Friday, January 26, 2007

Fun for Friday

My sincere apologies for the lack of a post this past Monday, however the timing of the NFL playoff’s and the fact that I didn’t move from my couch between the hours of 1pm – 11pm on Sunday was a recipe for disaster. With that said, there were some great individual and team performances this week, including the performance by our President during the State of the Union who continuously made himself sound like the voice of the teacher in The Peanuts, “Wah, wah, wah wah…wah wah wah.” Thanks for clearing up absolutely nothing and offering proposals with complete disregard for suggestions made by your top political advisors. On the other hand, he did pronounce Dikembe Mutombo a “citizen of the United States;” Thanks Dubya, I feel much safer now.

Onto the blogging!

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Sean Marshall hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to lead Boston College to an 85-82 victory over Florida State. The Eagles were playing their second game since shot-blocker Sean Williams and reserve Akida McLain were kicked off the team last Wednesday for repeated rules violations. Marshall finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Tyrese Rice added 26 points and 6 assists.

Kelvin Sampson's first trip to Champaign since a fall recruiting controversy over Indianapolis high schooler Eric Gordon was not welcoming as Indiana lost to Illinois, 51-53 in what was a very entertaining environment to say the least. It was the Illini's first win against a ranked opponent in five tries this season. The loss for Indiana came just two days after making their first Top 25 appearance of the season.

Mike Nardi, recently voted most likely to not have showered after the past 5 games, had a game-high 19 points and Scottie Reynolds added 20 and 6 assists to lead Villanova to an 82-73 win over Providence on Tuesday night. It was the third straight victory for the visiting Wildcats (14-5, 3-3). Reynolds, just a freshman, has averaged approximately 20 points including 4, 20+ point performances in Big East play.

In what appeared to be a layup drill for Auburn, the Tigers generally had no problems scoring against No. 12 Alabama, ending a seven-game losing streak against the Tide, winning 81-57 on Tuesday night. The Tide's road struggles continued as Alabama has lost its first three SEC road games by an average of 24 points to unranked teams.

Vanderbilt achieved their second consecutive impressive road victory in the Southeastern Conference and third win in a row over a ranked opponent (over Alabama and Kentucky) as the Commodores' triumphed 64-53 over No. 21 LSU. A swarming Vandy defense held Big Baby Davis to just 12 points.

Texas Tech upsets its second consecutive Top 10 oppenent with a 70-68 win over No. 6 Texas A&M (Tech beat then-No. 5 Kansas 69-64 Saturday). The Red Raiders hit only seven field goals in the second half, but five of them were from beyond the arc. The Red Raiders are now 4-1 in the conference (15-5) overall and should be considered a serious contender to compete for the Big 12 title.

Behind Justin Dentmon’s 24 points and seven assists the Huskies defeated a short-handed Oregon squad, 89-77 handing the Ducks their first road loss of the season. Oregon was playing without the conference's scoring leader (18.4 points per game) Aaron Brooks who sat out as his final penalty for elbowing Husky guard Ryan Appleby in the face during a Pac-10 tournament game last March.

Players of the Week

Reggie Williams scored 34 points to lead six VMI players in double digits Monday as the Keydets defeated UNC Asheville 102-97. He also added 9 rebounds and 6 assists. A few nights later Williams had 28 points and 6 boards in a 103-94 win over Radford. Williams is surging on the year averaging 28.1 points/4.2 assists/8.4 boards.

Zabian Dowdell scored a career-high 30 points to help the castrated Turkey’s (Hokies) beat Miami 92-85 on Tuesday night. Dowdell, whose previous career high was a 25-point-performance against North Carolina A&T on December 7, 2005, finished 15 of 18 from the free throw line. The senior, Dowdell considered the heart of this team is averaging 18.1 points/3.5 assists/3.3 boards.

University of New Orleans junior guard, Bo McCalebb scored 27 points to help give the Privateers a 77-67 win over Florida International. To date, McCalebb has scored below 23 points just 3 times this year and posts averages of 26.1 points/3.2 assists/6.5 boards.

Brook Lopez blocked a school-record 12 shots to go along with 18 points and 11 rebounds, helping Stanford beat USC 65-50 on Thursday night. The triple-double was the first since at least 1985 for the Cardinal. For the year, Lopez’s numbers aren’t that staggering 9.4 points/4.8 rebounds however this former McDonalds All-American missed the first five games do to injury and needed some time to adjust to game speed. He’s averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds over the past four games.


Jason Richards scored a career-high 32 points (to go along with 9 assists) as Davidson rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit and pulled away to defeat Georgia Southern 101-92. It was the 13th win in the last 14 games for the Wildcats, who improved to 17-4 overall and 8-1 in the Southern Conference. Richards has scored in double figures in his last 10 games. They’ve also been paced by freshman sensation Stephen Curry’s 18.8 points/3.4 assists/4.6 rebounds.

