The end of January means time for procrastinators (why is everyone looking at me?) to take down the remainder of their holiday decorations (or at least start to…).  It’s also a time for college basketball teams to take down the remainder of their non-conference hopes and concerns.  One month into league play, you’re starting to become what you will wind up being.  Isolated incidents become trends.  Instead of a snapshot, the stats your team is putting up becomes a portrait.  Limited sample?  Hardly.  Twenty games is a good enough gage to get an idea of what will happen over the final 10-15 games of the year.  I think.  Now to put the ornaments away…

Georgetown (14-4, 4-3) followed up a smackdown of Notre Dame with a 53-51 upset of #5 Louisville.  A season salvaging week for the Hoyas as Otto Porter Jr. (17 pts and 12 reb) puts this team on his back minus Greg Whittington in the lineup.  The defense came up big again– holding the cardinals to 35% FG and 27% from 3 point range…and taking the rebounding edge 32-28.  Can Markel Starks build off his 17 point showing?  The junior followed up a 16 point effort against Providence by scoring a combined 12 points over the next two games.  With Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers up next–the Hoyas have a chance to jump above the Big East quagmire that has five teams within one game of .500.

Alma Mater Update– after consecutive two point wins, the Orange (18-2, 6-1) were ripe for a letdown… and it arrived in a 75-71 overtime loss at Villanova.  This was the Big East’s 11am Saturday game?  Again- if it’s not a White Shadow re-run, I don’t want to watch hoops before noon eastern time.  But even Coolidge, Salami and Thorpe made free throws–the Orange missed eleven in their loss to the Wildcats.  And got outrebounded by 13.  Just as important, SU will be without forwards Dajuan Coleman for the next month (knee surgery) and James Southerland (academics) for the near future.  This means the Orange will have just seven scholarship players available– less than ideal.

Maryland (15-5, 3-4) had quite a task on hand:  somehow stun a #1 Duke team that lost by 27 to Miami three nights before…at Cameron.  Despite taking a 13-12 first half lead, the Blue Devils were just too much (52% FG and 11-22 from 3 pt range) in an 84-64 loss.  Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell were the only Terps to score in double figures (13 points apiece).  The Terps are now 0-3 on the road in the ACC…although that 0-3 is against Duke, UNC and league leading Miami.  The next three road games?  Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College.  All winnable games.  And must win games if this team is going to fight its way to the bubble.

Cruising the Commonwealth– Don’t look now, but Virginia (15-5, 5-2) is in second place of the ACC.  A 19-0 first half run against Virginia Tech jumpstarted a 74-58 win over the Hokies… and a 58-55 victory over NC State (Wolfpack has followed up wins over Duke and UNC with losses to Md and Va) that saw Akil Mitchell’s strong play continue with 14 points and 12 rebounds.  The Cavalier junior is hitting 21 of 35 (70%) during UVa’s 4 game winning streak…and Tony Bennett’s team has four straight games against foes with non-winning ACC records.  Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-4) followed up their loss to the Cavaliers by falling behind 12-0 at Clemson…only to rally and come up short at Littlejohn Coliseum 77-70.  Ball movement may be an issue:  in consecutive defeats the Hokies posted 15 assists on 40 made baskets.  Can James Johnson’s team turn things around against #14 Miami and UNC?

George Mason (12-8, 5-3) learns the CAA is currently being ruled by Northeastern:  the Huskies drilled the Patriots71-51 for their second double digit win over GMU this winter.  On the bright side, James Madison is the only other team with a dozen wins right now– provided the Patriots take care of business against poorer teams they should finish 2nd or 3rd in the conference…but will anyone step forward to join Sherrod Wright?  Mason’s one man band is the only player scoring in double figures– and if he’s not on point they lose to Northeastern by 20.  A February 2nd matchup at James Madison for second place (and a season sweep of the Dukes) looms large.

George Washington (10-9, 4-2) wasn’t supposed to win three straight games and leapfrog into the Atlantic Ten race (they’re now one half game behind first place Butler)… they weren’t supposed to start making shots all of a sudden (44% for the season, but over 50% in wins over URI and Charlotte)… and they’re not supposed to compete with 14-5 LaSalle Saturday.  But the showdown’s at the Smith Center… and Mike Lonergan’s team seems to be putting things together.  There’s nothing quite like being in the top ten of the Atlantic Ten.

Maryland Womens Window– back to back blowouts make the #10 Terps 8-1 in the ACC… as coach Brenda Frese’s bunch avenged its only league loss with an 85-59 thumping of North Carolina and followed it up with an 80-40 not-as-close-as-the-score-suggests rout of Clemson.  While senior Tianna Hawkins and junior Alyssa Thomas pace this team with double-doubles consistently, the recent play of freshman point guard Chloe Pavlech (ACC rookie of the week after averaging 12pts and 5ast) has been a major boost with all of the injuries they’ve dealt with.  Coming up in February:  two games with league-leading Duke plus a trip to always dangerous Florida State.

American (7-13, 2-3) finds itself in the second tier of the Patriot League– with Bucknell and Lehigh separating themselves early in the conference season– at least until the lower tier separates itself.  AU split its first go-around with the service academies… routing Navy while losing to Army.  Stephen Lumpkins (22pts, 14reb) is putting together one fine final season in the Patriot League.  Upcoming home games with league-leading Bucknell and always dangerous Lafayette can turn around a season–but the way this team has struggled to put together one strong 40 minute block don’t hold your breath.

Howard (4-17, 1-6) not only has dropped five straight games but has been mired in the 30’s and 40’s during the slide… averaging 43.4 points per game.  They rank 341st nationally in shooting…and 346th in assists.  Minus leading scorer Calvin Thompson…the Bison will be hard pressed to turn around a season that resumes when they face unbeaten in the MEAC Savannah State.

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