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Saturday Notes – December 19, 2015

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With final exams in the books, Saturday represented a return to the busy Saturdays that we will see for most of the remainder of the season. It was also a day with a number of great matchups and some very significant outcomes. We saw the Crossroads Classic produce a couple of good ones as usual, as well as a few big ones in New York, and a few more teams appear to be gaining confidence with the wins continuing to pile up.

With that, here are notes from many of the day’s games.

Michigan State 78, Northeastern 58: A quality win for the Spartans, and let’s give Tom Izzo credit for scheduling this one, too. Many coaches would pass on playing a CAA contender at all, much less in their own gym. The Spartans went to Boston and convincingly handled the Huskies.

Utah 77, Duke 75 (OT): There was plenty of reason to wonder how the Utes would fare this season with most of their team back save for Delon Wright, their best player last year. But after this big win in New York, they are 9-2 and appear to be just fine.

Virginia 86, Villanova 75: A really good battle, as we expected, and one with some interesting stats. Virginia out-rebounded Villanova 31-19 and was 8-12 on three-pointers. We’ve also seen, as expected, that the Cavs’ lone loss, at George Washington, was far from a bad loss. Anthony Gill had the stat line of the day with 22 points on 8-9 shooting.

Butler 74, Purdue 68: A heavyweight matchup in the Crossroads Classic that goes to the 9-1 Bulldogs as they held Purdue’s terrific front line relatively in check aside from Caleb Swanigan’s 25 points (on 10-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards were a combined 4-16 from the field.

Indiana 80, Notre Dame 73: A big second half gives the Hoosiers a quality win in the other half of the Crossroads Classic, though this isn’t the Notre Dame of a year ago. But it’s a good win nonetheless with only Kennesaw State left before Big Ten play.

Ohio State 74, Kentucky 67: There might not have been a team that needed a win like this the way Ohio State did. The Buckeyes were just 5-5 and had not looked good. This can boost them significantly, though it’s up to them.

Northern Iowa 81, Iowa State 79: They don’t have the star power they had last season, but the Panthers are quietly 7-3 and have wins over North Carolina and Iowa State – the first Missouri Valley team to beat two teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll (at the time of the game) in the span of a month. It’s also the first time in 50 years a Valley team has done that in the same season.

Xavier 85, Auburn 61: Xavier is winning much like they have in prior years when they have won big, namely with great balance. In this one, they had five players score in double figures to improve to 11-0.

Arizona 82, UNLV 70: You have to like the way this Arizona team is trending. Besides the winning, the Wildcats appear to have settled into roles, with Ryan Anderson (17 points, 13 rebounds) being the stabilizing veteran as young studs like Allonzo Trier (15 points) start figuring it out.

Texas A&M 80, Baylor 61: A similar SEC performance to last season won’t have the Aggies sweating out Selection Sunday this time around. Add this to wins over Texas and Gonzaga, with losses only to Syracuse (neutral) and Arizona State (road), and they will enter conference play in a much better place.

Cincinnati 69, VCU 63: A year ago when these two teams met, the Bearcats had just been shellshocked to learn about Mick Cronin’s health. This time, Cronin was there and they got a solid road win behind another nice outing from Gary Clark, who just missed his second double-double of the season.

Florida 72, Oklahoma State 70: Whether or not this game means a lot later on depends on what kind of a turn these two teams take in their respective conferences. The jury is out on both, but it’s a nice win for the Gators and a missed opportunity for the Cowboys.

Oregon State 76, Tulsa 71: The young Beavers improve to 8-2 with a good win as they have only Quinnipiac left before Pac-12 play begins against arch-rival Oregon.

Texas 75, Stanford 73: The Longhorns keep building off the North Carolina win, this time heading west to win on the road.

LSU 100, Oral Roberts 77: Beating Gardner-Webb was one thing, but beating a good Oral Roberts team was another. That said, the Golden Eagles still shot over 48 percent against the Tigers, including 6-14 from deep, so defensive concerns remain for LSU.

Northwestern 79, DePaul 71: It’s not a resume full of quality wins, but the Wildcats are 10-1 as Big Ten play gets closer. They will enter having developed well and with confidence, and in a Big Ten with with a soft middle that’s wide open.

UNC Asheville 79, Georgetown 73: It’s a good thing the Hoyas are in the Big East, not the Big South, as they are 0-2 against Big South teams after dropping this one. UNC Ashveille has now won five straight games.

Georgia 75, Georgia Tech 61: Noteworthy in this game aside from the rivalry aspect – and J.J. Frazier scoring 35 to lead the Bulldogs – is that Yellow Jacket forward Charles Mitchell struggled with foul trouble and saw his streak of double-doubles end at nine to start the season.

Seton Hall 80, Wichita State 76: At this point, the Shockers are likely going to be a “strictly automatic” NCAA Tournament team. This is not a bad loss, but it doesn’t help on top of the ones they already have. At most it was a missed opportunity.

Oakland 97, Washington 83: Greg Kampe’s 7-3 team is all that stands between Michigan State and their best start in school history. They’ll come in fresh off this win over a young but growing Washington team behind 38 points and nine assists from Kahlil Felder.

Houston 81, Eastern Illinois 65: Is Kelvin Sampson starting to turn a corner in year two? The Cougars are 8-1 with a win over LSU included, and while not a resume builder, it surely helps the confidence.

Saint Joseph’s 79, Illinois State 65: The Hawks could have gone one way or the other with their personnel, and are now 8-2 after a good win against the Redbirds.

Fordham 70, Maine 53: Jeff Neubauer is doing the first thing at Fordham, which is winning games. The Rams haven’t beaten anyone, but they are getting better and gaining confidence.

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