Bob Asmussen: Demon Deacons pull shocker

Bob Asmussen: Demon Deacons pull shocker

Team of the Week

Wake Forest

This spot is reserved for the ACC team that pulls the biggest shocker. Last time, it was Boston College. The Demon Deacons deserve to follow the Eagles after Wednesday’s 10-point win against Duke. Wake was coming off a loss to Boston College and had dropped eight of its last nine before rocking Duke’s world. In the grand scheme of things, the loss won’t mean much to Duke. The Blue Devils will land a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament and be considered a Final Four threat. But the game does wonders for Jeff Bzdelik’s program (Did you know he was the coach there? Me, neither.). At 16-14 and with one regular season game left, the Demon Deacons are guaranteed the .500 record that it will take to earn an NIT berth. Knocking off Duke should make it easy for the NIT selection committee to call Wake.

Team of the Weak

Creighton

Folks warned the people in Omaha, Neb., there would be days like this. Especially on the road in the Big East. After moving into the Top 10, the Bluejays gave it all away during trips to Xavier and Georgetown. It just wasn’t that Creighton lost, but how it lost. In both games, the home team dominated. Once a contender for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Creighton has dropped a notch or two. And the fall might not be done. Next up is a home game against Providence, which desperately needs a win for NCAA purposes and already beat the Bluejays earlier in the season. Creighton can still come back and have a nice finish to its season. Or it can lose to a No. 12 seed in its first NCAA tournament game.

Top 10

SCHOOL    LAST WEEK

1. Wichita State    1

Was anybody else creeped out by Gregg Marshall’s ESPN interview with Bob Knight? When Marshall asked Knight for advice, it got downright odd. But Knight can relate to what Marshall is experiencing this season as the coach of an undefeated team. As good as the Shockers are, they aren’t in the same area code as Knight’s undefeated Hoosiers. That team had a pack of future NBA players, led by Scott May. If one or two of the Shockers reach the next level, it will be a major accomplishment. The next big task for Wichita State is to try to win the Missouri Valley tournament and go into the Big Dance with a perfect record. Should be a breeze.

2. Florida    2

Everybody else’s No. 1 team is coming off a 26-point destruction of South Carolina. Nothing a coach likes better late in the season than blowout wins. The next game, Saturday at home against Kentucky, should be closer. The Gators won earlier in the season by 10 at Rupp Arena. John Calipari can’t be feeling very good about his team’s chances in the rematch. After Saturday, Florida can start to concentrate on the SEC tournament. But the weakened league won’t provide much of a challenge before the NCAA tournament. The good news is that Billy Donovan has done this before. And done it well.

3. Arizona    3

Losing just two games in any conference is impressive. Losing two in the loaded Pac-12 is amazing. At last count, as many as eight teams from the Pac-12 could be in the NCAA field, led by the Wildcats. After Sunday’s 13-point win against Stanford, Arizona squeaked past Oregon State by five Wednesday, thanks mostly to Nick Johnson’s 25 points. Johnson and friends close the regular season Saturday at Oregon. The Ducks desperately need the win. Sean Miller will have his team ready. As always.

4. Villanova    8

The first champions of the new-look Big East overcame a challenge Thursday at Xavier. The Wildcats close the regular season Saturday at home against Georgetown. Then, it is off to Madison Square Garden for a watered-down Big East tournament. Every win puts Villanova closer to a top seed in the NCAA tournament. With a little help, Jay Wright’s team could earn one of the four coveted spots.

5. Virginia    —

The Cavaliers aren’t likely going to move to the top line of the NCAA tournament bracket, but they are getting closer by the day. Last time out, they pounded Syracuse by 19. Virginia hasn’t lost in almost two months, dating to a January game at Duke. Not even the most loyal Tony Bennett fans saw this kind of season coming. The trick now is to keep it going in the postseason and make a long run. That would help us believe it’s more than a one-year fluke.

6. Syracuse    4

The Orange is the anti-Virginia. After a perfect start, Syracuse has dropped four of five and should forget about a top seed in the NCAA tournament. All that good work earlier in the season has been wiped away by one bad stretch. It happens to the best of them. Funny that it coincided with Jim Boeheim’s on-court meltdown. He apologized for his actions, but it might be a case of too little, too late. The Orange tries to get back on track Sunday at Florida State. No guarantees there.

7. Duke    7

And no guarantees that the Blue Devils will roll over the lesser teams in the ACC. We found that out Wednesday, when Wake Forest pulled the upset. As much as we admire Duke, we forget that the team has lost seven times this season. It could be in for No. 8 when North Carolina visits Durham on Saturday. Duke remains set up for a long run in the NCAA tournament, but Hoop It Up wouldn’t be surprised if it had a Lehigh-type meltdown in the opening round.

