I already wrote about Michigan State's 80-65 victory over Indiana here. Here are four more observations from some of Wednesday night's marquee games.
1. Perry Jones III remains enigmatic:
Baylor continues to have the look of a Final Four contender because guards Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson have solidified its oft-questioned backcourt, but the Bears won't be as formidable as they could be unless Perry Jones III finds a mean streak. Matched against a rare big man with similar physical gifts to his — Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie — Jones didn't rise to the challenge on Wednesday night. Not only did he score just eight points on 4 of 13 shooting, he also often seemed content to take fadeaway jump shots rather than using 6-foot-11 frame to punish opposing defenders. Jones has never been a dominant scorer in either high school or college, a trend that may continue this season. He is averaging a team-high 13.4 points per game, but he also had just four points on 2 of 9 shooting in 41 minutes against West Virginia on Friday night.
2. Louisville is never out of a game:
Here's the secret to Louisville staying competitive with rival Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Saturday: Rick Pitino has to convince the Cardinals they're down eight with five minutes to go from the opening tipoff. Louisville, which had already rallied in the final 10 minutes to defeat Ohio, Vanderbilt, College of Charleston and Western Kentucky. continued its habit of late comebacks on Wednesday against Georgetown. The Cardinals reeled off 11 straight points in less than 2 1/2 minutes to tie the Hoyas at 63-63 after Georgetown had led 63-52 with 4:23 remaining. This time Louisville could not quite get over the hump, however, as Otto Porter stemmed the tide with a layup and Georgetown hung on for an impressive 71-68 road win.
3. Don't count out Missouri State in the MVC:
Whereas Creighton, Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Indiana State each assembled non-league resumes worthy of an at-large contender, defending Missouri Valley champion Missouri State entered conference play under the radar. The Bears lost to all five top 100 RPI opponents they faced in non-league play, none bad losses certainly yet all squandered opportunities for a team with NCAA tournament aspirations. But with a 77-65 win at Creighton on Wednesday night, Missouri State sent a message that it may yet be a factor in the Valley this season despite losing four of its top six scorers off last year's team. Reigning conference player of the year Kyle Weems outplayed this year's favorite Doug McDermott, scoring 25 of his career-high 31 points in the second half to further validate his decision this offseason to stay at Missouri State rather than bolt for a more high-profile program.
4. Believe in Georgetown at your own peril:
Georgetown has the look of a Big East contender after its impressive non-league campaign and its win at Louisville to open the conference season, but the Hoyas' track record of erratic play suggests we should proceed cautiously. Two years ago, they faded late in Big East play, recovered to reach the conference tournament title game and then bowed out in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to Ohio. Last year, they spoiled a good season with six losses in their final seven games, including a first-round 74-56 thrashing at the hands of VCU. So is this year's 11-1 start fool's gold too? It's too soon to say, but at least the Hoyas can counter by noting that the team leaders have changed. With guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman having graduated, it's returners Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson who are helping Georgetown exceed expectations with an assist from top freshman Otto Porter.
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