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Today’s Topic: 12/3/2013

College basketball seemed to hit a pinnacle of parody last season as we watched #1 after #1 go down week after week.  Louisville, Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, et al managed to climb to the top of the AP standings as we saw games and losses we never thought were possible.  This year, we started with one of the greatest nights in College Basketball as four of the top five played…each other.  Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke in early November was a night many will never forget.  Even though the games lacked a certain March drama, there was an aura of March all around.  The night featured some of the best players, especially the young talent on Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky.  The expectations and unfair standards of college freshmen takes the stage in Today’s Topic.

12.3.2013

College freshmen these day are about as “timid” as Gus Johnson on a Chris Johnson breakaway touchdown.  Many arrive feeling they own the campus and the students owe them something since they are bringing the “Andrew Wiggins” brand to Lawrence, Kansas…obviously I’m not singling Wiggins out on that statement, just an example…from Canada.  Players who are prepared to be pure NBA stars are tracked well before they ever step foot onto a college campus and expectations are meteoric.  Wiggins was hailed as “The Next LeBron” long before he even donned the Jayhawk jersey and the Wiggins-Parker rivalry was gracing the web the moment the players made their commitments.  “They’re playing in November?  Man, gonna be some rivalry between those two, huh?”  Freshmen have become stars before they even have the opportunity to become stars, household names before they even have a home.  The question, is it fair?

Over the summer of 2013, this name began to creep into my ear with an eerie consistency.  I seemed incapable of escaping it, but I had no idea who the bearer of the name was.  A Google search for “Andrew Wiggins” quelled my curiosity and dispelled my ignorance: a high school commit to Kansas University….”The Next LeBron”.  “The Next LeBron?  Don’t we still have a LeBron?  Do we really need a next LeBron?” I thought to myself.  I waited anxiously for this college basketball season to begin and Andrew Wiggins to take the college world by storm the same way LeBron did the professional level.  In mid-October I was riding around in The Shadow (my car) and heard the name “Andrew Wiggins” once more and began thinking about the comparisons already being made for the young man: “The Next LeBron”.  What if he wasn’t the next LeBron?  What if Andrew Wiggins was just another 6’8″ freak athlete with a silky shot who finds his isn’t quite as dominating at a different level of basketball?  Look at players like Tyler Hansborough and his scary ass face, Michael Beasley, or even this year’s #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett.  These were guys who dominated at the college level, but have found the NBA to be an entirely new animal which is not just a tier untouchable to them to be dominant, but even maintain a standing as a serviceable player.  Was Andrew Wiggins a surefire “Next LeBron”?  No one could make such a lofty claim, right?

It goes to show you how unfairly today’s media age treats young athletes.  Wiggins won’t be a success even if he reaches the NBA next season and averages solid numbers.  15, 5, and 5 is not the type of stat line anyone would find acceptable from “The Next LeBron”.  The kid isn’t supposed to be a perennial all-star but a perennial MVP.  The line is drawn in the sand for Wiggins, the benchmark set.  It lies with whatever LeBron has done throughout his career and ends with what LeBron will do throughout his career.  Is there such thing as a LeBron 2.0?  Many doubted the existence of a Jordan 2.0, but LeBron has come as close as anyone could’ve dreamed to fulfilling those expectations.  Will Wiggins?  I have no idea, you have no idea, but is it fair to expect him to?  Absolutely not, because Wiggins didn’t place the label of “The Next LeBron” on himself.  I have no sources reporting to me that Wiggins was waltzing around Canada, ringing a bell, and screaming, “I’m going to be as good as LeBron James….if not better!”  It reminds me of a quote from The Great Gatsby, “When he wed his unutterable vision to her perishable breath, he knew his mind would never again romp like the mind of God.”  That is to say, Andrew Wiggins has absolutely no hope of reaching the expectations people have place upon him.  Our mind’s have created this kitschy and phenomenal image of who Andrew Wiggins is as a basketball player; however, there is no way the reality of who Andrew Wiggins will be can meet those gaudy visions.  We’ve turned his pressure immeasurable, his situation impossible, and his failure inevitable.  We’ve turned Andrew Wiggins into something he isn’t: “The Next LeBron” before we even gave him a chance to be “The First Andrew Wiggins”.  It’s completely unfair to Wiggins and all other players who receive such unattainable comparisons and expectations.  Andrew Wiggins may end up being one of the best of all time, but that makes it no more proper or fair to put the weight of such a title on him before he has even had the opportunity to prove what type of player he is.  At this juncture, I’m excited to watch this season of college basketball where some of the greatest freshman talent of all time has arrived; to watch “The First Andrew Wiggins” play.

Calipari Criticizes own System

A lot can be said of what John Calipari has and will continue to accomplish as the head boss in the University of Kentucky’s basketball program.  He’s become a recruiting dictator, seemingly grabbing whatever he recruits he deems worthy, and the unparalleled talent the Wildcats rush into Lexington every year becomes more and more apparent as each season trudges onward.  Well, Winter is Coming, and the Wildcats, unsurprisingly, have the most talented laden team in college basketball.  Julius Randle is going to manhandle anyone daring enough to challenge him for post superiority, James Young might become the most hated sharpshooter in the country before season’s end, and the Harrison twins are 6’6″.  When the shortest player you usher onto a basketball court is 6’6″ you’re either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Kentucky Wildcats; however, for all his talent and ability Calipari chose to unleash a little verbal tirade recently which sent this writer into a tizzy and the rest of the nation into absolute apathy.

I’ll post the comment as a picture, because I have the ability.

The irony behind Coach Cal’s complaint is honestly hilarious since he’s the cause.  I understand his is probably just Calipari giving the media a little tidbit, hell maybe the guy was even trying to cover his future tracks in case the Wildcats lost to the Spartans…which they definitely did!  His point resonates, a team like Michigan State with talent and experience is likely to jump out to an early lead and do little things in a game which his inexperienced yet far superior talented freshman might not.  He’s not wrong with the content of his quote, it is irrational to expect a Kentucky team with four freshman starters to be tantamount to a highly experienced Michigan State team on November 12th (just a couple of games into the new season).  The content is fine, but Calipari has absolutely no right to be criticizing his team’s situation because he created it.  Everything boils down to Calipari and his system, his way of trying to win.  Remember?

He tore down the walls of college basketball, showed that his system works: you don’t have to have anything but talent to win the championship!  He proved you can simply through the most talented team out there night after night after night after night after night…..I go caught in a never ending loop….and stomp all competition into fine powder without any experienced players leading the way.  This is the best recruiting class in history, right?  Even more to the point, he actually returned two starters from last year.  Experience?  Calipari is rife with it compared to his UK teams of recent past.  Now, after his success…his championship, he has the gumption to turn around and mutter, “This isn’t fair” like a schoolkid whose recess was taken away because mocking the teacher finally caught up to him.  Our little simile created his persona, the class clown, running with it throughout his school days.  The crowd loved him and he was a winner, but eventually he was caught and punished…unfair?  Like our simile, Coach Cal has created his own system, his persona if you will.  Cal recruits the most talented and most NBA-ready players to Lexington, sends them out on the court for a year, and watches them evacuate to the NBA come summer.  So, while it isn’t fair to expect his teams to make the quantum leap to Michigan State level chemistry and ability in a few months of playing together, who is to blame?

Blame the schedule makers?  Blame Tom Izzo?  Erroneous!  John Calipari needs to shoulder the blame…why?  Because he chooses to recruit the same ilk of player.  Would you argue Calipari has the ability to recruit say an Adreian Payne type player to Lexington?  Payne lacked the skills to enter the draft for the bulk of his career, but has matured and grown under Tom Izzo to become one of the finest college basketball players in the country.  Will Payne be as good as others at the next level?  Absolutely not.  There are perhaps a dozen big men alone who are going to be drafted ahead of and have better NBA careers than Adreian Payne; however, you’d, loyal reader, be dead wrong to take more than a handful of players in the country over Payne at the college level.  This types of players are available…in fact, they are in abundance around the nation!  Not every team is full of freshman, right?  John Calipari can recruit whomever he wants to come to Kentucky, he’s proven it by bringing in some of the greatest recruiting classes in the history of college basketball.  So, who is to blame for Kentucky having their doors blown off for the first half against Michigan State?.  It would seem appropriate to blame the kid watching as the other toddlers play on recess.

College Basketball Conference Preview: Atlantic Coast Conference

Look, Atlantic 10, with all due respect, but with Xavier leaving I really couldn’t give half a shit about your conference.  I know you had 5 NCAA Tournament bids last season, but two of those teams fled to bigger and better things (Butler and Temple) and arguably your most consistent tourney team of the last decade also walked away for the brand new Big East (Xavier).   So, we march on past the behemoths of Saint Louis, VCU, and LaSalle (sersly?) and find ourselves in the midst of one of America’s favorite (and my least favorite) conferences.  Duke and North Carolina both play in this conference, and my reasons for disdain need go no further.  Still, the ACC proved itself incredibly overmatched last season by the (RIP) former Big East.  Duke was he only Elite Eight team and they (thankfully) lost by 22 to Louisville in Dick Vitale’s saddest moment since the epic and fantastic loss to Lehigh the year before.  Meanwhile, upstart Miami lost to Marquette who should’ve lost to Davidson (it really puts the ACC into better perspective, huh?).  This season, Duke appears ready to be once again favorited by the pollsters for some ungodly reason, North Carolina is ready to be a Top 15 team again, and Miami is going to be a helluva lot worse…in other news, the Big East actually supplies some value in basketball as we’ve watched Syracuse and Pitt get slaughtered in football.  The Orange are one of the premiere favorites and Pitt is always a grueling team to play.  Someday in the future, I won’t hate the ACC because it will barely be the ACC anymore.  This beginning of the end of my hatred starts this year, along with the Big East continuing to prove it was the better conference all along.

The Favorite: Syracuse

Duke is the favorite in many people’s minds; after all, they did get the next LeBron the fifth best recruit in the last recruiting class, Jabari Parker.  The Cuse, however, has proven the AP wrong time and time again while launching itself to the top of the far more grueling Big East.  Mike Shachefski not doubt has an answer for the 2-3 Zone, right?  I’m probably top five biggest zone haters, but Syracuse does it awfully well.  I don’t see Duke having the down-low game to beat the zone, but if there is one thing we know it’s that Shachefski’s team will be able to shoot the trey ball.  Boeheim, in all his senile and anti-Semite glory, has ushered in another long-armed and active recruiting class perfect to play in his zone scheme.  Syracuse is going to cause all sorts of confusion and C.J. Fair is going to be Boeheim’s archetypal leader he always manages to keep around for four years.

The Dark Horse: North Carolina State

Remember last season when the Wolfpack was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread?  Their preseason Top 5 ranking earned them a first round exit at the hands of Temple last season in what could only be described as the most disappointing team of the season (yes, even more so than Kentucky).  Now, the Wolfpack are raw and led be a lot of players who have barely seen a college basketball floor, but Kentucky has proven you don’t need to be playing juniors and seniors to win in this era of college basketball.  NC State has racked up back-to-back good (not great) recruiting classes and many of those players are still hanging around.  We all know about the intensity of coach Mark Gottfried’s red blazer, but that’s really just copy-facing Bruce Pearl from way back before he had sex with college aged girls (or whatever), and this blazer will lead the Wolfpack to the opportunity to the conference championship (maybe).

Player of the Year: Quinn Cook, Duke

Is Malcom Delaney still at Virginia Tech?  No?  Damn, I thought they’d definitely have given him a twelfth year of eligibility.  Cook is the most bearable of all Duke players, because he is fun to watch.  It’s like how Kyrie Irving is one of my favorite NBA players; although, it’s tough for me to even consider Kyrie a Dukie having only played like 10 career games.  It was eleven games.  Now I hate Duke even more and kind of you too a little bit, readers…no, I’d never hate you guys.  Where would I be without you?  I love you guys more than anyone in the world.  I’d do anything for you guys:).  Anyway, Quinn Cook is like a pocket-Kyrie.  A few inches shorter and a little less talented (at this point), Cook still led Duke in assists last season and shot nearly 40% from beyond the arc.  He is in a system which will lend him to be both a scorer and passer as Duke loves both 3 bombs and transition scores.  Watch out for Cook.

Coach of the Year: Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Last year’s coach of the year was a man who seemingly brought his team from nowhere to win the ACC (Jim Lari…I forget how to spell it.)  This year, expect one of the conference’s younger and more energetic coaches to have an opportunity to repeat Jimmy’s great run.  Dez Wells returns to be the Terps best and the ACC’s most underrated player.  Roddy Peters is a freshman guard who will supply the energy and drive we saw from Miami’s standout Shane Larkin last year.  Alex Len might be gone, but the front court is crowded with big boys with size and strength and experience…much like last year’s Miami squad.  DOn’t expect Maryland to win the conference, but to be near the top and earn Turgeon honors in their last year in the ACC.

Coach on the Hot Seat: None

Cop out?  You might think so, but I honestly cannot find a coach.  Va-Tech and Ga-Tech have brought in new guys in the last two years.  Jamie Dixon and Leo Hamilton would seem to have under-performed as of late, but Hamilton is slowly becoming a Florida State stalwart and Jamie Dixon deserves a few years in the ACC before he begins to feel any heat.

How They’ll Finish:

1) Syracuse

2) Duke

3) North Carolina

4) Maryland

5) North Carolina State

6) Pittsburgh

7) Notre Dame

8) Florida State

9) Miami

10) Virginia

11) Boston College

12) Georgia Tech

13) Clemson

14) Wake Forest

15) Virginia Tech

College Basketball Conference Preview: American Athletic

So here we have this fledgling conference which actually could be comprised of some pretty good teams…and by that I mean there are four teams with the chance to make some noise at some juncture during the season and beyond into the Great Hula.  Unlike blogging ledgend Mark Titus , we here are already used to talking about the American thanks to college football.  While no one is excited for the league’s bringing together of such match-ups as Temple-Central Florida or Houston-Rutgers, it is of note that two of the greatest rivalries from the early 2000’s will be revived…well for a year anyway.  Memphis, Louisville, and Cincinnati probably have Bronson Arroyo chanting “Together Again” like it’s Conference USA 2004.  If only Marquette, DePaul, and Saint Louis back; it’d be just like the good ‘ol days of Bobby Huggins (right, UC fans?).  The American will likely never jump onto the radar as a real conference, especially when Louisville departs and Cincy and UConn are left stranded in mid-major land, but for a year they might just have what it takes to fool people into thinking it has a future…and what it has is Louisville.

