Sooners need Warren to grow up fast (cont.)
Other Hoop Thoughts
The reaction to the bizarre ending of Saturday's Xavier-Butler game can be summed up thusly: 1) The refs were wrong, and 2) Their blunder cost Xavier the game. The first is off-base, but even if it weren't, the second would remain wildly exaggerated.
The main mistake the refs made was not having a digital stopwatch at the scorer's table, which is why it took 13 minutes for them to issue their ruling. That aside, they made the right call. It just so happens that because of the clock malfunction in Hinkle Fieldhouse, the game lost just enough time for the refs to determine the buzzer would have gone off after Gordon Hayward shot his game-winning field goal, but before it passed through the net. Crazy, but true -- and applied exactly according to the rulebook. You can say you don't like the rule, but you can't fault the refs for adhering to it.
As for the Musketeers, even if the officials had let things stand where they were after Hayward's layup, Xavier would have had the ball under Butler's basket with just 1.2 seconds remaining. Sure, there's a miniscule chance they could have scored in that situation, but we all know that is not likely. Xavier didn't get robbed, it just lost a game. The ending wasn't pretty, but the outcome was just.
It was some Saturday for the West Coast Conference, huh? The two primary contenders, Gonzaga and Portland, each lost by 35 points to Duke and Washington, respectively. Nothing wrong with losing to good teams, but there's no excuse for getting blown out like that.
People underestimate how much room Kansas has for improvement. Exhibit A: Sophomore forward Marcus Morris, who delivered 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Jayhawks' win over Michigan. It seems like in each game, KU gets a solid outing from one of the Morris twins.
Texas ranks 11th in the Big 12 in three-point percentage and made just 7-of-22 from behind the arc in its win over North Carolina. Normally, I'm suspect of teams that don't convert well from three-point land, but the flip side is that those teams are less vulnerable to an off shooting night. For Texas, an off shooting night is the norm, so they are programmed to win with defense and toughness like they did on Saturday. That's a great formula for success in March. (However, I still say free throw shooting is Texas' Achilles' heel.)
I realize this is like fretting over the tiny pimple on Megan Fox's chin, but John Wall did have six turnovers in Kentucky's 21-point win over Austin Peay. At what point does his carelessness with the ball become a real concern?
Tennessee senior forward Wayne Chism has done well by broadening his perimeter skills, but he needs to remember his bread is buttered under the basket. Chism's three-point percentage has gone from 32.0 last year to 42.1 this season, but his rebounding average has sunk from 8.0 to 6.3. He was at his absolute worst in Saturday's shocking 22-point loss at USC, hitting just 1-of-7 from three while grabbing one rebound and shooting one free throw. Totally inexcusable.
Which brings me once again to Seth's Rule of the Road: At home you can shoot threes. On the road you have to shoot free throws. Write it down, kids.
As for USC, it remains to be seen if that win was a fluke, or if the Trojans are really that good. USC clearly benefited from point guard Mike Gerrity, a second-semester transfer from Charlotte, becoming eligible. In his first game for USC, Gerrity recorded 10 assists and six turnovers. He only shot 1-for-7 from the field, but at least he got to the foul line enough to shoot 11 times (making 10). Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said USC was "a completely different team" with Gerrity running the point. Stay tuned.
Ohio State's Evan Turner said over the weekend he plans to be play in the Buckeyes' game at Minnesota on Jan. 9. That sounds like a very ambitious timetable, but his optimism is a good sign that he'll return from his broken back sooner than originally expected. The Buckeyes need him, too. Three of their five starters played all 40 minutes in Saturday's 16-point win over Delaware State.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he made a mistake by scheduling a road game at UAB following the Bearcats' Crosstown Shootout game with Xavier. I disagree. Even though Cincy lost at UAB, I'll bet the Bearcats learned something valuable about maintaining an even keel and being emotionally prepared each time out. That kind of education pays dividends down the road.
Interesting that in UConn's game on Sunday against UCF, Jim Calhoun started Ater Majok in his first game for the Huskies, while Gavin Edwards once again came off the bench. Edwards still played 34 minutes to Majok's 16, and Majok only had one point and three rebounds, but Calhoun has said for a while he believes Majok is his best big man. Clearly he wants the young fella to get some confidence, and he likes the jolt Edwards gives the team as a sixth man.
Most underrated conference player of the year race: Cornell's Ryan Wittman vs. Harvard's Jeremy Lin. If the voting is tied, the trophy should go to the guy with the higher SAT scores.
It may not be easy to find him on the tube, but catch New Mexico junior forward Darington Hobston if you can. He's a smooth, left-handed, 6-7 junior forward who is a nifty passer (4.6 assists per game). Hobson is not a great long-range shooter, but he's decent enough that defenders have to respect him out there, which gives him a better chance at beating them off the dribble.
Anyone who remembers the way Gregg Marshall turned little Winthrop into a mid-major powerhouse should not be surprised that he is leading Wichita State to a resurgence in his third year. The Shockers are 10-1 and handed Texas Tech its first loss of the season on Saturday in Wichita.
I continue to be mystified by how little impact freshman guard Abdul Gaddy is having at Washington. Even in a 35-point win over Portland, Gaddy went scoreless and committed four fouls in 16 minutes. He is obviously not making the adjustment defensively to college ball -- and if it hasn't happened by now, it's hard to envision it happening by the end of this season.
Anyone else notice Northwestern is 9-1 despite losing its leading scorer and rebounder, Kevin Coble? The dream isn't dead yet folks.
The fact that a young, thin UMass team out-rebounded Memphis by 17 during the Minutemen's upset win on Saturday should tell you everything you need to know about where Memphis' primary weakness lies. The Tigers are ranked eighth in Conference USA in rebound margin, and aside from Kansas they haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of opponents.
Amidst all the attention being paid to players becoming eligible mid-season, don't ignore West Virginia's 6-9 freshman forward Deniz Kilicli, the Turkey native who will join the team in February after sitting out the first 20 games for accepting professional benefits while playing in Turkey. Kilicli will give the Mountaineers' a much-needed boost of depth just in time for the Big East stretch run.
Without bothering to look at conference RPI rankings, here is how I rank the mid-major conferences (e.g. outside the Big Six): 1) Atlantic 10, 2) Mountain West, 3) West Coast, 4) CAA 5) Missouri Valley. I predict all of those leagues will get at least one at-large team into the NCAA tournament.
I hope everyone is taking note of the outstanding season Tyler Hansbrough is having for the Indiana Pacers. It wasn't long ago many were questioning whether Hansbrough would be an impact player in the pros despite being a four-time All-America in college. If you can dominate in college, you can play in the pros -- which is why Notre Dame's Luke Harangody will have a long and lucrative NBA career.
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