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The Morning Dish – Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014 The Morning Dish No Comments
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Doug McDermott and many of his friends have departed, but we know now that it was way too soon to write off a Creighton program that was plenty successful even before the glorious McDermott era.

The Bluejays roared back from an 18-point deficit in the second half on Wednesday to defeat #18 ranked Oklahoma 65-63 in the game of the night and one of the most stunning games of the early season. The Sooners led 42-24 early in the second half and looked to be in complete, total control, but Creighton rallied behind a raucous home crowd and is now 3-0 on the young season.

Austin Chatman was the star (17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists) in a huge win for the Jays, but everyone played a part in this one. Isaiah Zierden had big three-pointers in the second half. Zach Hanson had the tip-in that put Creighton up for good at 63-61 with 38 seconds left.

(Also, for those who complain that the Big East is on Fox Sports 1 and they can’t find the games: that’s your problem. The network is carried by most systems, the games are accessible, and there have been a number of dandies on FS1 and FS2 since the league’s contract with Fox kicked in last year. This was a terrific game, and featured Bill Raftery on analysis, and that’s all the motivation you should need to find the channel.)

The other part of this one is the Sooners. Just when you wanted to believe Oklahoma had taken the next step, they take two steps back. OU dominated this one for 22 minutes, but then it took Creighton less than six minutes to get right back in it. The Sooners still have work to do to be the solid top 25 team many believe they can and possibly even should be.

Wednesday’s action

  • Arizona pulled away from UC-Irvine late for a 71-54 win. This game is exhibit A for why margin of victory should not be included in the RPI or any other power rating the NCAA selection committee regularly relies on. The Anteaters led deep into the second half and still were down 59-50 with two minutes left until sending the Wildcats parading to the foul line in the final minutes. As it is, this is a solid win for Arizona, and a good account given by Irvine.
  • Wisconsin defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay 84-60. Was going to write about how this was a very good test for the Badgers early in the year, because it’s likely few understand just how athletic UWGB is, and not just Keifer Sykes but also in the frontline. This was a game to push Wisconsin out of its comfort zone. And that’s exactly what it was for 15 minutes.
    Alas, this one was pretty much hijacked by whistles as officiating was way too much of a story. First half foul differential: Green Bay 15, Wisconsin 5. The final count was 26-13, but the first half was what led to how this game played out. Several calls were more than questionable, and this wasn’t a case of only one team being aggressive offensively, though as the half went on it was obvious the effect the fouls had on the Phoenix’s aggressiveness on both ends. All flow was killed, and by the second half UW-Green Bay came unraveled, incapacitated by all the fouls on defense and impatient on offense, a completely different team than it started the game as. That’s on the Phoenix, and doesn’t give enough credit to the Badgers for another super-efficient offensive performance, especially Nigel Hayes, who is becoming a serious threat inside and out (25 points). But it’s a shame because this was a quality game until foul trouble played a way-too-big role in it.
  • Gonzaga dominated St. Joseph’s in every way, winning 94-42. The Bulldogs look scary, top-5 good early on, shooting 56% in this one and out-rebounding St. Joe’s 54-26. And the poor Hawks will have better days, but overall are in rebuilding mode with a very young team.
  • Utah State pulled out another one, coming back from another big early deficit to defeat Santa Clara 60-54 and move to 3-0. The Broncos led 18-3 five minutes in, but apparently that’s right where the Aggies wanted to be. Utah State has trailed by 18, 12 and 15 in the first half of its first three games. Many teams won’t come back from deficits like that three times in a season; USU has done it in three games.
  • Arkansas hammered Wake Forest 83-53. Not nearly as close as thought this one would be. Six players scored in double figures for the Hogs, none more than 11 and five of them scoring exactly 10 points each.
  • Morehead State was competitive again against a more noted foe, but Cincinnati pulled away midway through the second half and won 69-61.
  • Missouri rebounded from a halftime deficit for the second straight game to top Oral Roberts 78-64. ORU shot just 21% in the second half.
  • Florida Gulf Coast is 3-0 after a convincing 79-62 win over Ohio. Bernard Thompson erupted for 34 points, and FGCU has back-to-back nice wins, as this comes after beating UC Santa Barbara.
  • Salute also to Army, which also is 3-0 for the first time since 2001-02 after a 74-71 win at St. Francis (N.Y.).
  • IUPUI registered a mild upset, winning at Wisconsin-Milwaukee 70-68 for Jason Gardner’s first win as coach.
  • We won’t normally make note of Division I teams hammering non-D-I schools. But when a team shoots 72.5% like Eastern Washington did in a 95-34 win over Walla Walla (Wash.) last night, it’s worth a call.
  • Finally, maybe the best finish of the night was at Samford, where the Bulldogs’ Evan Taylor hit a jumper with three seconds left for a 68-67 win over Austin Peay.


