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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

While they are fun to follow-and yes, they do matter to some extent, even if not necessarily for NCAA Tournament selection-normally we won’t make much note of the release of the weekly top 25 polls on Monday, but this week is an exception.

Old Dominion jumped into the Associated Press Top 25 yesterday for the first time in school history. This was notable for one because it was surprising that ODU has never been in the AP poll before given some of its excellent teams in the past, dating all the way back to some very good years in the then-powerful Sun Belt in the 1980s.

More pertinent to today, it is worth noticing because of what a job Jeff Jones has done in just two years with the program. The Monarchs were a disaster in 2012-13, finishing 5-25 with the departure of head coach Blaine Taylor during the season. The program wasn’t as bad as that overall-Old Dominion lost at the buzzer to eventual national runner-up Butler in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament-but it still wasn’t good.

Add in a change from the comfortable CAA to always-transitioning Conference USA in order to pursue the school’s football interests, and it’s hardly been an easy job for Jones. One would hardly know it by ODU’s 12-1 start to the season that features a current nine-game winning streak and has included wins over VCU, LSU and most recently on the road at UNC-Charlotte. What this team has done has been extraordinary.

Old Dominion has earned the ranking. As Joe Lunardi wisely (as usual) noted yesterday with the release of his Bracketology, the Monarchs had three RPI top 50 wins currently, which was three more than someone like Ohio State. Right now, ODU looks on track for an NCAA bid, but with national recognition now coming for a truly surprising team, even if it ends up just short of the NCAAs, it’s hard not to think the season has already been a success.
Monday night’s action:

  • Notre Dame held off North Carolina 71-70 for a big road win. Pat Connaughton had 15 points and four of the Irish’s 10 three-pointers, but Zach Auguste also seemed to be in the middle of every big play in the second half and finished with 18 points. A terrific game with great energy, but the Irish seemed to stay half a step ahead the whole way with terrific shooting. As for UNC, this is who the Tar Heels are: a team with high flyers that will make several wow plays every game, but also a team that isn’t very good from outside and struggles with defense.
  • Oklahoma pummeled Texas on the road 70-49. The story should be the Sooners in a game like this-five scored in double figures, and this was a statement on the road. Inevitably the questions will start now about the Longhorns, though, who shot 30.0% and were never in this one.
  • Michigan State also was impressive, ripping Indiana 70-50 at home. IU shot just 28.3% and the Spartans dominated the glass 50-28.
  • Iowa was in control and then pulled away late to beat Nebraska 70-59. Two teams going in opposite directions right now.
  • Quality road win the Colonial for UNC-Wilmington, which went to Boston and topped Northeastern 75-68. Kevin Keatts continues to do an outstanding job with the Seahawks. Also winning on the road in the CAA were William & Mary (73-47 at hapless Drexel) and James Madison (61-50 winners at College of Charleston).
  • Double overtime in the Northeast Conference, where Wagner came back from 15 down in the second half to snap a seven-game losing streak and nip Mount St. Mary’s 85-83.
  • Also had a two-OT game in the Sun Belt, where Texas State won at Georgia State 77-74. Early on, this is looking like one of the most balanced leagues in the country, and GSU appears to be not nearly as far out in front of the rest of the pack as many anticipated.
  • Texas Southern held off Southern 59-58 in a wild finish in the SWAC shown on ESPNU. TSU’s Chris Thomas made one of two free throws with :00.7 left for the winning point. It was hardly that simple, though. The Tigers had possession in a tie game and were setting up for the final shot in regulation, but Southern’s Christopher Hyder stole the ball with five seconds left and broke down the court for a potential winning layup, only to be denied by hustling Texas Southern guard Madarious Gibbs. Thomas grabbed the rebound and a foul was called on a push-out just before the buzzer. Initially the official tried to wave off the foul as being after the clock, but conferring with video found it indeed happened before the buzzer. That wasn’t it, though. After Thomas missed the second free throw, Southern grabbed the rebound and called timeout with :00.5 left on the clock. The Jaguars inbounded from the baseline, 94 feet away, and threw a 75-foot pass to Adrian Rodgers, who caught it and in pogo-like fashion hit the floor and then went right back up and made a three-pointer. Replays showed, though, that indeed the shot did come after the buzzer.
  • Once upon a time, ESPN’s Big Monday actually consisted of three games, with an enjoyable late game from the Big West or WCC. Last night’s game between UC Santa Barbara and Florida Gulf Coast would’ve fit in perfectly in the old Big Monday, a game which the homestanding Gauchos won 63-50. Alan Williams had a very Alan Williams-like game with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Side Dishes

  • St. John’s guard Rysheed Jordan will be in uniform for tonight for his team’s big home game against Villanova (9 p.m. EST, FS1). Jordan had been on an “indefinite leave of absence” that turned out to be one game. He missed SJU’s loss to Butler on Saturday to be with family in Philadelphia after the passing of his grandmother, according to a statement by the school. Jordan leads the team averaging 14.3 points per game and also is second in the Big East in steals, and having him back is huge for a St. John’s team that is short on depth.
  • Tennessee guard Ian Chiles will miss the rest of the season while undergoing surgery on an injured shoulder. Chiles was a graduate transfer from IUPUI who averaged 15.8 points last year for the Jaguars but had played in just three games for the Volunteers, averaging less than a point per game. Tennessee also is without freshman forward Jabari McGhee, and coach Donnie Tyndall has said if he can’t return from an injured foot in a couple weeks that he would likely miss the rest of the season and request a medical redshirt. Without Chiles and McGhee, UT is down to nine healthy scholarship players.
  • Boston College senior guard Lonnie Jackson also is out for the rest of the season with a lower leg injury. Jackson had played in just three games without scoring in 25 total minutes, but he is the ninth-best three-pointer shooter all time in school history, and his presence has been missed for a team struggling from behind the arc.
  • Syracuse junior Dajuan Coleman also won’t play the rest of the season “unless something radical happens, and I don’t think it will,” according to coach Jim Boeheim at yesterday’s ACC conference call. Coleman has not played in over a year now since undergoing knee surgery.
  • Finally, sad news as Jack Parr, a two-time All-American at Kansas State in the 1950s who led the Wildcats to the 1958 Final Four, passed away Sunday at the age of 78.

Tonight’s Menu:

Arkansas at Georgia (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) Time to take some notice of the Bulldogs, who haven’t lost since November.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2)
The Cyclones have been showing a few cracks in the last month. OSU has been impressive this year.
Ohio State at Minnesota (9 p.m. EST, ESPN)
It’s still early in the conference schedules, but at 0-2 in league already, Minnesota needs this one.
Western Michigan at Akron, Central Michigan at Toledo A couple big early games in the MAC between perhaps the top four contenders for the league title.
Marquette at Georgetown (7 p.m. EST, FS1), Providence at Butler (9 p.m. EST, CBSSN) 
Almost any Big East game this season could make a list of biggest games on any respective day.
New Mexico at San Diego State (11 p.m. EST, CBSSN)
The Lobos are coming off an important-and convincing-win over Colorado State to knock the Rams from the unbeatens. SDSU is coming off the opposite, a bad loss to Fresno State.

Have a great Tuesday.

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