Friday, December 22, 2006

Fun for Friday

What a great week for college basketball with several games going down to the wire, breakout performances for underclassmen as well as some for some old favorites and this weekend should be no different. At this point I should just cease to provide any insight with regards to predictions as teams are provided surprise after surprise; of the six games predicted, I was only true to form on two picks. But of course I won’t stop just yet or ever, that’s what makes blogging so much fun! Onto this week’s Fun for Friday!!!

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Behind the spectacular front court play of Washington's heralded freshman center, Spencer Hawes (23 points/12 rebounds) and sophomore bruiser, Jon Brockman (19 points, 14 rebounds and relentless banging of Glen Davis) 17th-ranked Huskies pounded the 12th-ranked LSU Tigers, 88-72. Davis scored just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting while fighting through double, triple and sometime quadruple-teams.

The ninth-ranked Arizona Wildcats wrapped up their pre-conference schedule with a 79-71 victory over No. 18 Memphis the Fiesta Bowl Classic. After a rugged first half start where the Cats appeared quite lathergic, settling for long jumpers and Memphis started 6-11 from behind the arc, Arizona was much the aggressor in the second half. They began attacking the basket and forced the Tigers to miss their first 11 three pointers. Mustafa Shakur led the Wildcats with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists

Tenn at home spoils OSU’s perfect record, 79-77 on a putback by Dan Bradshaw with 1.9 seconds left in regulation. Sharpshooter Chris Lofton paced the Vols with 20 points while freshman forward Duke Crews added 17 points/9 boards.

An awful loss for Virginia coming at the hands of the Mountaineers of Appalachian State, 80-69. The Mountaineers shot over 54% while holding the Cavaliers to under 40% for the evening.

In an equally bad loss, the Miami Hurricanes suffered their fifth loss of the season at home to Binghamton, 79-74 behind a career high 27 points from junior guard, Richard Forbes. Miami is clearly looking like the DePaul Blue Demons of the ACC.

Drexel landed its 5th straight victory with a major win over Syracuse, 84-79. Unfortunately the Orange lost all momentum when senior center Terrence Roberts went down late in the first half with a knee injury and was lost for the game. The Dragons now stand at 7-2 with solid wins over Villanova and St. Joe’s as well.

Shaun Pruitt had a career-high 19 points and nine rebounds, helping Illinois hold off Missouri 73-70 on Tuesday night. Illinois (11-2), which won its seventh in a row in the annual "Braggin' Rights" game with Missouri was also coach Bruce Weber’s 100th win in his four years at Illinois.

Players of the Week

Omni Smith, senior guard, Kent State: Despite coming up a few baskets short in a 7-point loss to Duke this week, Smith paced the Golden Flashes with a career-high 33 points/10 rebounds, sinking 14-of-20 field goal attempts on the night. Smith leads the Golden Flashes in scoring at just over 14 points per.

Frank Eleger, junior center, Drexel: Eleger dominated the paint in Drexel’s win at Syracuse posting 27 points/10 rebounds shooting 11-for-16 from the field. The 6-foot-9 Elegar, has averaged 18.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the Dragons' previous four wins.

Luke Nevill, sophomore center/Johnnie Bryant, junior guard, Utah: Nevill and Bryant each scored 26 points to lead Utah to a 90-74 victory Wednesday over Virginia in the consolation round of the San Juan Shootout. The 7-1 Nevill was 10-for-12 from the field and had 11 rebounds as well. Nevill leads the Utes in scoring and rebounding with averages of 19 and 9 while Bryant is second in scoring at around 16 points.


The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are off to their best start in six years with a win over Reinhardt this week. The Golden Eagles faithful can thank the sobering scheduling by coach Larry Eustacey having beaten the likes of Belhaven, Tenn State, Alabama State, Spring Hill, Sam Houston State, Savannah State, and Southern New Orleans. Go figure their lone loss came at the hands of a ranked team (9th ranked Crimson Tide).

In a true effort to humiliate those who suck and provide humor at the expense of others’ failure, I continue to present to you…The WINLESS Watch!

With Southern University and St. Frances (NYC) achieving their first wins of the season, I thought for sure we were down to just a single remaining winless team: The Iona Gaels, a resent loss to Niagara brings them to 0-9 – they’ll seek their first victory tonight against the 1-8 New Hampshire Wildcats.

But wait, I was wrong! Thankfully, and I do certainly apologize, I just discovered there is in fact one other winless team in Division I basketball, the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens. They too have been laying the proverbial egg all year with a record of 0-8 having lost another nail-biter to Virginia Commonwealth by 19 points. Up next for the Hens is an away game this weekend at UNC-Greensborough. So please, Santa, if you do in fact exist, all I want for Christmas is for these teams to continue their winningless ways so that I can make my life much happier at the expense of their continued failure. Thank you.

Only five Division I teams remain unbeaten:
Clemson – Western Carolina is on tap this weekend, should be a cake-walk.
UConn – The entire season has been a cake-walk thus far for the Huskies, up next is fearsome Fang Mithell’s, Coppin State Eagles!
Oregon – Next three games should all be victories starting with Mercer College
UCLA – The Bruins’ wins have been legit having beaten 3 ranked teams to date, next up is a touch at home game against 11-1 Michigan
Wichita State – Several “shockers” thus far for this group and more to come I’m sure. Another tough road game at “The Pit”; could be a trap game against the surging 8-2 Lobos.

Weekend Predictions

Georgia at Georgia Tech – Super soph Mike Mercer (18 points/5 boards/5 assists) leads a hot and balanced 8-1 Bulldog club into Hotlanta to face a very young and enigmatic Yellow Jacket team in need of a big win. Keep feeding the hot hand, I like the Dawgs!

