People who wait until March to watch college basketball have it all wrong. With staggered ending times, and great finishes across the board, regular season Saturdays are fantastic. I was able to watch part of all of the following games on my basic cable package on Saturday:
West Virginia at Georgetown: The Hoyas turned it over on four straight possessions in the final minute allowing West Virgina to hang on for victory. With three veteran backcourt stars, Georgetown’s inability to execute in crunch time is somewhat puzzling to me. One of the turnovers was probably a bad call (going out of bounds off the back of a West Virginia foot), but the other three were not. Georgetown still has a quality resume overall, but at 1-3 in the Big East, the pressure is on to start winning league games.
North Carolina at Virginia: Virginia led by 10 halfway through the second half, but this turned into a half-court defensive battle. And whether Roy Williams likes it or not, that’s when North Carolina is at its best. Despite constant double teams of Tyler Zeller, and an inability to make wide-open threes, North Carolina was able to draw contact and put the game away at the free throw line.
Syracuse at Seton Hall: Every team in America could use Herb Pope. He had 20 rebounds today as Seton Hall made a late run to make Syracuse nervous. But the Pirates could never quite get over the hump. I thought Scoop Jardine was the difference for Syracuse. He was relentless in crunch time. When Seton Hall thought Syracuse would run clock, he simply took the ball to the basket and kept getting lay-ups or foul shots. I never understood why Brandon Triche was starting ahead of Jardine last year, and Jardine continues to grow as the team’s lead point guard this season. He may still commit a few too many turnovers or take a few too many questionable shots, but he also makes a lot of winning plays.
Austin Peay at Murray State: Defending OVC champ and preseason pick Murray St. trailed Austin Peay in the standings, and trailed by 14 in this game. But some full court pressure and home court momentum allowed Murray St. to get close. That’s when one of the Murray St. players was called for an offensive foul for swinging his elbows. That meant a loss of possession, two shots for Austin Peay, and of course Austin Peay had a chance to score. But somehow this did not decide the game. Austin Peay made one of two free throws and was called for a five second (closely guarded) violation, and the door was still open for Murray St. After some more missed free throws, Murray St. had a three pointer to win at the buzzer, but it came up short. Austin Peay is now in the driver’s seat in the OVC standings.
Kansas St. at Oklahoma St.: In a relatively close game, Oklahoma St.’s Marhall Moses pushed Kansas St.’s Jamar Samuels out of the way in order to get a wide-open lay-up. Samuels complained to the referee and was given a technical. After Keiton Page made both free throws, Oklahoma St. made a three pointer less than a minute later. Samuels technical helped swing momentum and turn a close game into an Oklahoma St. blowout.
Michigan St. at Penn St.: Michigan St. always seems to struggle at Penn St., and this game was no different. And despite the fact that Talor Battle struggled mightily shooting the ball, his pull-up jumper with a 1 point lead in the final seconds sealed the victory.
Missouri at Colorado: By the time I flipped to this game, Missouri was down by a major margin. But despite forcing a number of turnovers late in the game, Missouri missed a ton of wide open lay-ups late in the game. Also, Colorado’s Alec Burks is good. He scored 36 points.
Baylor at Texas Tech: This was a crazy game. Baylor started on an 11-0 run. Then Texas Tech slowly grinded it out and took the lead. But a late 20-2 Baylor run sealed the victory. I would not want to play Texas Tech right now. They have a bunch of seniors who might decide to start playing at any point, but their record is horrible, and a loss to Texas Tech would look horrible for any team at this point.
George Mason at Old Dominion: Despite a late three from George Mason’s Cam Long, Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell had a couple of key lay-ups late to seal the victory. I became a fan of George Mason’s Luke Hancock down at the Charleston Classic, but his late attempt to get a lay-up or draw a foul could not penetrate ODU's interior defense.
California at Arizona St.: Trailing by three with 30 seconds left, Arizona St. grabbed three offensive rebounds and took four three-pointers, but could not make a shot to tie the game.
Connecticut at Texas: Kemba Walker’s three point prayer as the shot clock expired was not his only ridiculous shot in this game. He is playing out of his mind right now.
Charlotte at St. Bonaventure: Not all 3 OT games are created equally. This one included a bunch of missed baskets and questionable shot selection. One sequence probably best sums up the game. In the second overtime one of the Charlotte players swatted the ball away, corralled it, and then started dribbling. The refs felt the initial swat should have counted as a dribble, and called a double dribble. It was not only the wrong call, it cost Charlotte an easy lay-up that would have won the game. Instead St. Bonaventure prevailed.
UTEP at UAB: On the other hand, this 3 OT game was fantastic. Both teams exchanged huge shots, and UAB won with a three pointer by Cameron Moore at the end of the third overtime. But it was a pair of game tying threes by UTEP’s Randy Culpepper and Christian Polk that made this an instant classic.
New Mexico at Wyoming: Not to be outdone, the following game on CBS College Sports was equally good. Steve Alford’s New Mexico squad clawed back to take the lead late in this one, but with one tenth of a second left, Wyoming’s Francisco Cruz released a 5 foot floater that went in for the one point win. New Mexico was extremely lucky in close games last year, so perhaps they were due for a tough loss.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina: Despite a great day’s action, my ability to keep track of the action was fading at this point. I know South Carolina had some late threes, and Vanderbilt had some bad decisions late, including throwing a ball off the back of Jeffrey Taylor’s head in the lane. But by the time South Carolina prevailed, I had reached my limit. What a great start to the regular season!