As part of this weekend’s big kick off to the Christmas shopping season, yesterday was dubbed Small Business Saturday across the country. The basketball schedule for the day might have qualified under that designation, as few of the biggest names were in action, in part because the big holiday tourneys ended a few days ago. What the day may have lacked in big names, though, it did not lack for stories:
- By rankings, it was the upset of the day. Old Dominion picked up another notable win this year and its best yet, defeating old bitter CAA and Sun Belt rival VCU 73-67. It’s time to start taking notice of the Monarchs, who now have wins over the Rams, Richmond and LSU. Aaron Bacote scored 31 big ones for ODU. Treveon Graham tallied 29 for VCU, but got little help-the rest of the team shot just 13-for-40 (32.5%). This is not a bad loss-not when it’s a rivalry game and not when it was played at ODU-but just like last year, we’re again waiting to see consistency from the Rams.
- Wichita State dispatched of Tulsa 75-55. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker: it was all about WSU’s All-American backcourt, who combined 39 points. Also from this game, the Shockers wore some fantastic throwback uniforms, complete with the old ‘MTXE’ on the shorts and jersey as popularized by former coach Gene Smithson in the 70s and 80s.
- Virginia fiddled around for a half, apparently still in the funk it was at the end of the game the night before, when La Salle rallied from 20 down to scare the Cavs late. UVA trailed Rutgers 18-17 at the half (the same Scarlet Knights that lost to St. Peter’s by 18 earlier this week), then allowed EIGHT second half points in a 45-26 win in the Barclays Classic final. The definition of ugly basketball: when a team shoots 32.7% yet still easily outshoots its opponent (25.0%) and wins by 19.
- Colorado State edged UC Santa Barbara 65-63 in a terrific Great Alaska Shootout final. Gian Clavell hit the winning free throws with 5.7 seconds left. A bad decision by the Gauchos’ Michael Bryson to foul in the backcourt just after John Green hit a three-pionter to tie the game seconds earlier turned out to be the difference. This was an excellent game, back and forth the whole way, too bad it ended in this way. The Rams get their first Alaska title, while UCSB now has three tough losses this year.
- Also another Shootout note: NCAA Division II host school Alaska-Anchorage once again knocked off a D-I school, beating Rice 65-54. The Seawolves have now won at least one game in 30 of the 37 years they have hosted the Great Alaska Shootout.
- Mississippi had a good two days, first coming back to beat Creighton and then handling Cincinnati with relative ease 66-54 Saturday night to win the Emerald Coast Classic.
- TCU beat Mississippi State 61-52 to win the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic. The Horned Frogs got more points from their bench (34) than the starters and are now 7-0.
- Seton Hall continued a very good week with a 58-54 win over George Washington. The Pirates stayed one step ahead of the Colonials down the stretch, a good sign for a young team. GW had 18 turnovers and needs to improve offensively if it wants to return to the NCAA Tournament again.
- New Mexico State became the first team this year to puncture the Wyoming defense, but it still wasn’t enough. The Cowboys held on for a 78-75 win, as Larry Nance, Jr. scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half. Wyoming is looking good early at 6-0. For the Aggies, this one followed a similar script to their loss to UTEP, as NMSU had a lead late, lost it, and then saw a furious final rally fall just short.
- The performance of the night comes from Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw, who scored 42 points including the game-winning layup with a second left in the Bruins’ 83-81 win at Ohio. Bradshaw’s line: 14 of 22 shooting, 8-for-12 from three, 6 of 6 from the line. And Belmont is now 6-1, with three road wins already-city rival Lipscomb, Western Kentucky and now Ohio.
- The shot of the night was by George Mason’s Jalen Jenkins, who hit a legit 75-footer to give the Patriots a 64-63 comeback win over Manhattan. The Jaspers led 61-55 with 19 seconds left, so this is an absolutely heartbreaking loss. It should be noted Jenkins had 24 points and seven rebounds in the game. Thanks to Matt Norlander and CBSSports.com for the video link.
- Harvard edged Massachusetts 75-73. The Crimson backed up a blowout win over Houston a few nights earlier and, whether they’re a Sweet 16 level team or not (as a few hyped them to be), they are validating themselves as a legit top 50 team.
- Nebraska-Omaha defeated Nevada, and while that result isn’t a stunner (UNO already had beaten Marquette, and the young Wolf Pack went 0-3 at the Paradise Jam), the score is. The Mavericks ran away in the second half, outscoring the Mountain West visitors 47-22 for a 78-54 win.
