Weekly Wrap: Pac-10 nightmare coming true
Earlier in the season, I half-heartedly joked that the Pac-10 would be a one-bid league.
Now, it’s become a reality.
Cal realistically has the only legitimate shot of getting an at-large berth out of the conference, and the Bears lost at Oregon State this past week. Mike Montgomery’s club does have three winnable games left on the slate — two home games against the Arizona schools and a road game at rival Stanford.
But the issue here is that the Pac-10 dug a grave early in the non-conference schedule when its teams didn’t perform — and now, there’s no way of digging out of it. While many coaches maintain that the league has improved over the last month or so, no one has put any significant distance between itself and the rest of the teams, so it’s difficult to imagine more than a single club (whoever wins the Pac-10 tournament) getting a bid to the Big Dance.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: UConn — The Huskies needed a big-time résumé win and Jim Calhoun and company delivered this past week on the road against Villanova. Then, UConn stayed tough against Rutgers and improved to 15-11 overall and 5-8 in Big East play with four regular-season games left. The Huskies have played a difficult schedule, but they will need to close by winning three of four to have any shot of getting to the Big Dance.
STUD (PLAYER OF WEEK): Mississippi State fans hounded him after his cell phone was made public in Starkville, so Kentucky freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins responded with 19 points and 14 boards in a win against the Bulldogs. Cousins followed it up with 19 points and five rebounds in a second road victory Saturday night against a ranked Vanderbilt team. Cousins was 13-for-22 from the field in the two wins and 12-for-17 from the charity stripe after going just 1-for-8 from the line against Tennessee the previous week.
DUD: Loyola Marymount is much improved from last year, but Gonzaga lost on the road to Max Good and the Lions. The setback now gives the ‘Zags two league losses after coming up short a couple weeks ago on the road to San Francisco.
BIGGEST WIN: Cornell’s victory at Harvard put the Big Red in the driver’s seat to claim its third consecutive Ivy League crown. If Cornell doesn’t win the league, it will be watching the selection show in a few weeks with great anticipation.
NON-BCS TEAM OF THE WEEK: Wofford — Mike Young has done a terrific job this season and his club is tied with Charleston at 13-3 atop the Southern Conference. The Terriers have won four straight road games, including two this past week against Davidson and Georgia Southern.
WORST LOSS: Dayton losing at Duquesne — For the Flyers to have a legitimate shot of getting into the NCAA tournament, Brian Gregory and company can’t afford to come up short in games like this one. Duquesne is talented, but Dayton needed this one.
SHOT OF THE WEEK: After Maryland’s potential game-winning bucket from Greivis Vasquez was disallowed because a timeout had been called, the Terps got another chance and Cliff Tucker delivered a game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired to knock off Georgia Tech.
BAD TO WORSE: Michigan — In case you missed it, the Wolverines lost to Penn State on Saturday — in Ann Arbor. Now at 13-13 overall and 6-8 in Big Ten play, John Beilein’s club has been a major disappointment this season and could be headed to the CBI.
CONGRATS: Finally we don’t have to devote space to those who are still searching for a win. Tim O’Shea and Bryant were the final Division I team to get in the win column after a victory at Wagner last Thursday.
WELCOME BACK: Wisconsin’s skilled big man Jon Leuer returned this past week from a broken wrist that sidelined him for nine games (the Badgers were 6-3 in that stretch). Leuer struggled in his first game back with just four points on 2-of-12 shooting in a loss at Minnesota, but he did have 11 points in 22 minutes in a victory against Northwestern on Sunday.
WEEK’S TOP MATCHUPS:
1. Villanova at Syracuse, Saturday at 9 p.m. ET: A matchup of arguably the top two teams in the Big East and also two of the top 10 teams in the nation.
2. Michigan State at Purdue, Sunday at 4 p.m. ET: This one could determine the Big Ten regular-season title.
3. Kentucky at Tennessee, Saturday at 12 p.m. ET: The Wildcats won two on the road this past week and have another difficult road test in Knoxville.
4. New Mexico at BYU, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET: These are the cream of the crop in the Mountain West.
5. Kansas at Oklahoma State, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET: The top-ranked Jayhawks go on the road to Stillwater against a Cowboys team that is on the proverbial NCAA tournament bubble.
6. West Virginia at UConn, Monday at 7 p.m. ET: This is a huge one for Jim Calhoun and the Huskies to get back in the NCAA tournament discussion.