UMass at Kentucky – UMass coach Travis Ford looks to upset his former team after a solid road win at Louisville, however he’ll have to do it against a Wildcat team, winner of it’s past four. Cat’s at home, although I’ll be pulling for the Minute Men.

Wichita State at New Mexico – Shocking the world and everyone else in their path. They’ll face a rautious crowd in the heat of “The Pit” as the Shockers square off with the Lobos lead by Kansas transfer J.R. Giddens (18 points/6 boards). I picked the Shockers to lose against Wyoming last week, however I’ve learned my lesson. Let’s go Shockers!

Texas at Tennessee – Two teams coming off some major wins: Tennessee, winners of their past five including Memphis and Oklahoma State; Texas with a three game winning streak including LSU and Arkansas. Nashville is looking like a tough place to play this year as the Vols have yet to lose at home. It’ll be the heart and grit of the Vols against the raw talent of the baby Longhorns – I’m going with the Vols at home.

Michigan at UCLA – Michigan fans (and coach Tommy Amaker) are hoping this is the year of the Wolverine! They enter Pauley Pavilion with an 11-1 record with their lone defeat coming against their most admirable opponent (NC State). The Bruins appear to have the best defense in the land and should continue their dominance at home. Bruins over the Wolves.

BC at Kansas: Al Skinner has his boys clicking on all cylinders lead by senior All-American Jared Dudley’s 19 points/9 rebounds a clip. Getting a win at the Phog is a tough feet however Oral Roberts proved that it can be done. The Jayhawks tend to lose consciencness at times throughout the game and that can be disasterous against such an experienced and patient team. I like the Eagles by the closest of margins.

Ohio State at Florida: One of the years marquee matchups that all college basketball fans have had marked on their calendars for months. The Greg Oden lead Buckeye’s (three freshman lead OSU in the major categories: Cook, 16 points; Oden, 8.5 rebounds, Conely, 6.5 assists) enter the Swamp to face last years National Champs. Despite the hype around Oden, the story here is much more than just one man, er, kid. It’s two great teams playing as such where a mix of upper-classmen and freshman play as one unit. Let’s hope that Al Horford’s ankle sprain does not prevent him from missing this instant classic. In an all out war, I’m taking the Gators at home IF Horford plays; if without, great road win for The Ohio State Buckeye’s.

Dayton at Pittsburgh: Not as hyped as some of the other games, but this should be a great game featuring two teams who play solid fundamental basketball and who each have just one loss on the season. The Flyers haven’t lost since 11/18 but face a bitter Pitt team coming off a blowout loss at Wisconsin. This is the first of a horrid two-game road trip (at UNC on 12/31) and I’m guessing the Flyers may be 10-3 entering the New Year.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

To date, the basketball Gods have provided us with a wonderful start to the 2006-2007 season and with conference play just around the corner, the year should only get better. The holiday season has approached us at a rapid pace and with that I wish you well and bode farewell until a week from today.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday Morning Wakeup Call

Not too bad with the weekend predictions finishing 3-1. Several schools are still in exam mode however there are a handful of games featuring ranked opponents that should make for some great games.

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Wisconsin, playing at home, man-handled Pitt 89-75. While Pitt’s offense remained steady, they must have left their defense in Pittsburgh allowing the duo of Alando Tucker and Brian Butch to combine for 59 points & 21 rebounds.

Butler continues its winning ways with a solid 68-65 win over Purdue. The Boilermakers had a chance to send the game into overtime, but missed a desperation three with no time on the clock. The Bulldogs held Purdue’s senior star Carl Landry to a season low 12 points in the winning effort.

Despite sluggish overall play by the Wildcats, Kentucky ousted Louisville 61-49 while holding the cardinals to just 27% shooting. While his elder statesmen struggled, freshman guard Jodie Meeks paced the Wildcats with a career high 18 points.

At home Tennessee held off a tough Western Kentucky team, 93-79 behind Chris Lofton’s 32 points and despite losing the rebounding edge 38-27. The Vols may be quietly moving up the ranks improving to 8-2 on the year.

Playing great ball as of late, Georgia hands Gonzaga its 3rd loss of the season with a 96-83 home victory. The Bulldogs pulled off the big win behind stingy defense (forcing 21 Zags’ turnovers) and great guard-play out of Levi Stukes and Sundiata Gaines (combining for 47 points).

Despite playing in a hostile environment against a historically consistent team at home, Santa Clara improves to 8-3 with a 62-48 win over the Stanford Cardinal. USC jumped out to a 28-12 halftime lead, allowing the Cardinal just one field goal in their first 13 tries, and never looked back. Santa Clara also prevented the Cardinal from producing a double figure scorer.

Top Weekend Performances

Alando Tucker & Brian Butch, Wisconsin – Combined for 59 points and 21 rebounds (Tucker: 32 and 10/Butch: 27 and 11) in the Badgers win over Pitt. Tucker is averaging 25 points in his last four games and is certainly playing up to POY form.

A.J. Graves, Butler – the 6 foot guard went over the 20 point plateau for the fifth time this year scoring 26 points in the win over Purdue. Graves certainly delivers in big games having scored 28 against ND, 20 at Indiana and 26 over Gonzaga.

Chris Lofton, Tennessee – In the win over Western Kentucky Lofton netted 32 points on 11-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. It’s the fourth time he’s scored 30 or more points this year and is averaging 20 points on the season.


Bill Walker became the latest freshman to make his mark on college basketball’s landscape. The once to-be high school senior (and shoe-in for McDonalds All-American) turned college freshman in just a matter of months, introduced himself to fans this week scoring 15 points and pulling down 4 boards for Kansas State in an 82-54 victory over Kennesaw State. Walker, a 6-6 athletic freak (think Vince Carter) finished his high school degree just two months ago, practiced once for Bob Huggins and played his last game with the AAU team, D1 Greyhounds in the first week of August.