Wichita State has only won 4 out of their past 12 games and with a conference record of 4-6 (13-8 overall), the Shockers remain 3.5 gamins back (8th in league standings) and will need to win majority of their 9 remaining conference games in order to be considering for an at-large bid. Hopefully their recent 82-77 win over Drake behind Sean Ogirri’s career-high 29 points will wake the sleeping giant.

Another obscure streak continues in the world of college basketball. With a 68-66 victory over Clemson, the Duke Blue Devils defeat the Tigers for the 20th straight time – a span of 10 years – and 24 of 26 at Cameron Indoor. After several miscues down the stretch, it took a David McClure basket with time expired for the Devils to seal the win.

To my excitement, the Winless Watch continues as Fairfield took down the lone winless team in Division I, Iona, 70-67 in overtime Tuesday night. The loss was the Gaels' 20th straight dating to last season, extending the school record for consecutive defeats. The Gaels appeared to be in control of the game as they led 35-27 at the half. Up next is a home game against Loyola (MD) who they already suffered a 9 point loss to.

Weekend Predictions

Michigan at Indiana: Two teams meeting after disappointing losses, well it’s safe to say that one of them has to win. I like the Hoosiers to bounce back at home

UNC at Arizona: A track meet like no other. It will be UNC’s depth versus Zona’s starting five. The safe pick is the Wildcat’s at home but I like the Tar Heels to steal one in Tuscon

Arkansas at Alabama: The Tide lost 3 of their past 5 in which one of them was a blowout to none other than the Razorbacks. Since that game, Arkansas has lost 4 of 5 and I’m guessing it’ll be 5 of 6 after this one’s over

Michigan State at Ohio State: The Buckeye’s are winners of their last four after a heartbreaking 3 point loss to the Badgers. With Oden starting to play at 100%, I think the Spartans will have too much to overcome on the road

Oregon at Washington State: Tony Bennett’s suit with no tie attire, enough said

LSU at Georgia: LSU hasn’t had a quality win since December and Georgia at home is becoming a tough out. I like the Bulldogs to pull it out

BC at Duke: Doesn’t it seem like the Dukies have played every game at home this year? If you think the crowd as loud for Clemson, it should be twice that vs. BC. However, I’ll always take experience over talent – BC upends the Devils at Cameron

UCLA at Stanford: Not much else to say about the Bruins, they’re Final Four bound along with Flordia and UNC. Stanford is beginning to realize their potential, but UCLA has too many weapons

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

How about the half-nude Bruce Pearl sighting at the Lady Vols game this week versus Duke (see above picture)! This guy has the balls of Paul Bunyon, I mean they must be gigantic for someone of his stature, not to mention age, to paint half his body and hang with the student section as one of their own. When you look at the picture closely, it appears as if he may be going commando as well (see the waist line). However, when you think about it, could any other coach have pulled this off? Let’s think of some:

Jim Boeheim: No way, he looks like Dr. Bunson Honeydoo from the Muppet Babies – please keep the shirt on!
Bobby Knight: Don’t think so, he’d surely be fighting someone in the stands…
Larry Eustache: YES, YES and YES! He’d be breaking out the funnel by halftime!
Coach K: LOL! What, and ruin his impeccable image!
Billy Donovan: Hmmm, maybe – he’s got that baby faced Eddie Munster look going so he might be able to pull it off.
Al Skinner: Nuh uh, plus he has more teeth than the average human being – although that has nothing to do with painting your body
Tony Bennett: Probably, but definitely while wearing Gucci shades

The list can go on and on, however of all coaches, Larry Eustache certainly fits the bill. Feel free to send in any additional coaches who you’d like to stand next to with their shirt off.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fun for Friday

Conference play is in full effect and from recent observations, no team is a safe bet anymore. For instance, a wilted Villanova squad beat Georgetown on the road, Florida outlasted a Razorback team that demolished Alabama by more than 20 and Kansas absolutely crushed a hot Oklahoma State team. That being said, I was 3-4 with my weekly predictions and as you’ll see from the weekend predictions, it will only get harder.

With Martin Luther the King day around the corner, I am sad to say that I will not be posting a blog on Monday. I am going to take advantage of the floating holiday by kicking back and watching movies while sucking down a Colt 45.

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Villanova prevented losing their first three Big East games by upsetting Georgetown in D.C., 56-52. It was yet another freshman who stepped up, combo-guard Scottie Reynolds who lead the team in scoring (16), steals (4) and assists (3). The old-fashioned Big East defensive struggle ended the Hoyas’ seven game winning streak.

With a 87-76 victory over N.C. State, Clemson (17-0) wins in Raleigh for the first time since 2000 and is off to the best start in team history. The 14th ranked Tigers were lead by Vernon Hamilton’s 21 points and remain the only unbeaten team in Division I. They’ll be at the University of Maryland this Saturday where a very rautious crowd will make for an unwelcoming environment.

