Burlison: A Big Debut; UCLA Stays #1

A certain big man finally made his college debut in Columbus, Ohio. And Wichita State continued to make life rough at home for highly ranked teams. UCLA? The Bruins just keep cruising right along to hang onto to the No. 1 spot in the national ratings for at least another week. And who were some of the top individual performers for last week? Check it out right here.

Greg Oden gave the Ohio State fans and all of college basketball just a little taste of what is surely in store for Buckeyes' opponents over the next few months when his long-awaited debut was made Saturday afternoon in Columbus against Valparaiso.

 

And suddenly that OSU-Florida game in Gainesville two days before Christmas is all the more enticing, right?

 

The other significant stories in college basketball last week included another marvelous road performance for Wichita State, which knocked off Syracuse in the Carrier Dome Saturday to move up three slots – to No. 12 – in the latest Frankhoops.com Top 25.

 

Also eye-catching was the Kansas' loss at DePaul, which resulted in the Jayhawks slipping eight spots in the Top 25 (from nine to 17).

 

It was back to business as usual in Pauley Pavilion for UCLA, which slapped a couple of Big West Conference teams around to hold onto the top spot in the ratings for at least another week.

 

Things should be considerably tougher for Ben Howland's crew Saturday, though, when the Bruins face No. 5 Texas A&M during the John R. Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

 

A look at last week's action, as well as some of the things to check out this week:

 

Bagging individual kudos for the week of Nov. 26-Dec. 2

*Wayne Ellington (6-4, Fr., North Carolina)

All of Roy Williams freshmen have lived up to their considerable hype but Ellington was especially hype-worthy during wins over Ohio State and Kentucky, collecting 36 points and four steals. He's averaging 13.9 points per game while shooting .500 from the field.

 

*Stephon Hannah (6-1, Jr., Missouri)

The community college transfer made a lot of things happen with the ball for the Tigers in wins over Coppin State, Arkansas and Evansville, with 43 points, 10 rebounds, 24 assists and 14 steals. He also committed 14 turnovers – which means Coach Mike Anderson has a lot of confidence in his ball-handling and passing abilities, right?

 

*Sammy Mejia (6-6, Sr., DePaul)

Helping his team make amends for its disappointing 2-4 start, he scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two steals as the Blue Demons rallied in Chicago to beat Kansas Saturday, 64-57.

 

*Sean Ogirri (6-2, Jr., Wichita State)

He had 15 points and a couple of steals as the Shockers coasted over Missouri-Kansas City (85-55) Wednesday night. Then Saturday in Syracuse he had 16 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win over the then-unbeaten Orange. He didn't commit a turnover in either game.

 

*Derek Raivio (6-2, Sr., Gonzaga)

What a marvelous stretch of jump shooting he had in wins over Idaho, Portland State and Texas --- he hit 15 of 27 shots from beyond the arc while scoring 71 points to go with 13 rebounds, six assists and six steals. He hasn't scored fewer than 20 points over the past six games.

 

This Week's Cool Games

(A look at the weekend games will be posted Friday)

MONDAY

USC at Kansas

Frank Says: The Jayhawks have quickly become the team most likely to leave you scratching your head this season. They can beat defending national champion Florida but lose at home to Oral Roberts and on the road to a DePaul team saddled with four losses? Huh? The Trojans are playing pretty well (they've won five in a row, all at home). NBA scouts will be watching USC's Nick Young, especially when matched up against Brandon Rush.

 

TUESDAY

Arizona vs. Louisville and Oklahoma State vs. Syracuse (Jimmy V Classic/Madison Square Garden)

Frank Says: The Cardinals' 6-9 Derrick Caracter is expected to make his debut against the Wildcats after serving his NCAA-imposed three-game suspension. But Rick Pitino's best freshman, anyway, is 6-2 Jerry Smith (17.3 points per game). Maybe Louisville will do a better job of guarding Arizona freshman Chase Budinger (19.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists) than anyone else has done yet. OSU is off to a 9-0 start but hasn't played anyone quite as formidable as the Orange, however.

 

Texas A&M at LSU

Frank Says: It's a rematch, of sorts, of one of the better NCAA Tournament games of last March, won by the Tigers on Darrel Mitchell's last jumper. Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas are gone, however, which is why an Aggies' win in this one wouldn't surprise many folks outside of Baton Rouge.

 

Cal State Fullerton at UCLA

Frank Says: The Titans, led by guard Bobby Brown, figure to offer up a challenge to the top-ranked Bruins' man-to-man and transition defenses. But the Big West team is going to have a heck of time trying to cope with UCLA's offensive attack. A Brown vs. UCLA's Darren Collison hookup at the point should be a dandy, although Arron Afflalo is also likely to guard Brown frequently.

 

New Mexico at New Mexico State

Frank Says: The Lobos' unbeaten start came to a halt once the team ventured outside of Albuquerque (a 24-point loss at UTEP Sunday). Another loss here could hurt severely come NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.

 

WEDNESDAY

Providence at Florida

Frank Says: The Friars are off to mildly surprising 5-1 start (including wins over Boston College and George Washington). The Gators, coached by Providence alum Billy Donovan, are coming off of two losses in their past three games. That sounds odd, doesn't it?

 

Memphis at Tennessee

Frank Says: The Tigers have the most impressive victory (vs. Kentucky in the EA Sports Maui Invitational) so we'll give the slide edge to John Calipari's team in what should be a run-and-fun affair.

