The first two weeks of Pac-12 conference play had plenty of close games and dramatic wins. But for sheer audacity and shock value, last weekend's face-off between Oregon State and Stanford outranked them all.
On Saturday, No. 4 Stanford and unheralded Oregon State found themselves in the same neighborhood, both literally and competitively, to just about everyones surprise. The Cardinal entered the contest with their pertinent numbers at 60 and 70 -- 60 consecutive wins against Pac-12 conference competition and 70 straight wins at Maples Pavilion.
Oregon State on the other hand had dropped 34 of their last 39 conference games and was just trying to get its reclamation project back on track after a difficult double overtime loss to Washington State on New Years Eve. Oh, did we mention that OSU had never won at Maples Pavilion (0-26) and had dropped 23 straight in its series with Stanford, the last win coming in January 2001?
So what could explain the Beavers big opening 20 minutes in which they shot 65 percent (15-of-23) from the floor while holding the Cardinal to just 36.4 percent from the field and a miserly 25 percent (one-for-four) from the arc, and led Stanford 35-31 at the half? Were the Cardinal preoccupied with the beginning of winter quarter classes on Monday morning or was Oregon State literally growingby leaps and boundson Stanfords home floor?
The undefeated Maryland Terrapins survived a pair of "near-loss experiences" this week, coming back from the brink of defeat to barely edge out Georgia Tech (77-74) and North Carolina (78-72, OT) teams that seemingly had them put away.
Of course, the multiple upsets cost us on on our Full Court prediction ratings, but they made the conference race really fun to watch.
Saturday began the toppling of the dominoes, as Michigan State upset Penn State, 75-65, on the Lady Lions' own home floor despite a valiant second-half comeback effort spearheaded by Maggie Lucas.
Then Kevin Borseth proved he's still got Ohio State's number, as his Michigan Wolverines handed the Buckeyes their first loss of the season, 73-62. Suddenly, Purdue, Michigan State, and Nebraska are all 3-0 at the top of the conference, while Ohio State and Michigan are tied in the second tier at 2-1.
The excitement continued on Sunday. Though you can't really call them upsets, Nebraska pulled out a squeaker against Iowa, 77-72 (exactly the outcome -- and margin -- we predicted).
Then Wisconsin pulled out its first conference win of the season, handing Illinois its third straight conference loss, 70-67. That was not what we had predicted for the home-standing Illini.
Rounding out the weekend's action, Northwestern took a 69-61 "W" at Indiana.
For the record, I was 2-3 in my predictions for the weekend, taking my record down a few notches to 15-5 for 75 percent for the conference season. My ego is battered and bruised, but in my heart of hearts, a wide-open conference battle is way more fun than worrying about my prediction rating.
No. 3-Notre Dames 74-67 overtime victory over No. 2 Connecticut was exciting, loud, tense and almost predicted.
Just a few days before the game, Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan, whose team had lost to both UConn and Notre Dame by similar scores, had said, in an interview with the South Bend Tribune that Notre Dame was probably a better team because they were more comfortable with how each other played.
That's one definition of team maturity.
And it was that team maturity that won the day for the Irish.
Almost a month ago the Huskies were the No. 2 team in the nation, visiting No. 1 Baylor in Waco, Texas, and holding an 11-point lead on the Bears in the second half before being smothered by Brittney Griner and company down the stretch to lose the battle of the unbeatens.
On Saturday afternoon, Connecticut was again the 2, this time to No. 3 Notre Dame in the front end of two regular-season showdowns between the pair of BIG EAST powerhouses, plus perhaps other match-ups to come in the postseason.
Just like in the game against Baylor, the Huskies held a lead they frittered away, ultimately losing to the Irish, 74-67, in overtime before a sellout crowd of 9,149 predominantly Notre Dame fans in Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. It was Connecticuts first overtime game since 2006.
There was just one surprise in the Big Ten's midweek women's basketball contests: Minnesotas 68-60 win at Northwestern, the Gopher's first true road win of the season, was the one we didn't see coming. Both of those teams have tremendous upside and, in this case, the Golden Gophers got there first.
There are a couple of good games this weekend's schedule, both of them on Saturday. Undefeated Ohio State will travel to Michigan, a team that beat the Buckeyes twice last season, wile Michigan State travels to Penn State.
Although we are early in the season, the loser of the Michigan State-Penn State contest will have some making up to do in conference play, because Ohio State and Nebraska dont look as if they are going to slow down much.
Let's take a glance back at the Big Ten's midweek results and current standings, before looking ahead to this weekend's action and our predictions.
The Los Angeles Sparks have named Carol Ross as the teams new head coach, Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced today.
Ross will join the Sparks for the 2012 Womens National Basketball Association season. She brings over 25 years of coaching experience including the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Dream, WNBA Finalists in both 2010 and 2011. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not announced.
Notre Dame has completed its preconference schedule as well as could be expected, going 14-1 with the lone loss at top-ranked Baylor. With two BIG EAST wins already under their belts -- an early-December meeting with Marquette, which Notre Dame put away, 95-42, and a final tune-up Wednesday against an over-matched Seton Hall team (final score: 74-36, Notre Dame) -- the Irish are ready to turn to the heart of their conference schedule.
For Muffet McGraw, the pieces are all in place for a serious run at her second national championship. The Irish still will be vulnerable inside, but only to someone the stature of Brittney Griner and, of course, there is only one of her. The outside guards are quick, the passing efficient, and the on-court leadership undisputed. They have been tested mentally, won a huge comeback (down 36-20 at halftime) game against then No. 7 Duke in the Bahamas, and showed no mercy against the several walkovers that were scheduled in December.
Barring a bad shooting night, the only two teams that can even be in the same gym with them are Connecticut and Tennessee, both of whom visit in January.
As conference play got underway last week for the most of the ACC last week, home proved not not to be an especially welcoming place for league teams playing their home openers: Clemson, North Carolina State and Florida State all lost at home, and North Carolina barely pulled out a win. Even Duke struggled to put away Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The biggest news from opening night was the Tar Heels' stunning, 65063, comeback victory over Miami. Despite 31 turnovers and the loss of starting guard She'la White to an ankle injury, the Heels rallied in the final minute to pull ahead of a Miami team that had gone ice cold. Hurricane stars Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson combined to shoot 10-32 from the floor, but the 'Canes got nothing from their bench. Conversely, UNC got significant contributions from the likes of Shannon Smith, Candice Wood and Danielle Butts, who combined for 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Combined with the welcome news of the return of Laura Broomfield, who missed the last five games with a foot injury, and 6-6 center Waltiea Rolle, suiting up for the first time since the birth of her daughter in early November, this win was a major confidence-booster for North Carolina, which demolished cupcakes Savannah State and North Carolina Central earlier in the week, but until the Miami victory, had no real quality wins under its belt.
Let's take a quick look at the rest of last week's results, the league's current standings, and the coming week's top games in the ACC.
Monday's Big Ten conference women's basketball games went much as expected, with one glaring exception. The Fighting Illini more than lived up to their name, turning what had been expected to be a ho-hum outing and a predictable win for No. 18/22 Purdue into a real nail-biter and the highlight of Monday's action. Illinois pushed the Boilers to the brink, taking a two-point lead with just seven seconds left, only to leave Courtney Moses wide open for a three-pointer as time expired. Moses buried it, staving off the near upset, leaving Purdue undefeated at 2-0 in conference play, 12-3 overall, and clinging to a berth in the lower echelon of the national rankings in both major polls.
And also leaving Full Court's Big Ten correspondent Mark Bradford four-for-four in his predictions for Monday's games and nine-for-10 on the season to date. Let's take a closer look at the rest of Monday's results, the current Big Ten standings and Bradford's picks for the upcoming midweek games.