Dean's List-Academic Probation is a weekly column that analyzes all of the highlights and lowlights from the previous week's games. The teams, players, conferences, etc. that deserve praise for what they accomplished over the past week make our Dean's List; those deserving ridicule are put on Academic Probation.
Here are this week's honorees:
Dayton officially ended the “Best Team in the A-10” debate this week in stunning fashion, destroying Pitt by 25 at home. The Flyers beat up the normally physical Panthers on both ends of the floor, using the inside-outside game of Brian Roberts (31 points) and Kurt Huelsman (12 points, eight boards) to perfection on offense, and holding Pitt to just 30 percent shooting on defense. The Flyers are playing like a 5 or 6 seed right now, and they now have two nice wins on their OOC resume. A memo to Joe Lunardi: it’s about time you put them in your bracket. You're a little late to the party.
A.J. Graves, Butler
Graves’ leaning, 35-foot heave at the buzzer against Southern Illinois not only put him in the early lead for Shot of the Year, it gave the Bulldogs another seed-boosting OOC road win. It’s easy to feel bad for the Salukis (who have had to endure an extremely tough non-conference schedule this season), until you realize that they missed nine of 12 free throws Friday night. Tyrone Green’s late miss from the line was particularly brutal, as it gave Butler – and Graves – one last chance to pull off a miracle.
Michael Flowers, Wisconsin
Flowers’ game-winner at Texas might have come from 15 feet closer to the basket than Graves’ did, but that doesn’t mean it was any less dramatic – or meaningful. His three (and subsequent steal and fling of the ball into the air) capped an impressive second half comeback by the Badgers and gave Wisconsin a signature win that they desperately needed after missing chances against Duke and Marquette. The victory was also a huge one for the Big Ten which, excluding Michigan State, has not fared all that well this season against big teams from the other major conferences.
Has there been a team that’s done more for its resume over the last two week than Oklahoma? The Sooners made it into our Field of 65 last week after wins over Arkansas and Gonzaga in a five day span, and they continued their superb play this week with an 88-82 double overtime win at West Virginia on Saturday. Oklahoma’s inside combo of Blake Griffin (18 points, 16 rebounds) and All-Name team member Longar Longar (22 points, including eight in the second OT) were the difference as the streaking Sooners moved to 10-3 on the year.
Make it three wins over ranked teams already for the Tigers, who put another double-digit smackdown on a quality opponent Saturday in crushing Arizona 76-63. We hate to completely fast forward the entire C-USA season, especially the way Houston has played (albeit against weak competition), but a case could easily be made that Memphis is only a victory over Tennessee on Feb. 23 away from an unbeaten regular season. That game, like the Gonzaga game on Jan. 26, is at Memphis. At this point, is anyone willing to bet against Calipari and Co. running the table?
Also receiving votes: Boise State (the Broncos opened some eyes with their upset of BYU on Saturday), Drake (the Bulldogs opened conference play with a nice win at Wichita State to move to 10-1 on the year), Tennessee (make it back-to-back quality wins for the Vols after an 82-72 victory over Gonzaga on Saturday), Billy White (the San Diego State forward forced overtime against previously unbeaten Sam Houston State Friday with a tip-in with 0.2 seconds left, and then won it for the Aztecs with a put-back with 11 seconds left in OT), Eniel Polynice (the sophomore guard had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists in Mississippi’s blowout of Southern Miss on Friday), J.J. Hickson (the freshman had 33 points and 13 boards as N.C. State beat Western Carolina 74-62 on Friday), Jamar Butler (the senior guard had 22 points and 12 assists in Ohio State’s win over UMBC on Saturday), Eddie Sutton’s chances at 800 career wins (the newly-named interim coach at San Francisco needs just two more Ws to reach the 800 mark)
The Big East
As other conferences continue to pick up steam (and bids), the Big East has been pretty unimpressive of late – and the events of this past week certainly didn’t do anything to change that. Seton Hall lost its bubble battle with N.C. State on Thursday, West Virginia lost at home to Oklahoma Saturday, and to top it off, the league’s best team to date – Pitt – got smacked around at Dayton. Couple those results with Georgetown’s poor showing against Memphis, and the injuries and inconsistency that have plagued Louisville and Syracuse all year, and the league is not nearly as deep or as strong as most predicted. Marquette’s win at Wisconsin on Dec. 8 is about all the Big East has to brag about OOC-wise so far.
