Daily Dribble: 1/13
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.
Louisville is up on Providence the half. The Cardinals need to win just about every home conference game to make a run at the tournament. Rick Pitino has used 16 players already this season, some just walk-ons, but still 16 is a heck of a lot of guys. Brandon Jenkins is the only meaningful senior of those 16, and he's been playing less and less of a role in recent weeks. After averaging 11 ppg last year, Jenkins is down to 5 ppg, and his minutes have been limited in recent weeks (often playing under 20 minutes).
On the other side, only 6 guys have played in 10+ games for NC State. Nor surprisingly, the Wolfpack got off to a weak conference start (0-3), but look like they're going to beat Wake Forest today. Back when we did our last Top 100 Players list, we got some complaints about not including Gavin Grant or Brandon Costner. These guys are solid, but they're numbers look a lot better than they are, because they play almost 40 minuets every game and get to take so many shots. Between Grant, Costner, and Ben McCauley, the trio has scored in double-digits in 44 of 48 total games.
Also looks like West Virginia will lost on the road at Marquette, which would not the Mountaineers out of the Top 25. Took some heat for saying WVU hasn't beaten anybody this season.. but it looks like that streak will continue. Luckily, WVU hits a soft spot in their schedule with home games against South Florida, Marshall and DePaul coming up, wrapped around a winnable road game against Cincy.
The game's marquee game is Ohio State against Tennessee. As good as OSU has been, they haven't beaten a ranked team yet. #20 Tennessee will probably be their first victim. Its close early, 20-19 OSU, but Oden has a ridiculous 16 points. I'm going to watch the 2nd half after I get done with the Dribble. Big GO's career high is 21, so perhaps this will be the breakout scoring game. Perhaps my favorite player on OSU though is Othello Hunter. Hunter, a 6-9 junior, gets lost behind Oden and only averages 19 mpg (averaging 8 and 6 boards). If this kid were on a team like NC State noted above, he'd be a lock to averaged 16 points and 8-9 boards in major minutes. I know he gets to be part of a winning program, but he could really shine if he was on a lesser team.
I ragged on Florida's Lee Humphrey a couple weeks back about struggling on the offensive end. Humphrey's found the touch from three recently though, connecting on 9 of last 16 threes heading into today's road game at South Carolina. The Gators are already running away with this game, up 24-8. Humphrey's the main reason why, as he already has 15 points including 4 for 4 from downtown. With 15 points, he's only 1 point shy of his season high. If South Carolina loses, they'll drop to 10-5, 0-2 in the SEC, and on track to make the NIT once again. Dave Odom actually got a contract extension recently.. I guess the administration loves being a 2nd tier team.
Iowa State's started a surprising 2-0 in Big 12 play, but has a major test against Kansas this afternoon. The #6 Jayhawks have won 8 straight, and beat ISU easily be 10+ points both times last year. Plus each of their last 8 wins have been by at least 10 or more. My guess is that this game wont be close. If ISU somehow manages to start 3-0.. then McDermott should be named Coach of the Year right now. Even more amazing for Kansas is that their top 6 scorers are all freshmen or sophomores. Then again, Texas' 8 top scorers are underclassmen. The Longhorns should roll past Oklahoma at home today and improve to 3-0 in league play. (This game is on ABC by the way depending on where you live). The AP hasn't given Texas much respect this year (though they finally were back in the Top 25 this past week), but with UCONN and WVU surely falling out, the Horns could be up to 21st or 22nd next week.
If you don't get the Texas game, you'll probably watch UNC at Virginia Tech. The #1 Tar Heels go on the road for just the 2nd time in 12 games. The other road game was when the Heels played at Saint Louis, so Tyler Hansbrough could play in his home state. Now UNC faces a confident VT team that of course upset Duke last weekend. Stll, I have a hard time believing VT can win this game.. UNC is just too damn deep. I noted above that Louisville's played 16 guys, but UNC's played 15 and just about every one of those 15 can play. How many teams have a 12th man in Quentin Thomas.. who came out of high school as the #17 point guard in the country.
The 2004 point guard that Thomas was a part of is sick to think about. Telfair and Livingston went right to the NBA. Farmar, Lowry, and Rondo.. #'s 3,5, and 6 are now in the NBA. #4 Steele and #6 AJ Price are two of the better guards now.. along with guys like Gabe Pruitt (9) Sean Singletary (10), Drew Neitzel (13), JamesOn Curry (15), Taurean Green (19), and even Chris Lofton (24). Just a crazy good class.
Later out west, there's a major MWC game tonight as Air Force heads to surprising Wyoming. The Cowboys are 11-5 overall, and 2-0 in conference games. Wyoming was only 14-18 last year, so this year's start is quite surprising, and they've already beaten UNLV and SDSU in the past week. Sophomore guard Brandon Ewing has been the man for the Cowboys, averaging 22 ppg. In the win over UNLV, he got to line an amazing 22 times (hitting 19). Ewing hasn't been good from three in the past couple of weeks, but if he gets hot from long range, then look out.
- Note - Greg Oden ended up with 24 points, 15 boards, and 5 assists as OSU barely survived a pesky Tennessee squad in Columbus. Despite the monster game (Oden's best yet), it took a Ron Lewis three with 11 seconds to go to give the Buckeyes the 68-66 win. Also, Clemson's perfect record is in serious danger as the Tigers are down at Maryland as predicted by Jeff Borzello in his Game of the Week article. The Tigers are down 7 with 14 minutes to go. #3 UCLA is also down at the half at USC.. gotta love Saturdays!