College basketball's first big weekend certainly wasn't short on excitement or intrigue.
Crowning the drama king was easy as Butler escaped Xavier 69-68 on Saturday after a wild final sequence and a clock controversy. The Bulldogs' Gordon Hayward scooped up a miss and converted a layup with 1.2 seconds left. Then officials determined that somehow the clock had inadvertently stopped for 1.3 seconds on Butler's final possession. After a five-minute delay they declared the game over. Xavier coach Chris Mack wasn't exactly filled with Christmas cheer.
The action wasn't as controversial elsewhere, but did serve to give us a better sense of where some contenders stand.
This week's question: Which Top 25 team had the most impressive performance over the weekend?
GERRY AHERN'S RESPONSE
Duke's 76-41 pasting of Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden was an eye opener. The Blue Devils are off to a 9-1 start, their lone stumble at Wisconsin in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Point guard Jon Scheyer had 20 points and eight assists to pace the blowout of the Zags. Nolan Smith led all scorers with 24 points. Gonzaga was left trying to explain how it was held to its lowest point total in 25 years. The Devils now own a heady win over Connecticut and a complete domination of the Zags – two teams that will be heard from come tournament time – heading into ACC play. While rival North Carolina has played a much tougher schedule and lost to Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas, it will be interesting to see if the Devils or Tar Heels improve more as the season plays out. One thing is for sure: Duke has plenty of guys who can score, led by Scheyer, Smith and Kyle Singler. They defend well, as usual, and have some inside presence with Miles Plumlee. The ACC race promises to have more than a few twists and turns. But I'm starting to believe that the Devils have enough pieces to overcome Carolina and finish on top.
JASON KING'S RESPONSE
I knew Texas was going to be good. I just didn't think it'd happen quite this fast. Saturday's 103-90 win over North Carolina was evidence. Usually teams that feature three freshmen among their top six players take awhile to gel. At Texas, though, J'Covan Brown, Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton seem to have adjusted more quickly than most. Brown scored 21 points against North Carolina and Bradley added 20 in a win so impressive that the opinion of some folks after the game was that Texas – and not conference rival Kansas – was the No. 1 team in America. The Longhorns' starting lineup has all the pieces of a championship-caliber team. The frontcourt of Dexter Pittman and Damion James is arguably the best in the country. Mix in Bradley and Brown in the backcourt and Hamilton at the three, and Texas has stars at every position. The biggest difference-maker for the Longhorns, though, is their depth. Eleven Texas players logged seven or more minutes Saturday. Senior Justin Mason, a three-year starter before this season, played just seven minutes against the Tar Heels. Jai Lucas, who started at Florida two years ago before transferring, only saw six minutes of action. When you throw in the senior leadership provided by James, Pittman and Mason, this is the best team Rick Barnes has had in his seven seasons in Austin. And as Barnes said, it's just December. The Longhorns are only going to get better.
Gerry Ahern and Jason King cover college basketball for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
- Jon Scheyer
- North Carolina