Jonah Keri writes the College Basketball Closer (more or less) daily. E-mail your questions, concerns or Clarence Ceasar-related memories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In yesterday's edition of the Closer, I ranted about referees who call too many charging fouls, and players taking full advantage with their Flops Across America tour. Last night, I came off the bench for my rec league team, scrambling to the gym straight from the airport.
Very first possession, one of our shooters misses a jumper, triggering a break for the other team. Their lead guard pushes the ball all the way to the hoop, starts to raise up, and crashes into me. I had my feet set well before the heavily-tatted No. 20 took off, I was standing several feet out in front of the basket, and stayed upright upon contact. Still, when the ref raised his arm and signaled a charge, I doubled over laughing at my hypocrisy. Comeuppance came later, when with eight seconds left and down three, I got a pass from our best shooter, who was double-teamed, found myself wide open and everyone else covered, launched a three ... and airballed the shot, costing us the game. Awesome.
I can only imagine the Virginia players felt equally crappy after getting smoked by Xavier. The Musketeers ran out to a 38-12 lead. The score was 61-30 by halftime, more points than Virginia had allowed in four of its previous games. Xavier shot 64 percent from the field on their way to a 108-70 win, including a ridiculous 16-for-26 from 3-point range. At one point early in the first half, the Muskies nailed seven of eight shots, including three threes in a row, two by Stanley Burrell. The game was another strong statement by an elite A-10 team, not any kind of huge black mark against the Hoos. Sean Singletary's one of the best players in the country, and Virginia has plenty of time to bounce back. It's a long season, so there's no point in putting too much stock in any one game (says the guy who chucked the clinching airball).
Dave Corzine would be proud. As would Mark Aguirre, Rod Strickland, and the immortal Dallas Comegys. Facing Scottie Reynolds and No. 17-ranked Villanova, DePaul played like the Blue Demons of old, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead and never giving it up, en route to an 84-76 win. DePaul came into the game at just 4-7, but showed how tough road wins are likely to be now that conference play has started.
Clever pun that uses Josh Shipp's name in a nautical sense. UCLA's top perimeter scoring option with Arron Afflalo now in charge of trimming Sheed's beard, Shipp came up huge at Maples, canning five threes to lead the Bruins to a 76-67 win over Stanford. Shipp's dagger three with four minutes left was launched from somewhere around Monterey. Color commentator and UCLA alum Marques Johnson set a new broadcasting record, referencing Kevin Love's outlet passing ability 3,627 times. Of course you'd be mad too, if you got your ass handed to you by Woody Harrelson.
Meanwhile, on the East Side. Cal broke open a one-point game with two straight threes midway through the second half, as the Bears beat No. 22 USC 92-82. Sophomore guard Patrick Christopher did the damage, scoring 24 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. O.J. Mayo led the Trojans with 34 points in his first Pac-10 game, but couldn't find enough support from his teammates to get the win. On the flip side, Cal's multiple weapons make them my sleeper pick in the Pac-10. Ryan Anderson has been one of the top performers in the country, averaging better than 22 and 9 heading into last night's game. Christopher and Jerome Randle have ably filled the void in the backcourt, and NBA prospect DeVon Hardin should start reeling off double-doubles soon, as he continues his comeback from major knee surgery. Add an improving Arizona State team to the mix (impressive win over Oregon in their opener) and you're looking at a bloody battle 1 through 9 in the Pac-10, with only Oregon State likely to be an easy out.