Crime and punishment at Memphis and Minnesota; more notes (cont.)
It might surprise you to learn that Ohio State's biggest problem right now is rebounding. Yes, Jared The Man-Child is grabbing nearly 10 boards a game, but in the Buckeyes' last three games, their opponents got a combined 14 more rebounds than they did -- including Penn State, which owned a 25-15 advantage on Saturday. In Big Ten games, Ohio State is ranked seventh in rebound margin.
The main reason for this shortcoming is the necessity to play freshman point guard Aaron Craft a lot of minutes. That means sending senior center Dallas Lauderdale has to spend a lot more time on the bench. (Craft played 35 minutes against the Nittany Lions, Lauderdale played nine.) Buckeye fans should enjoy the view from the top of the polls for now, but they also shouldn't ignore the warning signs. Like I've been saying, there simply aren't any great teams in college basketball now.
Josh Selby is hitting the proverbial freshman wall kind of early, isn't he? In his last three games, Selby has shot 7-for-26 from the field. In the close shave over Nebraska, he had three points on 1-for-4 shooting and four turnovers to zero assists. He was so bad that Bill Self only played him for 13 minutes. That's not gonna get Capone.
I'll say it again: Pitt center Gary McGhee needs more love. He had a team-high 13 points and 10 boards in the Panthers' win over Seton Hall on Saturday. It's easy to dismiss McGhee because he seems to do everything in super-slow-motion, but not many teams are that big, strong and experienced at the center position.
I've doubted San Diego State lately, but the Aztecs' win at New Mexico over the weekend was their most impressive victory of the season. Yes, they won at Gonzaga, but that was in the season's second game, long before the target on their back got so big. And yes, they beat UNLV last Wednesday, but that was at home. To win a game on the road, in your conference, when you're ranked sixth in the country and one of four unbeaten teams left ... that to me shows you're for real. (Not to mention that the Aztecs got a career-high 30 points from point guard D.J. Gay. If he starts giving them more pop, they'll be that much tougher to beat.)
If you had told me Missouri would score 89 points against Texas A&M, I would have told you the Tigers are going to win by 15 points. Bravo, Aggies.
You think it's hard for Jeff Capel to watch Blake Griffin highlights these days?
The most overrated facet in college basketball is depth. I actually prefer teams that play six or seven guys to the ones who play 10 or 11. Players are in good enough shape to play 30-plus minutes a game, especially with long television timeouts. I also think it's better for chemistry to have a short bench. Depth helps a team overcome injuries and foul trouble, but fatigue is a non-issue.
Nobody puts The Jimmer in a corner.
You think anybody besides geeks like us know how good Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor is? Another virtuoso performance in the win over Illinois Saturday: 22 points, including 16-for-18 from the foul line. It was the sixth straight game Taylor scored 19 or more points.
It wasn't quite as dramatic as his Kentucky team's comeback from 31 points down to beat LSU, but Rick Pitino called Louisville's comeback against Marquette one of the top five he has ever experienced. The Cards trailed 65-47 with under six minutes to play before closing the game in a blur with a 24-5 run to win by one. It was even more impressive when you consider that this team is minus three injured players right now, including sophomore guard Mike Marra, who missed the Marquette game because of an ankle injury.
Nobody on Duke has suffered more from the absence of Kyrie Irving than Duke sophomore center Mason Plumlee. Still, there are signs Plumlee is regaining his sea legs. He is not going to be a great back-to-the-basket scorer this season, but he at least is turning himself into a prolific rebounder. Plumlee grabbed a total of 30 boards combined against Florida State and Virginia last week. If he can average double-figure rebounds the rest of the way, he'll be a tremendous asset.
Kansas State shot 13-for-16 from the foul line in its win over Texas Tech. I actually had to read that three times before I believed it.
I like Villanova, but the Wildcats are letting their identity evolve too much around their offense. That's exactly what got them into trouble last season. Jay Wright said after the win over Maryland that when his team's shots aren't falling, they tend to slack off on defense. Gotta fix that, guys.
It says here the Missouri Valley is a shoo-in for at least two bids. And believe me, you do not want your favorite team to pop up next to Missouri State or Wichita State on the CBS Selection Show.
I see you Bill Clark! The 6-5 senior forward from Duquesne is averaging nearly 17 points and seven rebounds per game, and he's shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range. Clark scored 20 points in the Dukes' loss at Pittsburgh last month, and he lit up Temple for 22 points (including 10-for-10 from the foul line) in Duquesne's 78-66 upset of the Owls last Saturday.
Yes, Michigan State's overtime win at home over Northwestern was closer than it should have been, but there was still some good news to come out of it. Freshman guard Keith Appling is starting to emerge as an offensive threat (he had a career-high 19 points in the win), and junior forward Delvon Roe turned in another great defensive performance. Roe limited John Shurna to a season-low six points.
If it's possible to have a season-saving win in mid-January, Tennessee did just that when it came back from 17 down to beat Vanderbilt by three. The Vols were staring at 0-3 in the SEC with road games this week at Georgia and UConn. Hopefully Tennessee is learning that it can't be a really good team without contributions from senior center Brian Williams. He had eight points and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. Keep it up, big fella.
How about Harvard going down to D.C. over the weekend and beating George Washington by five? I realize GW isn't great but still, this Crimson team is for real, folks.
A win is a win, especially on the road, so good for UCLA to win at Oregon on Saturday. But how about my man Reeves Nelson committing five fouls and four turnovers in just 15 minutes? As the philosopher king Cliff Clavin would say, "What's up with that?"
I am usually not a proponent of hiring as your coach an ex-player who has never coached (especially in college). But you have to give props to Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg for a real good start. Hoiberg's Cyclones got the biggest win of his young career when they knocked off Baylor at home by 15 points over the weekend. That improved ISU to 14-4 (1-2 Big 12). To answer your questions: Yes, I am sticking by my pick for Baylor to beat Kansas tonight. And no, I am not feeling nearly as confident about it.