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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Three more observations from Thursday’s slate of games

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Vanderbilt

Rutgers' thrilling double-overtime upset at home over No. 10 Florida obviously stole the show on Thursday night, but here are three other observations from the busy slate of games.

1. Vanderbilt is still very relevant.

Hey, remember when Vanderbilt started the season ranked seventh in the nation? That was four losses ago, but on Thursday, the Commodores reminded the nation why they were up on that pedestal in the first place. In a stunning 74-57 road blowout of No. 14 Marquette, Kevin Stallings' club secured its most impressive win this season, improving to 9-4. On the night, they were an impressive 10-of-22 from 3-point range and forced Marquette into a sloppy offensive showing, as the Golden Eagles had 14 turnovers and 12 assists on only 19 made field goals. It's not necessarily time to pronounce Vanderbilt as being 'back' just yet, but Thursday showed that the team with Final Four potential is still in there somewhere. They do, however, have a chance to get some momentum rolling until they hit the meat of their SEC schedule. They'll host Miami (Ohio) on Monday before opening up their conference schedule against Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. If they get hot, the remaining sting from home losses to Cleveland State and Indiana State could soon completely disappear.

2. The WCC is going to be a ton of fun over the next three months.

It's hard to say that anyone really lost in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday. Sure, Saint Mary's outlasted BYU in a 98-82 victory in what was the Cougars' first ever league game as a WCC member. But both teams had the look of conference title contenders. Saint Mary's simply stayed hotter longer from the floor, shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and hitting 12 of 25 3-point tries on the night. BYU, meanwhile, looks like a different team now with UCLA transfer Matt Carlino eligible, giving them a true point guard who is a perfect fit for its uptempo system. He went just 5-of-15 in 27 minutes, but he's making several guys around him look much more confident on the offensive end. Mix in Gonzaga, and the race atop the league — along with a couple of dark horses, including Santa Clara — is definitely worth keeping tabs on.

3. Nobody really lost in Cincinnati, either.

The Bearcats' 56-55 victory over Oklahoma was far from pretty, but it gave Cincinnati a couple of things. First, it went down as a victory that in a few months could be looked at as a quality win from a non-conference schedule that, honestly, lacked a lot of punch. Also, it extended their win streak since the now infamous brawl with crosstown rival Xavier to five games as they concluded non-con play. After blowing out a few overmatched opponents since then, this proved that they still know how to win the bloodbaths against good competition. They have a nice roll going into Sunday's Big East opener at No. 22 Pitt, which, given the Panthers' struggles of late, all of a sudden looks very winnable. On the other side, Oklahoma, who was picked before the season to finish dead last in the Big 12, is now 9-2, and was some Cashmere Wright late-game heroics away from winning its sixth straight game. The Sooners open Big 12 play at No. 8 Missouri, then at home against No. 17 Kansas, but look like they will be a tough out for everyone in the league this year. It's a team that, with a limited roster, has come together much sooner under first-year coach Lon Kruger than many expected, and could be a program on the rise once again as his recruits — and transfers — come into the fold.

Follow Ryan Greene on Twitter: @ryanmgreene

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