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%.
Hofstra was at the top of many "Mid-Major" Top 25 rankings and was considered to be the favorite in the CAA.. but a loss to Hawaii last night drops the Pride to 0-3. The problem as expected has been the lack of front-court contributions. Hofstra's three starting guards are averaging a whopping 54 points combined with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. The rest of the roster is only adding 24, 15 boards, and 1 assist.
Hawaii was led by Matt Lojeski in the 80-79 victory. Lojeski is one of many underrated guards in the WAC, as the senior is averaging 18 points per game.
The RPI doesn't mean much at this point.. but the #1 team in the country is Butler. The Bulldogs take their perfect 5-0 record into the Garden tonight to face Gonzaga (more Bulldogs) in the NIT Tip-Off finals. As good as Butler havs been, the smart money is on a deeper and more talented Gonzaga squad to come away with an 8 to 10 point victory.
Josh Heytvelt is already making a name for himself in NBA scouting circles. The sophomore forward has flashed some impressive athleticism early this season.. after being mostly a jump shooter after coming back from injury last season. Personally Heytvelt impressed me most in the win over UNC, not with his finishing or post play, but with a couple of big-time blocked shots. His block on Hansbrough from behind was the type that few players in college basketball could make, and the type of pure athleticism that the NBA loves.
Everyone's talking about the Florida - Kansas matchup tomorrow night, but both teams are also playing later tonight. The Gators face a 4-0 Western Kentucky squad led by junior Courtney Lee, a potential NBA player. While WKU is a step up from the Prairie Views of the world and this game is on a neutral court, the Hilltoppers are simply not good enough to run with Florida for more than 10-15 minutes or so.
Checking out ESPN last night, I caught a rare interesting discussion between talking heads. Tom Brennan and Doug Gottlieb were debating whether the Florida - Kansas game "means" anything. Brennan's take was that this game means nothing, because both teams will win 25-30 games, make the tournament, and a loss by either does little except for sting for a couple hours tomorrow night. Gottlieb disagreed saying that this matters for seeding down the line, and it particularly matters for Kansas who already lost to Oral Roberts, and could lose a lot of confidence and respect in the loss. I tend to side with Brennan in this debate.. non-conference games of this sort only really matter for Non-BCS teams that will be judged come tourney time almost entirely on how they perform early on (ie, for the Memphis, Gonzaga, and Missouri Valley teams of the world.) For the top 10-15 power conference teams that are locks to make the tourney, these games only go so far as bragging rights go.