Seminoles light up Tar Heels to headline upset-laden afternoon
Here's a roundup of Saturday's upset-laden day of college basketball:
The pharmaceutical industry couldn't make a medicated powder strong enough to relieve the discomfort of a road game in Tallahassee. If such existed, John Henson would have to take a bath in the stuff. The 6-11 Tar Heel junior -- no defensive slouch himself -- grew restive in the smothering clutches of Seminole Okaro White, drawing a technical for smacking the ball out of White's hands on a dead ball, then yanking the arm of his opposite number under the basket late in the second half. White had no blocks and swiped none of FSU's 12 steals, but he was amply paid in the coin of opponent frustration.
When I talked to Leonard Hamilton about his team this summer, he must have used the word "consistency" 17 times. It was a recipe for the steady, successful season his team has been unable to follow thus far, losing big to Florida, Clemson, UConn and Michigan State in each of his marquee matchups to date. If there's anyone happier than Tallahassee residents about the UNC blowout, it must be members of the Ivy League. Both Harvard and Princeton saw close wins over FSU devalued over the past month, but this unexpected result put a little starch back in the ol' RPI.
So, is this a fluke, or the harbinger of a new world order? Let's be frank: Deividas Dulkys was Florida State's sixth-leading scorer (6.2 ppg) before alien invaders used his body to astonish on Saturday morning. Kendall Marshall, owner of a career 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, gave the ball up seven times. Both performances are outliers, unlikely to be repeated. Florida State may very well grind out some more wins along the way, but the team has a long ways to go to find Hamilton's vaunted consistency. For UNC, there will be five games against lower-echelon ACC teams before they host Duke and Virginia in back-to-back games in February. Plenty of time to apply lessons learned in Tallahassee.
Tennessee's first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin wisely used sure-handed big man Jeronne Maymon to break the occasional UK press and entice big-man fouls, but very few SEC opponents have a player who can do the same. Martin set the stage for a strong first season in his first couple of weeks on UT's campus. When the dust from the firing of Bruce Pearl settled, Martin had lost NBA prospects Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris as expected, but he held on to Cam Tatum, Maymon and the rest of the Vols. Getting experienced players to buy into his leadership made all the difference.
Martin's road to respectability won't get any easier, though: UConn comes to town next weekend.
John Shurna's 22 points came as no surprise, nor did junior Drew Crawford's 20. The monkey wrenches were thrown by Reggie Hearn, who came into the game nursing a career 2.4 ppg mark, and senior Davide Curletti, a first-time starter with just five double-digit scoring games to his credit in four seasons. Curletti stuffed the stat sheet and gave hungry Wildcat fans a ray of hope as they eye -- again -- a longed-for first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.
Truth be told, Northwestern's Magic 8 Ball is probably permanently stuck on "Reply Hazy, Try Again". Six bench points are not the hallmark of a champion, and both Hearn and Curletti appear to be lucky rather than good based on their long-term body of work. For the Spartans, this was their first setback since season-opening losses to North Carolina and Duke. They travel to Ann Arbor on Tuesday to renew their rivalry with a Michigan team that is also smarting from an upset.