 

THURSDAY

Alabama at Notre Dame

Frank Says: Mark Gottfried's team has climbed to the three spot in the national ratings. If it wins this one, that rating shouldn't get another serious challenge until a trip to Raleigh and a game with North Carolina State five days before Christmas. A match-up between one of the nation's most touted point guards, Ronald Steele, against one of the country's soon-to-be stars at the position, Notre Dame sophomore Kyle McAlarney, will likely take place.

 

Frankhoops.com Top 25

(records as of Dec. 3; includes last rating)

1. (1) UCLA (6-0)

Frank Says: The Bruins wrap up the Big West portion of their schedule Tuesday night (vs. Cal State Fullerton in Pauley Pavilion). Then they take a trip south on the 5 Freeway to Anaheim to play No. 5 Texas A&M Saturday in the John R. Wooden Classic. It'll be a good one!

 

2. (2) Pittsburgh (8-0)

Frank Says: Duquesne (Wednesday) and a trip to Buffalo (Saturday). Then the real test takes place in Madison, Wis., on Dec. 16.

 

3. (4) Alabama (7-0)

Frank Says: Notre Dame's win at Maryland Sunday makes the game in South Bend on Thursday all the more compelling.

 

4. (5) North Carolina (6-1)

Frank Says: No offense intended to the rest of the teams on the Tar Heels' schedule but UNC's next best shot at getting knocked off is about seven weeks away (Jan. 27 in Tucson against the University of Arizona).

 

5. (6) Texas A&M (7-0)

Frank Says: Are the Aggies worthy of this lofty a rating? We'll know by Saturday night – they're at LSU Tuesday and hook up with UCLA Saturday in Southern California.

 

6. (7) Ohio State (7-1)

Frank Says: To those who caught their first glimpse of Greg Oden Saturday vs. Valparaiso Saturday – you haven't seen anything yet, folks.

 

7. (3) Florida (7-2)

Frank Says: Assuming the Gators are healthy come March, it will take a bold person to pick against them, no matter how many times they lose between now and then.

 

8. (8) Arizona (5-1)

Frank Says: The Wildcats have four more opportunities (Louisville, San Diego State, Houston and Memphis) to work on their defense before Pac-10 play opens on Dec. 28.

 

9. (10) Wisconsin (7-1)

Frank Says: Two nice tests this week – home to Winthrop (Monday) and in Milwaukee Saturday against No. 16 Marquette.

 

10. (12) Washington (6-0)

Frank Says: The Huskies finally venture outside of Seattle for a game (Saturday night at No. 15 Gonzaga) but only after a Monday night home tilt against Southern Utah.

 

11. (14) Nevada (7-0)

Frank Says: Junior point guard Ramon Sessions was exceptional down the stretch Sunday in the win against Cal.

 

12. (15) Wichita State  (6-0)

Frank Says: The Shockers own easily the best pair of road victories (LSU and Syracuse) recorded by anyone so far.

 

13. (17) Duke (7-1)

Frank Says: The Blue Devils are far from the team, right now, than they'll be even a month from now.

 

14. (19) Butler (9-0)

Frank Says: Another "biggie" is on tap for Dec. 16 when the opponent is Purdue.

 

15. (20) Gonzaga (8-1)

Frank Says: The Bulldogs beat Texas much more convincingly than the 10-point final margin would indicate. That was a clinic.

 

16. (16) Marquette (8-1)

Frank Says: Everyone in Milwaukee will quickly forget that loss to North Dakota State if the Golden Eagles get it done against a certain group of Badgers Saturday night.

 

17. (9) Kansas (6-2)

Frank Says: The disintegration down the stretch at DePaul was as hard to account for as the home loss to Oral Roberts was.

 

18. (13) Syracuse (7-1)

Frank Says: Sure, a loss is a loss. But at least scheduling Wichita State will give the Orange's non-conference RPI a lot more juice come NCAA Tournament seeding time.

 

19. (21) LSU (4-1)

Frank Says: The Tigers can re-affirm that they are worthy this kind of rating by playing Texas A&M to the wire – or, even better, by beating the Aggies Tuesday night.

 

20. (24) Memphis (5-1)

Frank Says: If you assume both the Tigers and Tennessee will score in the 80s Wednesday night in Knoxville, congratulations on your insight.

 

21. (ur) Missouri (9-0)

Frank Says: Consecutive victories over Arkansas (by 22 points) and Evansville (19) were more than enough to get the Tigers into the Top 25.

 

22. (22) Arkansas (6-1)

Frank Says: The trio of wins over Southern Illinois, Marist and West Virginia in Orlando were enough to keep the Hogs in the Top 25 even after the big loss in Columbia.

 

23. (25) Southern Illinois (6-1)

Frank Says: A nine-point win over Saint Louis is much more highly valued than most probably realize. It was good enough to keep in the Salukis in the Top 25 for at least another week.

 

24. (ur) Oregon (6-0)

Frank Says: The Ducks won a few more converts after going into Washington, D.C. and coming away with a victory over the at-the-time No. 11 Georgetown Hoyas.

 

25. (ur) Oklahoma State (9-0)

Frank Says: The Cowboys can solidify their hold on Top 25 territory by beating Syracuse Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

 

Dropped out: Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Maryland.

Just missed: Connecticut, Fresno State



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com


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