Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:15PM
The Fast Break is our consistently inconsistent hodgepodge of links, numbers, YouTubes, and other randomness from the world of college basketball. (And sometimes, other worlds, too.) Once upon a time, “morning” was in the title, but it turns out that sleeping late is a really enjoyable activity.

Earlier in the week, SI put out their Midseason Crystal Ball, with Seth Davis tabbing Texas for the Final Four, while my fellow stat-nerd, Luke Winn, selected the Horns as a Final Four “dark horse.” Meanwhile, Andy Glockner, Twitter’s most-responsive sportswriter, points out that Pat Knight should be on the hot seat in Lubbock.

With the UConn game just two days away, ESPN’s Andy Katz has a nice feature on Jordan Hamilton and the Horns. It’s an excellent read, so take a few minutes to click on over and read about the team’s revival.

Winn gets another mention for a pair of articles he put out this week. First, his look at Ohio State’s foul-aversion included eye-popping numbers and insightful quotes from top Buckeyes. If you’re into tempo-free numbers, you absolutely have to check out this piece. The stats will floor you.

Today, Winn’s weekly Power Rankings returned from a holiday hiatus, with the Longhorns ascending two spots to the No. 7 ranking. ESPN’s weekly power poll also saw a two-spot move by the Horns, who are now 10th.

The consistently impressive play of Jordan Hamilton is gaining some attention from the national media, as TSN’s Mike DeCourcy put the sophomore on his mid-season All-American team. Hamilton’s numbers also allowed him to just crack the top ten of stat guru Ken Pomeroy’s Player of the Year rankings.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 12:24PM

Ed Davis notched a double-double on opening night
(Photo credit: Gerry Broome/Associated Press)

Welcome to the first in our daily series recapping the previous night’s action around the country. As the season rolls on, this morning scoreboard check will include unranked Big 12 teams, as well. And as a catch-all disclaimer, it should be noted that on some mornings, sleep just seems more valuable than the scoreboard rundown.

#4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72 – After all of the off-season controversy surrounding the alleged mix-up in scheduling this game, it appears that perhaps Isiah Thomas didn’t have that much to worry about. Thanks to a ridiculous 26 Tar Heel turnovers, the Golden Panthers were able to keep the game respectable for much of the night, never falling behind by more than 26 points.

For Carolina, the bright spot of the night was the defense. The Heels blocked eight shots and held the Panthers to 30% shooting in the first half. Ed Davis led the block party for Carolina, swatting away four shots to go with his double-double performance of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Deon Thompson led all scorers with twenty.

#12 California 75, Murray State 70 – The final score indicates a much closer game than what actually transpired out west, but it also makes way for concerns about the Bears’ killer instinct. Mike Montgomery’s squad built a lead as big as 18 points in the second half of this one, but the hot-shooting Racers hit 53% of their shots in the second stanza and refused to give up.

The backcourt combination of Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher provided 31 points for the Bears, including Randle’s 10-of-11 shooting from the charity stripe. Cal lost the battle on the glass by a 30-29 count, and had a meager 1.25 assist-to-TO ratio.

#17 Ohio State 100, Alcorn State 60 – The least competitive game of the night also gave us the least information about a Top 25 team. With the Buckeyes cruising the whole way, Thad Matta was able to go deep on his bench, dishing out at least thirteen minutes to ten different Buckeyes.

Jon Diebler hit 6-of-9 treys in a 22-point performance, but the standout star of the night was Evan Turner. The junior from Chicago held down point guard duties and logged a triple-double with fourteen points, ten assists, and 17 rebounds.

If the dominating win wasn’t enough to get Buckeyes excited about the new season, big man Dallas Lauderdale is expected back for Thursday’s game against James Madison.

#25 Syracuse 75, Alabany 43 – It didn’t take long for Jim Boheim to get over the 800-win hump, reaching that milestone in the first game of the 2009-10 season. The Orange bounced back quickly from their embarrassing exhibition loss to Le Moyne, decimating the Danes with suffocating defense. Syracuse forced 32 turnovers, including 21 steals, and held their opponents to just 27% shooting from the floor. Former Iowa State Cyclone Wes Johnson had six of the Syracuse steals and added twelve points and eight rebounds.

Guard Andy Rautins had to leave the game with just over fourteen minutes left. After jumping to pass to big man Arinze Onuaku, he landed on an opponent’s foot and twisted his ankle. Rautins wore a walking boot the rest of the evening, and his status is still in doubt for Wednesday’s game against Robert Morris.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:45PM

The college basketball season is now just fifteen minutes away. Here are your TV listings for the night:

Florida International at #4 North Carolina – 6 P.M. CST, ESPNU
The biggest story of the night will undoubtedly be the regular-season coaching debut of Isiah Thomas, although the new may have already started wearing off following a loss to the NAIA’s Northwood in an exhibition on Wednesday night. For the defending-champion Tar Heels, the key storyline in early November will be how the team moves forward following the loss of Tyler Hansborough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson. The return of Marcus Ginyard following last year’s foot injury will definitely provide senior leadership, something the Heels will likely need for their quintet of ESPN Top 100 recruits.

