College Basketball Musings and Notes, Jan. 19
It was a great week for the state of Kentucky. Not so much for citizens of South Bend, Indiana. It was a mixed bag if you like Syracuse, and all rosy if you support Wake Forest.
Random Thoughts after This Week's Games
•Penn State fans were apparently upset with the officiating after their close loss to Michigan State on Wednesday night. Look, your team shot 51 free throws against the Spartans at home last season. You're in no position to complain about a couple of calls going the other way.
•Remember that time that we thought Louisville was fading? They beat Notre Dame in overtime and used a fierce comeback to hand Pitt their first loss of the season. Apparently all they need to do is get involved in games that come down to the last seconds of regulation, and they'll be alright.
•Here’s my question for Notre Dame: How do you lose by 14 points in overtime? There’s only five minutes! No team should have enough time to build that big of a lead! You gave up 16 points in a mere five minutes. That pace translates to 64 points in a half. Every team with a credible offensive threat is now licking their lips at the prospect of facing you. Congratulations.
•Remember when Memphis could outscore anybody in the country, except for Kansas? Now they’re struggling to put up 50 against Tulsa. Free throws will kill you.
•Apparently the poor economy means that Illinois can’t afford to build a new basketball arena or refurbish Assembly Hall. Do you think that they could at least afford some decent lighting?
•I never thought I’d see the point where the SEC doesn’t have a single team ranked. Arkansas should be there, but they aren’t. Apparently wins over Texas and Oklahoma aren’t enough to cancel out a loss to Mississippi State. The pollsters can be as dumb as the BBWAA sometimes.
•What is up with Wayne Chism’s headband? Does Adidas not make one in his size?
•Surprisingly enough, Northwestern seems to be one of the tougher teams in the Big Ten. Purdue was lucky to escape with a win. Minnesota was not.
•Marquette and Louisville are currently the only two teams undefeated in Big East play. I don't expect it to stay that way. But a stat like that really speaks to the quality of that league top to bottom.
•Georgia knew that Jodie Meeks had put up 54 points against one of the better teams in the SEC, yet still neglected to guard him. I think it's safe to say that they won't be repeating their miraculous SEC Tournament run of last season.
•Clemson lost their only game last week yet didn't budge in the rankings. Somehow, Gonzaga is still in the AP rankings, but St. Mary's is not. I'm confused.
•I got really excited when the Big Ten Network announcers said that Ohio State had a player named "Bill Bruford" on the roster, thanks to my abiding love for the band Yes. Turns out they were just mispronouncing his last name. It's Buford. I was disappointed.
A Closer Look at...Kentucky vs. Tennessee
I was originally going to write about the Syracuse/Georgetown game this week, but as soon as I saw how Jodie Meeks started the game, I knew this one was going to be the better matchup.
This was one of my favorite rivalries growing up. As a Kentucky fan, I always enjoyed Rick Pitino's teams getting retribution for losing to Tennessee (and pretty much everybody else) during football season. The tables have turned in the last couple of seasons, but the Wildcats are on their way back.
Kentucky's biggest problem this season has been turnovers. It's not so much the number but the location. They've given their opponents way too many easy baskets. That's something to keep an eye out for here.
Over 11 minutes into the game, Kentucky only has two turnovers. Two! Is something wrong with them? That goes against everything they’ve been doing this season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with it. But I’m also very puzzled.
Jodie Meeks might be the best guard in the country right now. Nobody has been better at taking advantage of even the slightest opportunities to score than Meeks. Give him an inch of space and he’ll knock down a jumper in your face. It’s incredible. He and Patrick Patterson have a chance to do something very special this season
After one half of basketball, the big story has been Jodie Meeks and not turnovers. Meeks has 26 points after the first 20 minutes and Tennessee looks helpless to stop him. The Vols actually played decent defense on him, but as soon as the defenders' concentration lapsed for a split second, Meeks would rise and fire. It's a beautiful thing.
I wrote down one note at halftime: Bobby Maze is desperately trying to look like Allen Iverson. He’s got everything down except for the game.
Kentucky came out on fire after halftime as well. Meeks hasn’t cooled off at all and looks like he could put up 50 on this Tennessee defense. Stephen Curry, I’m sorry, I’ve found a new man-crush. Any time you put up 36 points on 12-of-15 shooting in just 24 minutes of game time, you’re a great player.
Any time Tennessee has looked like making a run, Kentucky has strung together two or three quick buckets to open the game back up again. Even if Tennessee does eventually battle back to tie it, I can’t imagine that they’d have the energy to put Kentucky away. They had to come back to beat Georgia, and they’ve been playing in a big hole most of the night tonight.
It’s official—I can’t remember an individual effort that has been more impressive than Meeks’. Tennessee didn’t give him a whole lot of open shots, but he hit from everywhere on the court. Hand in his face, 25 feet out, didn’t matter. Meeks just decided to take over and gave Kentucky fans a performance that conjured up memories of the great Dan Issel.
Meeks has affected Tennessee even when he isn’t scoring. Guards would leave their man to double team him, only to find that Meeks hadn’t even received a pass and their man was on his way to the basket. And you know what? Double-teaming a guy without the ball actually seemed like a smart defensive move.
Tennessee made a run to make things interesting for the last five minutes, but Meeks was just too much. He broke two records tonight: Dan Issel's single-game scoring record and the single-game three-point record that he held jointly with the sharpshooting Tony Delk.
What an effort.
Meeks was the only Wildcat in double figures. Ordinarily, this is where I would harp on the guards for not feeding Patrick Patterson, but they did the smart thing and gave the ball to the hot hand. And besides, Meeks and Patterson combined for 63 points, a stellar number.
Tennessee had three players in double figures, but ended up losing by 18. Bruce Pearl will be very unhappy that his squad allowed Meeks to go nuts, especially at home. Don't be surprised if the Vols plummet out of the Top 25, too.
What I'm Watching This Week
Wake Forest's first game as No. 1 in the land, on Wednesday. They begin dismantling Virginia Tech at 7:00 PM.
Villanova vs. UConn. 'Nova will be trying to rebound from the soul-crushing defeat they suffered in the last seconds at the hands of Louisville. UConn is still rolling. UConn wins big.
Clemson vs. North Carolina. The former No. 1 takes on the formerly undefeated Clemson Tigers. This should be a very entertaining game, one that comes down to the final minutes.
The inauguration ceremonies. Regardless of how you voted back in November, this promises to be one of the most memorable inauguration ceremonies ever. I'm excited to hear Obama's speech.
My mom summed up her feelings about the inauguration in a text to me the other day: "He's going to the White House, and he's taking us with him!"
And as always, don't forget to watch 24!
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