Last year, when I had more time on my hands, I tried to predict just about every game during the week. I just went with my guy, and quickly picked all the winners regardless of the spread, and I'd usually come out with a 75-80% success rate. Saturday was the type of day that made predicting games so fun. 21 of the Top 25 teams are in action.. not to mention dozens of other great games.
Even though its only noon here in the Central Time Zone, there's already one major upset in the works. CAA leading Hofstra is losing to 4-12 Northeastern by 10 with 10 minutes to go. The Pride are coming off a huge overtime win at Drexel, their biggest win of the year. Hofstra's struggled away from home all year, but apparently they thrive in Philly, as they've beaten both Drexel and St. Joseph's. With VCU hosting a very beatable Towson team, the Pride could fall a game back in the standings.
Good post on the message board yesterday by Rocky about how hard it is to win on the road. The Top 10 teams in the country (before last night) were 13-13 overall on the road. The trend continued last night as Oklahoma State lost, but Pitt won to put the record at 14-14. The road struggles continue deeper into the Top 25.. as we saw teams like Duke, Tennessee, and Butler all lose on the road to supposedly weaker conference foes.
I think its safe to say that its harder to win on the road in non-conference play than in conference play. This is because in conference play, you know what the opponents do, you've been to the arenas, stayed in the same hotels, etc. In non-league play, its definitely harder to win on the road. This is why its even more unfair that certain BCS leagues have the ability to simply play home games for a couple months before conference play. I say unfair, not because I blame the UCONN's and Syracuse's for staying at home (why travel if you dont have to? why take kids out of school? why not give your fans as many games as possible to watch? why not build up good records), but because I blame the selection committee for not properly weighing where teams played their games.
Obviously a huge win for Wisconsin last night. Especially doing it on a night when Alando Tucker wasn't dominating on offense. Sure, he had 18 points and some big plays, but he was 1-6 from the line and often deferred to his teammates. But.. lets not get ahead of ourselves here and simply anoint Wisconsin as the Big Ten champs (though I do think they will win the conference), and claim that Ohio State is simply done..
As good as Wisconsin has been, and I think if the season ended today Tucker would be the Player of the Year, they've only won 2 road games all year.. Yes, they've beaten two top 10's in Ohio State and Pitt, but again, they're just 3-1 on the road. If Wisconsin played at Florida and UNC like OSU has.. then there's a very good chance they'd have 3 losses as well. When Missouri State beat Wisconsin on a neutral court.. no one suddenly anointed the Bears as the favorite to win the MVC, let alone deserve to be in the Top 10. I say this often, good teams are supposed to win at home. If Wisconsin went into Columbus and smacked around OSU then I'd be singing the Badgers praises all week long. But, at CHN anyways, we had Wisconsin #4 in the preseason and the favorites to win the Big Ten.. so this is a game they are supposed to win. On the flip side, lets not discount OSU as simply being an overrated bunch of jokers. I can safely say that out of all 336 teams in college basketball, at least 320 of them would come away 0-3 in games at Florida, UNC, and Wisconsin. Maybe 15 more would win 1 of those 3 on a good day, and maybe 1 lone team would win 2 of those 3. The Buckeyes have a lot of work simply figuring out how to utilize all their tools.. but this team will be fine..
Since I missed Monday's Dribble.. I decided I'll do something a little special and discuss all 29 games on the schedule. Okay, its not really special, and its not really any longer than usual.. but I felt like mixing things up.
Here's Monday's recap.. in order of the games starting times and not importance: Surprising William & Mary won again, beating Georgia State 57-43. At 10-4, the Tribe have already hit the double-digit mark for the first time since the 02-03 season. Also in CAA play, Delaware's horrible season continued as the Hens fell to 2-13 and 0-2 in league play. Delaware lost to Towson (7-7), who bounced back from two tough overtime losses in conference games.
This is dedication.. 11:30 on a Saturday night, and I'm not out on the town, but in on the computer writing the Dribble.. or is it just being lame? I'll leave it up to you to decide..
I already wrote an earlier entry this afternoon, which includes thoughts on Virginia Tech's big upset of Duke. The rest of my afternoon and evening was spent watching the NFL Playoffs.. so unfortunately I didn't get to watch some of the day's later upsets.
