• Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
    Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
  • Give the Gift of SI
    Give the Gift of SI
Posted: Sunday February 12, 2012 12:58AM ; Updated: Sunday February 12, 2012 10:09AM

Davis flourishing as 'Cats' big-game leader, more Snap Judgments

Story Highlights

Kentucky's Anthony Davis continues to dominate in his first year in Lexington

The depth of Syracuse's bench could have the Orange on a path to the Final Four

Despite its loss to Princeton, Harvard shouldn't rely on an NCAA at-large bid

By Frank Burlison, SI.com

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis swatted seven Vanderbilt shots for No. 1 Kentucky.
Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com

Here's a look at the highs and lows of Saturday's slate of college hoops:

No.1 Kentucky 69, Vanderbilt 63 [RECAP | BOX ] Twenty-six games into his first and -- I can feel comfortable in suggesting -- only season as a college player, how might Kentucky's Anthony Davis ultimately be recognized for this freshman campaign?

Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year? Check!

SEC Player and Defender of the Year? Check and check!

First-team All-American, and National Defender and Freshman of the Year? Check, check and check!

John R. Wooden Award winner? A very real possibility indeed, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!

Davis smacked seven Commodores' shots silly -- he's got a head-shaking 127 blocks for the 25-1 Wildcats -- while grabbing eight rebounds and scoring 15 points Saturday night in Nashville to help his team overcome a four-point deficit deep into the second half.

Unless it's during the March 4 regular-season finale at Florida, John Calipari's Wildcats aren't likely to face a more formidable challenge than the one they engaged Saturday night until, when? Maybe an NCAA Tournament Regional championship game in the Georgia Dome?

Could be ...

No. 2 Syracuse 85, Connecticut 67 [RECAP | BOX] You wouldn't know it by the score but the Orange actually got a severe test Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.

Jim Boeheim's crew, now 25-1 club (and 12-1 in the Big East), led only 63-61 with about six and a half minutes to play before looking every bit one of the two-best non-NBA teams residing in the United States the rest of the way.

Senior guard Scoop Jardine hit eight of nine shots from the field -- including all four behind the arc -- for a game-high 21 points to go with six assists and only one turnover.

But here's an example of why Boeheim's program could win a Final Four in the same city (New Orleans) where the Orange won nine years ago: Reserves Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair combined to hit 13 of 18 shots for 34 points.

As for the defending national champions ... things could be a lot better, couldn't they?

The Huskies -- playing their third consecutive game without Jim Calhoun (back ailment) on the sidelines -- have dropped six of their past seven games. A silver lining: Four of their final six regular-season games are at home.

They win all four of those and drop the two road games and they take a 9-9 conference record into the Big East Tournament. The last time they did that? Last March ...

No. 14 UNLV 65, No. 13 San Diego State 63 [RECAP | BOX] One can feel reasonably comfortable in assuming that these same teams will be playing in the same building (Thomas & Mack Center) four Saturday nights from now for the Mountain West Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

If that's the case, the rubber match between the clubs should be a whopper indeed.

When the teams met in San Diego four Saturdays ago, the Aztecs got a layup by Jamal Franklin with three-tenths of a second to come away with a 69-67 win.

This time around the Aztecs came from 12 points down with a bit more than nine minutes to go to take the lead, 63-62, on jump shooter-deluxe Chase Tapley's 3-pointer with 1:40 to go.

Anthony Marshall's transition layup with his off (right) hand with 37 seconds remaining put the Rebels ahead to say.

With all proper respects paid toward Marshall's remarkable sleight of hand, it was defense that coaxed turnovers on the Aztecs' final three possessions that decided the outcome.

Stay tuned for March 10 ...

Princeton 70, No. 25 Harvard 62 [RECAP | BOX] So much for the Crimson rolling into the NCAA Tournament while cruising through Ivy League play.

The host Tigers picked up their first win over a ranked opponent in Jadwin Gym in 15 years.