Solidifying their status as a Top 5 team with a realistic chance of making the Final Four, Wisconsin held off a rallying Ohio State team, 72-69. Wisconsin’s experience and depth (not to mention home court advantage) appeared to be the key to victory with senior’s Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor combining for 42 points while the Badger bigs held Greg Oden to just 10 points/7 rebounds (not really all that bad, it’s just that it’s Greg Oden).

Wichita State lost another shocker, this time to conference foe Indiana State, 68-63. The Shockers, the sexy pick to win the Missouri Valley Conference this year, have now lost 6 of their past 7 games and fall to 1-4 in the MVC (10-6 overall). Meanwhile, the Sycamore’s are tied for first place in the conference (4-1) and post an 11-4 record.

Despite 29 points (6-7 from downtown) from sharpshooter Chris Lofton, Tennessee had their 9-game winning streak snapped at the hands of Vanderbilt, 82-81. Vanderbilt’s Shan Foster scored on a putback as time expired in a game where whoever had the ball last would prove to be the victor. Senior guard/forward Derrick Byers lead Vandy with 25 points and 7 boards.

In what was a very defensive minded battle, Hofstra defeated the surging Drexel Dragons, 55-53 on Carl Rivera’s last second jumper in overtime. Behind Antoine Aguido’s 26 points, the Pride improved to 5-0 (11-4 overall) in the CAA conference, tying Virginia Commonwealth for the top spot. This is a big win for the Pride as Drexel was beginning to elevate its game having won 9 straight including wins over St. Joes, Villanova, Syracuse, Temple and George Mason with majority of those games being played on the road.

Players of the Week

Nevada’s Marcelus Kemp scored 27 points, grabbed 6 boards and dished out 5 assists to help the Wolfpack (14-1) prevent another Boise State upset, 90-86. With about 7 minutes left in regulation, star forward Nick Fazekas had to be helped off the court after sustaining an ankle injury (leaving him sidelined with crutches) so it was up to Kemp and his fellow teammates to seal the victory. Then, just a few nights later with Fazekas in street clothes, Kemp dropped 33 points to go along with 8 boards in a 72-63 win over San Jose State. On the season, Kemp is averaging almost 19 points a game including 29 against Oregon State, 20 at Cal, and 21 at Gonzaga.

While POY front-runner Alando Tucker struggled to find the bucket at times, it was fellow senior guard Kammron Taylor who propelled the Wisconsin Badgers over the Ohio State Buckeye’s by scoring 25 points, connecting on 5-8 FG’s and 12-16 FT’s, to go along with 5 rebounds. This underrated guard is averaging just over 13 points a game for the Badgers however it’s his unheralded leadership and experience that helps his team the most.

Despite losing by 10 points at Alabama, POY candidate and All-American Glen “Big Baby” Davis scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds despite playing with sore ribs and right knee from a two-car accident after Saturday night's win over No. 24 Connecticut. Davis received no help from his teammates as the rest of the LSU Tigers connected on just 14 field goals (Davis had 9 himself) and allowed the Crimson Tide to make over 56% of their three’s.

Stephane Lasme, a 6-8 forward for UMass, became the 23rd player in NCAA history to record two triple-doubles in the same season with 23 points/15 boards/11 blocks in a 91-84 win over George Washington. Lasme’s first triple double came against St. Francis when he had 19 points/10 boards/11 blocks. The Minutemen improve to 12-4, 2-0 in conference play.

As if he was waving the white flag, Missouri Coach Mike Anderson exclaimed after an 88-68 loss to Texas, “Send him to the league. He needs to go to the league, man.” Of course he was talking about all-world Long Horn freshman, Kevin Durant who single-handedly dismantled Missouri by dropping 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Durant continues to scorch opponents with averages of 23 points and almost 11 boards a game. More on Durant later!


Deforrest Riley-Smith scored 37 points (to go along with 7 boards) to lead Southern University to a 73-62 Southwestern Athletic Conference upset over Jackson State on Monday night. Southern held the nation's leading scorer, Trey Johnson, to 19 points -- 11 below his average. Despite the 9-8 record, Jackson State is a strong contender for the Southwester Athletic Conference title where they now sit at 3-1.

After pulling off a major 91-90 upset at Cincinnati on 11/21, Wofford has taken quite the plunge. After defeating the Bearcats on their home court, Wofford held a 4-1 record and probably felt pretty confident going into the next game. Little did they know that they would lose the next eight games and go 1-10 since. Hopefully their in-conference schedule will help most of those losses came at the hands of strong non-conference oppoenents (at Michigan, at Auburn, at Clemson, at Charlotte including a total of 9 away games).

