Syracuse hoses down a resilient UConn team; more Snap Judgments
Here are a few thoughts from Saturday's slate of college hoops:
Despite trailing by 17 points early in the second half, the Huskies tied the score at 63 with about four minutes to go and at 69 with 51 seconds remaining -- each time on a layup by freshman Andre Drummond.
Drummond -- the probable No. 2 pick (behind Anthony Davis of Kentucky) in the next NBA Draft -- and fellow freshman Ryan Boatright were downright dazzling in the comeback.
Drummond demonstrated a combination of bulk, power and explosiveness that is second-to-none on the college level while scoring 17 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking three shots.
Boatright, whose quickness borders on the startling, hit four 3-pointers while scoring 15 points to go with six assists.
And Jeremy Lamb -- such a big part of the team's national title run last spring as a freshman -- showed the skills that could make him the first perimeter player tabbed in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Ultimately, though, the team that has played better than anyone -- save for Kentucky -- most of this season executed just well enough and played just enough defense to leave the building with a Big East regular-season title and 29-1 record in tow.
Syracuse is going to be a No. 1 seed in the Field of 68 regardless of what happens in the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
But what of the Huskies, who fell to 17-11 overall and 7-9 in the Big East?
It's still unclear as to when Coach Jim Calhoun will return from the injured (ailing back) list.
But wins at Providence on Tuesday and at home to Pittsburgh next Saturday will probably put the Huskies in the NCAA tourney field, regardless of what happens in Madison Square Garden.
This is the same club, however, that has lost eight of its past 11 games.
So nothing should be taken for granted -- as the Huskies, their coaches and followers are already too aware.
The win over the Commodores -- a club they'll probably hook up with a third time in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta in two weeks -- was their 51st consecutive in Rupp Arena and 20th overall this season and the SEC regular-season crown was the program's 45th.
And the lock for national Freshman of the Year and co-leader for Player of the Year honors (with a fellow from Kansas) kept cranking out spiffy digits.
Anthony Davis hit 10 of 11 from the field and eight of nine from the free-throw line for a game-high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds, six blocked shots and two steals.
Can we all agree that his on-court performance, 29 games into his only season as a college player, has exceeded the hyperbole that was his travel companion on the trek from Chicago to Lexington?
Florida, despite its 76-62 loss at Georgia Saturday, remains one game ahead of Vanderbilt in the SEC standings.
But regardless of where the Commodores finish or how they perform in the SEC tourney, look for them to finally make a deep run -- into the second week -- in the NCAA Tournament in March.
And the players and coaches from Virginia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina State took the figurative punches to the gut.
• The Hokies led by three points late in regulation ... only to fall to Duke, 70-65, in overtime.
• The Cavaliers came into the afternoon 0-3 against the conference's "Big Three" (North Carolina, Duke and Florida State) -- and came into the new week 0-4 as a couple of 3-point attempts in the closing seconds didn't fall and the visiting Tar Heels prevailed, 54-51.
• The Wolfpack badly needed a victory at Clemson to serve as a sort of energy drink-boost for coach Mark Gottfried's team's faltering at-large resume ... and lost in overtime, 72-69.
The results left the Blue Devils and Tar Heels at 12-2, with only games at Wake Forest on Tuesday (for Duke) and at Maryland on Wednesday (for North Carolina) separating Mike Krzyzewski's and Roy Williams' teams from their ACC regular-season title showdown next Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
They also left Virginia without a victory that would have, no doubt, impressed the NCAA's Championship Committee and enhanced its tournament seed.
And they left Seth Greenberg's team 4-10 in the ACC, with eight of those by five or fewer points.
Energy drinks -- literal or figurative -- can't get a team out of the funk that will leave you with.
So how can its teams impress those picking the NCAA Tournament's 37 at-large entries?
The answer? By accumulating as many conference victories as possible.
Saturday, the Washington Huskies and Arizona Wildcats continued to do that while overcoming second-half deficits.
The Huskies trailed by 13 points in Pullman before edging Washington State, 59-55, to improve to 13-3 in conference and 20-8 overall.
And the Wildcats, losing by six points after intermission in Tucson, edged UCLA, 65-63, to go to 10-5 and 19-9.
Cal (13-3 in conference and 23-6 overall) is probably already in the at-large safe zone and probably silences any remaining doubters with a win at Colorado (10-5 and 18-9) Sunday.
Four slots in the field of 68 -- including the auto bid that goes to the Pac-12 Tourney winner on March 10 in Los Angeles -- is still a real possibility for the conference despite the sluggish days and nights of November and December.
What kind of tourney seed are they looking at?
Games at Missouri (Wednesday) and in Ames against Baylor next Saturday will no doubt play a large role in shaping Iowa State's seed.
By the way, Fred Hoiberg is the only guy who should be included in a discussion with Bill Self as the conference's Coach of the Year.