December 10, 2013
Don’t look now, but the college basketball season is already about a third of the way complete. Who knew? With bowl season and the NFL playoffs closing in, college basketball doesn’t get much attention, but it is shaping up to be a great season. Kentucky, Michigan St., and Arizona have all been ranked No. 1. The defending champions in Louisville have just one loss and are at No. 6. And there are still 15(????) teams that haven’t lost. How long will that last? Let’s take a look.
No. 2 Syracuse (9-0) – The Orange should have no trouble in the next two and ought to be 11-0 heading into a showdown with No. 10 Villanova. The Wildcats will probably also be undefeated heading into that game. One streak will end.
No. 3 Ohio State (8-0) - The Buckeyes have a bunch of wins against schools that I have not heard of. So I’m not impressed. But they did hold a ranked Marquette team to 35 points. That is impressive. If they beat Michigan State on Jan. 7 then I’ll really be impressed.
No. 9 Connecticut (9-0) – The Huskies have three wins by one point and another win by just two. They could get to 16-0, but they won’t make it to 18-0. With games against No. 16 Memphis and No. 6 Louisville coming in a three day span, at least one loss is coming.
No. 10 Villanova (9-0) – Same story here as with Syracuse. If the Wildcats can beat Syracuse, they could go for a long run. There are no other ranked teams left on the schedule.
No. 12 Wichita State (9-0) – The Shockers have only been tested on a couple of occasions. There are no ranked teams on their schedule so they should finish the season with just a couple losses. And the first one will come at Alabama on Dec. 17.
No. 15 Oregon (8-0) – The Ducks have only played one close game and escaped with a win in overtime at Mississippi. They’ll be tested in two of the next three games when they play Illinios and BYU. My gut says they lose one of them.
No. 17 Iowa State (7-0) – The Cyclones are ranked in the top four in the nation in points, rebounds and assists. No wonder they haven’t lost. But they are about to. In-state rival Iowa (ranked in the top nine in the nation in points, rebounds and assists) comes to town on Friday and will give the Cyclones their first L of the season.
No. 22 Massachusetts (8-0) – The Minutemen have an impressive list of wins already. Boston College, LSU, New Mexico, Clemson and BYU gives them a pretty nice early season resume. I’ll be really impressed if they make it to 11-0 because that will require a win over Florida Sate on Dec. 21.
No. 29 Boise State (8-0) – Could Chris Peterson have left Boise State because he didn’t even have the highest ranked team at his own school? When was the last time the basketball team was ranked higher than the football team? The Broncos have the top scoring team in the country. Can they pull the upset at Kentucky tonight?
No. 35 St. Mary’s (7-0) – They don’t have any great wins yet, but St. Mary’s has a shot to pick one up against Boise State on Saturday.
Toledo (8-0) – The Rockets do not even have a vote to be in the top 25 right now. But they can shoot (6th in the country) and have put up at least 90 points five times already. A couple more wins should get some people’s attention. Then we’ll see what they can do when they visit No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 30.
March 12, 2013
College basketball’s player of the year race is starting to heat up. In this wide open season where we’ve seen top 5 teams go down almost every week, the Wooden Award Watch has also been sent into a frenzy. We’ve seen so many teams picked to finish in the middle or the bottom of their conference rise above expectations. This parity has put names on the Wooden Award Watch that nobody saw coming.
With that, here are my top 5 players (in order) that could take home player of the year honors:
Victor Oladipo- Indiana
His incredible quickness helps him do so many different things for the Hoosiers. Oladipo is one of the best I’ve seen at turning defense into offense. He averages 14.0 ppg, 2.1 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.3 steals and to top it off, he is shooting 63% from the floor. His play has been so consistent it’s hard to put anyone ahead of him at this point.
Otto Porter- Georgetown
The Hoyas swingman rises to the occasion in big games. Porter scored 33 points in a win at Syracuse, and scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half of a double-overtime win against Connecticut. Porter shoots 51% from the floor and averages 16.6 points. 2.5 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. The Hoyas have won 11 in a row, and Porter is averaging 19.2 ppg in the last 13 games. In other words, he single handedly took the Hoyas to the top of the Big East.
Rodney McGruder- Kansas St.
The Kansas State senior guard is averaging 14.9 ppg and 5.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 steals. This play by McGruder has helped the Wildcats win 5 in a row and take over 1st in the Big 12.
Deshaun Thomas- Ohio St.
In the toughest conference in the country, the junior forward has averaged 19.8 ppg, 1.3 assists, and 6.1 rebounds. This consistency, along with Thomas’ 84.5 free throw shooting has helped the Buckeyes win 4 of their last 5, putting them 2nd in the Big Ten.
Marcus Smart- Oklahoma St.
The freshman guard is averaging 14.6 ppg, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals. Smart does it all for the Cowboys, who have now won 10 of their past 11, with their only loss coming against Kansas in double overtime. They now sit just one game behind Kansas and Kansas St. in the Big 12.