In a convincing 71-56 win over Arkansas, the Red Raiders help move Coach Robert Montgomery Knight one more win closer to tying Dean Smith’s Division I record of 878 wins. Texas Tech hosts Bucknell next Saturday.

Texas Longhorns coach Rick Barnes notched his 400th win as Texas routes Texas State 96-70. Barnes is the 25th active Division I coach to reach the 400-win milestone and did it in his 20th season, his ninth with Texas (7-2).

Predictions for the Week

Oklahoma State at Tennessee: OSU remains one of the few unbeatens in Division facing a surging Volunteer team lead by sharp-shooter Chris Lofton. I like OSU’s toughness and Mario Boggan’s 20 points/7 rebounds to prevail. Oklahoma encounters Pitt at home later in the week and I look for OSU to continue with their winning ways by beating Pitt at home.

Illinois at Missouri: Here are two teams who like to press on defense and create transition points. Against the only two ranked teams they’ve faced, Illinois lost both and Missouri has yet to lose a game at home this year. I like Coach Mike Anderson’s Tigers and his new version of '40 minutes of hell' full-court pressure.

Memphis at Arizona: Arizona’s starting five is as good as any in college basketball and haven’t lost since their season opener. Memphis can be quite erratic at times and have trouble putting together a complete game. Look for the Cats to win at home and propel into the top 10.

Arkansas at Texas: Freshmen are leading both teams in scoring, however Texas offers more depth and fire power. Kevin Durant is getting more help these days from fellow freshman D.J. Augustine and sophomore guard A.J. Abrams. I like the baby Longhorns at home.

LSU at Washington: Like a lot of teams this year, Washington’s rank and record are quite deceiving having lost to the only ranked team they played this year (Gonzaga). Like Texas, the Huskies are lead statistically by a few freshmen, but even at home, it may be hard to overcome the experience and physical play of the Tiger’s lead by Glen Davis. Look for LSU to win away this week.

Duke vs. Gonzaga: This game is played at the Garden which has been like home for the Devils in resent history. This match-up would’ve been more exclusive last year if Redick and Morrison had the chance to square off, however the fans should be in for an interesting affair. As of resent, the Zags have been suffering from turnover woes and Duke has been suffering from the same all season. Unfortunately for the Dukies, the Zags experience should exploit their woe’s even further, not to mention that know how to score the rock.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

Great Oden’s Raven! Living up to the hype so far is Ohio State’s 7 foot center man-child, Greg Oden. In just three games after returning from surgery on his right wrist, Oden is averaging 15 points/7 rebounds on 91% shooting from the field. Albeit, majority of his points are coming off of dunks, he has been playing with limited use of his right hand (Greg is in fact right handed) and has shot all of his free-throws lefty (just 44%). In watching his 14 point/11 rebound/3 block performance in a win over Cincinnati this weekend, you can see how easily Oden dictates the performance on the defensive end. He only swatted 3 shots, however he must have alternated at least 10. I’ve had some early reservations about Oden because sometimes the hype can be a bit much, but I love the way he runs the court and stays within his comfort zone on the offensive end. He remains patient, sets hard on the ball screens, looks to box out and shoots when the time is right. A few times Cincinnati was able to stymie Oden from passing out of the double team, but he should be more effective when his wrist is properly healed. His first true test will come next weekend playing at Florida.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fun for Friday

Boy was it tough trying to find games this week that kept me awake. With exams having started early this week for most colleges, the lineup was pretty light and will continue as such for most of the weekend. Having said that, there were a few surprise wins, losses and overall ugly performances that would make William Hung look like Bon Jovi. I also managed to come up on the short end of both of my predictions from the Monday Morning Wake-up Call, so at least I have that going for me.

Big Wins, Bad Losses

As I so wrongly predicted, but did note how tough they were, UMass upended the Louisville Cardinal in Louisville, 72-68. At one point Louisville trailed by as much as 17 points in the first half; this was a classic student (Travis Ford) beats teacher (Rick Pitino) performance. The Minute Men were lead by senior F/C Rashaun Freeman’s 21 points/5 rebounds and UMass increased their winning streak to four. Coincidentally, next up for Ford’s team is a meeting with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena, where he played and starred for 4 years under Rick Pitino.

A solid outing for DePaul winning handily at home against Wake Forest, 78-63. Wake Forest could not handle the Blue Demons more athletic backcourt duo of Wilson Chandler (season high 24 points) and Sammy Mejia (23 points/12 boards/5 assists). This is a huge win for DePaul and an awful loss for the Deacons as Wake Forest has now lost three straight and face a tough Virginia Tech team in Blacksburg this weekend. DePaul looks to start a winning streak at Rhode Island.

Cincinnati scored a nice win at home, beating Xavier 67-57 lead by freshman guard, Deonta Vaughn’s 24 points. Neither team had success putting the ball in the goal as they both made 21 total field goals and 6 three’s apiece. Ironically, the Bearcats made ten more free throws than the Musketeers equaling the margin of victory.

In what was a very embarrassing performance by a division I program, Northwestern barely got by Division III Wheaton (Ill.) 41-39 as Wheaton missed a last second, buzzer-beater three at the end of regulation. The “Thunder” ran an incredibly patient and efficient offense, and actually lead by two at the half. They also held Northwestern to just 27% shooting on 26 field goal attempts.

Players of the Week

Sr. Guard Loren Stokes, Hofstra: averaging 22.5, 3 assists, and 5 boards per game, Stokes dropped 25 points and 7 boards in a three point win over 0-11 St. Francis of New York. We’ll see what he can do against the big boys facing Syracuse in upstate New York on December 22nd. His averages come against less than formidable competition accept for the 24 points he posted in a loss to Charlotte in the first game of the season.

