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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

It was time for a wild college basketball Saturday, and we sure got one yesterday.

A busy and varied schedule was filled with surprises, upsets that maybe weren’t really that big of upsets, as well as near-upsets. There was something for just about everyone, and it had all the feeling of one of those Saturdays in the midst of conference schedules where also rans rise up to topple powers, but at least a month earlier than we usually get them.

Seventeen teams in the Associated Press Top 25 played on Saturday. Five were knocked off. Three more escaped by a hair, two of them after falling into huge holes at home.

The No. 3-ranked team was taken down, Oklahoma outrunning Wichita State 91-83 with freshman Trae Young starring with 29 points and 10 assists. If this was shocking to some, it shouldn’t have been-efficiency darling or not, the Shockers have looked vulnerable on and off, and OU has been on a roll offensively. No. 15 Seton Hall lost to a hungry rival when Rutgers went on a stunning 17-2 run to end the game and win 71-65. Again, this one shouldn’t have surprised as much as it did; the Scarlet Knights were at home, after all.

Indiana came back to defeat Notre Dame 80-77 in overtime, showing again that the Hoosiers are not cooked this year. And the Orange Bowl Classic doubleheader saw both home state schools surprised, with Oklahoma State knocking off previously undefeated Florida State 71-70 and Clemson following by coming back to top Florida 71-69.

Conference television networks had a bad day, as the likes of Stephen F. Austin (winning an 83-82 thriller over LSU), Illinois State (a 101-97 overtime victor at Mississippi) and New Mexico State (74-69 over Illinois) won on the SEC and Big Ten’s channels. It would’ve been even worse if Middle Tennessee State would’ve completed a comeback from 25 points down against Auburn, but the Tigers held on 76-70. The ACC’s regular Saturday game of the week on Fox Sports regional networks had UNC Greensboro rallying from a big early deficit to defeat North Carolina State 81-76.

And we were so much closer to even more craziness. East Tennessee State led Xavier by 20 with less than 12 minutes left, and North Dakota was up on Gonzaga by nine with less than five to play. The host schools then turned on the pressure, though, and the lead squads seemed to go into prevent offenses, hoping to bleed the clock before they could get caught. The Musketeers and Zags both completed their comebacks-barely-with X winning 68-66 and the Bulldogs nabbing an 89-83 W in overtime. And then there was Nebraska, which had a two-point lead in the final minute against Kansas, only to permit Svi Mikhailiuk to hit the game-winning three in a 73-72 win.

Side Dishes:

  • No game had a better finish than St. Bonaventure and Vermont, as the Bonnies’ Matt Mobley hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bonnies an 81-79 victory in Rochester, N.Y. This is one that could pay off in March.
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a more resilient win all season than Illinois State’s overtime triumph at Ole MIss. A team already curtailed heavily by injuries, the Redbirds lost three starters to fouls and played the overtime with five guards on the court. Milik Yarbrough just missed a triple-double (25 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists).
  • The headscratcher of the day: Florida Gulf Coast, fresh off a road win at Texas-Arlington, lost at home to Oral Roberts by 19 points, 82-63. That’s the same ORU squad which lost to NCAA Division II Southern Nazarene just last week (but did beat Missouri State its last time out).
  • The season’s renaissance award goes to Indiana, or maybe Iowa State, which continued to play well by taking over in the final 10 minutes to top Northern Iowa 76-65. Or maybe it’s BYU, which late in the evening handled rival Utah 77-65 and is now 9-2.

Today’s Menu:

  • The showcase game of the day is a pair of top-20 teams meeting with North Carolina at Tennessee (3 p.m. Eastern, ESPN). The Vols gave UNC a bear of a time last year when they were still figuring it out and the Tar Heels won the national title.
  • The ol’ ancient Holiday Festival is still alive at Madison Square Garden, albeit unfortunately reduced to a one-day doubleheader now. Still, this year’s has a pair of intriguing games: Air Force against Army because it’s a pair of military academics, and Iona vs. St. John’s (4:30 p.m., FS1) because it may be a battle for New York City supremacy.
  • Central Connecticut State has been stubborn more often than not this season, so Boston College doesn’t have a freebie hosting the Blue Devils.
  • No team has had better breaks in its scheduling the last two years than Vanderbilt, which out of nowhere posted the top-ranked non-conference strength of schedule last year, and now this year takes on an Arizona State team that was expected to be a Pac-12 also-ran again…except it is now ranked in the top five (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
  • Northern Kentucky goes to Maryland-Baltimore County for a matchup of two of the most improved teams in the nation last year who are both still plenty solid teams this year. UMBC’s Jairus Lyles against NKU’s Lavone Holland is a great guard matchup here.
  • George Mason drilled Penn State on the road a year ago, and now the Patriots get the rare privilege of hosting a Big Ten team with the Nittany Lions in town today.
  • Quietly a good game, Southland contender Lamar is at Southern Illinois, a decent team in the Missouri Valley that is one of many in the league hammered by injuries.
  • The West Coast has some potentially excellent games. San Francisco is at Stanford in a Bay Area battle (6 p.m., ESPNU), while surprising UC Santa Barbara takes a shot at USC (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Also, Utah Valley plays at Hawaii, which hasn’t played in more than a week.

Enjoy a relaxing Sunday.


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