The Favorite: Louisville Cardinals

It should be no surprise to find the Cardinals leading the charge of the Americans.  The de facto Patton of this infant league is the virtual Obi Wan Kenobi to the other school’s Princess Leia.  While my Star Wars comparison draw less interest than my normal writing, we should probably actually start talking about what makes Louisville the favorites.  First, they return Russ Smith.  The leading scorer from the…well…sniffle…defunct Big East last year, Smith is a one-trick pony in the sense that he’s unpredictable.  If you’re confused, don’t fret because I’m not 100% sure even I know what I just said, but that backs up the unpredictability of Russell.  Smith can roll out a 30-point performance on any given night; however, my favorite part of this young man is he seems entirely incapable of performing at a high level when a shot is needed to win the game.  Louisville’s erratic performance against Notre Dame last season was Russ Smith’s coming-out-party for complete incompetence during the late game and nothing made me laugh more and be more entertained than said incompetence.   Aside from Smith, Luke Hancock and his infamous jumper “Lotion” (See Titus’s article for clarification on why I’m trying to spread this nickname for good ‘ol Club Tril) return to the Bluegrass state for another round of America’s favorite college basketball trivia game “Will he shot fake”.  Hancock rolled out a 5-5 performance in the National Championship Game last year, but that should come as little surprise because he was clearly the most bearded white man on the floor; meaning he’s clearly the most dangerous outside player.  After Smith and Hancock, the biggest returner is Chane Behanan’s shoulders followed by Chane Behanan.  Chane Behanan’s shoulders shot a cool 100% from the paint last season and if they can overcome the infliction which is the rest of Chane Behanan’s body then expect this to be their breakout season.  The Cardinals have so much depth I really don’t want to go on.  Other players include Montrezl “The “L” at the end of my name is for name symmetry” Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, Chris Jones, and Louisville’s honorary African who is apparently from Australia for the season Mangok Mathiang.

Dark Horse: Cincinnati

I feel UConn and Memphis are too good to be considered “Dark Horses” and with no other team even having a relative shot at winning the conference, we’re left with the Bearcats.  As a Cincinnati native, I looked upon the 22-12 finish last season as a disappointment, as I’m sure many other Bearcats fans did as well.  Well, as much as I’d like to blame Mick Cronin’s height and face, the blame clearly went on guards Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright playing out of their element; that is to say, shooting way too many 3’s.  S.K. is back for another go around of shooting way too much, and the departure of Wright makes this almost a certainty.  Sean might be the Bearcats most threatening scorer, but (and don’t crucify me when I say this Cincy fans) he is far from their best player.  Titus Rubles (or as I like to call him, Titus Rublé), Shaq Thomas, and true freshman Jermaine Lawrence will all be better players this year than Sean UNLESS!!! he begins taking the ball to the basket more rather than settling for his horrid .307% 3pt shooting.  Aside from the awful shot selection, everything about S.K.’s game screams slashing NBA 2-guard.  He is great off the bounce and a phenomenal rebounder for a guard.  Thomas and Lawrence down low (along with the skinniest, darkest man on the planet David Nyarsuk) give UC talented players in the post and mid-range.  It will be interesting to watch Rublé’s development this season.  He is without a doubt UC’s best NBA prospect coming into this season, but showed an inability to do anything productive on the offensive side.  Cincy has a lot of pieces and less than a 25-6 season will scream disappointment with a non-conference featuring NC State, Xavier, and shit.

Player of the Year: Shabazz Napier, UConn

Many see Russ Smith as the conference’s best player.  This may be true, but Russell is far from the most important player on his team.  That honor belongs to a player we often refer to around the office (a.k.a. my college house) as “Sh’Bazz’ Sh’bazz…Sh’Bazz Sh’bazz” (like he’s a Pokemon, get it?).  Shabazz has improved each year.  The only reason he didn’t enter the C.P.O.Y. (conference player of the year…really, readers?) conversation last year was UConn’s utter irrelevance due to sanctions for academic failures for…well, academic failures.  UConn will be front and center in the ‘Merican, known as “The Team With The Best Shot to Usurp Louisville” (known now forever as T.W.B.S.U.L.).  Shabazz should see a nice increase in points and assists as he continues to grow as a point guard.

Coach of the Year: Kevin Ollie, UConn

The Huskies sweep C.C.O.Y. and C.P.O.Y. in 2013-2014.  I just really hope it all works out for Ollie and his staff this season.  I hate how violations always end up hurting people who weren’t even involved and Ollie became an archetypal example of this last season with the departure of Jim Calhoun who coached the players who failed academically.  This year’s UConn team should play with a lot of fire; after all, these players have something to prove after last season’s sanctioned season.

Coach on the Hot Seat: Mick Cronin

It should be Cronin.  Many Bearcat fans will argue Cronin has done a fairly good job bringing UC back from obscurity considering how short and ugly he is.  I’ll agree Cronin has brought Cincy back after it was left in a heap of trash following Bob Huggins banishment by the anti-Christ Nancy Zimpher (I don’t even know if that’s her real name, but being an agent of Satan, I care not).  Cronin, however, needs to have UC be a threat to do more than just make the NCAA Tournament.  Sure, the Big East is a tough conference, but you know what isn’t?  The American.  Like I said, anything worse than 25-6 in the regular season is tantamount to a the Titanic’s sinking for the Bearcat’s team.  Cronin’s team is talented enough to beat any team not coached by mafia boss Rick Pitino.  I don’t think Cronin gets fired for a bad season this year, but when Louisville leaves and UC is left with only UConn and Memphis to beat, he might be if he doesn’t win a few Conference Titles.

How They’ll Finish:

1) Louisville

2) Cincinnati

3) Connecticut

4) Memphis

5) Temple

6) Everyone else ties as being really really bad.

NCAA Tournament Preview: West Region

Gonzaga is the #1?  Ohio State is the #2?  New Mexico is the #3?  Kansas State is the #4?  Sounds pretty wide open to me.

The Favorite: #2 Ohio State

The Buckeyes have been playing obscenely good since their loss to Wisconsin in Madison.  Perhaps Thad Matta’s team needed a kick to the crotch to get going…or maybe someone told Aaron Craft he’s 100x better if he doesn’t take his fifth grader mimicked shot and drives the ball…or maybe both.

The Dark Horse: #6 Arizona

I feel like people have began to disrespect the Wildcats because they haven’t been playing very well of late, but remember this is a team which is 12-6 against the RPI top 100.  That mark may not be as good as Gonzaga (11-2) and New Mexico (19-5), but it is better than Ohio State (10-7), Kansas State (8-7), and Wisconsin (11-10).

The Cinderella: #11 Belmont

Speaking of beating decent teams, the Belmont Bruins are 6-2 against the RPI top 100.  They haven’t had nearly as many chances as the upper tier teams in this region, but have had far more resounding success; however, be weary for the Bruins are 1-2 against the Top 50 in the RPI.

The Path:

All the higher seeds get out of the first round except Wisconsin thanks to a weak #13 seed play-in.  Gonzaga manages to get by a pesky Pitt team, but is unable to take down Kansas State which overpowers Ole Miss who beats Wisconsin whose awful offense continues to keep the Badgers from being a good team.  The Wildcats face Ohio State in the Elite Eight after the Buckeyes find a way to get by New Mexico.  The Buckeyes will beat Iowa State after the Cyclones take care of an overvalued Notre Dame team.  New Mexico has to fight past Belmont who beats Arizona in the first round because the Wildcats (of Arizona) overlook the Bruins.

In Other Words: Not many surprises in this region despite it being wide open because it has weaker lower seeds than the other regions.  Ohio State’s defense is the difference and the Buckeyes make it to Atlanta.