Bo McCaleb, a 6 foot junior guard for the University of New Orleans scored a career high 36 points as the Privateer’s opened its Sun Belt Conference season with an 80-76 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday. McCaleb is averaging almost 26 points and an astonishing 7 rebounds a game.


San Diego State improved to 9-2 for the season with a 37 point victory over Campbell University. They’ve already beaten a pretty good Cal team with their only two losses coming to Arizona and W. Michigan. Senior shooting guard, and Wooden-award candidate, Brandon Heath leads the Aztec’s with a 19 point average.

With a 76-58 win over St. Mary’s this week, Nevada improved to 8-1 on the year. More significant was the 19 points scored by Nick Fazekas that propelled him to become the first player in Nevada history to top 2000 points for his career. Fazekas, a 6-foot-11 senior who entered the game leading the NCAA in rebounding with a 14.1 average (14th nationally in scoring at 21.8), became the 12th player in the Western Athletic Conference to score 2,000 career points and just the fifth to top 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. In addition, he’s also been able to maintain a field goal percentage of 50 percent and at least 80 percent from the line. Only five other players in college history have been able to score over 2,000 points, grab over 1000 rebounds and maintain those shooting percentages -- Rick Barry, Larry Bird, Bill Bradley, Christian Laettner and Keith Van Horn. Not bad company.

Weekend Predictions

It’s a light weekend due to exams, however a few games on tap worthy of watching:

#2 Pitt at #7 Wisconsin: Two potential Final Four teams, two standout players (Badgers Alando Tucker and Pitt’s Aaron Gray) and two similar styles of play in addition depth. The game will continue at a very comfortable pace, however in the end, I think the home-court advantage will be too much for the Panthers and Wisconsin will hand Pitt’s it’s first loss of the season.

#18 Butler vs. Purdue: This game is being played on neutral grounds at the Conseco Fieldhouse where Butler has had resent success beating Notre Dame and Indiana in the Preseason NIT. Purdue enters the game with a pretty good resume to date as well and the battle for Indiana braggin’ rights will be tough. With seniors Carl Landry and David Teague back at 100% this year, Purdue will be a tough out; I like the Boilermakers to get the best of the Bulldogs.

Southern Illinois at Indiana: Indiana’s best non-conference win of the season thus far was their win against Charlotte, and Charlotte is 3-5. Sadly enough, Indiana needs to beat the Salukis in order to build some confidence heading into conference play. I think Indiana will struggle against an experienced Saluki team, however losing at home is not an option right now. The Hoosiers pull this one out by the closest of margins.

Kentucky at Louisville: This classic in-state rivalry should be a good game for two teams still trying to figure out how to close out and put a solid performance together for a full 40 minutes. I think Kentucky’s experience will be too much for the Cardinals, even at home, and should come out the victor in a very close game.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

Three teams in all of Division 1 basketball remain…WINLESS!!! Out of 337 Division 1 programs, St. Frances (NY) of the Northeast Conference sits at a dreadful 0-11, Southern University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference are 0-10, and lastly, the Gaels of Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference are 0-7. St. Francis’ coach was apparently asleep at the wheel during off-season scheduling. They lost at Syracuse, at UMass, and at St. Johns and at one point had a stretch of five straight road games. They only have one player in double figure scoring (Robert Hines at 14.7/game) with about a 6 point gap between the next highest scorer. There next game is away (surprise!) at 5-4 Hartford this weekend.

Southern has not helped themselves either in the scheduling department (but you have to tip your hat to the courage of both teams to play such daunting competition); get this, 4 of the Jaguars first 6 games included disastrous losses to Georgia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Florida with an average margin of loss at 46 points per game! Yikes. After losing by 11 this week to Southeastern Louisiana, they’ll be seeking their first victory this weekend at home against Louisiana Tech, whom they just lost to only eight days ago.

The Gaels, shocking enough, also have only one player in double figures, yet feature 10 players averaging at least 14+ minutes a game: That’s a whole lotta guys doing a whole latta nothin’. To their credit, they’ve only had one home game, the very first of the season followed by six straight away games. Life doesn’t get any easier for the Gaels as Fightin’ Jeff Ruland brings his club to scenic Piscataway, NJ to face the Scarlet Knights – by no means is RU a basketball powerhouse, however when you lose to Sacred Heart and Rider, facing Rutgers is like facing UNC.

I believe we shall call this, “The WINLESS Watch” and I promise to monitor each teams’ performance until they finally get a win. When you think about it, these are three very pathetic starts to a new season, I mean, even first year Division 1 program NJIT has two wins and they were playing Division III ball just 10 years ago!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Look Who's Undefeated!

Like the '73'Dolphins in the NFL, the '76 Hoosiers let out a sigh of relief when the last undefeated team in college basketball earns their first loss of the season. It's been 30 years since that magical run to an undefeated season, and eventually the National Championship, and every year it appears less and less likely that a team can pull off the same accomplishment. The last team to come close to pulling off the undefeated season was the '05 Fighting Illini who were 37-1 during the regular season where a buzzer-beater three pointer by Ohio State proved to be their lone defeat (evantually they would lose to UNC in the NCAA title game). With that said, let's take a look at who remains undefeated going into conference play and who has the best chance of chasing history!

Clemson: Oliver Purnell has his club playing solid defense while the offense continues to spread the love around. Clemson has historically been the doormat of the ACC and despite the strong start to the 2006-2007 season (beating Mississippi State, Minnesota and South Carolina), I can’t imagine they will thwart the likes of UNC, MD, BC, and Duke in the ACC. The Tigers encounter a tough upcoming home game against Georgia on December 28th however I will give them the home-court advantage and the win – Their first loss will come on January 3rd playing at Florida State.

