Chalk it up to finals week. To poor preseason rankings. Heck, maybe it’s all an evil scheme by the refs, as Xavier fans will attest.
With seven losses by Top 25 teams, last weekend was just plain wacky.
No. 9 Tennessee lost to Southern California, No. 11 Georgetown to Old Dominion, No. 13 Florida to Richmond, No. 16 Texas Tech to Wichita State, and No. 22 Georgia Tech went down to Florida State.
But there were some exceptions to the madness. Texas showed it might be No. 1 material by holding serve against North Carolina in Cowboys Stadium. Duke looked as strong as ever against Gonzaga, running away with a 76-41 blowout.
And Kansas continued to streak through a weak schedule that looked formidable before the season started—before Memphis, UCLA, Michigan, and California decided to go dud instead to stud.
Some reactions from the weekend:
Texas capitalizes on first opportunity
The knock on Texas was that the Longhorns haven’t played anybody, yet still maintained their No. 2 status. On Saturday, Texas made North Carolina look like another anybody on the schedule, dealing the Tar Heels their third loss of the season with a 103-90 final score.
In doing so, the Longhorns flashed a lot of depth, a lot of talent, and little downside—much like North Carolina did so many times last season. Oh, and they looked to be solid championship contenders—much unlike North Carolina does this season.
Four Longhorn players scored 20 points or more and minutes were split essentially from a rotation of eight players. Florida transfer Jai Lucas tallied six minutes in his first game at Texas and should contribute more as the season moves on.
That’s what’s scary about Texas—also why the Longhorns are more complete right now than most thought before Saturday.
Yes, it was the officials’ fault
Coaches lie. They lie a lot—to their bosses, their fans, even their players.
So when Xavier coach Chris Mack came away from a 69-68 loss to No. 21 Butler Saturday telling his team not to blame the referees, he was probably erring on the side of a lie. Because what transpired for more than five minutes of replay-watching, stopwatch-timing, teeth-grinding madness ended a good game the wrong way.
Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward scooped up a loose ball under his own basket and tossed in the go-ahead basket, propelling the Bulldogs ahead with only 1.2 seconds left. Officials reviewed the play and ruled that the clock had stopped for an extra 1.3 seconds, then ran the remaining time off before Xavier had a chance to match Hayward’s bucket.
After the decision, fights broke out. Players were restrained. The Associated Press even reported that a water fountain had been ripped off the wall outside Xavier’s locker room.
That’s about the only thing that could have made last weekend’s Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and Cincinnati any more enthralling.
Perception lands Kentucky at the top of the SEC
Tennessee and Florida were making ground on an upstart Kentucky squad that’s stealing headlines and gaining recognition.
Both the Volunteers and the Gators went down to unranked foes Saturday, and both will now take a perennial backseat to Kentucky heading into SEC play barring a loss by the Wildcats.
Granted, the losses were to Southern California and Wichita State, respectively, but Tennessee’s defeat came by 22 points and Florida’s straight from Sunrise, Fla., where the Gators held a mighty home-court advantage.
The Valley is back
That’s not to say it ever went away, but this could be the season where the dream of multiple at-large bids becomes a reality for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Missouri State is 10-0 after knocking off St. Louis Saturday, and Wichita State downed Texas Tech despite a 62-point second half by the Red Raiders. Northern Iowa, with wins against Boston College, Iowa, and Siena in hand, is the third of three teams that are all capable of taking at-large bids left on the table.
First...On a day when Texas made a statement, Kansas failed to match in a 75-64 grind-it-out win over Michigan. Sure, Kansas tipped at noon ET, two hours before the Longhorns. Sure, the Jayhawks were matched up against a disappointing Wolverines squad. But voters shouldn’t be sure to give Kansas another pass at No. 1 this week.
Second...Duke is out to prove the doubters—the ones that have called the Blue Devils unathletic for more than a decade—flat out wrong. First, they did it against Connecticut. Then Duke held Gonzaga to its lowest points output since 1984. Defense takes athleticism, and the Blue Devils have plenty of athletes.
Third...The 20-hour rule flies out the window over the holidays, when student-athletes are out of class but still in uniform. And it’s coming at an inconvenient time for West Virginia, who will have to put up with plenty of conditioning this week from coach Bob Huggins after going down to the wire with notorious giant killer Cleveland State Saturday. You’ve got to feel for the Mountaineers.