College Basketball Musings and Notes: February 16

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College Basketball Musings and Notes: February 16

After a layoff of several weeks, it's time to bring back the Musings for the stretch run at the end of the season.

Bubbles are bursting all over the country, and keeping up with that is far more important than keeping up with school.

I wish that were true.

Still, I'll be doing my best to keep this column coming regularly through the end of the NCAA tournament.

Random thoughts after this week's games

If you do nothing else this week, look at this fantastic collection of Ed Hightower photoshops. I think the man is a terrible official, but those had me laughing until I cried.

Notre Dame loses seven straight, and then blows out a hot Louisville team. Where was that Notre Dame team for all of January? This may be a case of too little, too late.

Another struggling Big East team finally woke up once again, though they were in far less trouble than Notre Dame. Syracuse got back on track against rivals Georgetown, but it was narrow.

Hello, Utah State. Goodbye, Utah State.

Will Kentucky end up making the tournament? March would sure seem odd without the Wildcats, but they might want to consider winning the remainder of their regular season games to make sure that they're taking part in the tournament.

Stephen Curry's injury came at a terrible time. Davidson has a chance for a real quality win against Butler coming up, and they might have to do it without their best player. Davidson should win their conference tourney, but if they don't, Curry's injury could really hurt their chances at an at-large bid.

Am I alone in thinking that Wisconsin is not tournament-worthy? Their best win was at home against Illinois. They lost to Texas, they lost to Purdue (a loss that looks worse every time Purdue takes the floor,) they lost to UConn, and they lost to Marquette. I think that if you want to make the tourney, you should have a few wins over tournament teams. Oh, and that six-game conference losing streak looks pretty bad, too.

Arizona looked great against UCLA, the best I've seen them play all season. They've quietly ripped off seven wins in a row after a slow start, and look like they'll be playing in the postseason.

As long as we're on the topic of the Pac-10, UCLA is ranked way too high. For a team that started the year as a possible national-title contender, they've played some very uninspiring basketball.

I think ESPN needs to show a few more slow motion replays of Stephen Curry's ankle injury. There's nothing that helps me keep down my dinner quite like watching joints bend in ways that they shouldn't. Why not just put this pic up for 30 seconds during every Sportscenter?

Purdue is horrific without a full-strength Robbie Hummel. Hummel played in Purdue's thrilling 49-45 victory over Iowa, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, but managed only two points. The Big Ten title is Michigan State's to lose.

How did Texas lose to Nebraska? I didn't think Nebraska even had a basketball program. I don't recall Tom Osborne sanctioning that sort of thing.

I was thrilled to see President Obama holding up a Michigan State jersey in the latest episode of ESPN the Mag. I was lucky enough to be at the rally where he received the jersey, and the crowd went nuts. He really understands how to pander to a bunch of sports fans, and I like it.

Blake Griffin is just...wow. 40 and 23? That's the best individual performance this season this side of Jodie Meeks.

My new favorite name in college hoops? Booker Woodfox of Creighton. Apologies to Brady Morningstar of Kansas and Roge'r Guignard of UT-Austin.

A closer look at...Michigan State vs. Michigan

Seriously, what other game could I focus on this week?

Steve Lavin makes a pregame reference to the “great” crowd at Crisler Arena. The camera then pans out, revealing wide swathes of empty seats.

Way to go Michigan, in a season where you’ve beaten two top-10 teams, you still can’t fill Crisler.

The most fun part of this season for me has been watching Durrell Summers come into his own. A few minutes into this game, I'm left shaking my head as he catches a lob that looked like it would be sailing five feet over the hoop. He's looking like a more athletic Mo' Pete' right now.

Despite my supreme confidence in the outcome of this game, there is one major factor working against Michigan State.

No, it’s not the fact that Raymar Morgan is still sick. It’s the fact that Ed Hightower is in charge of the officiating crew.

He’s awful, easily as bad as Jim Burr, the guy who was vilified for ejecting Manny Harris against Purdue.

Back in 2006, Brent Petway elbowed Maurice Ager in the face right in front of Ed Hightower at Crisler Arena.

It certainly looked intentional. No call.

He’s incompetent, but folks still seem to think that he’s one of the best in the game today.

