Could there be a changing of the guard in the West Coast Conference? While that may be a tough question to ask given the sustained run of success that Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) has enjoyed over the years, winning the last eleven WCC regular season titles, Saint Mary's (22-2, 11-0) would establish a three-game lead with four conference games remaining with a win in Spokane. Led by seniors Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg) and Rob Jones (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), the Gaels have already swept BYU and handed Gonzaga an 83-62 loss back on January 12th.
Quite a bit was made of the team meeting called by UConn forward Alex Oriakhi on Friday, and how it may have sparked a revival of the reigning national champions. But maybe that should have been another red flag, given the first couple of paragraphs in the Hartford Courant recapping the Huskies' 69-46 win over Seton Hall.
Rivalry games bring more to the table when it comes to intensity, and that was definitely the case in the battle between #4 Missouri and #8 Kansas in Columbia on Saturday night. In a game that featured many momentum swings and neither team leading by more than eight points, it was Frank Haith's Tigers who landed the final blow. Kansas led 71-63 with 3:25 remaining but they would not score again, as Missouri finished the game on an 11-0 run to win 74-71.
Tuesday's night matchup between #9 Michigan State and Illinois wasn't a pretty affair, as neither team could establish much of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Whether it was due to good defense or just an inability to make shots on a consistent basis, neither the Spartans nor the Fighting Illini had much succes on that end of the floor. But when it's all said and done what matters is the result, which was a 42-41 Illinois victory as Brandon Paul made two free throws with 45 seconds remaining.
With the final month of the regular season on our door step, this is a good time to put together some all-conference teams. Enter CHN writer Jon Teitel, who not only picked his all-conference teams for each league but also provided a conference Player of the Year as well. Without further ado here are the all-conference teams, with the league POY in italics.
G Gerardo Suero (Albany)
G Darryl Partin (Boston University)
G Gerald McLemore (Maine)
F Chase Plummer (UMBC)
F Alasdair Fraser (Maine)
Given how reliant Michigan is on the three-point shot, many would think it highly unlikely that John Beilein's team would win a game in which they shot 6-for-21 from beyond the arc. But thanks to a late basket from Stu Douglass and some solid defense on the final possession of the game, that's exactly what happened as the Wolverines beat in-state rival Michigan 60-59 at Crisler Arena. Trey Burke scored a game-high 20 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zack Novak scored ten points apiece, but Novak's biggest contribution came on the defensive end of the floor.
Thursday was a big night for the Virginia Cavaliers as they were looking for their first win at Duke since 1995, and a victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Devils would raise their ceiling even higher.
To understand the funk that Pittsburgh and Villanova are currently mired in, it may take this fact about the two teams they lost to on Thursday night. This is the first time as members of the Big East (since 2005-06 for both) that DePaul and USF have won conference games on the same night. Yes, allowing that to sink in underlines the gravity of the situation for both the Panthers and Wildcats, as both teams are in need of some answers at this point in time.
The game between Top 5 teams and in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky was expected to be a high-intensity affair played at a good pace. Well thanks to the "third team" we got the intensity but not the pace, but by the end of the afternoon at Rupp Arena it was clear that Kentucky's 69-62 victory would be long remembered for the play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist, who has emerged as the leader of John Calipari's talented squad, stole the show with 24 point and 19 rebounds in leading Kentucky to their 44th straight home victory.