With a 74-63 loss to Georgia Tech, the Duke Blue Devils fell to 0-2 in ACC play for the first time since 1996 when they lost four straight. For avid Duke fans, these two losses shouldn’t come as a shock as the Devils struggled to beat less superior opponents in Cameron (George Mason, Kent State, San Jose State). This year, teams aren’t as intimidated by the name on the jersey as, outside of Josh McRoberts, the star power is quite frail and have continued to be offensively challenged.

There was a duel Wednesday night among two of the lesser known gunslingers in college basketball. In High Points 115-104 defeat of Virginia Military Academy, Arizona “AZ” Reid had 32 points/13 rebounds while VMI’s combo forward, Reggie Williams dropped 40 points and grabbed 15 rebounds (both game highs). Reid is averaging almost 20 points a contest while Williams averages just over 27. It was the first time High Point eclipsed the century mark in points scored while VMI leads the nation in that category having scored 100 or more points 8 times (surprisingly, they lost four of those games).

Winless watch: IONA; this continues to be my favorite story of the year as the Gaels simply cannot buy a win. In an effort to continue their losing streak, the Gaels did a nice job of allowing MAAC frontrunner, Marist University, to jump out to a 40-26 halftime lead on Tuesday and the rest was history eventually losing by a score of 87-65. The Gaels are now 0-14 on the season and sit in the basement of the MAAC standings at 0-4. Up next should be a sure fire loss to Manhattan tonight.

Weekend Predictions

Creighton at Northern Iowa – Another great MVC matchup where the teams are simply put, just beating up on each other. It’s quite reminiscent of last year’s Big East where the conference record may wind up being a shade over .500. UNI at home.

West Virginia at Marquette – Innovation versus athleticism; WVU’s only two losses came on the road this year and Marquette is looking to patch up a winning streak. WVU will revenge their loss to ND in a tough Big East challenge.

Tennessee at Ohio State – The tests just keep coming for OSU and their diaper dandy’s. They haven’t played a team quite like Tennessee yet, where coach Pearl takes advantage of their lack of size by imploring a frenetic full court press for the entirety of the game. If OSU’s guards can mitigate the pressure and turnovers, they should win the game. I’ll take OSU at home.

Clemson at Maryland - The last of the unbeatens will have to contend with the 6th man and that is the crowd at the Comcast Center. Coming off a disappointing loss to Miami at home, Maryland does not want to be another notch on the belt for the Tigers. A tough game to pick as Clemson continues to shock the world – let’s go Tigers!

UCLA at USC – Both teams stand at 3-1 in the Pac-10 and a win here would propel one of these teams into the top spot. With new facilities and a commitment from arguably the best guard/player in the class of 2007 (O.J. Mayo) USC is a team on the rise and certainly playing like one at 12-4. However, I wouldn’t want to be the team playing UCLA after their heartbreaking defeat to Oregon last weekend. In a tough battle I like the Bruins on the road.

Missouri State at Southern Illinois – Another heavyweight battle in the MVC where Missou St., tops in the conference at 4-1 look to hand the Saluki’s their third straight loss. The Salukis have yet to lose a game at home this year and that streak should continue.

Washington at Cal – Washington is just 1-4 in their past 5 games, however the Pac-10 is no joke as their losses have come at the hands of USC, Arizona, UCLA and Stanford. Cal features a solid freshman in Ryan Anderson who leads the team in points (17+) and rebounds (8+), but with 6-11 Center DeVon Hardin out with the injury bug, the front line of the Huskies should dominate.

Georgetown at Pitt – this should be a class Big East brawl featuring great defensive intensity and minimal easy buckets. After two tough losses at Wisconsin and at Oklahoma State, Pitt has won five straight and should make it six at home.

Oregon at Arizona – This should be one of the more “fun” games to watch this weekend as both teams look to push the ball when possible and both feature 5 players scoring in double figures. Arizona’s starting five are impressive enough to take them to Atlanta, but the question is do they have enough depth at each position to the give the starts a breather. Some say they rather be lucky than good and Oregon has certainly had some luck their side this year, however they’ll have no such luck Tucson.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

Not too long after Monday’s blog, I started to second guess some of the amendments as to my thoughts on this year’s player of the year. When you think of the players that were listed, I couldn’t convince myself that any of those players were necessarily “carrying” their team. In essence, a great “team” feature’s a cohesive unit playing as one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Players such as Noah, Hansbrough, Tucker and Fazekas have certainly shouldered the load several times for each of their teams, however they are each part of a larger system that helps their respective teams succeed. Each of these players, maybe aside from Tucker, have complimentary players that can help bail a team out when the star is struggling (Noah has Horford and Brewer, Hansbrough has Brandon Wright and a slew of others, and Fazekas has Marcelus Kemp).

The other commonality amongst these candidates is their experience, all of the players considered front runners for POY are made up of upperclassmen with the exception of Hansbrough. With that said, I’m sure we all remember someone named Carmelo Anthony who as a freshman lead Syracuse to a National Championship not so long ago and racked up a few POY awards that same year. Well, not to say this candidate will do the same, but what about Texas all-world freshman, Kevin Durant?

