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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 14, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

What a difference a couple days makes.

A week ago, we had three undefeated Division I teams, and there was a fair amount of debate of if Duke might be as good or better than Kentucky, the team that had been almost universally acclaimed as the top squad for the prior month-plus.

The Wildcats were coming off a narrow escape at home against Mississippi, hardly their first close shave this season. Meanwhile, Duke was 13-0, Coach K was on his way to 1,000 wins and the Blue Devils were cruising, having defeated everyone they’d played by at least 10 points on the way to a 13-0 record.

Duke has now lost twice in the past three days, first at North Carolina State on Sunday and most recently last night. Miami (Fla.) is a team that showed early this season it can get really hot at times, and the Hurricanes did just that in the second half, shooting 67% and hitting 10 of 20 three-pointers in the game for a resounding 90-74 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, snapping the Dukies’ 41-game home court winning streak.

The Blue Devils have had defensive deficiencies for some time, an issue that has come to a head the past few games. At the same time, this was also about Miami, and just how quickly this team can light it up. When the Hurricanes are bad, they’re really, really bad (see: 72-44 losers at home to Eastern Kentucky) but when they’re on, they can beat anyone. Remember, this is the same team that erased a big deficit against Virginia and easily could’ve won before falling in double overtime.

Mike Krzyzewski also talked after the game about this hopefully being a lesson for his young team on the intensity level needed in ACC play. With such a young team, it’s a fair point. Like so many results recently involving top 10 teams, this one also illustrated just how fragile even the best teams can be. There are best teams, but there are no unbeatable teams out there. The Blue Devils are not the first, and they’re hardly the last one that will slip this year.

Tuesday’s results:

  • Of course, the reason why teams like the final three unbeatens are ranked where they’ve been is how they look at their best. Kentucky and Virginia both played the role of bully Tuesday night, with the Wildcats never letting Missouri in the game in an 86-37 win and the Cavaliers only slightly letting Clemson hang around before disposing of the Tigers 65-42.
  • West Virginia played its part of attacking defensive pests exceptionally well again, forcing Oklahoma into 22 turnovers in an 86-65 win. The Mountaineers got an incredible 55 points from their bench.
  • Also in the Big 12, Kansas showed its mettle in a toughie again, holding off Oklahoma State 67-57. It’s hard to add much with the Jayhawks at this point. This is just what they do: win tough games in conference.
  • Speaking of mettle, Butler displayed its toughness once again as well, going to Seton Hall and coming out with a 79-75 overtime win. Roosevelt Jones scored 23 and was up to his usual awkward-looking, glass-banking best in making 9 of 15 from the field. The Big East continues to be terrific theater this year.
  • Tennessee survived a late Arkansas comeback when the Hogs’ Anton Beard missed three free throws with 5.1 seconds left. All three made would’ve tied it, but instead the Vols hang on for a 74-69 win.
  • VCU earned another tough road win, coming back to defeat Rhode Island 65-60. Treveon Graham delivered a signature performance, playing through an injury to score 26 points.
  • The best team in the AAC right now is…Tulsa??? The Golden Hurricane has made its claim in its last two games, winning at Temple and then defeating Connecticut 66-58 last night. This is the same team that lost to SE Oklahoma State. Unreal.
  • Ohio State easily handled Michigan 71-52. The Wolverines are still going to get some people this year, but this is just not the same type of team we’re used to in Ann Arbor the past couple years.
  • Northern Iowa made a triumphant return to the rankings with a 63-52 win at Bradley.
  • With his teams’ depth continuing to shrink, Rakeem Christmas may have to carry Syracuse the rest of this season. He showed he’s capable with a career-best 35 to help his team to an 86-83 overtime win over Wake Forest, which played well but has to feel like it let one slip away.
  • Minnesota continues to dig itself a deep, deep hole. The Golden Gophers came close again, but they lost again. Iowa squandered a 17-point lead and trailed by four late, but Jarrod Uthoff scored the game-winner with :08.7 left to give the Hawkeyes a 77-75 win.
  • Finally, Boise State rallied late to get UNLV to overtime and then pulled away for an 82-73 win in the Mountain West. The Broncos have been resilient this year, while the Runnin’ Rebels continue to struggle for consistency.

Side Dishes:

  • Indiana starting forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea is out for about a month after suffering a knee injury in practice Monday. Though Mosquera-Perea ranks just fifth on the team in scoring (7.4 ppg), this is a blow to the team’s interior defense. The junior ranks third on the squad in rebounding (5.0 rpg) and leads the team with 25 blocked shots, and while the Hoosiers defeated Penn State 76-73 Tuesday night, the Nittany Lions shot 47.0%, including 64.2% on shots inside the three-point line.
  • Georgia freshman Yante Maten will miss the Bulldogs’ game Wednesday night against Vanderbilt with a concussion after being struck by a car on campus Saturday night. It’s a blow to the team’s depth, as Maten is a key frontcourt reserve for UGA, averaging 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds.
  • In news from this weekend that slipped by the news outlets (and us) until Tuesday, SMU senior forward Justin Martin has decided to “forego the remainder of his senior year to turn pro,” according to Mustangs coach Larry Brown. Interesting way to put that. Martin was a senior graduate transfer from Xavier but was clearly never quite a fit at SMU. He averaged just over 12 minutes per game and saw decreased playing time as the season went on. Martin averaged 17 minutes over the Ponies’ first four games, but then after missing four games due to a knee injury had played just 54 minutes total in seven games since, including three minutes against Cincinnati on Jan. 3 and a DNP against Memphis Jan. 8. He finished averaging 5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds this season, well below his averages last year at Xavier when he was a double-digit scorer.

Tonight’s Menu:

North Carolina at N.C. State (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2)  As good of a rivalry as Duke/Carolina is, it makes this one almost underrated nationally to a degree.
Iowa State at Baylor (9 p.m. EST, ESPNU) 
The Bears are an NCAA Tournament team, but a couple wins in games like this might be the difference between being a 5 seed and being a 7 or 8 seed in March. Can’t wait to watch the Bears’ frontline bang with the Cyclones’ athletes.
St. John’s at Providence (7 p.m. EST, FS1)  The Johnnies need to get going after a tough start in Big East play with two home losses already. Providence is quietly plugging along, but the Friars’ win over Miami looks pretty good this morning.
SMU at Temple (7 p.m. EST, CBSSN)
 Important game for both teams. The AAC has been very competitive so far this year in a way that is not always visually appealing. Hopefully this one doesn’t turn out that way, but we kind of have an inkling it will.
Xavier at Villanova (9 p.m. EST, FS1)  The Musketeers need to show they can play as well on the road as they do at home, or this will be a team squarely on the bubble in two months. A win at Villanova would do wonders.
Hofstra at Northeastern  Big one in the CAA. Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki will be there.
San Diego State at Wyoming (10 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Great to see the Cowboys in the rankings. Over-under for this one may not reach 90.
Stanford at California (10 p.m. EST, ESPNU)  Like teams like Minnesota and St. John’s, Cal needs to right the ship now. Beating its rival would be a good start.

Have a great Wednesday.

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