Hasheem Thabeet talked the trash. Luckily, his Connecticut teammates were there to back him up.
Thabeet, the Huskies' 7-foot-3 center, raised eyebrows during the preseason when he said that Notre Dame's Luke Harangody was "not that tough." Harangody responded by scoring 24 points and grabbing 15 rebounds against Thabeet on Saturday, but Connecticut's defense stymied the rest of the Fighting Irish in a 69-61 victory at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame shot a dismal 32.9 percent in the loss. Thabeet managed just nine points and 11 rebounds. He did, however, swat five shots. Jerome Dyson (15 points), Jeff Adrien (12) and A.J. Price (13) led a balanced Connecticut attack.
The Huskies' victory snapped Notre Dame's 45-game home winning streak, which had been the longest in the nation. It also ended the Irish's 20-game Big East home wining streak, tied for best in conference history. Connecticut (18-1) has won nine of its past 10 games against ranked opponents.
While Connecticut was our biggest winner of the week, Notre Dame emerged as the biggest loser, as Mike Brey's squad could be one of the season's biggest disappointments.
What once looked like a Final Four-caliber team has now lost three straight games, all in conference, and it could get worse. Notre Dame plays host to No. 11 Marquette on Monday before hitting the road for a clash with No. 4 Pittsburgh next Saturday. Notre Dame has too much talent and too much experience to be playing this poorly.
The goat against Connecticut was guard Kyle McAlarney, who made just 3 of 15 attempts from the field, including 3 of 8 from 3-point distance.
Here's a look at the week's other winners and losers:
Craig Robinson – Other than maybe reaching the Final Four, the first-year Oregon State coach might never experience a week as exciting as the one that just ended. On Tuesday he was in Washington to watch his brother-in-law, Barack Obama, become the 44th president of the United States. After sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom Tuesday night, Robinson flew back to the West Coast to rejoin his team for Thursday's game at Cal.
Robinson received a standing ovation as he emerged from the tunnel for shoot-around. Then something even more amazing happened: The Beavers rallied from an 11-point deficit and pulled off a 69-65 victory. They followed up with a 77-62 victory at Stanford on Saturday.
Oregon State now has three conferences wins after going 0-fer in league play last season.
Atlantic Coast Conference – Certainly there are those who will disagree, but right now the ACC has a slight edge over the Big East in the "Best Conference in the Country" debate.
As a group, I'll take the top three teams in the ACC (Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest) over the top three teams in the Big East (Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville). Clemson is legit, and Virginia Tech just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country. The ACC's bottom feeders aren't any worse than the Big East's. Actually, they might be better.
Northwestern – The Wildcats – who won just one Big Ten game last season – knocked off back-to-back ranked opponents for the first time in school history. After defeating No. 18 Minnesota last Sunday, Northwestern shocked the college basketball world by ending Michigan State's 28-game home winning streak Wednesday. Kevin Coble scored 31 points in that upset. The Wildcats couldn't win a third straight conference game though, falling 68-59 at Michigan on Saturday.
Craig Brackins – Haven't heard of the Iowa State forward? Stay tuned. The 6-foot-10 sophomore dropped in 42 points Saturday in a loss to Kansas, a performance that will enhance his national profile and garner the attention of NBA scouts.
Brackins is averaging 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds. He fell one point shy of the Big 12 scoring record Saturday, when he went 11-of-19 from the field and 17-of-21 from the free-throw line.
Seth Greenberg – For the second time in three years, the Virginia Tech coach won a game against the country's No. 1-ranked team when the Hokies defeated Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Greenberg is 2-2 against top-ranked teams since 2005 – and both of his losses came on buzzer-beaters. Also, in 1992, Greenberg's Long Beach State team defeated No. 1 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Washington – Saturday's victory over UCLA propelled Lorenzo Romar's squad into first place in the Pac-10. Freshman Isaiah Thomas scored 24 points in the win.
Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson – Patrick Mills gets most of the credit – and rightfully so – but these two players have been just as vital to St. Mary's 18-1 start. Samhan is averaging 13.9 points and 9.8 rebounds while Simpson contributes 12.8 and 10.9.
Buzz Williams – So much for Marquette going into a funk after Tom Crean left for Indiana. With Williams leading the way, the Golden Eagles are 17-2 entering Monday's Big East showdown at Notre Dame. They are 6-0 in conference play, their best-ever Big East start. Having guards such as Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews certainly doesn't hurt.
Lester Hudson – The Tennessee-Martin guard has scored 20 or more points in every game this season. The Skyhawks have won 12 of their past 13 games thanks to Hudson, who is averaging 27.2 points this season. A senior, Hudson entered the NBA draft last year but withdrew in hopes of improving his stock.
