Weekend Basketball Recap and Big Monday Preview (February 14, 2011)

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By Jim Hurley:

Yes, indeed.

The mighty have fallen - the heretofore #1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes -- were humming along at a picture-perfect 24-0 before the roof caved in on 'em in the final 13 minutes of last Saturday's 71-67 loss at 2-point favorite Wisconsin.

Hold on while we rush the court!

And so - as all the TV/radio broadcasters were prone to say following that Big 10 tilt -- the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers could rest easily again knowing that they remain the last unbeaten team in the College Basketball kingdom. P.S. it'll stay that way for years to come, trust us.

Naturally, everyone wanted to know how the Buckeyes could go up 47-32 with 13:21 remaining in the game and than fall flat on their collective faces the rest of the way and some of the answers were easy:

The Badgers had the hottest guy on the court in still-underrated star G Jordan Taylor who poured in 21 of his game-best 27 points following intermission and that included a snazzy 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point arc but another fact is Wisky simply didn't allow Ohio State all that many three-point shot opportunities of its own - the 'Eyes connected on just 3-of-9 trifectas overall and there was a sure sense that Ohio State simply didn't act hungry enough after blowing that 15-point lead.

Now, the $64,000 question that comes down the pike is this:

Was Saturday's loss "good" for Ohio State?

Well, the pressure's sure off now and so perhaps freshman F/C Jared Sullinger (19 points and 12 rebs against Wisconsin) can get a few minutes rest here and there - head coach Thad Matta stuck with his big man gem for a full 40 minutes in this tilt and note much of the grunt-and-grind first half (the Buckeyes led 28-26 at the break) included a bevy of Wisconsin screens that were more than just a little physical in combating Sullinger.

No, it's not the end of the world for Ohio State who was hoping to run the table on the rest of this 2010-11 regular season and than give that '75-76 Indiana team a real run for their money but the flip side is this: Now teams - both inside and outside the Big 10 - realize that the 'Eyes can be beat and so it further flings open the belief that next month's NCAA Tournament may well be more wide open than even originally thought and the sidebar story here is Wisconsin could really get as high as a #2 seed in the "Big Dance" with a bunch more wins including a Big 10 Tourney title ... so stay tuned!

Just remember that Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball and NBA Winners this winter week when you check in on Game Days anytime after 1 p.m. ET on Mondays-through-Fridays and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Make sure to be with America's #1 Handicapper all through this thrilling and profitable b-ball ride that lasts till June!


Let's zip through those highly-ranked teams that scored big wins on Sunday afternoon/evening:

DUKE 81, MIAMI 71 - For anyone wondering whether or not Mike Krzyzewski's squad would suffer a letdown following last Wednesday's exciting 79-73 come-from-behind win against North Carolina, you certainly received the answer ... not a chance!

The Blue Devils (23-2) had their worrisome moments in their latest Atlantic Coast Conference victory but G Nolan Smith - who suffered a scratched left eye in the first half - roared back to register 16 of his 18 points after halftime while sizzling-hot freshman G Seth Curry kicked in 16 points and 5 steals and so Duke (10-1 in the ACC) stayed on track for a possible #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

No doubt that the Devils were encouraged by the fact senior F Kyle Singler bounced back from his horrid 3-of-17 FG shooting night against North Carolina to produce 14 points on 6-of-12 FG shooting but how about Miami only getting six total trips to the free-throw line in a conference home game?

Go ahead, Duke fans, defend that one!

CONNECTICUT 75, PROVIDENCE 57 - Are the UConn Huskies recent shooting woes now gonna be a thing of the past?
Jim Calhoun's team drained 16-of-27 field-goal tries after halftime in this win against the 9 ½-point road underdog PC Friars and the hottest draw wasn't G Kemba Walker but instead Jamal Coombs-McDaniel who scored a career-high 25 points and chipped in 8 rebounds to boot. The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward stepped off the bench to ignite an offense that was stalling at every turn and isn't it a tad ironic that one of the players that Calhoun has been verbally riding all year long might have helped save the Husky season.

