By Paul Gotham
K-State KOs Texas
Jamar Samuels had a double-double off the bench and led all scorers with 20 as the Kansas State Wildcats knocked the Texas Longhorns from the ranks of the unbeaten, 71-62.
K-State outscored the Longhorns at the line by 11. The Wildcats went 20-32 while the Longhorns went a miserable 9-22. The Wildcats also out-rebounded the Longhorns by eight. Texas entered play Monday sixth nationally in rebound margin at 9.2. K-State outdid their conference rival, 42-34.
What does not appear in the stat sheet is the attitude K-State brought to the game. The Wildcats pressured the Longhorns into bad shots all night. K-State did not use a full court press, but they extended their defense beyond the arc. Texas did not respond well. Rather than backing off the top-ranked team, K-State challenged the Horns. They could have sat back in a soft man. Instead the Wildcats showed the Horns no respect and got out and denied every pass.
Kentucky, and the road ahead
With Texas dispatched that leaves the Kentucky Wildcats as the lone undefeated team (18-0) in D1 hoops. The SEC isn’t exactly lighting up the rankings. Kentucky could go undefeated for a while. The Cats play Tennessee twice (Feb. 13 and 27th). If Bruce Pearl can motivate his guys to overcome all the off-the-court problems and beat Kansas, he should be able to tag Kentucky. We shall see.
Who said the ACC is tough?
One team remains undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s not Duke. The Blue Devils lost to Georgia Tech. It’s not the Ramblin’ Wreck; they have fallen twice. North Carolina certainly isn’t undefeated – more on that later.
At 3-0 the lone undefeated team in ACC conference play is (drum roll please)…the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs have beaten Miami, Georgia Tech, and NC State.
Virginia went four and twelve in conference play last year. A change on the sidelines has led to an improvement, and it should come as no surprise how the Cavs have made the upgrade.
After three years leading the Washington State Cougars, Tony Bennett took over the ailing Cavalier program. Bennett’s Cougar teams went 69-33 – the most in any three year period in school history. WSU earned berths in the ’07 and ’08 NCAA tournaments -the only time the school has made the tourney in consecutive seasons.
The recipe has been simple: Virginia is ranked 10th nationally hitting 75.7 percent from the free throw line. The Cavs turn over the ball just 10.1 times per game – 3rd in the nation. Fewer turnovers equals fewer lay ups for opponents. Virginia is holding opposing teams to 59.9 ppg – 21st in the nation. Like Bennett teams of the past, the Cavs are patient on the offensive end hitting 41.9 percent from behind the arc – sixth in the country.
Old habits are hard to break
Tough to imagine that 67 percent is good enough to be in the nation’s top 25. That is the case with 12-6 UNC and 11-6 UConn both earned spots in the most recent polls. UNC has lost to some tough opponents – Syracuse, Kentucky , and Texas. That much is true. But the Heels have also fallen to College of Charleston, and Clemson thumped them by 19. Some voters must just be in the habit of including the Heels, and they can’t help themselves. The last time UNC wasn’t ranked, Roy Williams was coaching Kansas.
UConn has a bunch of close losses. In light of the recent announcement about Coach Jim Calhoun, the Huskies might struggle in Big East play.
Sad news – former Gonzaga head coach, Dan Fitzgerald passed away. Fitzgerald recruited John Stockton to Gonzaga and was the first coach to take the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament. His staff consisted of Mark Few, Dan Monson, and Bill Grier.
I had the chance to hear Fitzgerald speak at a coaches’ convention. He was all steak and no sizzle. He gave us some great drills and plays and did it without wasting our time with unnecessary chatter.
Player to watch
When you get a chance check out the Wichita State Shockers. And keep your eye on Toure’ Murry. The 6’4″ sophomore has a solid game. He leads the Shockers with 12.7ppg. He also grabs 5.3 rebounds. But what makes this kid special is his ability to process the game. He has 3.2 assists per game, but he also makes passes that put teammates in the position for assists.
1st Team All Casey
PG Sherron Collins – Kansas
SG Jeremy Hazell – Seton Hall
SF Wesley Johnson – Syracuse
PF Al-Farouq Aminu – Wake Forest
C Trevor Booker – Clemson
2nd Team All Casey
PG – Jon Scheyer – Duke
SG Jordan Crawford – Xavier
SF Evan Turner – Ohio State
PF Patrick Patterson – Kentucky
C Jarvis Varnado – Miss State
Got any college basketball splinters? Share them here.