UConn 76, Marquette 82 (OT)
How ‘bout this matchup for a Big East kickoff? Marquette sank one three-point shot against UConn: Junior Cadougan’s buzzer-beating triple that tied the score at 69 and sent the game to overtime. The Golden Eagles had missed their last 14 (!) three-pointers, but one was all they needed. From there, Marquette held on for its first Big East win. Cadougan and Davante Gardner both scored 18 points. UConn’s dynamic Shabazz Napier, who almost singlehandedly kept the Huskies in the game, had 29 points and 8 rebounds.
No. 1 Duke 67, Davidson 50
It’s still early, but Duke is looking sharp. What else is new? Experience, depth, shooting, the winningest coach in all the land—the Dukies are built for a title run, and Davidson offered little resistance, even on its home floor. If this Blue Devils team doesn’t make the Final Four, I’ll be shocked.
No. 11 Illinois 61, Purdue 68
This one took me by surprise. Illinois had surged to an impressive 13-1 record before finally stumbling against a stout Boilermakers team in West Lafayette. Terone Johnson scored 25 points and snagged 9 rebounds for Purdue. The Boilermakers’ defense made all the difference—Illinois, normally an excellent shooting team, made just 21 shots out of 59 attempts (35.6 percent).
Eastern Michigan 38, Kentucky 90
There’s nothing worse than a guarantee game in January, but that’s what we had in Lexington on Wednesday. How good is this young and much-ballyhooed Kentucky group? Better than Eastern Michigan, that’s for sure.
No. 2 Michigan 94, Northwestern 66
I have a good friend, a fellow college basketball junkie, who boldly predicted that the University of Michigan will win the 2013 National Championship. The men’s basketball championship, that is—not ice hockey or something. I’m dubious of this claim, but the Wolverines certainly looked like title contenders on Thursday, blasting a depleted Northwestern crew by almost 30 points in Evanston.
Michigan guard Trey Burke, who’s been breaking ankles all season, and sharpshooting Tim Hardaway Jr combined for 44 points. The undefeated Wolverines are playing phenomenal basketball right now; they host Iowa on Sunday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Shabazz Napier, UConn
In a valiant but losing effort versus Marquette, Napier dropped 29 points, corralled 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. He was 9-19 from the field and 4-7 from three-point range.
CONGRATS, JIMMY B!
Now, I can’t write an entire column without mentioning ole’ Jim Boeheim. The longtime Syracuse coach won his 903rd college basketball game on Wednesday. His seventh-ranked Orange easily beat Rutgers 78-53 at the Carrier Dome. The victory bumped Boeheim past Bobby Knight and into second place on the all-time wins list, behind only Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (940 wins). “To me, this game is not about numbers, it really isn’t,” Boeheim told the Associated Press. “It’s not about how many points you score or the assists you get. It’s about all the people, all the people you meet on the way. It’s been an unbelievable experience.” I’ve always been a Boeheim fan—he’s kind of cantankerous, but in a lovable way, and that vaunted Syracuse zone is one-of-a-kind.
FIVE QUESTIONS I WANT ANSWERED THIS YEAR
1. Is the Big Ten the best conference in the land?
2. Will the Pac-12 send more than two schools to the 2013 Big Dance?
3. Is Wyoming for real? (Yes, that’s a legitimate question. The Cowboys are 13-0, with wins over Colorado, Illinois State and UCSB. Plus their mascot is awesome).
4. Is this the year Gonzaga makes the Final Four?
5. Does Kentucky have any chance of defending its 2012 title?
GAMES I’LL BE WATCHING
No. 8 Ohio State vs No. 11 Illinois, Saturday, 2:15 EST
A big-time Big Ten clash. Will Illinois rebound after a brutal loss against Purdue?
Utah vs No. 8 Arizona, Saturday, 5:00 EST
Can the Wildcats remain undefeated?
No. 15 Georgetown vs Marquette, Saturday, 2:00 EST
A 10-1 Georgetown squad takes on surging Marquette in Milwaukee.
Indiana State vs No. 16 Creighton, Saturday, 3:05 EST
Creighton’s Doug McDermott is one of the top players in the country. This should be an entertaining Missouri Valley matchup.
Seton Hall vs No. 21 Notre Dame, Saturday, 12:00 EST
The Hall is 12-2 and won its Big East opener, but can the Pirates give the Irish a game in South Bend?
DePaul vs Providence, Saturday, 8:00 EST
I root for DePaul every year (it’s my grandpa’s alma mater), and every year the Blue Devils are abysmal. They’ve started this season 9-5, so I still have a little hope.
Washington vs Washington State, Saturday, 9:30 EST
The Apple Cup, basketball-style.
Iowa vs No. 2 Michigan, Sunday, 12:00 EST
Michigan should win at home, but the Hawkeyes might make it interesting.
Temple vs No. 6 Kansas, Sunday, 4:30 EST
The Owls took down Syracuse on December 22, so why not beat the Jayhawks?
No. 21 Notre Dame vs No. 14 Cincinnati, Monday, 6:30 EST
Should be a rollicking Big East clash.
No. 24 Pittsburgh vs No. 15 Georgetown, Tuesday, 9:00 EST
A battle between two clubs that could be going places.
UNLV vs No. 20 New Mexico, Wednesday, 10:00 EST
The Runnin’ Rebs travel to New Mexico for a desert showdown.