Caught three good games online today, thanks to ESPN3 ("The Ocho"). West Virginia-Syracuse from the Carrier Dome, followed by Freddy Hoiberg's Iowa State Cyclones upsetting Kansas in Ames, and then back home to the Big Ten for Purdue-Northwestern. Here's a few thoughts on each before I preview the Indiana-Iowa matchup tomorrow and maybe write about some other stuff.
West Virginia - Syracuse
The ending of this game was extremely controversial, as officials missed what appeared to be a clear goaltending call that would have tied the score with five seconds to play. After further examination... yep, that was definitely a goaltend. 'Cuse escapes.
The Mountaineers have always been one of those programs that I have a random soft spot for, since the days of the legendary Kevin Pittsnogle, back when John Beilein was coaching there instead of at Michigan. This year's team looks pretty good.
Senior forward Kevin Jones is a beast and will be in the POY conversation for the entire country (Pomeroy has him ranked at #9 overall right now). Truck Bryant is a streaky but entertaining point guard. So I like those guys. I think West Virginia's Euro guy with the beard needs to learn how to pass the ball in the post.
Big win for 'Cuse at home. That's a deep team. Are they title contenders? Of course. Do I think they're goanna win? Not really. Too reliant on that 2-3 zone, and no superstar, though Dion Waiters comes close.
Iowa State - Kansas
Ames, Iowa is upset city! The kids stormed the court after the Cyclones beat Kansas today. Iowa State has been getting a lot of attention on ESPN.com recently, with profiles on Fred Hoiberg and his rebuilding job as well as a puff piece on Minnesota transfer Royce White (I shouldn't hate, it's actually a pretty good read if you can stand the cheese.)
White is a star, no doubt, and this team looks well coached and well balanced. They made some serious clutch plays today and solidified their tournament resume.
Kansas doesn't have a whole lot to worry about from the loss. Iowa State is a good team, and they were at home with a raucous crowd. Tyshawn Taylor and POY frontrunner Thomas Robinson are still enough for Kansas to make a deep tourney run.
Scouting report extra: I think one HUGE factor in this game was Kansas center Jeff Withey sitting with foul trouble late. Iowa State may have provided the rest of the Big 12 (uhhh.. Big... how many teams do they have now?) with something of a blueprint.
Purdue - Northwestern
Robbie Hummel hit a leaner with eight seconds left that provided the margin in a typical low-scoring Big Ten nailbiter. Huge shot for him. Isn't his back supposed to have blown out by this point in the season?
On the other end, Northwestern couldn't get a clean shot off as John Shurna bricked a three at the buzzer that was reminiscent of the Bracey Wright era at IU - thirty feet deep, off glass, nowhere close. Oops.
Northwestern desperately needs to start winning some conference games. Purdue, like West Virginia and Iowa State, looks to be in decent shape for an at-large bid. Northwestern needs more players. I'm pretty sure they're going with a seven-man rotation, and that's just not goanna get it done. Luka Mirkovic, Jer'shon Cobb, where are you guys?
Let's keep this short and sweet. Iowa has not sucked too badly this year. They have already beaten Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road, and Michigan at home. Indiana must not overlook this team.
The Hawkeyes' weakness is their defense. Indiana is at their best when they score the ball. They managed to score 70+ points on some of the best defenses in the nation in Kentucky and Ohio State earlier this season, so you know they have firepower. It's time to rediscover it.
Our team defense isn't bad, but this is an Indiana team that should be scoring a lot of points every single game. If Iowa's weak sauce D (Pomeroy has them rated 183rd in the country) causes the Hoosiers any trouble tomorrow, we're in for a looooong second half of the season in Bloomington. Just make some shots and run away from the Hawks.
Like the Penn State game last week, this is an absolute must win for Crean, Cody, and the rest of the Hoosiers.
The Bears hired a new GM in Phil Emery. He was the clubhouse favorite to get the job. I'm not covering the NFL until March Madness is over, dammit. Noffke?
The Bulls got a huge game out of Derrick Rose and beat Milwaukee to move to 17-5 on the season. This team is just grinding in a tough year for the entire NBA. The playoffs are going to be nuts. I'm expecting injuries to play a huge role in who goes deep - the favorites are the Bulls, Heat, and Thunder, but with games almost every day, staying healthy seems like a crapshoot.
Indiana-Wisconsin was decided, in my mind, by Cody Zeller's foul-plagued evening. It's too bad he didn't do better, because his brother Tyler put up 21pts/17rebs as UNC smacked NC State in the mouth Thursday. Woulda been cool to have a double Zeller showcase. T. Zeller and John Henson are a terrifying frontcourt if you're a smaller team. I'm pencilling them into the Elite Eight, at least.