Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Around the Nation

Duke

The No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils remain undefeated. In one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, Duke took on No. 6 Michigan State at home Wednesday and asserted its dominance with an 84-79 win, improving to 7-0 on the year. The Blue Devils vealso proved themselves against another top opponent by beating No. 5-ranked Kansas State by 14 points last week. Led by seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Duke’s offense offers the most balanced attack in the nation, with all five starters averaging double-digit points per game. Duke’s closest game was a five-point victory over unranked Marquette, but the rest of its contests have been decided by an average of 32.8 points. Although it is early in the season, the Blue Devils are undoubtedly the favorites to repeat as national champions in the spring.

Butler

The Butler Bulldogs, whose performance in the NCAA tournament last season shocked everyone but themselves, have been one of the biggest disappointments in the country thus far. With a loss last week to the Evansville Aces, the Bulldogs fell to 3-2. Despite a promising 29-point victory against the Marian Knights to open the season, the Bulldogs have since struggled with their consistency and scoring. The team’s offensive attack is driven by senior Matt Howard and junior Shelvin Mack, while the rest of the team has only given minimal contributions. Still, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to prove that they are again a tournament team when they travel to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on the Blue Devils tomorrow in the Carquest Auto Parts Classic. A strong showing against a top-ranked Duke team will put Butler back on the radar, but for now, the Bulldogs look like a very different team from the one that came within a half-court heave of the national championship earlier this year.

Connecticut

Possibly the biggest surprise of the season so far, the Huskies (5-0) started outside of the Associated Press top 25 and were picked to finish 10th in the Big East preseason coaches poll but exploded into the AP top 10 after upsetting then-No. 2 Michigan state and then-No. 9 Kentucky en route to a Maui Invitational championship. Connecticut is led by junior guard Kemba Walker, who is making an early case for player of the year. Walker leads the team in points (30), assists (3.3) and steals (2.3) per game. Sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi has added 12.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounds, averaging 11.7 per contest. The Huskies have a slate of easy games on the horizon before they open their Big East schedule against No. 3 Pittsburgh, the only Big East team with a higher ranking. If UConn can keep up its stellar play, the Huskies have a chance at the Big East title and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina

While Connecticut may be the nation’s biggest surprise, North Carolina is one of its biggest disappointments. With the addition of freshman forward Harrison Barnes, the Tar Heels were expected to be an elite team, entering the season ranked eighth in the USA Today preseason polls. However, after losing to underdogs Minnesota and Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico tip-off, UNC fell out of top 25. On top of that, the Tar Heels were recently beaten handily by Illinois in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. While Barnes has put up 11.3 points per game he has underperformed overall, shooting just 33.8 percent from the field. The Heels have been led in rebounding by sophomore forward John Henson and in scoring by junior forward Tyler Zeller. UNC has powerhouse opponents No. 10 Kentucky and No. 19 Texas on the horizon before they start ACC play, and if the Heels don’t turn it around quickly, they may be in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.

Gonzaga

The Gonzaga Bulldogs finished last season with a 27-7 record and a trip the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Syracuse in the second round. Led by a core of four returning starters, the Bulldogs were on the brink of the top 10 in some polls. Led by leading scorers senior Steven Gray (21.7 points per game) and seven-foot junior Robert Sacre (11.7 points per game), the Zags rolled through their first three games seamlessly. Trouble struck though when they were upset at home by now-top 25 team San Diego State, 79-76. Things only got worse for the Bulldogs the following week when they took on Kansas State, who handed Gonzaga its second loss of the season in an 81-64 rout. Currently at 4-2, Gonzaga still should have no problem finishing the season at the top of the West Coast Conference and finding its way to another NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs will have the opportunity to bolster their tournament resume with strong outings against non-conference opponents like Illinois, Baylor, Memphis and Wake Forest.

San Diego State

Fresh off last season’s Mountain West Conference title and a 25-9 record, the San Diego State Aztecs returned all five starters, keeping intact a potentially lethal squad. The Aztecs are proud owners of one of the top frontcourts in the nation, comprised of forwards sophomore Kawhi Leonard, senior Billy White and junior Malcolm Thomas. The team’s star-power comes from the hands of Leonard, who not only earned all-MWC honors as a freshman, but was also the only freshman on an NCAA tournament team to lead his squad in points and rebounds. Leonard (18.0 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game) has led the Aztecs to a 7-0 record and No. 19 national ranking in a season thus far, highlighted by an upset win over Gonzaga. SDSU’s out-of-conference schedule is very manageable this year, but the Aztecs will undoubtedly face tough competition in conference play against 21st-ranked Brigham Young and 24th-ranked UNLV, both of whom they will have to play twice. If Leonard can keep the Aztecs on track, then this group will be a force to be reckoned with in March. “

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