The numbers for the 6-9 guard/forward are staggering as he’s averaging 23.4 points and 10.9 rebounds a game (he leads the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding). He’s doing this while shooting 50% from the field including 40% from behind the arc and 85% from the charity stripe. He has scored in double figures in every game this season including 11 games of 20 or more points. He’s also notched 9 double-doubles and two games with 9 rebounds.

In his last two games Durant was unstoppable:

In a 102-78 win over Colorado, Durant tied a Texas and Big 12 scoring records with 37 points hitting on 13-23 FG’s and 5-7 from three. He also added a game high 16 rebounds including 7 offensive.
Texas blew out Missouri 88-86 as the Tigers had no way of keeping him from scoring from just about anywhere on the court. He hit 10 of 14 shots, two 3-pointers and was 12-of-13 on free throws giving him a total of 34 points. He also grabbed 13 rebounds.

Durant has certainly put Texas on his back considering out of the top seven players playing major minutes for the Longhorns, five of them are freshman, yet they stand at 2-0 in conference play and 12-3 overall. I know the season is still incredibly young and the Longhorns have yet to play the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M, but consider the possibilities if Durant AND Texas continue at this pace; the voters will have to consider Durant for player of the year.

Unfortunately for us most expect Durant to jump to the NBA after one season. For now, he remains a defender's nightmare in a conference that might have hoped for a Texas drop-off after the Longhorns lost all five starters from last season's co-championship team.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Morning Wakeup Call

In the first major week back to action, I was .500 over the weekend with my predictions after a few stellar performances by teams I did not pick. Washington State played the game of their life in a thrilling overtime win over Arizona, Virginia Tech out-dueled the Blue Devils in Cameron, the Orange outlasted Marquette on their own home court, and Oregon took down previously unbeaten UCLA in gritty fashion. It was a great weekend of superb basketball which is quite typical for the start of conference play and should continue from hear on out.

So, tonight feature’s the BCS Championship game where heavily favored Ohio State Buckeye’s will match wits with the Florida Gators. First question, does anyone even care at this point? After nine thousand bowl games having already been played, not to mention one for the ages (Boise State over Oklahoma), it’s becoming quite exhausting to even keep up. Second question, did anyone even notice that they added an additional bowl game this year? In fact, tonights BS, I mean tonights BCS Championship game is the added bowl. Already we’ve seen Boise win the Fiesta, LSU dominate the Sugar, Louisville upend Wake in the Orange and USC succeed in the Rose. I don’t get it, I thought college football was attempting to eliminate the bowls; they’ve now pulled a fast one and actually increased the number of bowl games. Thank God for March Madness…

Big Wins, Bad Losses

In dramatic fashion, Washington State took down the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats, 77-73 in overtime. The Cougers had not beaten such a highly ranked opponent at home in 24 years. It was only their second win over the Wildcats in the last 43 meetings. The Cougars (14-2, 3-1 Pac-10) got their biggest win at home since beating No. 6 UCLA in 1983, and they topped 13 wins for the first time since 1995-96. WSU was lead by Daven Harmeling who scored a career high 28 points, including 7 3-pointers.

Northern Iowa topped Southern Illinois, 66-61. Just another Missouri Valley Conference team to not sleep on as the Panthers stand at 13-2, 4-0 and at the top of the MVC. The loss ends a 5-game winning streak by the Saluki’s.

Arkansas demolished Alabama in Fayettville, 88-61. The Razorbacks (12-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) scored the game's first 14 points and led by as many as 36 in the second half. Everyone on the Razorback squad seemed to have a helping hand in the win as Gary Ervin had 18 points and 11 assists, Charles Thomas posted 12 points and 11 rebounds and Patrick Beverley and Sonny Weems both scored 18 points. Arkansas held All-American point guard Ronald Steele to just eight points, four assists and four turnovers.

With a 56-50 win over UNLV, Air Force is off to their best start in team history (15-1) including 11 straight wins. Despite 20 points and 12 rebounds from Rebel guard Wendell White, the Falcons held UNLV to just 20 for 56 from the field, including 1-for-18 from 3-point range. Look for the Falcons to improve upon their #16 ranking today.

Top Individual Performances

Kevin Durant, Texas: Durant scored a career-high 37 points to go with 16 rebounds as Texas won its ninth straight Big 12 Conference opener in a 102-78 victory Saturday over Colorado. Durant was able to outgun Buffalo junior sharpshooter Richard Roby (30 points, averages 19) as they nearly matched shot for shot in the first half with Durant scoring 21 points and three 3-pointers by halftime. Durant is averaging 22.6 points/10.7 boards on the year.

Sean Marshall, B.C.: Marshall scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half Saturday to lead Boston College past North Carolina State 74-58. He also lead the Eagles with 14 rebounds. Marshall is averaging 15 points/5 rebounds on the year.

