Friday, January 13, 2006

Tops Survive UALR; Weekend Forecast

I. Tops Hold On Late Against UALR, 74-70
A basketball game consists of many small battles: the rebounding battle, the turnover battle, the tempo battle, and the like. Last night, the Arkansas-Little Rock won a couple of very important battles, but ultimately still lost the war. For the final 32 minutes of the game, they certainly won the physicality and tempo battles. The Trojan's intense, in-your-shorts half-court defense brought them back in a game that looked like a laugher for the first eight minutes.

The Toppers uncharacteristically romped out of the gate and lit the candle early and often from three-point range. Anthony Winchester and Ty Rogers both hit pairs of threes, and Benson Callier added a fifth WKU three to push the lead to 25-10 with 12:09 to play in the first half. From that point on, UALR methodically prodded, pushed, and muscled their way back into the game. They dictated what a foul was in this game. They backtipped, they boxed out with vigor, and they pressured the Topper guards into late turnovers. It was enough for them to grab a lead with 3:41 to go in the game. The Toppers were able to turn the tide behind a small, yet boisterous, crowd and some timely defensive stops of their own.

Ultimately, the Toppers hung on for a 4-point win, but what they really earned in this game was a lesson in toughness. UALR is easily the physically toughest team they have played this season. The Trojans deserve a lot more credit for their comeback than many WKU fans are willing to give. The Tops will need to match UALR's toughness in the return trip to Little Rock in a few weeks to secure a victory.

II. Weekend Forecast

--Holy Cross at Bucknell. Patriot League powers in Round 1 of the season.
--Florida State at Boston College. BC is 0-3 in the league. Losing to FSU to go 0-4 would bring their NCAA candidacy into serious question...and vault the 'Noles into serious consideration.
--Vanderbilt at Arkansas. Vandy is riding high after the Kentucky win. Ark must protect their home court.
--Xavier at Charlotte. Bubble and A-10 implications.
--Syracuse at Cincinnati. All Big East games seem to be big ones at this point
--Duke at Clemson. The Tigers have lost to Elon and beaten Wake Forest. The latter team had best show up.
--Georgetown at UConn. If this is the Hoyas comeback year, then let's see them beat a decent team, because I'm unimpressed at this point.
--UNC-Wilmington at Hofstra. Good battle in the competitive CAA.
--Michigan at Illinois. See my comments re: Georgetown and apply them to Michigan.
--Kansas State at Kansas. In-state rivalry alert! Hey, this year, the Wildcats can compete and it means just as much to their tourney hopes as it does to the Jayhawks.
--Alabama at Kentucky. Two down-and-out, desparate teams. 'Bama needs it more, if you can believe that.
--Tennessee at LSU. Time for LSU to win a game that matters.
--Georgia Tech at NC State. Jackets have won 5 of 6. Tough roadie, though.
--Oklahoma at Texas A&M. Sooners are reeling and the Aggies need to solidify themselves as an upper-tier Big 12 team.
--Villanova at Texas. WOW. Titanic non-conference match up in the conference season.
--Washington at UCLA. Washington needs a big win. UCLA needs to stay in first place.
--Marquette at West Virginia. Another Big East game with Bubble implications.
--Misssouri State at Wichita State. Both are 4-2 in the MVC, so it's a biggie.
--Rutgers at DePaul. Big East, Bubble, broken record, you get the idea.
--Pitt at Louisville. Pitt is undefeated and the Cards already have sustained a home conference loss. Plus, UL lacks quality wins of any sort. Should be a good one.
--Wake Forest at Maryland. Both trounced by Duke this week; plus Wake lost to Clemson.
--Michigan State at Ohio State. Have the Spartans ironed things out? Is Ohio State a legit contender for the Big Ten title?
--Virginia at Virginia Tech. In-state rivalry alert! Both need ACC wins whenever they can get them. Both probably see this as a very winnable game.

Happy Hoopin' this weekend! Bracket coming on Monday.