Once again, college basketball proves why those preseason rankings and predictions have little meaning. As today has proved thus far, the lines between the star-studded squads and their lesser opponents are becoming increasingly blurred. No blowouts here. Rallies? Yes. Close calls? Yes. That shocking North Carolina loss to Boston College last weekend may have changed everyone's outlook, but regardless, the top teams no longer appear untouchable.
See who's creeping up and who's falling behind:
- Notre Dame earned its 45th straight win at home with an 88-79 victory over Seton Hall today, but don't rule the Pirates out just yet. Sure, they're only 9-7 overall, and this latest loss dropped their Big East record to 0-4, but they continue to hang on in one of the toughest conferences. Earlier in the week, they forced No. 17 Villanova i nto overtime while the Wildcats' Scottie Reynolds put up 40 points. And today, Seton Hall held its own, despite Luke Harangody's 30 points and 13 rebounds, and despite Kyle McAlarney's four threes. Eugene Harvey led his team in points (21), rebounds (5, tied with Robert Mitchell) and assists (4).
- Now back to Villanova. Another hard-fought game, only this time, there was no overtime and there was no win for the Wildcats. Louisville downed its Big East competitior 61-60 after a not-so-thrilling finish. Terrence Williams, who had 12 points and 14 rebounds, scored with 7.4 seconds left and the Wildcats failed to answer - though they twice had the opportunity - in the final seconds. Said Lousiville coach Rick Pitino: "Today we had good luck." We'll see what he says after his team's next two matchups against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
- Congratulations, Clemson. Snubbed by the preseason polls, the Tigers one of only three teams with an undefeated record after ousting their ACC foe N.C. State 63-51 just four days after beating Alabama 66-59. While Trevor Booker posted 23 points and K.C. Rivers grabbed 11 rebounds, it was the Tigers' defense that guided the way. Clemson forced 18 N.C. State turnovers and held the Wolfpack to a measly 31.5 percent shooting.
- Jot this down: Kalin Lucas. That's K-A-L-I-N L-U-C-A-S. Don't forget it, because the Michigan State point guard is on a tear and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. After scoring a career-high 24 points in a win over Minnesota on New Year's Eve, the 6-foot sophomore put up 17 against Oakland and 20 against Ohio State. And today, no different. Going up against Sherron Collins, a national champion and another stellar point guard, Lucas scored 22, leading the No. 8 Spartans past Kansas 75-62. It was Michigan State's ninth straight win since UNC demolished them earlier in the season. Collins had 25 points and eight assists. Unfortunately, he also had eight turnovers.
- Georgetown, don't give you poor fans a heart attack there. After allowing Providence to take a four-point lead in the second half, the Hoyas top scorer, DaJuan Summers, claimed his fourth foul and took a seat on the bench. Luckily, Greg Monroe stepped up big, nearly recording a triple-double and nearly shattering the backboard in a huge dunk to seal with just under a minute to go. The final score: 82-75. Georgetown's losing streak? Kaput.
- Here's why you should be glad Tim Tebow's run is over for now: his absence makes room for Blake Griffin. The Oklahoma stud and projected top pick in the NBA draft lived up to his hype (yet again) with 29 points and 15 rebounds to lead the sixth-ranked Sooners past Kansas State 61-53. Griffin has yet to travel to the Philippines, but his chances of earning Player of the Year honors are looking mighty fine.
- The biggest lineup in the ACC couldn't come up big enough against Duke. Florida State, who has four starters 6-foot-7 or taller, fell to the Blue Devils 66-58, mainly because of Gerald Henderson, Duke's one-man show. In the first half, Henderson had 14 of his team's 19 points (his teammates went an atrocious 1-for-12 from the field in the half), and he went on to score a career-high 25 points.
- Well, so much for that one. I thought Cincinnati had a shot at beating UConn. I didn't think the Huskies would shoot 58 percent from the field and A.J. Price would drain five threes and Jeff Adrien would have 13 points and 12 rebounds and Connecticut would drop the Bearcats 81-72. Okay, so I was off a little bit.
- In facing West Virginia, one should anticipate a physical matchup. A brawl. An all-out war. Have you seen the size of those guys, Bob Huggins included? It seems Marquette anticipated it, but also knew how to overcome it. The Golden Eagles defeated West Virginia 75-53 in what Buzz Williams coined "a classic Big East fight." (Note: Pitino said the same thing about his game.) Led by Jerel McNeal, who had 26 points and seven rebounds in the bout, Marquette went on a 24-5 run in the final eight minutes to leave WVU in the dust.