Raphielle Johnson's Blog
There really aren't any headline games on the college basketball schedule Monday but there are some games that may be able to hold one's interest for a little while. First off, Rutgers heads south to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill. To say the least it would be a serious disappointment if Fred Hill's team were pasted like they were in last season's meeting (97-75). North Carolina won the battle on the boards 40-26 and shot 51.5% from the field, but that was a far more seasoned outfit than the one the Scarlet Knights will face on Monday.
The Missouri Tigers hadn't beaten rival Illinois since 1999, losing games in which they've been favored as well as those they weren't expected to win. Wednesday's game was more of a toss-up with a slight edge going to Bruce Weber's team, who had already won at Clemson thus far. But the Tigers were able to control the flow of play, forcing 22 Illinois turnovers on their way to an 81-68 win. While Illinois outrebounded the Tigers 44-32 and all five starters reached double figures Missouri forced 22 turnovers and held the Illini to 39.7% shooting from the field.
The stars for #2 Texas in the win over North Carolina on Saturday were Dexter Pittman and Damion James, who combined for 48 points and 30 rebounds. But what would Rick Barnes' team do if one of those two (in this case Pittman; James was the best player on the floor with 23 and 13, becoming the school's all-time leading rebounder) was saddled with foul trouble? We found out on Tuesday night in a late-game display that showed off the depth that makes the Longhorns a serious Final Four/national title contender.
The final big day of games before Chrismas will offer up a couple of games in which ranked teams should be wary of the upset. Georgetown, looking to recover from their disappointing loss to Old Dominion over the weekend, will host an equally dangerous team in Harvard at noon. One big reason why the Crimson have a shot: senior guard Jeremy Lin, who's already scored thirty in a loss at Connecticut and led Harvard to their second consecutive win over Boston College. The Palo Alto native can get his own shot as well as set up his teammates, which will make him a tough matchup for the Hoyas.
There wasn't much suspense in the game between Kentucky and Drexel at Rupp Arena but the end result was important nonetheless. The Wildcats took care of the Dragons 88-44, picking up the program's 2,000th victory as a result. DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson scored eighteen points apiece in the pasting which also moved the third-ranked team in America to 12-0 on the season.
The second-to-last day of college basketball before Christmas brings a loaded schedule of games: ninety-one to be exact, a number you rarely see reached outside of Saturdays. The biggest matchup nationally: Michigan State taking on Texas in Austin. The Longhorns' 103-90 win over North Carolina showed one important thing to future opponents: if you aren't physically strong inside you're in for a long day. That's due to the presence of center Dexter Pittman, who's in the best shape of his collegiate career and has an improved skill set as a result.
With Christmas Day rapidly approaching the nation gets its first look at UTEP forward Derrick Caracter. Of course he's already played in three games for the Miners (two double-doubles) but there will be questions regarding the Louisville transfer's level of commitment. But head coach Tony Barbee has given Caracter a ringing endorsement and if on his game he could give Oklahoma all they want and then some in Oklahoma City at the All-College Classic.
Saturday was definitely a day full of action, but little did much of the nation know that the most-discussed event would be the end of the Xavier/Butler game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Down one to the visiting Musketeers Butler scuffled through their final possession, even having the ball deflected into the backcourt as the clock ticked under fifteen seconds. But a peculiar thing happened as the ball rolled away from the Butler basket: the clock stopped.
Sunday will likely be anti-climactic when compared to an eventful Saturday but there are some important games on the schedule. Two ACC games are on the docket with Florida State's trip to Atlanta likely having more national appeal. Two of the better big men in the ACC will be on display in Florida State's Solomon Alabi and Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal. The Yellow Jackets also have one of the nation's best freshmen in Derrick Favors and the other Seminole big men will have a battle on their hands with he and Zachary Peacock.
With finals week over Saturday can be seen almost as a celebration of that fact with a number of games on the schedule with national ramifications. Tops on the list would be North Carolina taking on Texas in Jerry Jones' new palace in front of a possible attendance of about 70,000. Outside of their win over Pittsburgh Rick Barnes' Longhorns haven't been tested thus far so it will be interesting to see how his freshmen handle the atmosphere.