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Saturday Notes – January 3, 2015

January 4, 2015 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

Conference play is just about in full swing by now as Saturday was the opening day of conference play for several. The Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 all got the jump on things earlier in the week among major conferences.

Also getting the jump on things are a few surprising teams – those of the 2-0 starts. One noticeable theme on Saturday was several teams winning to go to 2-0, teams that not many have projected to contend. There is a reason why we play the games, sure, but this is significant in another respect: while it’s early, being 2-0 is far better than being 0-2. A team starting 2-0 has more confidence and isn’t fighting an uphill battle in the standings, which at times can make teams put more pressure on themselves to win games.

Along the way, Saturday provided a couple of ends, too – that is, to unbeaten starts, as a couple of teams suffered their first loss of the season.

With all of that in mind, let’s look at some of the notable games on the day.

Connecticut 63, Florida 59: Florida hasn’t been very good this year, but the game was in Gainesville and the Huskies needed this one. They got it, and will enter American Athletic Conference play on a good note.

South Carolina 64, Iowa State 60: In Brooklyn, South Carolina picks up another good win as Frank Martin’s rebuilding continues. This just helps him show recruits that they can be part of a winning program, and we’ve always known Martin can recruit.

Seton Hall 66, Villanova 61 (OT): The Pirates are 2-0 in the Big East without Isaiah Whitehead. They win despite a monster game from Daniel Echefu (19 points, 24 rebounds) for Villanova, who went down for the first time this season.

Cincinnati 56, SMU 50: Cincinnati has been through plenty of adversity of late, so this is a nice way to start American Athletic Conference play.

Maryland 68, Minnesota 50: That makes it a nice 2-0 start in Maryland’s Big Ten history behind another big game from freshman Romelo Trimble.

Oklahoma State 61, Kansas State 47: It’s early yet, and this game was in Stillwater, but from it you may look at both teams a bit differently. Oklahoma State may be better than we thought after they ran off a nice record against a weak schedule, while Kansas State is starting to look like they may be end up sweating it out on Selection Sunday with some of the games they have dropped recently.

West Virginia 78, TCU 67: Plenty wanted to see just how good TCU is, seeing as how they ran up their 13-0 start against a light slate. We have an idea now after this home loss.

Oklahoma 73, Baylor 63: It’s still not clear just how good this Baylor team is, though there’s no shame in losing to a good Oklahoma team. Maybe we’ll get a sense of this team on Wednesday night when Kansas comes to Waco.

Marquette 75, Providence 66: Marquette continues to look like a different team since Luke Fischer became eligible. While he was in foul trouble in both Big East contests thus far and didn’t have a big game on Saturday, the Golden Eagles are 5-1 with him in the lineup.

Butler 73, St. John’s 69: St. John’s drops to 0-2 to start Big East play. So much for thinking they might live up to their potential as Big East contenders this season. Meanwhile, Chris Holtmann continues to do a masterful job at Butler.

DePaul 71, Xavier 68: A 2-0 start in the Big East for DePaul? Another reminder that it’s early yet, especially when you consider that the other 2-0 team right now is Seton Hall.

Notre Dame 83, Georgia Tech 76 (2 OT): Georgia Tech gave Notre Dame all they could handle and more, but the Fighting Irish are having a pretty good year and pull out another one.

NC State 68, Pittsburgh 50: NC State joins Notre Dame as your very early ACC leaders with a 2-0 mark.

Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 66: The Orange had to hang on at the end, but a road win to start ACC play can’t hurt this group from a confidence standpoint.

Fresno State 59, San Diego State 57: San Diego State simply ran out of gas after rallying from being down 18 to tie it at 40. They had run off 17 unanswered to cap a 21-3 run to get there. Fresno State took over at that point, with the final margin being deceptively close from a couple of late three-pointers by the Aztecs – too late, that is.

Purdue 64, Michigan 51: A nice win to go to 2-0 in Big Ten play for Purdue.

Rutgers 50, Penn State 46: Penn State is the flip side of the Boilermakers – after a nice non-conference run, the Nittany Lions are 0-2 out of the gates, and with a bad loss here, too.

Davidson 81, Richmond 67: A nice start to Davidson’s history in the Atlantic 10.

Rhode Island 65, Saint Louis 53: This isn’t the Saint Louis of the past two years, but anytime you can win there, it’s a good one, and it’s big for Rhode Island to start Atlantic 10 play on a good note like this.

Colgate 68, Bucknell 62: Did you have Colgate starting Patriot League play at 2-0? No, I didn’t either.

Navy 69, Lafayette 65: See above, except substitute “Navy” for “Colgate,” especially with this game being at Lafayette.

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