Can someone make sense of Marquette for me? They beat Duke and got bumped to #9 in the AP Poll.. but they want down to the wire in games against Idaho State and Valparaiso.. not to mention struggling (down at the half) against DII Hillsdale. I know "a win is a win", but eventually these poor efforts will turn into losses.
John Thompson III gets more pub because he shares his name with daddy.. but his brother Ronny is also a head coach at Ball State. The two met yesterday in DC and no surprise the Hoyas rolled to a 69-54 victory.
It took two overtimes for a home Big East team to dispatch with Stetson yesterday. Granted, it was at South Florida.. but Big East teams shouldn't struggle against bottom tier Atlantic Sun teams that plays 9 freshmen & sophomores and just one upperclassman. The way things are going, USF and Rutgers might be battling hard for the Big East basement.
Should be interesting to see who is #1 when the polls come out later today. My choice is UCLA. Though Florida is still probably the best team in the country and there's no shame in losing to Kansas.. UCLA should be #1 because they are undefeated. Pittsburgh and Ohio State are also undefeated.. but UCLA went to Maui and beat Kentucky and Georgia Tech. The Panthers and Buckeyes are a combined 13-0 by beating garbage on their home floor. I have no respect for teams until they leave their buildings to play top teams. The Buckeyes can earn respect with a big game against UNC next weekend, while Pitt still plays nobody for almost 3 more weeks.
Who will be the new #1? Florida's overtime loss to Kansas really shakes up the national polls. Pittsburgh was #3 but who have they beat? UMASS at home? Ohio State? They dont even have their best player. UCLA? The Bruins would be my choice, but Im really not sure what way the voters would go.
This game should never have gone to overtime.. and this is why Bill Self is known as a great recruiter and not a great coach. His team's bonehead plays (Kaun's foul which though was a questionable call still can't happen, Wright's foul down low, and the inability to rebound the free throw miss) basically blew a 4 point lead that should have been locked up. Yes, these plays aren't directly Bill's fault, but preparation and awareness are the coaches duties.
I'll be honest.. I thought Butler had no shot against Gonzaga. I thought Gonzaga was a step up from Tennessee, and the interior presence of Heytvelt would be too much.. and I of course was wrong. Butler surprised again and is now 6-0 with wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, and Gonzaga. Still the question remains: Is this team for real? Or to put it another way, is this team good enough to make the Tournament as an at-large bid? It should be interesting.. the fact is a team that so heavily relies on the long ball can go sour at any point. You know there's a cold streak waiting at some point.. and the question is how will the committee deal with Butler's inevitable conference losses to teams like Loyola Chicago or Detroit. As good as their start has been, my guess is that wont look nearly as good two months from now. Notre Dame is a mediocre team that will probably end up in the 125-175 RPI range. Indiana would be lucky to end up in the RPI top 50 and will most likely end up with more than 10 losses. Tennesse, though ranked when Butler beat them may simply end up in the 40-50 range as well. Its conceivable that when all is said and done, the only Top 50 RPI wins that Butler has are against Gonzaga, and perhaps Purdue if they beat the Boilermakers in a couple of weeks. My guess is that Butler will lose 5-7 games the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see what happens if they dont win the Horizon League tournament.
Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and was able to take time off like college basketball did yesterday. There was just six games, none featuring Top 25 teams. Arkansas-Southern Illinois did feature two similarly talented teams that could end up being ranked some point. Despite making just two field goals in the last 8 minutes of regulation and the overtime period, the Razorbacks won 61-53 behind Charles Thomas 16 points off the bench. Arkansas goes on to play Marist today in the semi-finals of the Old Spice Classic, while SIU will play Minnesota in the consolation game.
On the other side of the bracket, West Virginia cruised past Montana while Western Michigan upset Virginia Tech. The Hokies loss is another blow to the ACC. Yet, despite what seems like an overload of upsets in the past few days, the ACC still has the best winning percentage of any conference so far at 84%.
A lot of talk on CHN's message board this week about who would win the Josh Heytvelt-Tyler Hansbrough battle on Thanksgiving eve. In the end, it was Heytvelt's 19 and 8 boards which accounted for the difference in Gonzaga's big win over #2 ranked North Carolina. For Hansbrough, his 7 points was the 2nd lowest ouput of his career, and the first time he's scored under double digits since last December 3rd. By my count, this is 27 games in a row.. and in fact Hansbrough never had less than 13 in any of those 27. More important than Hansbrough's struggles (you know he'll start another impressive streak) is Gonzaga's statement to the basketball world that they still matter. All the talk of the young guns in Carolina, Duke, and other places.. but the Zags are basically a sophomore and freshman dominated team outside of Raivio.
Listening to Dukie V, you'd think Marquette's win over the Blue Devils last night was the biggest in the program's history. The fact is though that Marquette easily had the best player on the court in point guard Dominic James. James easily outclassed Greg Paulus with 25 and 7 assists as compared to his counterparts 7 and 1. Despite what V thinks (saying this man's full name is simply too painful), beating Duke doesn't automatically mean you're a lock to be a top 10 team all season. Both of these teams have flaws that will be exposed in the future.
Flipping back and forth, I also caught much of UCLA's impressive 73-68 win over Kentucky. While 18 points and 5 boards isn't Earth shattering, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's play was extremely impressive. This is a kid who didn't score double digits until his 6th game last year and never had more than 15 all last season. With 24 in the season opener, and 18 last night, Mbah a Moute is on pace to be one of the season's most improved players. Its hard to imagine anyone else that has improved so much in the past two years. Perhaps Josh McRoberts should take some lessons from Luc Richard..
Rough Sunday for the Big East. Former #8 Georgetown fell to Old Dominion 75-62 and the headlines will wrongfully say this was a "stunner." Its easy in hindsight to say this.. but Georgetown was and even still might be overrated. Its hard to imagine a top 25 team with less depth than the Hoyas. Sure, Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert can play with anybody in the country, but Thompson's other three starters are glorified role players and the bench isn't ready for prime time yet. You catch Georgetown on a day when Green isn't scoring (he had just 2 points and was stuck in foul trouble yesterday) and they can be beat by lesser teams.
I'll be honest, I'd never heard of Stephen Curry before this week. The son of former NBA star Dell Curry is a freshman for the Davidson Wildcats. He wasn't even considered the best player on his high school team, but the 6-0 guard came into today's game against Missouri averaging 23 points, 7 boards, and 4 assists per game. In a close loss to the Tigers in Columbia this afternoon, he finished with 16 and 6 assists. Curry's biggest problem is turnovers, as he's more of a combo scoring guard trying to play some point and doing too much with the ball. Still, the baby faced scorer has a great stroke, a knack for getting the ball in the hoop, and the potential to be a major force in the Southern Conference with a little more experience and physical maturity.
Maryland's win in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic finals should catapult them into the top 25 for the first time this season. I dont necessarily know if Maryland will be better than Michigan State or Texas at the end of the season.. but this shows you what a team with three senior starters can do to start a season. For the Terps, like Texas and Michigan State as well, point guard play will go a long way in determining future success. Greivis Vasquez, Drew Neitzel, and DJ Augustin all impressed this week. The freshman Vasquez was perhaps the most surprising and ultimately got the W's. Neitzel is the veteran of these three, and looks noticeably stronger and more mature this season. Augustin in the end might be the best of those three. The high school All-American often dribbles around too much and needs to do a better job running the offense, but his ability to get into the lane and finish is simply unteachable and gives Texas an edge on most teams.