No team in the country took a bigger step backwards this week than Pitt. The Panthers had moved up to a two seed in our Field of 65 after Levance Fields’ miracle three against Duke last week, but all of that good karma evaporated in a hurry on Saturday. Not only was Pitt embarrassed at Dayton, but Fields was lost for eight to 12 weeks with a broken foot. Senior Ronald Ramon, who has struggled mightily all season and who scored just two points in 32 minutes against the Flyers, will take Fields’ place in the lineup. With Mike Cook and redshirt freshman Austin Wallace also out, the Panthers are down to just nine scholarship players as they prep for Big East play.
The Seminoles wish they had nine scholarship players left. They have six, count ‘em six, remaining after losing two more important pieces this past week. Freshman Solomon Alabi is done for the year with a leg fracture, and freshman Julian Vaughn will be out indefinitely because of a medical condition that, because of privacy laws, coach Leonard Hamilton can not talk about. With sophomore forward Ryan Reid also out because of an undisclosed suspension, FSU has only one true post player (Uche Echefu) left on its roster. The ‘Noles did manage to beat Georgia Tech on Sunday, but with a ridiculous lack of depth for the forseeable future, wins are probably going to few and far between down the road. (We hope this doesn’t mean die-hard FSU fan and loyal B101 reader Bryan stops posting). On the bright side, at least Seminole fans still have a respectable, hard-working football team to root for…oh wait…
ACLs in NC
In the span of less than a week, both North Carolina and North Carolina State lost their point guards for the season with torn ACLs. Reserve Bobby Frasor tore the ACL in his left knee in the Tar Heels’ win over Nevada on Thursday night, four days after it was learned that N.C. State’s starting point guard, Farnold Degand, would miss the rest of the year with an ACL tear in the same knee. Degand was leading the Wolfpack in assists and three-point shooting when he went down. Frasor’s stats weren’t all that impressive (3.0 ppg), but his intensity – especially on the defensive end – will certainly by missed. Roy Williams was almost in tears as he talked about Frasor’s injury after the game and called him a “coach on the floor” for the top-ranked Tar Heels.
The ‘Canes unbeaten season wasn’t going to last forever, but it came to an end in pretty weak fashion on Saturday against Winthrop. Miami blew an 11-point second half lead at home, as the Eagles hit 10 of their final 13 shots and scored 49 points in the last 17-plus minutes to win 76-70. Miami coach Frank Haith called out his team afterward, saying that they “relaxed” and were “too casual.”
Also receiving votes: Illinois (forget the Brian Randle injury: losing to Tennessee Tech at home is indefensible), Creighton (the Bluejays opened the MVC season by losing at home to Illinois State), Kentucky (the Wildcats’ freefall continued with a home loss to San Diego on Saturday), Bradley’s first half against Northern Iowa (the Braves scored eight points before halftime before eventually falling 59-46 in their MVC opener), Bobby Knight (Knight was reprimanded by the Big XII this week for comments he made about the officiating in a loss to New Mexico on Dec. 15), Herb Pope (the New Mexico State freshman, who hasn’t played this season due to eligibility issues, was arrested on a DUI charge after police found him unresponsive behind the wheel of a car that was stopped in traffic in Pittsburgh early Friday morning), Jerret Smith (the junior point guard was dismissed from the team by Michigan coach John Beilein this week for “not meeting the expectations of a student-athlete”)