After winning their first three MAAC games (two of which were played in December), Sydney Johnson's Fairfield (17-11, 12-4) Stags lost three straight league games and looked to be anything but a contender for the regular season title. Well the players have looked more comfortable with their first-year head coach, and sure enough here are the Stags sitting just a game out of first place heading into the final weekend of league play.
In the game of the night Duke rode the hot shooting of Andre Dawkins and the playmaking of Austin Rivers to avenge an earlier loss to Florida State, winning 74-66 in Tallahassee.
Just a few years ago the demand for throwback jerseys was impossible to ignore, with many flocking to stores in search of that item that would allow them to relive their "glory days" as a fan. But the wearing of tops has faded away somewhat, and the words of one Sean Carter in his song "What More Can I Say" may sum up why for many people.
"And I don't wear jerseys I'm 30-plus..."
The game between #17 Indiana and #25 Wisconsin proved to be every bit as competitive as expected with the largest margin either team held being seven points with two seconds remaining. In the end it was the little things that made the difference in the Badgers' 57-50 victory, as Bo Ryan's team shot 12-for-12 from the foul line in the second half and grabbed the final seven rebounds of the game. That rebound stretch was over the final 3:38 of the contest, with their offensive rebounds leading to four of their nine second-chance points.
After dropping three straight Big Ten games #25 Wisconsin (16-5, 5-3) has won four straight games, but they face quite the challenge at the Kohl Center as #17 Indiana (16-4, 4-4) visits in a pivotal Big Ten battle. The leaders in the conference (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) are all 6-2, meaning that the Hoosiers can ill-afford to fall three games back in the loss column if they're to remain a factor in the title race.
The final day of 2011 features one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball season, a rivalry game that captivates an entire state and is one of the best games in college basketball. #4 Louisville (12-1), fresh off of a lost to Georgetown in their Big East opener, visits #3 Kentucky (12-1) in what should be a spirited battle at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals have played just one road game this season but it was also one of their best efforts as they won at Butler without the then-injured Peyton Siva.
The "Braggin' Rights" game between Illinois and Missouri is alway an intense affair, with the fans in the stands split by the halfcourt line and both teams understanding what's at stake before they even hit the floor. This season's game was no different, although for a good portion of the first half it seemed as if the undefeated Tigers were on their way to a romp. Bruce Weber's team refused to fold, and once Missouri got out of control Illinois was able to mount their rally.
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.
For a while on Tuesday night it looked as if a Southern Conference team would hand another undefeated team its first defeat of the season. But an important suggestion by Louisville assistant coach Richard Pitino set things in motion for the fourth-ranked Cardinals, sparking a rally that resulted in a 69-62 victory. The idea: instead of relying on the frontcourt tandem of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan to occupy the foul line area against the Charleston zone, use the versatile Kyle Kuric at the four.