Just one day after a Top 5 team (Connecticut) suffered its first loss of the season, the nation's top-ranked team fell in the title game of the Las Vegas Invitational. North Carolina (5-1) fell 90-80 to UNLV (7-0) in a game that featured two standout performances from forwards...and neither played for the team with the frontcourt that many judged to be the nation's best. Mike Moser scored 16 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out six assists while Chace Stanback scored a game-high 28 to go along with ten caroms to help first-year head coach remain undefeated at his alma mater.
The title game of the Old Spice Classic may not be the kind of matchup that leads off SportsCenter like say, North Carolina/Kentucky next week, but it is a contest that we could look back on in March when discussing tournament resumes. Dayton (4-1) and Minnesota (6-0) meet in the title game, with both surviving a pair of close games to reach this point.
Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
Prevailing wisdom had Florida State and Connecticut playing on Saturday in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Well, they'll be playing on Saturday...but with third place on the line as both lost their semifinal games in disappointing fashion. The Huskies looked to be in good shape as they held a 50-33 lead on UCF early in the second half, despite a lackluster shooting performance from Jeremy Lamb. But it was almost as if UConn turned off their "power source", and the Knights took full advantage.
The game between Duke and Kansas more than lived up to the pregame expectations on Wednesday night, but it was an unsung hero who stepped to the forefront late. Tyler Thornton, essentially a defensive substitute when Austin Rivers picked up his fourth foul, knocked down a pair of critical three pointers late to catapult the Blue Devils to the 68-61 win. Duke earned their fifth Maui Invitational title and moved to 15-0 all-time in the prestigious early season event.
Two of the blue bloods in college basketball get together in Maui with the Maui Invitational title on the line as #6 Duke (6-0) takes on #14 Kansas (3-1), and there are a number of interesting players to keep an eye on. The player under the microscope nationally for the Blue Devils has been freshman guard Austin Rivers, with some failing to remember the lesson taught last season regarding the mistake of knee-jerk reactions to games in November (see: Barnes, Harrison).
On paper the matchup between Missouri and California looked to be a good matchup, with both teams fresh off of big wins in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. On the floor however, things got out of hand quickly for the Golden Bears as the Tigers rolled in front of a pro-Missouri crowd. Kim English scored 19 points and tournament MVP Marcus Denmon finished with 18 points and six rebounds as the Tigers won 92-53, and it could be argued that the 39-point margin doesn't do this result justice.
After both teams won their semifinal games at the CBE Classic in blowout fashion, Missouri (4-0) and California (4-0) should have a stiffer challenge on their hands as they play for the championship in Kansas City. Neither team has much of an issue with playing fast. but given their roots in the "40 Minutes of Hell" system used by former coach Mike Anderson the Tigers could be at an advantage if the pace becomes frenetic.
One of the keys in playing against Michigan is to remain composed and execute your game plan. Getting away from what you do well in attempts to get the Wolverines to play a style other than their own more times than not results in a loss. That was the lesson for the Memphis Tigers, who in spite of their athletic talents have some maturing to do before referring to themselves as sure-fire national title contenders. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Monday marks the beginning of one of the most prestigious in-season tournaments as the Maui Invitational begins at the Lahaina Civic Center. The big game of the day: Michigan taking on Memphis, with both teams having designs on bigger things after seeing their seasons end in tough fashion on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament last year. Josh Pastner's Tigers have played just one game on the season but they were impressive in that appearance, beating Belmont 97-81 on Tuesday.