Side Dishes

The USA Today had a story yesterday about how the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is considering doing something similar to what is being done with the college football “playoff” (editorial quotation marks added, because it’s hard to acknowledge something as a real playoff in a sport that is so obviously intent on being exclusive to only a couple conferences, as opposed to the inclusiveness that is a big part of what makes the NCAA Tournament so special).

No, no, no no no no, no. A thousand times, no. Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com nailed it, for one, and many others are chiming in strongly, just like they did when the NCAA was floating trial balloons about expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.

The tourney is nearly perfect as it is, and sometimes, as hard as it is for them to do in all their capitalist glory, major college athletics CEOs need to just accept that and stop trying to make it “better.” (Translation: more lucrative.) Selection Sunday is one of the most anticipated days on the sports calendar, and bracketology is one of the things that does keep fan interest in the sport throughout the season in, say, January, when the sport notably is fighting for more attention. In other words, college basketball was far, far ahead of college football’s so-called playoff and its rankings years ago, with the way anticipation is generated for the unveiling of its premiere event.

Dan Gavitt said in the USA Today piece that part of the reason for the rankings would be for more transparency, that teams sometimes question why they are seeded where they are and they’ll. There will always be teams that don’t like their seeding, and that’s what happens when committees evaluate teams. Teams know exactly what they have to do to get in the NCAA Tournament. There is zero need to take the fun out of the current process, in the wistful hope that somehow college football fanatics will flock to college basketball. It’s not going to happen-college football will always have a more fanatical following-and that’s just fine. College basketball does just fine on its own.

Tonight’s Menu
A lot of games, but quite honestly, much of it is filler. Guarantee games and non-Division I opponents dominate the night. The Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Charleston Classic also begin, but frankly, the mostly middling fields only serve to support the idea that there are too many eight-team tournaments. We’ll check back on them when we get to the semifinals.
Texas vs. Iowa, Syracuse vs. California The 2K Classic semifinals should both be intriguing. Texas-Iowa is the best game of the night, and we’ll get a gauge where Cal is under Cuonzo Martin.
SMU at Indiana The Mustangs should feel a little better about themselves after Gonzaga’s destruction of St. Joseph’s, but this is no gimmie. The Hoosiers are looking better since getting some suspended players back. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of being at home (see: Creighton).
Denver at St. Mary’s The Gaels turned it over too much but otherwise looked very good in their game Tuesday early a.m. against New Mexico State, with good depth inside and some nice inside-outside balance. Aaron Bright is going to have the ball in his hands a lot this season. Denver is a team to watch in the Summit this year.
Southern at Mississippi  The Jaguars on paper are rebuilding this year but gave Louisiana Tech a good run and are well coached by Roman Banks. Maybe Southern can make this interesting.
Niagara at St. Peter’s  Notable for the following reason: we haven’t even had Thanksgiving turkey yet, but with this one we will have our first conference game of the season when these two MAAC acquaintances square off.

Have a terrific Thursday.

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