Wednesday Night Hoopla: Ranked Teams Struggle

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IDecember 31, 2008

Upsets of the Night

Utah 66, (17) Gonzaga 65

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Mark Few had the best team of this era of Gonzaga basketball, but four losses in five games has the Zags on their heels. The fourth loss coming to hands of Australian seven-footer Luke Nevill and the Utes. Things aren't going to get better for Gonzaga as its next game comes against arguably the SEC's best team, Tennessee.

Gonzaga has struggled mightily from three during its losing stretch. Wednesday night was no different. Mark Few's club connected on just two of 23 three-pointers and struggled from the field in general. The Bulldogs shot a mere 35.5 percent from the floor.

In Gonzaga's four losses, the team's floor general, Jeremy Pargo has struggled distributing the ball effectively. The senior who almost jumped to the NBA last year has 22 assists to 18 turnovers in the school's four losses.

UNLV 56, (18) Louisville 55

This game was flat out ugly. Neither team shot the ball well. Nobody could finish plays. And the referees couldn't get a call right to save their lives. The Louisville crowd was deafening all game, but not in cheers, but in screams of madness at the Cardinals' lack of execution and the referees' consistent tick-tack calls.

The Cardinals shot an abysmal 29.6 percent with the biggest offender being the super athletic Terrence Williams who hit just two of 15 shots. Williams needs to learn how to score. The senior point forward has the unique ability to do anything and everything with the ball, but Williams continues to look for jumpers which has been and will continue to be his downfall.

Louisville falls into the category of freakishly athletic teams that play incredible pressure defense that doesn't get it on the offensive end of the floor. Put Memphis and Louisville on the floor together and neither team would ever score in the half-court offense.

Wisconsin 73, (24) Michigan 61

Manny's some advice. When a team stacks the lane, stop going to the basket. The super sophomore may be having a standout season, but Harris should have learned a valuable lesson. Don't take the ball to the basket if there's going to be a thick forest of opposing big men in your way. Michigan seemed content on taking the ball to the paint, but Wisconsin consistently collapsed and crashed the defensive boards to prevent the Wolverines from scoring in the paint.

Michigan needed to get production from the perimeter, but Arizona transfer Laval Lucas-Perry couldn't burn the Badgers from three.

Wisconsin on the other hand looks like it might deserve a top 25 ranking after the stellar defense and fluid offense. Bo Ryan had his team prepared to get high percentage shots and the occasional open three. The Badgers torched the nets at the rate of 58.7 percent.

Ranked Teams that Struggled

(3) Pittsburgh 78, Rutgers 72

Jamie Dixon must groan when he sees a trip to the RAC on the schedule. After losing to Rutgers in Piscataway last year, the Panthers were on the verge of dropping another contest in New Jersey this year. Pitt trailed 55-50 in the second half, but a monster Panther run fueled by two Brandon Wannamaker long bombs sent Pitt to a victory.

The Panthers' defense was somewhat of a problem last year, but it appears this year Jamie Dixon can throw a couple different looks at an offense and come up with stops. Pittsburgh moved into an extended 2-3 zone and it was lights out for the Scarlet Knights.

(23) Ohio State 68, Iowa 65

Anyone remember last year when Jon Diebler, the former Mr. Basketball for the state of  Ohio, couldn't put knock down a jumper from anywhere on the court? Well the Buckeye sophomore looks like he's starting to figure things out. Diebler dropped 27 against the Hawkeyes in a game OSU could never pull away in.

Iowa made things interesting in the second half, coming back to take the lead several times before the Buckeyes put the Hawkeyes to bed.

Other Notable Outcomes

Notre Dame 92, DePaul 82

Yes. Notre Dame can score. We all know that. Luke Harangody can't be stopped in the paint and Kyle McAlarney knocks down shots from the locker room.

But the defense needs to prove. Immediately.

DePaul shot 52 percent and turned the ball over just eight times. The Irish are in trouble when they'll tip-off with high efficient offensive teams like UConn, Georgetown, and Syracuse.

North Carolina 84, Nevada 61

Nevada played UNC tough for about 12 minutes. The Wolfpack promptly rolled over and kicked the bucket as the Tar Heels slowly stretched their lead to over 20 points for the majority of the second half. Tyler Hansbrough led Roy Williams' team with 22 points.

Michigan State 70, Minnesota 58

It appears as if Tubby Smith's team doesn't deserve its top 25 ranking. After playing a schedule full of gourmet cupcakes that included only one notable game (on a neutral court against Louisville who played two nights before in Cincinnati), the Golden Gophers couldn't hold home court against the Spartans.

The second half was a Kalin Lucas clinic. The sophomore point guard is the nation's most efficient point guard in terms of assist to turnover ratio, but on Wednesday, Lucas showed off his improving scoring touch. The Spartan floor general connected on half his shots en route to a game-high 24 points.

Memphis 80, Northeastern 48

Tyreke Evans found his groove, scoring 27 to get the Tigers back on the track.

Lehigh 66, NJIT 38

It's bad enough NJIT can't score, but the fact half the time the Highlanders can't even get out of the 30s is just pathetic.

Illinois State 80, Evansville 50

The Redbirds remain undefeated at 13-0 after blowing to pieces one the biggest surprises in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Houston Baptist 69, Howard 59

This is only notable because HBU was on pace to be this year's NJIT after opening the year 0-14.

Utah State 90, Wyoming 85 (OT)

The Aggies have just one loss entering conference play and considering the WAC is pretty weak this year, could enter the conference tournament with only two or three losses on the year. If Utah State trips up in its conference tournament, but only has three or four losses, the selection committee might have to include the Aggies in the tournament as an at-large team.