I covered Louisville on their run to the Final Four last year and have been touting them as a top-five team this year considering all the people returning and I will be broadcasting Duke at least twice this year as they take on NC State and North Carolina. So it’s no surprise that I had a big interest in their game last Saturday. Coach K has another team that can win it all led by great guards in Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon, quality big men in Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly and good role players. While Duke was in command most of the way, Louisville did make it interesting down the stretch without their 7-foot center Gorgui Dieng. Bottom line is that Duke won its second game over a top-five team and play another in Ohio State tonight. Look for the Blue Devils to be in Atlanta in April.
When I was a coach, I hated scheduling mid-majors, now I love watching them. Creighton is an efficient offensive machine with a first-team All-American, Butler could have named its score against North Carolina in Maui, VCU has athletes all over the floor and is hungry to get back to the Final Four and no less than five mid-majors are in this week’s Associated Press rankings. Creighton (11), Gonzaga (12), San Diego State (23), UNLV (24) and New Mexico (25) all are Sweet Sixteen-worthy. New Mexico already has six wins, including victories over a great Davidson team, George Mason and UCONN. The Lobos have won three Mountain West regular season titles in the last four years. These teams are beating major conference teams like Creighton handling Wisconsin and San Diego State winning at USC. That is the beauty of all these November tournaments. It gives the little guys a chance.
I would love to tell you I taught Steve Fisher everything he knows, but that would be a lie. His squad has now won 25 straight games over teams from California, after its win over USC, and 10 straight against Pac-12 schools. The last Pac-12 team to beat San Diego State was Arizona State on December 19th, 2009! One more thing to wonder about as I read about college football coaches getting fired after two years… Steve Fisher was 71-85 after his first six years at SDSU. That athletic department didn’t panic. Props to them for staying patient. I would hope that people at a place like Boston College keep these kinds of things in mind and don’t panic after November losses to the likes of Bryant. It happens. You just can’t let it keep happening.
Speaking of Arizona State, make sure you check out 5-10 freshman burner Jahii Carson. He put 30 on Creighton in a losing cause, becoming only the fourth Sun Devil freshman to score 30. His speed is unreal. ASU is averaging 10 shots more per game than it did last year. I don’t see them finishing 11th as the media picked. The Pac-12 is all over the map right now, with Colorado being 5-0 for the first time in decades yet UCLA lost to Cal Poly, Washington lost to Albany and Stanford lost to Belmont, all at home. Cal Poly outscored UCLA 37-17 in the final dozen minutes.
Ever heard of Kyan Anderson? UAB probably didn’t pay much attention to him when it scouted and prepared for TCU. Anderson was averaging just over eight points per game in the Horned Frogs’ first six games this year. So it makes total sense he would toss in 35 against the Blazers in his seventh game of the season. How about Minnesota’s Andre Hollins? He scored 41 points against Memphis – the most by a Gopher since 1971. Hollins made all five three-pointers he attempted, was 12-of-13 from the line and had 24 in the first half alone.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Dial Global’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.