College basketball as a whole almost took the weekend off—almost.
But No. 6 West Virginia and Seton Hall made sure to steal some limelight from bowl season before Florida's Urban Meyer stepped down Saturday night. I mean, took a leave of absence. Or whatever he's calling it now.
Either way, the Big East Conference opener was the only marquee game of the weekend, and it was far from a disappointment.
Starting with what happened in Newark, N.J., Saturday, here are some reactions from the weekend:
Seton Hall's Play Proves Just One Thing
The Pirates came back from 10 points down inside of a minute to play to force overtime on the visiting Mountaineers, who stormed back during bonus basketball to take a 90-84 victory and stay perfect on the season.
Some have said West Virginia's resurgence in overtime makes a case for its eventual presence in the Final Four. Others say Seton Hall's overall effort, combined with a 41-point performance by junior Jeremy Hazell, stakes a claim for the Pirates as a bonafide NCAA Tournament squad.
The Mountaineers are a perfect 10-0 and Seton Hall sits at 9-2, but to legitimize either of the aforementioned thoughts would be jumping the gun.
The only real conclusion established from the season's first Big East contest?
Compared to last season, when the 16-team conference was loaded at the top and thin at the bottom, the difference between the Big East's No. 1 and No 16 team has narrowed.
Less power teams, more above average and decent teams—and that's going to equal out to about the same representation in the NCAA Tournament, to which the Big East claimed seven bids and landed two teams in the Final Four last season.
Louisville's Samuels Continues Coming Out Party
More than a dozen NBA scouts were on hand Sunday at Freedom Hall to see what Radford's Art Parakhouski was all about.
Instead of witnessing a showcase by the 6'10'' center from Belarus, the scouts watched Louisville's Samardo Samuels tally impressive numbers while preventing Parakhouski from doing the same—to a certain extent.
Parakhouski totaled 14 points and eight rebounds, a long way from the 22.7 points and 14 rebounds he averaged entering Sunday's game. In turn, Samuels led the Cardinals with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
A 79-53 win over Radford marked Samuels' second double-double in two games—once again showing Louisville he's not the soft inside presence many feared, especially after the Cardinals lost back-to-back games to Charlotte and Western Carolina.
USC's Road Back Could Be Short
At Thanksgiving, USC most likely thanked its Pac-10 Conference counterparts for a down season.
Because now, with transfer guard Mike Gerrity on the court and a 67-56 win over No. 20 UNLV and then-No. 8 Tennessee, the Trojans look more like a working unit than the self-induced implosion many anticipated.
For a six-game winning streak that followed the Trojans losing four of their first six contests, USC fans can thank coach Kevin O'Neill.
It's O'Neill that stepped into another iffy situation after he wasn't retained by Arizona, where he spent a season as interim head coach with Lute Olson. It's O'Neill, the reputable disciplinarian, that's keeping a program with shadows to hide in check.
It's also O'Neill that's bringing NBA experiences and attitude to Los Angeles, where the model has worked so well (Emerald Bowl aside) for Pete Carroll and the football Trojans.
With the Pac-10 in the cellar this season, there's still room for USC to make noise. And as he's shown many times, O'Neill is darn good at doing that.
Only four ranked teams took the floor this past long weekend, prompting a short rewind.
With the 20-hour rule out of commission for a couple of weeks, here's to looking ahead to next weekend: No. 23 Clemson clashes with No. 7 Duke, UTEP's Derrick Caracter gets a shot at near-ranked Texas Tech, and not to be forgotten, Rick Pitino and John Calipari renew lost hatred when Louisville travels to meet in-state rival No. 3 Kentucky.
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