Friday, January 06, 2006

Toppers Win; Weekend Forecast

I. Thirteen Good Minutes Are Enough; Tops Nip Ark State, 72-70
For the first 27 minutes last night, WKU played in a funk that would have made George Clinton proud. They were thoroughly outhustled and outmuscled on the Indians' home court, allowing Arkansas State to build a 52-38 lead with under 14 minutes to play. But, something happened at that point. Have a look at these pre/post-13 minute mark of the 2nd half stats:

Turnovers: 12/1
Points: 39 in 27 mins/33 in 13 mins
Free Throws: 2-4/11-17
Courtney Lee: 6 pts/16 pts

If the Tops can flip that switch at the beginning of the game, it would make everyone's lives a little easier (except for opponents). What caused this David Banner to Hulk-like tranformation? After a turnover and trailing by 14 points, Hilltopper coach Darrin Horn inserted reserve PG Joemal Campbell. WKU scored on five straight possessions consisting mostly of Courtney Lee going bananas with numerous powerful forays to the hoop. When most-of-the-time PG Ty Rogers came back at about the 11 min mark, he was a new man. The Tops only made one turnover the rest of the way and Rogers had many clutch plays down the stretch. Benson Callier was huge down the stretch as well, finishing the game with 17 points and 6 rebounds.

Big road win for the Toppers. They now nestle in for a three game home stand beginning on Saturday against arch rival Middle Tennessee.

II. Last Night's GOI
--Villanova 76, at Louisville 67. Louisville is not quite ready for the Big East cream, but they are going to be very tough on anyone coming into Freedom Hall. This loss makes Louisville's road trip to Providence pretty important. Randy Foye is amazing; really, a joy to watch.
--at Illinois 60, Michigan State 50. Dee Brown had 34 of the Illini's 60 points. This is not last year's Illinois, but they are still unblemished and Dee Brown is nigh unstoppable. What will the Illini do against a great team if Brown has a bad game? Is that combination even possible?
----UCLA 85, at Arizona 79. When UCLA gets 100% healthy, they will be scary good. Arizona puts tremendous pressure on opposing guards (Chris Rodgers is especially fiesty), but they need more from their bigs (Kirk Walters) to be a legitimate top 15 team.
--at George Mason 73,
VCU 60. Gives the Pats a precious win over a fellow CAA contender.
--at Hawaii 73,
Nevada 69 (OT). As I said yesterday, it's tough to win in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Hawaii might be a second NCAA bid out of the WAC if they can manage to win some road games.
--Northern Iowa 75, at Wichita State 61. It seems to me that Missouri State and Northern Iowa are separating themselves a bit. Oh wait, look who is in first place at 3-0 in the MVC: SIU. Since starting 2-3 with losses to Monmouth, St. Louis, and D-II Alaska-Anchorage, the Salukis have ripped off nine in a row, including last night's road win over fading Indiana State. Like my grandma used to say: never count out an Egyptian dog.
--at Wisconsin 66,
Iowa 52. I take great pride in the fact that I was the one of the few (only) people who had the Badgers in the preseason top 25. Well, I do not do polls, so really they were #23 on my NCAA preseason S-Curve. Anyway, Bo Ryan has a system that works. Period.

III. Weekend GOI
--Manhattan at Iona. There seems to be only two teams capable of challenging Iona in the Metro-Atlantic: Manhattan and St. Peter's.
--Southern Cal at Arizona. A Trojan win here gets them into the NCAA conversation.
--Notre Dame at DePaul. Two of that gaggle of mid-pack Big East teams.
--Florida at Georgia. Let's see what the Dawgs are made of.
--Ohio State at Indiana. This will be the Buckeyes stiffest test to date. Can they really challenge for the Big Ten crown?
--Cincinnati at Marquette. If the Bearcats win here, it's time to put them in the Big East title conversation.
--Northern Iowa at Missouri State. I believe these are the two best teams in the MVC.
--NC State at North Carolina.
In-state rivalry game alert! And boy, it should be a good one.
--Seton Hall at Rutgers. Both off to decent starts and looking to get into the NCAA convo.
--Colorado at Texas. Reality check time for the 10-1 Buffs. Let's see if they have the chops.
--Drexel at VCU. Another important game in the highly competitive Colonial.
--Auburn at Vanderbilt. Winner gets a leg up on a Bubble bid from the SEC.
--Washington State at Washington. In-state rivarly game alert! Plus, it has real NCAA implications for both.
--Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky. Two highest-rated RPI teams in the Belt and a pretty fierce regional rivalry.
--Butler at UW-Milwaukee. Probably the two best teams in the Horizon.

--St. Peter's at Manhattan. Two of the three MAAC contenders (Iona is the other).
--Temple at Saint Joseph's. Both desperately need a good win.
--Bradley at SIU. Important tilt for both team's tourney hopes. Loser is probably on the outside at this point.
--Duke at Wake Forest. The Dukies were up for the task at Indiana. This is only their second major road test.
--West Virginia at Villanova. WVU really needs a marquee win. Not likely here, though.
--Michigan State at Wisconsin. Simply a great college hoops matchup. MSU certainly does not want to start 0-2 in the Big Ten, but the Kohl Center is anything but kind to visiting teams (44-1 in their last 45).

Bracket projection coming on Monday. Have a great weekend.