By Matt Norlander
Here’s everything you need to know about Monday night’s miserably slim pickings worth games. Being the good/smart fiancé that I am, I chose Night Courty tonight so tomorrow I’m totally, absolutely, undeniably free. Veteran move. Borzello will be tracking Tuesday's games, so there you go.
Game of the Night: Anyone not in high school right now remembers when Kansas State had a bad basketball program. The Kansas-Kansas State rivalry had approximately no national appeal. Thank God for Bob Huggins and Frank Martin getting the program back to relevance, because the games have been pretty great for the past half-decade. The two went at it again in Manhattan, Kan., tonight, and for the 22nd time in the last 24 meetings there, Kansas emerged victorious, 59-53.
It's certainly a big brother over little brother ordeal with these two programs, but at least K-State puts up a good fight. I always want to see how K-State brings it, even if it's normally the same result. What concerns me with the Wildcats now is, I'm not sure this team has the makeup to make a tourney run. It falls tonight, and now it gets Baylor and Missouri on the road. It's a 6-9 Big 12 team by next Tuesday night most likely, and so then it'll have to win out, finish 9-9 and get at least a Big 12 tourney win to have hope. Tall task.
Win to brag talk about: You think Syracuse wants to brag? It was its first win over Louisville in eight tries. The first home loss to Syracuse since it joined the Big East in 2005. Boy was it ugly, though. Just brutal basketball. Lots of bad shots. Scoop Jardine was 0 for 8. Gorgui Dieng was 2 for 9. Chris Smith was 3 for 11. Dion Waiters was 3 for 10. Kyle Kuric was 1 for 8.
This game felt like it was played on a court with pot holes and in the rain and with half-pumped tether ball. No flow and neither team deserved to win, but someone had to. Winning ugly adds another character trait to Syracuse, though it’s one few teams every really want to embrace. Win’s a win, though, and this cements — barring a three-game losing streak at some point — Syracuse as a one seed in the East regional next month.
Player who deserves improper benefits: It’s Jeff Withey. Eighteen points, 11 boards, NINE BLOCKS. First guy with that kind of stat line in three years. This junior is transforming into prototypical Reliable and Forceful White Kansas Center. I didn't see it coming. He's genuinely awesome and fun and unpredictable to watch. His play makes me believe Kansas can make a Final Four run and not have it be a fluky thing. Love Withey. Gotta get Withey on the phone. Gotta get Withey to tell me how to live my life. Incredible turnaround. He's the most improved player in hoops this season.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Royce White is the player with pro potential for Iowa State. He’s a matchup problem for a lot of teams, but Baylor isn’t one of them. The Bears won at home tonight, remaining undefeated against teams who don’t have “MIZZOU” or “KANSAS” sewed onto their jersey. White had seven turnovers and hurt the team in some needed spots. He did manage 14 points of 7-of-12 shooting. It wasn’t awful, but we’re dealing with a light slate here.
A quick note on Baylor. I heard ESPN.com’s Andy Katz mention he thinks this team will do better once it’s out of the Big 12 and playing in the NCAA tournament. Maybe. But who says it can’t continue to pick on all the other teams? I’d be very intrigued to see what happens to a five-loss Baylor team that only fell to Kansas and Missouri. Where would they get seeded? The argument for the 3 is legitimate.
Another player who does not deserve improper benefits: K-State's Angel Rodriguez was a killer, also getting way too Bill Gates with the ball. Seven turnovers, 0-of-8 from the field, zero points.
Numbers don’t lie
- 48. Belmont defeated Stetson 107-93 Monday night. It was the 48th time this season a game between two D-I teams had one squad score more than 100.
- 6. Louisville fans want a reason to be positive tonight? Under Pitino in the Big East, Louisville doesn’t always pull off six-game winning streaks in the Big East. They did this year, and in the prior two times, Louisville made the Elite Eight (2009, 2008).
- Due to school rules, Kevin Foster of Santa Clara has been suspended for the remainder of the season.
- Hats off to Stetson's Aaron Pegg, who went out and had himself a night, scoring 31 in the Belmont game.
- Mississippi Valley State's now 13-0 in the abysmal SWAC. Delta Devils have a good chance of returning to the dance.
- I'm going sunflowers over roses tomorrow. I suggest you do the same. Roses are more stale than last Wednesday's bread.