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:
Davon Jefferson & James Gist
It’s a rare week when two number one seeds get upset at home, but that was case last week thanks to some big-time performances by a pair of unheralded players. USC freshman Davon Jefferson, who has played all season in the huge shadow of fellow rookie O.J. Mayo, was the best player on the floor against UCLA on Saturday, scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Trojans’ stunning 72-63 win. As that game was winding down, Maryland was putting the finishing touches on its upset of top-ranked North Carolina. Led by senior forward James Gist’s 22 points and 13 boards, the Terps toppled the Tar Heels 82-80 in Chapel Hill. It was the fourth double-double of the year for Gist, an underrated post player who has quietly had a very solid season for Gary Williams’ young and steadily improving squad.
Memphis may be the new No. 1 team in the country, but the loaded Jayhawks proved against this week that they are just as worthy of that top spot. KU walloped Oklahoma (a Blake Griffin-less Oklahoma, but still) by 30 at home on Monday and then shook off a poor shooting night to win a tough road game at Missouri on Saturday. On both nights, Kansas had four starters in double figures, headlined by Brandon Rush’s 16 points and nine rebounds against Oklahoma and Mario Chalmers’ 18 points, five boards, and three steals against the Tigers. The Jayhawks, who improved to 18-0 with the two wins, have two easy home games this week before traveling to Kansas State next Wednesday for what should be a great game.
The Vols didn’t get a No. 1 seed in this week’s bracket by default; they earned it by adding two more quality wins to their extremely impressive resume. Led by Wayne Chism’s 18 points and 18 rebounds, Tennessee crushed Vandy by 20 at home on Thursday, and then followed up that win with a five-point victory over Ohio State at home on Saturday. Those victories, paired with the Vols’ earlier defeats of West Virginia, Xavier, Gonzaga, and Mississippi, already gives Tennessee six wins over tournament teams - one more than fellow one seeds and Memphis and Duke, and three more than Kansas.
Of all the unexpected storylines of this college basketball season, the fact that Drake has one loss in late January has to be near – if not at the top – of the list. The Bulldogs’ dream season continued this week, as they stunned Bradley on the road on Wednesday and then won their first-place battle with Illinois State on Saturday to improve to 7-0 in the MVC. The Illinois State win also extended Drake’s winning streak to 15 games, helped move the Bulldogs up to a six seed in this week’s bracket, and earned the program its first Top 25 ranking in 33 years.
Just how big was Cleveland State's win over Butler last week? It was the program’s first regular season victory ever (yup, ever) over a ranked opponent, it earned CSU a 12 seed in our latest Field of 65, and most importantly, it put the Vikings - who finished 10-21 last season - in the driver’s seat to win the Horizon regular season title (and the home court advantage in the conference tournament that goes along with it). At 7-0, Cleveland State now has a two game lead over Bulter in the loss column - which is doubly huge considering the Vikings are about to embark on a four-game road trip.
Also receiving votes: Duke (the Blue Devils won a pair of tough games this week – at FSU and at home against Clemson – to stay unbeaten in ACC play and earn a 1 seed in this week's bracket), Michigan State (the Spartans also picked up two quality Ws this week, beating Ohio State at home and winning at pesky Minnesota), Mississippi State (thanks to a pair of 24-point games by Jamont Gordon, the Bulldogs beat Kentucky and Alabama to improve to 4-0 in the SEC), Providence (the Friars beat UConn in Hartford for the second straight year on Thursday and, as a result, jumped back into the Field of 65), Texas Tech (the Red Raiders crushed Texas A&M on Wednesday night to give Bobby Knight – whether he likes it or not – his 900th career win), Canisius (the 3-14 Golden Griffins pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the week, beating – and rushing on – then-MAAC co-leader Niagara 70-62 on Friday night), Brook Lopez (Stanford’s star forward had 19 points and six rebounds in a win over Arizona on Thursday and then bounced back from a terrible first half to finish with 19 points and 16 rebounds in a 67-52 win over Arizona State on Saturday), Michael Beasley and Bill Walker (Kansas State’s dynamic duo combined for 40 point in the Wildcats’ upset of Texas A&M on Saturday), Dre Smith (George Mason’s sharp-shooting guard set an NCAA record by going a ridiculous 10-for-10 from beyond the arc in a win over James Madison on Saturday night), Ricky Harris (the sophomore guard had 22 points in UMass’ win at Dayton on Wednesday, and had 24 points in a win at home against Charlotte on Saturday), Tyler Hansbrough (the All-American had 27 points and 12 boards as Carolina squeaked by Georgia Tech on Wednesday), Sean Singletary (Virginia’s heartbreaking loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday certainly wasn’t Singletary’s fault – he scored a season-high 34 points and added a season-high 10 rebounds), Jon Brockman (the junior forward had 21 points and 16 rebounds in Washington’s 78-70 upset of Oregon on Thursday and had 26 points and 14 boards in the Huskies’ win over Oregon State on Saturday), Stephen Curry (Davidson’s star sophomore had 37 points in the Wildcats’ win over Chattanooga on Saturday), Deron Washington (the senior’s driving lay-in at the buzzer gave Virginia Tech a 70-69 overtime win at Virginia on Wednesday), Hasheem Thabeet (UConn’s sophomore center had 15 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in the Huskies’ win over Marquette on Saturday), Dionte Christmas (the junior guard scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half to lead Temple in its upset win over Xavier on Wednesday)
The Top 25
When the dust finally cleared on a crazy week of games, 15 teams in the AP Top 25 had lost at least one game, and if you factor in teams “also receiving votes,” 26 of the top 44 teams in the country went down at least once. These results obviously speak to the parity that exists in college basketball, and to the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teams to win on the road (which are both good things), but selfishly, it makes putting a bracket together that much harder. So, come on, ranked teams, help your favorite bracketologists out: Win two games next week. Please?
