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Top of the Arc - December 22, 2008

Dec. 22, 10:15 a.m.: It was an eventful weekend in college basketball, with great national games, upsets and a few surprising individual performances. Colleague Steve Yanda will have complete coverage of American-Maryland over at Terrapins Insider, so we’ll rewind and look at five things we learned this weekend:

1) Clemson showed it is more legit than originally thought. The Tigers routed Miami in Coral Gables, 91-72, last night. K.C. Rivers had 28 points, and Clemson went on a 16-0 run late in the first half to take the lead for good. The Tigers also forced 22 turnovers. “Obviously, that was a butt-whuppin,” Miami Coach Frank Haith told reporters after the game. Clemson looks like a top four team in the ACC. Miami’s margin for error is not particularly large. The Hurricanes’s best win is against Kentucky. With Virginia Tech faltering this season in non-conference play, the window is open for another ACC team --- Maryland? – to give the conference six NCAA tournament teams. The Terps have to avoid losses to teams like, well, American, and figure out a way to win eight or nine league games.

2) Gus Gilchrist and South Florida has the Big East cellar all to themselves. The Bulls lost to Wright State, 60-43, yesterday in the San Juan Shootout. Gilchrist made just two of five shots and finished with four points. South Florida faces 2-10 Oral Roberts today.
3) Minnesota is one of the biggest surprises in the country. The Golden Gophers (10-0) are off to their best start in 32 years after beating Louisville, 70-64, in Glendale, Ariz. Louisville native Muhammad Ali was in the stands as the Cardinals tripped up again. They have not looked like a true national title contender all season. Chances are they improve for Big East play, but Connecticut and Pittsburgh look a cut above everyone else right now.
4) Connecticut is as good as advertised. Then Huskies had mostly played weak opponents during non-conference play, but they stepped it up Saturday by beating Gonzaga, 88-83, in overtime in Seattle. A.J. Price scored 24 points and made six of nine three-point shots, none bigger than the contested, leaning three-pointer with 7.8 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. These teams could meet again for another stellar matchup in the Final Four.
5) Stephen Curry is human. You don’t need a Jimmy Patsos triangle-and-two defense to contain the nation’s best shooter. But you do need Purdue’s Chris Kramer, last season’s Big Ten defensive player of the year. Kramer relished the challenge of guarding Curry and helped hold the star to 13 points, 21 points below his average, on 5 of 26 shooting. Purdue blew out Davidson, 76-58.

By Eric Prisbell  |  December 22, 2008; 10:15 AM ET
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