First Take: Sexy Dexy Dominates
And a rough weekend for unbeatens…
Two months ago I sat down and talked with Dexter Pittman about his life and the upcoming season. At the time, the senior was one of the feel good stories of the preseason given his tremendous weight loss and the subsequent improvement he had seen as a basketball player as a result of his efforts. He was certainly a player who presented a lot of intrigue given his massive frame and high level of production in a relatively short span the previous year – of course there was no way of knowing exactly how he would perform this season.
On Saturday, Pittman had his national coming out party.Let’s forget for a moment that the player known as “Sexy Dexy” dropped his first double-double of the season with 23 points and 15 rebounds. I only want to focus on one number: 12. That’s how many offensive rebounds Pittman hauled in during his 26 minutes on the floor. North Carolina, a team that features the most decorated frontcourt in the nation, a frontcourt with five former McDonald’s All-Americans (that doesn’t include Deon Thompson) and as much size as the average NBA frontline, had nine. If that ratio isn’t mind boggling, it should be.
Maybe it has more to do with Carolina’s young big men being overhyped (though I doubt it) than Pittman being undervalued, but he looked like – for lack of a better term – a man amongst boys. He was throwing down thunderous dunks, knocked bodies left and right on his way to rebounds and at one point, swatted away an Ed Davis shot with brutal force and could only flash a smile. In the largest, grandest venue a college basketball game had ever been played, the largest player on the court stole the show.
Three other Longhorn players eclipsed 20 points in the 103-90 win at Cowboys Stadium including freshmen Avery Bradley and J’Covan Brown. Damion James had another 20 and 10 game but that’s like saying Rick Majerus had another donut. What truly makes this game scary if you’re another Big 12 team, isn’t how Texas’ bigs dominated the UNC frontcourt, although that was something to watch. What has to be intimidating is the Longhorns seemingly won this game with four players and this is a team that rolls 14 deep. Former high school All-American Jai Lucas who just became eligible was scoreless in six minutes, Jordan Hamilton was quiet, and Alexis Wangmene wasn’t needed given the tour de force that Pittman and James were. After the game Rick Barnes said this might be the best team he’s had in Austin in his 12 years there – I’m going to say there’s no question about it, period.
Elsewhere around the country, it was a bad weekend for ranked teams and unbeatens. Georgetown, Texas Tech and Seton Hall all saw their perfect records go up in smoke on Saturday. The Pirates lost a close one to a very good Temple squad, the Red Raiders fell 85-83 to an equally strong Wichita State team and let’s face it, the Hoyas need to stop inviting Old Dominion up to DC as the Monarchs went into the nation’s capital and came away with a win for the second time in three years over John Thompson III and Co.
Other top 25 woes included #13 Florida falling to A-10 contender Richmond and #8 Tennessee getting run out of the building by USC 77-55. I watched this game, twice, and it still doesn’t make much sense to me. Alex Stephenson was dominant with 19 points and 15 rebounds, but the X-factor was Dwight Lewis who had a very efficient 21 points, going 8-9 from the line.
A trio of scrambling finishes left West Virginia, Butler and UMass all smiled with Cleveland State, Xavier and Memphis in disbelief. For the Mountaineers, this should be a lesson, don’t go on the road to Cleveland State, I told you this on Friday and you didn’t listen. Consider yourselves lucky to get out of the Wolstein Center unscathed after Da’Sean Butlers buzzer beater. Devin Ebanks is still frustratingly quiet this season, but his much less heralded side kick Kevin Jones is having a very strong sophomore season and has gone for 20+ in each of his last two games. The Butler/Xavier fiasco was just unfortunate, but the refs made the right call in calling the game after a painstakingly long review of the clock. There’s not much you can do in that kind of a situation and it’s not as if poor clock work was responsible for Gordon Hayward outhustling the entire Xavier team for a loose ball and the winning basket. As for Terrell Vinson and his winner against Memphis, well sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time – mainly two feet from the basket with everyone turned the other way and the ball in your hands.
Duke’s domination of Gonzaga at the Garden tells us one thing: the Bulldogs are overrated. Sorry Blue Devil Nation, Coach K’s kids are good don’t get me wrong, but the Zags were just flat out not impressive. Still, I think more than a few opposing ACC coaches watched the highlights from this one with just a tad bit of concern creeping over them.
If a sophomore established himself as a name to remember but it’s for a team that just can’t win, does anyone know it? Unfortunately for Malcolm Lee the answer is probably not. UCLA’s second year combo guard exploded for 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting but the Bruins fell to 3-7after Luke Harangody and Notre Dame won out 84-73 in South Bend. Maybe I’m getting used to the Fighting Irish big man, but I haven’t been more unimpressed by a 23-point performance in quite some time, Harangody just doesn’t wow me like he used to, at least from an NBA stand point.
Sunday didn’t provide a whole lot of fanfare other than Florida State and Wake Forest starting the ACC year off with wins over Georgia Tech and NC State respectively. Connecticut also had more trouble than most expected against Central Florida, but 26 points from Stanley Robinson seemed to have done the trick.
Looking ahead a bit, Missouri State will be the next undefeated team to go down when they face Arkansas tomorrow night. As for tonight, I know around the holidays the allure of Monday Night Football and college bowl games are too much to withstand sometime, but there is good college basketball to be watched and thankfully the world wide leader has highlighted two of the best for us tonight.
If you like talented big men, UTEP vs Oklahoma at 6:30 ET is for you. If you like super athletic and talented guards, UTEP vs Oklahoma at 6:30 ET is for you. The Miners enter the ring at 6-2 and looking more dangerous than ever with the reemergence of forward Derrick Caracter who we talked about on Friday. Then there’s The First Take’s favorite launching pad in Randy Culpepper. Face those two up with Tiny Gallon and Willie Warren, well that just makes for good TV. Oklahoma State and La Salle at 8:30 will feature a fantastic meeting of dynamic shooting guards in OSU’s James Anderson and the Explorer’s Randy Green. Anderson I’ve talked about before as one of the more underrated primetime scorers in the country and Green is a brilliant slasher who doesn’t get his due because let’s face it, he plays for La Salle. The 6-5 guard has gone over 20 points in half his games this season and dropped 19 on #1 Kansas just last week.
For those of you in the Big Apple area, congratulations, you get my undercard game of the night when Cornell meets up with St. John’s in the “championship game” of the MSG Holiday Festival. The Big Red have won six in a row after yesterday’s OT win against Davidson and forward Ryan Wittman can score against any team in the country. I give the edge to the Johnnies in this one, who at 9-1 are looking like they can be relevant again in the Big East.
Of course, if you’re like me and have left some of your holiday shopping to the last minute, you might miss the first half of the early games tonight, but let’s hope traffic isn’t that bad later.