Seven Day Stretch: USC Troubles, Creighton Streaking, Duke/UNC, More..
Rob Carpentier's "Seven Day Stretch" is a whirlwind tour around every corner of college basketball nation:
Seven Day Savior (Team): Michigan State Spartans
If there ever was a top team that is playing good basketball and lurking under he radar, it’s the Spartans. When national pundits have been discussing the possible top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State is conspicuously absent. This year’s version of State may be Coach Tom Izzo’s best coaching job to date and that’s saying a lot. The Spartans are coming off a week when they solidified their lofty ranking, both in the polls and the RPI because of wins at home against Iowa and, more impressively, at second place Illinois. The win over the Illinois clinched at least a share of the Big 10 Conference regular season title for State. Not only are the Spartans winning, they are doing it with perhaps their best player, Raymar Morgan, having been either out or playing with the effects of pneumonia for a large chunk of the season. Now that Morgan is getting back to full strength, Izzo’s Spartans are a dark horse contender to win the national title. That’s a long way from the hammering they suffered at the hands of North Carolina in December.
Seven Day Savior (Player): Garrison Carr, American University
In the last three games for the Eagles Carr has scored 28, 20 and 23 points respectively. The 28 point effort was against Holy Cross, a game in which American essentially clinched the Patriot League regular season title. For good measure, in American’s next game Carr scored 20 as the Eagles did clinch the title with a win over third place Navy. For the season the 5’11” senior is averaging 17.5 PPG on a team that only scores a little more than 63 PPG. The key for Carr and American, though, is that he’s averaging over 20 points in “big” games. Carr had a stellar season last year as he led American to last year’s NCAA Tourney. This year he’s better, and so are Eagles, which makes them a very dangerous team come time for the Big Dance…assuming they make it.
Game of the Week (The One You Already Know About): Duke at North Carolina
I avoided making this the game of the week the first time these two giants met, but there’s no denying that this is the biggest game of this week. The ACC is arguably the best conference in the country and these are the two best teams. Quite frankly, UNC is the more talented team, but there’s no denying that Duke has the capability of getting hot from beyond the arc and beating the Tar Heels. It helps that these two schools are such rivals that the word “hate” is not too strong in this situation. Carolina has all but wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and in the ACC Tournament. But Duke has an outside shot at a #1 seed and beating the Heels will go a long way to earning that seed. More importantly a win will give Duke real confidence in the event that the Blue Devils face the Tar Heels in near future. A Carolina win may create such a mental barrier for the Blue Devils that they simply won’t or can’t believe that they can win any game this year against North Carolina.
Game of the Week (The One You Don’t Know About): The Finishing Weekend in the Mid American Conference
The East Division of the MAC, which is so much better than the West Division where the top team, Ball State, has a .500 record, has five teams that theoretically can win the division title. The five teams, Miami, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Akron and Kent State, go into the final week within two games of each other. The great part about it for fans of college basketball is that four of the teams, all but Akron, play each other this week. That means that trying to predict the outcome of the conference at this point is an exercise in futility. Miami has the best player in wing Michael Bramos, while Buffalo probably has the best team. But the Bison have to go on the road to Kent State before returning home to host Miami to close out the regular season. Akron has the easiest schedule of the five teams, having only to face Kent State after playing Ohio. It’s such a complicated possible outcome that to try and dissect it is just stupid. However, we can all sit back and enjoy the games this week and see what happens. The conference tournament should be just as much of a crapshoot as the finishing weekend is shaping up to be.
Seven Days Under the Radar: Creighton Bluejays
Just one month ago the Bluejays, along with the rest of their Missouri Valley Conference brethren, were all in a position of seemingly having to win the MVC Tournament in order to get into the NCAAs. Since then Creighton has gone on a ten game winning streak, including a convincing win over George Mason, to go from afterthought to being in the middle of the at-large conversation. I guess we as fans shouldn’t be surprised at this considering that Coach Dana Altman has made a habit of getting Creighton in at-large consideration for the better part of the last decade. This year’s version of the Bluejays has a strong backcourt leading the way. Senior Booker Woodfox and sophomore P’Allen Stinnett are both game changers at both ends of the floor. Having a strong backcourt is critical for success in March. As a team Creighton plays strong defense and shoots well from the floor. These are Altman trademarks. In a season when mid-major at-large candidates seem few and far between Creighton is making a compelling case to be chosen for the Big dance should they not win the MVC Tournament title.
Seven Days on the Hot Seat: Tim Floyd, USC Trojans
This is going to be a controversial choice, but follow me. Floyd has had to recruit against a resurgent UCLA program and because the Bruins have been getting the bulk of who they have recruited from the Los Angeles area, Floyd has had to resort to picking up UCLA’ s scraps and going after players of questionable academic and eligibility standing. This may finally be catching up to Floyd. Rumors are out now that USC is being investigated by the NCAA over the OJ Mayo recruitment of last year. On top of that, last week I wrote about the Renardo Sidney situation and his choosing of USC, and now rumors are floating out there that the NCAA has actually already opened a file on Sidney. Couple this with the fact that the USC football program is being quietly looked at by the NCAA over allegations of improper oversight in the Reggie Bush situation and the major men’s sports at USC are under the microscope. This may not only mean the end of Floyd’s tenure, but also of Athletic Director Mike Garrett who has been the man in charge of the athletic department while all of these alleged events have taken place. This is more than a wins/loses scenario but it is no less real.
Seven Days of Head Scratching: Jim Calhoun’s “Outburst”
This has been the obvious off-the-court story of the past week. Without getting into too much detail, the story essentially goes like this; at a press conference after a UConn game, a political activist asked Calhoun if he should be giving back part of his $1.6 million salary to the school in this period of economic troubles since UConn is a state school. Calhoun told the activist to “shut up” and then stated, and I am paraphrasing here, that the activist had no right to ask that question when he wasn’t willing to state that Calhoun’s program brings in much more than that to the university’s coffers. The reason I’m scratching my head over this is not because of the questions and the response, but rather by the way the media dictated how this story has unfolded. Politicians in the Connecticut state legislature have gone public in their displeasure of Calhoun in this situation. The reason for their doing this is plain to see; they know that their comments will be picked up by the media. If this type of confrontation happened 20 years ago I doubt we would have heard much about it. The difference is the impact the media has on driving stories. We see this in politics as well as sports. It’s unfortunate that individuals allow this to happen by in essence not thinking for themselves. Whether Calhoun was right or wrong in this situation is beside the point. The fact that people, whether university officials or state politicians feel the need to make a big issue out of this despite the fact that there truly are more important things for them to deal with is the real head scratcher.
Listen to me and my college hoops opinions, whether you agree with me or not, on the Papa Joe Chevalier show at 5:30 PM CST Tuesdays each week.