The only game I did get a peak at was Air Force's 56-50 win over UNLV. At 15-1, the Academy is off to its bes start ever.. while UNLV drops to 14-3. This game was surprising because you think of both of these teams as being dangerous from three, but no one could hit from outside. UNLV was 1-18 from three, and AFA was 3-12. Kevin Kruger, averaging 14 ppg and coming off an 8-three game against Utah, was ice cold and finished with 4 points on 1-9 shooting. Who know.. maybe if he was hot, this game would have had a different ending. Regardless, it was close because UNLV dominated on the interior.. getting 38 rebounds to just 19 for Air Force. Essengue and White really had their way on the inside. Overall, it was a well-fought though not necessarily very well played game. The only player that stood out was AFA's Dan Nwaelele. This isn't a name that you hear often nationally, but it should be. Nwaelele leads the team at 15 ppg as a 6-5 small forward, and amazingly does it by shooting 62% from the floor and 56% from three. As good as those numbers are, you can't help but think the senior could be even better. With a solid 6-5 frame, and that nice shooting touch, this is a guy who should be getting an outside look by NBA scouts. Unfortunately, the color commentator was quick to point Nwaelele should shoot more, and a dozen other things he knew was right. I kept trying to figure out who this know-it-all was.. than they finally said it was Rick Barry.. and suddenly the condescending tone made perfect sense.
For awhile, it looked like Duke was going to tease the haters once again by pulling out another close, poorly-played home win. But Virginia Tech, a team that has struggled over the last year and a half to win close games, pulled out the 69-67 overtime win.
The way Duke mishandled the ball, they really had no business being in the game. At one point, the Blue Devils had 21 turnovers to just 7 from Virginia Tech. In the end, VT ended up with 13 steals to Duke's 2. That includes 5 from Deron Washington, who at one point jumped over Greag Paulus (literally) to make a nice lay up, and then blocked the Duke PG's three at the buzzer. Paulus ended a horrific game with more turnovers than points, assists, and rebounds combined. The loss drops Duke to 13-2, and probably down to the 10-12 range in the polls (which is still too high). The Dukies only have one win over a currently ranked team (#16 Air Force) and don't play a ranked team again until Clemson in 3 weeks. For VT, the win puts them at 11-4 overall and atop the ACC as the only 2-0 team right now. (BC, up 25-11 on NC State will probably join them at 2-0 by the end of the afternoon.)
What a fun night of games.. thank goodness conference play is in full swing. I dont even know where too begin, too many good games to discuss.
Big day for USC, escaping with a 84-82 over previously unbeaten Oregon. A lot of weird stuff going on at the end of this game. Ernie Kent calling a horrific timeout right as his team was about to score the game-tying lay up. Then ESPN, who was covering the end of the game instead of Memphis-Cincy, cuts back to the studio and misses the ensuing basket. Is there really a need to cut back to the three shmos in the studio when the two local announcers were doing a fine job. Then you have a bad charging call called on Maarty Leunen driving to the hoop, followed by bad clockwork which favored the home Ducks. Finally, a horrible foul in the final second by USC against Aaron Brooks shooting a desperation three, but Brooks misses his 2nd of three free-throws which could have tied it. Despite the miss, can't blame the loss on Brooks, who had 27 points and a huge-NBA range three in the final minutes. For USC, its now 3 wins in the last two weeks over ranked teams (Oregon, Washington, Wichita State) and a 12-4 record. For Oregon, it was the type of close loss that plagued them all last year..
Lots of good tv action last night.. and I'm not talking about UNC's 38 point win over Penn. I like watching Brandan Wright dunk and all.. but this team has gone a month without playing a decent team.. lets get some competition before these games get televised.
The last team to beat UNC was.. Gonzaga, who got spanked at Virginia last night. The 108-87 final score isn't as bad as this game was.. it was 60-26 at half. Sean Singletary had 37 points on 7 threes, and 5 of those threes were in about the first 8 minutes of play. This game was done early. The Zags have lost 4 straight, 5 of 6, and are now 9-6. At least conference play starts, and the brutal string of non-conference foes ends. The last 7 games include Duke, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington State, Nevada, and Georgia.. and only one of those games was in Spokane.
Sorry for the late Dribble.. spent the morning finishing up this year's Top 30 Names in College Basketball list. Some old favorites like Longar Longar, Gyno Pomare, and Idong Ibok return along with 27 more great names. The list will officially go on-line in a couple days.
Last night, Duke teased the haters once again by struggling early at Cameron Indoor. But once Temple's long-range barage cooled down after a few minutes and Dionte Christmas' ankle started to hurt, the Dukies pulled away with ease. It was basically Duke's interior that led to the 18-point win, as Josh McRoberts scored a career high 21 (congrats to the golden boy for finally scoring 20+) and Brian Zoubek added 8 and 6 boards in just 13 minutes. McRoberts also ended up with 9 boards, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. He's been playing perhaps the best ball of his life recently, averaging 16, 12 boards, 5 assists, and 3 blocks over the last three games.
I guess I need to start with the obligatory congratulations to Bob Knight for breaking the all-time wins record. ESPN has beat this story to death so I really don't have anything interesting to add. My only hope is that they won't keep televising Texas Tech games. This is a slightly above average team that has proven this week that they'd be middle of the pack in the Mountain West Conference. New Mexico was a few missed open lay ups and one or two bad JR Giddens shots away from winning today. Still, 880 wins is 880 wins so the man deserves respect.. at least for a day or so until he obnoxiously goes off on his team or the media or the refs and he loses my respect again..