Aaron Brooks, Oregon: This 6-0 senior guard, and former McDonald’s All-American, is finally coming into his own this year especially after posting 25 points, including the game winning jumper to take down the undefeated UCLA bruins 68-66. After a disappointing junior campaign where he averaged just 10 points a game, he’s up +8 at 18 points and almost 5 assists/4 boards a game.

Jason Smith, Colorado State: The seven-footer and future NBA draft pick had a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds (and 6 assists) to lead 11-3 Colorado State Rams over the New Mexico Lobos, 88-79. Smith as averaging 17.5 points/10 boards a game.


Clemson continued its winning ways with a 75-74 win over Georgia Tech and remains the last of the unbeatens in Division I. K.C. Rivers lead Clemson with 20 points, however it was James Mays’ winning layup with 2.2 seconds to go in regulation that sealed the victory. The Yellow Jackets were missing their top scoring threat, Louis Clinch, for violating the university’s honor code (uh, cheating were we Louis?). Mays also has an interesting personal streak going on; over the past two years with Mays in the starting lineup, the Tigers are 27-0. They’ll take their swagger into Wolfpack territory on Tuesday night to seek their 17th win on the season.

The Princeton Tigers held the Rice Owls to just 28 points while scoring 51 of their own. More surprisingly, they held the nations most dangerous scoring threat (31.4 points which leads Division I), potential All-American Morris Almond to just 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting and 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Almond also committed four turnovers and left the game for good with 8:37 remaining.

Winless Watch:
Despite Anthony Bruin’s 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Iona Gaels (0-13, 0-3), who led 37-34 with 13:38 left in the game, it was coach Jeff Ruland’s major meltdown that eventually allowed the Loyola (MD) Greyhounds to take the lead. With the Gaels leading by one, Ruland was called for a technical foul following a turnover. Before play resumed, he was whistled for another technical allowing Loyola to take the lead for good. Up next for the Gaels will be at the 11-4 Red Foxes (no, not from Sanford & Son) of Marist led by consummate point guard (and Top 5 in the nation) Jared Jordan who scores just over18 a game and leads the nation with an 8.4 assist average.

Predictions for the Week

Villanova at Georgetown: Somewhat of a gut check for Nova as they begin Big East play losing their first two. G’Town has won their last seven including wins over Michigan and N.D. The Hoyas should win at home.

Arkansas at Florida: Despite Arkansas riding high from their brilliant performance over the Crimson Tide, the Razorbacks tend to struggle on the road. Unfortunately for Arkansas, Florida remains unbeaten at home and should have too many weapons to lose.

West Virginia at Notre Dame: WVU’s on a tear as of late winners of their last eight due to sound zone defense and barrages of 3-pointers. The defeat to G’Town may have hurt the Irish’s psyche and I believe the Mountaniers will win in South Bend.

Ohio State at Wisconsin: The best of the best in Big 10 play go at pairing the diaper dandy’s of the Buckeye state against the experience of the Badgers. It’s hard to vote against a team featuring Greg Oden, however potential POY Alando Tucker should propel the Badgers to a home victory.

LSU at Alabama: This is a battle of the bigs as both teams struggle from the arc and really on gritty defense, solid post play and all-out hustle. The victor will be the team who wants it more and I believe the Tide will bounce back from their disappointing weekend collapse.

Marquette at Connecticut: Marquette may slowly slip from the polls with loses to Providence and Syracuse and may run into a hungry UConn team seeking revenge after a disappointing 2nd half meltdown to LSU this weekend. I like the young Huskies at home.

Oklahoma State at Kansas: The inside outside threat of Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry have the Cowboys atop the Big 12. It’s tough to win at Phog and Kansas seems to be coming into their own, however I love the hard nosed play of the Cowboys.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

In the preseason I offered my thoughts as to the Wooden Award Candidates and suggested that there were actually 10 players within college basketball realistically deserving of the award, and to some point, that list has dramatically changed through the halfway point of the season. In November, here was my Top 10 list:

Corey Brewer – Hard to keep Brewer on the list as he was out for a period of time with Mono. He’s averaging 13 points/5 boards/3.5 assists, however I’m going to take him off the list and reserve this spot for someone who’s missed less games. (OUT)

Glen Davis – The Big Baby is by far the leading scorer 19 points and rebounder 10 for the Tigers and has certainly saved his best for big games (24 points/10 boards vs. Texas A&M, 21 and 10 vs. Texas, 16 and 8 vs. UConn). He was held to 8 points against Washington, however without Big Baby, the Tigers would not be a Top 25 team. (IN)

Nick Fazekas – Fazekas is averaging over 20 points and 12 boards (Top 10 in the country) for the Wolf Pack and has certainly held his own against quality opponents (12 points/16 boards at Cal despite an injured shoulder, 16 points/17 boards vs. UNLV, and 24 points and 9 boards at Gonzaga). He’s had a double-double in all but 3 games and he certainly shoulders the load when it counts. (IN)

