After my foray into the opinion page in Friday’s issue to talk about the GUSA election (everybody should vote today!), it is good to be back writing about college basketball. Let’s look at a couple of surprising teams under the radar and analyze the end of Georgetown’s heartbreaking loss to Syracuse.

1. Kansas State and Denis Clemente are hot, but how long will it last?

While Bill Self’s Kansas team soaks up all the attention, Kansas State has quietly risen to No. 6 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Wildcats have won five straight games, and much of the credit must go to point guard and Puerto Rican native Denis Clemente, who has averaged 22.4 points and 4.4 assists per game over that stretch.

He and his backcourt mate, junior Jacob Pullen, form perhaps the most dangerous three-point shooting duo in the nation, as they combine to average over five made treys per game. Clemente, a second cousin of the late Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente, is the latest Puerto Rican floor general to make a name for himself, following in the footsteps of NBA point guards Carlos Arroyo and Jose Juan Barea.

If Clemente and Pullen get hot, Kansas State is unstoppable – but if either one goes cold, the Wildcats are in huge trouble.

Even though this team is poised for a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, don’t expect a deep run in the NCAAs for Clemente, Pullen and company. Squads that rely on the three are often good upset picks, but they’re not the types of teams that make runs at the Final Four.

Kansas State has been far more impressive than Texas has been during Big 12 play, but expect the Longhorns to advance further than the Wildcats in March.

2. The Golden Eagles are flying under the radar.

If you had asked people before the season which team was poised to take a giant leap backward this year in the Big East, many would have answered Marquette. After all, the Golden Eagles lost three star guards – Dominic James, Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal – who were the heart and soul of the program for years. The idea that Marquette would be an NCAA tourney-caliber team was nearly unthinkable.

Yet here we are in late February, and Marquette is in prime position not only to make the tourney but also enter it with some momentum. Marquette has beaten some good teams this season, including Xavier, Georgetown and UConn.

Ironically, the Golden Eagles’ losses have perhaps been more impressive than their wins. No matter the opponent or location, Marquette never gets blown out – it hasn’t lost a single game by double digits all season. In their nine defeats this season, Head Coach Buzz Williams’ team has lost by an average of 3.6 points per game. This includes losing by five at Syracuse, by two at home and on the road against Villanova and by one at West Virginia.

arquette has a fairly easy schedule down the stretch with road games against St. John’s and Seton Hall and very winnable home games against Notre Dame and Louisville. This team will likely be heading into the Big East and NCAA tournaments with a lot of wind in its sails, and the Golden Eagles have already shown they can play with anyone in the country. If you’re looking for a team to bust some brackets a month from now, Marquette could be your answer.

3. JTIII deserves some heat for the end of the Syracuse game.

Georgetown down one, 41.9 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. That was the situation last Thursday night as the Hoyas tried to finish off their epic comeback against Syracuse.

For some reason, Head Coach John Thompson III decided not to foul. I believe that decision was inexcusable. Like any smart team, Syracuse ran the shot clock all the way down before Kris Joseph scored on a drive with 8.5 seconds left.

But imagine if he had missed. By the time Georgetown corralled the rebound, there would have been seven seconds left – and Georgetown had no timeouts left! Does anyone believe that the result wouldn’t have been the Hoyas frantically rushing the ball down the court and throwing up a panicked shot before the buzzer sounded? There would have been no time to set up a play and get the ball to Greg Monroe, who had scored Georgetown’s last two buckets.

Just under a month from now, I can just about guarantee that some team – or more than one – will see its season end due to poor time management. Let’s hope that team is not Georgetown and that Thompson won’t make the same mistake again.
Parimal Garg is a junior in the College. Three-Point Play appears in every other Tuesday edition of Hoya Sports.”

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