NCAA Tournament Preview: Midwest Region

It’s the best time of the year for the avid college basketball fan (of which I am).  While the greatness which is Championship Week has come and gone, presented surprises and disappointments, and revealed what the committee deems the appropriate bracket.  Having absolutely no basis for thinking I know more than the average bear about college basketball, I’m going to tell you how I feel about the NCAA tournament regions…starting with the vaunted Midwest.

The Favorite: #1 Louisville

The Cardinals are the hottest team in America.  A long winning streak through the grind known as the Big East led the Cards to the Big East Tournament Title (a great building block for a Tourney run).  Louisville should bound to the Elite Eight.  The next best team in the upper half may be #12 Oregon.

The Dark Horse: #11 Middle Tennessee

Usually an #11 would reserve a spot as my “Cinderella” at best for the region, but the Blue Raiders were a mainstay in the RT25 for the end of the season…meaning they are awesome!  Michigan State is pretty good, but the Blue Raiders are ready to go, trust me.

The Cinderella: #14 Valparaiso

I had to pick a team lower than a #11 right?  Valpo won the same conference Butler has dominated recently.  I don’t think Valpo has any chance, but that’s what makes them a Cinderella, right?

 The Path: #1 Louisville beats play-in winner NC A&T before beating #9 Colorado State who beats Mizzou thanks to Frank Haith being as useful on the sideline as a sack of potatoes…not to insult the coaching ability of a sack of potatoes.  The Cards will play #5 Oklahoma State after the Cowboys beat #12 Oregon (the most undervalued team ever?) and #4 Boogie.  The Cards manage to sneak past the very talented Cowboys team.  In the bottom half, Duke loses in the second round to #7 Creighton (who beats #10 Cincinnati) as Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry don’t make shots.  The Bluebirds lose to Sparty who takes down #11 Middle Tennessee State  (MY BOYS!!!) and #14 Valpo.  Sparty beats Louisville in the Elite Eight because Peyton Siva and Russ Smith falter down the stretch in a close, physical game.

In Other Words: Michigan State is my pick to come out of the region.

College Basketball Weekly

It really is becoming harder to do this every week and retain all my confidence as the teams I believe to be the best continuously lose and disappoint me until all hell has broken loose.  In the end, I have to continue for you, the people.

The “Real” Top 25

Au revoir and good day to Wisconsin, Syracuse, UNLV and North Carolina

#25 Virginia Commonwealth: VCU lost at Temple on Saturday, but the Rams I was having trouble finding another team I wanted to put ahead of VCU.  None came to mind, so VCU gets to keep its spot for this week.  The Rams are my favorite to win the A-10 Tournament.  Playing well in a tournament is always a good sign for a team entering March Madness.

#24 Davidson: the Wildcats won the Southern conference and their 17th game in a row on Monday.  Drexel and Georgia Southern are two bad losses, but every team has bad losses.  The Wildcats are playing hot right now and will be a dangerous 10 or 11 seed when they are placed there on Sunday.

#23 University of California Las Angeles: UCLA lost to Washington State for some reason last week.  Despite having identically bad losses as Syracuse and an identical 23-8 record, I decided to keep the Bruins in the RT25.  I’m not 100% sure why, but oh well.  UCLA is the most talented team in the Pac-12 and has a good opportunity to win.  It’d be a shame if either UCLA or Arizona didn’t win, but we’ll see what happens.

#22 Creighton: Beating Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Championship game a big time win for the Bluebirds.  The shockers and Creighton are the only two good teams in the MVC, so I’m extremely pumped the game was between the two.  Ignore a three game stretch where I don’t know what the hell Creighton was doing and they’ve looked a strong tournament team all season.

#21 St. Louis: Another mid-major which lost this week but managed to keep in the RT25.  Boogie is the #1 seed in the A-10 and should be expected to win; however, Butler (who sucks) and the top region is far tougher than the bottom of the A-10 bracket.  For now, I’m taking Virginia Commonwealth in the tournament, but Boogie will be dangerous come the Big Dance.

#20 Pittsburgh: The Panthers are new to the RT25 this week.  We’ve seen them before, but they have missed out the last couple of weeks.  A four game winning streak in the Big East has the Panthers back alive in the RT25 and (even though it has been against the the Big East bottom feeders) the Panthers earned the vaunted double-bye in the Big East tourney.  Do I expect they’ll win?  No, I don’t they’re good enough, but anything can happen in March.

#19 Belmont: the Bruins also won their conference and punched a ticket for March Madness.  Belmont is likely to fall in as a 10 or 11 just as Davidson is, and could easily win 1 or 2 games in the tournament.  A realistic option to be this year’s George Mason.

#18 Middle Tennessee: Sure, they lost to Florida International in the semifinals of the Sun Belt.  The most disappointing  part of it all is the Blue Raiders likely won’t make the field as an at-large.  I wish I didn’t have to say that, but facts are facts and Sun Belt teams (even ones with as good a resume as Middle Tennessee) don’t make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

#17 Memphis: There will be a lot of activity ahead of the Tigers this week, but not enough to really cause them to jump forward too far. Sure, Memphis is the only undefeated team left in conference in the entire country, but I just didn’t feel they needed to move up this week.  Maybe when they win the C-USA tournament I’ll move ’em up a little.  We’ll see.

#16 Arizona: One game, one-win.  Almost as good as Maurice Clarett’s one-year, one-championship.  I don’t think they’ll win the Pac-12 tourney (I’m going with UCLA), but the Wildcats are certainly the favorite.

#15 Kansas State: The Wildcats lost to Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday.  I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the contest which was extremely disappointing, but via ScoreCenter viewing I thought KSU had control most of the second half before Okie State came back to take over.  Either way, Kansas State earned a share of the Big-12 regular-season title with rival Kansas.  I’d give the Wildcats a very slim chance of winning the Big-12 Tournament (Kansas is  the runaway favorite).

#14 Marquette: Two soft wins against two soft teams was not the week Marquette was looking to have, but in all honesty I think it was the Golden Eagles taking it a little easy.  They needed a week off after the grueling Big East schedule.  Another double-bye team, not to mention a co-Big East regular season champion, the Eagles are an interesting team.  They don’t seem to have the talent of other teams, but always manage to win.  Call it guts.  Call it whatever.

#13 Florida: Why?  Why did you lose to Kentucky?  Now Kentucky is going to make the tournament unless we can get enough bracket busters…why, Florida?  Why?

#12 Michigan State: I knew Tom Izzo wouldn’t let me down and his team would crush Wisconsin for me and knock them out of the RT25.  Thanks Tom Izzo.  Also, don’t forget Sparty is getting knocked out of the Big Ten tourney after its first game loss.

#11 Oklahoma State: A great win against Kansas State on Saturday.  I don’t want to belabor a point which some people may find wrong since the win was at home, but K-State was without a doubt giving Okie State its best punch with an opportunity for the Big-12 title on the line.  Okie State finished its business and earned a #4 seed in the tourney.

#10 Michigan: The loss against Indiana was far more impressive than the win against Purdue.  Michigan plays its arch-rival for the season in the first round of the Big Ten tourney in Penn State.  I think they’ll win this time, but the Nittany Lions sure do seem to have the Wolvs number.

#9 Indiana: I’m just mad the Hoosiers celebrated pre-maturely on winning the Big Ten title.  I know they wanted to do it at home, but I feel like Tom Crean is making a bigger deal about this season than he should be.  He needs to act a little more like a winner and a little less like a giddy fan.  I thought Indiana was the experienced, mature team which was going to win a championship this year, but the coach is not mature enough to be champion.

#8 New Mexico: The Lobos lost this week at Air Force and the AP decided to drop them down to #15 despite having a better record than nearly everyone ahead of them and better losses.  They’ll win the Mountain West, don’t worry.