Okay, a loss by Connecticut (19-5, 7-5 in Big East play) would not have doomed the season but it would have been damaging and there were moments in this game where things teetered on the brink for the Huskies who outscored Providence 42-27 after halftime and it was Coombs-McDaniel and Walker (22 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds) who pounded home all the points during a late-game 12-0 run that kept Connecticut thinking it could still be as high as a #3 seed in the NCAAs.

PURDUE 81, ILLINOIS 70 - Just for the record, the Wisconsin Badgers weren't the only Big 10 team this past weekend to suddenly come alive. The Purdue Boilermakers - who shot an array of air balls and clanged a whole bunch of other shots en route to a 28.7 percent FG shooting half - busted out of that mini-funk to pour in 54 points in the second half of this win at Champaign and suddenly Purdue (20-5, 9-3 Big 10) is in line to toss its hat back in the ring of true national championship contenders.

Heck, it's not every day that a team can shoot 41.6 percent from the field on the road and still win by double digits but that was the case in this CBS matinee clash as Purdue's F/C JaJuan Johnson finished up with 24 points while star G E'Twaun Moore had 20 points including the game's biggest bucket as his three-point goal with 16:05 remaining in the game gave the Boilers a 37-36 lead (after trailing 32-27 at halftime) and so everyone in the Midwest awoke this morning the Big 10 standings placed Ohio State on top at 11-1 with Wisconsin and Purdue chasing close behind with identical 9-3 conference marks - and do keep in mind the 'Makers now have won on the road after losing four consecutive Big 10 away games.


On Monday, it's ...

#25 WEST VIRGINIA (16-8, 7-5 Big East) at #12 SYRACUSE (20-6, 7-6 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
If these Big East squads have a road map for getting into the NCAA Tournament than they sure are taking circuitous routes! Check in with the West Virginia Mountaineers and you see this club has split its last eight games following on the heels of a nifty four-game winning streak and no wonder always-emotional head coach Bob Huggins has been so quick to inform media folks that his 'Neers haven't clinched a thing.

West Virginia had averaged a sub-par 58 points a game during a six-game stretch prior to Saturday's 82-71 non-cover win against DePaul as John Flowers - always an appropriate name to be playing on Valentine's Day - rallied the Morgantown men with 15 points but who scores from the perimeter here against a sticky Syracuse 2-3 zone defense that simply allowed too many open threes in last weekend's 73-69 loss at Louisville.

The U of L Cardinals canned 13-of-27 triples and you can bet that Jim Boeheim's voice will be heard here if/when the 'Cuse surrenders open jumpers here inside the Carrier Dome.
On Tuesday, it's ...

MICHIGAN STATE (14-10, 6-6 Big 10) at #1 OHIO STATE (24-1, 11-1 Big 10) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now that the O-State Buckeyes have been brought back to earth with that aforementioned loss in Madison last weekend, it won't be hard for coach Matta's guys to pick up the pieces and shoot for a new winning streak - but might this be a tougher-than-they-think showdown against a Michigan State squad that's been off center all year long?

No doubt that Tom Izzo's team - possibly the biggest underachieving team in recent hoop years - is in real danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997 and it's gotten so bad that recently sophomore C Derrick Nix claimed he was "embarrassed" to go to class following a 72-52 loss to Iowa back on Feb. 2nd and just take note that "Sparty" actually has lost five of its last seven games since mid-January and Izzo was only mildly encouraged with his team's commanding 75-57 win against 6 ½-point underdog Penn State last Thursday night.

In this clash in Columbus, count on Izzo - is he really 10 years removed from his one-and-only national championship in East Lansing? - demanding stepped-up defense after his club surrendered 82, 72, 83 and 86 points in four of its five games prior to the Penn State bash.

One word of advice for the upset-minded Spartans: Keep Ohio State from inflicting damage behind the arc (see Wisconsin) and make Sullinger pay for every in-the-paint point and for every offensive board he corrals.

NOTE: Get our key College Basketball Mid-Week matchups in the next edition of Jim Sez - we'll get up-close and personal with Wisconsin at Purdue and Oklahoma State at Texas (both games on Wednesday night) and also Washington State at Arizona (Thursday night) ... and so don't miss out!


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