Winners and losers: North vs. South

Jason King
Yahoo! Sports

Nebraska coach Doc Sadler was so happy after Saturday's 58-55 victory over No. 16 Texas that he almost came to tears during a postgame interview.

It was Rick Barnes, though, who should've been wiping his eyes, as the defeat was the third straight for a Longhorns squad that many pegged as the favorite to win the Big 12.

Even more surprising: Each of Texas' last three losses have come against schools from the Big 12 North, which is generally regarded as the weaker half of the conference. Other than perennial power Kansas, schools from the North have struggled against South opponents in recent years.

But so far this season, the South is 8-11 against its Northern foes. Four of those wins are by Oklahoma, which is undefeated in conference play. Other than the Sooners, every South team has a losing record against the North.

In some ways it was impossible to see this coming.

Kansas returned just one key player (Sherron Collins) from last season's national championship team, yet the Jayhawks have yet to lose a league game. Missouri, which hasn't played in the NCAA tournament since 2002-03, touts road victories at Oklahoma State and Texas. Nebraska features one of the Big 12's best defenses.

The shift in power might not be permanent, as the South teams still enjoy a recruiting advantage over those from the North. Still, even if it's only for a year, the scenario has made for an entertaining league race.

Now, this week's winners and losers.


Jack McClinton – Even in a loss, the Miami standout's performance against Duke on Saturday was hard to ignore. He scored 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting and is averaging 26 points over his last seven games.

Arizona – No team in the Pac-10 is as hot as the Wildcats, who won their fifth straight game Saturday at Oregon. Chase Budinger is averaging 21.5 points over his last five games for Arizona, which has a huge week ahead with games against USC (Thursday) and UCLA (Saturday). The Wildcats lost to both teams last month.

Danny Green – Tyler Hansbrough might be North Carolina's most recognizable player, but Green has been the team's most consistent performer this season. He is averaging 13.4 points per game for the well-balanced Tar Heels and is shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Green certainly helped his NBA draft stock by returning for his senior year.

Florida State – The Seminoles improved to 5-3 in ACC play with Saturday's 65-61 win at No. 10 Clemson. Leonard Hamilton's squad has now won three of its last four games – and it nearly upset North Carolina. Guard Toney Douglas has been the catalyst for Florida State, averaging 24.7 points over his last seven games.

Jeff Adrien – The Connecticut forward is easily one of the nation's most underrated players. With a chiseled frame and confident persona, Adrien set the tone for the Huskies in Monday's blowout at Louisville with his hustle plays and intimidating screams and chest pounds. He was a huge reason Louisville played scared. Adrien scored just nine points but pulled down 14 rebounds in Saturday's win over Michigan.

Northern Iowa – The Panthers have a three-game lead over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley standings after winning 11 straight games. Northern Iowa is 11-1 in league play while Illinois State and Creighton are 8-4.

Mario Little – Last season's national junior college player of the year considered redshirting after missing the first half of the season with injuries. Kansas is glad he didn't. Little has given the Jayhawks a huge spark in conference action – not just by scoring, but by rebounding, playing solid defense and taking care of the ball.

Bob Knight – One year after retiring, the legendary Indiana and Texas Tech coach said he'd consider returning to the sidelines if the opportunity were right, perhaps at Georgia. Knight needs to stay put. He's doing a tremendous job as a television commentator and should make it a permanent gig.

This week's schedule – Kansas at Missouri on Monday, Florida at Kentucky on Tuesday, North Carolina at Duke on Wednesday and UCLA at Arizona State on Thursday. What a lineup.

John Beilein – Quite a week for Michigan. First it thumped a surging Penn State team by 20 points in Ann Arbor. Then, on Saturday, the Wolverines turned in a terrific performance before losing 69-61 to No. 1 Connecticut in Storrs. Michigan fans have to be pleased with the direction of the program.


Devan Dumes – Talk about not being able to handle success. Three days after scoring 27 points against Iowa and helping Indiana to its first conference win, the Hoosiers guard was ejected from Saturday's game at Michigan State after throwing three intentional elbows toward Spartan players, including one that connected below the belt.

Louisville – Not many teams have laid as big of an egg as the Cardinals did Monday against Connecticut. The Huskies embarrassed Rick Pitino's fifth-ranked squad in front of its home crowd by intimidating the Cardinals in the paint and forcing them to take ill-advised shots from the perimeter.

Duke – The Blue Devils deserve credit for rallying from a 16-point second-half deficit in Saturday's overtime win over Miami. Still, let's face it: Duke is struggling. This near-defeat happened at home, which is inexcusable against the Hurricanes considering the advantage they enjoy at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Three days earlier Duke was torched – torched – in a 74-47 loss at Clemson. With North Carolina on the docket for Wednesday, the Blue Devils couldn't have picked a worse time for a slump.

Luke Harangody – A few weeks ago the Notre Dame forward seemed like a lock to earn first-team All-American honors and was even being mentioned as a national player of the year candidate. Now both of those opportunities seem to have vanished thanks to the seven-game losing streak that has ruined Notre Dame's season. Harangody was brutal in Saturday's 89-63 blowout loss at UCLA, when he posted season lows in points (five) and rebounds (one).

Georgetown – These are tough times for the Hoyas, who have lost six of their last seven games. The latest slip-up came in Saturday's 64-62 overtime defeat against Cincinnati – at home. Even worse is that four of Georgetown's final seven regular-season games are against ranked opponents. The NIT is sounding more and more like a reality.

Robbie Hummel – A shame that back pain continues to limit Purdue's top player. Hummel, who has a hairline fracture in his L5 vertebrae, missed last week's loss at Ohio State, and coach Matt Painter said his availability for the Boilermakers' remaining contests will be decided at game time.

Ole Miss – Just when it seemed as if the Rebels and coach Andy Kennedy had put their off-court issues behind them, Ole Miss saw its three-game winning streak snapped by – of all teams – Vanderbilt. The Rebels shot just 36.4 percent in the loss and next face SEC West-leading LSU in Baton Rouge.

Damion James – The main player who can reverse Texas' woes is James, a future NBA forward and one of the most experienced players on the Longhorns' roster. James, though, has struggled as of late. He scored just six points in last week's loss to Missouri and missed nine of his 14 shots in Saturday's setback at Nebraska. James is the most talented player on Texas' roster. He needs to be more assertive.

Marquette – No one expected the Golden Eagles to go undefeated in the rugged Big East, but who thought their first loss would come against conference doormat South Florida? Lazar Hayward missed an easy put-back as time expired that would've give Marquette the victory instead of a 57-56 loss.

Tony Bennett – After a banner season in 2007-08, Bennett's Washington State program has fallen on hard times. Saturday's loss at Cal marked the Cougars' fifth defeat in its last six games. Two of the setbacks were by two points.

Davidson and Xavier – Two of the country's best non-power conference teams suffered shocking upsets Saturday. Davidson saw its 43-game Southern Conference winning streak come to an end in a 77-75 loss to the College of Charleston. Stephen Curry scored 25 points but was just 7-of-23 from the field. Xavier suffered its first Atlantic 10 loss in a 72-68 defeat against Duquesne.

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