#7 Ohio State: I knew the weekend off would inspire great effort in Assembly Hall!  Wahoo!  The Bucks beat two very good teams this week and I’m proud of them!  Sure, I’m probably overrating them a little, but if they play the same defense the rest of the year that we saw in Indiana then they are a legitimate National Champion contender.

#6 Miami Florida: The Canes are hanging around in the RT25.  A terrible, terrible, terrible loss to Georgia Tech kind of spoiled my week, but the Canes keeping the regular season over Duke made up for it.

#5 Louisville: The Cardinals are officially back.  I remember writing a few weeks how L’Ville needed to calm down and realize the talent they had or else they were going to go the way of North Carolina State.  Louisville is shining brightly at the right time.  Rick Pitino will give his boys a chance to win in the Tournament and the Cardinals always play well in the Big East tourney so their hot streak should continue.

#4 Kansas: The Jaybirds lost to Baylor, but managed a share of the Big-12 crown (it was technically an outright crown in everyone’s mind since they beat KSU twice, but that’s whatever).  Kansas is the clear favorite to win the Big-12 tourney.  Bill Self’s teams have a tendency to fold in the Big Dance.  Remember that.

#3 Georgetown: The Hoyas slaughtered Syracuse at home.  I was a little disappointed with my much hyped game, but equally impressed with the Hoyas.  This could be their year.  It’s the first time I think Georgetown has had the dominate player during the JT3 era.  Otto Porter is the nation’s best (and most important) player and can easily lead the Hoyas deep.

#2 Duke: Dammit, I hate Duke, but I have a lot of respect for the way they played against North Carolina in the Dean Dome…well at least in the first half.  To be fair, Duke put on cruise control as soon as the scoreline read 14-0.  Duke can be good, really good, but they have had their players playing their best games.  If there is one game where their shooting isn’t unbelievable I don’t believe Duke’s defense is good enough to win.  Duke can win the National Title, but they could also lose in the first round…yes, to a 16 seed.

#1 Gonzaga: I have no belief the Zags are the nation’s best team, but I don’t know who is.  For now, the Zags can chill here (especially with three victories over Saint Mary’s.)

Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown: He’s to good.  Even only scoring 10 points against Syracuse, Porter’s influence in the game was unmistakable.  Georgetown has had good players over the years (Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, etc.), but none have been as dominant/influential to the outcome of games as Porter.

Coach of the Year John Thompson III Georgetown: The Hoyas are the most surprising Top 10 team right now.  That’s honestly my only reasoning here.

Most Underrated Team: By me? I think Arizona.  The Wildcats can be really good.  By the AP?  Middle Tennessee forever.

Most Overrated Team: I called Georgetown losing last week, just realized that.  Anyway, by me? I’m just going to say Gonzaga because I don’t want them #1.  I’ll say the same for the AP.

National Champion at This Juncture: I have no idea……..ummmm……..Louisville is going to win.

Bold Prediction: Illinois is going to win the Big Ten tournament (AHHHHHH!!) now that’s bold.

Georgetown-Syracuse: A Post of Feelings

I think one thing should be made clear, if the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry comes to an end after this season than college basketball has its priorities out of sync.  The Hoyas and Orange will likely continue the rivalry as non-conference foes when the  2013-2014 season rolls around; however, there is something lost in the translation from the epics of perhaps the two most storied Big East members.  Syracuse and Georgetown were conference mates long before the “Catholic 7” or the current Big East was a twinkle in the eyes of college basketball connoisseurs across the great nation.  Long before the 16-team powerhouse (representing the best college basketball conference in history) formed, Big John Thompson and Jim Boeheim were plotting against each other.  This Saturday, Big John’s son JT3 will battle Boeheim it what is rumored to be the Syracuse legends final season (I have many doubts).  It seems almost fitting as Syracuse’s time in the Big East culminates so should the career of the program’s greatest coach.  The emotions tearing through the Verizon Center are sure to be as impeccable as the one’s rippling Chapel Hill later Saturday night.  While Duke-North Carolina may overshadow G-Town and ‘Cuse in the national media (especially in the mind of the always obnoxious Dick Vitale); the Big East’s finale is certainly the game of the week.  I implore you to watch the contest.  The great basketball played by two of the nation’s more talented teams is only the side dish for this entree.  The centerpiece will be the emotions housed in the building and the energy issued from the players.  Enjoy Duke-North Carolina.  It is going to be quite the contest, but if you ignore Syracuse playing at Georgetown at noon then you will miss a showcase of what makes college basketball great.

College Basketball Weekly

Just for starters, we’ll mention that this week the every team in the Top 5 aside from Gonzaga lost…let’s go.

The “Real” Top 25

We say good-bye this week to St. Mary’s, Illinois, and Notre Dame.  You will be sorta missed.

#25 Wisconsin: Losing by 13 at home against Purdue on senior day should be enough to get you kicked out of the RT25, but Wisconsin has beaten some good teams this year and has earned one more week before being demolished by a Michigan State team which will be fuming after a 2-point loss to rival Michigan in Ann Arbor.

#24 Virginia Commonwealth:  I have to put the Rams back in the “Real” Top 25 because they are my saviors who finally have removed the dreaded Butler Bulldogs from the AP Poll.  Without VCU’s obliteration of Brad Stevens utterly overrated squad, Butler may have managed to sneak back in this week and that would have been unacceptable.  VCU is a good team.  Are they a great team?  No.  Can they win the NCAA Tournament?  Honestly I think anyone who does enough to reach the field of 68 has a decent chance.  VCU certainly has a better shot than many.

#23 North Carolina: I remember teasing everyone by having the Tar Heels in the RT25 two weeks ago, but they have stormed back.  If you haven’t seen the new age UNC team, you should check them out.  Roy Williams is definitely an overrated coach who has been able to rest on talent for the bulk of his years at North Carolina; however, his decision to revamp the lineup sparked a slugfest in Cameron Indoor followed by five straight wins by 9 or more.  Duke in Chapel Hill looms on March 9th.  Winning out (including the ACC Tournament) would earn UNC A 3-seed in the Dance.

#22 University of Nevada at Las Vegas: The Runnin’ Rebels managed another undefeated week.  Everyone figured on UNLV having boatloads of talent.  It was always a question of if the talent could mesh into a winning ball team.  Well, UNLV seems to have figured it out and will be a dangerous 6-9 seed in the Big Dance.  If I’m a #1, I don’t want to even sniff UNLV as an 8 or 9 in my region.

#21 Syracuse: I’ve regretted many things in my day, but picking Syracuse as my National Champion in my second College Basketball Weekly is up there with the time I took a $5 bet to streak through a neighborhood and the day when I left my essay in the printer tray.  The Orange are falling at a rate rarely seen in college basketball…Remember, there are no easy wins in the Big East…except DePaul.

#20 Arizona: Two loss weeks are never beneficent for a college basketball team in any arena, whether it be team morale or the RT25.  Arizona looks miserable, but is saved only by many other teams looking miserable.  The whole “Mark Lyons: scoring point guard” idea has fallen flat on its face.  Sean Miller has always been a guy who has relied on his point guards being leaders on the floor, but for reasons unknown to this writer has decided to give the reigns to a guy whose most memorable moment is saying he wanted to put University of Cincinnati players in a body bag.

