Raphielle Johnson's Blog
A pair of games between ranked teams take center stage on Monday night, with Villanova's trip to Morgantown preceding Kansas taking on Texas in Austin. Jay Wright's team will look to bounce back from their disappointing showing at Georgetown on Saturday and they're going to need to hit the glass with a vengeance in order to beat the Mountaineers. West Virginia averages 15.6 offensive rebounds per game, good for third in the Big East. Of the 795 rebounding opportunities on Mountaineer shots Bob Huggins' team grabs the board 43.3% of the time, tops in the conference.
While "Snowpocalypse" may have cut down on the number of fans able to get down to the Verizon Center it did nothing to the offensive execution of the Georgetown Hoyas. John Thompson III's team did whatever they wanted in the first half, shooting 55.6% from the field (including 8-13 behind the arc) in taking a 50-31 halftime lead. The star of the half: Jason Clark, who scored seventeen points (4-4 3PT) fourteen minutes of action. Austin Freeman added twelve and Villanova played the role of willing prey by turning the ball over sixteen times.
The showcase game on Saturday tips off at high noon, with Georgetown hosting Villanova in a rematch of their meeting back on January 17th. John Thompson III's team has lost three of their last six and could use a win here to both get back on the right track and improve their resume in regards to possible NCAA Tournament seeding. Both Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman had quiet second halves in their 72-64 loss to USF on Wednesday night, and on a team with four consistent scoring options (Chris Wright and Jason Clark complete the quartet) that can't happen if Georgetown is to be successful.
You can normally tell the magnitude of a game at Duke by how fired up head coach Mike Krzyzewski is, especially when it comes to pumping up the Cameron Crazies. Coming off of a sound defeat at the hands of Georgetown, the Blue Devils needed to respond against a team that had knocked them off earlier in the season and they did just that. In the 83-65 win Kyle Singler hit eight three pointers in scoring 30 points while also grabbing five rebounds, and as a team Duke shot 66.7% (12-18) from behind the arc.
Wednesday was a big night in Conference USA with the top six teams in the standings playing each other. And with the results the race is now pared down to four teams separated by one game, with Tulsa and UTEP both coming back from double-digit deficits while Memphis beat UAB in a game much tighter than the 85-75 final would indicate. There were 31 lead changes, with the Tigers taking the lead for good on a pair of Wesley Witherspoon free throws with 3:40 remaining.
To this point in the season it looks as if the ACC's hoops teams have taken a similar approach to determining who controls the title race that the football teams have in recent years. In other words, there's order in disorder as eight teams are within two games of each other atop the standings. Three games for the conference involve five of those eight teams with the other (North Carolina) desperately needing a win on the road in order to right the ship. The best matchup of those three: Duke hosting Georgia Tech, who won the first meeting in Atlanta 71-67 back on January 9th.
So much for my thinking that Michigan State would be the team most likely to knock off the Badgers at the Kohl Center. Led by Jason Bohanon's 19 points Wisconsin controlled the game from start to finish in their 67-49 win over the Spartans, and the visitors suffered a crucial loss in the second half when Kalin Lucas went down with a sprained ankle. It's unknown how long the point guard will be out and with games against Illinois and Purdue coming up Lucas' health is critical.
With the bubble looking rather pedestrian at this early stage no team can afford to pass up opportunities to bolster their tournament resumes. And with the top six teams in Conference USA playing each other on Wednesday night they'll all have a chance to do just that. Two of the games (Houston/UTEP and Marshall/Tulsa) feature home teams who haven't lost at home while the third (UAB/Memphis) features a team that has yet to lose on the road.
For fans of schools in a number of non-BCS conferences Monday was a big day with the announcement of the eleven televised games in the ESPNU BracketBusters event. And the masses received their wish in regards to the headline contest with Siena visiting Butler on February 20th (11 AM on ESPN2). With both teams still undefeated in their respective conferences at this time it could possibly match up ranked teams if both continue on their current runs.
Michigan State takes on Madison and the Grateful Red on Tuesday night, and with a win the Spartans take another step towards their goal of winning the Big Ten title. Winners of ten straight, Tom Izzo's team has gotten the job done thanks to four players averaging in at least ten points per game. Point guard Kalin Lucas has played better basketball since being benched earlier in the season due to leadership issues, and forwards Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green have been essential pieces to the puzzle as has Durrell Summers.