Saturday brought a treasure trove of college basketball action for hoopheads. Two of the first games of the day featured top-ranked Kansas hosting Michigan, and number-two Texas hosting 10th-ranked North Carolina.
Kansas was already universally regarded as the top team in the nation, and did nothing to damage that reputation in its 75-64 win over Michigan. But Texas had more to prove, having gone through the early season and with the best Opponent FG|PERCENT| in America (31|PERCENT|) while facing mostly cupcake opponents.
Facing Carolina and its big and deep front line, the Horns left no doubt that they're a worthy number-two. Dexter Pittman was especially impressive, scoring 23 points and snatching 15 rebounds, with an astounding 12 boards coming on the offensive glass. Pittman's Carolina counterpart Ed Davis got his stats, going for 21 and 9. But Pittman still dominated the matchup, pulling rebounds over Davis' head again and again, swatting the lefty on one second-half drive and generally making a much bigger impact on the game despite playing fewer minutes.
Fellow Longhorns Damion James (25 points) and Avery Bradley (20) joined Pittman in the 20-and-over club, with James adding 15 boards and Bradley showing more than enough speed and athleticism to cement his place as an excellent third banana on an elite team. Bradley and fellow freshman J'Covan Brown give Texas a speedy perimeter element that makes the team balanced and dangerous this year, and a legitimate threat next year when Rick Barnes' stellar 2006 freshman class departs (imagine if Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin had stayed until their senior seasons too!).
The only regret here is the schedule. Despite being Big 12 rivals, Texas and Kansas will only regale us with one regular-season match-up, on Feb. 8. Yes, the two teams are good bets to meet again in the finals of the Big 12 tournament, and an all-Big 12 national championship game, while wildly premature to predict, is certainly a possibility. But there are plenty of college hoops junkies out there who tune in well before March Madness rolls around. And the bloated membership of the former Big-8 conference means we're only assured of 40 minutes of action between these two great teams and bitter rivals.
I'll be rooting for overtime(s).