Watching the Connecticut/Georgetown game should have been enough of a clue that some interesting things were likely to happen on Saturday. In what was essentially two games for the price of one the Hoyas came back to win 72-69 at the Verizon Center, their fourth consecutive win over the Huskies. The first twenty minutes went about as well as the Huskies could have hoped, shooting 50% from both the field and from three (4-8) on their way to a seemingly commanding 40-25 lead. Georgetown shot just 29.6% from the field and had eight turnovers to just four assists.
It's the biggest Saturday of the season thus far in regards to games played with 135 games on the schedule. The afternoon delivers two of the many important contests, with Connecticut visiting Georgetown and Duke taking on Georgia Tech. The Huskies are ranked thirteenth in the polls right now but they lack a headline victory, something that can be attained at the Verizon Center. UConn's "big three" of Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker rank among the nation's best when they're on; they key for them is consistency.
While much of the country was caught up in the hoopla that was the BCS Championship Game, an amazing comeback was taking place at Penn State. The Nittany Lions looked to be well on their way to their first Big Ten win of the season, leading a cold-shooting Michigan at the half 31-16. But if you're familiar with John Beilein-coached teams you know that at the snap of a finger they can heat up from the field. And that's exactly what happened in the second half, as the Wolverines outscored their opponents 48-24 in the final twenty minutes on their way to a 64-55 victory.
While there's a lot of respect for the two-time defending Ivy League champion Cornell Big Red few people expected Steve Donahue's team to pull off the upset at top-ranked Kansas. But while the Big Red didn't complete the task they did have the nation on tilt for most of the game before falling 71-66. Sherron Collins led the way with 33 points as the Jayhawks enjoyed a free throw margin of +20 in the second half (23-3) and a +14 in points scored from the charity stripe.
The beginning of conference play can be quite an adjustment for teams, especially if you rely on players who haven't been through league play before. That may have been what happened to #14 New Mexico in San Diego, where they slowly lost control of the game in a 74-64 loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West opener for both. But the Aztecs suffered a loss during the game with Billy White going down late in the first half to a high (right) ankle sprain.
The Mountain West schedule makers hit the nail on the head with their opening week slate, scheduling games between the four teams expected to compete for the regular season title. On Tuesday San Diego State defended their home floor with a win over New Mexico but it remains to be seen how long Billy White (high ankle sprain) is out of the lineup. Wednesday's showdown will be in Provo, with UNLV visiting BYU in a game that should be an entertaining one. The Rebels have depth and will need to use their defense in order to beat one of the best scoring teams in the nation.
With four minutes left in regulation it looked as if North Carolina was on its way to surviving a treacherous trip to Charleston to take on the preseason favorites to win the Southern Conference. But the fun had yet to begin, with Andrew Goudelock helping to spark a 12-1 run that he completed with a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. In fact, Goudelock scored the Cougars' last eight points in regulation on his way to a 24-point night for him and an 82-79 win for his team.
Tuesday's schedule is a light one but there is a very good game to check out in the Mountain West as New Mexico visits a talented group of Aztecs. Darington Hobson has been outstanding for the Lobos and if you concentrate solely on the junior college transfer than a player like Roman Martinez can jump up and make you pay. Steve Alford's squad picked up its lone loss of the season on the road, falling at Oral Roberts, so it would not be a surprise if SDSU pulled off the upset.
College basketball on the first Monday of the new year provides nearly sixty games to whet the appetite with key contests in the Big East and WAC grabbing the headlines. Pittsburgh, fresh off of their win at Syracuse on Saturday, takes on Cincinnati in the Queen City in a matchup of teams undefeated in conference play. The return of Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown has added much-needed experience and depth of Jamie Dixon's rotation, something they were in need of in order to navigate the Big East.