Apparently, somewhere along the way we got lost and missed the exit for Nashville along I-40.
Because based on the Thursday night action in college hoops, we didn’t end up in the Music City, we ended up trapped on the island from LOST. Here’s a quick recap of the wackiness from around the country:
No. 12 Indiana 73, No. 13 Michigan 71: I think its safe to say that if Indiana somehow managed to convince the NCAA Tournament committee to let them play every game in Bloomington, they would be the hands-down favorite to win the national title. The Wolverines became yet the latest victim to fall in a nail-biter at Assembly Hall. Christian Watford (25 points, seven boards, four assists) and Cody Zeller (18 points on 8-10 shooting) carried the Hoosiers to a lead that got as big as 15, but Indiana could never put away a scrappy Michigan team despite never trailing in the game. After Michigan was able to tie the game at 46 early in the second half, Zeller and Verdell Jones sparked a 19-9 surge that gave the Hoosiers another commanding lead. Michigan’s zone was frustrating enough to get them tied once again at 66, but six straight point from Verdell Jones put the game away.
A key for Michigan right now: help Tim Hardaway Jr. regain his perimeter stroke. The talented sophomore is shooting 4-33 from three over his last five games.
Louisiana-Lafayette 72, Western Kentucky 70 OT: Feel free to try and figure this one out: the game-winning basket was scored with six men on the floor.
DePaul 84, Pitt 81: The Panthers had every opportunity to put this game away. They led by as much as 12 points in the first half, and while Oliver Purnell’s uptempo system and the 26 points (and six assists, five steals and four boards) the Blue Demons got from Brandon Young kept DePaul in the game and even got them the lead in the second half, Jamie Dixon’s team was able to manage a four point lead with 17.2 seconds left. That’s when it all went to hell. Young scored on a driving layup, and after Isaiah Epps missed two free throws, Young scored on another driving layup, this time drawing a foul and hitting the free throw with 1.3 seconds left. Pitt threw away the ensuing inbounds and Young followed that up with two more freebies for the final margin.
I think we can safely say Pitt’s season has completely imploded. They are still playing without Travon Woodall, which does make a difference as the Panthers are left with the unenviable option of using Ashton Gibbs or an inexperienced freshmen or sophomore at the point. Without Woodall, Pitt doesn’t have that late-clock creator that we have come to associate with Pitt -- Levance Fields, Carl Krauser, etc. -- and his return will help. But Woodall alone will not make this team better than atrocious defensively and it certainly won’t bring back the swagger and the toughness, both mental and physical, this group is lacking.
South Florida 74, Villanova 57: Pitt isn’t the only powerhouse Big East program currently sitting at 0-3 in league play. They are joined by the Wildcats, who inexplicably lost by 17 at home to the Bulls. Granted, USF is better than they have been in the past, especially with Jawanza Poland healthy (he had 20 points on Thursday night). But Villanova should not be losing by 17 at home to this team.
Jay Wright is trying to fix what plagues this team. He benched both Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek for an incident in practice, opting to start four freshmen alongside Mouphtaou Yarou, and it worked initially, as Villanova led early. But the Wildcats simply don’t have the offensive talent to win this season. Chew on this stat -- the Wildcats lost this badly at home and only committed six turnovers. They just can’t score or stop their opponents from scoring. That’s a bad combination. Villanova needs leadership, and they aren’t getting it out of Wayns, Cheek or Yarou.
Penn State 65, Purdue 45: I understand that winning on the road is difficult in conference play, regardless of opponent, but in no way, shape or form should Purdue ever lose in this manner to Penn State. The Boilermakers were never in this one, as the Nittany Lions jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back. Frankly, your opponent doesn’t matter when you are only scoring 45 points and shooting 31% from the floor.
Pac-12: Take a look at the scores from the Pac-12 games tonight and see if you can comprehend them. Because I surely cannot:
- Colorado 87, Washington 69
- Oregon State 92, Cal 85
- Oregon 78, Stanford 67
- UCLA 65, Arizona 58
- Utah 62, Washington State 60 OT
- Arizona State 62, USC 53
I ... I just ... I don’t know.
It is incredibly difficult for me to imagine a scenario where the Pac-12 doesn’t send at least two, and possibly three, teams to the NCAA Tournament, but the way that things are progressing, the possibility of the left coast’s power conference turning into a one-bid league is looking more and more realistic.
On Thursday night, all four of the teams with a shot at getting an at-large bid lost. I’m in a generous mood, so I can give Arizona the benefit of the doubt for losing to UCLA. The Bruins have been better defensively since Reeves Nelson was dismissed, UCLA is starting to get some consistent production out of their perimeter attack and Joshua Smith looks like he is trying to get into shape; Howland said after the game Smith is in the best shape he has been since coming to UCLA. I can also forgive Cal for losing at Oregon State. The Beavers are a good team and even better at home.
But Washington should never lose to Colorado by 18. And Stanford, if they really are interested in something more than the NIT, needs to beat team like Stanford, regardless of where the game is play.
The two weirdest scores, however, came from teams that aren’t relevant. Utah, who was coming off of a 73-33 loss to Colorado, beat Washington State in overtime. The Arizona State, who was missing three players due to a suspension, won at USC.
I think we know which regular season race will be the wildest.
Grambling 60, Alabama A&M 55: Grambling won a game!
The rest of the top 25:
No. 20 UNLV 89, UCB 57; No. 25 San Diego State 83, San Diego Christian 52: Anyone else ready for these two MWC schools to stop playing cupcakes and start playing each other? The first matchup is January 14th.
Other notable scores:
- George Mason 63, Old Dominion 54
- Wofford 75, Charleston 58
- St. Mary’s 78, San Diego 72
- Gonzaga 73, Pepperdine 45
- BYU 73, LMU 65
- LBSU 55, Cal Poly 50
Tony Mitchell, North Texas: The other Tony Mitchell can ball too. He had 34 points and 16 boards in a win over South Alabama.
Brandon Young, DePaul: Young had 26 points, six assists, five steals and four boards.
Christian Watford, Indiana: 25 points, seven boards and four assists on 8-11 shooting against Michigan.
Jud Dillard, Zack Swansey and Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech: Those three combined for 78 of TTU’s 92 points in a win over Tennessee State.
Rob Jones, St. Mary’s: Jones had 31 points and 12 boards in a win over San Diego.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon: Joseph had 30 points and seven boards after going 1-13 his last time out as he helped the Ducks knock off Stanford.
Chaz Williams, UMass: 20 points, eight boards and seven assists in a win over Fordham.
Keegan Bell, Chattanooga: Bell had eight points and 12 assists as the Mocs knocked off Western Carolina. He only turned the ball over twice.