very good individual battles to keep track of in Moraga.
Going into Sunday's game at Wichita State, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were on the tail end of an eight-day stretch that began with a win over then-#1 North Carolina followed by a double-overtime win at UCSB. To say the least this wasn't the easiest way to end that stretch, and Joe Ragland and the Shockers made sure that was the case. Ragland made eight of nine from beyond the arc in scoring a game-high 31 points, and as a team Wichita State shot 12-for-23 from distance in the 89-70 win.
One of the keys in playing against Michigan is to remain composed and execute your game plan. Getting away from what you do well in attempts to get the Wolverines to play a style other than their own more times than not results in a loss. That was the lesson for the Memphis Tigers, who in spite of their athletic talents have some maturing to do before referring to themselves as sure-fire national title contenders. Tim Hardaway Jr.
In-season tournaments can be tricky to analyze when the dust settles. Sometimes the winning team can build on the experience and move on to bigger and better things, with last year's Connecticut team (Maui Invitational champs) being a prime example. Others, like Minnesota (last year's Puerto Rico Tip-Off champs) can temporarily hide flaws that get exposed later in the season. Essentially these early season results should be taken with a grain of salt, because while we see flashes of teams in reality it's a small sample size.
Much has been made of Long Beach State playing five non-conference opponents who were ranked in the Top 15 of the major preseason polls. Many wondered how Dan Monson's team would navigate such a slate in spite of the fact that this experienced group went through a similar schedule last season. If Wednesday night showed anything about the 49ers it's that they're ready for the challenge, as they handed Pittsburgh its' first loss in November or December at the Petersen Events Center in the history of the arena.
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