Tyler Hansbrough – His minutes are down from last year due to the wealth of talent that UNC possess, yet the man they call Psycho T has sustained his averages from a stellar freshman year (over 18 points/7 boards). He plays the game with the intensity of a linebacker and although UNC would still be highly regarding without him, he brings a certain level of intimidation each time he steps on the court giving UNC that extra edge. His dominant 25 point/13 rebound performance (in just 28 mins) in a win over Florida State cemented the Tar Heels #1 rank as of this morning. (IN)

Al Horford – Averaging 12 points/8 boards and is the gearth in the paint for the Gators. Without his muscle they’d certainly be a different team. (OUT)

Josh McRoberts – McRoberts remains one of the games best all around players and best passing big men in college basketball despite the urging from critics that he doesn’t score enough. He remains extremely unselfish and most of the times to a fault considering the Blue Devils need his leadership and skill more than ever this year. He’s capable of a triple-double on any night and Duke will need more of that during conference play. (IN, barely)

Joakim Noah – The emotional leader for the Gators has the same averages as fellow teammate Horford and remains the best running big man at the college level. (IN)

Brandon Rush – Leads the team in scoring with just over 13 points a game and 5 boards (a bit down from his freshman campaign) however fans and coach Self are still waiting for that breakout moment to arrive. He’s not much of a vocal leader and despite his talent, tends to zone out at times. (OUT)

Al Thornton – Standing 6-8, 230 and possessing the combination of strength, athleticism and perimeter skills, Big Al is the ultimate matchup threat for opposing players. He’s currently averaging 17 points/6 boards per, has yet to score in single digits this year and dueled with Hansbrough in their loss to UNC posting 29 points and 12 boards of his own. (IN)

Julian Wright – As ESPN the magazine puts it, Wright “is a 6-8 stud with a Magic-meets-KG game” and has the uncanny ability to dominate a game without scoring many points. Wright is averaging 12 points and 8 boards a game and definitely has the ability to lead the Jayhawks in assists on a given night. (OUT, for now)

Newly Added:

Alando Tucker – Without a doubt the heart and sole and vocal leader of Badger basketball. Tucker averages over 20 points/5 boards a game and has saved his best for the best opponents (22/5 vs. Florida State, 28/5 at Marquette, 32/10 vs. Pitt, and 29/8 at Georgia). He not only propels himself into the Top 10, but is also a front-runner along with Tyler Hansbrough and the next guy.

Mario Boggan – Boggan hasn’t been anything less than sensational this year for the Cowboys. He’s increased his scoring by 7 from last year (22 from 15) and improved his rebounding to almost 8 per. Despite being a burly big man, he’s second on the team in minutes played and had some great outings (25/10 at Auburn, 21/8 at Syracuse, 20/6 at Tennessee and 30/9 vs. Pitt).

Jamont Gordon – It’s easy to overlook a superstar on a mediocre team, however sophomore sensation, 6-4 guard, Gordon is putting together a wonderful season, leading Mississippi State in all major categories (16 points/8 boards/5 assists).

Chris Lofton – Arguably the best pure shooter in college basketball, Loften has extended his arsenal as he’s driving to the basket more helping himself to a scoring average of just over 22 points a game (up from 17 last year). At times he has single handedly willed the Vols to victory this year including 34 points vs. Memphis, 20 in a win over Ok. State, and 35 vs. Texas.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fun for Friday

Happy New Year sports fans! It’s been a long layoff for me and like you I too enjoyed many solid hours of eating, sitting on my couch in my underwear playing playstation, eating, watching college basketball (although the bowl games took up much of my time as well), and of course…eating. Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed a few things in college basketball, but none more important than watching Robert Montgomery Knight break Dean Smith’s Division I record of 879 career wins, attaining number 880 with a 70-68 win over New Mexico.

Throughout the years of on-again, off-again, some deserved, some not criticisms towards Bobby Knight, I’ve never stopped liking the man for who he was and what he represented. Did he have his faults, absolutely. I mean, I’ve been choked by my father before and that’s one thing, but if my coach did that to me, I’d certainly resent the man. However, look at what he's accomplished instead of his flaws which the media likes to headline. He’s always run a clean cut program with zero indication of any illegal recruiting, etc. and he won three NCAA Championships while sustaining a high level of competition each year without top tier talent. He did coach the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Kent Benson, Scott May and Calvin Chaney, but he never recruited on the same level as the Duke’s, the UNC’s, and Kansas yet every year he found ways to produce 20-win seasons.

Following his 880th win, it was great to see how much the Texas Tech fans have come to embrace coach Knight. It was even better to see his softer side by calling his wife down from the stands to enjoy the moment with him, cracking a few jokes, telling a few stories and even soaking it all up with his grandchildren in his arms. What got me completely was when the audio guys at the arena fired up ole Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and shot close-ups of Knight; you could faintly see the tip of his nose redden and a few swells of tears in his eyes that he was able to capture at the very last second. I tell you this, he did a better job holding them in than me.