- Siena came back for an 81-71 win at Loyola (Md.) in the return of coach Jimmy Patsos to his former school.
- Same story with Ron Hunter bringing his Georgia State team to play at his former stomping grounds at IUPUI. The Jaguars are a tougher out than expected this year, and the Panthers needed all of the 48 combined points by R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow in squeaking out a 66-63 win.
- William & Mary has responded well after a poor opening loss to Florida. The Tribe is now 5-1 after defeating a good Wofford team 66-62. W&M somehow attempted just 32 field goals, but made 21 for robust 65.6% shooting. Marcus Thornton had 25 points, while Terry Tarpey is one of those all-around players who deserves to be on any “glue guy” team. The 6-foot-5 Tarpey contributed eight points, six rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots.
- Toledo’s disappointing start continues. The Rockets lost again and are now 2-4 after falling at Oakland 81-79. None of its four losses are awful-VCU, Oregon and Detroit are solid and even at Oakland is no picnic-but more was expected of this team. The Golden Grizzlies shot 55.1% in this one.
- Ditto for Murray State. There’s no polite way to say it: Racers stunk up the joint last night and are playing nowhere near their talent level, not after a 93-58 loss in Nashville to Valparaiso in which Bryce Drew’s Crusaders outscored Murray 50-21 in the second half. By the way: Valpo sophomore Alec Peters is turning into quite a player: 26 points in this one, and averaging 19.1 per game this year.
- Fordham guard Jon Severe has taken an indefinite leave from the team for personal reasons, according to a school release. Severe was the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year last year and is a former Mr. Basketball in New York who, with some hype and to the surprise of many, chose Fordham when he could’ve gone to a number of high-profile schools on the East Coast. He averaged 17.3 points last year but shot just 33.1% and, in the games we saw, was clearly a player who, to try to put this in a fair way, while very talented and worthy of notice, also had a lot to learn about shot selection.
This year, though, he was suspended for a week by Coach Tom Pecora just before the start of the season, and since had played just 39 minutes total in three games, scoring a total of five points. There also was a cryptic tweet from Severe this past week saying: “The game of basketball is just not fun to me no more. I’m officially done with basketball,” which was later deleted. Without speculating too much, it’s obvious something is amiss with this situation, and can only wish Severe well with his future. When he committed to Fordham it truly sounded as if he did so for all the right reasons and he deserved to be commended for that, and he is a talented player who can do very well with basketball if all works out. And for the Rams, the season is quickly turning into a nightmare; Fordham lost at home Saturday to Maryland-Eastern Shore 72-66.
- A scary scene took place at the Barclays Classic consolation game in Brooklyn, where referee Rick Crawford took an elbow to the head just after tossing the ball up for the opening tip of the La Salle/Vanderbilt game. Crawford was on the court for 10 minutes and was immobilized and taken off on a stretcher, as an already-tiny crowd went plumb silent. He was conscious and aware and apparently is doing fine in the hospital. Vanderbilt defeated La Salle 68-55 in the game.
Texas/Connecticut (Noon EST, ESPN2) Major league intersectional matchup, and a true road game for the Longhorns. Another great test early for a team that already has been tested, beating Iowa and California at MSG.
Kansas vs. Michigan State (1 p.m. EST, ESPN) Orlando Classic final. Really this was the only logical final in this tourney, with these two far above the rest of the field.
Providence at Kentucky (2 p.m. EST, ESPN2) LeDontae Henton has been early-national-player-of-the-year-good for the Friars, but this game has an asterisk next to it if Kris Dunn can’t go. At the same time, will be good to see UK face a real challenge after beating up on cupcakes its last few games.
Iona at Arkansas Forget being buried on the SEC Network on a Sunday afternoon-this game deserves a primetime showcase. When two up-tempo teams square off, you typically go with the one with the better athletes, but Iona is road-tested and bare minimum should make this one very interesting.
Texas-El Paso vs. Washington (10 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Wooden Legacy final. The Miners’ win over Xavier is one that should resonate for a while, and a title here would be another very nice early feather in the cap. The Huskies have size, though don’t always use it well, but they have 19 three-pointers over their first two games here.
Portland State at Oregon The Vikings are 4-0 with a win at USC, so they can at least pose a threat if the Ducks aren’t on their game.
Have a great Sunday.