The first half was some of the ugliest basketball I’ve seen all season. Neither team shot remarkably well. The only positive from my point of view was the lockdown defense that Michigan State played.

Michigan couldn’t get any momentum going and only managed to hold a brief lead before succumbing to the pressure.

The Spartans obviously made a commitment to not slip up in a game that they should win (unlike against Northwestern or Penn State.)

This just in: Michigan went scoreless for the last 5:30 of the first half. Ugly.

That Michigan scoreless run makes the fact that Michigan State has scored 23 points and is up by eight at the half a lot uglier.

Come on guys, this game is looking like it'll set some records for offensive futility.

The second half hasn’t started any better for Michigan. A camera shot of the crowd behind their bench reveals that one of their fans think that Zubaz are a good idea.

Michigan isn’t helping themselves, as they’ve gone a miserable one of six from the line so far.

Even star player Manny Harris can’t get it going from the line, making it look like Travis Walton had a hand in his face, even on free throws.

The Spartans, meanwhile, have held their last two opponents to below 30 percent from the field. They’re on track to do it to Michigan tonight as well.

Even though the Spartans aren’t necessarily shooting that well either, they are absolutely suffocating the Wolverines. Their great defense can bail them out, and it’s a beautiful thing.

With about 10 minutes left in the game, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. First one to 40 wins.

Against Indiana, freshman Draymond Green stepped up and had the biggest game of his short career.

Tonight, Delvon Roe, another freshman, is carrying the load. He’s got a double-double and is answering everything that DeShawn Sims is giving Michigan.

Towards the end of the game, I received the following text from my buddy Hubbell: "I can't see the 1993 NCAA Championship Banner. Is it out for cleaning?"

I thought it was funny.

Before I get too caught up in hurling insults, it's time for some analysis.

Michigan State seems to have an issue with playing down to its opposition at times during conference play. They've got better athletes and more talent than Michigan, yet couldn't put the game away.

They had similar issues in losses to Northwestern and Penn State. The Spartans have to figure this out soon.

For Michigan, 2009 has been unmercifully cruel. They began the season on a major high after knocking off two top-five teams, and have since fallen to 16-10.

They're in danger of missing the tournament after looking like a lock early on. How do they recapture their early-season form?

Discipline.

Michigan has been busy committing silly fouls and shooting themselves in the foot at both ends of the floor.

They've got the talent to make the tournament, but won't do it until they clean that stuff up. I haven't seen so many mistakes since John L. Smith was still coaching in East Lansing.

Best of the best, worst of the worst

As we close in on the conference tournaments, who has been the best this season? Who has been the exact opposite of great?

Best player

Blake Griffin, in a landslide. Free-throw shooting aside, he's the total package. Rebounds, runs the floor, knows how to play physically. Oklahoma is riding him all the way to a No. 1 seed in March.

Best team

I was going to say UConn, but then they screwed it up by going and losing to Pitt. So instead, I've got to go with Oklahoma. Best record, best player, and we've got to assume that they'll be the new top dog next week.

Best individual performance

Jodie Meeks, for his 54 point outburst against Tennessee. 10 of 15 from three-point range, and a perfect 14 for 14 from the foul line. He scored 45 more than any other Wildcat on that night.

Best ending

The three-pointer that Louisville hit to beat Kentucky was pretty spectacular, but Louisville's furious comeback to force overtime against Notre Dame was even better.

Worst player

Rather than just pick the poorest performer on the worst team, I wanted to pick somebody from a major conference, somebody who has just been supremely disappointing. Idong Ibok and his .5 assist-to-turnover ratio takes the cake.

Worst team

I was tempted to say Notre Dame, but they haven't gone 1-24 against the likes of Yale, Columbia, Towson, and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Congrats, NJIT. You're awful.

Worst individual performance

Greivis Vasquez, for his 2-for-10, four point showing against Duke after some pre-game trash talk.

He said Cameron indoor was "my house", and definitely backed that up. Most people only commit such hideous, disgusting acts within the privacy of their own homes.

Worst ending

Arizona, for intentionally fouling a UAB player on a desperation shot with less than three seconds left.

The score was tied, UAB hit one free throw and ended up winning. Stupid, stupid basketball.

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