Alcorn State at #17 Ohio State – 6 P.M. CST, Big Ten Network
This is a guaranteed yawner from the opening rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but fans will get their first look at how the Buckeyes have matured following an offseason where nearly the entire team returned. The only key piece missing from last year’s squad is big man B.J. Mullens, who left for the NBA after just one season. Dallas Lauderdale will be expected to fill the void this year, although he will likely be missing this early season matchup as he recovers from a broken finger he suffered in preseason practices.

Albany at #25 Syracuse – 8 P.M. CST, ESPNU
Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson lit up the scoreboard in Syracuse’s exhibition on Tuesday night, dropping in 17 second-half points en route to a 22-point performance. Unfortunately for the Orange, it came in an embarrassing loss to D-II school Le Moyne. To be fair, Syracuse was experimenting with man-to-man for much of the game, a drastic departure from Jim Boheim’s famously stingy zone D. But the result certainly raises eyebrows in a season where pundits are wondering if this young Syracuse team can handle the rigors of the Big East conference. A convincing win over the visiting Danes would help to wash away some of the bad taste that is already tainting this season.

Murray State at #12 California – 10 P.M. CST, ESPNU
In what is likely going to be a down year for the Pac-10 Conference, hopes are high for the talented and experienced Golden Bears. Cal returns four starters from last year’s team, including a pair of senior guards in Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle. It’s a well-proven axiom that solid backcourt play leads to quality results in March, so many expect the Bears to be dancing into the second weekend. If you can’t stay up to watch this one, be sure to set the DVR and get your first look at the Best Team Nobody Knows.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:33AM

Bruce Weber is fired up about his team’s defense
(Photo credit: Robert K. O’Daniell/Associated Press)

#2 Duke Blue Devils 73, NC State Wolfpack 56 – After twenty minutes, the second-ranked team in the nation trailed State by four, thanks to a paltry 29% shooting clip in the first half. But Coach K’s team shot a ridiculous 20-of-29 in the second half, while holding the visitors to just one field goal in the final eight minutes of play. Gerald Henderson led the way for the Dukies, posting 21 with seven rebounds.

#24 Illinois Fighting Illini 67, Ohio State Buckeyes 49 – Bruce Weber’s defense continued its stifling play, forcing the Buckeyes into 20 turnovers on the night, a season high for the visiting club. Dominique Keller provided a spark off the bench for Illinois, dropping in 12 points to go with his six boards in only twenty minutes of play. The win keeps the Illini tied for second in the Big 10, with a huge home game against Wisconsin looming on Saturday afternoon.

Texas Tech Red Raiders 63, Colorado Buffaloes 55 – With sharpshooting senior Alan Voskuil suffering from the flu and limited to only three points, Mike Singletary was asked to carry the load for Tech on Tuesday night. The big man bruised his way to 20 points and nine rebounds in only 22 minutes off the bench, propelling the Red Raiders to their first conference victory of the season.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:26PM

It’s not exactly a night that will keep you glued to the couch, which might seem obvious when Ohio State and Illinois play in the headliner…

Top 25 Action

Ohio State (13-3 overall, 3-2 Big 10) at #25 Illinois (15-3, 3-2) | 7 PM ET, ESPN
Bruce Weber and the Illini have bounced back from an awful 2007-08 season much faster than anyone might have expected, but a tough stretch to open conference play has left them in the middle of the standings. Ohio State finds itself in the middle of that same pack, but enters tonight’s game in Champaign as winners of five straight against Illinois. The Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them, however, as they are ranked 250th in the country in offensive rebounding and are facing the nation’s 10th-ranked defense.

North Carolina State (10-5 overall, 1-2 ACC) at #2 Duke (16-1, 3-0) | 8 ET, ESPN Full Court
Duke has been playing absolutely lights out as of late, most recently shutting down Georgetown on Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor. They are sporting an NCAA-best +0.345 efficiency differential, just ahead of their Tobacco Road rival, North Carolina. In simpler terms, the Blue Devils outscore their opponents by 0.345 points per possession, which means that even if the Wolfpack can slow things down to their tempo, they will only lose by……approximately 22 points. Uh oh.

Big 12 Games

Colorado (8-8 overall, 0-2 Big 12) at Texas Tech (10-7, 0-2) | 8 PM ET, ESPN Full Court
It’s a game matching two teams that have the potential to be the absolute worst squads in the Big 12! If that doesn’t scream “must watch,” I’m not sure what else does. Perhaps a marathon of the Ryan Seacrest-produced reality show, Momma’s Boys?

Around the country

Tennessee (11-5 overall, 2-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (12-5, 1-2) | 9 PM ET, ESPN
Last year, these two teams put on one of the most exciting games of the season, as the Commodores eked out a three-point win over their cross-state rivals, who had just reached No. 1 for the first time in school history. This year, there’s not nearly as much on the line, but excitement is still on tap. Just ask stat guru Ken Pomeroy, who hopes his new FanMatch feature can pinpoint the most intriguing match-ups of the night. And according to Mr. Pomeroy’s brand-spanking-new ranking system, this particular Battle of Tennessee has a 71.7% chance of kicking major ass. Guaranteed.

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