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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

One Big 12 team earned a signature win Tuesday night, the kind that may well be a golden ticket right into the NCAA Tournament in March. Another Big 12 team had a chance to do the exact same thing-and missed in excuciating fashion.

Texas Tech and Kansas State are two of a large number of major conference teams that were unknown quantities entering conference play, in large part because of (intentional or not) pillow-soft non-conference schedules. Tech took advantage of a prime opportunity on Tuesday, though, edging West Virginia 77-76 in overtime for easily its best win of the season.

The Red Raiders were superb at handling WVU’s press, committing just 11 turnovers in a 45-minute game. They also recovered after losing a lead late in regulation and emerged from a back-and-forth final minutes of overtime. Anthony Livingston hit a three-pointer from the left corner with eight seconds left and Texas Tech came away with the biggest win of Chris Beard’s first year as coach.

The Red Raiders appeared in the NCAA Tournament last year but were a fairly quiet entrant and exited in the first round. Tech entered this year with a capable team but rather off the radar with coach Tubby Smith gone, and also keeping the team out of the limelight was a light non-conference schedule where the top wins entering Tuesday were against…Rice and Richmond, perhaps?

It’s going to be hard to ignore Texas Tech going forward, considering the team was able to do what so many have not in just staying close to the Mountaineers, let alone beating them. Beard has a nice team that plays team offense and defense, is considerably more capable offensively than a year ago, and is just getting more and more comfortable with its new coach.

It also is hard not to take notice of Kansas State right now, even as the Wildcats came up just short against their in-state rivals. Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk went coast-to-coast and scored on a layup at the buzzer to give the Jayhawks a 90-88 win, sending K-State to a heartbreaking loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

The finish was clouded in controversy after Mykhailiuk obviously picked up his dribble and took four steps to the basket on the final play, enough footwork to get one a good start on doing The Hustle dance. It’s was the epitome of a ‘C’mon Man’ moment. That’s a travel even in the NBA (even LeBron James might’ve been called for it…might’ve been), and just as ignored travels in the pros are embarrassing, this one was too for its obvious nature.

It overshadowed a night where the Wildcats-so long a foil of the Jayhawks, having now lost 61 of their last 68 to KU-played a terrific game, refusing to go away down the stretch. Kansas State even had a chance to win it in the final seconds, missing a three-pointer with seven seconds left before Kansas held the final possession and went the length of the court in 5.6 seconds.

Kansas State is a team that impressed us earlier this year in a convincing win over Colorado State in Denver, dominating a team that won at Colorado. The Wildcats have a quality starting five with balanced scoring, while D.J. Johnson has emerged as an enforcer inside.

K-State entered the Kansas game with a sparkling 12-1 record, the same as KU, but not a one of those wins was over a current RPI top 100 team and, frankly, the Colorado State victory is probably the best one. The Wildcats showed plenty in a loss Tuesday, though they’ll still need to take advantage of their plenty of chances to beef up their resume as Big 12 play continues.

Side Dishes:

