Weekly Wrap: Unbeatens won’t last
There are six undefeated teams left and before fans in Lawrence,
Austin, Lexington, Morgantown, Syracuse and West Lafayette start to
that word — you know the one — it
starts with the letter “U,” let me point something out:
The half-dozen unbeaten D-I teams have played a grand total
of six true road games between them.
The only team that has won two legitimate road contests is
West Virginia, which knocked off Cleveland State on a last-second
shot and needed overtime to beat Seton Hall this past weekend.
Syracuse hasn’t beaten anyone in the other team’s
arena yet. No one. The Orange knocked off Florida — a
team that has now lost to Richmond and South Alabama —
Texas’ lone true road win came at Rice, Kansas’
lone victory in an opponent’s home gym came against a dismal UCLA
team, Purdue went to Tuscaloosa for a true road contest against
Alabama and beat the Crimson Tide in the same place where they lost
to Cornell earlier this season.
A year ago at the same time, there were seven teams left
without a blemish. North Carolina, UConn, Oklahoma and Minnesota
went down this week a year ago, followed by Pittsburgh, Clemson and
finally Wake Forest on Jan. 21.
That’s what happens when league play begins and teams
don’t have a bunch of buy games and cupcakes on their
The unbeatens fall by the wayside.
Here’s our best guess as to when the Final Six will
each lose their first game:
Syracuse — Tuesday at Seton Hall
West Virginia — Jan. 1 at Purdue
Texas — Jan. 5 at Arkansas
Purdue — Jan. 9 at Wisconsin
Kansas — Jan. 10 at Tennessee
Kentucky — Jan. 12 at Florida
TEAM OF THE WEEK: USC lost to Loyola Marymount in
the second game of the season, but Kevin O’Neill’s team
was shorthanded and without Mike Gerrity, Alex Stepheson, Marcus
Johnson and Leonard Washington. With all four in the lineup, the
Trojans knocked off both UNLV and Saint Mary’s out in Hawaii
this past week and established themselves as a legitimate Pac-10
STUD (PLAYER OF WEEK): West Virginia’s Devin
Ebanks missed the first three games due to personal issues, but the
long and talented Mountaineers sophomore has started to hit his
stride. Ebanks had 14 points and 13 boards in a win against Ole
Miss and then went for 22 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in
a road win against Seton Hall.
DUD: Tulsa went into the season as the preseason
favorites in Conference USA and the Golden Hurricanes came into the
Las Vegas Classic with a 9-1 record. However, Tulsa lost to
Nebraska, 74-70, and then took a pounding from Nevada, 99-68, in
the consolation game.
MID-MAJOR TEAM OF THE WEEK: Jimmy Patsos’
Loyola Greyhounds had lost three straight games — all on
the road — to Canisius, Niagara and Coppin State.
However, Loyola went into Bloomington and knocked off the Indiana
Hoosiers. Tom Crean’s team is still a work in progress, but
it shouldn’t be losing at Assembly Hall to Loyola (Md.).
GAME OF THE WEEK: Seton Hall coming back from a
10-point deficit with less than a minute left to force overtime
against unbeaten West Virginia. Bobby Gonzalez’ team came up
short in the extra frame, but this was an exciting Big East opener
and hopefully a sign of what’s to come in league play. Jeremy
Hazell had 41 points for the Pirates in the losing effort.
SLIP SLIDING: The Florida Gators put themselves in
a quality position to earn an NCAA tournament bid for the first
time in three years with wins against Florida State and Michigan
State. However, Billy Donovan’s team has dropped three
straight. There’s no shame in losing to Syracuse and maybe
even Richmond, but then to drop one to South Alabama this past week
in Gainesville? That hurts.
WORST LOSS: Texas A&M was one of the
nation’s early season surprises, but the Aggies have lost
their senior leader, Derrick Roland, who suffered a gruesome knee
injury in the loss to Washington. Roland broke his fibula and tibia
and will miss the rest of the season after surgery.
OVERLOOKED LOSS: South Carolina’s NCAA
tournament hopes may have been dashed with the news that versatile
forward Dominique Archie is done for the season due to a knee
injury. Archie was averaging 14.4 points and six boards in five
MILESTONE: Kentucky became the first program to
win 2,000 games when the Wildcats beat up on Drexel, 88-44, earlier
in the week. North Carolina will surpass the 2,000-win barrier
later this season.
FINALLY: Missouri finally has Braggin’
Rights after the Tigers got their first win in a decade against
Illinois. Kimmie English led Mizzou with 24 points and six rebounds
in the victory.
WEEK’S TOP MATCHUPS:
1. Louisville at Kentucky, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
ET: Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari in a battle of coaches
that don’t like one another. Pitino returns to Lexington,
where he was once beloved. Now, the fans will likely be relentless,
especially with what he endured this past offseason.
2. West Virginia at Purdue, Friday at 2:30 p.m.
ET: It’s a terrific matchup of unbeatens. Both have
point guard issues, but have almost everything else to get to the
3. Kansas at Temple, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET:
This will be the Jayhawks’ most difficult test to date. Remember,
the Owls knocked off Villanova earlier this season at home and are
a top 25 team.
4. Clemson at Duke, Sunday at 7:45 p.m. ET: The
Blue Devils had Clemson’s number, but Oliver Purnell &
Co. have fared well lately against Coach K and Duke.
5. Syracuse at Seton Hall, Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET:
Bobby Gonzalez & Co. took West Virginia to overtime in Newark.
Can Seton Hall pull off the upset against the second straight
unbeaten to come into the Prudential Center?
6. Dayton at New Mexico, Friday at 9 p.m. ET: The
Flyers will go into one of the most difficult arenas in the
country — The Pit. It’s a matchup of two top 25