Tsuj’s Ten: College basketball, 12/27
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • December 27, 2011 @ 7:30am
I hope glorious, relaxing and enlightening holidays were had by all. Admittedly, I spent most of my Christmas Day eating and watching the NBA, which doesn’t really do a ton of good for the Tsuj’s Ten college basketball blog. Nothing says “holiday” better than a wince-inducing Blake Griffin dunk and several sugar cookies with those delightful little colored balls on top. Anyhow, I take comfort in knowing I’m more well-liked than Kris Humphries.
1) MORE ICE TUB: The UB Bulls had better be conserving their energy now, because the schedule becomes frenetic in early January. From Jan. 7 until Feb. 1—a span of 32 days—Reggie Witherspoon’s team plays eight games, half of which are on the road. No, it’s not as nut-so as the incredibly condensed NBA schedule, but considering the rigor of conference games—the only cake-walk opponent is 0-11 Northern Illinois—the Bulls must be prepared for a tough stretch.
2) Hooting Owls: Before the MAC slate begins, though, the Bulls travel to Temple on Wednesday. The 7-3 Owls’ trio of defeats have come against Bowling Green, Purdue and Texas, and their quality wins include Villanova and Wichita State (#6 in most recent mid-major top 25). Somehow, senior guards Ramone Moore (17.5 ppg) and Juan Fernandez (12.8 ppg) are still lurking around Philadelphia, but the absence of 6’11 fifth-year senior Micheal Eric (injured knee) has head coach Fran Dunphy’s team searching for answers in the paint.
3) Grinchy Tsuj: If you asked me before the season how I thought the Bulls’ individual statistical averages would be through nine games, I wouldn’t be too surprised right now. Some “grinchy” low notes? Jarod Oldham’s only shooting 23% from the floor, Tony Watson II is hitting only 30% from beyond the arc and Xavier Ford averages only 4.4 minutes per contest.
4) Mature Mitch: The encouraging numbers? Other than Cameron Downing’s scorching 100% clip from the field, Mitchell Watt’s typical line of 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks has to bring a smile to Witherspoon’s face. Timid and raw-as-can-be as an underclassman, Watt’s confidence is high entering the conference slate of his senior campaign. Titus Robinson’s 7.0 points per game and 50% shooting percentage are above expectations—he was at 4.9 ppg and 45% last year.
5) Alshwan vs. the barn’s broad side: Shuffling over to the Canisius side, Alshwan Hymes’ 33% three-point shooting must improve—40% would be ideal, but we’d be content with anything above 37%. Harold Washington, Gaby Belardo and Reggie Groves averaged 10 turnovers per game combined—a putrid number for the team’s three primary ball-handlers. There’s no question head coach Tom Parrotta has been preaching ball protection during the lull in games.
6) Heralding Harold: MAAC basketball analysts (they do exist) suspected that Harold Washington, a transfer from Cecil College, would be an immediate impact player. Did they expect him to average 18.2 points per contest in his first 11 games? Probably not. Given Hymes’ shooting struggles, an even greater load of the offensive burden may be placed on Washington, who’s already faced the conference’s best opposing point guards—Fairfield’s Derek Needham and Iona’s Scott Machado.
7) WWL loves Cardinals! I don’t get ESPN’s fascination with television Louisville basketball—perhaps Rick Pitino’s glistening hair or the fact that the Cards are still undefeated has something to do with it—but I’ve seen 3x more of Louisville than any other Top 25 team. After outrunning and outgunning Memphis, the Cardinals played down to the levels of the College of Charleston (#13 in MM Top 25) and Western Kentucky, but Pitino’s club escaped with two wins. It’s important to note, though, that Louisville has only played one road game so far. Will the Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva and co. unravel in hostile territory? I’m predicting “yes.” At noon on New Year’s Eve, the Cardinals will fall on the road to #3 Kentucky. Mark my words.
8) High-flying…bears? You thought Memphis played an entertaining brand of basketball? Watch the Baylor Bears. Even without superstar sophomore Perry Jones III playing to his potential, Scott Drew’s club downed West Virginia in OT despite a dubious loose-ball foul call late in regulation. WVU’s Jabarie Hinds had an opportunity to push the Mountaineers’ lead to five with a one-and-one trip to the line with 34 ticks left, but he bricked the first—WVU’s spark-plug reserve Dominique Rutledge went up for the rebound and scored the put-back, but he was called for a push-off against Jones III. The game definitely hinged on the referee’s decision—the ESPN commentators disagreed with the call vehemently—and Pierre Jackson’s clutch shooting clinched the “W” for the Bears.
9) Lose some weight, Renardo! On Wednesday night, watch Baylor take on the shockingly 12-1 Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Arnett Moultrie, who transferred from UTEP to Mississippi State to be closer to his family, has burst from the shadow of uber-hyped-but-awkwardly-tubby recruit Renardo Sidney to lead the ‘Dogs in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (11.8 rpg). Built like a slightly-more-sturdy version of his Wednesday counterpart, Jones III, the mid-week contest is must-see TV (9 p.m., ESPN2).
10) Chomped: Florida’s Patric Young was very rude in contesting Bernard James’ shot. Just watch—it’s very Ben Wallace-ian—even though the phrase “rip-and-strip” makes everyone feel a tad uncomfortable.