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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 8, 2016

December 8, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

The ranks of unbeaten teams in NCAA Division I college basketball dwindled a little further last night.

Butler became the first team to drop, when Indiana State’s Brenton Scott hit a free throw with less than a second left to give the Sycamores a 72-71 victory. The Bulldogs lost for the first time in nine games, while ISU continues to work on evening the score after three close losses in the AdvoCare Invitational-and did so in this one on Larry Bird’s 60th birthday, too!

TCU soon lost too, trimming the list of teams without a loss to nine, as SMU topped the Horned Frogs 74-59 in a game closer than the final score. Former president George W. Bush and wife Laura were on hand, as was former British prime minister David Cameron, and it’s time that this rivalry of Dallas vs. Fort Worth picks up steam and becomes a big deal every year, the way it ought to be.

A common thread? Both Butler and TCU were not just playing on the road, but were playing their first true road games of the season.

This isn’t to say that Butler and TCU aren’t capable of winning on the road-they are, and they will, especially the Bulldogs, who have the look of a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s just a reminder of how important location of games is in this sport, and just why the selection committee gets it so blatantly, utterly wrong when it ignores road results as much as it has the past couple years. (See: Monmouth 2016)

There is a huge difference between winning at home or even at a neutral site, and winning on the road. The selections in March are rejecting one of the most basic facts of this sport when they don’t recognize that. On top of that, they could do a service to the entire sport by rewarding road wins appropriately, encouraging teams to play more road games in November and December to provide some more spice to the sport at this time of the season.

It should be noted: a third unbeaten team played on the road on Wednesday but did remain undefeated, as Creighton dumped Nebraska 77-62. Make that 15 wins in the last 18 meetings in this series for the Bluejays, who improved to 9-0, including-yes-1-0 in true road games.

Side Dishes:

  • Colorado picked up a win that could go a long way in March, defeating Xavier 68-66. The Buffaloes went on a 15-0 run in the second half to turn this one around.
  • After its loss to UCLA, Kentucky came out motivated as expected, jumping on Valparaiso early and cruising to an 87-63 win. North Carolina had more trouble with Davidson but won 83-74 as Justin Jackson hit seven three-pointers on his way to 27 points.
  • Seton Hall won the unofficial Pearl Harbor Invitational title, edging California 60-57. The Pirates finished as the sole 2-0 team in this terrific event, which needs to just go all the way and change to a tournament format next year.
  • Gonzaga throttled Washington 98-71 in a game that was never in doubt. Nigel Williams-Goss burnt his former team for 23 points, five rebounds and five assists.
  • UAB won at Stephen F. Austin 84-73, snapping the Lumberjacks’ 31-game home winning streak. The Blazers-who also put a halt to Old Dominion’s 32-game streak at home last year-shot a school-record 72.1%, making 31 of 43 from the field.
  • Staying on the subject of road winners: George Mason was mighty impressive, blowing out Penn State in the second half for an 85-66 win that serves notice that the Patriots are going to be dangerous in the Atlantic 10 this year. After a shaky 1-3 start that included losses to Towson and Mount St. Mary’s plus a 37-point beating to Houston, GMU has won six in a row.
  • Harvard won at Boston College 74-66 as Tommy Amaker became the winningest coach in school history with his 179th victory. Georgia Tech also scored a nice road conquest, winning 76-73 in overtime at VCU, which suddenly has two straight disappointing results after also getting drilled by Illinois. VCU is one tough place to play, though, and Tech should be proud of this one.
  • Rivalry games: North Dakota won at North Dakota State 74-56 with Geno Crandall scoring 24 points. Washington State also defeated Idaho for the first time in three years, posting a 61-48 win at home.
  • Grand Canyon knocked off San Diego State for the second year in a row, this time a 76-72 win in Arizona. The Mountain West early on is doing its best to again be a one-bid conference this year.
  • George Washington played a stinker on Sunday against Florida State but delivered big time last night, winning at Temple 66-63 in a battle of former Atlantic 10 rivals. Tyler Cavanaugh drained the winning three-pointer with eight seconds left in the game.
  • Finally, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor it was Army defeating Air Force 79-71, a prelude to the great Army/Navy football game coming up this weekend.
  • Hoopville’s Paul Borden checks in on Miami (Fla.), where freshman Bruce Brown is off to a hot start.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • A light slate has two top contenders for the best game. The in-state rivalry game between Iowa State and Iowa (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2) is always a treat, hotly contested, and for atmosphere no game will duplicate this one. Perhaps the best pairing of two teams, though, could be in Moraga, Calif., where improving Texas-Arlington is at No. 12 Saint Mary’s, one of those games that richly deserves a national television slot but won’t have one.
  • Those watching across the nation can watch Nicholls State play at Florida State, though (9 p.m., ESPNU). At least the Colonels won at Boston College earlier this year; otherwise, this one would fall in the category of inexcusable TV scheduling.
  • Vanderbilt is at Middle Tennessee State (7:30 p.m., CBSSN), and it’s not unreasonable to say this is a game MTSU not just can win, but should.
  • Fordham is at St. John’s for some New York City hoops (6:30 p.m., FS1).
  • Pacific takes a trip across country to go up against Massachusetts. At first this seems like a surprising one-off game out east for the Tigers, but a closer look reveals it is part of the Gotham Classic, another of those exempted events too often polluting the sport’s landscape. This event doesn’t even pretend to be a tournament, featuring only a round-robin among Pacific, UMass, Kennesaw State, North Carolina A&T and Rider. This is what the future of the historic tourneys like the Great Alaska Shootout is being threatened for. Sigh. This loophole in preseason events needs to be closed ASAP.

Have a terrific Thursday.

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