I would be in shock if one of these 5 didn’t win player of the year. Even with the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, these are the top guys in the top conferences in the nation. I can’t wait to see how these guys perform down the stretch in the race for a national championship.
January 11, 2013
Just about halfway through the college basketball season, we are beginning to find out who’s for real and who’s a pretender. After Arizona’s loss Thursday night to Oregon, there are only two more teams left undefeated; Duke and Michigan. Now were going to party like it’s 1992. Yes it’s been a little over 20 years since Duke played Michigan for the national title, with the “Fab 5” as freshmen. For Duke, almost nothing has changed, Mike Krzyzewski is still the head coach, and Duke is number 1 in the country. However, in Ann Arbor, pretty much everything has changed. The only slight similarity is the youth movement that features a starting 5 with 2 freshmen and 1 sophomore. The Big Ten has officially dethroned the Big East as college basketball’s top conference, and the ACC is having a down year without Florida State and North Carolina in the top 25. That being said, the Blue Devils will have to beat themselves to lose the ACC.
With that I give you the marquee matchups this weekend in college hoops:
1. Duke (15-0) (2-0 ACC) at 20. North Carolina State (13-2) (2-0 ACC) Saturday 12 noon (ESPN)
The Blue Devils are without starting senior forward Ryan Kelly who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The Blue Devils don’t have the depth to replace a guy who averages 13.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG. The Wolfpack are balanced with 6 guys averaging double figures in scoring. Mark Gottfried’s club also ranks 1st in field goal percentage. Duke will have no answer for C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell on the interior. Prediction: Duke-69 NC State- 73
8. Minnesota (15-1) (3-0 Big Ten) at 5. Indiana (14-1) (2-0 Big Ten) Saturday 12 noon (BTN)
Since their lone loss to Duke on November 22nd, Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers have won 11 in a row including two big conference wins against Michigan State and Illinois. Indiana has won their last 5 since losing to Butler. The Gopher’s Andre Hollins may be the best point guard in the country. That in combination with Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams in the post is too much for the Hoosiers. The Gophers will do it by committee to pull the upset at Assembly Hall. Prediction: Minnesota-67 Indiana-63
2. Michigan (16-0) (3-0 Big Ten) at 15. Ohio State (12-3) (2-1 Big Ten) Sunday 1:30 (CBS)
There hasn’t been this much excitement in Ann Arbor since the “Fab 5”. The Wolverines have 4 guys averaging over 12 points per game. Their backcourt is the best in nation with Wooden Award candidate Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Big Blue’s frontcourt is also scary with two fabulous freshmen in Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. This balance will be too much for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are 12th in turnovers per game while the Wolverines are 2nd. The Buckeyes will struggle to find high percentage shots and Michigan’s depth will dominate from start to finish. Prediction: Michigan-66 Ohio State-58.
November 8, 2012
With the 2012-2013 college basketball season set to begin on Friday, this could be one of the most wide-open seasons in recent memory. I don’t believe there are one or two teams loaded with all the NBA talent as in past years with Kentucky. To me, you see the result of that parity evident near the top of all the preseason polls with teams like Indiana, Michigan, and North Carolina State, who is picked to beat North Carolina in the ACC. Let the madness begin.
With that I give you 10 teams that could win it all this season:
Cody Zeller might be the best player in the country. Put that on top of key returners Christian Watford, Will Sheehey, and Victor Oladipo and an experienced coach in Tom Crean and the Hoosiers have arrived.
Coach Rick Pitino has one of the best backcourts in the country with the trio of Peyton Siva, Wayne Blackshear and Russ Smith. The Louisville frontcourt is also extremely talented with Chane Behanen and Gorgui Dieng. With the additions of transfer Luke Hancock (George Mason) and 4-star recruit Montrezl Harrell, a national title might be “in the cards”.
With no returning starters, coach John Calipari has once again brought a fountain of youth with NBA talent. Top recruits Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin may not win a title, but a Final 4 is a strong possibility.
Ann Arbor please welcome “The Next 5”. Coach John Beilein returns 3 starters with one of the best point guards in the country in Trey Burke, junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and center Jordan Morgan. The final two that make up “The Next 5” are 5-star recruit Glenn Robinson III on the wing and 4-star recruit Mitch McGary at power forward. The bench for the Wolverines adds great depth with senior Matt Vogrich and redshirt sophomore Jon Horford. With this combination of experience and young talent all may HAIL to the maize and blue.
The Jayhawks lost their top 2 players in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Coach Bill Self returns 3 seniors that started a year ago starting with pre-season All-American Jeff Withey at center, who at 7 feet is his own “block party” in the post. Experienced guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford complete the trio of returning starters. The key will be the adjustment of freshman Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore. If that happens it will be “Rock Chalk” time in Lawrence.
