Raphielle Johnson's Blog
After two days of lean schedules and fodder for major-conference teams we've finally got some games on the schedule that can hold one's interest for more than a half. A game that will likely have long-lasting effects is UTEP taking on Ole Miss at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss. The Miners will have Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter for his second game and you've got to wonder how this will pay off for head coach Tony Barbee when it comes to team chemistry.
Is it time to rank Frank Martin's Wildcats? They had an argument before their game against #17 UNLV at Orleans Arena on Saturday evening and if they aren't ranked following the 95-80 win expect some angry fans in the Little Apple. Guards Jacob Pullen (28 points) and Denis Clemente (22 points, nine assists) took control of the game and didn't let go until the verdict was essentially decided early in the second half. As a team the Wildcats shot 57.1% from the field and made more than sixty percent of their shots from behind the arc while limiting the Runnin' Rebels to 28.6% from distance.
To say the least Saturday is a big day for both the Butler Bulldogs and the Pac-10. Butler hosts Ohio State and given the fact that Brad Stevens' team lacks a marquee win the Buckeyes represent one of their last two chances (Xavier) at a solid win before tackling Horizon League play. Ohio State is without the services of the injured Evan Turner, which will be a definite advantage for the Bulldogs.
There was no mistaking what the big game of the night was on Thursday with a pair of unexpected unbeatens facing off in Tampa on the final night of the SEC/Big East Invitational. Both Syracuse and Florida have posted impressive early-season results, showing the pundits who didn't expect much of them in the preseason that they've got the ability to have an impact nationally. And with neither team expected to be this good this early it was fitting that an unexpected source of offense proved to be the difference in Syracuse's 85-73 victory.
John Calipari attempted to convince the masses following Kentucky's 64-61 win over Connecticut in the SEC/Big East Invitational that his Wildcats were 4-5 instead of 9-0. Good luck convincing people of that, but what needs no selling is how good of a player John Wall is. Foul trouble sat the freshman on the bench for much of the first half and the turnovers (seven) need to decrease, but the Raleigh, NC native took over down the stretch to deliver the win. Wall led all scorers with twenty-five points and also had six steals in the victory.
If you're looking at Thursday's schedule from a national perspective there really isn't a reason to miss out on Syracuse taking on Florida in the SEC/Big East Invitational in Tampa. The two leagues split on Wednesday night in New York and the same could occur on Thursday with DePaul/Mississippi State being the opener. The Blue Demons have become a far more efficient club on offense and the departure of Dar Tucker (went pro but wasn't drafted), who dominated the ball last season, likely had something to do with the improvement.
The Jimmy V Classic annually brings together four programs for a night of basketball and a great cause: to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. But one couldn't help but to notice the importance of Tuesday night's game against Butler (and their game against Washington on Saturday in the Wooden Classic) to a Georgetown squad whose biggest test came against Temple.
For the second consecutive night Madison Square Garden will be the center of attention in college basketball with the occasion on Wednesday being the first night of the SEC/Big East Invitational. St. John's will be playing at home in the event but the fact that they aren't the showcase game shows how far Norm Roberts' program has to go. But they are improving, a fact that should help them out against Georgia in the first game of the doubleheader. D.J. Kennedy had an outstanding second half in the Red Storm's loss at Duke, a game in which they were able to remain competitive.