The ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which the ACC has never lost, takes center stage for the next two days with Michigan State visiting North Carolina in the event's showcase game. The Tar Heels won both meetings last season by double-digit margins, at Ford Field in December and right back on that same floor for the national title in April. But many of the faces in Carolina blue have changed and the young Heels will be tested by a seasoned group of Spartans. The individual matchup to watch: North Carolina's Larry Drew going up against the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year in Kalin Lucas.
Things didn't look too good for Florida State at the half of the Old Spice Classic title game against Marquette, going into the locker room down 30-18 after having shot just 29.6% from the field with more turnovers (13) than field goals (8). But they were able to fight back thanks to a change in strategy from Leonard Hamilton, who went smaller to better match the quickness of the Golden Eagles. The end result: Florida State winning the game on a Solomon Alabi baseline jumper with 11.9 seconds left in the game to provide the 57-56 final.
Monday's a quiet day on the schedule with many sports fans paying attention to the Patriots/Saints game in New Orleans. But there's also the first game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with Penn State visiting Virginia in what should be an even contest. Two of the better players in college basketball who aren't talked about often, PSU's Talor Battle and Virginia's Sylven Landesburg, will face off in Charlottesville with the Big Ten needing a good start in this event.
Las Vegas can be a dangerous trip for ranked teams. The sights and sound can be enough to distract anyone, much less a group of people in the 18-23 year-old age bracket. But there's also another issue, one that #16 Louisville ran into on Saturday afternoon: there's a pretty good college basketball team in that town. UNLV, expected by many to be a factor in the Mountain West, using a run that covered about a twelve-minute stretch from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second, knocked off the Cardinals 76-71 in front of a frenzied crowd.
Friday afternoon's meeting between #7 Duke and #13 Connecticut had all the pregame hype of a championship bout. With the all-time series tied at four wins apiece (Connecticut having won the last four meetings) this was seen as the latest chapter in the short yet captivating novel being written by these two national powers. But by the end of the game it felt as if this were a hardwood replay of Manny Pacquiao soundly whipping Miguel Cotto.
The Saturday schedule is lacking in big-time matchups but there are some intriguing games on the slate. La Salle and Villanova face off in a Big 5 game at the Pavilion and Dr. John Gianinni's team has the talent and depth to hang around with the Wildcats. And with it being the Big 5 you never truly know what's going to happen. Louisville had better be on "upset alert" in Sin City; Lon Kruger's Runnin' Rebels are deep with talent and experience, a recipe for consistent success.
A lot of attention has been sent the way of Friday's NIT Season Tip-Off final, which matches Connecticut and Duke in their ninth all-time meeting. The Huskies have won the last four in the series and are coming off of their most impressive showing of the season. The small forward matchup of Kyle Singler (Duke) and Stanley Robinson (UConn) should be worth the price of admission but there are also issues that both teams would like answers to both now as well as down the line.
Had you told someone that UCLA lost to Portland the result likely wouldn't have registered much shock. The Pilots have already beaten Oregon and Eric Reveno's team is expected to be a challenger to Gonzaga in the WCC. But 74-47? Portland got off to a good start and their offensive efficiency combined with the Bruins' offensive ineptitude resulted in a game that got out of hand; the margin reached thirty points in the second half. Guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl each scored fifteen points to lead the Pilots, who shot 11-for-20 from behind the arc and 54.2% from the field.
The #13 Connecticut Huskies arrived in New York concerned about their rebounding; heading into the game with LSU the Huskies had a rebounding margin average of +2, a far cry from what those both within and outside of the program had come to expect. Head coach Jim Calhoun felt that changes needed to be made, beginning with moving senior Gavin Edwards to the bench. The motivational ploy worked for Edwards, who went for fifteen points and seven rebounds, and as a team the Huskies won the battle on the boards 43-27.
There are just eleven games on the Thanksgiving Day schedule with tournaments beginning in both Orlando (Old Spice Classic) and Anaheim (76 Classic) while play continues at the Great Alaska Shootout. The showcase game: #16 Minnesota taking on #10 Butler in the third quarterfinal of the day. This is going to be the first test of the season for Tubby Smith's team, who hasn't won any of their three games by less than 25 points. Four Golden Gophers are averaging in double figures, led by guard Lawrence Westbrook's 18.5 ppg.
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