#19 University of California Los Angeles: UCLA pounded Arizona, looking like the “Real” Pac-12 champions.  Oregon (who still manages to avoid making the list -_-) may contest this idea, after all, they beat UCLA in Wooden’s house by nine points.  The facts are the facts and Oregon does not have the horses UCLA does.  If the Bruins played to their potential, the ballclub is a solid top 10 team with realistic hopes for an NCAA Championship.  We’ve seen what happens when they don’t play their best basketball (They lose to Cal Poly).

#18 Memphis: Look, I included the loss to only a decent Xavier team in the last RT25, so the Tigers get the edge over UCLA, and losers Syracuse and Arizona this week thanks to an undefeated conference record.  Even in C-USA road wins are not gimmes.  A mediocre (which is in no way an insult) UTEP team can prove it come Tuesday.

#17 Ohio State: The Bucks had the weekend off.  Maybe this will inspire great effort in Assembly Hall on Tuesday.

#16 Michigan State: The Spartans looked foolish for the beginning of the second half against Michigan.  Of the 40 minutes, the Spartans looked the better team for perhaps 30 of them.  Trey Burke made the “Wooden-Award” play by striping Keith Appling to his Hanes’ in a tie game where it looked Michigan State was about to have the last shot.  The Big Ten is hardly easy, but Wisconsin hasn’t looked too great of late and Northwestern closes out MSU’s year.  Sparty should go 2-0 before the next “Real” Top 25, but should hasn’t necessarily existed this season.

#15 St. Louis: Boogie reeled off another undefeated week.  The Bilikens (I’m still petrified of the damn mascot) seems to be as in-sync as any team in the country.  The only fear I have for teams like this are they have hit their stride at the wrong time.  If St. Louis had waited two weeks to begin it’s streak, it would be tourney time.  I have to thank St. Louis for twice beating Butler.  Your efforts to rid the AP of that plague has not gone unnoticed.  I caveat, do not sleep on Xavier in the Cintas Center.

#14 Florida: You may say “Florida has just as many bad losses as Arizona, Michigan State, and Syracuse!”  Well, avid participant, at least the Gators are still first in their conference standings.  Florida may have lost to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri, but it has beaten the teams it has needed to (Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Alabama) to remain ahead in the SEC.

#13 Middle Tennessee: I apologize to Blue Raider nation, I added “State” at the end of the name last week and probably caused mass hysteria around the world as people panicked at Middle Tennessee State being in the RT25.  Middle Tennessee likely won’t receive more than 5 votes in the AP, but the system is clearly flawed more than mine, right?

#12 Oklahoma State: The win at home against Texas seemed gutsy to me.  The Cowboys did not come out with much swagger and looked flat.  The team bounced back and easily beat the Longhorns in a game which I feel showed Okla State’s backbone.  Team’s with a nice backbone do well in March, but so do teams with talent.  Any other year, I’d say Okla State didn’t have the horses to push through to a National Title, but no team seems to have any better of horses.

#11 Marquette: You wanna talk about a gutsy win?  I think Buzz Williams’s team had one of the more gutsy wins this season against Notre Dame.  Having come off the emotional high of beating Syracuse, one might assume the Golden Eagles were prime for what we’ve seen so often: a team being knocked off that high.  No let down ensued, however, and Marquette managed to finagle a two-win, undefeated week when two ranked teams (both in the AP and RT25 last week) were on the schedule.  Two road games lurk (although against Rutgers and St. John’s) but we’ll remind you again there are no easy wins in the Big East except DePaul.

#10 Kansas State:  Baylor certainly is a team with talent and I feared for Kansas State a little when they visited Waco last week.  KSU managed to steal a victory with a buzzer beating three by Rodney McGruder.  Sure, we saw cooler buzzer beaters over the weekend, but McGruder put an exclamation point on a big win.  KSU needs to avoid an unfathomable let-down in Manhattan against TCU, setting up an Adam Bross favorite March 9th in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.

#9 Michigan: I was not overly impressed with the victory against Michigan State.  I think the Wolverines were outplayed for the bulk of the game.  Not to mention the incredulous loss at Penn State.  I’m not sure if it was as bad as Kansas losing at TCU, but it really clashes with reality and makes this writer begin to question his sanity when that brand of ridiculous upset rears its ugly face twice in one season.  One might think after (hopefully) Michigan smashes Purdue into tiny pieces confidence would be peaking when Indiana rolls into Ann Arbor, but if Michigan plays as it has since its first loss to Indiana then I’m scared what IU might do to Michigan.

#8 Louisville: The Cardinals are showing people why they were thought of as one of the nation’s best team’s in September.  The negative side is it improves the win Duke had over the Cards earlier this year, but the victories over Kentucky and Ohio State still manage to look unsubstantial so we won’t fret the Cardinals great play too much.  Russ Smith and Peyton Siva continue to be liabilities more than assets at times.  Siva had zero points against Syracuse.  Louisville has proven they are one of the best around even with Siva being terrible and Russ Smith’s tendency to confuse even college basketball’s biggest imbecile.  Cincinnati is going to give Louisville its best shot on Monday.  We’ll see if the Cards are ready to punch back.

#7 New Mexico: For all the losing the top 5 did this week, you think New Mexico would have jumped at least one spot.  Unfortunately for the Lobos, they won two games at home in the Mountain West (even though one was against my Aztecs).  Two road wins can help…if a higher ranked team loses, of course.

#6 Duke: Reader, you’re probably scratching you cranium wondering “Did he forget Miami Florida?”  As you may have portended by this naysayer comment I have craftily slid into this piece, no I have not forgotten about the Hurricanes.  In the brutal honesty which the opinion of a sports writer merits, the Hurricanes won the game in Cameron.  It took the finest game of Ryan Kelly’s college career, home court advantage, and a missed three by millimeters at the buzzer for Duke to sink Miami.  If Kelly plays extremely well, Duke probably still loses with game.  If you’re Duke, I expect you to win at Cameron and it shouldn’t take a miraculous and once-in-a-lifetime performance by the ugliest player this year in college basketball to get it done.

#5 Miami Florida: I know the AP will have my head for this, but what I see right now is Miami leading the ACC (clinching if they win one of the last two home games they have against Georgia Tech and Clemson) and a performance which demands a recount in Durham.  I was expecting Duke to play with urgency and demolish the team which embarrassed, taunted, and slammed the Blue Devils a few weeks back.  Duke did not look like the better team on Saturday.  That’s all I have to say about that.

#4 Gonzaga: It’s not a head-scratcher, seriously.  I feel sorry for Gonzaga because they don’t have the opportunities to impress me the way other teams do.  The Zags are doing what they have to do: winning games.  I feel giving them a #1 seed in the tournament is reward enough, but perhaps the #1 spot in a poll wouldn’t hurt since the school has never ascended to the post.  We’ll see what happens this week.

#3 Kansas: Aside from a three-game hiccup in February’s first week, the Jaybirds have looked the part of a #1 overall seed.  Crushing the terrible teams and beating good teams is all a trademark of the #1 overall seed.  Kansas obliterated Kansas a while back and survived two tough road tests against Oklahoma State and Iowa State.  I hope Kansas is ready for the Big Dance.  Lackadaisical play isn’t exactly absent from Kansas’s tournament history.

#2 Georgetown: Call it refusal to lose, but the Hoyas are just running the Big East of late.  I cannot believe this team lost to South Florida, but Georgetown has done more than enough to refurbish its resume since that mockery.  Aside from Indiana, it may have the toughest two games to end the season with a road game at Villanova and Syracuse visiting D.C.  If the past is any indicator, Georgetown will win both games by about seven.