  • North Carolina and Clemson engaged in a terrific game, with the Tar Heels pulling out an 89-86 win in overtime. Joel Berry scored a career-high 31 points and hit seven three-pointers. It was an outstanding effort and a game that spoke well of the Tigers, but as cutthroat as the ACC is, they could rue this one in March.
  • Wisconsin won at Indiana 75-68, earning the road win despite getting out-rebounded 32-25 and getting very little from its bench. It’s getting close to some panic time for the Hoosiers, who are starting to look very ordinary, even acknowledging how good the Badgers are. This marks three straight losses, all at home.
  • Kentucky mauled Texas A&M 100-58. Malik Monk was on fire again-26 points, 5 of 7 from three-point range. Meanwhile, Florida topped Mississippi 70-63 as Canyon Barry got it going (20 points), and the Gators are looking like a clear No. 2 to UK at this point.
  • Dayton had some hiccups early in the season, but don’t write the Flyers off just yet. UD issued a collective ‘shhhhh’ to St. Bonaventure and the Atlantic 10, spanking the Bonnies 90-74 on the road and without Charles Cooke, who missed the game with a back injury. The Flyers drained 13 of 20 three-point attempts.
  • Like Dayton, Rhode Island also made a living from behind the arc on Tuesday. The Rams hit 16 of 30 from deep in an 88-58 rout of Saint Joseph’s, which fared very poorly in its first game without top scorer Shavar Newkirk, who is out the rest of the year with a knee injury.
  • Central Florida’s defense continues to be outstanding. The Knights of Pegasus (which once was UCF’s actual school nickname-not joking; it’s now just ‘Knights,’ of course) squeezed by East Carolina 48-45 despite shooting 26.1%, in large part because ECU shot just 26.7%. B.J. Taylor returned for the Knights and scored 19 big points off the bench, making up for a rare silent night by Tacko Fall (zero points, 0 for 6 from the floor, seven rebounds, no blocked shots).
  • MAC play opened, and home teams went 5-0 on the night. The most impressive performances came from Ohio-which routed Western Michigan 89-58-and Eastern Michigan, which rolled to an 85-63 win over Central Michigan, giving the Chippewas just their fourth loss of the season.
  • South Florida announced a coaching change on Tuesday, letting Orlando Antigua go in his third season with the team. Antigua coached the Bulls to a 23-55 record over 2 1/2 years, with his time marked by player defections and a current NCAA investigation into academic violations. It’s been a tough several years for the Bulls, who originally hired Manhattan’s Steve Masiello for this position before it was discovered that Masiello had never finished his bachelor’s degree, which resulted in USF going in another direction and eventually hiring Antigua, a former Pittsburgh player and Kentucky assistant. Former UAB and East Tennessee State head coach Murry Bartow is the interim coach for the rest of the season, not a bad fall-back option to have.
  • VCU has just started to heat up, but the Rams now must play without freshman De’Riante Jenkins for the next 6-8 weeks after he broke a bone in his left foot in Friday’s win over George Mason. Jenkins has been an impact player in the backcourt as a freshman and was averaging 5.0 points per game and shooting 52.1% from the floor off the bench.
  • Southern Illinois has had its share of bad injury luck this year, with senior guard Tyler Smithpeters injured in the season opener and it recently being revealed he will miss the entire season, but the Salukis got some good news as it was announced Armon Fletcher suffered just a sprain and not a broken bone in his foot last week. There is no timetable yet for the return of Fletcher, an improving player who was averaging 13.8 points per game.

Tonight’s Menu: It’s a busy Wednesday with a lot of solid games across the country

  • The night begins with a huge game as No. 1-ranked Villanova faces another road test when it travels to Butler (6:30 p.m. Eastern, FS1). The Wildcats just won on the road at Creighton and already won against a highly ranked team in the state of Indiana earlier this year (Purdue).
  • An interesting SEC game has South Carolina at Georgia (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Mike Krzyzewski coaches his final game at Duke before taking a leave of absence, and the Blue Devils face a flying-high Georgia Tech team (7 p.m., ESPN2) coming off a win over North Carolina.
  • Syracuse tries to get back on track when it hosts Miami (Fla.). Another team looking to turn its season back around at home is Texas, which hosts Oklahoma State.
  • Early MAAC quad-leaders Quinnipiac and Canisius face off in Buffalo.
  • Georgetown goes to Providence in a must-win game for both teams (7 p.m., CBSSN). Neither wants to drop to 0-3 in the Big East.
  • Baylor is now up to the No. 2 spot in the rankings, and it hosts Iowa State (8 p.m., ESPNews).
  • It’s another knock-down, drag-out night in the ACC. Louisville travels to Notre Dame, Virginia is at Pittsburgh-with the Panthers badly needing a marquee win-and newly ranked Virginia Tech is at North Carolina State.
  • Come off its first loss, Creighton has a tricky one at suddenly resurgent St. John’s (8:30 p.m., FS1).
  • IPFW and Nebraska-Omaha meet in a good one in the Summit League.
  • Texas Southern and Southern meet for the first time this year in a clash of the SWAC’s two top programs over recent years.
  • Missouri State is at Illinois State in a pairing of two teams that might-might-be the top challengers to Wichita State in the MVC.
  • Temple is at SMU (9 p.m., CBSSN) and Tulsa goes to Houston (9 p.m., ESPNU) in AAC action.
  • Long Beach State and UC Irvine resume their Black & Blue rivalry in the Big West.
  • San Diego State goes to Nevada in a meeting of the preseason top two in the Mountain West (11 p.m., ESPN2), while Wyoming at Fresno State is another solid matchup in the MWC.

Enjoy the 11th day of Christmas.

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