Cory Mccartney
Tuesday February 27th, 2007

Mario Chalmers
Barry Taylor/
The Prime Suspects
Two of the hottest teams in the country may not be able to pull down No. 1 seeds, but they're proving to be very real threats to win it all: Georgetown and Kansas. The Hoyas -- winners of a school-record tying 11 in a row before Monday's loss at Syracuse -- have arguably the nation's best frontcourt in Roy Hibbert (who leads the nation in effective field goal percentage (69.7) and Jeff Green. While they weren't exactly perfect in beating Pitt on Saturday (G'town committed 14 turnovers, was outrebounded 33-29 and attempted 20 fewer shots) the Hoyas still won to assume sole possession of first place in the Big East. It helps that the Hoyas are so efficient: They're second in the nation in field goal percentage (52.2 percent) and fourth in points per possession (1.14). That's what makes them so dangerous; that even when they're not at their best, they can still beat a top team. As good as G'town's been, there may not be a hotter team than Kansas. The Jayhawks are finishing with a flurry, winning their past seven games by an average of 25 ppg (Monday's 67-65 win over Oklahoma looked like it would follow suit, but Kansas blew a 17-point lead and had to hang on for the win). The recent surge is a testament to the learning curve of a lineup that includes two freshmen and three sophomores, as they didn't miss a beat without point guard Russell Robinson. While Kansas has more than enough firepower with five players all averaging 10 or more points in Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers (pictured above), Sherron Collins, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright, the biggest key for KU has been defense: The Jayhawks are tied for first in the nation in points allowed per possession with 0.84. There may not be another two teams in the country looking more dangerous with Selection Sunday looming.
Oh, What a Neit
Watching Drew Neitzel bounce around the court, pumping his fists and beating his chest after Michigan State took down then No. 1 Wisconsin had a certain Gerry McNamara-quality to it. It wasn't exactly the Big East tourney clinic that McNamara put on last season, but Neitzel's assassin-like streak during the four-game stretch has made the Spartans a near-lock for the NCAA tourney. He averaged 20.8 ppg on 27-of-53 shooting, including 51.3 percent of his treys, and was every bit as critical for Wisconsin as McNamara was during Syracuse's improbable run to the NCAAs when G-Mac averaged 16.25 points a game to win the Big East tournament. Neitzel scored 28 points in upsetting the Badgers. In Saturday's win over Indiana -- when Neitzel was "sicker than a dog," according to Tom Izzo -- Neitzel committed an uncharacteristic eight turnovers, but still came up in the clutch, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help erase a 10-point halftime deficit. Neitzel has acknowledged the comparisons to McNamara. He has the same tenacity, the blue-collar play and penchant for hitting big shots. Neitzel also has another quality McNamara seemed to embody so well: being the player opposing fans love to hate. And just like the Orange a year ago, the Spartans will go as far as Neitzel's jumper takes them.
Perfection To Purgatory
The wheels have officially fallen off for Clemson. The Tigers won their first 17 games and were the last remaining undefeated team at one point, but have lost four in a row, seven of eight and nine of 11 and may have to win the ACC tournament to get an NCAA bid. Clemson began the week needing to win out to get to eight league wins and present a real case to the selection committee. A loss at home to Duke all but ended Clemson's hopes, and a loss at Boston College seemingly sealed its fate. It's been a strange role reversal for Duke and Clemson. It was once the Blue Devils whose NCAA hopes appeared to be in trouble, but now the Tigers look to be NIT-bound. Clemson's slide has been one part lack of execution late in the game (a la the loss to BC) and another part unsavory shot selection: K.C. Rivers, who hit 14-of-23 three-pointers in the first four ACC games (three were Clemson wins) is 11-of-45 in the last 10 games. From perfection to bubble, it's been a horrific slide for these Tigers.
The Fifth Element
While the SEC has two sure-fire NCAA locks (Florida and Vanderbilt), another of its teams (Tennessee) bolstered its tourney resume with its first SEC road win, at Arkansas, behind Chris Lofton, who is back in a big way. The Volunteers' sharpshooter was without the black bands he had been wearing after missing four games with a sprained right ankle, and had his best game since the injury, burning the Razorbacks for 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting and hit 4-of-12 threes. "He gives our guys confidence," Vols coach Bruce Pearl told the AP. "It's like, 'Uh-oh, 5's back.'" With the SEC tournament around the corner, that's bad news for the rest of the conference.
Syracuse Orange
Syracuse strengthened its NCAA tournament resume with a victory at Providence and made a little history, giving Jim Boeheim 20 wins for the 29th time in his 31-year career and collecting the program's 1,700th win.
Florida Gators
The champs lost two straight on the road as LSU, sans Glen Davis, out-rebounded Florida 34-22. Are the Gators in trouble or is this like last year's three-game February slide before an 11-game run to win it all?
Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia rebounded from a loss at Miami, clinching its first 20-win season in 11 years and earning a first-round bye in the ACC tourney as it beat Georgia Tech to improve to 15-1 at the new John Paul Jones Arena.
Air Force Falcons
A month ago, Air Force ripped TCU by 33. This time? Not so much. TCU handed the Falcons their fifth loss in six conference road games as AF followed up its 30 percent shooting against UNLV by firing 33 percent.
Maryland Terrapins
ACC, it's again time to fear the Turtle. Maryland extended its longest winning streak since '03 to five and earned its first victory over North Carolina in two seasons behind D.J. Strawberry's career-high 27 points.
Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin's first week atop the AP poll was one to forget. The Badgers lost at Michigan State, then followed with a loss at Ohio State. Of even more importance for UW: will injured Brian Butch miss any time?
"The name of the game today was our inability to defend anybody."
--Alabama coach Mark Gottfried after the then No. 25 Crimson Tide lost to Auburn, marking the fourth loss in five games for a team that was once ranked as high as fourth.
"It was a gut reaction. There's no reason to acknowledge someone like that."
--Washington's Ryan Appleby on not shaking the hand of Oregon's Aaron Brooks before or after Saturday's game. Brooks forearmed Appleby during last season's Pac-10 tourney.
"It would have been uncharacteristic for a blind man to make that foul."
--Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight on Alan Voskuil, whose foul when Oklahoma Stat attempted a trey with 42.3 seconds left allowed OSU to tie the game with three free throws.
Kevin DurantF - Texas
Sorry, Bob Knight. There's no denying the rule that has K.D. in Texas is a boon to the game. Durant had 32 points, hit five three-pointers and had 10 rebounds for the freshman's 17th double-double as the Longhorns dumped Oklahoma.
Acie LawPG - Texas A&M
The state of Texas' other marquee player had a big day of his own as Law had his first 30-point outing since last January, dropping in 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, hit 9-of-9 free throws and also had five assists in a win over Baylor.
Mark TyndaleG - Temple
Tyndale's career day (37 points on 14-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-5 treys) was only hampered at the free throw line, where he was 4-of-11. "Somebody told me I should shoot threes for the free throws," he told The Temple News.
Cincinnati lost to DePaul on Saturday, giving the Bearcats their 10th-straight loss. It's the school's longest losing streak since the 'Cats dropped 11 consecutive games in 1924-25.
Alabama A&M's Mickell Gladness had 16 blocks in a win over TSU, breaking the Division I record of 14 set by David Robinson, Shawn Bradley, Roy Rogers and Loren Woods.
16-0, 15-3
UCLA wrapped up its first 16-0 home slate at Pauley Pavilion since 1974-75, while across town USC finished off a 15-3 home season, it's best since the Trojans went 16-3 in '61.

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