Thursday is the final "busy day" on the college basketball schedule before Christmas and there's important business to address in St. Louis: Braggin' Rights. Undefeated and eighth-ranked Missouri (11-0) looks for its third straight win over #24 Illinois (11-1) in the series, and despite the change in head coach the Tigers remain one of the most balanced teams in the country.
As we approach Christmas break, and transition to conference play, it seems like a good time to rank college basketball's power conference teams. 6 conferences, 74 teams, 6 unbeatens, and 1 truly awful Utah squad. Included for reference are each team's overall record (against D1 teams), their RPI, and their ranking according to KenPom.com.
The first meeting between Memphis and Louisville since the 2005 Conference USA title game certainly did not disappoint from a drama standpoint, with both teams landing major blows throughout the contest. But despite a combined 74 first-half points the play was ragged for much of the contest, with the Cardinals taking a 42-32 lead into the break thanks to the Tigers shooting 29% from the field and turning the ball over ten times. But led by Will Barton (28 points, 16 rebounds) Josh Pastner's team refused to fold, fighting back to take a 57-55 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Going into Sunday's game at Wichita State, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were on the tail end of an eight-day stretch that began with a win over then-#1 North Carolina followed by a double-overtime win at UCSB. To say the least this wasn't the easiest way to end that stretch, and Joe Ragland and the Shockers made sure that was the case. Ragland made eight of nine from beyond the arc in scoring a game-high 31 points, and as a team Wichita State shot 12-for-23 from distance in the 89-70 win.
Frank Martin's Kansas State (4-0) may be undefeated on the young season, but it can definitely be argued that this group hasn't been tested. That all changes this evening as the Wildcats play their first true road game of the season, visiting Virginia Tech (5-2) in a game that could have long-term effects on both teams when looking ahead to Selection Sunday.
The game that many college basketball fans have been anticipating for quite some time is finally here, as #5 North Carolina (6-1) visits #1 Kentucky (7-0) in Lexington. While both teams are coming off of wins in their last games, the way in which the results were achieved differ greatly. North Carolina had to deal with the challenge of play Wisconsin, given the Badgers' preference for a slow tempo, while Kentucky blew out a St. John's team that was severely overmatched from a depth standpoint.
To this point in the season Dion Waiters was playing more minutes per game than senior starter Scoop Jardine, as the Syracuse sophomore was playing good basketball. But Jardine displayed his value in the second half of Friday's game against Florida, scoring eight of Syracuse' nine points during a critical stretch that put the Orange in control of a game they went on to win 72-68. Jardine finished with 16 points and seven assists while Brandon Triche (20 points) and Kris Joseph (14) also finished in double figures.
With the first month of the college basketball season concluded, this is a good time to recognize some of the top players throughout the country. With that in mind, CHN writer Jon Teitel gave his all-conference selections for each conference (and independents, which includes the Great West in this piece).
G Darryl Partin Boston University
G Justin Edwards Maine
G Gerardo Suero Albany
F Ben Dickinson Binghamton
F Chase Plummer UMBC
The game between #3 Duke and #2 Ohio State was a matchup expected to be a barnburner throughout. But in runs to begin and end the first half, the Buckeyes made a case to their fans and a national television audience that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky and North Carolina when talking about early favorites to win the national title. Thad Matta's team opened the game on an 11-0 run and finished the half with an 11-2 run on their way to the 85-63 win at Value City Arena, and four of their five starters finished in double figures.