The Champions Classic has come and gone with UK and Michigan State both turning in spectacular performances in a great 2OT basketball game that the ‘Cats fell just short in, and the defending national champions keeping their winning streak going against Duke and Jon Scheyer.
In this roundup we’ll look at this week’s action so far, including the Classic, UK vs South Carolina State, the Austin Stampede, and several other big wins and upsets across the country, as well as preview this next week’s Maui and Kentucky at Gonzaga, and talk about whatever else is cool in hoops including but not limited to hot seats, sock puppets, Bob Huggins, Michigan State’s scheduling, and gross facts about the life of a terrapin. Let’s get rolling:
Kentucky fights for 50 minutes with Spartans as Tshiebwe returns to the hardwood
Tuesday’s game was a great performance by Kentucky that saw them fighting tooth and nail with Tom Izzo and a hungry phalanx of Spartans that were determined to turn the country’s most difficult nonconference schedule into a pile of glittering marquee wins. They came just a buzzer-shot shy of knocking off Gonzaga a week ago and took UK down to the wire Tuesday, refusing to let the ‘Cats get the upper hand and responding to each last-chance play with a lightning cut and dunk to the basket. Did Kentucky make mistakes and squander an opportunity to win? Yes, but they also blocked tons of shots and did lots of things really well that made it take two overtimes for the Spartans to just grab the lead. On Thursday they destroyed South Carolina State by 43, so I think they’re ready to forget one loss and go ball out with Gonzaga this weekend.
Gonzaga gets stampeded in Austin rodeo
Now that was a bit surprising. Sure it was on the road, but Gonzaga hasn’t lost a game by 15+ points like that since the title game with Baylor two years ago. Yet Texas swished 13 three pointers, hit the gas, and never looked back as they chalked up Chris Beard’s biggest win yet that’ll be sure to promote them from their #11 ranking towards the very cream of the crop. If Texas plays foes like this routinely, the Big 12 better watch out.
Arizona State wins Legends Classic
Friday night Arizona state won a November tournament by squeaking a close one out with VCU and then clobbering Michigan in a head-turning performance that just like that put a trophy in the campus collection. This squad might have lost at Texas Southern by a point last week but now is 4-1 with a win over a ranked team. Every season is full of surprises.
Best of the rest:
- Louisville loses by a point again to Appalachian State when layup at buzzer waived off
- Murray State gets big win over #24 Texas A&M that could prove useful in March
- #16 Virginia stuns #5 Baylor to advance to Main Event finale Sunday
Kentucky at Gonzaga
Twenty years ago Tubby Smith’s ‘Cats beat Gonzaga in Maui in the only game ever played between the two hoops giants...until tomorrow night. Drew Timme vs. Oscar Tshiebwe, Mark Few vs. John Calipari, national title favorite vs. national title favorite—and all in the fearsome backyard with the “Beware of Dogs” sign known as Spokane, Washington. Both teams have gone down to the wire with Michigan State and taken one loss, but which will prevail against the other Sunday night? The entire states of Kentucky and Washington will be glued to their screens finding out.
Maui tips Monday
The Maui Jim Maui Invitational always looks for a great eight-team field for November’s most popular tournament, and this year’s will not disappoint as Arkansas, San Diego State, Creighton, Dayton, Arizona, Cincinnati, Texas Tech and...Louisville??? Wait a sec: who invited them? Someone who didn’t see an 0-3 start coming that BBN will be eager to see expanded to 0-6. I sure am eager to see how their stay in Hawaii goes.
#16 Virginia vs #19 Illinois for Main Event championship Sunday
At 3:00 tomorrow we’ll see the conclusion of the Las Vegas Main Event when Virginia takes on Illinois in a battle of unbeatens. I can’t imagine how difficult a week the entire University of Virginia has had this week after the loss of three young men and leaders on the Cavalier gridiron to a gun and have prayed several times this week for their families and the entire university. For the basketball team to knock off Baylor Friday and advance to the finals against Illinois is touching, and I know that every Cavalier in every sport this season is rallying around each other and those players’ families on and off the field/court.
What’s with the ‘4’ in the Battle 4 Atlantis?
I have no idea, but it makes it way cooler! This and the Maui are always the two perennial Thanksgiving biggies, so they deserve great names.
Week after writing Top 25 and 1 Coaches, CBS writers write “Biggest Snubs from Top 25 and 1 Coaches”
Interesting concept: criticize your picks yourself before everyone else gets a chance to. Nate Oats and Buzz Williams headlined the list but honestly all of them need to do a little bit more to crack the top tier (though give them more time, and they will). I think they made pretty good picks for the top 26.
Until next time, go ‘Cats!