Oklahoma State: Over the summer, Coach Sutton was able to dispense of a few bad apples from last year’s team in an effort to clean up the image and overall brand of basketball to be played at the program. The Cowboys have victories over Auburn, Missouri State (there’s that damn MVC again!) and Syracuse. The Cowboys feature a small lineup with 6-7 C-F Mario Boggan (20 points/7 rebounds) in the middle, however they’re relentless on the boards and play that typical Big-12, physical brand of basketball. Playing Tennessee in Nashville will be a tough test considering how bad the Vols ran Memphis off the court, but I like Oklahoma State’s toughness to pull them through. Pittsburgh will be a more than formidable opponent, but I hate Pittsburgh and I like OSU’s chances at home making their first loss coming on January 10th in the land of the Phog – Phog Allen field house where beating Kansas at home is seldom accomplished.

Pitt: Eck, phew! Always picked to go far in the tournament…the result is always a disappointing early exit that ruins millions of brackets and office pools from New York to California. I personally think their number two overall ranking is a bit too high despite solid wins over a very enigmatic Florida State team, UMass and at Auburn (however, they were awful in their 3 point win over Buffalo). They feature a prototypical starting five led by 7-footer, Aaron Grey manning the lane at 17 and 10 a clip. In true form, I look for Pitt to go down in their very next game on Saturday, December 16th when they’ll be hosted by the Badgers. Pitt is tough defensively but will have significant trouble keeping Alando Tucker under wraps… just ask Marquette.

UConn: An extremely young but talented team, it’s been cupcake city thus far for the Huskies. Despite the lack of competition, the early season wins will do wonders for the UConn psyche and they’ll head into Big East play with heightened confidence. They’re lead by sophomore, double-double machine Jeff Adrien (13 points/10 rebounds), point guard A.J. Price (14 points/6 assists) and freshman shot-blocker extraordinaire, Hasheem Thabeet. No key wins to note as of yet, however their first true test will come on the road against a very disciplined, very methodical, 7-1 West Virginia team that play surprisingly good zone defense and have four players in double figures lead by senior forward Frank Young ( 12 points/4 rebounds). I like UConn’s talent to overcome their lack of experience in this game and believe their first loss will be at the hands of a very hungry LSU Tiger team at Baton Rouge on January 6th.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have a lot of depth with nine players getting 12+ minutes per game – their pre-conference schedule to date has been nothing to talk about and would’ve encountered stiffer competition playing against Oak Hill Academy. Freshman Jeremy Wise (17 points/4 rebounds) leads the team in scoring and unless your name is Carmelo Anthony and you play for Syracuse, that’s never going to work. Their next game is at home against Alabama on December 16th and after we witnessed the numbers that Richard Hendrix posted against Alabama State this past weekend, and Jermareo Davidson and Ronald Steele returning to the lineup, I expect the Golden Eagles to be blown out of the water.

Oregon: The Ducks have been the perennial underachievers in the Pac-10 yet they are off to a great start this year with solid wins over Georgetown in and at home against Nebraska. They’ve found quite an unheralded gem in 5-6 freshman guard Tajuan Porter who’s averaging 19 points per game and leading the team in that category. Five players average double figures for Ernie Kent’s group and none of them happen to be potential NBA first-rounder and former McDonald’s All-American, Malik Hairston. If he gets it together they’ll be a tough out in conference play. At home against a solid USC team on January 4th will be a tough test, but I’ll take the Ducks at home. That makes there next home game on January 6th against UCLA their first loss of the season, bar none.

UCLA: Speaking of the devil, how dominant do these guys look on defense? They’ve already stymied Kentucky, Georgia Tech and the scrappy Texas A&M Aggies and are lead by returning All-American guard Aaron Afflalo. The Bruins aren’t that flashy however their on-court character emulates the type of play that Ben Howland has been preaching since he brought his rugged style from Pitt just a few years ago. Despite their number one ranking, I don’t believe they’re a clear favorite and will have trouble holding onto that spot the rest of the year. Coming up they have 5 home games in a row where they’ll run into a very underachieving Michigan Wolverine team and a very young Washington Husky team coming off an embarrassing loss to Gonzaga. They’ll play at Oregon and at USC, but the real test will come at home on January 20th against the surging Arizona Wildcats. I absolutely love the top to bottom talent and depth of the Cats (picked them 4th overall in my preseason poll) lead by sophomore guard/forward Marcus Williams and all-world freshman Chase Budinger. Tough to win at the Pavilion, but I like the Cats to prevail in a very tough game.

Wichita State: Wins at George Mason (deucing on the Patriot’s Final Four banner raising day), at LSU, at Syracuse and at Wyoming – has any team, not just mid-major because the Shockers cannot be mislabeled anymore, ever had better non-conference wins in such a short period of time than Mark Turgeon’s crew? This is a team where nine players average 10 minutes or more per game, a player whose afro brings nostalgic memories of a young Artis Gilmore and a nickname taken from a sexual move made famous by fraternity brothers across the nation! Playing nine guys at 10 or more minutes a clip certainly keeps the legs fresh and the defense suffocating at all times. They’ll run into a bid of trouble at “The Pitt” against a feisty New Mexico team lead by Jayhawk transfer J.R. Giddens (19 points/game), but dare I pick the Shockers to lose to New Mexico! I believe there first loss will come at the hands of another MVC opponent. They’ll face formidable guard play from the Salukis on January 1st but the Shockers should pull that one out. Where I think they might run out of steam is on January 7th against college basketball’s all-time best free throw shooter, Blake Ahearn (17 points/over 55% from 3) and a scorching Missouri State Bears team who’ve taken down the Badgers and lost a 3 point heart breaker to Oklahoma State.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Morning Wakeup Call

Good morning sports fans, Red Bull & Vodka drinkers and those in general who are asking yourself “who’s the hot chick in Talladega Nights playing Ricky Bobby’s wife” and hoping that you’ll soon see her in a late night skinemax movie! This weekend was, in my mind, the official introduction to the 2006-2007 college basketball season as most of the teams now have a few games under their belt and have been able to shake off the pre-season rust. There were plenty Top 25 match-ups, the typical “stars” played to expectations and the possible best freshman class of all-time introduced a few more stars to the national stage. Yours truly went 6-3 in my weekend predictions as Wichita State continues it’s improbable season with a convincing win over Wyoming, BC ran the flex offense to perfection beating the Terps at home and in a wonderful overtime victory, the diaper dandees of Texas showed the maturity of a seasoned prize fighter taking down “Big Baby” and the LSU tigers. Without further ado, forget that it’s Monday, blow off some of that paper work and dig into the very first Monday Morning Wakeup Call!

