Around the Top 25: Florida finds the gas pedal
—UPSET—Evansville , No. 25 Northern Iowa . Missouri Valley, beware the Aces. The worst team in the league has now knocked out the top two teams. How often does this happen? Should I be as harsh on UNI as I was on Wichita State? If so, that would mean banishing the Panthers from the at-large picture. I still think they’re in the discussion, but this is the kind of loss that could really, really, really, really (yep, four of them) damage the hopes of Ben Jacobson’s team. It had best get the job done in the Valley tournament. And that’s going to be a bit of a minefield to trudge through.
—UPSET—Florida 75, No. 19 Tennessee 62. Well, that got out of hand quickly. I turn the channel when the Gators are up by four, flip back like five minutes later and it’s a 70-50 game. Have no idea how it happened. I have missed about every single spurt of offensive competence from Florida this year, despite having watched about six of its games. It seems the Gators will be back in the field for the first time since Jim Nantz called their title game. I miss Chandler Parsons’ curls, by the way. As for UT, Scotty Hopson responded to his benching by leading the team with 20 points. But the Vols only got to the line 11 times and certainly didn’t look interested in making it that kind of game. Florida’s not winning a game in March, but it’s going to get a ticket.
No. 4 Syracuse 99, Providence 85. Providence is becoming synonymous with a lack of defense. Given Keno Davis’ past before getting to Rhode Island, that’s somewhat of a shock. Davis, to me, brings up thoughts of discipline and sturdy coaching. Providence certainly isn’t that. Andy Rautins and Rick Jackson, both with 28 points, helped Syracuse pull away in the second half. Yeah, it was 52-47 P Town at the break, and you wondered if the Friars would catch Syrcause napping. Jackson had never, ever had a game in college like what the Friars let him do last night. And Rautins, game by game, is becoming the most critical part of this team. Somewhat stunning, if you ask me. The win officially locks Syracuse into not having to play in the Big East tournament until Thursday. That’s a double-bye.
No. 6 Kansas State 83, Texas Tech 64. A mildly surprising stat: first win for Kansas State in Lubbock in 24 years. Jacob Pullen put up 21 in the first half and had 28 by game’s end. Hmm … have I been wrong to not include 23-4 Kansas State into the 1-seed discussion? Will that pick up any steam? I see the Wildcats losing two more before The Tournament. A hunch based on nothing, of course.
No. 10 New Mexico 72, Colorado State 68. Every year we get one or two teams from a fringe major conference that end the regular season with just three or four wins. New Mexico is going to be one of those teams. The question is, will it flop in three weeks? How many teams that play and schedule well for four months kill their reputation by failing to get to the second weekend. I hope Steve Alford’s team doesn’t do that.
No. 11 Georgetown 70, Louisville 60. Austin Freeman got the appropriate amount of love last night and I hope that carries over into today. He had 29 overall, but hit five 3s and scored 24 points in the second half. Freeman is someone who I always notice yet don’t bring up a lot. Just very steady. When he’s on, Georgetown’s significantly better. You ever play pickup ball with some common characters, and you know if you’re teamed up with a certain guy your group is certainly going to be in it? I think Freeman’s like that. He’s not the scale-tipper, but he’s more than a glue guy, certainly. For Louisville, a home loss that leads up to the huge UConn game Sunday on the road. Man, what a game! I’m excited to be going. Will Edgar Sosa, the feast-or-famine point guard who had 24 points and eight assists last night, be able to show up again when going against Dyson and Walker? Right now, edge is certainly to UConn.