North Carolina State
With the return of star forward C.J. Leslie, the Wolfpack now have 4 starters back from a season ago. The other 3 being guard Lorenzo Brown, and forwards Scott Wood and Richard Howell. If McDonald’s All-Americans’ Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren live up to the hype, this pack could go the distance for Coach Gottfried.
Although the Orange lost 4 of their 5 starters, the four replacements all gained great experience as role players last season. The lone returner, guard Brandon Triche has a lot of talent around him with backcourt partner Michael Carter-Williams, and forwards Rakeem Christmas, C.J. Fair and James Sutherland. Top recruits Jerami Grant and Dajuan Coleman must be ready to contribute for Coach Boeheim.
Billy Donovan’s Gators return 3 starters from last season’s Elite 8 team in point guard Kenny Boynton, center Patric Young and forward Eric Murphy. If role players Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Scottie Wilbekin can step into the spotlight and offer major contributions, they will “swamp” the competition come tournament time.
Losing a player like Draymond Green was always going to be a tall order. However, Tom Izzo still has a key core returning in point guard Keith Appling, forwards Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne and sophomore Branden Dawson who was on track to have a stellar year last season before his season-ending ACL injury. Top recruit Gary Harris will bring some key depth to a Spartans backcourt that is not as loaded as Izzo has had in past seasons.
San Diego State
I really like the Aztecs. Coach Steve Fisher returns 3 double-digit scorers from last season in Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and Xavier Thomas. Sophomore transfers James Johnson (Virginia), JJ O’Brien (Utah) and Dwayne Polee II (St. John’s) bring incredible depth and size to an already fast team. 4-star recruit Winston Shepard (Findlay Prep) will be in the running for freshman of the year. This “tribe” may rule come April.
March 23, 2012
Last night’s NCAA Tournament games went terribly wrong for both my picks and my bracket. I went 1-3 with my picks last night, so of course I have to try and regain some dignity with a better showing in this version. I went heavy on the Big Ten yesterday, and the pain they put me through leaves me wondering if I can trust Indiana. There are three double-digit seeds playing tonight which make things very interesting as well. Without further delay, here are my (most likely incorrect) picks for tonight.
Xavier vs. Baylor
Xavier pulled a small upset over Notre Dame to start the tournament, then took down Cinderella hopeful Lehigh in the second round. They now get their toughest test to date in Baylor, while ironically being the toughest test Baylor has faced in the NCAA Tournament as well. This game should be an absolute shootout, with both teams having scored 80 points on multiple occasions. One advantage Baylor will have is their blinding neon green uniforms they are wearing during the tournament. In all honesty though, I do think Baylor is the better team and should find a way to advance to the Elite Eight.
Ohio vs. North Carolina
Speaking of high scoring, there is only one team in the nation that has scored more PPG than North Carolina. That may take a hit this game though, with point guard Kendall Marshall expected to miss the game after having wrist surgery. Even more importantly, Ohio thrives on steals, and the Tar Heels will need to take extra care of the ball without Marshall in the game. Ohio isn’t nearly as explosive on offense, but they have proven deadly for teams like Michigan and South Florida, who have fallen on Ohio’s trip to the Sweet 16. Everyone likes to root for the underdog, but I can’t imagine Ohio making it past North Carolina. If North Carolina doesn’t come ready to play, which includes stopping D.J. Cooper, Marshall could have a lot longer to rest before their next game. While Ohio has shown that the MAC shouldn’t be taken lightly, I will take North Carolina to take care of business.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
This isn’t the final game of the night, but make no mistake about it, this game is the main event. These two historic basketball programs will give us a rematch of an amazing game earlier this season. Then unranked Indiana gave then #1 Kentucky their first (and only) loss of the regular season on a ridiculous buzzer beater, winning 73-72. Kentucky, now the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, would like nothing more than to avenge that loss when it matters most. I stuck with the Big Ten all day yesterday and said I think it was the toughest conference in the nation this year. The Wildcats will truly be tested by Indiana who, sticking with the trend in all of these games, can score at will. Kentucky will need Anthony Davis to take over this game and prove why he is the best player in college basketball. I think this game will come down to the wire, but Kentucky gets the nod from me and will play in the Elite Eight.
North Carolina State vs. Kansas
With the amount of times I have mentioned high scoring teams in this column, maybe defense doesn’t win championships. North Carolina State and Kansas both average scoring in the mid 70’s, and have the ability to explode to as high as 100 in Kansas’ case. With that being said, the Jayhawks struggled mightily against Purdue in the last round, coming dangerously close to a loss. Add to that a shocking loss to VCU last NCAA Tournament, and I don’t think they will come into this game assuming anything. Nor should they, as NC State has beaten San Diego State (predicted to be a potential Cinderella) and Georgetown on their way to the Sweet 16. Kansas is in a much higher class than the two aforementioned teams, however, and will look to run the court for quick baskets on the Wolfpack. I hate to have all three high seeds lose in my picks, but I just don’t think they will win tonight. I will take Kansas and if last night was any foreshadowing, we will have a high-seeded Elite Eight!