The Elite Take Weekend Tumbles

Hurley Picks Up The Split On Big Monday
Wins with Syracuse, misses on Oklahoma State


By Jim Hurley:

So much for the national rankings, right?

In case you happened to be vacationing in sunny Bermuda or someplace else with similar climes, you might have missed the numero uno collective story line from this past week in the world of College Basketball - the #1, #2, #3 and #4 teams in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll each lost and that's saying something when you consider Kansas, Ohio State, Texas and Pittsburgh currently own a combined won/loss record of 97-11 (a whopping .898 winning rate).

Was it bad luck or bad basketball that cost the #1-thru-#4 teams to hit their respective bumps in the road in recent days?

Well, it might well have been a little of both but know this:

All four teams showed some major strain in their losses with both Pitt and Texas really melting down in late-game situations against St. John's and Nebraska, respectively, and we're not gonna take the O-State Buckeyes to the proverbial woodshed for their 76-63 loss at Purdue on Sunday afternoon but couldn't the 'Eyes have done something to slow down Boilermakers do-it-all guard E'Twaun Moore (see 38 points and 5 assists)?

Heck, we hate to sound like the proverbial broken record but ... we told you so last week right here in Jim Sez when we stated loud and clear that there were no "unbeatables" out there despite some of the hue-and-cry by the national media folks and now the fallout from all that is it's become tougher and tougher to really decide how the four #1 seeds are gonna fall in next month's NCAA Tournament.

Do any/all of these losses the past few days damage this above-mentioned foursome and perhaps open the door for a San Diego State or a Wisconsin to swipe a #1 seed - might not seem likely right now but you never know. Meanwhile, here's the four losses we discussed in chart form (and note all home teams are in CAPS):







#1 Kansas

- 6




#4 Pittsburgh

- 4


ST. JOHN'S 60-59


#3 Texas

- 6.5





- 1

#2 Ohio State

PURDUE 76-63

Note that all of the top four teams lost these games on the road and so you may wish to cut 'em all some slack but do check out the Las Vegas pointspreads and they show that the quartet of Kansas, Ohio State, Texas and Pittsburgh were - on average - favored by almost 4 points a game and thus very much expected to win save for that Purdue triumph in West Lafayette (why do the know-it-alls on the highlight shows continue to call such a game an "upset"?).

If any of the above teams want to draw something positive from these affairs than the fact that each/every head coach in the post-game pressers seemed genuinely annoyed but at least Pittsburgh boss-man Jamie Dixon could be heartened by the fact G Ashton Gibbs made his return in a big way from his recent lineup absence (knee) with 26 points and his shooting skills surely didn't get rusty while he sat out the Panthers' last three games.

Oh, and one more note on that Johnnies win against Pittsburgh:

It might well have been the worst officiated game of the whole season - we're not kidding, folks - and even on the game's winning play that saw Dwight Hardy reverse pivot and score on a baseline scoop shot with 1.2 seconds left you might want to check out that television replay one mo' time because you'll notice Hardy stepped on the end line right before releasing his game-winning shot. Just saying!

We'll get to our College Basketball Monday/Tuesday TV Previews in just a moment but first this reminder: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball and NBA Winners when you check in on Game Days anytime after 1 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday and after 10 a.m. on weekends right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - and do make sure to be with Jim Hurley all through this thrilling and profitable b-ball ride!


Tonight, it's ...
SYRACUSE (22-6, 9-6 Big East) at VILLANOVA (21-6, 9-5 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN (Wells Fargo Center)
Let's face it ... it's what the elite teams inside the ultra-elite Big East Conference all are chasing after these days and that's to get a double-bye into next month's Big East Tournament in New York City. Only the league's top four teams get that deal and so this clash in Philly figures to be a no-hold bars affair with both the Orange and the Wildcats eye-balling the two byes days (the Big East Tourney begins on March 8th but the top four teams in the standings won't play till March 10th ... sweet!).

No doubt both teams are still checking out their respective heart rates following on the heels of overtime wins this past weekend: Syracuse needed the extra session to hold off 12-point underdog Rutgers 84-80 while 'Nova needed the bonus time before topping 11 ½-point home pup DePaul 77-75 and the hero of that clash was G Corey Fisher who poured in a game-high 34 points including the do-or-die three-point hoop that sent the game into OT.

