College Basketball Weekend Update: Parity on Display

Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2008

Weekend Headliners


No. 19 Michigan 67, No. 5 Texas 63


Saturday’s high noon shootout between Michigan State and Texas reiterated what everyone already knew about college basketball and reinforced the reason why we all love to watch it.


After losing to Maryland by 18 and North Carolina by 25, Michigan State became an afterthought in Final Four talk. Texas was rising, climbing into the top five on the heels of back-to-back wins over UCLA and Villanova to start December.


Then parity set in, and the former No. 4 team in the nation, which had nearly sunk out of the rankings, upended one of the hottest squads in the country.


Parity, the reason for stories in March, has become a cornerstone of college basketball in an age where anyone is fair game. Although the latest surprise involved two highly talented, highly ranked teams, it didn’t lack the traditional astonishment and shock of a textbook upset that sent ripples through the college basketball landscape.




No. 2 Connecticut 88, No. 8 Gonzaga 83 (OT)


Gonzaga had Connecticut beat, leading by 11 at the under-twelve timeout. Instead of finishing, the Bulldogs came out of an overtime session with their second loss in less than a week.


If anything, a close game against the second-ranked Huskies legitimized the Zags as potential Final Four material after being upset by Arizona last Sunday night. Gonzaga matched Connecticut stat for stat, showing they could compete in more than the West Coast Conference as a mid-major team.


Talk surrounded the Bulldogs throughout the preseason and early part of December after a win over Tennessee. Now, the Volunteers can’t be looked at so much as a signature win, but a quality win nonetheless.


Connecticut would have filled the “signature win” quota for Gonzaga, but a near miss and a great game will be remembered just as much when seeding time arrives.




Xavier Has Devil of a Time at Home


Duke went up by an 18-1 score early on Xavier’s home court, and then played their most complete game of the season in a rout of formerly the undefeated Musketeers.


Despite an easy win, it’s hard to credit the Blue Devils with much more than lucking into a perfect match-up with the height-ridden Musketeers. North Carolina will have no problem posting up on Duke for an ACC regular Season Championship in just over 50 days.




Tubby “Feeling the Love”


Less than two years ago, Tubby Smith (formerly of Kentucky) inherited a Minnesota team that went 9-22 in its previous season. Now, Smith’s Golden Gopher Squad sits at 10-0 after knocking off No. 9 Louisville 70-64 in Arizona last Saturday, and will finally reach a much deserved spot in the top 25. Following the trend of the past two years, the Cardinals are struggling in December, but the talent is there to make another deep run late in the season.




Purdue Exposes Davidson’s One-Man Circus


Stephen Curry looked helpless last Saturday as his Davidson Wildcats went down 21-0 with just over 13 minutes left in the first half. Curry was smothered by Purdue defensive specialist Chris Kramer, proving that if you can stop the country’s leading scorer, you can stop Davidson.




Calipari “Can’t Trade Them”


Memphis continued its shooting struggles in a 72-65 loss against Syracuse. The Tigers shot 7-of-33 from three and an overall 34 percent for the game, and the Orange were content to let Memphis keep firing. Jim Boeheim laid a blueprint for beating the Tigers, leaving his squad back in a tight 2-3 Zone and coaxing the Memphis into forcing shots from deep.




Top 25 Notes


  • Tennessee nicked Belmont 79-77 after Alex Renfroe failed to sink a game-tying free throw with 7.9 seconds left.
  • After playing IUPUI close last weekend, Arizona State once again flirted with being upset in a 76-75 win in BYU’s only loss of the year.
  • Clemson reached 12-0 in a 91-72 win over ACC opponent Miami on Sunday night with the help of a 16-0 run in only 2 1/2-minutes time.


Player of the Weekend: Jodie Meeks, Kentucky


Jodie Meeks has been Kentucky’s most explosive and consistent player this season, averaging just over 24 points per game. In Kentucky’s latest romp in front of a small crowd in Louisville’s Freedom Hall, Meeks out-scored opponent Appalachian State 24-21 in the first half en route to a career high 46 points for the game. Meeks was 9-of-14 on 3-pointers and 14-of-21 overall from the field, as well as 9-of-10 on freebies.