Let’s start out this week by giving congratulations to two universities who haven’t had a lot of success recently, but have come to play and are determined to not look in the rear-view mirror.
Knights Like These
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan was in tears when his Scarlet Knights beat No. 4 Wisconsin on Sunday, the program’s first top-five win in its history. Jordan played on Rutgers’ Final Four team in 1976, which I coached against as a Michigan assistant way back then. In short, the guy bleeds the school colors. Rutgers hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1991, and they probably won’t challenge that this year, but things are on stable ground with the program. They now take it on the road this week, with stops tonight at Maryland and Saturday at Minnesota.
At Oregon State, head coach Wayne Tinkle has his Beavers 10-0 at home and they knocked off a top-10 team for the first time since March of 2000 when they beat Arizona Sunday night in Corvallis. This is not a fluke: Wayne has them playing well in their building and Gary Payton II is a great guard. OSU hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since I was coaching against Gary Payton I in the Pac-12 (1990), so you know that’s a long time ago. But Coach Tinkle has them on the right path. Corvallis is going to be a tough place to win moving forward.
Pop Quiz, Hot Shot
Trivia time… who is Tyler Harvey? Well, he plays for Eastern Washington and is the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 23.4 points per game. He already dropped 39 on Weber State and has 11 20-point games. Harvey had no Division I offers coming out of Bishop Montgomery High School in California, but here’s why… he entered high school at 5’2″. He now stands 6’4″. That’s one heck of a growth spurt. The sophomore guard had 25 in EWU’s upset win at Indiana and 21 in a close loss at Washington. If EWU wins the Big Sky Tournament, I would hate to be a 2-seed matching up with this potential 15-seed.
Eyeing the Utes
I got my eye on No. 8 Utah this weekend as the Utes travel to Arizona State and Arizona. Those Arizona schools went 17-1 at home combined last year in the Pac-12, and although ASU is down, Utah now becomes the hunted and not the hunter and that isn’t easy. It’s the highest ranking for the Utes since they finished 1998-99 at No. 6. When Utah faces Arizona on Saturday, it’ll mark the first meeting between two top-10 teams in league play since March 6th, 2008, when No. 3 UCLA defeated No. 7 Stanford. But first things first. What I love about this road trip is that we’ll find out a lot about Utah in a hurry. As a potential Pac-12 champion, the Utes need to take care of business against ASU before worrying about the big matchup Saturday in Tucson. Larry Krystkowiak is climbing up all the lists as one of the best coaches in the college game, and Delon Wright is a pro. Somewhere, Rick Majerus is smiling. Utah already has a road win at BYU, battled Kansas in Kansas City and lost another close one at San Diego State.
What to Listen To
I can’t want to get to the Hilton Coliseum in Ames for Saturday night’s big showdown between 11th-ranked Iowa State and No. 9 Kansas. The Cyclones first have a tough road game in Waco tonight, but win or lose in that one, they’ll be fired up to welcome the Jayhawks to a packed house. Remember, Kansas has won at least a share of the Big 12 title for ten straight years. Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg sure would like to find a way to break that run. John Sadak and I will have the game on Westwood One and it should be a good one. (Editor’s note: You can listen to that broadcast beginning at 8:45 PM Eastern Saturday night right here on WestwoodOneSports.com)
What Else To Watch
I’ll be keeping track of Utah at Arizona Saturday as we get ready for the game in Ames, and how about this conference matchup earlier in the day — Duke at Louisville!! Coach K vs. Rick Pitino. If it comes down to a final shot, somebody ought to double check Christian Laettner’s eligibility.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’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.