The happy ending was all that was missing from Tyler Smith's tale. A versatile forward who came to Knoxville three years ago to be closer to his ailing father, Smith had the perfect script. A transfer loaded with ability who seemed destined for an NBA future. A kid who returns to his roots and makes good on his immense potential to honor the memory of his father. It was all right there for him.
Player of the Week: Scotty Hopson, G, Tennessee
It was billed as the college basketball game that would drag people away from college football on New Year's Day, and the matchup between West Virginia and Purdue had the look of a stellar contest on paper. But in the flesh the Boilermakers put together a virtuoso performance in whipping the Mountaineers in West Lafayette 77-62. And to be fair the game really wasn't that close despite WVU going into the locker room down by just five (37-32) at the half.
Game of the Night: No. 14 Tennessee at Memphis (4:00 PM, ESPN2)
The final day of the decade also offers conference openers in both the Big Ten and Pac-10 with the best matchup being Ohio State visiting Madison to take on Wisconsin. Bo Ryan's club has been dominant during his tenure at the school in Big Ten home games, boasting a record of 61-5 in those games. Trevon Hughes is arguably playing the best basketball of any point guard in the conference and with the Buckeyes still without Evan Turner points could be even tougher to come by.
Quality wins: North Carolina, Connecticut, Indiana
Postseason prediction: NCAA Final Four
Betting odds are a great guide to college basketball entertainment. Unlike fans, who often ride the wave of media predictions, betting lines tend to be a bit more focused and can give you an objective picture of how teams matchup (though lines too can get caught up in the wave of human emotion).
One tournament concludes (Paradise Jam) while other either move on to the next stage (CBE Classic in Kansas City) or tip off (Maui Invitational). The game of the day on paper is Purdue taking on Tennessee in a matchup of contrasting styles in the Paradise Jam final. The Boilermakers will look to do things out of the halfcourt while the Volunteers want to speed things up with their full-court pressure. Bruce Pearl and Matt Painter are two of the better coaches in the game and the matchup between Tyler Smith and Robbie Hummel should be a treat.
Sunday will offer up more tournament action with events in Puerto Rico, Charleston and St. Thomas returning to action following a day off to accomodate the college football schedule. There are a pair of Big East/SEC matchups with Villanova taking on Ole Miss for the Puerto Rico Shootout title while Tennessee faces surprise winner DePaul in the Virgin Islands in a semifinal. Miami (FL) will take on South Carolina in the title game of the Charleston Classic, finishing off a weekend of appetizers leading up to the annual hoops feast that comes on Thanksgiving Week.
Tennessee added its third basketball signee of the early signing period recently when Tobias Harris signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UT and play for the Volunteers starting with the 2010-11 season. The 6-8, 220-pound forward from New York made his decision public Thursday during a live announcement at the ESPN Zone in Manhattan's Times Square that was televised live on ESPNU.