Polls on Monday were relatively standard.. perhaps the placement of Notre Dame and Michigan State were most interesting. The Spartans received 87 votes in the Coaches Poll, good for 25th spot, while Notre Dame was right behind with 57 votes. In the AP Pol though, Notre Dame was 20th, a full 16 spots ahead of the 36th ranked Spartans. Whats odd is that the placement of these teams doesn't correspond to any sort of Big Ten/Big East bias in the polls. Despite the slap to 8-1 Notre Dame in the Coaches Poll, fellow Big Ten team UCONN is ranked 11th, 3 spots ahead of its spot in the AP. Further, despite the love for MSU in the Coaches Poll, Wisconsin is a spot lower at 5th in the Coaches..
The big game Monday night was Tennessee upsetting #14 Oklahoma State's perfect record. Tennessee was originally a ranked team before dropping out after losses to Butler and UNC. Butler proved better than expected and UNC is the #2 team in the country. The Vols have come back to win 5 straight, including home wins over ranked Memphis and Oklahoma State. They now have confidence heading into another big showdown against 7-2 Texas. A win in that game easily vaults Tennessee back into the Top 25. Besides the nice win, it was a positive step for the Vols to win a good game without relying so heavily on Chris Lofton. Lofton ended up with 20 points, but on 5-15 shooting it was his worse game outside of the Butler loss. When Lofton's hot, UT can beat anyone in the country.. but the next step is winning big games when he's off.
Despite being a possible 1st round NBA Draft pick, Colorado State's Jason Smith still gets no respect nationally. The 7-footer is quietly averaging 17 points and 10 boards in his junior season. The Rams are now 8-2 after barely edging North Dakota State 82-80. Last year the Rams started 11-2 before faltering big time in the underrated Mountain West conference. Their 8-2 record is a bit misleading, because 2 of their wins are over non-D1 teams, and 3 of their wins came down to the final minute of play. A few unlucky bounces here and there, and Colorado State could easily be 3-5 against D1 opponents. Still, with Smith hovering near a double double in every game, the Rams always have a chance.
Saint Louis improved to 9-2 by beating Missouri State in ugly fashion, 51-50. SLU fans considered this team to be a strong contender for the A10 title and an NCAA Tournament bid. A humiliating 69-33 loss at Texas A&M early on though was a big blow to the Bill's legitimacy. Still, give them credit for bouncing back to win 6 of 7, with the lone loss at Southern Illinois. For Missouri State, it's easily their worst performance of the season. The Bears already had a big win over Wisconsin, and their lone blemish before tonight was by 3 points against #14 Oklahoma State. Just about everything went wrong for Barry Hinson's boys on Monday as they shot a dismal 31%. The biggest cluprit was Blake Ahearn, the Bears leading scorer at 17 per game, who scored.. 0 points. Ahearn's previous low was 9 points on the season. His 0-4 performance was reminiscent of the Bears' disappointing loss to UNI in the conference tournament when Ahearn was also held without a field goal.
Last game of note is 9-3 Davidson beating Chattanooga by 12. I mention it because Davidson features one of my new favorite players.. freshman Stephen Curry. I've discussed Curry in the past, son of Del, who is lighting it up for the Wildcats. He scored 30 points, pulled down 11 boards, and handed out 6 assists in the win over the Mocs. Curry's other 30 point game was at Michigan where he scored 32, and he's now up to about 20 ppg. Personally, I hope Curry continues to light it up for Davidson, and doesn't get lured to transfer to a BCS school. Davidson, already 3-0 in Southern Conference play, has a chance to make the Tournament again this year, and without any seniors, should do the same next year.
- Once a Dribble, Always a Dribble -