Daily Dribble: Saturday Review
Biggest win on Saturday? New Mexico State upsetting #13 Nevada in a key WAC battle. This should probably be a two-bid league this year and the Aggies are the team fighting for the 2nd bid. After losing a close OT game against Louisiana Tech, NMSU bounced back for the big (huge really) win behind 29 points from Justin Hawkins. Making things better for the Aggies, they now have games against conference bottom-feeders Idaho and San Jose State coming up which should leave them at 17-4.
The MWC should also be a two-bid league, but no one besides Air Force is really locked in. The Falcons picked up a big win over San Diego State yesterday, rebounding from their 2nd loss. SDSU is now 13-6 and their hopes of an at-large bid are basically done. UNLV is the likely 2nd bid, but the Rebels are just 3-2 in league play. Home wins this week against SDSU and New Mexico are musts.
Four days after beating Gonzaga, Saint Mary's went to conference leading San Francisco and reeled off another big win. The Dons loss leaves four teams tied for the WCC lead at 3-1. Omar Samhan, turning out to be one of the best freshmen in the league, had 19 and 10 for SMC. The center also had 20 in the win over Gonzaga.
Like the WCC, there's also a logjam atop the MVC after SIU beat Creighton yesterday. This game went down to the wire, as SIU's Bryan Mullins hit a runner with 4 seconds to go to give the Salukis the big road win. This game was billed as the largest basketball crowd in Nebraska state history and had the feel of an NCAA Tournament game, or at least a conference finals. Creighton, SIU, and Northern Iowa all have 6 league wins. SIU now returns for a 3-game homestand that includes a game with UNI. My guess is that when February 1st rolls around, SIU will be alone atop the MVC.
With BC losing to Clemson, UNC is now a half-game back in the standings after beating Georgia Tech. Tech drops to 13-5 overall, and 2-3 in league play. More importantly, they've lost their last 5 games away from home since beating Memphis in the Maui Invitational. This doesn't bode well for their trip to Marlyand this week.
Tough day for Texas and Oklahoma State, following up their epic 3-OT game. The Longhorns were always playing catch up against Villanova, while OSU never really had a chance at Texas A&M. Kevin Durant had arguably the worst game of his career, with 12 points on 4-15 shooting. He just never found the rhythm. DJ Augustin kept UT in the game with his 25 points.. but opposing point guard Scottie Reynolds was the real story in the game. Reynolds scored 26 and dished out 6 assists at the Wildcats won despite Curtis Sumpter sitting on the bench. Nova's leading scorer was sidelined with a bruised knee.
Greg Oden quietly had a career high 29 points in an easy win over Iowa. He shot 12-13 from the floor and also added 10 boards. The Buckeyes are tied for 2nd in the conference though, because Wisconsin won again. The Badgers were definitely tested by Illinois, but pulled away at the end. Wisconsin was hurt on the inside by Shaun Pruitt, with 19 points and 14 boards, but were more balanced on the perimeter. Alando Tucker finished with 17 points, but he hasn't really been lighting it up as of late. In the last 5 games, he's just 29 of 80 from the floor (36%). Then again, Wisconsin keeps winning so imagine how good they'll be when he gets hot again..
Worth noting that Washington is so done, its not even funny. The Huskies got rocked at Washington State by 28 and are now 11-7 overall. Granted, Spencer Hawes missed the game with an ankle injury.. but a 28 point loss is still a 28 point loss.. Another Pac-10 team heading in the wrong direction is Arizona. The Cats have dropped 4 of 5 after losing at UCLA yesterday. The'll return home to get an easy win over Arizona State this week, and then have games against UNC, Washington, and Washington State in Tuscon. They'll need to win 2 of those 3 as well to get back on track.
In the SEC, Kentucky lost their first game, upset at home by Vanderbilt. The Dores are suddenly hot, having won 3 of 4 with wins over UK, Alabama, and Tennessee. This team has losses to Furman, Appalachian State, and to a bad Wake Forest team.. but they way the SEC gets respect from the committee, I guess they have to be considered alive for an at-large bid. In the SEC West, things are all tied up with 3 teams at 2-2, and 2 more at 2-3. Alabama is one of those 2-2 teams, but they just barely survived Georgia at home. The Tide are ranked 9th in the country, but are playing more like the 20th ranked team. LSU, meanwhile is ranked 19th, but may very well drop out of the polls after losing at Arkansas. The Tigers simply got rocked, it seemed like all 5 LSU starters were outplayed by their Arkansas counterpart.
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