#16 Southern Illinois beating #13 Butler at Butler, 68-64. Now, if you are one of those people who is still watching interviews with Peyton Manning, and just beginning to look at college basketball, you may be thinking to yourself that it seems odd that these two teams are ranked. You may be thinking, "OK, I can guess where Southern Illinois is located, but where the fuck is Butler?" (Indianapolis--in a gym straight out of Hoosiers).
You may be getting ready to email us at I Dislike Your Favorite Team, asking, "Who's the most likely one of these teams to get to the Sweet 16? We will save you the trouble--I like the Salukis of Southern Illinois. Not just because they won this game. In fact, this game factors in very little. Butler's best player--their engine, if you will, was ill with the flu. A.J. Graves simply had maybe the worst game he's going to have all year, 12 points off his average, massively off on his field goal percentage, and even missed a free throw (something, he hardly ever, and I mean ever, does--it was his 5th miss in over 115 attempts). And he's a dangerous, dangerous player. He looks like, and plays like a Steve Nash raised by wolves. (this photo does know justice to his feral qualities)
Quick sidenote: Rick Majerus was calling this game, and there was a wonderful moment of Majerusian color. I paraphrase: "The theme song to this game should be Steppenwolf. Get your motor runnin...If your motor is defense...[trails off]." Thanks, Rick! You are that much closer to writing speeches for our President.
SIU just seems a little deeper to me, and plays such aggressive defense that if they play anyone who relies on finesse and jumpshots, they seem like a guaranteed pass into the next round. Jamaal Tatum is at yet, an underranked offense threat, and Randall Falker playing near the basketball will be trouble for any team to handle. I should also mention that both SIU and Butler are packed to the gills with upperclassmen.
OK, on to last night's games--just a couple worth mentioning, really.
Apparently, some people are projecting Clemson into the Tournament based on the fact that they play in the ACC and were at one point, the last undefeated team in the country. But, c'mon, they've gone 2-7 in their last 9 games, and got rolled by Maryland, 82-66. I love the ACC--it's the league I grew up watching (along with the Big East) but there is simply no way a team with a losing record in their own conference should go to the Tourney, and Clemson is two games under .500. And they've been shown up. Maryland is a fairly marginal ACC team, who should probably go to the Dance, and they destroyed this Clemson team. People talking about 7 or 8 teams coming out the ACC should be ignored. They are fixating on records, and not on actual wins. In their last 10 games, during which they have gone 3-7, who has Clemson beat?
Florida State, North Carolina State, and Boston College (a win that looks less and less impressive as time goes on). In that 10 game span, they've lost close games to very good teams, like Duke and North Carolina. But they've lost to Maryland twice, UVA, GA Tech, and Wake Forest.
And let's take a quick look on the teams beat by Clemson to build up their record. Their first 15 wins included wins against: Arkansas State, Monmouth, Old Dominion University, Furman, Appalachain State, Minnesota, Wofford, Georgia State, Charlestown South, and Western Carolina. If this team gets in, the NCAA Selection has some 'splainin' to do.
OK, let's get back to real teams.
Ohio State dismantles Minnesota, as expected, 85-67. This makes the tilt against Wisconsin huge. Ohio State and Wisconsin play in a conference generally regarded as pretty weak (though both Indiana and Illinois seem to be basking in some reflected glory). Ohio State has already lost to Florida once, and Wisconsin once. It's fair to say that Ohio State needs to win this game, against the presumptive #1 team in the country to prove that they are worthy of a #1 seed. If they win this game, I think you've got a complete dogpile for the #1 seeds. Is it possible that a garbage conference like the Big 10 could produce two #1 seeds?
Arizona State decides not to go winless in the PAC-10, and hurts USC in the process. Arizona State beats #22 USC, 68-58. Ouch. This will certainly drop USC out of the Top 25, and maybe, finally, make room for UVA. There could not be a worse possible time for this loss for USC. It's this kind of loss that moves a team from a #5 seed to a #7, where upsets aren't even really upsets anymore. We'll see if they can bounce back, and maybe win a game or two before the PAC-10 Tourney.