#1 Indiana: I’m still not talking about the loss against Minnesota.  The Hooisers have as few losses as any other top tier team (aside from Gonzaga, of course) and I’m not going to remove them simply because they lost a road game against a likely tournament team.  Stick Minnesota and IU on a neutral floor and say au revoir to the Gophers.  Indiana can prove the #1 ranking by beating both Ohio State and Michigan this week in the toughest two game end to the season any team in D-1 knows.

Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr, Georgetown: He is the Hoyas.  Otto Porter won the game at Syracuse and won the game against Connecticut.  He put up 28 and 8 against a bad Rutgers team.  I’m not sure what his encore will be for his unbelievable performance against Syracuse come Saturday, but it may be interesting.

Coach of the Year Kermit David, Middle Tennessee

Most Underrated Team: By me?  Sure, Oregon…but maybe Duke as well.  By the AP?  Middle Tennessee for days, bro!

Most Overrated Team: By me?  If history is any indication, Georgetown will lose at least once this week and no longer be #2, so they may be the most overrated.  By the AP?  Butler should be gone, so I’ll say Michigan gets overrated this week.

National Champion at This Juncture: Gonzaga!!! (but in all reality, I still think Indiana has the best chance).

Bold Prediction: Duke loses by double figures in Chapel Hill.

College Basketball Weekly

Well, I didn’t even beat Mark Titus to the punch this week, but I can only do my best.  Luckily, the “Real” Top 25 gets some added hindsight the ridiculous AP Poll doesn’t have the luxury of (like when it ranked Syracuse 12th).  Let’s do it, boys and girls.

The “Real” Top 25

#25 St. Mary’s: I realize I’m far too friendly toward Mid-Major teams, but I couldn’t help but give St. Mary’s a nudge after they crushed Creighton (who one ESPN analyst called “possibly the greatest mid-major team ever”).  The Gaels have only lost to Gonzaga in the WCC (which obviously is terrible, but there is nothing a team can do but beat the teams it has to play).  You can expect the Gaels to see the Zags once more in the WCC Championship with ideas of avenging the two losses this year…while possibly garnering a seed as high as 6 in the Big Dance.

#24 UNLV: I said we’d find out a lot about Colorado State this week and boy did we.  The Rams lost both of their big games and have fallen out of the “Real” Top 25 due to its shameful performance.  The Running Rebels want to be a good team, I can just see it in their eyes.  The problem arises when they step onto the hardwood from time-to-time.  There are four pretty good teams in the Mountain West (RISE!) and UNLV is an impressive 4-2 against the other three.  If the Rebs played to their full potential every night, they’d be one scary-ass team to see come March.  They are one of those teams bracketsters hate because they just go crazy in a game as a 7 and beat a 2 and you rip your hair out…or maybe a #15, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

#23 Illinois:  Did they sneak up on you?  The Illini have definitely snuck up on me.  Just a few weeks ago they were dead in the water and looked to be headed toward the NIT…sorry, CBI*, but these days Illinois is just winning basketball games (Save its most recent against Michigan).  Illinois rallied to 5 straight Big Ten wins.  The other teams to do that this season?  Indiana and Michigan State.

#22 Memphis:  Well hell, the Tigers finally lost a game in the Cintas Center against Xavier on Tuesday.  It looked like they might just roll forever, but eventually even the great ones fall.  I saw a distinct lack of shot faking in the game and I cannot help but assume this is to blame for the defeat.  The Tigers have not been known for their shot faking, but all the great….well, good teams have that one guy who does it every Goddamn possession.  Memphis needs one if they wish to become a contender come March.

#21 Notre Dame: You just keep winning, don’t you Notre Dame?  No matter how many times I kick you down, you always get right back on your Goddamn feet.  You get embarrassed at Providence and finally I see light at the end of this hazy tunnel which is your team (YES THEY REALLY ARE BAD!), but then you go and win in Pittsburgh and at home against the incessantly offensively challenged Cincinnati Bearcats…if you’re going to win, please just do it.  I cannot have you wavering between spots on my list any longer.  It’s going to break me.

#20 Ohio State: Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.  Aaron Craft finally took the ball to the basket in the win over Michigan State and supplied some firepower aside from DeShaun Thomas and his pencil mustache.  Yes, crushing Minnesota was also fun, but the Bucks are on the short list of America’s most inconsistent teams.  At least some of the top ranked teams are consistently cardio-cursing (see Miami Hurricanes), but the Bucks seem to either play amazing or just plain abysmal.  It’ll take poor facial hair and rosy cheeks to win in March, but for now Columbus can wade into the depths of beliefs….until a thrashing in Bloomington on March 5th.

#19 St. Louis: I hate that the Bilikins beat my VCU Rams…and by beat I mean take to the woodshed.  I knew Butler was going to lose at home against St. Lou, but did you have to beat VCU?  I still might’ve considered you for the list!  Jeez, Bilikins!  You not only have the one mascot who haunts my dreams (it eats children), but you beat my A-10 constant in the rankings?  You suck.

#18 Wisconsin: The Badgers didn’t really do anything wrong to cause this drop in the rankings, but there were teams who played beter and jumped them…plus you all know I hate this team so pretty much any opportunity to drop them is like candy for me………I have nothing more to say.

#17 Florida: Sure, I have the benefit of knowing Florida lost to Tennessee, but the AP should have known that was going to happen anyway.  Tennessee has been playing great roundball and it was in Knoxville.  Everyone was expecting Florida to get upset, taking the Gators would have been the bold prediction in my mind.  The loss to Missouri last week also hurt a little, but hey, it’s all downhill from here for Florida.  I expect them to rip through Bama because they’re mad as all hell that they lost to the Vols.  Vanderbilt at home is like a gimme and if they don’t slaughter Kentucky without Nerlens Noel I’m going to seriously begin questioning this team’s ability to win.

#16 Middle Tennessee State: Say what you want, but the Raiders of Middle Tennessee are without a doubt the most overlooked mid-major in the country.  They received 2 votes in the AP this week, which is bogus.  They’re sitting pretty at 25-4 and I know you’re going to ask “Adam, who are those four losses to?!?!”, well, avid reader and sports fan, I’ll tell you.  Middle Tennessee has lost four road games, three of which were to likely tournament teams.  Early in the season, Florida grounded them into a fine powder, but it was early and some teams need to find an identity.  You’re probably saying, “Shouldn’t Florida have needed to be finding its identity?”  Well, curious reader, the Gators returned four starters and a fifth guy who played a helluva a lot, so no they knew they’re identity because its pretty much the same team minus Bradley Beal…anyway, the other losses were on the road to Akron in overtime, on the road to Belmont by 15 (yucky) and on the road to Arkansas State in overtime.  Sure the Ark State loss is heinous…but they’re probably better than TCU.

#15 Syracuse: I could not in good conscience put the Orange ahead of Marquette.  Being competent (like Jim Boeheim apparently is not) I would suggest when Syracuse plays a good team they refrain from jacking up a bunch’o threes like they drippin’.  33% against Marquette is not completely miserable, but 20% against Georgetown and 17% against UConn definitely constitute terrible…also, when playing Georgetown it appears safe to say Otto Porter needs to be guarded at minimum as tightly as the other players for the Hoyas.  Now that, Orangemen, was a player who was drippin’!

#14 Marquette: There you are, Peter! (I recommend fast forwarding to about :55 in that link…or just ignore it).  Marquette is 20-7 and  I understand your rage at mine placing them here, loyal reader, but honestly I was at a loss of which teams lower should be ranked higher?  Facts remain facts and the Golden Eagles are second in the second best conference in America.  I wish these bros weren’t such a confusing team.  One day they play a great game and the next I’m flipping to the old fall back program.  I hope they can manage a 3-0 finish, but for some reason Notre Dame thinks it can win consistently now, so beware the Irish visiting Wisconsin (dreary old, cheese-filled, meat-packing Wisconsin) on March second (SATURDAY!!)