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Minnesota losing to Arkansas-Little Rock at home by a score of 67-66. The game wasn’t as big for UALR is it was disappointing to the Golden Gophers who fall to 4-7 on the year adding insult to injury following the resignation (forced resignation) of coach Dan Munson

Seton Hall winning by ten against a tough Penn State team behind freshman PG Eugene Harvey’s 27 points and 4 assists improving to 6-1 on the year. Beating Penn State gives the Pirates their first signature win on the year against a solid 6-1 Nittany Lions team who’ve had good wins against St. Joe’s and Bucknell.

Wisconsin, winning 70-66 at Marquette behind Alondo Tucker’s 28 points, was able to hold off a late surge by the golden eagles.

Purdue with a very convincing 79-62 win over Missouri behind Carl Landry’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. The Boilermakers (8-1) now have wins over the Sooners (at Oklahoma), DePaul and Virginia.

Vanderbilt upset a young but talented Georgia Tech squad, 73-64, behind Shane Foster’s 25 points. Vanderbilt has now won four in a row after and awful twelve point loss to Furman. For the game Vandy shot over 50% from the field and held the Yellow Jackets leading scorer, Lewis Clinch (18 PPG) to just 6pts.

Indiana State gave Butler it’s first loss of the year in a surprising 72-64 victory behind Gabe Moore’s 24 points while holding the Bulldogs to just 33% shooting.

Despite 31 points and 10 rebounds from fifth year senior, Curtis Sumpter, Villanova could not hold off Drexel losing at home 81-76. This loss coming after Nova ended Oklahoma’s 44 game non-conference home winning streak just last week.

Sophomore guard Brandon Johnson hit a short jumper in the lane with 19.8 second left and scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, leading San Diego past California 72-67 in the championship game of the Golden Bear Classic on Saturday night. This is Cal’s second bad defeit of the year already having lost to San Diego State.

19th ranked Nevada was held to only 22 first half points and lost at home to UNLV by the score of 58-49. The Runnin’ Rebels improve to 7-2 while handing Nevada its first loss of the year despite Nick Fazekas’ seventh double-double of the season (16 points/17 rebounds while playing with bruised ribs).

Top Individual Performances

No, it wasn’t Kevin Durant’s performance earning praise in Texas’ most recent victory, there was a new star born in freshman point guard, D.J. Augustine posting 26 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in a stunning overtime win against the LSU tigers. As true a point guard you can find, Augustine just averages 9 points per game along with almost seven assists however he took complete control of the game using high screens and pick and rolls for easy lay-ups while the LSU defense stymied Durant.

Freshman SHU point guard Eugene Harvey netted 27 points and 4 assists in a win over Penn State. Despite miserable shooting by the Pirates for much of the game, Harvey sparked a 21-6 run in the final 7 minutes of play to overcome a twelve point second half deficit. For the year Harvey is averaging almost 16 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

Senior combo-forward Alondo Tucker’s 28 points on 13 of 22 shooting, to go along with 5 boards, helped propel Wisconsin over Marquette. His points came on an array of post moves, dribble drives and mid-range jumpers and his performance certainly helps solidify his contention for college basketball’s player of the year candidacy. He’s averaging just over 20 points and 4 boards on the year.

While Jermareo Davidson and Ronald Steele sat out of the game, sophomore power forward, Richard Hendrix took it upon himself to score 34 points and grab 10 rebounds on 15 of 19 shooting in a 92-58 victory over Alabama State. Hendrix is averaging almost 15 points 9 rebounds on the season.


Behind Jarious Jackson’s 25 points, Texas Tech upended the powerhouse of Centenery, 98-64, bringin Bobby Knight within two wins of tying Dean Smith for the most wins in college basketball history – if he plans on passing Smith within the next 3 games it will be against formidable opponents (at Arkansas, Bucknell and UNLV).

Pittsburg wins at Buffalo, 70-67, to improve to 10-0 on the season behind Aaron Grey’s 19 points/11 rebounds; the Panthers were down for a good portion of the game and I was really hoping the Bison would pull this one out to confirm my belief that each year Pitt is the most overrated basketball team – Pitts will need to win at least one of the next two games (at Wisconsin and at Oklahoma State) for me to believe otherwise.

Roy Williams won his 500th game with a 94-69 victory over High Point lead by Tyler Hansbrough’s 24 points - No Division I coach reached the 500-win mark faster than Roy Williams. Fittingly, North Carolina used a quick start to give him that meaningful milestone.

Dayton improved to 8-1 with a 58-49 win over Grambling State; the flyers have already beaten the likes of Louisville and Creighton and will have very tough back to back games at Pitt and at UNC at the end of the month. Dayton is a trendy sleeper pick to win the A-10.