After a ridiculously soft OOC schedule, Texas A&M came into the Big XII season with something to prove. This week, all they proved is that they aren’t very good away from home. First, the Aggies were blown out at Texas Tech on Wednesday, managing just 17 first half points and committing 20 turnovers in a 68-53 loss. Then they played even worse in a 21-point defeat at Kansas State on Saturday. Those losses knocked A&M down to a five seed in this week’s bracket and caused coach Mark Turgeon to bluntly say that his team “doesn’t have a lot of guys playing very well right now.”
Life on the road has not been too kind to Miami, either. The Hurricanes lost games at Boston College and at N.C. State last week to fall to 1-2 in conference and to drop from the top six seed down to a 10 seed in this week’s Field of 65. Against the Eagles on Monday, Miami shot just 31 percent from the field (star guard Jack McClinton went 6-for-26) and lost 76-66. Four days later, the sloppy ‘Canes literally handed the Wolfpack a win, giving up four points in the last two seconds of overtime in a heartbreaking 79-77 loss.
The SEC is down to a four-bid league right now thanks to Arkansas’s inability to get even a split in its two games last week. The Razorbacks inexplicably lost at home to South Carolina on Wednesday and then lost a decently tough, but certainly winnable, game at Georgia on Saturday to drop out of our Field of 65. Terrible outside shooting ultimately did in Arkansas in both games – they went a combined 5-for-25 from three-point-range against the Gamecocks and Bulldogs.
We stuck our necks out for the Huskers (and their astronomical RPI) last week in the hopes that they could win a road game at Colorado and beat Baylor at home to stay in the bracket. Our reward for that loyalty? Two terrible losses that dropped Nebraska to 0-3 in conference and dropped their aforementioned RPI down to a cool 167. Can we all agree that this pick never happened? Nice…thanks.
Also receiving votes: The A-10’s Big Three (Xavier, Dayton, and Rhode Island all lost conference games this week, the most shocking of the three being the Rams’ loss on the road Thursday against offensively-challenged Saint Louis), Marquette (the Golden Eagles still haven’t won a conference road game yet; they lost at Louisville and at UConn by a combined 36 points this week), Oregon (after moving up to a six seed in last week’s bracket, the Ducks promptly got swept by Washington and Washington State on the road this week), California (the Bears wasted two brilliant 30-point efforts from Ryan Anderson and got swept by Arizona State and Arizona at home to fall out of this week’s bracket), Louisville (the finally-healthy Cardinals were getting a lot of national love for winning eight of nine games – and then they went out and laid an egg against Seton Hall on Saturday, blowing a 14-point second half lead and losing 92-82), Holy Cross (the Crusaders – everyone’s preseason pick to win the Patriot league – fell to 0-3 in conference this week after losses at perennial doormat Army and at home to rival Bucknell), Geary Claxton (the senior guard’s season – and career – is done after he tore the ACL in his left knee in Penn State’s loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma’s star freshman could miss as much as four weeks after spraining the MCL in his left knee in the Sooners’ loss to Kansas on Monday), fans who want to get John Wooden’s autograph at Pauley Pavilion (UCLA issued a “friendly request” to fans last week to let the 97-year-old legend watch and enjoy Bruins games in peace), the side of Rick Majerus we never knew (according to a story by S.L. Price in Sports Illustrated this past week, Majerus apparently has a slight public nudity problem, routinely calls his players the c-word, likes to whip out “Rick Jr.” to try to prove a point, and…well, you can read the rest for yourself…the highlights are on pages 4 and 5)