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Saturday Notes – January 6, 2018

January 7, 2018 Columns No Comments

As noted on our most recent podcast, last Saturday was a tough act to follow, but this Saturday had the potential given some of the matchups that were set to go.

Consider that potential harnessed.

Great games that came down to the end? We had them, starting early with Florida beating Missouri on a steal and buzzer-beating layup.

Surprises? We had them, from LSU beating Texas A&M (so this was also a great game that came down to the end, too) to NC State knocking off Duke.

The SEC remaining interesting? We had that, as hinted at earlier. The conference might be the one most worth watching from a competitive standpoint, although the Pac-12 could give it a run for its money from that angle. This might be the most wide-open race in the country, and even the team most figured to be the cellar team – LSU – is far from an easy out.

Without anything further, here are notes from a number of the day’s games.

West Virginia 89, Oklahoma 76: This was much-anticipated, and was a pretty good game. Trae Young had 29 points, but it was far from his best game as he had five assists with turnovers, and at times looked frustrated. West Virginia looks more and more like the real favorite in the Big 12 right now, though we should never speak too soon when it comes to Kansas and the Big 12.

Kansas 88, TCU 84: So many of us – I am not exempt – talked about Kansas being vulnerable in the Big 12, and just like that, they go to Fort Worth and knock off one of the chief challengers in one of the best games of the day. Mitch Lightfoot, of all people, was a difference-maker in a career-high 26 minutes for a Jayhawk team whose lack of depth up front has been well-documented.

Texas Tech 74, Kansas State 58: The Red Raiders are 3-0 in the Big 12 for the first time in 14 years thanks to a big first half.

Baylor 69, Texas 60: The Big 12 is right there with the SEC in terms of being interesting all the way around, so much so that this is Baylor’s first win. The Bears made big plays late to seal this one.

NC State 96, Duke 85: The Blue Devils have dug themselves holes all season long that they have almost always been able to dig out of. They couldn’t do it in Raleigh on Saturday night, and NC State beat them for the second straight time.

Virginia 61, North Carolina 49: With the way the Cavaliers finished up last season – clearly trending downward – you could be forgiven for not expecting quite so much from them this season. So much for that. This team is playing the defense they have been and now scoring enough to win again.

Clemson 74, Louisville 69 (OT): Who would have thought back in the off-season that Clemson would be the only ranked team of the two in this matchup, or that this win would not technically be an upset? The Tigers are 14-1 overall and 3-0 in the ACC.

Notre Dame 51, Syracuse 49: An impressive win in the Carrier Dome by the Bonzie Colson-less Fighting Irish, especially after trailing by nine at halftime.

Providence 81, Xavier 72: Providence has been a capable team all year, but hasn’t always shown it, hindered in part by injuries and illnesses. On Saturday, they showed why they can’t be slept on in the Big East.

Seton Hall 90, Butler 87: A game like this tells you why Seton Hall is a serious challenger to Villanova in the Big East. They went on the road and held off a good Butler team with a lot of big shots and big plays from their veterans. This is a tough, experienced team.

DePaul 91, St. John’s 74: The Red Storm were once thought of as a sleeper to challenge Villanova in the Big East, but we can drop that talk after losing this one at home to drop to 0-4.

LSU 69, Texas A&M 68: It’s easy to say that the shine continues to come off the Aggies’ great start to the season, but here we have to also give a lot of credit to LSU and recognize the job Will Wade is doing in Baton Rouge. There’s a toughness about this LSU team that was lacking before and isn’t now, and it’s making a difference.

Auburn 88, Arkansas 77: The Tigers are now 2-0 in the SEC and get a quality win to boot. This looks more and more like Bruce Pearl’s breakthrough team.

Florida 77, Missouri 75: A dandy ballgame that was well-played by both teams, with Missouri going 11-19 from long range (Jordan Barnett alone was 6-9 en route to 28 points), and it’s only fitting that Chris Chiozza ended the game with the game-winning play since toughness is his middle name.

Tennessee 76, Kentucky 65: Tennessee gets their first SEC win, and a good one. The Volunteers had a good non-conference run but couldn’t break through in SEC play until Saturday.

Georgia 65, Alabama 46: I definitely didn’t see this one coming, even if the game was in Athens. I expected Alabama to make it a little more interesting, but Yante Maten (26 points, 11 rebounds) & Co. ran out to a big early lead and made it stand up.

Ole Miss 64, Mississippi State 58: It took a rally, but the Rebels pulled it out in Oxford in another good one. The Rebels have been close often this year, while the Bulldogs lost for just the second time this season.

Colorado 80, Arizona 77: Boulder ends up being a bad trip for both Arizona schools, which isn’t shocking since the Buffs have been a little better than most realize.

UCLA 107, Cal 84: A good bounce-back for UCLA, though beating Cal isn’t exactly a quality win this season, even in Berkeley.

Indiana 75, Minnesota 71: The home loss was not the worst news to come out of Minneapolis on the day. Richard Pitino said that Amir Coffey “won’t be back anytime soon”, so the downward momentum continues.

Wyoming 79, Boise State 78 (OT): This is always a tough road trip, and what has to make this loss even tougher to take for the Broncos is that they had a 16-point lead. Nevada is now the last undefeated team in the Mountain West.

Saint Mary’s 70, San Diego 63: The Toreros got off to a nice start, but winning in Moraga would have been different. Still, they’re right there at 3-1 behind the Gaels and Gonzaga.

Pacific 67, BYU 66: Not a good night for the Cougars as they lose on the road to a team they shouldn’t if they are to challenge Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s (and perhaps San Diego as well).

Saint Joseph’s 85, St. Bonaventure 78: This wasn’t a good week for the Bonnies, one of the Atlantic 10 favorites, as they dropped two on the road to teams that were below .500.

Western Kentucky 112, Marshall 87: This road win was a battle of 2-0 teams coming in, and was highlighted by a triple-double by Darius Thompson (33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).

UConn 70, East Carolina 65: The Huskies avoid an 0-3 start in American Athletic Conference play and also avoid falling below .500 overall.

Jacksonville State 64, Belmont 60: This is an impressive win as part of a 12-5 overall, 3-1 OVC start for Jacksonville State, as they go into Belmont and beat the Bruins.

New Hampshire 64, Albany 61: The Great Danes had a great non-conference run, but are quickly 0-2 in America East play after this road loss.

Penn 76, Princeton 70: Might the Quakers be more of a contender in the Ivy than the Tigers? This was at the Palestra, but Steve Donahue has been rebuilding the Quakers to the point where they might be the best team behind the current big three of Harvard, Princeton and Yale coming into the season.

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