Predictions for the Week

Not much action this week among the nations’ elite, however two games of interest that will serve as a gut check for each of the teams:

UMass (8-2) at Louisville (4-2): An up and coming UMass team with tough losses coming at the hands of Pitt and BC face a very enigmatic Louisville team that, for the past couple of seasons, can’t seem to put it all together. UMass will find out if they can play with the big boys and enter A-10 play with a signature non-conference win, however I believe the overall depth and talent of the Cardinals willpropel them to a convincing win.

Wake Forest (5-2) at DePaul (4-5): After beginning the season with five straight wins, Wake Forest enters the game coming off a 94-58 beating by the service men of the Air Force Academy and a one point heartbreaker to Georgia. DePaul is probably a little more in need of a victory and need someone to step up on the offensive side of the ball as they only have two players in low double figures. I believe this will remain a close one to the end (remember DePaul upsetting Kansas) but I don't see a Skip Prosser team losing three in a row.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

It’s a shame to hear that this weekend’s game between Gonzaga and, instate rival, Washington Huskies was the last in the annual series that has been played for over a decade. Washington is choosing not to renew the contract because it says it has no room on its national schedule next season. I’m not sure whether Washington is suffering from an enlarged cranium, but to end this series will be quite devastating to fans in the state. Both of these teams have endured a number of peaks and valley’s to finally achieve national recognition (Gonazaga until recently has always been considered a mid-major program and the Huskies were forever doormats of the Pac-10 conference) and now are regularly penciled into the field of 65, often times considered sexy Final Four picks – and the one constant: The fans. Little does the East Coast recognize such a rivalry as we are accustomed to the likes of Duke-Carolina, Kentucky-Louisville, Arizona-UCLA, and even the Big 5 typically played at the legendary Palestra (Villanova, St. Joe’s, Temple, UPenn and La Salle), but this is certainly one rivalry that should continue for decades to come. So come on Husky nation, beg, plead and cajole the university to continue the tradition – win or lose it’s great for basketball and it’s great for fans who could do without another blowout victory over Sacramento State just to guarantee a non-conference victory.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fun for Friday

TGIF sports fans, my sincere apologies for the lack of blogging this week. I thought it was time to reinvent the way in which I provide college basketball information to my readers and offer something a bit more valuable than the game summaries that have been offered in the past. I intend to begin each week with what I call, the “Monday Morning Wakeup Call” where I will update readers as to all events college basketball related that happened over the weekend in addition to my outlook for major games throughout the upcoming week. Similarly, I will provide you with “Fun for Friday” where I will offer similar news recapping major news from the week. Time permitting, I would like to continue to humor you with blogs such as the “Name Game” because who couldn’t use a little bit of Lee Cummard in their life? Without further ado, my very first “Fun for Friday.”

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Lead by Chris Lofton’s 34 points, Tennessee pounded Memphis 76-58 in a game that was truly never close. Bruce Pearl had Tennessee playing it’s own version of 40 minutes of hell, pressing full court for the entire game frustrating the Tigers into a number of turnovers leading to easy transition buckets – this is a great win for an unranked Volunteer’s team.

Notre Dame upended number five ranked Crimson Tide in a game where it appeared they controlled the tempo for its entirety. Notre Dame scored 99 points against a very defensive minded squad, forcing a number of turnovers in critical situations combined with dead-on shooting. With that victory, the Fighting Irish improve to 7-1, there best start since the 2002-2003 season and look to enter the Top 25 for the first time in two years.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Tony Bennett has his Washington State Cougars sitting near the top of the Pac-10 with an 8-1 record. Lead by Derrick Low’s 27 points, Daven Harmeling’s 20 points and signature Dick Bennett defense, the Cougars toppled a hot Gonzaga team 77-67 (Gonzaga’s lowest offensive output this year).

Rallying from a 13 point halftime deficit, Northern Iowa (if you recall they were a tough out in the 2006 NCAA tournament) defeated a depleted Iowa team improving to 7-1 on the season. The Panthers have won 3 of the last 4 versus Iowa and are certainly a major contender in T"he Valley".

With their single blemish coming at the hands of the sluggish Blue Devils, Air Force has been on a tear beating the likes of Texas Tech & Wake Forest with an overall record of 9-1. Jeff Bzdelik has his team playing scrappy defensive and efficient team basketball which has earned them a top 25 ranking.

Oklahoma’s then NCAA best 49-game non-conference home winning streak ended with a 67-61 beating from Villanova (Duke’s 47 straight victories now leads that category).

Players of the Week

Chris Lofton scored a career high 34 points to lift Tennessee over Memphis in what has become a very heated rivalry. Tennessee had no answers for Lofton as he scored 21 points by halftime on 9-11 shooting with an array of three’s, drives and mid-range jumpers. He finished the game with six three’s and 12-18 from the field.

Combo guard Russell Carter netted 27 points/5 rebounds/5 steals in ND’s win over Alabama. Whenever it felt like the momentum would swing to the Tide’s favor, Carter answered with fade-away three’s, athletic steals and tough rebounds in traffic.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis dropped 24 points and 10 rebounds in a win over 6th ranked Texas A&M 64-52. Davis did most of his work against fellow preseason All-American candidate, Joe Jones; this was also a huge win for LSU psyche coming off a tough loss to surging Wichita State.


