What We Learned This Week
Yes, Big Ten powers Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all took losses this week to Duke, Marquette, and UNC, respectively. But the conference also had some big-time wins from middle-of-the-pack teams.
Michigan knocked off Duke at home. Ohio State won on the road at Miami FL and Notre Dame. Even teams like Minnesota (Virginia and Cornell), Northwestern (Florida State and DePaul), Illinois (Georgia), and Penn State (@ Georgia Tech) posted good non-conference wins.
Now I know it is early, but take a peek at the conference standings. Ignore Indiana, and the three ranked teams in the conference are all in the bottom four. I'm not saying that the Big Ten is better than the Big East, but this conference is definitely better than it was last year.
More and more, this season is looking like UNC and then everyone else. Yes, UConn is undefeated, but they have struggled in beating a couple of inferior opponents (Buffalo, LaSalle). Louisville, Notre Dame, Duke, Michigan State, and UCLA—all teams considered to be favorites for the Final Four—have lost games to inferior opponents.
Oklahoma and Gonzaga are undefeated, but not necessarily blowing teams out. Texas, Tennessee, Xavier, Purdue...those teams do not exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents. Pitt is winning games big, including a win in the Legends classic where they beat Texas Tech and Washington State, but does Pitt have enough offensive firepower to hang with UNC?
While all this is going on, UNC is cruising, going 8-0 while winning by an average of 30.4 ppg (including wins by 15 over Notre Dame and 35 over Michigan State). Should I even throw in there that Tyler Hansbrough has been in and out of the lineup and Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller have not been playing?
The mid-majors that were supposed to fall off this year, well, haven't. Butler lost pretty much everyone except for Matt Howard from last year's team but has started the season out 8-0, including picking up two wins this week on the road to start out the Horizon League season (one of them was over preseason league favorite Cleveland State in dramatic fashion).
Western Kentucky, who lost Courtney Lee, Tyrone Brazelton, and Ty Rogers, has beaten Louisville and Georgia. Even teams like Xavier (who can hardly be called a mid-major) and Dayton, who lost a ton from their teams last year, have started the season out undefeated with multiple wins over top 25 competition.
At the same time, some of the teams expected to be good have been, well, not good. Siena has started out 4-3. Kent State is now 3-5 after starting out 3-0. Cleveland State (5-4), Wright State (0-6), San Diego (4-4), and Southern Illinois (3-4) have all sputtered out of the gates.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Wisconsin 74, Virginia Tech 72
Wisconsin controlled the second half of this game, eventually taking a 67-58 lead with just over a minute left. That's when the excitement started.
Virginia Tech knocked down two three-pointers around a Wisconsin free throw and forced a turnover after the second one. The teams traded two free throws, but Tech came down and hit another three to cut the lead to one. Wisconsin would hit two more free throws to set up this thrilling finish.
What a game. A.D. Vassallo led the Badgers with 30 points, five boards, and four assists. Marcus Landry had 18 points (4-4 from deep) for the Badgers, while hero Trevon Hughes added 12. Virginia Tech has been a hard luck loser of late. Xavier, Duke, and UNC have all hit memorable buzzer beaters against them in recent years.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Evan Turner, Ohio State
The Buckeyes won two games against ranked teams this week, and Turner was one of the main reasons why. Against Miami FL on Tuesday night, Turner scored all 19 of his points in the second half as OSU overcame a 36-22 halftime deficit. He had six points in a key 13-0 run early in the half that cut the Hurricane lead to 38-37. Turner also added six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks.
On Saturday, Ohio State traveled to South Bend to face Notre Dame, who is as tough as any team in the country at home. Turner finished with a career high 28 points on only 16 shots, as he was able to penetrate and get to the rim at will. He also added 10 rebounds, five assists (both team highs), and two steals.
On a side note, Ohio State looks like they may be more than a fluke team. They have some talented slashers in Turner (who is leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals while shooting 56 percent from the floor), William Buford, and David Lighty, a couple of good big men in Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens, and a sharpshooter in Jon Diebler.
The question mark for this team is going to be at the point. Jeremie Simmons has been solid but unspectacular. He is shooting just 27.8 percent from the floor (9-25 from deep) and has only 11 assists, but he has only turned the ball over twice in 130 minutes. Regardless of the competition you are facing, that is outstanding.
Simmons may only be a possession point guard, which is fine, as long as guys like Lighty and Turner can penetrate and create opportunities for themselves and others. They still get Butler and West Virginia at home, so they will be tested again before Big Ten play, but be sure to keep an eye on these guys throughout the season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
OK, they aren't exactly beating UNC here, but Florida State is 8-1 coming off of last night's win over Florida. Remember, this is a Northwestern team that went 8-22 (1-17 in conference) last year with exactly one win (Michigan) against a BCS opponent.
Craig Moore, who is leading the team in scoring at 15.3 ppg (on 25-48 shooting from deep), had 20 in the win against FSU, while Kevin Coble, who is averaging 14.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg, led the way with 25 in the win against DePaul and 15, eight boards, and seven dimes against the Seminoles.
MATCHUPS OF THE WEEK
12/9 - Davidson vs. West Virginia and Texas vs. Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic
Four of the best shooters in college basketball take the MSG court. Steph Curry faces Alex Ruoff in the opener, while A.J. Abrams and Scottie Reynolds square off in the nightcap.
12/10 - Gonzaga @ Washington State
The Cougars are a very good defensive team and must control the tempo if they hope to knock off the 'Zags at home.
12/10 - Dayton @ Creighton
Two of the best mid-majors square off.
12/11 - St. Joe's @ Villanova
Any time two of the Big Five square off, you know it is going to be a battle.
12/13 - Xavier @ Cincinnati
Not only is it a great rivalry game, but both teams are also pretty good this year. Although he hasn't been scoring as much this year, it is worth it to tune in on the off chance Deonta Vaughn catches fire.
12/13 - Memphis @ Georgetown
Should be the best game of the week. Georgetown got whupped when they went to Memphis last year and look to return the favor this year in DC.
12/14 - Gonzaga @ Arizona
Chase Budinger and Austin Daye might be the two best NBA prospects on the West Coast.