#13 Oklahoma State: I feel too harsh sometimes when I condemn teams for losses, especially to good teams.  Sure, Okie State saw its win in Phog Allen be pretty much neutralized by a loss in Stillwater to Kansas, but the Cowboys took the Jaybirds to two editions of overtime before succumbing.  Beating teams on the road never hurts, even if they are below .500 like West Virginia.  The toughest game left may be heading to Ames, Iowa where you know Iowa State will be waiting to pounce and give a highly ranked team its best punches.  I really really hope ESPN broadcasts the game, because it’ll be a strong one.

#12 Arizona: Step 1 of winning out complete by obliterating Washington and Washington State, but honestly I think a pee wee team could have just the task.  March second is a contest with UCLA is So-Cal and it sure to be a thriller.  It may even be broadcast on a station aside from Fox Sports Network, so buckle up for that!  Arizona needs Solomon Hill (not Mark Lyons) to be its go to guy.  Hill is a better athlete with more size who was riding some Wooden lists early in the year.

#11 Louisville: The Cardinals are looking more and more like the team everyone thought they could be.  I’m still a little frightened at Peyton Siva’s continuing struggles, but they are no longer enough of struggles to be costing the Cardinals games…granted the games have been against St. John’s, South Florida, and Seton Hall; you have to start somewhere.  Can the Cards go undefeated?  Absolutely.  Will they?  Absolutely not.  Siva’s struggles will cost them a win in one of the four remaining games….oh, and I must remind the Cardinals there are no easy games in the Big East except DePaul.

#10 Kansas State: Remember all those Bruce Weber Illinois teams which couldn’t win in February and March?  Yeah, they’re getting a little hazy for me too.  four straight dubs with two looming on the horizon @ Baylor and home against TCU should set up a cute little matchup with Oklahoma  State in Okieville.  Will Spradling continues to look utterly out of place on the basketball court which is rather amusing for the casual (or ardent) college basketball fan.

#9 Miami Florida: I could only keep you at #1 for so long, Miami.  You had to go and fail me and in mayhaps the most embarrassing fashion: against Wake Forest.  I swear to all which is holy if you allow Duke to win the ACC regular season crown I’ll slap every last one of you across the face and you will sit there and take it like men because it may just teach you a little lessen in toughness which you showed none against the horrendous Demoned Deacons.  I said good-day!

#8 Michigan State: Before anyone panics, realize Michigan State will do the exact same thing it does every year.  Look a little shaky down the stretch, lose early in the Big Ten Tournament (because Izzo gives no f***s) and end up winning every NCAA Tournament game by like 5 or 6 before reaching the Elite Eight and every looks around thinking, “How did they do this again?” whilst Izzo sits atop his throne of kingship as the best coach in the country (I mean imagine if he had the talent K, Roy Williams, and John Callipari raked in every off-season?) laughing at the peons folding early in tourney play.  Anyway, Michigan State lost at Ohio State, but it’s no reason to doubt Sparty as a team.  Every team on this list has suffered a worse loss.  Sure, they lost at home agaisnt Indiana, but the Hoosiers were playing their best basketball and gave Michigan State its best punch…only to win by 4.  Michigan and Wisconsin are scheduled this week, so there is no time to lick the 2 game wounds.

#7 New Mexico: I’m not, no I’m not.  No team on this entire list save Gonzaga has as quality losses as New Mexico.  They haven’t loss to Minnesota, TCU, Maryland.  Granted, losing to South Dakota State is nothing to be proud of, but the Jackrabbits are not nearly as poor as the readers would believe.  I’d take SDSU over a lot of the teams on this list come March for two reasons: 1) they can shoot the lights out and 2) they’ll be massively overlooked by whomever they play.  The other three losses are on the road to Saint Louis (a team which now seems really strong), my Aztecs, and UNLV.  They knocked upstart Colorado State down a peg away from The Pit which combined with zero losses make it one of the better weeks for any team on the list.  New Mexico is good and they’ll be sitting pretty at 27-4 come tourney time.

#6 Duke: Having to rank Duke this high is really really hard.  Knowing they’ll probably crush Miami in Durham makes things a little more sour.  Add that to my gut wrenching fear of the Blue Devils miraculously winning the ACC regular season crown and I’m about to have to stop typing this damn list.

#5 Kansas: Five straight wins off of three straight losses is nice.  The Jayhawks got a boost from some suspect officials’ work and soem guy named Elijah Johnson en route to taking down Iowa State in overtime in Ames.  A double overtime affair in Stillwater sandwiched a revenge game against TCU.  Overall, Kansas should coast into the Big 12 tourney at 27-4.

#4 Michigan: The AP and I actually have the Wolvs in the same spot…now things are getting a little awkward.  It’s going to be tough to see if they can win either home game against MSU or IU the next two Sundays.  We all know what type of talent Michigan has (and by “we” I mean both myself and the AP), but will they ever mesh into the Final Four caliber team they’ve been hyped to be?

#3 Georgetown: I think I may have epitomized a Georgetown game last week when I said, “the margin never really gets too wide, but it seems the Hoyas are never in an ounce of danger.”  That description came after watching the Hoyas play Cincinnati and Marquette, but it holds more merit after they played ‘Cuse last week.  I must admit, I was a little giddy watching the Hoyas win in the Carrier Dome after having ranked them so high….AP, get on my goddamn level!  Dear Georgetown, don’t lose to UConn tonight.  Thanks!

#2 Gonzaga: I know Indiana lost to Minnesota last night.  I know the Zags have only lost to Illinois and Butler (although, Butler is terrible).  I know it seems the Zags should be ranked #1.  In all seriousness, I know the AP will put them #1 and in a fresh state of mind I cannot put a team which has rolled through the abominable West Coast Conference ahead of a team which has played extremely well in the nation’s best conference even when the Zags have looked unbelievable.  The ESPN analyst (I’ll continue to protect his identity) who called Creighton the best mid-major ever might have misspoken and meant this Gonzaga team.  The Foreigners may not be the best mid-major ever, but I do believe they have the best shot of any ever to win the National Championship since the #1 seeded Memphis which lost to Kansas in the Championship.

#1 Indiana: Don’t talk to me about last night.  I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t want anyone to question Indiana being here.  Just deal with the fact that a Big Ten team deserves to be ranked #1 so long as it doesn’t fall into utter disarray…which for the Hoosiers might be one more loss.

Player of the Year:

Victor Oladipo; just look at the last few posts.

Coach of the Year:

Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis: If Middle Tennessee wins out, I expect Kermit to get exactly zero votes from anyone besides me.

Most Underrated Team:

By me?  Probably Oregon still.  I don’t even have them ranked.  By the AP? A two’fer, Georgetown and Middle Tennessee: The Hoyas have been better than anyone the last few weeks and Middle Tennessee is Gonzaga without the relative prestige

Most Overrated Teams

By me?  Probably New Mexico, but you know how I like my winners.  By the AP?  Butler forever.

National Champion at This Juncture:

I want a team which has the horses to get there, a coach who knows how to get there, and they haven’t look like shit the entire season.  Call my a front-runner, but Indiana takes over this role.

Bold Prediction:

1) Butler is going to lose again this week to VCU on the road and FINALLY fall from the to

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