Jason Clark and Anthony Collins (AP)
Jason Clark and Anthony Collins (AP)
Here's a look at some of the players and teams whose stock has risen and fallen on a busy Saturday in college hoops. Check back because this file will be updated throughout the day:
Stock up: Arizona
At 5-4 in the woeful Pac-12 last week after suffering January home losses to Washington and Oregon, Arizona looked as though its only NCAA tournament lifeline would be an unlikely conference tournament run. One week later, however, the Wildcats have new life after a road sweep of Cal and Stanford. Arizona probably wouldn't be in the tournament as of today and might need as many as 13 conference wins to feel secure, but that's not out of the question given the Wildcats' remaining schedule. They have four of their final seven at home and two of the three road games are against Arizona State and Washington State, with only a visit to first-place Washington looking especially formidable.
Stock down: Nevada
The margin for error for a mid-major team who didn't accomplish enough out of conference is paper-thin, which is why Nevada's stunning 72-68 loss to Idaho may prove costly. The Wolf Pack had won 16 in a row prior to that loss, but their RPI is a mediocre No. 55 and their lone win of consequence came at home against a Washington team that will have to keep winning just to make the NCAA tournament. It's possible that winning the rest of its regular season games including a BracketBuster at Iona may be enough for Nevada to land one of the final at-large bids even if loses in its conference tournament. It's equally possible, however, that the Wolf Pack rue this loss to Idaho as what kept them out of the NCAA tournament if it fails to win the WAC tournament next month.
Stock up: Iowa State
So much has been made of Royce White's success this season that it's often easy to forget Iowa State has other talented players. On Saturday night, White had just one field goal attempt — a dunk in the final minutes — yet the Cyclones won 77-70 at Oklahoma because all four starters besides White scored in double figures, with forward Melvin Ejim leading the way with 21 points. The win over the Sooners improved Iowa State to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in Big 12 play, not bad for a team picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll. The fourth-place Cyclones do still play at Missouri, at Baylor and at Kansas State, but wins like Saturday's have given them a two-game cushion on the teams below them in the Big 12 standings.
Stock down: Chace Stanback
Why did Mountain West favorite UNLV fall 68-66 at Wyoming on Saturday? There were many reasons, but one of the biggest was that senior Chace Stanback barely bothered to show up. In 20 minutes, Stanback attempted only two shots and had as many fouls (3) as points (2) and rebounds (1) combined. It would be easy to excuse Stanback were this an anomaly, but unfortunately for UNLV this vanishing act is more of a trend. In the Rebels' three worst games in conference play — a two-point win over Air Force and losses to San Diego State and Wyoming — Stanback has scored a total of 11 points on 4-for-21 shooting.
Stock up: Florida
There no longer should be any question who the top challenger to Kentucky is in the SEC this season. Florida (19-4, 7-1) stayed one game behind the Wildcats and put two games between itself and third-place Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on Saturday with a 73-65 win over the Commodores. Foul-plagued center Patric Young logged just 14 minutes and continued to struggle with lingering tendinitis in his knees, but guards Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton made up for it by combining for 34 points. The Gators also forced 17 Vanderbilt turnovers with their pressure off made baskets, winning for the seventh straight time after opening SEC play with a loss to Tennessee.
Stock Down: South Florida
If Saturday's visit to Georgetown was a litmus test for whether South Florida's 6-3 Big East start was legitimate or not, then the answer appears to be a re
sounding "no." The Bulls (13-10, 6-4) had just five points in the opening 15 minutes, 15 points at halftime and 19 points with 12 minutes left in the game en route to an ugly 75-45 loss. Credit South Florida for improving enough to beat up on the Big East's lesser teams this season like St. John's, DePaul, Providence, but the Bulls lack the firepower to be competitive with the Big East's upper echelon. They're 16th in the league in scoring and 13th in points per possession, deficiencies that will catch up with them during a back-loaded Big East schedule.
Stock up: Jared Sullinger
If the consensus entering the weekend had been that Kansas forward Thomas Robinson held a slight edge in the national player of the year race, then Ohio State's Jared Sullinger likely made up some ground Saturday against Wisconsin. The sophomore played all 40 minutes at Wisconsin, scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 boards and tallying three steals to lead the Buckeyes to a 58-52 victory at Wisconsin. The victory took on added significance for Ohio State since it was Thad Matta's first-ever win at the Kohl Center and it av
enged the Buckeyes' first loss of the season last year. It also helped Ohio State extend its Big Ten lead to a full game over second-place Michigan.
Stock down: Arkansas
Arkansas' 16-7 record features marquee wins over Michigan, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, yet it's tough to take the Razorbacks seriously as a NCAA contender since they're still winless away from home. A 71-65 loss at middling LSU on Saturday dropped Arkansas to 0-6 in true road games in addition to a neutral-court loss to Houston. In some ways, the loss to the Tigers was an improvement for the Razorbacks since they stayed competitive until the final buzzer by holding LSU to 41.4 percent shooting. Before Saturday, opposing teams were averaging 53.1 percent shooting and 1.11 points per possession against Arkansas away from Bud Walton Arena, both more than 20 percent higher than the Razorbacks' season totals at home.
Stock up: Notre Dame
When Notre Dame struggled in non-conference play after losing star Tim Abromaitis to a season-ending knee injury, it looked as though just finishing in the upper half of the Big East would be too daunting a challenge. Now the Irish (15-8, 7-3) are within a half game of second place in the league thanks to victories over the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, UConn and Marquette. Saturday's 76-59 home victory over the Golden Eagles was especially impressive because Notre Dame held Marquette to sub-40 percent shooting and received an offensive spark from a key reserve. Freshman Pat Connaughton scored 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 5-for-8 from behind the arc.
Stock down: Xavier
For 34 minutes on Saturday, Xavier outplayed Memphis on its home floor and appeared to be in position to secure its biggest win since the Dec. 10 brawl against Cincinnati. Then the Musketeers went ice-cold, surrendered too many transition opportunities off missed shots and blew an 11-point lead in the final six minutes to lose 72-68. Credit Memphis for its resilience and improved defense down the stretch, but the 17-1 Tigers run was aided by Xavier's gambling defense and poor shot selection. Now the Musketeers (15-8, 6-3) are slipping toward the bubble since their best win since an 8-0 start came at home against St. Joseph's.
Stock up: Fab Melo
It was a fast-paced game against a lesser team in a very friendly road environment, but Syracuse's 95-70 throttling of St. John's still highlighted how much the Orange missed Fab Melo the past two weeks. Melo, who missed the last three games due to an academic issue stemming from his first semester grades, scored a career-high 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting. The 7-foot sophomore also altered shots in the middle of Syracuse's trademark two-three zone, enabling his team's perimeter defenders to deny passes and go for steals with confidence that they had help in the middle if they got beat off the dribble. Syracuse's wayward three-point shooting is still a concern but with Melo this is a team more capable of overcoming that flaw.