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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 8, 2018

January 8, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

So we’re a week into 2018, and conference play is ongoing. Your early Big Ten leaders are, as expected, Purdue and Ohio State.

Wait. You didn’t have those two? You say you thought Purdue might get a good start, but not Ohio State? You had Michigan State?

No one can blame you. It made sense, at least until Sunday, when Ohio State used a big first half and 52.5 percent shooting (including 7-15 from deep) to knock off the visiting Spartans 80-64 and improve to 4-0 in Big Ten play, tied with Purdue.

This reminds you that Chris Holtmann can coach, and that while Ohio State’s recruiting wasn’t quite up to its standard from a good half-decade earlier, he didn’t inherit a bare cupboard. Keita Bates-Diop, who scored a career-high 32 points on 12-21 shooting to lead the way, has blossomed after three good but hardly spectacular years to start his career. Classmate Jae’Sean Tate and junior C.J. Jackson are also not newcomers, but are certainly having the best season of their careers.

It’s obvious that Sunday’s win is a big resume builder for Ohio State, and it is needed not unlike other recent years. The last couple of years, the Buckeyes haven’t picked up a lot of quality wins in non-conference play, leaving it to their Big Ten slate to try to get them, and a bad loss or two added to that challenge. This time around, though, they have no bad losses (worst is to Gonzaga in the PK80 Invitational), and while the quality wins are not there – their best non-conference wins are over William & Mary (now 4-0 in the CAA as the surprise early leader) and Radford.

The Buckeyes still need to get their best wins in Big Ten play, which will be a little taller order this yar given the conference’s so-so showing overall in non-conference play. They have wins over Michigan and Michigan State already, as well as Wisconsin (which theoretically will go up in value some), but the rest of the way, opportunities are very limited. Maryland, who they host on Thusrday night, is right around the top 50, while only Purdue and Michigan remain as top 50 teams (Sunday is their only meeting with Michigan State).

All the while, Ohio State is off to a good start in Big Ten play, and that can’t be a bad thing for them. Now, though, they have a couple of quality wins to build around.

 

Side Dishes

The Pac-12 continues to be full of fantastic finishes, and we got two of them on Sunday night. First, Utah had a chance in the final seconds to keep Arizona State reeling, but a three-pointer rimmed out and the Sun Devils held on for an 80-77 win. Then, in the final game of the day, Stanford showed that at the very least, they are going to be a factor in the Pac-12 race. With the game tied late, USC guard Jordan McLaughlin raced up the floor and hit a tough layup in traffic with under two seconds to go. Stanford inbounded the ball to freshman guard Daejon Davis, who put it up from around midcourt and saw it swish through the net to give the Cardinal a thrilling 77-76 win and hand USC another costly loss.

The ACC had a dandy on tap as Miami held off Florida State 80-74. The Hurricanes had not played a home game in over a month, something very rare among high-major teams.

Have we seen the last of Ted Valentine? Known for his theatrics over the years and getting along famously with Bob Knight (then again, what referee did Bob Knight ever like?), Valentine said he is considering retirement due to the fallout of Wednesday night when he refused to engage North Carolina guard Joel Berry II. After the Tar Heel senior wanted to discuss a non-call, Valentine turned his back, a move he said was to defuse the situation. He said he was removed from two Big Ten games this weekend and passed on officiating Yale at Georgia Tech due to the fallout. For all this theatrics, Valentine has earned plenty of respect, though, as he’s worked ten Final Fours and four national championship games, and not just anybody gets to officiate those games.

 

Tonight’s Menu

The gridiron will grab a lot attention for understandable reasons tonight, but here are the highlights on the hardwood.

  • The Patriot League has a full slate on tap, highlighted by three matchups of 2-1 teams: Navy at Colgate, Lehigh at Boston University and Bucknell at Lafayette, all tipping at 7 p.m.
  • NC Central hosts Norfolk in a matchup of two MEAC teams that won their first game, highlighting a busy slate there (7:30 p.m.)
  • The SWAC also has a busy slate, highlighted by Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama State (7 p.m.) and Jackson State at Southern (8:30 p.m.)

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