I’ve been off the grid for the past few weeks. Whether it be sunning in the Virgin Islands or sulking in the Philadelphia International Airport as a casualty of the season’s first Nor’Easter, my college basketball intake was few and far between. I saw some bright colored fish, a Christmas tree under blazing 90 degree heat, a bit on Renardo Sidney bopping Elgin Bailey, "DELAYED" flight statuses, a Memphis team that might be in disarray, "CANCELED" flight statuses, and the final score of the UConn – Pittsburgh on some random news ticker.
These moments are either forgotten or will be forgotten by Monday, but I also came across some dunks. Thundering dunks that had no choice but to go viral and land in my inbox. Even my dad, who favors the pro game ("these kids nowadays just aren't good enough to appeal to me!") had no choice but to let out a few "ooohhhs" and "ahhhhs."
We’re halfway through the college basketball season, but I guarantee you we have the top three nominations for Dunk of the Year just from the past 10 days.
Let’s assess, and crown a winner:
Dayton’s Chris Wright, On the Follow
News flash: the Dayton Flyers forward is receiving national attention despite his team’s continued propensity to underachieve in the eyes of their fans. Wright has always been able to throw down like no other in the Atlantic 10, but this may be his meanest work. The radio call of Larry Hangsen adds flair too.
While Wright got to the cylinder uncontested, it wasn’t dead on to the basket -- meaning it wasn’t his momentum carrying him to the rim, it was pure athleticism attributable to the sort of half-tomahawk.
Kansas' Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson insult Miami of Ohio
You know how I know Kansas didn’t take the Redhawks seriously? They were ‘ooping as early as mid-way through the first-half, with plenty of game left. The dunk itself is nice, but Releford’s thought process to mentally ruin the Jayhawks inferior opponent is equally impressive (and mean, and vicious), as it sparked a 20-4 KU run to close the first half.
Oregon State's Jared Cunningham gives Oregon State's basketball program short-lived relevance
Not only does Cunningham have to go up into the trees to get possession, but he threw down a ball with a trajectory nearly perpendicular to the floor. That means it was really hard to do, requiring hops and long arms. Bonus points for the FSN announcer’s reaction, and more bonus points for a high quality YouTube video. It just makes this look prettier.
They may be off to a hot 2-0 start in the Pac 10, but there’s a reasonably decent chance we don’t hear from the Beavers again, so let’s just give them the intangible trophy now. Congratulations, I am confident this is the best dunk of the year.
And now to the week that was ...
Ohio State’s Defensive Free-Throw Rate - Everyone's aware of this, but SI.com's Luke Winn was the first to really back it up with eye-popping numbers: the Buckeyes are really good at defense. Thad Matta's club, who considers fouling as a sign of weakness, leads the nation with a 0.187 defensive free-throw rate. That means they allow only 18.7 free-throws for every 100 field goals an opponent takes. That's astounding and a whole five free-throws better than Creighton, who is second in the country in this defensive category.
"Jorts" – There’s really no better inter-conference rivalry like Louisville-Kentucky. A throw-out-the-records, someone-who-isn't-really-that-good-will-shine-tonight type of game, so it only felt right that Kentucky's Josh "Jorts" (apparently there's a pic out there of the Kentucky forward celebrating college wearing jean shorts) Harrellson stuffed the stat sheet as game MVP. Harrellson, also known as the Wildcat who lost tweeting privileges earlier this season, has had the unenviable task of stepping in for the suspended Enes Kanter. But he was locked in against the Cardinals, dropping 23 and 12 on 10-12 shooting as a warm up to a great day of hoops this New Year's Eve.
Courtside with Seth Davis – @GaryParrishCBS, @TSNMike, @EvanDanielScout; all your twitter friends come to life in this weekly hour-long catch-up of the recruiting and college basketball world. Too bad it’s buried on CBS College Sports. Be sure to tune in every Wednesday at 7 p.m., and know that nobody is telling me to plug this show.
Kristina Akra – During Tuesday’s Pittsburgh-Providence game, Twitter was aflutter with some bright young beauty doing sideline for the Big East Network. Just how could the male twenty-something crowd let her go unnoticed for so long? This near trending topic forced her personal website to temporarily shut down for receiving so much traffic in such a short period of time. Turns out, Akra primarily covers SEC football, so she's yet to showcase herself to the entire country. Can't wait to watch her career prosper.
Georgia Tech’s Free Throw Shooting - Down nine with 2:30 to play in the game, the Yellow Jackets stormed back against Charlotte, only to miss six consecutive free throws at the end of regulation and into overtime to earn a loss before heading into conference play. Much has been made that the ACC is having a down year, but don't think for a second that Paul Hewitt's club will rise above the mediocrity.
Facebook's "Like" Button - Abdul Gaddy's season-ending ACL injury is not something you should be able to "Like" on Facebook. That sore thumbs-up icon couldn't be more conspicuous, as the Huskies are now down a valuable wing player and another top 20 team just got weaker.
The wife of a Memphis-area sandwich shop mogul - "I hope you choke on your mouthpiece," yelled Carol LaRocca to Tennessee State's Kenny Moore. LaRocca showed complete disdain for Moore's behavior following a scuffle with a few Memphis players, so she aired her grievances with pithy comments and pouting. LaRocca is married to a successful business man and prominent Tiger booster, so heck yes I'm glad she was shown the door at the FedEx Arena.
Rick Stansbury –The Mississippi State coach had a perfect opportunity to draw the line and greatly improve the image of the Bulldogs' basketball program. Instead, he opted to give himself a better chance of winning this season (and keeping his job) by allowing Renardo Sidney to rejoin the team following that brawl out in Hawaii. Sure Sidney didn't start the fight, but he certainly ended it, and added another bullet to his long list of questionable actions as a prep and college basketball player.
Centenary - You're off the hook, Alcorn State. Centenary, winless and posting the worst RPI in the country, has three bodacious statistics you should be aware of: They average only 54 points per game, next to last in the country; more than half of their 17.8 turnovers a game are straight pick-pockets; they haven't lost by less than 16 points in the past month. This is your Summit League doormat.
This Weekend's Games
Thursday (All times EST)
- Xavier @ Cincinnati (ESPN2) 7 p.m.
- Northwestern @ Illinois (ESPN2) 9 p.m.
- California @ Arizona (FSN) 10:30 p.m.
- Cleveland State @ Butler (ESPNU) 7p p.m. Remember, the Vikings are 15-1.
- West Virginia @ Georgetown (ESPN2) 11 p.m.
- Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (ESPN2) 1 p.m.
- Florida State @ Virginia Tech (ESPN2) 3 p.m.
- Connecticut @ Texas (ESPN) 3:30 p.m.
- San Diego State @ Utah (Versus) 4 p.m.
- St. John's @ Notre Dame (ESPNU) 8 p.m.
And there are plenty of other nice games, including Kentucky at Georgia and Marquette at Pittsburgh, on regional networks.
- Minnesota @ Ohio State (BIg Ten Network) 2 p.m.
- Kansas @ Michigan (CBS) 4:30 p.m.
- Maryland @ Duke (FSN) 8 p.m.