Jan 1, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
As we did last month, the College Basketball Talk writers got together to pick the very best of December. The month was filled with entertaining games, outstanding performances and everything in between.
With the calenders turning to a new year, we analyze which teams we believe in, and which teams need a reality check.
Team of the Month: Arizona
Terrence Payne – In less than two weeks, the Wildcats had a pair of top-25 wins including a big-time win over Florida. Nick Johnson’s block preserved a victory over San Diego State on Christmas night. Arizona is now ranked No. 3 and undefeated at 12-0 heading into the New Year.
Daniel Martin – As undefeated teams dropped around them, the Wildcats continue to stand strong, despite lingering questions about the inexperience of their frontcourt and how far natural shooting guard Mark Lyons can take them while playing the point. Regardless, Arizona has claimed its title as the favorite in the Pac-12.
Rob Dauster – Wins over Florida and San Diego State are impressive this early in the season, especially when you consider that the Wildcats are only going to get better as their big men mature.
Player of the Month:
Daniel Martin - Trey Burke, Michigan - The sophomore point guard averaged 18.2 points, 6.7 assists, and just 1.2 turnovers per game for a team that is still undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. He has been the most important part of the offensive engine for Michigan and he is continuing to prove that he made the right choice by foregoing the NBA draft and returning to school.
Raphielle Johnson - Khaliff Wyatt, Temple - Three games of 20 or more points in December, most notably that 33-spot he hung on Syracuse, and Wyatt failed to reach double figures just once (the loss to top-ranked Duke). Many have jumped to say the A-10 race is VCU, Butler and Saint Louis, but Wyatt is one reason why the Owls will be heard from when league play begins next month.
Troy Machir - Anthony Bennett, UNLV - The freshman forward finished the month with four double-doubles and was one of the lone bright spots in the Rebel’s loss at North Carolina. Carried the load when Mike Moser went down. Looks like a ready-made pro just two months into his college career.
Honorable Mention: Ben McLemore (Kansas), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Mason Plumlee (Duke)
Game of the Year: Butler 88, Indiana 86 (OT)
David Harten – And it’s not really all that close. It had great offensive and defensive play. Great individual efforts. An incredible atmosphere you could feel even through the television. An improbable hero in Bulldogs walk-on guard Alex Barlow and an upset. Case closed.
Raphielle Johnson – Even with the Arizona/Florida game later that night not sure there was a better game this month than the Bulldogs outlasting the Hoosiers. In fact, this could very well end up being the best game of the entire season when it’s all said and done.
Eric Angevine – Absolutely the best, most meaningful game of the month.
Daniel Martin – Not only did it have the typical ingredients for a great game, it had implications, too. The Indiana loss knocked them out of the No. 1 spot and vaulted Butler into the Top 25. It didn’t hurt that reserve Alex Barlow emerged as an unlikely hero with the game-winning shot.
Most Surprising Team:
Rob Dauster - Oklahoma State - They have a point guard that’s not a natural point guard and they lost tow key players to season-ending injuries. And yet, there they are.
Eric Angevine - Arizona - Don’t get me wrong. This looked like a good team to start the season, but undefeated at year’s end? Didn’t see that coming at all.
Terrence Payne - Illinois - I wasn’t sold on the Illini after winning Maui, but despite the loss to Mizzou, Illinois went into Spokane and behind a great performance from Brandon Paul beat Gonzaga by double digits.
David Harten - New Mexico - Alex Kirk has solidified himself as a go-to big man and Kendall Williams has shown himself to be a contributor as a scorer (14.9 ppg, a team high) and distributor (a team-high 4.7 apg). Tony Snell is the athlete everyone comes to see make plays. Beating no. 8 Cincinnati on Thursday night on the road definitely helped the cause.
Least Surprising Team: Michigan
Terrence Payne – The Wolverines went undefeated in conference play behind the strong play of Burke, Tim Hardaway, and Glenn Robinson III.
Daniel Martin – Despite being undefeated and the No. 2 team in the country, how much are the Wolverines being talked about in the Final Four discussion? Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III are as solid a trio as you’ll find. Pair that with a three-point shooter like Nik Stauskas and inside toughness from Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan and you, too, shouldn’t be surprised at where Michigan is right now.
Troy Machir – Shockingly enough, this is exactly where I predicted the Wolverines to be at this point in the season. They are really, really good. Really.
Eric Angevine – Under Trey Burke and the scions of half of the pre-millennium NBA, the Wolverines have been an absolute machine. Their undefeated run has been so unremarkable that it’s almost easy to forget they’re around.
Bandwagon you’re jumping on: Kansas
Troy Machir – They have two guys playing like All-Americans and another handful playing like All-Conference selections. Everybody is chipping in. Jayhawks should steamroll through Big-XII play.
Rob Dauster – I’ve been on the bandwagon for a while, but with McLemore playing as well as he has, this team is ahead of the curve.
Terrence Payne – Never quite sure why I leave the bandwagon, but Bill Self has the Jayhawks riding a 10-game winning streak and led Ben McLemore’s 15.8 points per game, KU looks to be a mix on the national stage entering conference play.
Bandwagon you’re getting off:
Eric Angevine - Florida - I was legitimately on this bandwagon, choosing the Gators as a Final Four contender when we made our CBT preseason picks. But horrible shot selection and poor situational awareness is killing this team, and nothing about that seems to be about to change any time soon.
Raphielle Johnson - Wyoming - The Cowboys are 12-0 and have four players averaging double figures, but no reserves average more than 5.3 points per game (Josh Adams; Riley Grabau’s 5.1 ppg would be the mark if Adams is the fifth starter). If a Leonard Washington, Larry Nance Jr. or Luke Martinez were to land in early foul trouble, would Wyoming have enough offensively to contend with the other powers in the Mountain West?
Rob Dauster - Colorado - They are good and they’ll compete in the Pac-12, but I don’t see the Buffaloes being anything more than a good west coast team.
New Years Resolution for a team, player or coach:
Rob Dauster – Indiana needs to realize that Cody Zeller is their bread and butter and get him more touches.
Eric Angevine – New Mexico needs to keep big man Alex Kirk engaged. It’s no coincidence that a dangerously close win over New Mexico State and a home loss to the NDSU Jackrabbits happened on successive nights when Kirk was ineffective around the basket.
David Harten – Pittsburgh needs to get more out of Steven Adams. This isn’t a knock on the Panthers or Adams. He’s lived up to the preseason love, but to say he’s reached max potential this season might be far-fetched. Averages of 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game aren’t bad at all, but the more I watch him, the more I believe he’s capable of averaging somewhere around 13 and 9 per. He can do it.
Raphielle Johnson – Minnesota should resolve to become more efficient on the defensive glass. The best offensive rebounding team in the country, the Golden Gophers have had their issues on the other end. If that doesn’t improve in Big Ten play, their chances of contending diminish greatly.
Final Four Picks after two months:
Raphielle Johnson – Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Arizona
David Harten – Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State
Rob Dauster – Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri
Eric Angevine – Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana
Troy Machir – Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana
Daniel Martin – Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana
Terrence Payne – Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana
Dec 8, 2013, 7:57 PM EST
When it was announced that starting point guard Dominic Artis was one of two players (forward Ben Carter being the other) suspended nine games for a violation of NCAA rules, there wasn’t a great deal of consternation amongst those who follow the Oregon Ducks. Why? There’s still plenty of talent at Dana Altman’s disposal in…
Dec 8, 2013, 6:24 PM EST
George Washington did everything they could to give away a 66-52 lead in the final seven minutes against Maryland in the nightcap of the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. With Dez Wells stuck on the bench after picking up his fifth foul and the Terps on their heels thanks to a…
Dec 8, 2013, 5:27 PM EST
Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim…
Dec 8, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
UCLA ended up losing its first game of the season, at the hands of undefeated Missouri, 80-71, on Saturday afternoon in Columbia. But did you see the dunk freshman guard Zach LaVine had toward the end of the first half? A Missouri player slipped near halfcourt, as the intended pass went flying by him. LaVine…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
Michigan leading scorer Nik Stauskas rolled his ankle in the second half of the Wolverines’ 63-61 loss to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 24. That ankle kept him out in a blowout win against Coppin State, and thanks to the defensive performances of Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones, Stauskas scored…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:05 PM EST
With 3.8 second left, Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans tossed his inbounds pass to Rob Loe, who drove to the bucket, but his lefty layup was blocked. The Valparaiso defense had its heads turned, allowing Mike McCall Jr. to slip past on the box out, and tipped in the game-winner as the Billikens escaped with…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:50 AM EST
Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. opened in 1971 and holds five national championship banners as well as serving as a winter home for 17,472 Hoosier fans each season. It’s one of the most iconic venues in all of college basketball, but the university is looking to improve the condition of its longtime arena, according to…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 13 Oregon vs. Ole Miss, 5 p.m. (ESPNU) Marshall Henderson and the Rebels welcome the No. 13 Ducks into Oxford for an evening showdown between SEC and Pac-12 programs. Ole Miss won a pair of games in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center Classic to end November, but on Thursday suffered…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:06 AM EST
Last week, the Dayton Flyers made a surprise run in the Maui Invitational, defeating Gonzaga, outplaying Baylor before the Bears rallied late in the game to advance to the finals, and then concluding their trip in Hawaii with a win over Cal. The Flyers were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10, but the…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:16 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Colorado 75, No. 6 Kansas 72 Yup, that was awesome. We already wrote two columns off of this game. My take on Kansas is here. Raphielle Johnson wrote on Colorado here. THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 17 Iowa State 91, Northern Iowa 82 OT We should just assume that…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
Just one week ago Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats wrapped up a Battle 4 Atlantis crown that few people expected them to win. After taking care of USC the Wildcats beat Kansas and Iowa, resulting in their first ranking in more than two seasons. For a program that relies on so many young players, how Villanova…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:38 PM EST
With No. 1 Michigan State suffering a surprising home loss to North Carolina on Wednesday night, there were many Arizona fans who looked towards Saturday’s contest against UNLV with excitement. The renewal of a series that delivered some great moments during the time when Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson roamed the sidelines was something folks…
Dec 7, 2013, 7:39 PM EST
With guard Keifer Sykes and big man Alec Brown leading the way, Brian Wardle’s Green Bay Phoenix are expected to contend for the Horizon League title this season. That fact meant that Tony Bennett’s return to his alma mater wasn’t going to be an easy one, with his Virginia Cavaliers looking to rebound from their…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
Turns out that the sprained ankle he suffered in Monday’s loss at No. 12 UConn won’t result in any missed game time for Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, as he’s returned to practice and will play on Tuesday night against No. 6 Kansas. That’s important news for the Gators, who faced the possibility of…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:30 PM EST
Dear Kansas fans: Do not start freaking out just yet. I know what happened on Saturday. I saw Colorado’s Askia Booker hit that buzzer-beating, euro-stepping three to beat the No. 6 Jayhawks, 75-72. I saw the bench mob him at half court and Jimmy Dykes ask him questions on ESPN in the postgame that made…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:33 PM EST
After No. 6 Kansas scored the first seven points of the game, it would be difficult to blame any Colorado fans who managed to utter the words, “here we go again.” In last season’s meeting in Lawrence the Buffaloes were blitzed right out of the gates, and the end result was a 90-54 defeat that…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:07 PM EST
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The game had been over for nearly 20 minutes, though, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams clearly was not done dishing out the assists. He was the last to be seated at the postgame press conference, as he ventured over towards the table of Poland Spring water bottles, grabbed three extra ones…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
Wisconsin was able to outlast in-state rival Marquette 70-64 on Saturday at the packed Kohl Center because they have more firepower. Although the No. 8 Badgers (10-0) and Golden Eagles (5-4) differ in the standings by a few games, they can both really defend and limit opportunities for their opponents to get good looks, but…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Missouri basketball may not have been in the limelight for very long on Saturday before the football team faces Auburn for the SEC Championship, but the basketball Tigers took care of business and had an impressive second half in their 80-71 win over No. 18 UCLA. Both Missouri and UCLA were undefeated entering the game…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:20 PM EST
Yesterday, news broke that Stanford guard Aaron Bright dislocated his right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a big blow for the Cardinals, who are dealing with a lack of perimeter depth as it is and have been forced to use a bigger lineup. But here’s the kicker for Bright: he’s…
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