Duke – Wake Forest's loss to Virginia Tech means the Blue Devils are the nation's new No. 1 team, emphatically so after trouncing Maryland by 41 points Saturday. Count me as a Blue Devil doubter.
LSU – The SEC has taken some hits for being the worst of the "Big Six" conferences this season. On Saturday the Tigers had a chance to pick up a quality non-conference win for the league, but they blew it in an 80-70 home loss to No. 15 Xavier. LSU led by a point at halftime.
Scott Drew – The lovefest for the Baylor coach has ended. As if last week's loss to a mediocre Texas A&M squad wasn't bad enough, Baylor on Saturday suffered a 19-point blowout at Oklahoma. The Bears, who once trailed by 29 points, haven't defeated the Sooners since 1977.
Drew is now 0-10 against Oklahoma, 0-11 against Texas and has lost eight of his last nine games against Texas A&M. On Saturday the Sooners shot a season-high 58.3 percent against Baylor, which hasn't learned to defend since Drew arrived in Waco.
Jeff Teague's turnovers – The Wake Forest sophomore might be the best point guard in the country and is a sure first-round draft pick. But scouts continue to cringe at his carelessness with the ball. Teague had five turnovers in the first half of Wednesday’s loss to Virginia Tech.
Gary Williams – Tough not to wonder if this will be the final season at Maryland for Williams after Saturday's 85-44 setback at Duke. The defeat marked the Terrapins' worst loss since 1941 and worst ever to the Dookies.
Arkansas – Not many teams are as baffling as the Razorbacks. After defeating then-No. 4 Oklahoma and then-No. 7 Texas, Arkansas has now dropped four games in a row, all SEC contests. The latest blunder came in Saturday's 73-51 home blowout against Auburn.
TV camera crew at Davidson games – Sonya Curry is a nice-looking lady, but enough is enough. There are other players on the court. Show someone else's mom for a change.
Villanova vs. ranked opponents – There might not be a more overrated team in the country than the No. 20 Wildcats, who have lost all four of their games against schools in the Top 25. Not saying that Jay Wright's team isn't any good, but teams are supposed to earn their spot in the Top 25, and Villanova hasn't.
Wisconsin – Once 12-3, Bo Ryan's Badgers have now dropped four in a row, including Wednesday's semi-shocking 73-69 loss at Iowa. Ouch.
Mike Jarvis – Florida Atlantic's administration suspended the Owls coach for at least one game after he received three technical fouls in Thursday's loss at Louisiana-Monroe. The defeat was the 12th straight for Florida Atlantic, which is 4-17 overall and 0-9 in the Sun Belt Conference.
"Fun to Watch" – Quickly becoming the most overused phrase among college basketball announcers. "North Carolina is fun to watch," or "There’s not a player in the country who's as fun to watch as Tyler Hansbrough." Time for a new clich é, guys.
Thoughts fit for a King
• Filling out last season's All-American ballot was easy. This year … not so much. Or at least I don't expect it to be. Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin are locks, but for the final three spots, try choosing from Jodie Meeks, Jeff Teague, Stephen Curry, Luke Harangody and James Harden. Other deserving players?
• Visited with Kentucky's Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson last week, and I couldn't have walked away more impressed. Meeks is a business major who carries a 3.1 grade-point average, and get this: Patterson, a sophomore is on pace to graduate after just three years. Granted, there's a chance he might turn pro after this season. But to think he – or any college basketball player – could earn a diploma after three years is amazing considering their travel schedule and the demands on their time.
• This is clearly a down year for the Big 12. No one can argue that. Still, while the league might not feature many premier teams, the coaching remains superb. And I'm not just talking about the marquee names such as Bill Self and Rick Barnes. In fact, when it comes to game management and Xs and Os, the bottom of the league might be as good as the top. Doc Sadler (Nebraska), Jeff Bdzelik (Colorado) and Greg McDermott (Iowa State) all kept their teams in games Saturday despite being clearly outmatched in terms of talent.
• Clemson is one of the most frustrating teams to watch in college basketball. They miss free throws, they often take bad shots and, against Wake Forest, they seemed to have something against passing the ball to sharpshooter Terrence Oglesby, who could've helped them win that game. Still, it's also hard not to respect Oliver Purnell's team. The Tigers might not play pretty, but almost every single time, they play hard, and that means more than anything.
• The feeling in Georgia is that the 2008-09 season will be the last for coach Dennis Felton, and some folks are hoping that Minnesota's Tubby Smith will return to Athens. It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs' administration attempts to court Smith, who is doing great things with a Gophers program that has loads of potential.
- Notre Dame
- Hasheem Thabeet
- Luke Harangody