Austin Rivers Carrying Duke Higher – This Week in College Basketball
Ninth-ranked Murray State’s 72-68 loss to Tennessee State on Thursday left the NCAA Division I men’s field with no undefeated teams. Meanwhile, four other top 10 teams — No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 6 Baylor and No. 8 Florida – also lost last week. Here’s the latest from the world of college basketball:
Team on the Rise: Drexel Dragons
Drexel’s 78-67 win over Hofstra on Saturday afternoon was the Dragons’ 14th straight victory. Drexel (21-5, 13-2 Colonial) is now tied with VCU for first in the Colonial Athletic Association. Coach Bruiser Flint’s team is closing in on locking up at least an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament and perhaps a ranking in the top 25. Guard Frantz Massenat and forward Samme Givens fuel the Dragons’ attack, but Drexel wins with defense. The Dragons allow just 54.4 points per game.
Team on the Decline: No. 17 Creighton Bluejays
Creighton (21-5, 11-4 MVC) fell to Wichita State 89-68 on Saturday. The defeat was the Bluejays’ third straight loss, all against unranked teams. Coach Greg McDermott has to be worried that his team hasn’t recovered from a buzzer-beating loss at Northern Iowa on Feb. 4. Creighton forward Doug McDermott, the coach’s son, is the star of the team, averaging 22.9 points per game, but he needs help on both ends of the floor. If he doesn’t get it, the Bluejays may be headed for an early tournament exit.
Player on the Rise: Austin Rivers, Duke Blue Devils
With Wednesday night’s buzzer-beating, 3-point shot which gave No. 10 Duke (21-4, 8-2 ACC) an 85-84 win over No. 5 North Carolina, Austin Rivers showed he’s among the best first-year players in the country. Rivers has now scored in double-figures in each of his last eight games, shooting more than 40 percent from behind the arc in five of those contests. He’s exactly the type of player that can carry a team to the Final Four.
Player on the Decline: Perry Jones III
After stumbling in losses to No. 7 Kansas and No. 4 Missouri last week, No. 6 Baylor (21-4, 8-4 Big 12) is starting to take on a reputation as a team that can’t perform against high-ranked opponents. Forward Perry Jones bears much of that responsibility. Jones, the team’s leading scorer, shot 1-for-8 for 5 points against the Jayhawks on Wednesday and was 2-for-12 for 4 points on Saturday against the Tigers. If he can’t give the Bears more production, they won’t go far in March.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Bruce Weber, Illinois Fighting Illini
Though the season started with potential Big Ten title aspirations, Illinois (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten) finds itself losers of six of seven games and potentially on the NCAA tournament bubble. Coach Bruce Weber can’t be happy with the way his team has underperformed after beating Ohio State and Michigan State earlier in the year. Guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson must defend better and convert higher-percentage shots, otherwise someone other than Weber may lead the Illini next season.
Bizarre Stat of the Week: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-8 ACC) shot just 1-for-17 from 3-point range in a 61-52 loss to N.C. State on Thursday.