In The Paint

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Greivis Vasquez had a field day with UNC. (AP)

Not so shocking: we will see a new No. 1 team after this weekend. Connecticut lost to Pitt on Monday and, just like that, another top team fell.

Even less shocking: the new No. 1 team is, well, really not so new to the top spot.

Shockingly predictable: despite all the hype surrounding Oklahoma's chances at putting the Big 12 atop the rankings, the latest shuffle will move a Big East team back to the top.

The powerhouse conference, which has danced around the top rankings (along with the ACC) for the entire season, looked as though it would have to kiss its hold on el numero uno goodbye. Oklahoma, home to top NBA prospect Blake Griffin (who dropped a 40-point-23-rebound bomb on Texas Tech last weekend), traveled to Texas today with the hope of returning to Norman with coveted (or dreaded) "No. 1" next to its name -- something it hasn't been able to say in 19 years.

However, despite the Longhorns' mediocre-at-best record the Big 12, they entered this season's Red River Rivalry with a five-game win streak at the Erwin Center against teams ranked in the AP top five since 2003. As many failed to realize (including one unnamed blogger ... oops) the Sooners had a tall task ahead of them.

So how did it all unfold? And did Stephen Curry handle mid-major giant, No. 21 Butler, despite his recent ankle injury?  Did North Carolina make Gary Williams' life even more miserable? Did Connecticut rebound from its loss to Pitt?

So many questions, and I have all the answers. 

  • After a thriller - and scary - battle in Texas, the Sooners lost the game (73-68), their star and their hopes of gaining the top ranking.  Blake Griffin only saw 11 minutes on the court after acquiring two early fouls and then taking an elbow himself  - one that resulted in a bloody nose and a suspected concussion.

The Oklahoma trainers refused to put him back in, no matter how much he pleaded, and his vacant stare from the bench seemed to rattle his teammates as Texas jumped to an 11-point lead early in the second half. But unlike Griffin, his teammates were able to bounce back and embark on an 13-0 run behind Willie Warren's sharp shooting (27 points with six 3s) and Juan Pattillo's persistence down low. Pattillo sacrificed his red shirt to be able to play this weekend, and his presence was made known and necessary with some key rebounds and put-backs.

But as good as Oklahoma looked without Griffin, it couldn't answer A.J. Abrams' long-range shooting - five treys (or "trifectas" if you're Dickie V) and 23 points -- and Damion James' work in the paint (10 boards).