8. Kansas    5

What, you didn’t think the Jayhawks were going to win the Big 12? Again. They should rename the league Kansas And Everybody Else. The margin is three games going into Saturday’s finale against West Virginia. Kansas is coming off a 25-point win against Texas Tech and is having little trouble handling nagging injuries. Bill Self is that good. Sorry to bring it up.

9. San Diego State    —

Nice to see Steve Fisher’s guys back in the Top 10. Since their loss Feb. 22 at New Mexico, the Aztecs have scored three easy wins. They will look for revenge against the Lobos on Saturday at home. It will be the final NCAA selection sales pitch before the Mountain West tournament.

10. Louisville    6

Is it just us or does it seem like the Cardinals have lost more than five times? Must be us. Rick Pitino’s team is playing well going into the most critical part of the season. They won Wednesday at SMU to sweep the season series. Louisville closes out its stay in the American with a game against UConn. After that, it is the postseason and a quick move to the ACC.

Five more to watch

1. Wisconsin — The Badgers continued a late-season push toward the top of the Big Ten with a close win Wednesday against Purdue. That made it eight wins in a row for Wisconsin, which could earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers will try to ruin Nebraska’s NCAA hopes during Sunday’s game at Lincoln.

2. Michigan — The Wolverines showed Illinois they were serious about winning the Big Ten title, not allowing John Groce’s team to ever think about pulling off an upset. Nik Stauskas made a push for Big Ten Player of the Year against the Illini. Michigan closes the regular season Saturday against struggling Indiana.

3. Iowa State — Too bad the Cyclones play in the loaded Big 12, which is looking at seven NCAA tournament bids. In most any other conference, Iowa State would dominate. In the Big 12, it is in fourth place. After consecutive losses to Kansas State and Baylor, Iowa State looks for momentum against Oklahoma State.

4.  Cincinnati — The Bearcats survived Thursday’s game against Memphis and will play Rutgers on Saturday with a chance to share the American title. Shooting and scoring are not team strengths, but the Bearcats play nasty defense.

5. North Carolina — Look who is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Tar Heels have won 12 in a row going into Saturday’s game at Duke. They haven’t all been gems, including a two-point victory Monday against Notre Dame. But a win is a win. Roy Williams has his team rolling at the perfect time.

Conference call

Ranking the best leagues in the land:

LEAGUE    LAST WEEK

1. Pac-12    5

2. Big 12    1

3. Big Ten    3

4. ACC    2

5. Atlantic 10    8

6. Big East    7

7. American    4

8. SEC    9

9. Missouri Valley    6

10. Mountain West    10

Wooden watch
1. Doug McDermott, Creighton — The nation’s leading scorer is coming off one of his worst shooting games of the season, needing 23 shots to put up 22 against Georgetown. McDermott closes out his home career Saturday against Providence. He needs 44 points to reach 3,000 for his career. Just a hunch dad Greg will let him go for it.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke — Don’t blame the former Chicago Simeon star for the loss to Wake Forest. He scored 19 points and had 10 boards. For the season, he is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds. Not bad for a freshman.

3. Patrick Miller, Tennessee State — Another former Chicago prep star, the nation’s No. 5 scorer played at Hales Franciscan. It isn’t the senior guard’s fault Tennessee State is at the bottom of the Ohio Valley standings.

Random thoughts

The right call

Sadly, Purdue basketball player Jay Simpson, who started his prep career at Champaign Central, is having to give up the game because of a heart condition. He has the same ailment that cost the lives of Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis and Jason Collier. Certainly, not playing a game he loves has to be devastating to Simpson. But going on with his career and dying on the court, like the other three, shouldn’t be an option. Purdue is going to honor Simpson’s scholarship, and he will finish his schooling. Hopefully, research is done that finds a cure for Simpson. Basketball or no basketball, the most important thing to Simpson and his family should be his long-term health and safety.

Pipe down

Mark Cuban is a different kind of sports owner. More George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones than Jerry Buss and Paul Brown. He likes to see his name in the headlines, even when he is the one creating them. Cuban got under the skin of college basketball by saying top players would be better off in the D-League than by spending a year in college. Top coaches came to the defense of the colleges, including longtime pro coach Larry Brown. Cuban can forget about that honorary degree from Duke or Kansas.

Bad timing

It has been a great story. Jim Crews takes over for the late Rick Majerus and leads Saint Louis to a special season. Then, he follows it up with a 25-2 start this season. But the Billikens have hit a wall. Wednesday’s loss to Dayton was the third in a row for SLU. The season isn’t lost, but we will feel better about the Bills if they win Sunday against UMass.

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