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February 15, 2007
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The hottest player in the nation not named Durant just might be Georgetown center Roy Hibbert.
The 7-foot-2 junior has been sensational during the Hoyas' current eight-game winning streak. Georgetown's recent success has seen them climb from unranked just two weeks ago to No. 14 in The Associated Press poll. Hibbert is averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds and shooting 73.4 percent during the streak. All of those numbers are significantly higher than his season averages (see chart).
Perhaps the biggest difference for Hibbert has been at the foul line. A career 68 percent shooter from the stripe before the streak, the big man is converting better than 80 percent during it.
The Hoyas are coming off back-to-back victories over top 25 teams. They throttled Marquette 76-58 on Saturday behind a double-double from Hibbert (23 points, 11 rebounds) then whipped West Virginia on Monday by the same margin, 71-53. Hibbert scored 20 points (including 12 of 13 at the foul line) and grabbed six rebounds in just 22 minutes.
The Hoyas get a second crack at Villanova on Saturday. They'll hope the second coming of Hibbert holds up against the Wildcats.
UNCOMMON HAPPENINGS IN THE COMMONWEALTH: If hoops hotbeds Atlanta and Chicago are 100 degrees on the temperature index, the state of Virginia probably checks in at around 74.
It's a nice thermostat setting that lets you sleep well at night.
But you can't go to sleep on the Division I teams in Virginia this season, right North Carolina? If the NCAA Tournament started tomorrow, Virginia, Virginia Tech and VCU would make the field together for the first time in history.
The Cavaliers (17-7, 8-3) and Hokies (18-7, 8-3) are battling it out near the top of the ACC standings, rarefied air for both. Tech has been to the NCAA Tournament only once since 1986, and that came in 1996. Virginia hasn't been since 2001.
Virginia Tech beat North Carolina 81-80 on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill to complete a season sweep of the fourth-ranked Tar Heels. It put the Hokies in a second-place tie with the Heels and the Cavs, one game behind Boston College.
Then you have the Rams (21-5, 13-2), leaders of the Colonial Athletic Association. Like the Cavs, they've had one NCAA Tournament appearance this century - in 2004. Before you scoff, remember that the CAA produced more Final Four teams last year than the ACC, and that team happened to represent another Virginia school ? George Mason.
The Colonial could get multiple NCAA bids for just the second time in league history. The conference has an RPI of 12th, with three teams 58th or higher. Another Virginia team, Old Dominion, could figure into the mix for a bid out of the CAA. The Monarchs (20-7, 13-3) got a huge victory over a solid Hofstra team on Tuesday night and trail VCU by just 1/2 game. ODU has won eight in a row.
FRESHMAN STRAIGHTENS JACKETS: It took a career night by freshman point guard Javaris Crittenton to help Georgia Tech end a 17-game road losing streak that had stretched for nearly two years.
The former five-star prospect scored 29 points as the Yellow Jackets stunned host Florida State 63-57. Crittenton scored 11 in a row in a decisive second-half run and added five rebounds and three assists.
Tech hadn't won on the road since Feb. 26, 2005, at Miami. The victory dealt a serious blow to the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Seminoles, who fell to 17-9, 5-7.
The Yellow Jackets (17-8, 5-6) actually aren't out of the NCAA picture, but only because of their remaining games. It's a brutal stretch composed of road games against Duke and Virginia and home games against Wake Forest, North Carolina and Boston College. But if Tech can win three it would be 20-5, 8-8 and could make a decent case for itself.
LOFTON'S RETURN: Tennessee was going nowhere in a hurry when shooting guard Chris Lofton was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Not only did the Vols go 1-3 during the four games he missed, but the three losses were their worst of the season in terms of margin.
On Jan. 28 in Lexington, Kentucky crushed UT 76-57. On Tuesday night in Knoxville, with Lofton playing his third game since coming back, the Vols beat the Wildcats 89-85. Lofton had a team-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers.
UT is 3-0 since the Kentucky native returned to the lineup. With Lofton in pre-injury form and a freshman class rapidly improving (it contributed 48 points in the victory over UK) the Vols now appear back on track for an NCAA Tournament bid.