Inside the College Game
By Brian Cerone
Over the years we have become used to seeing veteran UConn teams take their
opponents out early in games, especially at home. But on Monday, the exact opposite
happened. Instead of delivering the early blow, the UConn Huskies took one on
the chin early versus the young 8th ranked Georgetown Hoyas. John Thompson III’s
squad jumped out to an early 15-1 lead and never looked back, finishing off
the Huskies with a 74-63 win to start the Big East opener off with a bang.
Much to the aggravation of coach Jim Calhoun, the 2nd ranked Huskies looked sluggish all night and did not hold a lead at any point during the game. They were led by senior Jeff Adrien’s 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field. The loss snaps the Huskies 14-game unbeaten streak at home, but more importantly, the young Hoyas sent a message to UConn and the rest of the Big East that they are ready to compete for the top spot in the conference.
Dajuan Summers led Georgetown with 18 points, while sophomore Chris Wright added 16. The most surprisly aspect of the game was 6-11 freshman Greg Monroe outplaying Big East player of the year candidate, Hasheem Thabeet. Monroe, giving up 4 inches, scored 16 points highlighted by an old-school running hook over the outstreched Thabeet. The freshman also nailed the first two 3-pointers of his young career. Meanwhile, Thabeet had his worst game of the year, scoring only 4 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. However, he did block 7 shots.
Life in the Big East does not get any easier, as the Hoyas have the 3rd ranked Pittsburgh Panthers coming to visit on Saturday. If John Thompson III’s crew defends home court, that would be a special week for such a young team and would probably get them ranked back in the top 5 in the country. The Huskies get another shot at home on Saturday as Rutgers comes to town.
There are currently 7 unbeatens left in college basketball, lets take a look at them and see who will last the longest
- North Carolina Tar Heels: The rumblings are starting to get loud about this
team running the table. Can they do it? It is not out of the question. So far,
no team has come close to beating them. They thumped #8 Notre Dame. They destroyed
the 12th ranked Michigan State Spartans. Obviously, in the ACC things will be
tougher on a night to night basis, with games at Wake Forest and two battles
with Duke. But, with the combination of talent and experience that this team
has, its going to take a perfect 40 minute game from their opponent to give
them a loss. Simply too much firepower. It should be interesting, expect the
Tar Heels to give it a run deep into the seaon.
- Pittsburgh Panthers: Jamie Dixon’s squad has not really gotten a signature win thus far in the season, but that does not necessarily mean that they have not been impressive. The Panthers are 12-0 and have won every game comfortably. Playing in the Big East could mean that their first loss is not far away with league play starting up. They have to go to Georgetown on Saturday to knock off the 8th ranked Hoyas. Expect them to get a notch in the loss column in the next week or two. But, even so, their #3 ranking nationally is well deserved.
- Clemson Tigers: It's like deja vu, this team has, for the third season in a row, gotten off to a 10 game win streak to start the year. These guys had quite the easy early schedule, but their win at Miami(FL) was impressive and shows us that they probably do belong in the top 25. Oliver Purnell has a nice balanced attack, but even if the Tigers do survive a few more ACC games, they have Wake Forest on Jan. 17th, and go to North Carolina on Jan 21st. Needless to say, there is very limited chance of Clemson getting through those dates unblemished.
- Stanford Cardinal: Unbeaten, but unranked. Clearly, that means the schedule thus far has not been too challenging. James Harden and the 14th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils visit this Friday, anticipate the Cardinal to suffer their first loss then.
- Illinois State Redbirds: You would think that a small school would have the better chance of outlasting all the big names in terms of staying unbeaten. Not exactly the case with Illinois State. The Missouri Valley Conference is very competitive, and the Redbirds are already understanding it. Their closest game was its conference opener: an overtime win vs. Missouri State. Conference power Creighton or last year’s champion Drake should be able to knock off the Redbirds early in conference play.
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons: A lot like Pittsburgh, these guys have looked great, but still lack a ‘great win’. Well, they will certainly get that opportunity on Jan. 11th because the top ranked North Carolina Tar Heels are visiting for a game that most likely will be between two unbeatens. Even at home, the Demon Deacons will be big-time underdogs. Despite all the athleticism they possess, they will have to play a near perfect game to beat UNC.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers: Tubby Smith’s crew has overachieved thus far in the year. A huge win vs. 9th ranked Louisville makes their 12-0 mark legit. Its going to be difficult to get to 14-0 because the Golden Gophers are hosting 15th ranked Michigan State on Wednesday and 23rd ranked Ohio State on Saturday. It seems unlikely that Tubby can keep his guys untarnished through the week.
Arkansas handed the 4th ranked Oklahoma Sooners its first loss of the season, 96-88, despite solid efforts from its two leading scorers - Blake Griffin (21 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) and freshman Willie Warren (35 points). The problem for the Sooners was on the defensive end of the court, giving up 96 points. The Razorbacks went to the free throw line an amazing 43 times, with junior forward Michael Washington playing out of his mind: 24 pts 10-12 fg, 11 reb… Gonzaga had a slip up at home vs. Big Sky opponent Portland State, losing 77-70. It was their first game after a devastating loss to UConn in overtime...Arizona State is off to its best start in over 30 years and James Harden is the reason. The Sophomore has already scored over 30 points in 4 games and has one 40 point game. The most impressive part about Harden this year is his shooting percentages (58% from the field and 46% from 3-point land) which are remarkable for a shooting guard. Compared to Davidson’s Stephen Curry, Harden is averaging 23.8ppg on 12.8 shots a game, while Curry is averaging 29.9ppg on 21.9 shots a game… Check in next week, there are some great games this Saturday – Pittsburgh @ Georgetown headlines a day full of match ups.