Picking the best and the worst of the weekend

Here's my take on the weekend's best and worst in college basketball. Remember, these apply to only this weekend's games, not the whole season ...

Best Game: New Mexico vs. Texas A&M in Houston

I named New Mexico the Best "Unknown" Team last week, but the Lobos are not unknown anymore. The secret is out. Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez led the way with 18 and 22 points, respectively, to thwart a magnificent 29-point performance by Donald Sloan of the Aggies. The game was well-played by two NCAA tournament teams -- both will be heard from in their leagues and in March. Great game.
Runner-up: Xavier's double-overtime win over Cincinnati.

Best Player: Gordon Hayward, Butler

The skilled sophomore forward made play after play against Ohio State and scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds against a very determined Ohio State team. Hayward tipped some balls to teammates that showed a very high basketball IQ and an astute awareness for the right play. A champion tennis player in high school, Hayward's twin sister plays tennis at Butler and is a big reason that Hayward ultimately chose the school. He will play in the NBA, and he will get better and better over the next couple of years. If Hayward played at North Carolina, he would be plastered over every magazine cover in the country.

Best Freshman: Elias Harris, Gonzaga

I know that he is 20 years old, but Harris has a motor few pros have. He pursues every ball and he can be isolated off of the block and score. His motor gets him to the free throw line and he will continue to improve as his raw ability is harnessed. Harris had 27 points, five rebounds and two blocks against Davidson in a game the Zags played without star guard Matt Bouldin.
Runner-Up: Kansas guard Xavier Henry had 31 points and was magnificent against La Salle. If not for the highlight reel that is Kentucky's John Wall, Henry would be the talk of the first-year players. He is the genuine article.

Biggest Studs: Jon Leuer (Wisconsin) and Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)

Leuer had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Marquette in a rivalry game, and did it in a very mature fashion. Leuer has gotten stronger and has really impressive skills. Pullen had 28 points and six rebounds, hitting 7-of-10 from 3-point range, against UNLV in Las Vegas. Pullen has developed his game and is one of the very best guards in the country.

Best Referee: John Cahill did a marvelous job managing the Xavier-Cincinnati game. I have done several Crosstown Shootouts over the years, and that game needs to be officiated by three Navy Seals. It is a blood feud that borders on being out of control, and Cahill saved the game from a potentially ugly situation more than once. Plus, Cahill was right on top of the end-of-game situation. He was outstanding all night.

Worst Referee Attempt To Take A Charge: Jamie Luckie is a very good official, but his defensive footwork needs help. After Detroit made its third steal sitting on a Michigan inside hand-change near midcourt, Chase Simon barreled right at Luckie after stealing the ball from Michigan's Darius Morris. Luckie tried to get out of the way, but Simon charged right into him, knocking him to the floor and losing the ball out of bounds. The referee is a part of the court, and there is no real recourse for knocking into an official, even if the official is out of position. The collision is unusual and unfortunate (and took a basket away from Detroit and gave possession to Michigan), but there is nothing you can do about it -- it is just part of the game. I know that nobody felt worse about it than Luckie, but it was still pretty funny.

Best Hearing By A Referee: Curtis Shaw ejected a couple of Alabama students along the baseline in the Alabama-Purdue game in Tuscaloosa. Shaw is famous for tossing the Rice mascot from a game last season after being head-butted by the fowl, and he has tossed more than a few coaches over the years. His colleague, Mike Kitts, once tossed a radio announcer from an NCAA tournament game, so perhaps we had all better watch ourselves when Shaw is doing a game.

Best Hearing By A Coach: North Carolina coach Roy Williams is a passionate and sensitive guy, and one heck of a basketball coach. But when Williams had a Presbyterian fan removed from the Smith Center for simply shouting for Deon Thompson to miss a free throw, his good hearing may have allowed his sensitivity to get the best of him. Upon hearing the Presbyterian fan yell for Thompson to miss, Williams turned around, identified the fan and yelled at him to "shut up!" He then motioned for Smith Center security to remove the individual. If the fan were profane or abusive, fine. But there were no such reports. Then, in the postgame press conference, Williams said that nobody should say anything negative toward his players on North Carolina's tickets, and if the incident had occurred on the playground, he would have had "different ideas," implying that he would have physically fought the young man.

Nobody Played Harder Than: Talor Battle, Penn State

What more can the little guy do? He carries the entire Penn State offense. Against Virginia Tech on Saturday night, he had 32 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Battle is small (listed at 6-0, 170 pounds), but he is one heck of a guard rebounder and has a great feel for the game. Battle knows how to set up a defender and he's got great vision.

Most Impressive Defender: Ronald Nored, Butler

The 6-foot sophomore chased Ohio State's Jon Diebler all over the floor in the second half and would not let him breathe. Diebler had made 22 3-point shots in the last four games, and no less than five in any of those four, but scored only seven points on seven shots against Butler. Diebler never had an open look and Nored made every catch difficult for him.

Best "Unknown" Player: Jamel Jackson, Seton Hall

The junior college transfer scored 40 points off the bench against VMI by hitting 12 of 15 3-point attempts. The most Jackson had scored to date was 17 points against Monmouth. Adding to the "wow factor" was the scoring performance of Jeremy Hazell, who put up 33 points against VMI. Those were the top two scoring performances of the weekend.

Best "Unknown" Team: Northern Iowa

The Panthers beat Siena on Saturday -- and they didn't just sneak past the Saints, either (winning by 17). Northern Iowa is 7-1 and has already beaten Boston College, Iowa State and Iowa, and has some outstanding players in Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Jordan Eglseder. Ahelegbe is an outstanding point guard and a very physical defender who provides UNI with great defense at the point of attack. The Panthers are very good and will be in the NCAA tournament.

Best Line: Juan Fernandez, Temple

Fernandez scored 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 7-of-9 from 3-point range. He added four assists in Temple's upset of No. 3 Villanova.

Pleasantly Surprising Line: Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State

It is not surprising that Moses had a good game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It is surprising that Moses could go 10-of-11 from the field and play near mistake-free basketball. Moses has 23 points and 14 rebounds while missing only one shot and one free throw.

Best Win: Butler's victory over Ohio State

The Bulldogs had lost eight of their last nine against Top 25 teams when the Buckeyes came into Hinkle Fieldhouse. Even though Evan Turner was out with the broken back, Ohio State presented a big challenge. Butler answered it. That is a good basketball team, especially when Matt Howard stays on the floor.

Worst Loss: Louisville's loss to Western Carolina

Look, I know that Western Carolina is a good team under Larry Hunter, but they are not good enough to score 91 points, shoot 41 free throws and force 20 turnovers in Freedom Hall without the Cardinals helping them out some. Louisville has not played well at all, and this loss will not help the mental health of the Cards.

Team That Needs a Win: Vanderbilt

The Commodores were beaten by Western Kentucky after another great performance by Hilltoppers guard A.J. Slaughter. Vandy is a good team that has really struggled, and Kevin Stallings has been perplexed by his team's performances since the early stages of practice. Stallings sat Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy for the opening tip of the WKU game. He has not been pleased with their play of late. Vanderbilt has the pieces to be good, and there is still plenty of time for the Commodores to be good ... but they need to start now.