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Georgetown, Baylor, Stanford and Cal all lost on their home floors to start the week last week (to Villanova, West Virginia, Arizona and Arizona State, respectively), which put them all in the lots-of-work-to-do category. Then all four responded exactly how you’d like as a coach: with nice wins on Saturday, led by Cal knocking Arizona from the ranks of the unbeaten. Georgetown beat Michigan State in a non-conference showdown, while Baylor and Stanford responded with victories over Oklahoma and Arizona State. Other tough losses included Ohio State losing at home to Penn State and Wisconsin losing at home to both Northwestern and Ohio State. It will be interesting to see the last eight teams in the field this year, as there will be 30 or 40 so-so squads that think they have a chance.
A Cavalier Attitude
Let’s keep an eye on Virginia now, who has a chance to get a top-four seed in the NCAAs as it has a great strength of schedule (#8), eight top-100 wins and five top-50 wins. The Cavaliers have won seven of the past eight, with the only loss in that time a 69-65 defeat at Duke. In those eight games, Virginia is giving up just over 60 points a game. The job Tony Bennett and his father did at Washington State a few years back is one of the best coaching jobs in college basketball in the past few decades. He has a great thing going in Charlottesville, and remember that he has five home games left and his road games are at Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Maryland. Virginia could be a 25-win team by the time Selection Sunday rolls around. Virginia has six players averaging more than 6.5 points per game and no one averaging more than 11.8. But the Cavaliers are allowing only 55.1 points per game, the best mark in the nation.
St. Louis Streak
A few weeks back I said that Saint Louis was about to go on a roll, and it hasn’t stopped yet. Do you remember where you were on December 1st? SLU does. That’s the last time the Billikens lost a game when they dropped one at home to Wichita State. They probably have one coming soon with three of the next four on the road including a big one with St. Joseph’s Wednesday night, but what an amazing run regardless.
I’ve got my eye on Provo, where BYU has won seven of the past nine and has seven games left to impress the committee, including a home tilt with Gonzaga on February 20th. The Cougars have wins over Stanford and Texas that look better every day, and their five top-50 losses show they’ve played a tough schedule. BYU is 14-9 going into winnable home games this weekend against Santa Clara and San Francisco. I think BYU is in great shape for the NCAAs. Not many others are keeping eyes on them, I am, and by time Selection Sunday rolls around, the WCC will have Gonzaga and BYU in the tournament. Junior Tyler Haws is averaging the quietest 24.6 points per game and shooting nearly 48% from the field. He gets to the foul line a bunch and makes nearly 90 percent there. The NCAA Tournament awaits, Mr. Haws…
What a game at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night as Syracuse beat Duke in overtime. Great way to start what should become a nice rivalry in the new-look ACC. Can’t wait for the rematch at Cameron on February 22nd. I’ll be there with Dave Sims and we’ll bring it to you on WestwoodOne and right here on the web site. But next up for me is a trip to Madison for Michigan State and Wisconsin this Sunday. That should be a good one too.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for WestwoodOne’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.