And, although Harvard was 21-2 overall and 7-0 in league and Princeton just 12-10 and 3-3 going into the game, it could hardly be deemed an upset of stunning proportions -- that was Tigers' 24th consecutive victory over a Harvard squad in the building.

So, should there be some concern that Harvard's first spot in the NCAA Tournament in 66 years might have to come via the at-large invitation the Crimson couldn't pick up after losing a playoff with Princeton for the NCAA bid last March?

Nah. The Crimson plays its next four games at home (closing with two on the road) and has already beaten second- and third-place Yale and Penn, on the road, by the 30 and six points, respectively.

No. 7 Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 66 [RECAP | BOX] Do players improve considerably under the tutelage of Coach Bill Self or what?

That's rhetorical.

Jeff Withey averaged 1.3 and 1.4 points in 3.0 minutes per game as a freshman, and 2.3 and 1.8 in 6.2 last season as a sophomore.

What is the 7-footer from San Diego doing for the Kansas Jayhawks as a junior?

He is averaging 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game 23.3 minutes per game for the Jayhawks, who rolled to a couple of impressive Big 12 victories Wednesday and Saturday to keep them positioned for a potential No. 1 seed on March 11.

His numbers during the Baylor and Oklahoma State victories: 43 points, 25 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.

No. 24 Louisville 77, West Virginia 74 [RECAP | BOX] Wayne Blackshear, a 2011 McDonald's All-American, had been counted on by Rick Pitino to make a major contribution for Louisville as a freshman.

And, after finally making his college debut Saturday, it looks as if Pitino isn't going to be disappointed.

Blackshear, who suffered an injured right shoulder in October, came off the bench on his 20th birthday to hit five of nine shots from the field -- including three of five behind the arc -- and score 13 points in 20 minutes to help the visiting Cardinals win their sixth game in a row.

Pitino's crew has a Monday night home game against Syracuse and then closes the regular season in the Carrier Dome on March 3.

Those two games should give us a pretty good indication of the Cardinals will be the Orange's most formidable challenger in Madison Square Garden the following week during the Big East tournament.

As for the Mountaineers, their fifth loss in six games dropped their conference record to 6-7.

With road games against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh and a home contest against Marquette on tap in the next two weeks, their at-large argument is getting a bit wobbly indeed.

Wichita State 89, No. 17 Creighton 68 [RECAP | BOX] Not quite two weeks ago the Doug McDermott-led Blue Jays were 21-2 and toting an 11-game winning streak and were the popular -- and logical -- choices to be the "mid-major" that will make the deepest run in the NCAA Tournament.

After their third consecutive Missouri Valley Conference loss on Saturday to a Shockers' team they now trail by two games for the conference lead, the Blue Jays should be pleased to know that their "overall body of work" will still carry a great deal of heft with the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Committee in Indianapolis four weekends from now.

The Shockers? They've won 12 of their past 13 games. And how sweet is that 19-point win over UNLV on Dec. 4 looking these days?

Butler 52, Cleveland State 49 [BOX] Any hope that the two-time NCAA championship finalists might be play themselves into position for an at-large bid and decent seed in the 2012 tourney had long since dissipated once Brad Stevens' team lugged a 12-11 record into February that included 16-point, non-conference losses to Louisville, Indiana and Gonzaga.

But don't discount the Bulldogs from getting into the tournament field via the old-fashioned way for the majority of mid-major conference members -- by winning their conference (Horizon) tournament title game.

They wrapped up a 2-0 road trip in Ohio Saturday afternoon, edging 20-game winner Cleveland State, 52-49, two days after trimming Youngstown State, 68-59.

Getting to play host to the Horizon tourney semifinals and final (via the No. 1 seed courtesy the best conference record) is going to be tough, since the Bulldogs trail leader Valparaiso by two games with five to play.

But as they've demonstrated in nifty fashion that past two years, it would be unwise to think the Bulldogs are not going to be extremely difficult to beat in late February and March, regardless of where they are playing.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs Golden State Warriors Bryce Harper Paul Pierce Masai Ujiri
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint