On Monday, Oklahoma ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in 26 years. The Sooners’ stay there will almost certainly be a short one.
The greatest season for the Sooners since Billy Tubbs was coach-or at least the greatest regular season since then (we won’t forget the 2002 Final Four appearance under Kelvin Sampson) hit a temporary speed bump Monday night with an 82-77 loss at Iowa State in another terrific Big 12 Big Monday game on ESPN.
The result was hardly a surprise. Road play in the Big 12 should explain it sufficiently, but add in the Hilton Coliseum factor, plus a Cyclones team that needed this one badly, and Oklahoma frankly has nothing to apologize for here.
Iowa State picked up a redeeming win in a season that is already being labeled by some as a disappointment (if you don’t believe it, check out the online comments by ISU fans). Steve Prohm stepped into a nearly no-win situation this year, replacing a school legend in Fred Hoiberg, and having a stocked cupboard with four starters back that led to the Cyclones being a regular in the top 10 of preseason polls.
The truth is, the situation was not and is not as plum as many depicted it to be. While Iowa State returned most of its players, it did not return them all-Dustin Hogue and Bryce DeJean-Jones were key pieces a year ago. Frankly, ISU also was a flawed team even last year, never a defensive juggernaut and susceptible to struggling if its shots weren’t falling, as evidenced by its first-round flameout against UAB in the NCAA Tournament. Things were complicated further this year when Naz Mitrou-Long was lost for the season due to injury.
All of which isn’t to say the Cyclones are not capable of making a deep run in March. They certainly are, and Monday night’s win showed it once again (and, to a degree, justifies some of the high expectations this year). As shown this year already by losses to teams like Texas and Northern Iowa, though, it’s also a team capable of losing very early in this year’s tourney. Which really makes the team not much different than last year’s.
- One team’s slide was temporarily stemmed, but another’s continued as Syracuse won at Duke 64-62. Whether it seems good right now or not-Coach K’s team has now lost three straight-by the end of the year this is going to be a huge win for the Cuse. And after last year’s national title, regular season games for the Blue Devils almost feel a touch anti-climactic. As much as anyone, this is a team that will be measured by its postseason, not its regular season.
- Texas Tech held on for a 76-69 win at TCU, a result that may seem benign but is an important one if the Red Raiders are going to make a run at an NCAA tourney spot. The bench carried the day in this one-led by 16 from Aaron Ross and 14 more from Justin Gray, reserves scored 46 of Tech’s 76 points.
- Purdue won at Rutgers 107-57. On the road. It’s awfully easy to beat up on the Scarlet Knights after this, but don’t blame the team. Blame the Big Ten for adding a school that was, is and for a long time will be a square peg in a round hole. We’re guessing 50-point losses in conference at home aren’t doing much to capture the New York market.
- Valparaiso moved to 16-3 with a 96-65 win at Youngstown State. Meanwhile, suddenly surging in the Horizon League is Wright State, now 5-1 in conference games after a 77-76 win over Detroit.
- Meanwhile, Arkansas-Little Rock lost for just the second time this season, falling behind by 19 before a furious rally fell just short in a 76-73 loss at Arkansas State. Both are now tied atop the Sun Belt.
- Monmouth continued to roll with an 85-69 win over Siena. Interesting is that the Hawks won fairly easily despite being outrebounded 44-30 in this game.
- Oregon State forward Jarmal Reid has been suspended for at least four games by coach Wayne Tinkle after his actions Sunday night when he intentionally tripped a referee in the Beavers’ 59-52 loss at Utah. OSU will evaluate Reid in that time and will hold the suspension at four games if he shows remorse over the time.
- A sad note from Sunday as former VCU forward Sherron Mills passed away at the age of 44 due to ALS, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Mills played for three years for the Rams under coach Sonny Smith, averaging 11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in his career. His best year came as a senior in 1992-93, a year when VCU went 20-10 and just missed an NCAA Tournament bid out of the old Metro Conference. He is survived by wife Shondra and daughter Sherriah.
- Butler and Providence played one of the best high-level games of the season a few weeks ago. They meet for the second time this season (6:30 p.m. EST, FS1), and the winner will get a much-needed pick-me-up as both have had some struggles of late.
- Incredibly, Clemson at Virginia is suddenly one of the games of the night. The Tigers are on a roll, while the Cavaliers are not.
South Carolina is still in the rankings, but the Gamecocks’ will need to keep winning games such as their trip to Mississippi Tuesday to stay there.
- Important game in the Atlantic 10 as Dayton travels to Olean, N.Y., to face St. Bonaventure, and it’s a contest only a tad less of a big deal after the Bonnies’ loss to Duquesne this weekend.
- If North Carolina State is going to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s time to make a move. The Wolfpack can start by winning at Pittsburgh.
- What goes for N.C. State also goes for Georgetown. The Hoyas have a lot of work to do, but a win at Xavier (8:30 p.m., FS1) would be a good start on that.
- If LSU really is turning a corner, we should see it Tuesday with at least a very competitive game at Texas A&M (9 p.m., ESPN), which more and more is looking like the best team in the SEC.
- Houston missed out on a couple chances to really build its profile last week in losses to Cincinnati and Connecticut, but the Cougars could wipe that away in a jiffy if they can pin SMU with its first loss (9 p.m., ESPNU).
- Last year’s CBI and CIT winners meet for the first time this year as Loyola (Ill.) is at Evansville (9 p.m., CBSSN).
Enjoy your Tuesday.