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NCAA Daily Links

Tue, 12/27/2011 - 12:17pm

December 27, 2011

Welcome college basketball fans, hope you all had a fantastic Christmas! I know mine was filled with a lot of NBA action, which was just incredible to have back. There were not to many college basketball games that went on in the mean time, but I still have some solid news for you in this edition of NCAA Daily:

#6 Baylor Beats West Virginia in OT at Las Vegas Classic
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(Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review Journal)

Pierre JacksonPierre JacksonThe Baylor big men had their hands full with West Virginia's Kevin Jones, but the Bears managed to remain undefeated with an 83-81 OT victory. It was a nice homecoming for local product Pierre Jackson, who scored 23 points and made key baskets down the stretch to be named Las Vegas Classic MVP. Jackson had a rough first game against St. Mary's, held to only 6 points, but bounced back in this contest to nail crucial clutch triples to send the game to overtime and than put the game in Baylor's favor once they were there. Thought to be one of the nations best JUCO transfers, Jackson has really played a crucial role as a scoring PG for this Baylor team.

Meanwhile, West Virginia had a prime time performer in their own right. Senior Kevin Jones has bulked up significantly, yet still kept his ability to stretch the floor with his outside touch. Baylor had no real way of keeping Jones out of the paint and he was relatively dominant with his 28 point and 17 rebound performance. Freshman guard Jabarie Hinds also chipped in with 18 points and 7 assists, as West Virginia looked like the better team for the majority of the game. Ultimately, Baylor's talent always kept them within reach and West Virginia's poor shot selection and defensive rotation cost them the victory.

As far as the rest of the Baylor team went, this was a game that belonged to those normally considered role players. Jackson led the way, but SG Brady Heslip managed to score 19 points, many coming from distance for the shooting specialist. Quincy Acy also provided some nice drives, finishing with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Baylor's star duo of Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III were incredibly quiet.

Jones III had an incredibly difficult time establishing post position and rarely found himself with the ability to make much of an impact. The star sophomore finished with 4 points (2-9 FG) and 10 rebounds in 41 minutes. It was definitely a flash back to the Jones III who many feel does not assert himself enough, especially against physical competition, which he found in the form of Kevin Jones. It was a nice win for Baylor, but it leaves questions that Jones III can only answer by being much more aggressive in Big 12 play.

#4 Louisville Escapes With Victory Over Western Kentucky
(Chad Bishop/The BG Daily News)

The Cardinals beat the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 70-60, but it was a closer game than the final score really showed. The Hilltoppers played Louisville close for a majority of the contest and actually were within only 4 points with just over one minute remaining. After the game was over, Rick Pitino was happy that his team had come away with the victory, but knew that they needed a lot of work. The now 12-0 Cardinals shot poorly in the contest, played less than their best defensively and turned the ball over 20 times.

Size ended up being a distinct advantage for Louisville, as they won the rebounding battle 37-28. Sophomore center Gorgui Dieng had yet another double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds, 8 of which came on the offensive end. Russ Smith also proved to be a tough match-up for the Hilltoppers as he finished with 23 points. Kyle Kuric, the Cardinals leading scorer on the season, had 15 points while making 3 of Louisville's 5 three point shots on the game.

The Hilltoppers are only 4-9 on the season after the loss, but they played valiantly against the highly ranked Cardinals. They had 18 turnovers, but shot 44.2% from the field, well above the Cardinals average mark for opponents on the season of 35.4% (6th in the nation). Freshman Derrick Gordon, a high school teammate of Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Patrick's, had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Gordon's percentages have not been great in the early going, but his leadership skills and overall ability are definitely present, even as a first year player. Junior Jamal Crooks also chipped in with 13 points and 5 steals for the Hilltoppers.

Wagner Pulls Off Big Time Upset on #15 Pitt, 59-54
(Jerry DiPaola/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Danny Hurley got the biggest win of his young college coaching career as his Wagner Seahawks pulled off a major home upset on the Pitt Panthers. Pittsburgh, playing their 6th game without usual starting PG Tray Woodall, could have really used the missing play maker in this game. The Panthers shot only 39.6% FG and turned it over 18 times with Ashton Gibbs filling in at the point.

Gibbs is definitely a much better scoring guard than floor general and though he had a team high 14 points, he did so shooting only 5-16 FG. Sophomore guard's Latif Rivers and Kenneth Ortiz each had big games for the Seahawks, finishing with 18 points and 12 points/7 assists in their respective performances. Pittsburgh moved down to #22 in the AP Polls after the upset. Pitt starts off Big East play tonight at Notre Dame.

Kansas State Claims The Diamond Head Classic
(Kellis Robinett/The Kansas City Star)

Frank Martin's Kansas State Wildcats have been a pleasant early season surprise and had something to celebrate on Christmas after winning the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii. Junior guard Rodney McGruder had a monster game in the final against the Long Beach State 49ers, scoring 28 points (10-11 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6-7 FT) in 25 minutes during the 77-60 victory.

For his efforts, McGruder was named tournament MVP and Big 12 player of the week. The Wildcats are now 10-1 on the season and only have a New Year's Eve contest with Howard left before starting Big 12 play on January 4 against Kansas. The team also was recognized by the coaches poll as being the #25 ranked team in the nation, while being the last team left out of the AP top 25 poll.

