College Hoops' Weekend "Oscars"
THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT:
IT'S NOW TIME TO HAND OUT THE JUST-COMPLETED WEEKEND HOOP AWARDS -SO THE ENVELOPES, PLEASE!
By Jim Hurley:
Hey, Hollywood sure had a starry Sunday night while dishing out a slew of Oscars -and so we figured it was a good time to acknowledge some of the year's best movies via our College Basketball theme and so let's get to it with both a look back and a little look ahead too:
In Ben Affleck's Oscar Award-winning flick, the hostages eventually exit Iran but not before some really close calls -- and the Tennessee Volunteers (16-10, 8-6 SEC) certainly faced their fair share of obstacles at Texas A&M last Saturday afternoon/evening.
Maybe it wasn't true life-or-death but Tennessee's latest win had drama, intrigue and more than a little action. Just like Argo!
True, the Vols have a ways to go before they even get mentioned as a"bubble team" in terms of this year's NCAA Tournament -we believe Tennessee needs a minimum 20 wins this season to get into that particular conversation -but this was truly a great escape as Trae Golden poured in a career-high 32 points to give the Volunteers a fifth straight win and one thing noticed by one-and-all afterwards was that three Tennessee players went for 50-plus game minutes including the aforementioned Golden who played a whopping 56 minutes while producing a nifty stat line of 32 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Cuonzo Martin's club may be considered an afterthought right now when it comes to naming who belongs in this year's 68-team NCAA Tournament field but gotta believe that if the Vols keep truckin' along and do make it to the"Big Dance" than this Oscar-weekend road win in four long/grueling OTs will be remembered fondly at year's end.
Hats off to Mr. Golden ... and to Mr. Affleck too!
Silver Linings Playbook
It's no secret that the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-14, 5-9 ACC) have not exactly been an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse in recent years but last Saturday afternoon's rollicking 80-65 win against 8-point favorite Miami -the #2 team in the country at the time -was a true"silver lining" win for this program as C.J. Harris drilled five trifectas en route to a 23-point performance and Wake held Miami to just 25-of-64 field-goal shooting (that's 39.1 percent).
Afterwards, the Demon Deacon players and under-siege third-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik lamented all the"tough times" and"adversity" that the program has faced the past few seasons but following this rush-the-court win there were major bright spots to point at including the fact Wake Forest is now 5-2 SU (straight-up) at Joel Coliseum against fellow ACC opponents this season (not bad, right?) and don't disregard the fact the Miami loss put some major doubt as to whether the'Canes (22-4, 13-1 ACC) deserve one of those valued #1 seeds in next month's NCAA Tournament.
Maybe Harris is no Bradley Cooper (or Robert DeNiro, for that matter) but he had his"silver lining" moment in a year that's been mostly golden for Miami -take that, Jim Larranaga and friends!
We'll get to a couple of other"movies" in a second but first this key reminder:
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Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Memphis Tigers (24-3, 13-0 Conference USA) have been barely blips on the college hoops radar screen ever since they lost the NCAA Championship Game in overtime to Kansas way back in 2008 but while folks in the South like to talk about the Florida Gators and the up-and-down Kentucky Wildcats, the fact of the matter is these Tigers -a soon-to-be member of the Big East Conference -- will roll into Xavier on Tuesday night now riding an amazing 18-game winning streak as they wrapped up the C-USA regular-season title with last Saturday's 89-73 home win against 8-point pup Southern Mississippi.
Okay, so the Tigers were the No. 21 team in the land prior to that clash -one that starred Chris Crawford and Shaq Goodwin who scored 19 points apiece -and even your down-the-block buddy who doesn't follow college basketball all that much anymore could ring up 10-or-12 teams that he thinks will win the national championship this year before Memphis rolls off his lips but consider head coach Josh Pastner's team is a legit"southern beast" these days and you have to love the teamwork on this here-and-now squad.
Memphis registered an eye-popping 25 assists on 29 made field goals against Southern Miss and now will need a move-the-rock mentality to kayo a Xavier team that's out of NCAA Tourney contention at 15-11 overall and 8-5 in Atlantic-10 Conference play -that's unless the Musketeers finish up hotter than a southern street in July.
P.S., if Memphis makes a run into/beyond the second weekend in this year's NCAA Tournament, don't say we didn't warn'ya! The Tigers are keeping fingers crossed that they have a slew of Academy Award-winning performances ahead of'em come March.
This epic movie detailed the great lengths that the nation's 16th president went through in order to abolish slavery -it was an opportunity to view a skillful side to Mr. Lincoln's term in office and now we'll see how skilled Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is in handling his team's psyche and this tough part of the schedule.
Keep in mind that the'Cuse -headed to Marquette this evening for a Big Monday clash of Big East titans -comes off Saturday's sour 57-46 home loss to 8-point dog Georgetown and so that makes it four losses in the Orange's last eight games plus a home game against Louisville (March 2nd) and a regular-season rematch game at Georgetown (March 9th) are straight ahead.
No doubt Lincoln had to navigate extremely tough times in his days in office and that brilliant Steven Spielberg movie often times depicted the anguish of a President who didn't always"get his way" and now Boeheim must toss aside the recent negativity of losing and steer this club into calmer waters.
One factor that must boggle Boeheim's mind is the club's rotten shooting in that loss to the Hoyas: The Orange connected on only 17-of-50 field-goal tries and suddenly key reserve James Southerland (5-of-14 from the floor for 13 points) isn't quite the late-season"savior" that everyone in western New York was hoping for following his recent re-instatement.
Hey, Daniel Day-Lewis was a slam dunk on Sunday night to win the Oscar for"Best Actor" for his portrayal of the great Abraham Lincoln -maybe he can play the stoic Boeheim sometime down the road but we're wondering right here and right now just how this 2012-13 turns out in the"script".
In other College Basketball News & Notes ...
Count the Ohio State Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5 Big 10) as one of the country's forget-me-not teams:
Thad Matta's club rallied back from a 9-point second-half deficit to down Michigan State 68-60 on Sunday afternoon as point guard Aaron Craft slashed his way to the hoop for a career-high 21 points and suddenly a team basically counted out from this year's national championship chase has tagged together wins against Minnesota and Michigan State.
A key was a Matta time out early in the second half in which he implored the'Eyes to buckle down their perimeter defense while he clearly instructed Craft to be more aggressive to the hoop. The Spartans didn't have the legs or the energy to pull ahead once O-State took the lead and this turned into a clear-cut case of Craft owning Michigan State's ineffective PG Keith Appling (1-of-6 from the floor for 3 points with 1 assist in 34 minutes of game time).
This critical Big 10 tilt turned into"Zero Dark Thirty" for Michigan State -and it sure doesn't seem Tom Izzo's team will be winning anything with Appling running the show ...
Finally, we top off our"Night at the Oscars" hoop theme here with some"Amour" for two teams that hit the jackpot in the just-completed BracketBuster weekend:
Saint Mary's (24-5) blasted highly-regarded Creighton 74-66 as star G Matthew Dellavedova cranked home five three-pointers en route to a 19-point performance that -dare we say -locked up an at-large bid for the West Coast Conference club while one of the BracketBuster's biggest road winners was Denver (18-8) who topped 4 ½-point fav Northern Iowa last Saturday night. The Pioneers are a robust 13-2 in the Western Athletic Conference and deserving of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as Brett Olson's 16 points powered the way to a seventh straight victory.
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball Mid-Week Report in the next edition of Jim Sez and don't forget we will have plenty to say about all the conference tournaments in the coming days.
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