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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Pac-12 provided a wonderful race to watch last season. This season looks like it won’t be any different, even if the conference doesn’t replicate its accomplishment of being all over the top of the RPI.

The conference is actually doing pretty well once again in terms of putting teams into the upper echelon of the RPI. Four teams are in the top 25 and three more make the lower part of the top 100. Utah is not far off. It’s a little ways from a year ago, when all but one team was in the top 100, but a lot of basketball remains. What we saw on Sunday, in particular the last game of the day, indicates that it should be a fun couple of months.

In the earlier game, UCLA took care of Stanford 89-75, although the Cardinal didn’t embarrass themselves. In fact, they outscored the Bruins 45-41 in the second half and got a nice double-double from Michael Humphrey (27 points, 14 rebounds). Stanford is winless in Pac-12 play, while UCLA is 3-1, and the Cardinal would be a little different if Reid Travis were healthy as he is out with a shoulder injury.

The late game was a thriller across town from the earlier one. Cal and USC played a back-and-forth game, with each team trading runs. There were six ties in the first half alone, including at the break when Jordan McLaughlin, who is one of the most underrated players in America, hit from halfcourt at the buzzer. USC gave Cal a few different looks defensively, and the Golden Bears figured out a way to score against most of them.

The second half saw more of the same, but one key stretch came when Cal forward Ivan Rabb picked up his fourth foul and had to sit for a while. USC was never able to put some distance between them, and then Rabb came back in to make some key plays at both ends of the floor in the final minutes. Rabb made two free throws with five seconds left to provide what would be the final score, then blocked an attempt by McLaughlin at the buzzer with help from Jabari Bird, and Cal held on for a 74-73 win.

It’s Cal’s first road win in just their second true road game of the season, a year after they went most of the season without a road win. It’s also USC’s first home loss of the season.

Both teams had significant personnel losses from a year ago, but have recovered well. Both are also 2-2 in early Pac-12 play, but have given reasons to believe that they will be in the mix for NCAA Tournament bids come March. The conference may come down to Oregon and Arizona, with UCLA appearing to be right there, but in all the early Pac-12 games have shown that we likely have quiet a couple of months ahead out west.

 

Side Dishes

NC State made the short trip to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina in a game originally slated for Saturday night – or at least, they appeared to do that. The Tar Heels scored enough points to win this game in just over 20 minutes, running out to a 56-23 halftime lead en route to a 107-56 annihilation of the Wolfpack.

We already figured the Big Ten would provide as competitive a race as any, and Sunday kept that going. Purdue beat Wisconsin 66-55 in West Lafayette to go to 3-1 behind another double-double from Caleb Swanigan (18 points, 13 rebounds), while Northwestern handed Nebraska their first conference loss with a 74-66 decision in Lincoln, Iowa beat Rutgers to join the Wildcats at 2-2, and Minnesota moved to 3-1 with a 78-68 win over Ohio State, who is still winless in Big Ten play. Swanigan’s double-double is his eighth straight and nation-leading 14th on the season.

Kentucky picked up a big win on Saturday evening, then on Sunday scored a different win – a commitment from a key recruit. Hamidou Diallo, a big-time prospect, committed to Kentucky and will enroll at the university next week. Reports indicate he is unlikely to play this season, instead redshirting and then playing in 2017-18. His addition only adds to the Wildcats’ riches of talent, as they once again have a stacked group of talent making their college debuts in Lexington next year.

The Big East fined Butler $5,000 for their fans storming the court following their win over Villanova on Wednesday night. The school will donate the money to the Be the Match charity. Considering the Bulldogs had another plane problem on Saturday that delayed their return to Indianapolis, this is quite minor compared to what the program has dealt with in recent years.

Winter Storm Helena continues to leave a mark on college basketball, as South Carolina State’s game at Norfolk State that was slated for Monday has been postponed.

 

Tonight’s Menu

The national championship game on the gridiron will naturally take a lot of folks’ attention, but for those who want to watch action on the hardwood either in between that or by itself, there’s a light slate with something to offer.

  • Georgetown continues to look for their first Big East win as they host St. John’s (6:30 p.m.)
  • The MEAC, Sun Belt and SWAC have busy slates of action, and about the only matchup that stands out as perhaps an early showdown of sorts is Jackson State hosting Southern (8:30 p.m.)

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