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January 15, 2007

Week in review: Virginia Tech is for real

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Not many teams can say they beat Duke and North Carolina in an eight-day span. Add the stipulation that the Blue Devils and Tar Heels must have been ranked in the top five - and that the opponent was unranked - and it becomes extraordinarily rare.

All those factors combine to make Virginia Tech's 94-88 win over No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday perhaps the most shocking upset of the season. The Hokies edged then-No. 5 Duke 69-67 in Cameron Indoor Stadium last week.

Indiana didn't pull off any wins near that caliber, but it's clear they are quickly improving. The Hoosiers have won seven of their last eight games, including three in a row against Big Ten teams. They most recently crushed Purdue 73-51 and beat Penn State 84-74.

No team may have been under more pressure last week than Marquette, who started out 0-2 in the Big East and faced a road trip to talented Connecticut and a visit from an upstart West Virginia squad. The Golden Eagles responded by edging the Huskies 73-69 and rolling past the Mountaineers 81-63.

We examine Virginia Tech, Indiana and Marquette and take a look at all the other major developments in this week's edition of A Look Back:

All Eyes On ...
Virginia Tech (13-4, 3-0 ACC)
The Good: Nobody can ignore the Hokies anymore. Not after knocking off Duke and top-ranked North Carolina in consecutive weeks. We have plenty of reasons to believe they'll be a contender in the ACC. Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon looked like one of the nation's top backcourts against UNC, combining for 40 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, and nine steals. Dowdell and Gordon are superb defenders who apply great pressure on the ball around the perimeter. The Hokies are also getting plenty of production from their bench. Tech reserves combined to score 36 points against the Tar Heels. The scoring punch of reserve wing A.D. Vassallo has added a new dimension to the Hokies' offense.
The Bad: The Hokies deserve a great deal of credit for the win, but UNC deserves some blame for their upset loss. The Tar Heels made just 55 percent (16-of-29) of their free-throw attempts. Freshman Brandan Wright went just 1-of-8 from the charity stripe. The chances of them shooting that poorly again are very slim.
The Ugly: The Hokies should have won the game easily. They led by as many as 22 at one point and were up by 19 with 3:36 left. Still, the Tar Heels managed to put together a furious rally and cut the deficit to as little as three points in the final minute.
Indiana (12-4, 3-1 Big Ten)
The Good: D.J. White, far and away the team's best player, is getting plenty of help. Guard Roderick Wilmont hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 25 points against Penn State. That's nearly 15 more than his average of 10.8 per game. Freshman guard Joey Shaw managed to score a season-high 19 points in 18 minutes against Purdue, nearly tripling his average of 6.4 points a game. Lance Stemler poured in 16 points in a 73-51 rout over Michigan State. Stemler averages 9.1 points a game. If that kind of versatile production continues, the Hoosiers won't have any trouble getting into the NCAA Tournament.
The Bad: Every coach wants to have an assortment of players step up offensively, but the Hoosiers still need a second scoring threat to team with White. They need someone on the perimeter who can consistently create shots on their own and score in double figures. Too many starters fill that role in one game and then disappear in another.
The Ugly: There's still plenty of doubt whether the Hoosiers can beat NCAA Tournament-quality teams. Purdue has lost 27 consecutive games on the road. Penn State looks like a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team at best. What will happen when the Hoosiers travel to a much more talented Connecticut team on Jan. 20? Or when they play host to No. 3 Wisconsin on Jan. 31?
Marquette (15-4, 2-2 Big East)
The Good: The Golden Eagles showed character and poise by coming away with two critical wins. They did it by playing tremendous man-to-man defense. Marquette forced Connecticut to shoot 31 percent from the field. The Eagles also came up with 21 turnovers. The Mountaineers shot 38 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range while piling up 15 turnovers. The Eagles, who struggled against zone defenses in losses to Providence and Syracuse, also did a superb job finding the open spots in the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 defense. Their 81 points was the most the most the Mountaineers have allowed all season.
The Bad: The Golden Eagles must start cutting down on turnovers soon. They combined for 38 against the Huskies and Mountaineers. Guard Jerel McNeal is the main culprit, racking up 15 of those.
The Ugly: None.
Other Teams Making News
  • Oregon coach Ernie Kent has gone from being on the hot seat to the early favorite for Pac-10 coach of the year. The Ducks moved into a tie for first place in the league with UCLA by upsetting Arizona 79-77 on the road Sunday night. Their run is even more impressive when considering that last season's leading scorer, Malik Hairston, has missed 10 games because of injuries.
  • Air Force engineered the best comeback of the week in its 67-58 win over New Mexico The Falcons trailed by 15 at halftime, but opened the second half with a 21-2 run to gain the lead.
  • Don't call Nevada a one-man team anymore. The Wolf Pack won two consecutive games without star Nick Fazekas (who is sidelined with a sprained ankle), beating San Jose State 72-63 and edging Hawaii 68-66 in overtime. Ramon Sessions, Kyle Shiloh and Marcelus Kemp combined to score 48 points against Hawaii.
  • Individual Spotlight
  • Marcus Williams' decision to pull out of the NBA Draft and stay in school continues to look better and better. The Arizona sophomore put together perhaps the best performance of his career in the Wildcats' 79-77 loss to Oregon. Williams scored a career-high 34 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. He was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.
  • Boston College's Jared Dudley is known for doing so many things well, but his greatest strength is drawing fouls. It showed in the Eagles' 78-73 win over Virginia, where Dudley made 16-of-19 (84 percent) free throws. He scored 22 points, grabbed 11 boards and added three steals and three assists.
  • Add Louisville guard Terrence Williams to the list of the nation's most versatile players. Williams scored a career-high 23 points, corralled 12 boards, dished out five assists and added five steals in the Cardinals' 78-63 win over Providence.
  • Freshmen Spotlight
  • So much for shooting for national freshman of the year. Texas' Kevin Durant looks like a legit national player of the year candidate. Durant scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in an 88-68 rout of Missouri. He added 28 points and 13 more boards in a 80-69 win over Oklahoma. Durant now has five double-doubles in his last five games.
  • Greg Oden played his finest game as a collegian in the Buckeyes' dramatic 68-66 win over Tennessee. Oden scored a season-high 24 points, snatched 15 boards and blocked three shots. He also made all six of his free throw attempts with his left hand (Oden shoots with his left because his injured right wrist is in a cast).
  • Some of the top freshmen in the Pac-10 have been more spectacular than California's Ryan Anderson, but not many have been more consistent. Anderson turned in another strong performance in the Bears' 77-69 overtime upset of Washington, scoring 18 points and piling up 14 boards. It was his fifth double-double.
  • Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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