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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

Kentucky and Georgia provided us five more minutes of basketball Tuesday night, and five more minutes of Brent Musberger.

It was a win for everyone but the Bulldogs, as the Wildcats finally pulled away in overtime for a 90-81 win in a game that has to be concerning to anyone who views UK as an unbeatable power this year, yet really is an accurate portrayal of a mega-talented but still young team. Malik Monk scored 37 points and Isaiah Briscoe neared a triple-double, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and Kentucky needed all of it in a game where it trailed by 14 points in the early minutes and by two in the final seconds before a huge jumper by Monk.

It also was the final game calling college basketball for the 77-year old Musberger, who-love him or not-certainly holds a place in the history of the sport, and in sports broadcasting as a whole.

Musberger was one of the most prominent voices in sports for several generations. Those watching in the 70s and 80s will remember him anchoring CBS’s NFL coverage-especially on the NFL Today when it was setting the standard for pregame shows-while In more recent years he called many of the biggest college football and basketball games with ABC and ESPN.

Most notably for college basketball, Musberger was right in the center of it in the 80s, a fondly remembered time in the sport with a seemingly endless supply of great players and teams and when the NCAA Tournament grew to unimagined heights. With Billy Packer, he called six Final Fours from 1985-90, a stretch that included a run of legendary title games from 1985-89, from Villanova’s titanic upset of Georgetown to Michigan’s overtime win over Seton Hall. He also was in the studio for early rounds of the tournament then, back when ESPN and CBS were growing the event into what it is today.

You can’t talk about the growth of college basketball into what it is today without acknowledging Musberger. In fact, you can’t talk about the growth of sports on television without him. Flawed or not, that’s the mark of a legend.

Side Dishes:

  • Maybe Creighton is going to be ok after all. The Bluejays won their second straight with a 76-67 win at Butler, which lends credence to our belief that the Jays had more talent than they showed immediately after Maurice Watson’s injury, and maybe they just needed a little time to get their bearings.
  • Maryland just keeps on winning, improving to 20-2 with a narrow 77-71 win at Ohio State. Freshman Justin Jackson continues to bud, and he had 22 points and 12 rebounds here. At some point, what the Terps are doing is not an accident, and this looks like a team that is learning how to win and quickly.
  • North Carolina continues to puzzle. The same team that has some devastating performances in wins this year struggles in others, most recently an 80-78 win over Pittsburgh last night.
  • Hassan Martin had his second straight big game for Rhode Island, which closed the game on a 13-1 run to defeat George Washington. E.C. Matthews is their best player, but as Martin goes, so go the Rams.
  • We just talked about Akron’s explosiveness yesterday, and almost on cue the Zips showed it Tuesday night, storming back from a 14-point deficit on the road to defeat Northern Illinois 76-73. The Zips are now 19-3 and still undefeated in the MAC at 9-0.
  • West Virginia added to Iowa State’s frustrations with an 85-72 win in Ames. Maybe the definition of the Mountaineers’ depth: James Bolden played just five minutes in the game, but scored eight points, including two three-pointers.
  • Missouri State played its third straight overtime game, but the Bears saw a payoff in the end in the form of a hard-fought 82-81 win over Loyola (Ill.) in a terrific battle for place in the Missouri Valley. Alize Johnson is one of the better newcomers this year you haven’t heard of, and he had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Bears.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Virginia is the place to be Wednesday. The best game of the night is also one of the best rivalries in the country the past 5-10 years. Richmond is at VCU (7 p.m. Eastern, CBSSN), and the Siegel Center will be electric for a series where every single game of late has seemed to come down to the wire. Later in the evening, Virginia Tech is at Virginia in what you can bet will be an equally heated game in the ACC.
  • The biggest game of the night will undoubtedly be No. 2 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas (9 p.m., ESPN2). The Bears just haven’t had much luck with the schedule when they’ve risen high in the polls; they played at West Virginia a day after ascending to No. 1 earlier this year.
  • Speaking of the ACC, opportunities to separate in the middle of the pack abound, with Georgia Tech at Clemson and Syracuse at North Carolina State. The first game in particular is intriguing, to see if the Yellow Jackets can win on the road or if the Tigers can continue turning it back around.
  • Villanova has another tricky road trip in the Big East as it travels to Providence (7 p.m., FS1). The Friars have been up and down but when up are very dangerous, as Marquette found out this past weekend. Speaking of the Golden Eagles, they are at St. John’s (7 p.m., FS2), and a loss would continue to undo the good of their recent win over Villanova.
  • Two of those teams in the battle for third in the American meet with Central Florida at Houston (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Summit League leader North Dakota State should be on upset alert at IUPUI. The Jaguars lost to the Bison by just four in the first meeting and are much better than their share-of-the-league-cellar record indicates.
  • TCU’s NCAA tourney hopes may be starting to fade-or at least they would be most years-but the Horned Frogs can jumpstart them with a win at fellow purple team Kansas State (7:30 p.m., ESPNews).
  • More in the ACC: where is Florida State at? We’ll get a good idea with their trip to Miami.
  • Northwestern is in the rankings, but now the tough part of the Wildcats’ schedule begins, starting with a trip to Purdue (8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Boilermakers lost to Nebraska on Sunday but have been excellent coming off defeats so far this year.
  • Is Tulsa a contender to win the AAC? The Golden Hurricane get a golden opportunity to answer that in the affirmative, hosting No. 14 Cincinnati (9 p.m., CBSSN).
  • Streaking Northern Iowa plays at MVC undefeated Illinois State, with the status of Redbirds star MiKyle McIntosh unknown as he deals with a knee injury.
  • We’ll also be curious to see how Xavier does in its first game without Edmond Sumner, though at least the Musketeers are at home for an important game with Seton Hall (9 p.m., FS1).

Enjoy your Wednesday.

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