AROUND THE CITY
They can shoot
Drexel was right near the bottom nationally in field-goal accuracy, shooting just 33.1 percent going into its game at Rider. Naturally, the Dragons shot a season-high 46.3 percent and got a much-needed win, 76-70.
Drexel (3-6) is in the midst of six games away from home. The Dragons got 21 points from Tramayne Hawthorne, 14 from Evan Neisler, 13 from Gerald Colds and six points and a season-high 12 rebounds from freshman Samme Givens. Despite playing just over 20 minutes per game off the bench, Givens leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game and has a CAA-best 4.1 offensive boards per game.
After scoring just 23 points over five games, Hawthorne had a career-high 26 against Memphis on Monday to go with his 21 against Rider. He made 10 treys in those games after making 10 in his first seven games.
In the second half against Rider, Drexel shot 50 percent from the field and 17 of 23 from the foul line while winning for the first time since Dec. 1.
Rider (6-5) led by 11 early as Drexel missed nine of its first 10 shots. Which means the Dragons made 24 of their last 44, a very good sign for a team that hasn't played as poorly as its shooting. Forget the no-chance losses at Georgetown and Memphis. The other four losses were by a combined 18 points.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
West Virginia has a great combination of smart veterans and athletic young players. The Mountaineers are deep, talented and very dangerous. In the ridiculously deep Big East, they are flying below the radar. But any team that wants to win in Morgantown this season will have to play a great game.
Ohio State was unbeaten with several very nice wins (Notre Dame, Miami, Butler), but got absolutely abused in the second half at home by WVU. It was as bad as 76-48 sounds.
This was more than just any win for WVU coach Bob Huggins. When he coached at Cincinnati, Ohio State would not play the Bearcats, its administration still unhappy that Cincinnati had beaten the Jerry Lucas Buckeyes in the 1961 and 1962 national championship games.
Well, Hugs finally got to play Ohio State.
The 'Ville looks like the 'Ville
It was no secret that I loved this Louisville team before the season, having watched many of the same players give North Carolina a great game in the Final Eight at Charlotte.
Early losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota were not promising, but, if I have learned anything through the years, I have learned not to make judgments on a team's March potential by its play in December.
So much can change in January and February that your opinion better be fluid.
Rick Pitino benched starters Earl Clark and Andre McGee against UAB. Edgar Sosa got just 6 minutes of run. To say the coach was unhappy with his team's play would be an understatement. Pitino was furious and he didn't want anybody to get too comfortable.
The message apparently got through, at least for one game. If UAB wasn't seriously undermanned (down to six scholarship players), the 20-point 'Ville win might have meant more. Three UAB starters, including Robert Vaden, scored 57 of their 62 points.
Terrence Williams was terrific for Louisville with 21 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. The Cardinals shot 50 percent from the field.
The Big East has eight teams in the RPI's top 50. Trying to pick the winner of this league before New Year's is impossible. The winner could have four or five losses. And the winner could still be Louisville. Or Connecticut. Or Georgetown. Or . . .
Whither St. John's?
Does it seem like another time when St. John's was a basketball powerhouse? Well, the Red Storm is 9-3, but it is the most deceptive 9-3 imaginable. The nine wins are against opponents from outside the Big Six conferences. The three losses, including a 70-56 loss to Miami at Madison Square Garden, are against former Big East members now in the ACC. Not a good sign as St. John's embarks on its Big East season.
The sorry state of the SEC
The SEC has just one team in the RPI's top 50, Tennessee.
Kentucky, a 76-69 winner against Florida Atlantic, has had a few moments, but it's hard to put the Wildcats into any context yet. Patrick Patterson (27 points, 16 rebounds) has been a constant. Jodie Meeks has been putting up big numbers. But the team? Not very clear.
One thing about UK is certain. They will get supported.
A cool 24,018 appeared at Rupp for the Florida Atlantic game. Some schools may think they have the best, most loyal fans. Certainly, Kansas could make that claim. But no team has more fans who are more interested than Kentucky. That never changes.
The Suton Factor
Michigan State was 3-2 without Goran Suton, including an embarrassing blowout loss to No. 1 North Carolina. After beating Oakland, 82-66, the Spartans are 6-0 with their solid big man.
Michigan State is Michigan's basketball team and has been for some time. They played Oakland at the Palace of Auburn Hills and drew 15,361.
Michigan, however, may be on its way to taking back some of the fans it has lost statewide. With early wins over Duke and UCLA, the Wolverines are showing real signs of being a serious player again.
DICK JERARDI'S TOP 15
1. North Carolina (12-0): Tar Heels dumped Rutgers, 97-75, last night.
2. Connecticut (11-0): Big East season gets serious quickly with tonight's game against Georgetown.
3. Pittsburgh (12-0): Big men Sam Young and DeJuan Blair average a combined 34.8 points and 18.8 rebounds.
4. Oklahoma (12-0): Blake Griffin (23.0 points, 14.1 rebounds) is making an early run at Player of the Year.
5.Duke (10-1): Off to a great start despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the arc. Averaging 83.3 points so they are finding other ways to score.
6. Wake Forest (11-0): Averaging 84.6 points and shooting 52.1 percent from the field.
7. Georgetown (9-1): Hoyas are already good on their way to being very good by March.
8. Butler (10-1): Despite losing four starters, this is still the team nobody wants to play. Already have five road wins, including last week at Xavier.
9. Baylor (10-1): Has to deal with Portland State, conqueror of Gonzaga, tonight.
10. Arizona State (10-1): Has James Harden, the most efficient guard in America, racking up an amazing 1.91 points per shot.
11. Clemson (12-0): Going to be a serious factor in the ACC. Averaging 81.8 points and shooting 50.1 percent.
12. Minnesota (12-0): Tubby Smith's team beat his alma mater, High Point last night, 82-56.
13. Syracuse (12-1): Wins over Florida, Kansas and Memphis offset that bizarre half-court heave loss to Cleveland State. Eric Devendorf is back from suspension after missing just two games.
14. West Virginia (10-2): Blew out previously unbeaten Ohio State, 76-48, in Columbus. Starting to get healthy.
15. Louisville (8-2): Rick Pitino changed the starting lineup for his underachieving team and got results against undermanned UAB, winning 82-62.