College Basketball: Seven Day Stretch
Seven Day Savior (Team): Washington Huskies
This has been a difficult week to choose an SDS Team. Duke (up until the editor finally post this) and Marquette have had huge weeks, but I decided to go with the Huskies for a couple of reasons. First, Washington wasn’t supposed to me more than a middling team in the Pac-10. Coach Lorenzo Romar had lost much of what made the Huskies a strong program only two seasons ago. However, Romar still has frontcourt beast Jon Brockman and has added freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas. Next, Washington is 6-1 in the Pac-10, good for first place all by their lonesome. The reason they got there is because the Huskies swept the Los Angeles schools in Seattle this past weekend. Beating the Trojans of USC was expected, especially with SC missing some key components, but the win against UCLA was particularly impressive. Thomas thoroughly outplayed senior preseason All-American Darren Collison, and the Huskies supplanted UCLA at the top of the conference, which is no small feat. The Bruins have been at the top of the Pac-10 for the past three plus seasons without exception…until now…now it’s Washington.
Seven Day Savior (Player): Alex Tyler, Cornell University
Cornell is clearly the class of the Ivy League, and rightfully so considering that the Big Red have Ryan Wittman who would be a star on almost any team in the country. However, this past week the Big Red started their Ivy schedule with two wins over Columbia, (the Ivy has a weird way of scheduling), not because of Wittman, but because of junior post Alex Tyler. Tyler scored 30 combined points against the Lions and had 14 rebounds, (seven in both games). If you know anything about the Ivies, you know that the way we as fans view statistics is typically skewed because of the unique structure that most of the schools bring to the offensive side of the floor. Having Tyler kick his game up a notch is huge for Cornell as they view to repeat as Ivy champs. They will be challenged by Harvard and Tyler’s emergence gives the Big Red a real third threat by which to win the conference crown yet again. Further, Tyler’s development gives them more of a chance in the first round of the Big Dance, (assuming they make it), as they will more than likely be no higher than a 13 seed.
Game of the Week (The one you’ve already heard about): Connecticut at Louisville
Once again this is a week that has several “big” games. Duke played Wake Forest; Illinois travels to Minnesota and the top 5 teams in the Pac-10 are essentially playing each other. The biggest game, however, will be out of the Big East, (yet again), when UConn travels to a newly rejuvenated Louisville. With the way that Louisville was playing earlier in the season, losing to Minnesota and Western Kentucky, it is a bit shocking to see the Cards in first place in the Big East…ahead of #2 UConn. Louisville has some real deficiencies, starting with their poor outside shooting, but if you watch them you can see a team that is starting to place the team’s goals above personal ones. The Huskies will be a huge test. A.J. Price is as good if not better than any guard that Rick Pitino has and Hasheem Thabeet will do much to neutralize the inside part of Louisville’s game. UConn has already proven that they can win in the Big East on the road. This Monday night game will be a special contest.
Game of the Week (The one you DON’T know about): Butler v. Wisconsin-Green Bay
I’ve written a lot in the past about Horizon League teams, but they continue to be among the best and most consistent mid-major teams in the nation. Butler is a well-known commodity and they sit in first place in the Horizon with an undefeated record. The closest team to them is the Phoenix of UWGB. Green Bay sits at 7-2 in the Horizon and this game, also on Monday night, probably offers the most likely spot that Butler will slip up in the conference in the regular season. Butler was supposed to reload this year but may be better than last season’s squad with the emergence of sophomore post Matt Howard and super freshmen Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward. Green Bay is led by sharpshooter Ryan Tillema and three other players who average ion double figures. Butler won the first meeting between these two teams last week with a nine point win in Indianapolis. It was a close game throughout, (Green Bay was up by 3 at the half), and now the Phoenix get the Bulldogs at home. Again, this should be a great contest.
Seven Days Under the Radar: The Top of the CAA
Last week’s Game of the Week, (the one you DON’T know about), was between George Mason and Northeastern. Mason was undefeated in the CAA at the time and the Huskies entered the game with one conference loss. Northeastern held serve at home and created a three-way tie atop the league. Then George Mason lost on the road at VCU, the third team at the top of the Colonial. That has left us with Northeastern and VCU tied atop the league with George Mason one game back…but then VCU lost to Northeastern Tuesday night, vaulting the Huskies back into first. The CAA is PROBABLY going to be a one-bid league come NCAA Tourney time, but at least two may be deserving. All three will probably get high profile games during the Bracket Buster weekend, thus enhancing their resumes. If these three teams can avoid stumbling against any other of their CAA brethren, then maybe, just maybe, the CAA may get a second team into the Big Dance. But for now, we certainly can watch as the most exciting conference race this side of the ACC plays out.
Seven Days on the Hot Seat: Andy Kennedy, Mississippi
I don’t think this is what Ole Miss had in mind when they took a chance and hired Kennedy after he was let go by Cincinnati. Although Kennedy has led the rebels to two straight NIT appearances, Kennedy was hired to get the Rebels to the NCAA’s, not to the smaller tournament in New York. The 2009 version of the Rebels were supposed to be better, but they sit at 11-9 overall and at 2-4 in the very weak SEC West (even after the nice win over UK). On top of this, Kennedy was arrested for allegedly mistreating a cabbie towards the beginning of the season. While it remains to be seen if the allegations are in any way true, the Ole Miss athletic administration knew they were taking a runner on Kennedy after his service with Bob Huggins on Cincy’s staff and the rumors of impropriety that swirled around Huggy Bear and his last two seasons with the Bearcats. For Kennedy to survive, the allegations need to be completely unfounded. Kennedy hasn’t yet won himself enough brownie points to get away from this situation if it proves to be in any way true. Besides, the athletic department at Ole Miss may be looking for a new start considering that Kennedy has yet to recruit at the level that would get Mississippi anywhere near the top of the SEC.
Seven Days of Head Scratching: Unbalanced Conference Scheduling
As I was writing about the three teams from the CAA, it dawned on me that VCU, Northeastern and George Mason will NOT play home and away games against each other this season. In fact, VCU only plays the other two twice and they get them both in Virginia. This screams unfairness to the average fan, but it also screams stupidity to me. Many conferences have gone to this unbalanced schedule because of the growing size of conferences. The BCS schools aren’t immune to this. Both the Big East and the Big Ten play similar schedules because of the sizes of the leagues. In the Big East’s case, it may have a huge outcome on the regular season champ and thus the conference tournament. Give me the Pac-10, where they generally play Thursday/Saturday games with all 10 teams playing each other twice; home and home. That determines a true champion…but then that raises the question of conference tournaments in general. That’s a topic for another day. By the way, hear me rant on about this and other college hoops topics on Tuesday nights. I will be on the Papa Joe Chevalier show, based and syndicated out of Las Vegas, every Tuesday around 5:30 CST. It would be great to get some listener support, whether you agree with me or not.