Connecticut went into their game against West Virginia back in the NCAA Tournament conversation following wins over Villanova and Temple. But consistency has been a problem for the Huskies all season long, so it can be understood if some expected them to fall to West Virginia at the XL Center. A mediocre rebounding team for most of the season, the Huskies received a far better performance on the glass on Monday night, out-rebounding the Big East's best 37-33 in a 73-62 win.
Jay Wright's Wildcats didn't look their best on Saturday afternoon, falling behind big early on their way to a 103-90 loss at Georgetown. But something changed between that loss at Monday night, with youngsters playing with poise and the Wildcats taking better care of the basketball, and the end result was an 82-75 win over West Virginia to move into a tie for first place in the Big East. In the first half nine different players scored for Villanova with senior Scottie Reynolds being limited by the defense of Devin Ebanks.
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.
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.
If either Connecticut or Louisville shows up at Freedom Hall not understanding the magnitude of the game they should be eliminated from at-large consideration. Hate to be so harsh but both teams are essentially at the point where they need to go on a run if they're to make the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies, who have been without head coach Jim Calhoun for the last four games due to health reasons, own just one Top 25 win (Texas) and they've yet to beat anyone of consequence on the road (as a matter of fact they've yet to win a true road game).
Led by future #1 NBA pick John Wall, this year's freshman class will be one to remember. What makes it particularly interesting is that not all of the top performers are at power conference schools. The WCC, CUSA, A10, MWC, WAC, and others have top-level rookies that can play with the best in the country. Here's a list of the Top 25 freshman in the country so far, with a bias on actual performance as opposed to potential. While players like UNC's John Henson may one day tear up NBA harcourts, this list focuses on the guys who are getting it done right now.
There are some big games on the schedule Saturday, with the biggest possibly being Ohio State visiting West Virginia in a non-conference game that could have major implications come March in regards to seeding. Outside of the Buckeyes' Dallas Lauderdale you won't see big men on the floor, with both teams possessing a number of versatile players in the 6-5 to 6-9 range. The two best players on the floor: Ohio State's Evan Turner and West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, both of whom are looked to as catalysts of their team's offense.
Big Monday delivers one of the best matchups of the week when top-ranked Texas visits the Little Apple to take on Kansas State. Frank Martin's Wildcats could be the team with the best chance to break through the Kansas/Texas tag team atop the Big 12 thanks in large part to guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. These two have accounted for just over 42% of the team's points and 49% of the team's assists so far and when they get rolling KSU is a tough team to slow down.