by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, January 7, 2013
The 3 most appealing games (according to FanMatchTM):
1) Kansas State 73, Oklahoma State 67 . (Saturday) This game is another of a million examples why college basketball is wacky. Poor shooting Kansas State facing a solid defense in Oklahoma State was surely a recipe for some bricks. But the Wildcats made 51% of their twos, 33% of their threes and 71% of their free throws, beating their season average in all categories. In the loss, Marcus Smart had his best offensive game of the year (25 points on 11 shots and 12 free throws) and moved into the kPOY top ten. So there’s that, Cowboy fans.
2) Illinois 74, Ohio State 55 . (Saturday) The Illini emphatically flipped the “are they overrated?” script on their opponents. It was clear on this day that Illinois was much, much better than Ohio State. Now let’s shift our focus on the brutal road ahead for the Buckeyes if nobody besides Deshaun Thomas steps up on offense.
3) Virginia 61, North Carolina 52 . (Sunday) Reggie Bullock was great in his return. So was Jontel Evans. What wasn’t great was the Tar Heels’ two-point shooting (14-for-34). If you have to pick one reason for Virginia’s surprising success so far, it’s that two-point shooting defense. Opponents have collectively made just 39% of their shots inside the arc so far.
The 3 biggest upsets:
1) #330 Louisiana-Monroe (7%) 81, #185 North Texas 68  (Saturday) Johnny Jones isn’t going to get coach of the year recognition, but he should if you think of it this way: The team he left, North Texas has cratered in its first season without him, while Jones’ new program, LSU, is one of the few positive surprises in the SEC. The Mean Green is 1-4 in the Sun Belt after losing at the Super Pit to a team whose previous two wins were both at home, in overtime and by one point, respectively.
2) #106 St. John’s (8%) 53, #16 Cincinnati 52  (Saturday) This was the ultimate in defensive struggles largely due to the combatants combining for 33 turnovers. Cashmere Wright (23 points) was a beacon of offense in a sea of scoring incompetence. His teammates went 7-for-28 on twos and 2-for-16 on threes. But I wouldn’t grab a life vest and jump off the S.S. Bearcat just yet. Any team with a defense this impressive has a chance at doing very good things going forward.
3) #277 Missouri State (14%) 77, #116 Drake 65  (Saturday) That Missouri State is 2-1 in conference play is one of the most unexpected things to happen in college hoops this season. Their offense in the non-conference schedule was utterly repugnant, but there’s a reason the inspirational plaque in the Bears’ locker room reads “Confidence, Schmonfidence”. Through three games they are second to Creighton in MVC-only points per possession.
The 3 craziest comebacks:
1) Youngstown State (3.6%) over Loyola-Chicago. (Saturday) It was a quiet weekend in comeback news. The Penguins trailed 50-36 with 13:48 left and by seven with 3:36 left, before scoring on their last five possessions and winning 68-66  on a Kenrdick Perry jumper with five seconds left.
2) Louisiana Tech (4.0%) over Texas-Arlington. (Saturday) La. Tech trailed 52-45 with 2:35 left. They closed the game on a 10-0 run to win 55-52 [72!].
3) Louisiana-Monroe (4.2%) over North Texas. (Saturday) Covered in the above Johnny Jones tribute. The worst case for the Warhawks was at the 3:44 mark of the first half when they trailed 28-21.
Unbeatens remaining: Duke, Michigan, Arizona, and Wyoming. (Unchanged since Friday.)
Winless teams remaining: Maryland-Eastern Shore and Grambling. (One fewer since Friday.)
This week’s 3 most appealing games (according to FanMatchTM):
1) #14 Arizona at #28 Oregon (Thursday, 9 PM ET, ESPN2). Oregon as Pac-12 champs? It’s not as crazy as it might sound. Although, it will sound crazy if the Ducks get beaten by Arizona on their home floor. This is the only scheduled meeting between the two teams this season.
2) #9 Minnesota at #34 Illinois (Wednesday, 9 PM ET, Big Ten Network). I didn’t think the Gophers would have much success getting offensive rebounds against Michigan State in their Big Ten opener, but they managed to nearly meet their season average (47%) against a defense that is usually solid at preventing second chances. Then Minnesota went ahead and grabbed 64% of its misses against vertically-challenged Northwestern yesterday. Have fun with that, Illini.
3) #21 Miami at #38 North Carolina (Thursday, 7 PM ET, ESPN). Who’s the ACC’s second-best team? America wants to know. It may be one of these two or it may not. But if the Hurricanes get a victory at the Smith Center, they’ll have a compelling case.