Daily Dribble: 1/07
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.
Obviously the biggest loss was #1 UCLA finally losing, 68-66 at Oregon. Give Oregon a lot of credit for bouncing back from a tough, down to the wire loss against USC on Thursday night. Like against USC, Aaron Brooks hit a key late jumper for Oregon, and he finished with 25 points. The senior point guard is up to 18 ppg and playing the best ball of his career. Not to be outdone, Washington State took #7 Arizona to overtime, and escaped with an 80-76 victory. Daven Hamerling came out of nowhere to lead the Cougars with 28 points. This is a guy that had scored over 13 points once in his career so far. The win puts the Cougars at 14-2, and 3-1 in Pac-10 play.. and a definite contender to move into the Top 25. The Pac-10 is shaping up to be a wild ride.
Besides UCLA, Duke, and Arizona, Alabama also lost. This is 4 of the country's Top 10 teams. Bama, ranked 8th, got smoked from the tip, falling 88-61 at Arkansas. The question though is which teams will move into the Top 10 in their place. Bama will certainly and probably will be replaced by Texas A&M, who moved to 13-2 with a win over Kansas State. 14-1 Butler, who blew out Wright State today, probably deserves to be in the Top 10.. but the voters bias might prevent it. More likely 15-1 Oklahoma State would be the other new Top 10 team if Arizona drops out. The Dukies, who probably didn't deserve to be Top 10 coming into today.. still might end up in 9th or 10th with some teams below losing.
In the Big East, both #22 Notre Dame and #14 UCONN lost. Like Duke, UCONN is completely overrated in the Polls and had no business being Top 25 to begin with. They still might get squeezed into the back of the polls though. West Virginia, who destroyed St John's by 27, is now atop the conference at 3-0. WVU's 13-1 deserves Top 25 consideration.. but I'm going to reserve judgment until they finally play some legitimate road games this week.. at Notre Dame and at Marquette.
Northern Iowa is suddenly the team to beat in the Valley, improving to 4-0 in league play with a big 66-61 win over Southern Illinois. Despite being the 3rd ranked league in the RPI, the Valley have no one in the Top 25 following Wichita State's struggles. UNI deserves a look from the voters, especially as compared to an inflated team like UCONN.
I talked about Air Force above, improving to 2-0 in Mountain West play.. but the other surprising 2-0 team is TCU. TCU beat New Mexico earlier in the weak and beat a struggling Utah team 61-58 today. More surprising though is San Diego State at 0-2 in league play after getting ripped by BYU. The Aztecs have won just 3 of 8 games, and are now 10-5. Many considered this to be the league's top team and a potential at-large bid contender. But SDSU beat no one of note in OOC play outside of Cal, and this 0-2 start has doomed their slim at-large chances.
- Also, Saturday's Dribble was listed in the wrong section.. so I apologize if you checked the blog homepage and didn't see it -