My viewing habits: I donít mean to be a nerd, but holy moly guacamole! I saw a team Tuesday night that I can get behind. Missouri plays the way I love to see teams play, fast and unselfishly on offense while throwing up a few wild shots and then turning up the pressure with some tough half-court defense. Itís hard to believe that Mike Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas when he had this type of team returning.
Frank Haith has to be the luckiest man in the world. He got out of a doomed situation in Miami, where itís difficult for any coach to win, plus the school is going to go on probation and now heís coaching a sure-fire Final Four contender and maybe even a national championship contender.
Another thing I like about the Tigers is that Haith has the courage to not get boxed by traditional thinking. He starts four guards, including the fabulous Pressey brothers, Phil and Matt, sons of former NBA player and Celtics assistant coach Paul Pressey. Both played for Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass. before transferring to high school in Dallas. Matt is a fundamentally sound, tough-as-nails shooting guard at 6-2, 195. Phil, however, is the difference maker, Heís mosquito-quick at 5-10, 175 with extraordinary vision and an incredible ability to get into the lane to use that vision. He will find open shooters, sometimes with spectacular results. He had 12 assists as the Tigers beat Villanova 81-71 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
As much as I am enamored of the Pressey brothers, Missouriís best player is shooting guard Marcus Denmon, who had 28 points. I think heís a national player of the year candidate. Plus, 6-6 forward Kim English is hitting 62 percent of his threes, and 6-8 Ricardo Ratliffe is a rugged presence in the paint. The weakness is depth. When Matt Pressey got two fouls in the first half and went to the bench, the teamís play dipped a bit. Still, this is a team that can go places.
On the losing side, Villanovaís not a bad club. Jay Wright has done some great recruiting and thereís reason to believe this team will come around eventually even thought the Wildcats are 5-3. Maalik Wayns is a handful at point guard and junior center Mouphtaou Yarou has improved offensively. Shooting guard Dominic Cheek is a mystery. I saw him in high school and thought he was going to be great. He only displays occasional flashes.
Surprising scores, amazing margins:
Syracuse 62, Marshall 56: I donít know if the Orange are distracted by the Bernie Fine mess, but I think Marshallís decent and this score isnít out of whack.
Marquette 79, Washington 77: The Fightiní McGuires are a tough bunch and I loved the canary yellow coat Curley Joe Buzz Williams wore.
UMass 63, East Carolina 58: Not as easy as it looks winning in Greenville, N.C.
Kansas 88, Long Beach State 80: Good effort by the 49ers, but the luster has faded from the big win at Pitt.
Wofford 61, Tulane 50: First loss for the Green Wave, had to happen sometime and that it happened on a Tuesday night in Spartanburg, S.C. is not surprising.
Robert Morris 64, Duquesne 60: BobbyMo is among four or five teams that could win the NEC, but this is a bad loss for the Dukes.
Virginia 68, George Mason 48: Hello there, the Cavs are 8-1 under astute, second-year coach Tony Bennett. It was the first time in 14 years the two in-state schools met.
Northern Iowa 80, Iowa 60: NoIo just needs a win over Drake to win the state championship. Of course, theyíre ducking Grinnell.
Columbia 46, Holy Cross 45: Crusaders need to win games like this.
Kent State 71, James Madison 51: A real butt-whipping road win against a decent opponent for the 6-1 Edelmans.
Texas State 81, Houston 78: Got to put Texas State down as possible Southland contender based on this.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell