When Western Kentucky fired Ken McDonald on January 6th few envisioned the young Hilltoppers earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. But they did just that, beating North Texas 74-70 in the Sun Belt title game.
It was thought that Pittsburgh's loss at DePaul last week was the epitome of "rock bottom" for Jamie Dixon's program, which is still without injured point guard Tray Woodall. But in hindsight that high-scoring defeat at the hands of the Blue Demons was nothing compared to what happened at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night. Pitt scored the fewest points in their history as a Big East member, falling 62-39 at Rutgers in front of a stunned crowd.
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.
One of the most anticipated regular season college basketball games in recent memory came down to wingspan. That was the difference between Kentucky and North Carolina as freshman Anthony Davis got a hand on John Henson's jumper in the final seconds to preserve a 73-72 win at Rupp Arena. UNC would enjoy the largest lead for either team with just under seven minutes left in the first half as they led 34-25, and the two titans would play close throughout.
After both teams won their semifinal games at the CBE Classic in blowout fashion, Missouri (4-0) and California (4-0) should have a stiffer challenge on their hands as they play for the championship in Kansas City. Neither team has much of an issue with playing fast. but given their roots in the "40 Minutes of Hell" system used by former coach Mike Anderson the Tigers could be at an advantage if the pace becomes frenetic.
1982 Postseason NIT
Jon Teitel: You had a four-point win over Iona thanks to a 19-2 run to start the second half. What did Coach Tom Young tell you at halftime, and was the game pretty much over after that great run?