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Can't count out Pearl, Pitino and Calhoun
What do Bruce Pearl, Jim Calhoun and Rick Pitino have in common?
Sure, each of the trio has gone through his share of scrutiny recently. Pearl and Calhoun are under NCAA investigations while Pitino went through more than his share of embarrassment in the past year or two.
But more importantly, all three have been successful throughout their careers, and their teams all have unblemished records. Plus, now they are motivated even more than before.
I’m still not sold on Tennessee or UConn as legitimate Final Four contenders, yet both are deserving of spots in the Top 10 — and maybe even the Top 5. Pitino’s Cardinals are far from overpowering, but they have wins against Butler and a ranked UNLV team on their résumé — and have done it without starting forward Jared Swopshire.
This could be it for Calhoun. Pitino is in the twilight of his career and has been overshadowed in Kentucky by John Calipari. Pearl already has been hit with an eight-game SEC suspension and there are some who believe he may not be the Vols’ coach a year from now.
But for now, they’re all winning the fight to remain relevant.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Tennessee — The Vols won only one game, but it was as impressive as any victory this season. Pearl’s team went into Pittsburgh and came home with a resounding win against the No. 3 Panthers. Now Tennessee has taken care of both Big East favorites, Pitt and Villanova. The Vols handed Pitt its first non-conference home setback in nearly six years.
STUD (PLAYER OF WEEK): Syracuse big man Rick Jackson has been a role guy in his first three seasons with the Orange. However, Jackson has lost 25 pounds and it’s paid off, as he has eight double-doubles. He dominated Michigan State with 17 points and 16 boards and then went for 18 and 10 in a rout of Colgate.
SHOWCASE PERFORMANCE: Mizzou’s Marcus Denmon wasn’t even a lock to play against Vanderbilt after his cousin was shot and killed earlier in the week. Denmon struggled in the first half but had 19 of his 21 points after the break, including a huge steal and three-point play in overtime that proved to be the game-winner.
WEEK TO FORGET: Here’s a piece of advice: Don’t listen to Pitino’s prognostications. The Louisville coach picked St. John’s to win the Big East. The Red Storm are 5-3 after a week in which they lost to St. Bonaventure at home and then to a Fordham team picked to finish in the cellar of the A-10.
DUD: St. John’s barely edged UMass for the Week to Forget honors, but the Minutemen deserve something after losing to Maine at home and then getting blown out by a Seton Hall team without Jeremy Hazell, 104-79, at the Mullins Center in Amherst.
TOEING THE LINE: Duke freshman Kyrie Irving’s toe is the most important body part in college hoops these days. It’s now in a hard cast and it looks like the Blue Devils are doing everything they can before opting for season-ending surgery. Irving’s father told FOXSports.com that he expects a decision sometime this week.
WELCOME HOME: BYU’S Jimmer Fredette had quite a week. The senior guard scored 26 points in his return to his hometown of Glen Falls, N.Y., as the Cougars beat up on Vermont, and then Fredette went for 33 points in beating Arizona in Salt Lake City.
CHECK THE BALL: Illinois and Oakland played the first 7:22 with a women’s ball before the mistake was caught and it was replaced with a men’s ball, which is one inch larger and two ounces heavier. Oakland had a 15-6 lead when the switch was made and the Illini were 3 of 13 from the field. After the switch, Bruce Weber’s team shot nearly 50 percent and Illinois won, 74-63.
GAMES YOU’LL HAVE TO SEE: The Champions Classic. It’s a three-year, round-robin deal involving four heavyweights: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State. It’ll take place in New York, Atlanta and Chicago and will be held in November in an effort to kick off the season with a bang.
MID-MAJOR TEAM OF THE WEEK: Quinnipiac got 27 points and 11 boards in a win against Lehigh early in the week, and then the Bobcats knocked off Rhode Island, 73-66. Tom Moore’s team got a lift when Fordham transfer Lance Moore was granted a waiver, but he’s out with a groin injury — and Tevin Baskin becomes eligible on Dec. 22.
MOST IMPORTANT OFF-COURT DECISION: Louisville, largely due to new assistant coach Tim Fuller, was able to get a verbal commitment from Rodney Purvis, Scout.com’s top point guard in the Class of 2012. Purvis, who’s from Raleigh, N.C., and also was being evaluated by Duke, is a huge coup for Pitino and the Cardinals.
NEVER OVER: Sacred Heart was down 51-31 with a little more than eight minutes left when Dave Bike’s team went on a 25-4 closing run for a 56-55 win.
WEEK’S TOP MATCHUPS
1. Mississippi State vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in the Bahamas — Finally, the debut of talented Bulldogs big man Renardo Sidney. The former prep standout was ruled ineligible last season and for the first nine games of this year.
2. USC at Kansas, Saturday at noon — This one isn’t as much about the matchup, as it is the debut of Jayhawks freshman point guard Josh Selby, who also makes his debut after an NCAA suspension.
3. Kansas State vs. Florida, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. — This one isn’t in Gainesville, but it’s in the Sunshine State and it’s also a chance for the struggling Gators to redeem themselves against a K-State team ranked in the Top 5.
4. Gonzaga vs. Baylor, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Dallas — The ‘Zags need this one badly after a 4-5 start and several missed opportunities. The Bears are still somewhat of a mystery since they haven’t played a high-profile game yet.
5. Arizona at N.C. State, Sunday at 4:45 p.m. – The Wildcats were close to the Top 25 before getting smacked by BYU this weekend, while Sidney Lowe’s team is young, but talented.
6. Cleveland State at West Virginia, Sunday at 2 p.m. — Gary Waters’ team is undefeated at 12-0, and we’ll see if the Vikings are for real when they travel to Morgantown.
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