Fisher - who shot 11-of-18 from the field - played 35 minutes in that game and so he doesn't figure to be worn down here but if Jay Wright's club is gonna win this game than someone must get in the face of sharpshooter Kris Joseph (15 ppg) who swished in a few beauties en route to his 21-point outing this past weekend against the Scarlet Knights.

OKLAHOMA STATE (16-10, 4-8 Big 12) at KANSAS (25-2, 10-2 Big 12) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Want to know just how consistent the Kansas Jayhawks have been in recent years? Well, the Lawrence gang has won 10-or-more conference games in each of the past 17 seasons and some 21 times in the last 22 campaigns overall - plus this here-and-now Kansas team has been truly special despite that aforementioned "Big Monday" loss at Kansas State last week: The J-hawks lead the nation in field-goal percentage (52.1 percent) and the defense hasn't been too shabby either as Bill Self's crew has held 10 foes to 60 points or less.

In last Saturday's dominant 89-63 win against 15-point underdog Colorado, the star of the show was Markieff Morris who registered 26 points and 15 boards but the fact of the matter was all five starters scored in double figures in that runaway win and the only way Okie State - no doubt very much on the outside looking in at a potential NCAA Tournament berth - gets to hang close against the 18-point favored Jayhawks if it the Cowboys can corral everyone else in the lineup even if they don't worry about the elder Morris twin (note "kid" brother Marcus contributed 16 points and 9 boards in that win against the Buffs).
On Tuesday, it's ...
ILLINOIS (17-10, 7-7 Big 10) at OHIO STATE (25-2, 12-2) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, no one's gonna junk this Ohio State season just because they've now lost on back-to-back weekends (see 71-61 loss at Wisconsin back on Feb. 12th) but there is some growing concern with the Buckeyes and their recent inability to slow down teams on the offensive end in recent games. In Sunday's 13-point win by Purdue, it was one thing for Boilers' G Moore to have the eye of an assassin but how about the fact Thad Matta's club allowed Purdue to shoot 28-of-55 from the floor (50.9 percent) or that the Buckeyes' three-point shooters were firing mainly blanks (see 4-of-15 from beyond the arc)?

Ohio State's freshman stud F/C Jared Sullinger was armed-and-ready to play at Purdue with 25 points and 6 boards but could it be his supporting cast is starting to wilt under the expectations brought on in recent weeks/months? In this home game against Illinois - now a team firmly planted on the NCAA Tourney "bubble" following its seventh loss in the last 11 games (see Saturday night's close-but-no-cigar 61-57 loss at 4-point fav Michigan State) - the Buckeyes must get their perimeter guys back in the swing of things and the OSU defense must contain center Mike Tisdale (9 points on 9 FGs against the Spartans) who just didn't seem to be right in that last Illini loss.

TENNESSEE (16-11, 6-6 SEC) at VANDERBILT (20-6, 8-4 SEC) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, guess who's suddenly one of the hottest sides in America? Ring the bell if you said the Vanderbilt Commodores who enter this Volunteer State showdown on a tasty five-game winning streak that includes back-to-back road conquests at Georgia and Auburn. In fact, in Saturday's 77-60 win at 11-point underdog Auburn, the 'Dores rode the 22-point scoring game by G John Jenkins (the late-game hero against Georgia three nights earlier) plus Jeffery Taylor was an absolute monster with 20 points and 10 rebs and how about that 23-4 scoring spree fashioned by Vandy right after Auburn had knotted up the game some six minutes into the second half?

There's no question that Kevin Stallings crew - now in the hunt for one of the country's top 16 seeds at NCAA Tournament time - is peaking at the right time but the same thing cannot be said about the Tennessee Vols who've dropped four of their last five games and might well be "tuning out" head coach Bruce Pearl. The Volunteers were nearly wire-to-wire 69-63 losers to 5-point road dog Georgia this past Saturday afternoon and the most disturbing part of the game for Tennessee was it shot 28 percent from the floor in the first half - plus Pearl's crew played with no major sense of urgency. Hmmm.

NOTE: There's lots of mid-week College Basketball Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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