College Basketball Weekend Update: Big East, ACC Dominating National Picture

Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IJanuary 11, 2009


Saturday Headliner: No. 21 Louisville 61, No. 18 Villanova 60

Rick Pitino loves winning, but that simply isn’t a priority for his teams in November and December. Now two games into 2009, Louisville is looking to streak through January and play the type of basketball expected of the preseason No. 3 team in the nation.

With a 61-60 nerve-tingling win over Villanova on Saturday, the Cardinals completed part two of a four-game stretch that will test Louisville to the fullest. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh both make visits to Freedom Hall next week, and a pair of wins could put the Cardinals in the top ten for the first time since losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota tossed them from the national spotlight.

The Villanova win was eerily similar to the Kentucky-Louisville game. The Cardinals took an early lead, squandered it away, and relied on late-game heroics for the save.

Instead of Edgar Sosa hitting a three-pointer, it was Terrence Williams driving down the lane and needing every bit of the rim to coax the ball in and regain the lead.

Louisville is 2-0 in the Big East for the first time ever. For a team that was considered the biggest disappointment of the year, the Villanova game counts for redemption and proves that good things come with time.

Sunday Headliner: No. 4 Wake Forest 92, No. 3 North Carolina 89

Some games are nicknamed track meets. Wake Forest and North Carolina ran on an Olympic level Sunday night, dashing up and down the floor in a 92-89 game that’s been the most entertaining thing on TV this basketball season.

And sophomore sensation Jeff Teague? He was the best player on the floor. Better than Hansbrough, Lawson, and Green. Teague went for 34 points and four assists, the best of which was a laser down low to Al-Farouq Aminu for a slam that pushed the Demon Deacon lead to eight with 6:29 remaining.

Coming into this game, consensus was that it was only a matter of time before North Carolina returned to the No. 1 spot. Now, it appears almost anyone with a capable point guard can knock off the Heels as long as Maurice Ginyard suits up in shirt and tie from the North Carolina bench.

Wake Forest proved that to be true, sustaining its perfect record. If the polls were legit, the Demon Deacons would be the top team in the land. Only a No. 21 preseason ranking is stopping them from being higher than Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, North Carolina has gone from potentially undefeated to the bottom of the ACC in only eight days. If most great teams need a low point before going on a roll, this has to be the time for UNC.

Marquette-West Virginia: Closer Than the Score Tells

It was a 46-44 barn burner with less than a quarter of the game left between Marquette and West Virginia. When the final buzzer sounded, the Eagles had outscored the Mountaineers 29-9 over the final nine minutes behind stellar second half shooting from Jerel McNeal and Dominic James, both of which played all 40 minutes.

Clemson Calls for Respect

Clemson’s 63-51 win over a mediocre NC State was a perfect example of why the Tigers aren’t receiving the same national attention most 16-0 teams would garner. With upcoming games against Wake Forest and UNC, Clemson has a shot at showing the country it’s in the same boat Pittsburgh was—a good team with a weak nonconference schedule.

Boston College Loses…Again

Boston College is paying the price for their upset of former No. 1 North Carolina. The Eagles have lost two-straight games, including the surprise of the season when Harvard pulled off a 82-70 upset of the country’s No. 17 ranked team last Wednesday. It’s safe to say it took everything the now-tired Boston College had to beat the Tar Heels.

Georgetown Freshman Rally Over Providence

Greg Monroe has become a mainstay in the Georgetown rotation as a freshman this season, but it was Jason Clark’s surprising 10-point performance that assisted the Hoyas in a win over Providence. Georgetown’s deficit never reached double digits, but the Hoyas were in danger early down nine points. The season-saving rally came on at the 18 minute mark, preventing a three-game losing streak.

Detroit Humbles Butler

Just when Butler was looking like an unstoppable shoe-in for Horizon League Champion, 4-11 Detroit played the Bulldogs to four points on their home court in Indianapolis. A two-day turnaround following a testy Wright State played into the proximity of the score, but Butler played with fire almost burned away a hard-earned No. 21 ranking.

Player of the Weekend: Tyler Smith, Tennessee

Tyler Smith was using crutches on Friday and out of the Volunteers’ starting lineup on Saturday. Adversity didn’t stop Smith from posting a near triple-double effort from the bench. In 34 minutes, Smith recorded 24 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists to help Tennessee rally to beat Georgia. Not bad for a guy who was lucky to see the floor at all.