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Posted: Friday January 9, 2009 4:20PM; Updated: Friday January 9, 2009 5:21PM

Hoopla: This year will be great

Story Highlights

With St. John's victory, and the Knicks win over the Celtics, the Garden is alive

UNC, Illinois State fall out of the undefeated race, Texas Southern finally wins

Greg Paulus gets cozy with the bench, Stephen Curry adds a record to his resume

By Jacob E. Osterhout

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St. John's
Thank you, Paris Horne and your fellow Johnnies. You put Madison Square Garden back on the map.

Thank God 2008 is over. What an awful year. I busted up my knee and can no longer dunk, never mind make a three to save my life. And, on top of that, I lost half my inheritance when I picked North Carolina to win it all in last year's office pool. But I've got high hopes for 2009. Just look at how well the year has started:

St. John's revives Madison Square Garden

I'm not saying the Johnnies are back, but at least they aren't as miserable as they've been the past few years. That's good news for basketball fans in the Big Apple. Even without the team's best players, Anthony Mason Jr. and Malik Boothe, the Red Storm beat then-No. 7 Notre Dame 71-65 for its first signature victory of the season. For a while there, it seemed like MSG was where basketball went to die, but with this win and the Knicks victory over the Celtics, maybe the Garden can regain a little of its lost hoops credibility.

The ladies score big

The Abilene Christian women's basketball team beat Texas Woman's University 147-143 in quadruple overtime, despite a 63-point effort by Renee Renz. The two teams combined to set four new NCAA records: Most combined points in a women's game, most points point by a losing team, most combined points scored in overtime, and most points scored by a single team in overtime.

Tar Heel fans choke on their wine and cheese

Boston College's Tyrese Rice gave North Carolina's Ty Lawson a lesson in how to play point guard, and the formerly unbeatable Tar Heels lose at home to the Eagles, 85-78. Consider the following stat lines. Rice scored 25 points on 7-13 shooting and dished out eight assists. Lawson had 10 points on 3-13 shooting and compiled four assists. So much for home-court advantage. So much for an undefeated season. So much for Lawson being the best point guard in the ACC. (My Aunt Nancy is going to kill me for writing this.)

Texas Southern finally wins

The Tigers entered the new year with 14 losses and zero victories. But after only five days, they won their first game of the season, beating Alcorn State 81-64. Now all we need is NJIT to win a game and 2009 will be the best year ever. EVER!

Illinois State loses last-to-be-undefeated race

For six days of 2009, Illinois State remained one of only a handful of undefeated college basketball teams. This created an awkward dilemma for fans who put any faith in the rankings. While all the other undefeated teams were ranked, the Redbirds weren't even close to breaking into the top-25. Their strength of schedule equaled LaDainian Tomlinson's weight (221) and the toughest teams they'd played were Creighton and Evansville. There was even the possibility that Illinois State could go undefeated during the regular season without playing a ranked team, then lose in the finals of the Missouri Valley Tournament and be left out come Selection Sunday. Fortunately, Bradley handed Illinois State its first loss of the season on Tuesday night and we no longer have to discuss such a tedious topic.

Best. Game. So far. Maybe.

It's the greatest game of the year so far and no one is talking about it. Northern Arizona lead by 16 at half, but Portland State came storming back to finally tie the game with seven seconds left in regulation. Each team then scored seven points in the first overtime, 11 points in the second and nine in the third before Portland State's Dominic Waters, who scored 41 points on the night, knocked down two free throws to give the Vikings a 92-91 victory. Portland State has now won 17 consecutive Big Sky games and eight straight on the road.

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