Torrell Martin, 6-5 senior guard, Winthrop Eagles: in a tough overtime loss to Wisconsin, Torrell contributed 31points/4assists hitting 7-11 from three and 11-18 overall. Averaging a healthy 15points/7rebounds on the year he tends to step up in big games (25points/7rebounds in a seven point loss to UNC)

Stephen Curry – Unheralded 6 foot freshman guard for Davidson: Averaging 18 points/5 rebounds/3.5 assists, Curry dropped 24 points on UNC-Greensborough this week after scoring 32 at a loss to Michigan

Adrian Banks, 6-3 junior guard for Arkansas State: Scored 32 points in a tough loss to Bowling Green (averaging 20 points on the year)

Martin Samarco, 6-2 guard, Bowling Green: Dueled with Adrian Banks while scoring 29 points of his own; Samarco is averaging 22 points/4 rebounds on the year

Caleb Green, 6-8 Senior Forward, Oral Roberts: Green, a preseason Wooden Candidate averaging 20points/10 rebounds contributed 26points/8 rebounds over Lamar

Trey Johnson – An under the radar, 6-5 freshman guard for Jackson State: Scored 31 of his teams 54 points in a loss to Tulsa. Johnson averages around 30 points per game and comes up big against the majors (36 at Alabama, 33 at Georgia Tech, 27 at Illinois and 32 at Memphis)

VMI forward, Reggie Williams is averaging 26points/9 rebounds having already scored totals of 36, 45, 36, 30, 41 & 31 points, however all against mid-low major competition – VMI has topped 100 points four times this year

Rice forward, Marcus Almond (preseason Wooden Award and All-American candidate) is pacing Rice with 29 points/5 rebounds a clip and typically saves his best for the top tier competition (31 vs Colorado State, 28 versus Oregon and 42 versus Utah)

What happened to the Utes? At 3-4 Utah has already lost to the likes of Southern Utah, Santa Clara, Colorado and Utah State – not necessarily formidable competition with the exception of Colorado.

Weekend Predictions

#6 Texas A&M at #1 UCLA – UCLA surging, most consistent team so far on both sides of the ball. A&M coming off a disappointing loss LSU and may not be used to the pressure of being a Top 10 team. UCLA wins at home.

#8 Washington at #18 Gonzaga – Freshman Quincy Pondexter nicely filling the void left by Brandon Roy. Gonazaga at home would like to make up for that disappointing loss to Washington State. I’m sticking with Gonzaga’s backcourt experience – Gonzaga wins at home.

George Mason at #9 Duke – Duke has struggled at home, they’ve struggled away and there’s no telling when their offense will show up. I believe their ranking is quite lofty considering there performances to date, however rankings don’t seem to indicate much of anything this year. George Mason will be in the game the whole way (a la Holy Cross), however the Cameron Crazies will pull the Blue Devils through for their 48th straight non-conference home victory.

#12 Wisconsin at #20 Marquette – Wisconsin arrives at Marquette coming off a tough overtime win over a very good Winthrop team. Marquette looked like a team on the rise after controlling Duke in early season victory and appears much better than their current ranking. However, I’ll go with experience and depth to propel the Badgers over Marquette.

#16 Wichita State at Wyoming – The Wichita State bandwagon is officially overloaded and the wheels are about to come off! For the fourth straight Saturday, the Shockers will be away from home and may have exhausted themselves. Wyoming is just the type of team to end the Shockers’ current winning streak. I’m taking Wyoming at home over a tired Wichita State team.

Oral Roberts at Georgetown – In what looked to be a very promising season, the Hoyas lost a handful of early season games and find themselves quickly removed from the rankings. Oral Roberts, having already defeated Kansas at Kansas, knows what it’s like to play and win tough games on the road. Despite that fact, I believe JT3 will motivate his club enough to pull out the home victory.

Xavier at Creighton – An interesting game. Xavier is the early favorite to win the A-10 and have been playing excellent basketball thus far. Creighton hasn’t started the season like they’d hoped and preseason Wooden Award candidate Nate Funk may not be in full form coming back from last seasons injury. With that said, Creighton’s fans are one of the best in the country and the place will be rocking. I like the Funk-master to upend the preseason favorite in the Awful-10.

#11 LSU at Texas – LSU is much of an enigma this year having lost convincingly to Wichita State while winning quite convincingly over Texas A&M. Freshman sensation Kevin Durant looks everything as advertised putting up 20points/9 boards a clip, but it may not be enough even at home. Texas starts four freshmen and I think LSU’s experience and the physically improved “Big Baby” will outlast the baby Longhorns.

#22 Maryland at BC – The first of many great ACC pairings this year as Maryland boasts a very experienced team coupled by one of the biggest freshman surprises (Greivis Vasquez) of the year. BC struggled early on but with the leadership of Jared Dudley and Sean Williams finding his offensive comfort zone, BC is finally hitting their stride. Toughest pick of the week but I will stick with my sleeper Elite 8 team, the Terps!

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

Someone going by the screen name “Pbrod” left a comment asking me where my column was on “Duke’s lovely 20 turnover, 48% free throw shooting performance against Holy Cross.” Let me first say that despite my infatuation with the Blue Devils, I do not intend to dominate this site with Duke material. If you genuinely read my blogs, I continuously note the wonderful performances of the top teams around the country and even go as far as to praise the Devil’s bitter rival Tar Heels. Yes, I could talk about how disastrous Duke’s early season woe’s appear (despite having just one loss to a solid Marquette team), I could speak to their lousy assist-to-turnover ratio (160 turnovers versus 11 assists), I could speak to how they’re last in the ACC in scoring at 68.1ppg, but I choose not to because despite all of the miscues, they are winning.

Despite the underachieving McRoberts, the turnover prone Paulus and having over 40% of the offense coming from freshman, they have been able to post the following statistics:

- They are giving up an ACC-best 51.4 points per game on the season (they have now held five opponents to under 50 points this season – matching the most by a Duke team in a single-season in the Mike Krzyzewski Era)
- They have out rebounded eight of their first nine opponents this year
- They held Holy Cross to just 17 second half points, giving the Blue Devils five halves this year yielding less than 20 points

If they lose, you can bet on me including a laundry list of reasons why Duke continues to struggle, but consider this – with Paulus struggling, more times than not Zrzyzewski has four freshmen on the court at the same time. So please, consider spending some time in thought before you post a comment. Remember, there are no stupid questions, there are only stupid people who ask questions.