Tuesday night was ready to be pronounced as quite the dud, one of the more disappointing nights of the young season so far when it comes to anticipated games not being competitive.
Admittedly, the night’s schedule was already on the weaker side, but we still thought Belmont would give VCU a challenge, that Oral Roberts or Middle Tennessee State could at least make Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (respectively) sweat, or that one of the three of North Carolina, Texas or Arizona would have a case of the mid-December blahs and get a tussle from an overmatched opponent.
None of those happened, as VCU blew out Craig Bradshaw-less Belmont 78-51, Oklahoma (85-53 winner over tired ORU) and Oklahoma State (68-44 over MTSU) both had an easy time, and UNC, Texas and Arizona all cruised. The Tar Heels swept away N.C.-Greensboro 79-56, Texas drubbed Lipscomb 106-61, and the game between Arizona and Oakland may as well have been the Cardinals and Raiders, as the Wildcats ran out to a three-touchdown lead of 24-3 on the way to a 101-64 blowout win.
Once again, though, we have Wichita State to break up the monotony. At first, it was going to be as a victim. The Shockers-again-were dead to rites, trailing Alabama by 11 with under six minutes left. The Crimson Tide played a terrific game to that point, the type that could’ve gone a long way for the confidence of this improving team.
Instead, Wichita State turned it up late-again-and rallied for a 53-52 win. WSU’s refusal to lose showed up just in time in the form of a stifling press that rattled Alabama, and the Shockers pulled out a game that looked like it was over just a few minutes earlier.
(As hard as it is to knock the Shockers out…do people realize just how hard it was for Kentucky to beat this team in the NCAA Tournament last year?)
WSU could go one of two ways this year. The Shockers could quite possibly see their results turn soon, as this is several games now that could’ve easily been losses, and they are playing with fire. Or, this team will continue to grow from all these close shaves and become even better as the season goes on.
As for Alabama, what a shame for a team that for 34 minutes played really, really well. The Tide now has close losses to both Iowa State and Wichita State, and one can only hope this team can put together more performances like this, only for 40 minutes in the future.
- A couple days after a huge win at Creighton, St. Mary’s suffered a very damaging loss. Northern Arizona’s Quinton Upshur stole an inbounds pass with three seconds left and scored for a 73-71 win at SMC. NAU led by nine at halftime, but the Gaels came back to take a seven-point lead late before the Lumberjacks rallied. Huge win for Northern Arizona, and a very poor loss for St. Mary’s.
- Marquette got 19 points from Luke Fischer in his Golden Eagle debut, a 78-71 win over Arizona State in Milwaukee.
- Sam Houston State blew away a very good Eastern Washington team 76-52. Not surprised by the result, but very surprised by the score. SHSU made 13 of 25 three-point tries, dominated the glass and had five score in double figures, finally breaking through after a number of close losses earlier this year.
- American played just six players, but it was enough for a 68-66 overtime win over La Salle. Gritty, gritty effort by the Eagles, who had four players go all 45 minutes. The Explorers only got to OT because of a halfcourt shot by Jordan Price, but another disappointing loss now leaves them at 5-5.
- East Tennessee State edged Eastern Kentucky 63-60 in a good game far off the radar last night. Rashawn Rembert scored 30 for the Buccaneers, who are now 6-2.
- Score one for the Ivy League after Dartmouth won at Mercer 67-51. The Bears are rebuilding after losing so much from last year, but still a nice ‘W’ for the Big Green.
- UNC-Charlotte trailed almost the whole way in regulation against the College of Charleston, but the 49ers tied it late to get to overtime and went on to a 90-85 win.
- Injuries and illness continue to hurt several prominent teams. As mentioned, Belmont was again without high-scoring Craig Bradshaw, who has a bruised calf, and without him the Bruins are starting to show a few cracks. Also, UC Irvine suffered another disappointing loss, as Donte Pretlow scored the winning basket for Morgan State in a 63-62 win over the Anteaters, who were missing their top two players in Mamadou Ndiaye and top guard Luke Nelson.
- Creighton guard James Milliken has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Coach Greg McDermott said he will not practice or travel with the team during the suspension, and his status will be reevaluated in January. Milliken was a key sub for the Jays, averaging 5.7 points over 11 games with a high of 23 against South Dakota last week.
- Iowa State backup guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker has left the program and will transfer, Fred Hoiberg has announced.
Eastern Michigan at Michigan State A fascinating matchup. The Spartans lead the nation in three-point shooting percentage, while opponents are shooting just 28.7% from long distance against the Eagles.
San Diego State at Cincinnati This one will likely be ugly. Cincy struggled to get over 50 even with overtime on Saturday against Nebraska.
Tennessee at N.C. State Quietly a very good matchup. The teams come in on opposite notes, with the Volunteers beating Butler on Sunday while the Wolfpack lost to Wofford.
Georgia State at Old Dominion Duel between former CAA opponents (not sure they were in the league together long enough to call them rivals). Important game if either should be searching for an at-large bid in March.
Tennessee-Martin at Illinois State Not a chance this game would’ve been thought to be noteworthy a month ago, but both are off to surprisingly good starts.
USC Upstate at Memphis Upstate continues to give bigger name opponents fits-close loss to Maryland Saturday-while the Tigers hope they turned a corner with their blowout of North Carolina Central on Monday.
Portland at UNLV Hard to believe given their losses to Stanford and Arizona State by a combined 51 points, but the Runnin’ Rebels are 6-2, though none of the six wins is overly impressive. Portland at 7-2 isn’t too bad itself, though the Pilots blew a recent chance when they lost at home to Oregon State in overtime.
Have a fantastic Wednesday.