College Hoops: The Weekend's Biggest Losers
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THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT
LOOKIN' AT THE WEEKEND'S BIGGEST LOSERS, PLUS CHECKING OUT THE TOP TILTS TO START THE NEW WEEK
By Jim Hurley:
Hey, everyone and his brother-in-law knows that the weekend's biggest winner was song-bird Adele at Sunday night's Grammy Awards -hope she had help at night's end carrying out all those shiny little trophies! -but there were a few real big-time losers out there too (no, we're not picking on you, Lady GaGa!) but rather have index finger firmly planted at the likes of Ohio State, Baylor and Pittsburgh as all of the above flopped first-first in key games this winter weekend.
For the first two teams here (that's Ohio State and Baylor), the losses may have only put a slight dent into their prospective seedings less than a month from now (see NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday is on March 11th) but it also showed some major vulnerability and there's a chance the mystique both teams have sported for the better part of this season could be gone while the latter team here -that's Pittsburgh -might have put itself onto a tightrope without a safety net below.
Get our gist?
We'll get into their misery in just a moment but first this key reminder:
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Now, let's look back at a tough weekend for the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Baylor Bears and the Pittsburgh Panthers before we take a quick-hitter look ahead at the top Monday/Tuesday tilts:
On Saturday, it was ...
OHIO STATE (21-4) -No need to take any unnecessary pot shots at these Buckeyes who stood tall as the nation's third-ranked squad while heading into their 58-48 home loss versus 8 ½-point underdog Michigan State but we gotta ask this question:
Couldn't Thad Matta's gang come out with a little more emotion to its game?
The'Eyes registered a mere 25 first-half points and routinely had Michigan State players beat'em to loose balls and rebounds but in the end -after Ohio State pulled to within four points down (see 44-40) it was the shooting that did in the Columbus kids who managed to connect on a mere 14-of-53 field-goal attempts (that's 26.4 percent) and any novice could have told you O-State isn't going to win many games in which point guard Aaron Craft gets just two assists or where star-of-stars F Jared Sullinger shoots a rotten 5-of-15 from the field for a somewhat silent 17 points.
What did the loss really do to Ohio State?
Well, it pushed the'Eyes back into a tie with Michigan State atop the Big 10 standings with identical 9-3 marks but it showed that Tom Izzo's crew can come into a gym and make anyone look bad. And if this is Ohio State on a "bad day" than maybe Matta's guys have reason to fret down the road.
BAYLOR (21-4) -Here's the good news for the Baylor Bears before we get to the bad news: Scott Drew's club gets to wash out the bad taste of this loss with a Monday night home game against Iowa State (it's on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET) and so maybe this quick turnabout will help but the fact remains that this 2011-12 Baylor bunch now has a real stigma attached to its name: The Bears can beat the average or bad teams but not the nation's cream-of-the-crop clubs.
Baylor's losses have occurred against Missouri (twice) and Kansas (also twice) and so suddenly that 8-4 record within big 12 play just doesn't look so snazzy anymore.
One major problem in Saturday's 72-57 loss at 6-point fav Mizzou?
The Bears shot a woeful 4-of-17 from beyond the three-point arc while allowing the quicksilver Tigers to drain 14-of-28 trifectas and so big deal that Baylor shut down F Ricardo Ratliffe here ... four other Tigers scored 12-of-more points and Missouri's guards absolutely feasted from out deep. Let's see if Iowa State's game plan here calls for a slew of treys to be shot -it should be a game plan if it's not!
On Sunday, it was ...
PITTSBURGH (15-11) -Unlike the three teams featured above here in today's Jim Sez column, the Pitt Panthers didn't enter their game at Seton Hall with another Top 25 ranking or any real thoughts that this particular club could go far in next month's NCAA Tournament but still this one hurt ... bad.
The Panthers' 73-66 loss at 2-point favorite Seton Hall was a major see-saw event but when Jamie Dixon's team snagged a 61-55 lead with 8:12 remaining in the game (after once trailing by double digits in the first half) than it appeared Pitt was headed to the winner's circle in style but instead here this team now is 4-9 in league play and wondering if the long NCAA tourney run is over.
Some in-the-know Big East folks called this an "elimination game" played in Newark -note that The Hall entered at 16-8 with a 5-7 mark in conference action
Okay, so let's take a quickie peek at key Monday/Tuesday games
On Monday, it's ...
#2 SYRACUSE (25-1, 12-1 Big East) at #24 LOUISVILLE (20-5, 8-4 Big East) -7 p.m. ET, ESPN
If you loved the Orange's season-starting 20-game winning streak, than you'll like the current five-game streak that included last Saturday's 85-67 win against 10-point underdog Connecticut.
Never mind that Jim Boeheim's bunch shot a blistering 59.3 percent from the floor (that's 32-of-54 FGs) and probably should have won in a more comfortable manner -remember that the'Cuse led just 63-61 with 6:26 to go -- but consider that the Orange zone held UConn to just 23 made FGs and didn't let either Jeremy Lamb (18 points on 6-of-15 FG shooting) or C Andre Drummond (13 points on 5-of-13 FG shooting) do any real damage here even though this game could have swung one way or the other a handful of different times with 10-or-less minutes remaining in this affair.
Our $64,000 question right here and right now is this -can the'Cuse beat this team from the Bluegrass State and maybe that other one team come early April (can you imagine a Kentucky versus Syracuse showdown for all the marbles on the night of April 2nd as we think that would be your proverbial pick'em affair)?
On Tuesday, it's ...
#8 FLORIDA (19-6, 7-3 SEC) at ALABAMA (16-8, 5-5 SEC) -7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe you didn't recognize that'Bama bunch in last Saturday's 67-58 loss at 2 ½-point favorite LSU (and note the Bayou Bengals were the 3-point home dogs on the opening-line board) as the Crimson Tide sat starters JaMychal Green, Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele and Tony Mitchell for various reasons and stay tuned as to whether any/all/some of these guys are back for the Tuscaloosa team here in this prime-timer.
Meanwhile, what was Florida's excuse for that 75-70 home loss to 12 ½-point pup Tennessee?
No doubt Billy Donovan's team was a tad short-handed as key reserves guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) and forward Will Yeguete (first-half head injury) forced the not-so-mighty Gators to go with a seven-man rotation but the numbers don't lie as Florida allowed the Vols to shoot 24-of-49 from the floor (that's 49 percent) while the Gainesville gang committed 15 turnovers (with just 9 assists). Florida's lost its last two straight games and who knows what -or who -awaits'em here?
NOTE: Get our College Basketball Mid-Week Report in the next edition of Jim Sez as we kick around the idea of who are the top conferences/leagues in the land.
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