It takes a full-time job, or a full-time class schedule, for one to truly appreciate a four-day weekend. And when those two extra days off come courtesy the Thanksgiving holiday, the full-time college basketball fan (or writer) goes into overtime mode.
Just about every D-I team in the country seemed to be playing in a holiday tournament this past weekend â€“ from the balmy paradise of the Bahamas to the cold-ass bustle of New York City on Black Friday. When it was over, some top dogs were going home with their national-championship promise in doubt, while some underdogs returned to campus with brand-new hero status.
Here are the highlights and lowlights from the long weekend:
4 Games I Hope You Watched
UNLV 90, North Carolina 80 â€“ Saturday nights in Vegas are supposed to be surreal. Maybe that’s why it made sense that, in the Las Vegas Invitational title game, UNLV’s shooters were getting so wide open that it looked like UNC had left their fifth defender on the bus. It made sense that the most talented frontcourt in the country got outplayed by a group of guys on which Roy Williams wouldn’t waste a home visit. It made sense that Runnin’ Rebels swingman Chace Stanback posted four points and two rebounds against USC on Friday, then blew up for 28 points and 10 boards against the top-ranked Tar Heels on Saturday.
Central Florida 68, Connecticut 63 â€“ Before UNC went down, the defending national champs were the weekend’s first major upset victims. Marcus Jordan (20 pts, 7 rebs, 7 asts) made the go-ahead free throws with three minutes remaining, putting the cap on a comeback that began when UCF trailed by 17 in the second half. “That wasn’t a run,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun told reporters. “It was an avalanche.”
Connecticut 78, Florida State 76 (OT) â€“ The consolation game nobody saw coming at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas was won by UConn point guard Shabazz Napier‘s three-pointer in the final minute of overtime. Napier (26 pts) redeemed himself after shooting 1-for-7 and turning the ball over seven times against Central Florida.
Virginia Tech 59, Oklahoma State 57 â€“ I’m not sure what made me feel older: Watching the Bayou Classic matchup between Southern’s 11-year-old quarterback and Doug Williams‘ son at Grambling, or watching Oklahoma State senior Keiton Page barking out orders and hitting huge shots while looking like Steve Nash‘s child. Page kept the third-place game at the preseason NIT interesting until the last drop, converting a driving layup with 11 seconds left and an off-balance running three with 0.7 remaining that prevented the Hokies from breathing easy until the clock showed all zeroes.
4 Future Pros You Know
William Buford, SG, Ohio State â€“ He came into college billed as a highlight machine ready to create more insane YouTube clips than Miss Prada. Four years later he’s become an outside shooting ace on the radar of any NBA team looking for a shooter first and an athlete second. Buford dropped 25 points on Valparaiso, hitting all four of his threes. He’s shooting 50 percent beyond the arc this season. Oh, and he can still jump over your head.
Terrence Jones, SF/PF, Kentucky â€“ I could pick a different Wildcat each week for the “Future Pros” section and have enough ammo for two months. And if you ask me, Jones is going to be the best pro of the bunch: a 6-9, 250-pound lefty with perimeter skills, interior strength, and an MMA fighter’s intensity. Jones had 19 points, two steals and two blocks in Kentucky’s latest laugher, this time against Portland.
C.J. Leslie, SF/PF, NC State â€“ Once upon a time Leslie was a lock for the Lottery, but a so-so freshman year has put him in a position where he’ll (probably) have to prove he’s more than just a pile of potential before leaving the Wolf Pack for the pros. The 6-9 lanky Leslie put up 13 points, eight boards, five blocks and three steals against Elon, and faces tough tests against Indiana and Stanford in the next week.
Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse â€“ He likely won’t get buckets like Carmelo, bully his way to domination like John Wallace, or make March miracles like Gerry McNamara, but Joseph could soon take his place alongside those ‘Cuse legends if he winds up being the marquee player on a national championship team. Joseph (6-7, 210) is a solid NBA role player in the making, but for now he’s The Man; he had 18 points, nine rebounds and four steals in the Orange’s preseason NIT title win over Stanford.
4 Future Pros You May Not Know
Keith Clanton, PF, Central Florida â€“ The 6-8, 245-pounder was already putting together a solid resume for NBA scouts, but now his 20-point effort in the upset win over UConn gives him a signature moment to build around. Clanton also had 28 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks against Charleston earlier in the weekend.
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina â€“ His one-on-one matchup with Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor on Wednesday will be the last time Marshall appears on any “you might not know this guy” database. He’s the best pure passer I’ve seen in college over the last two seasons and could finish the Wisconsin game known as the best point guard in the nation. Marshall handed out 14 assists to go with six steals in another clinic against South Carolina, and had eight dimes and seven points in the UNLV loss.
Mike Scott, PF, Virginia â€“ Standing 6-8 and knocking on 250 pounds, Scott is one of those guys you’ll forget all about until he’s playing key playoff minutes for an NBA title contender. Scott posted 15 points and 10 rebounds against Wisconsin-Green Bay, in line with his senior-year averages.
Trevor Mbakwe, PF, Minnesota â€“ He could slip into the NBA Draft’s second round because he’s an “old” senior, but Mbakwe has first-round talent. (He played his freshman year at Marquette, transferred to a junior college, and then sat out another year while trying to get out from under an assault charge.) He’s a high-energy leaper at 6-8, 240 pounds, who will contribute as a rebounder and finisher in the pros. Mbakwe had 16 points and 12 rebounds against DePaul, nine points and nine boards against Indiana State, and nine points and two blocks against Dayton. (UPDATE: Minnesota announced Monday that Mbakwe is likely out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL suffered in the Dayton game.)