By Cory Mccartney
March 05, 2007
Glen Davis
Falling From Grace
While one half of last year's Final Four (Florida and UCLA) looks poised to follow up with deep tourney runs, the season after has been a struggle for LSU and George Mason. The Tigers fell to 14-12 with a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, their eighth defeat in nine games, and are in the SEC West cellar at 3-9. The Patriots, meanwhile, are 14-13 after a BracketBuster loss to Kent State, their sixth defeat in nine games. Some slippage was expected, but what has gone so wrong? LSU returned three starters, including preseason All-America Glen Davis, forward Tasmin Mitchell and point guard Garrett Temple. The departures of Tyrus Thomas and Darrel Mitchell have proved costly to the "family" atmosphere that defined last year's Tigers. The most consistent thing about LSU has been its inconsistency; LSU beat Texas A&M, but the Tigers are next to last in the SEC in scoring offense (68.6 points per game) and ninth in field-goal percentage (45.3 percent). As for George Mason, the Patriots lost their top three scorers from last season and while the defense has been sound (allowing 58.3 ppg) it hasn't made up for poor shooting (they're next-to-last in the CAA, hitting 66.4 percent of their free throws). LSU is way too talented to be this bad and everyone's darling, George Mason, has fallen completely off the radar and likely won't make the tourney. It's been a dismal honeymoon season for two of the best stories to come out of last year's tourney.
Fine N' Vandy
Vanderbilt may have cost Florida the No. 1 ranking, but the Commodores will be paying for their upset win over the Gators. Vandy fans stormed the court following the victory, the school's second offense of a 2005 SEC rule that prohibits fans on the playing surface, costing $25,000. Vanderbilt's first violation came after a last-second NIT win over Wichita State in 2005, costing the school $5,000. Vandy Vice Chancellor David Williams said he believed the school did everything they could to stop the behavior: "The rule is worded in such a way that you're supposed to do all you can to prevent it, and we did that. So we'll see," he told The Tennessean. "I don't think our kids came out in such a way as to be a threat to anyone's safety." Though Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley doesn't feel the same way. Foley pushed for the rule after an '04 incident involving then Florida forward Matt Walsh and there was also a report of Gators freshman Brandon Powell throwing a punch after being bumped by a Commodores' fan. The entire situation didn't set well with the Florida AD. "The University of Florida's position has been loud and clear a long time," Foley told the Gainesville Sun. "I'm confident [SEC commissioner] Mike Slive will handle it." It's hard to knock the Vandy fans for celebrating a mammoth win, but these situations can be handled better. Case in point: Virginia's upset win over Duke, where security kept the visitors back with a human chain.
Paper Tigers?
So Memphis escaped Spokane, Wash., with an overtime win over Gonzaga on Saturday, the Tigers' 15th straight. "It was probably the hardest place I've played since I've been at Memphis, but guys came up big," Tigers guard Antonio Anderson told the Memphis Commerical Appeal. "It just shows how tough we are as a team." Does it?The Zags, a team that may not make the NCAAs if they can't win the WCC tourney, were without second-leading scorer Josh Heytvelt and lost for the 10th time this season. "We needed that," Tigers coach John Calipari said. What Memphis needed to do was make a statement. It led by as many as 13 in the second half but got lackadaisical on defense and let Gonzaga back in the game. The Tigers are a No. 3 or No. 5 seed in most mock brackets, but what do we really know about them? They have an RPI of nine but their biggest win was a victory over a suddenly reeling Kentucky team in the Maui Invitational and they lost to Arizona, Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Maybe Memphis was just going through the motions after winning its last 10 C-USA games by an average of 20.4 points and didn't expect the fight that Gonzaga put up, but the Tigers failed to make a statement. Memphis may be 23-3 but there's still so much left unanswered and with a schedule that doesn't have a challenge left, we won't have our answers until the Big Dance.
Ratings Impaired
Four conferences have three teams with RPIs in the top 20 and one of them isn't among the usual suspects. Who's on the list? How about the ACC, Big East, SEC and ... the Mountain West. With UNLV (ranked 12th in the RPI), Air Force (13th) and BYU (20th), the MWC will likely land at least three teams in the tournament. But, while the Falcons are in the Top 25 for the 12th week, UNLV and BYU have each spent just one week in either the AP or ESPN/USA Today poll. So what's the deal? The lack of attention is "probably a little combination of things," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Being west makes a difference in terms of the exposure. Not having the high-profile status as a league makes a difference." Outside of three Air Force games on ESPN2 and ESPNU, nobody's seen these teams play because the conference's TV network, the mtn., isn't currently available outside of MWC country. It may be a coup for the conference to be the first league to boast its own network, but it's safe to say that so far it's not doing the MWC any favors.
Michigan Wolverines
Tommy Amaker and Michigan got their statement win, snapping an 11-game skid against Indiana. But most importantly, it keeps UM's slim NCAA hopes alive.
Kentucky Wildcats
On his weekly radio show, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said his team was "soft." The problems continued against Alabama as the Wildcats had 17 turnovers and a season-low 22 first-half points in their third straight loss.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The top spot in the ACC belongs to North Carolina (which is tied with Virginia) as Roy Williams beat Boston College for the first time. UNC struggled shooting threes in falling to Virginia Tech (3-of-17) but was 5-for-11 against BC.
Butler Bulldogs
Butler's 22-game home winning streak came to an end as A.J. Graves' Bulldogs lost a mid-major duel with Jamaal Tatum and Southern Illinois. Graves, who played through a stomach ailment, had a season-low five points.
Louisville Cardinals
Consider Rick Pitino's crew NCAA-bound. Louisville's resume-bolstering week included Big East road wins over then No. 7 Pitt and previously No. 12 Marquette on Saturday as Jerry Smith hit a trey as time expired.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State's problems used to be resigned to the road. Missouri changed that in handing OSU its first home loss. Could it be a blow to the Cowboys' NCAA chances? They've lost four of five and have no road wins.
"This isn't the worst defeat that's taken place in this building, I don't think. And if it is, it's still just one loss."
--Nebraska coach Doc Sadler after a 53-point defeat at Kansas. It wasn't the largest margin of victory ever in Allen Fieldhouse. That came against Brown, which lost 115-45 on Jan. 3, 1989.
"[Arizona] had a lot of great guards, and I wanted to be a part of that. Unfortunately, things don't always go your way, which is fine. I'm glad that I chose UCLA as of right now."
--UCLA point guard Darren Collison, who wasn't heavily recruited by Arizona and had 17 points and a career-high 15 assists as the Bruins thumped the Wildcats by 15 in Tucson.
"There are games when I should have been credited with more assists than Burgess. ... There are games when, hell, we cold have revived Elvis and he would have been a better passer than Burgess."
--Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight on center Charlie Burgess, who had six assists to go along with 16 points and six rebounds in the Red Raiders' 95-74 victory over Colorado.
Brook LopezF - Stanford
Lopez put on a show against the Beaver State schools. The freshman 7-footer scored 20 in a win over Oregon State and had a career-high 26 as Stanford beat then-No. 15 Oregon on Saturday, a win that bolsters the Cardinal's NCAA hopes.
Jeff GreenF - Georgetown
With Roy Hibbert struggling, Green put Georgetown on his back. He had 19 points, nine rebounds, eight blocks and four assists and hit a game-winning pull-up jumper with 19.8 seconds left to beat Villanova for G'town's ninth straight.
Carl ElliottG - George Washington
The senior posted the first triple-double in George Washington history, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and hit seven free throws in the closing seconds as the Colonials beat Temple to snap a four-game losing skid.
Pitt opened the week as the Big East's best three-point shooting team, hitting 38.8 percent from behind the arc, but in the Panthers' last two games they are 7-for-36 (19.4 percent).
36.3 percent
UConn shot 32.3 percent from the field in a 73-63 loss at Syracuse on Saturday. In eight road games the Huskies are 1-7 and have shot 36.3 percent from the field (165-of-454).
Iowa's 81-49 loss at Michigan State continued a history of struggles in East Lansing for Steve Alford. In eight seasons he is 0-6 in the Breslin Center and has been outscored 524-379.

You May Like