And so, having only relinqished its throne about a month ago, Pittsburgh will once again be the team with a target on its back in both the AP poll and the ever-competitive Big East.
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  • But Oklahoma's loss wasn't nearly as surprising as this one. This made that Boston College fiasco earlier in the year look like a good game. For UNC, that is. For Gary Williams and the Terps, this game was a welcomed and much-needed gut-check. Down by 16 in the second half, Maryland rallied to take the game into overtime, thanks, primarily, to guard Greivis Vasquez, a kid Brent Musburger likes to call “a hot Venezuelan” (No, he really did say that. It was disturbing. And I’m officially uncomfortable).  The Heels led by six with 1:38 left in regulation, but they failed to stop Vasquez, who scored four, including the game-tying bucket. In overtime, Vasquez continued to make it rain, draining two 3-pointers and a couple of foul shouts with 5.4 seconds left to seal the win. He finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. And he made Williams’ life a little less miserable.
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  •  The Panthers demolished DePaul 80-61, thanks to DeJuan Blair’s work inside. The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds -- 13 of which came in the first 13 minutes. Not a bad way to follow his 22-point, 23-rebound spectacle in Pitt’s win over top-ranked Connecticut on Monday.  All-told, the Panthers outrebounded the Blue Demons 46-22, while DePaul held its own from 3-point range, hitting 11 treys in comparison to Pitt’s eight. So Pitt, how does it feel to be No. 1 ... again?
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  • As much as Curry insisted that his sprained left ankle was fine and he was ready to go for Davidson's game against Butler this weekend, his performance didn't match his assertions. Granted, for any other player, a 20-point showing would hardly be something to scoff at. But this is Steph we're talking about, the nation's leading scorer. The kid with the uncanny ability to knock down a J when his Wildcats need it most was unable to find a good rhythm against the Bulldogs, starting the game 0-for-8 from the floor and finishing just 6-of-23.  Meanwhile, Butler's Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed nine boards in his team's 75-63 win.
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  • Since their 33-point loss to Notre Dame last week, the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals must still be scared straight of what coach Rick Pitino might do to them if they put on a similar showing (see "confiscated practice uniforms"). How else can you explain their recent dominating wins? Against Cincinnati, the Cards did it again, beating their fellow Big East squad 72-63. Pitino almost lost his cool in the first half as his team squandered opportunities, but the U of L made up for it all in the second. Earl Clark opened the half with a layup, Samardo Samuels followed with a slam and Terrence Williams went on to score a game-high 20 points. And Pitino, well, who are we kidding, he's probably still sweating.
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  • Speaking of sweating, guess who else is probably reeling in agony after his team's latest defeat: John Thompson III. The Georgetown coach watched his Hoyas fall yet again (they've lost seven of their past nine games now), this time to No. 10 Marquette, 78-72. And, unfortunately for Georgetown, the loss had to come on the day the program celebrated the 25th anniversary of its only national title. Despite shooting 51 percent from the floor, the Hoyas' leading scorer, DaJuan Summers fouled out with 2:47 remaining, and Marquette's Wesley Matthews scored a career-high five 3-pointers and a game-high 23 points. Golden Eagle Jerel McNeal added 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
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  • Maybe he was still furious over his team's loss to Pittsburgh earlier in the week. Maybe he's desperately trying to preserve the Huskies' No. 1 ranking. Or Maybe UConn's big man Hasheem Thabeet is just that good. The 7-foot-3 center had 21 points, nine rebounds and six blocks as his team defeated South Florida 64-50. While without Jerome Dyson (knee surgery), the Huskies were only 1-for-7 from 3-point range, but A.J. Price's lone trey sparked a key 14-4 run in the second half and ended USF's chances of a comeback. Oh, and uh, that Jeff Adrien cat? Nine points. Fifteen rebounds. Now 14th on the school's all-time scoring list.
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  • To follow its 72-54 win over No. 6 Michigan State on Tuesday, Purdue routed Inidana 81-67. Led by E'Twaun Moore's season-high 26 points, the 19th-ranked Boilermakers shot 57 percent from the field - its best scoring performance in conference play and second-best of the season. Yowza.
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  • UCLA has faced its share of troubles lately, and it only got worse against Washington State.  Behind Taylor Rochestie's 33 points and the Cougars' 58.8 percent shooting from the field, the 20th-ranked Bruins fell to Washington State 82-81. After trailing 51-46 in the early part of the second half, Washington State went on a 19-6 run to pull ahead by as much as eight in the. Though UCLA was able to pull within one in the waning seconds off a Nikola Dragovic 3, that's as far as the Bruins would get. Despite losing, Dragovic finished with 23 points, while teammate Darren Collison scored 20.
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  • Leo Lyons was due. After missing his team's 107-62 annihilation of Colorado last month (one-game suspension for an arrest on traffic violations), the Missouri forward was eager to give Buffalo fans a glimpse of how much worse it could have been if were there. Lyons posted a double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds) and helped the Tigers extend their Big 12 win streak to six games. They now own a conference record of 10-2, marking the first time in nine years they've reached double figures in conference wins.
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  • Remember all that hoopla surrounding Tyreke Evans at signing time last year? Yeah, well, here's why: The frosh had 25 points off 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc to lead No. 5 Memphis past UTEP 70-63.
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  • After struggling against Nebraska's tough D in January, No. 15 Kansas made up for it this time around with a 70-53 win. Guard Sherron Collins had 22 points and didn't give up a single turnover (his team had 21 last time it faced Nebraska), while Cole Aldrich had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks.  Kansas now boasts the nation's longest home winning streak at 39 games. Rock. Chalk ... you get the idea.
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  • Things aren’t too sunny in Southern California these days. With a 60-51 loss to No. 22 Washington, USC has dropped four out of its last five games.  The Trojans were 3-of-12 from 3-point range and were knocked around inside, pulling down 28 rebounds in comparison to Washington’s 37.  Junior forward Quincy Pondexter scored a season-high 22 points and helped his Huskies reach 20 wins for the first time since 2006.
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  • The Jodie Meeks show? Not necessary. Kentucky pummeled Tennessee 77-58 and Meeks only had 14 in the win -- only 40 points shy of matching his last showing against Tennessee.  This time, Patrick Patterson, who returned from an ankle injury, led all scorers with 19 points and had five rebounds, while freshman Darius Miller had a career-high 17 points and six assists.
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  • It's about time! Notre Dame finally got the statement-making win it's so desperately needed with a 103-84 rout of Providence. Ryan Ayers had 28 and hit seven of the Irish's 13 3-pointers. For Providence, senior guard Weyinmi Efejuku had a career-high 31 points, while Sharaud Curry (no relation ... there's already too many Curry's dominating the basketball world) added 23.
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