#14 Xavier Ends 3 Game Losing Skid With Win Over Southern Illinois
(Shannon Russell/Cincinnati.com)

The fallout from the Xavier/Cincinnati rivalry game brawl definitely packed a punch on the Musketeers, who lost three games consecutively until finally beating Southern Illinois on Christmas Day in Honolulu. Hawaii was not that kind to Xavier, as they lost to both Long Beach State 49ers and Hawaii Warriors before finally snapping the streak with their 87-77 Christmas victory. Xavier found themselves outside of the polls on Monday and while they lost to Oral Roberts without star Tu Holloway, they even struggled upon the return of he and fellow star guard Mark Lyons.

The Musketeers were rolling in the early season and everything seemed to be going incredibly well for the team in the first 8 games. That is, until 9.4 seconds left of a blow out of rival Cincinnati, as a heated exchange between the sides led to a bench clearing brawl. The aftermath for Xavier was a suspension of three key players, Tu Holloway for 1 game, Mark Lyons for 2 games and Dez Wells for 4 games. The most surprising loss had to be to home team Hawaii while having both Holloway and Lyons in uniform. The Musketeers will be back at full strength for their New Year's Eve clash with Gonzaga.

#21 UNLV Run Over Cal in 85-68 Victory
(Ben Enos/Mercury News)

The Runnin' Rebels showed they could keep up with some of the nations best by beating North Carolina and Illinois. In their Friday clash with a team that figures to be a favorite in the Pac-12 conference, they ran the Cal Golden Bears off of the floor. Junior guard Anthony Marshall led four UNLV players in double figures with 22 points as the Runnin' Rebels are now 13-2 on the season. Cal had four double figure scorers of their own and were led by guard Justin Cobbs with 20, but were held to only 37.7% FG. UNLV outrebounded Cal 45-35 and outenergized a Bears squad that is now 10-3 heading into their first conference game with USC on Thursday.

Tony Bennett Explains Virginia's Transfer Situation
(Michael Phillips/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Despite having a team ranked in both the AP and coaches polls, Tony Bennett's Virginia program has been in the news lately after two players decided to transfer from the program. Sophomore guard KT Harrelland freshman forward James Johnson both decided to leave the program, with lack of playing time thought to be the main cause. Bennett feels that times have changed slightly, with players more anxious than ever to make an immediate impact. As he said:

"It is a lucrative, high-profile situation when you get to play in an ACC conference or high-major basketball. A lot of guys have talent coming in, and when it doesn't happen right away, there's probably a little less patience from players, from families, from everybody involved. I think that's changed over time."

There have been no studies conducted on the matter, but each ACC team either lost or gained a transfer last season. It certainly seems that now more than ever, if things are not going a players way, they usually look for other alternatives rather than waiting out the situation.

#11 Wisconsin Starts Off Conference Play at Nebraska
(Jim Polzin/Wisconsin State Journal)

The Wisconsin Badgers will once again be one of the top teams in the Big 10 conference and play conference new comer Nebraska on the Huskers home turf to start things off. The Cornhuskers are a school known much more for their prominence on the gridiron as opposed to the hardwood, but are hoping a change of scenery could be a kick start. The Huskers have been to the NCAA tournament only 6 times, never making it past the first round. Since Bo Ryan took over as coach for Wisconsin, the Badgers have been to the NCAA tournament in all of his 10 years, only failing to make it past the first round once. Needless to say, the Badgers hope to continue the success against this not quite there yet conference foe.

Minnesota Hopes To Continue Early Season Success In First Big 10 Game With Illinois
(Marcus R. Fuller/Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

It will literally be a tall task for coach Tubby Smith's Minnesota Golden Gophers in their first conference contest at Illinois. The Golden Gophers have compiled a 12-1 record pre-conference, including winning 6 straight games after losing star F/C Trevor Mbakwe for the season due to injury. Now, the Golden Gophers will face a strong Illinois team to start off Big 10 play. The Gophers have relied on the play of guards Julian Welch, Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins, while junior wing Rodney Williams has been sort of an undersized PF. The true key for this contest will be how senior center Ralph Sampson III does against sophomore Meyers Leonard. Illinois also has a stable of athletic guards who will surely challenge the Gophers.

Tennessee Looking Forward To Arrival of Jarnell Stokes
(Patrick Brown/TimesFreePress.com)

The Tennessee Volunteers got some great news on Thursday when top rated PF Jarnell Stokes committed to play for the team. However, the original plans of when Stokes would suit up for the team was for next season. It appears that those plans could indeed change drastically, as Stokes graduated high school early and is looking into playing as soon as January. The struggling Vols would get a major interior boost with the strong and talented Stokes, but they still need to await clearance from the NCAA and also time to acclimate the freshman to the college game. It is definitely a unique situation which should present challenges, but they pay off for Tennessee could be huge.

That is all for today, hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah and got to spend time with their loved ones. Or, at the very least, got to watch some great basketball. I will be back with even more of the latest college basketball news tomorrow for another NCAA Daily.

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