Rob Carpentier's "Seven Day Stretch" is a whirlwind tour around every corner of college basketball nation:
Seven Day Savior (Team): Gonzaga
The Bulldogs of Gonzaga have started the season 6-0. One of those wins has come against a non-D-1 team. However, four of those wins have come against Indiana, (decent), Maryland, Oklahoma State, (good), and most recently Tennessee, (really good). The Zags have shown good balance, led by point guard Jeremy Pargo. Pargo has made sure that the multitude of weapons at Coach Mark Few's disposal all see the ball on offense. The Zags have good big men in Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye and Micah Downs, (although Downs is more of a perimeter player), and good perimeter players, led by Pargo, but also including Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray. The Zags play good defense, rebound well and get good contributions from their bench. Few can count on his team being a legitimate 10 deep. This is the best team on the West Coast right now and an argument can be made, because of their depth and style of play, that Gonzaga would provide North Carolina with their stiffest test if they played in the near future.
Seven Day Savior (Player): Zach Hahn
Sophomore Zach Hahn, guard, Butler University. Like Gonzaga, Butler has become accustomed to being a mid-major darling in the college basketball universe. This was supposed to be a down year for the Bulldogs, (is there a theme here?), but they stand at 7-0 after the first week of Horizon League play. That record includes a huge road win at Horizon favorite, Cleveland State. That win was made possible by very good defense, timely rebounding and a huge last second shot by Hahn. Like most Butler players, Hahn thrives in the system that the Bulldogs run that is predicated by many players being able to hit three-point shots. Hahn is one of the most prolific shooters on the team. He doesn't get the publicity of the team's star, Matt Howard, but Hahn is clearly the hero right now after his slightly off balance game-winner that was taken well behind the new three point line. Hahn, a lefty, is definitely the toast of the Butler campus this week.
Game of the Week (The one you've already heard about): Memphis vs Georgetown
Many teams are trying to find their identity early in the season, but several teams are truly feeling in the dark in terms of establishing themselves. This is because those teams lost huge leaders and/or numbers with graduation and early defections. Two teams that suffered from this greatly have been Memphis and Georgetown, and these two powers face off on Saturday in the Nation's capital. Both teams have started strong, with the Tigers at 6-1, (losing a close one to Xavier), and the Hoyas at 5-1, (losing to Tennessee). The Tigers lost their point guard and team leader with the defections of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Hoyas lost big man Roy Hibbert. Both teams, however, have reloaded well, with Memphis bringing in Tyreke Evans and Georgetown welcoming big man Greg Monroe. Both teams figure to make some noise in March after they go through a few growing pains. Watching them and Memphis Coach John Calipari match wits with G-Town Coach John Thompson III should be fun.
Game of the Week (The one you DON'T know about): VCU vs Richmond
On Saturday, Virginia Commonwealth of the Colonial Athletic Association visits former CAA member, Richmond, now of the Atlantic 10. Both teams have played relatively tough schedules up to this point, with VCU having faced New Mexico, Vanderbilt and Rhode Island, while the Spiders have faced Syracuse and a good Bradley team. Both squads sit at 5-3 overall and should be among the better teams in their respective leagues. VCU needs to finish in the top 2 in the CAA in order to be given real at-large consideration in March while Richmond simply needs to have a good year in the A-10. This is the kind of game that sets up like a "Bracket Buster", as both teams can point to a win in this game as a check mark in their column for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. While head-to-head meetings aren't usually critical in determining at-large selections in March, it sure doesn't hurt to win these kinds of contests.
Seven Days Under the Radar: Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky has had a very good past 9 days, (okay so I'm going back a little further than the past week). In their past three games, the Hilltoppers have defeated Tulane, Georgia and Louisville, in reverse order. The win against Louisville is the biggie, but a win against an SEC team and against a Conference USA team, conferences who both will have inflated RPI ratings at the end of the season compared to WKU's Sun Belt Conference, are huge, too. Granted, Western Kentucky has two inexplicable losses, especially a beat down at the hands of Murray State, but they still have Florida State on their schedule, (at home), and a win there could really put a stamp on the Hilltoppers' at-large hopes, if they need them, come March. Western Kentucky is led by another solid one-two punch, (much like last year's Sweet 16 team), junior guard A.J. Slaughter and sophomore forward Steffphon Pettigrew. Between the two they average almost 29 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. This solid play allows the rest of the Hilltoppers to go about their roles without worrying about who is going to score for them. Pettigrew will be especially important for WKU as the season goes on. He has become more dominant as the first few weeks of the season have passed. His coming out party was against Louisville where he went off for 17 points and 12 boards against the more heralded Cardinal front line. Oh, and Western Kentucky has two other players averaging in double figures. This is going to be a very good team come 2009 and one to watch when the calendar turns to March.
Seven Days on the Hot Seat: Fred Hill
Fred Hill's days at Rutgers may be numbered. The Scarlet Knights lost at home to St. Bonaventure and have since lost to Lehigh and Binghamton; the latter two also at home. Hill was brought in to make the State University of New Jersey more competitive and to build a wall around the state's top recruits. So far Hill has failed at both. New Jersey has some of the best high school talent in the country but Hill keeps missing out to bigger programs. His ability to recruit was considered his biggest strength. He seems overmatched in game situations when the ability to change at a moment's notice is a precious commodity. Hill is also in a situation where the university has been tinged by scandal with regard to oversight of the football team. However, reading between the lines, it seems that the Rutgers administration has committed itself to winning in big time athletics and two of the big three, (football and women's basketball), are already doing that. Hill seems to be the odd man out.
Seven Days of Head Scratching: Coaching Attire
Coaching attire has become a subject of conversation over the past few weeks, especially with the many preseason tournaments that are in exotic locales. The thought is that coaches will be safer, presumably from passing out or lightheadedness, if they were allowed to wear less constrictive clothing than the typical suit and tie. So as fans, we are talking about what coaches wear now? From a safety standpoint? Let me get this straight; we have kids that are the target of predatory agents and the like, kids who collapse during practices or games because of undiscovered health issues and kids who simply leave college "less" educated than when they arrived, but we are talking about coaches and their suits. Yeah, that makes sense. It does fit perfectly, though with NCAA rules that allow a coach to up and leave his job at any time for another coaching gig, but doesn't allow the student-athlete to transfer out from his school without a penalty. Worry about the coaches first and the kids second...wonderful priorities.