Big Wins, Bad Losses

Behind burly Ben McCauley’s career high 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists (while never coming out of the game) N.C. State defeated UNC Greensboro 95-93 in overtime. Not sure if this is a big win, however with only a six-player rotation, the Wolfpack will take the victory in stride.

Arizona notched their 12th straight win defeating the Washington Huskies, 96-87 paced by freshman Chase Budinger’s 23 points. The Wildcats shot an astounding 76% in the second half and 65% for the game (including 11-20 from behind the arc). Freshman Quincy Pondexter netted 25 points off the bench for the Huskies.

Randal Falker scored 20 points and Matt Shaw added 18 (and a game-high nine boards) as Southern Illinois beat Wichita State 73-68. The Salukis improve to 11-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley on the year and have now won four in a row. The Shockers are winless in their last four.

Clemson topped Florida State in Tallahassee, 68-66 on a Cliff Hammonds layup with 3 seconds improving to a perfect 15-0 on the season. Clemson joins only UCLA and Oregon as the remaining unbeaten teams in Division I.

West Virginia extends their winning streak to seven with a 67-56 over Villanova, lead by Frank Young’s career high 25 points while drilling eight 3-pointers. Included within that winning streak include victories over UConn and NC State, propelling them into the Top 25.

In Charlottesville, Virginia crushed Gonzaga 108-87 while the Cavaliers set a team record connecting on 18 3-pointers. Sean Singletary hit 7 of his own to go along with a career-best 37 points. The Bulldogs have now suffered four straight losses.

Players of the Week

Mike Conley Jr. had nine points, 10 assists and provided maturity beyond his years in the Buckeyes win over Indiana 74-67 in Columbus. While 45 year old Greg Oden continues to get the acclaim, Conley is putting together a formidable freshman campaign of his own with a better than 3/1 assist/turnover ratio. He’s averaging 9 points/6.6 assists/3.4 boards on the year.

Point guard Stefhon Hannah dropped 27 points/5 boards/5 assts to propel Missouri over Mississippi State, 83-75 to help improve the Tigers to 11-2 on the year. The junior transfer guard is averaging 16 points/5 assists/3.4 boards per game while reaching the 20 point plateau five times and scoring in double figures in every game but one.

With 38 points and 10 rebounds, Trey Johnson led Jackson State to an 81-68 victory over Alabama State Tuesday night. Johnson is battling Rice’s Maurice Almond for the scoring title averaging 30 points a clip despite continuous double/triple teams and various gimmick defenses.

What is up with Wichita State? The Shockers started out 9-0 with road wins at George Mason, LSU, Syracuse, and at Wyoming, before losing to New Mexico (without second-leading scorer and top defender P.J. Couisnard, out with a stomach bug) and to USC right before Christmas. They then dropped a home game to Northern Iowa and a road one at Southern Illinois making it four straight. Obviously the non-conference schedule required a ton of energy and the losses could simply be attributed to running out of steam. The Shockers defeated Bradley last night in convincing fashion winning by 19 and are hoping to ride that momentum into their next game against 11-3 Missouri State.

In the continuing effort to humiliate those who suck and provide humor at the expense of others’ failure, I continue to present to you The WINLESS Watch were we are left with just a single team desperately searching for that ever so desired first win of the season: The Iona Gaels. With names like Milo Prodanovic and Alejo Rodriguez, I can’t imagine why they would be anything less than a .500 team at this point instead of 0-12. After a heartbreaking 88-57 loss to Maryland last night, the Gaels seek their first win against a surging Loyola (MD) team, winners of one straight!

Only two Division I teams remain unbeaten:

Clemson: The Tigers are off to one of their best starts in school history (15-0) with some descent wins over Florida State, rising Georgia, and at Old Dominion, but to me their non-conference schedule was still a bit weak. Next six games: Ga. Tech, at N.C. State, at Maryland, vs. UNC, vs. B.C., at Duke. Tough stretch.

UCLA: The Bruins appear to be the most complete team in the country on both ends of the court. Despite the lack of a prototypical interior big man, UCLA has already posted wins against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Michigan, a surging Washington State, and Washington – certainly not the type of non-conference schedule that the other two unbeatens have faced. At this point it’s real hard not to picture them as one of the four remaining teams in Atlanta.

Weekend Predictions

Notre Dame at Georgetown: The Hoyas are winners of their past six with a recent win over Michigan while the Irish haven’t lost since November 13th. With that said, the Irish are without suspended point guard Kyle McAlarney as he was caught smoking dope; without his 10+ points, leadership and deadly three-point accuracy, the Irish will wish that he just passed on grass.

Duke vs. Virginia Tech: Duke will look to continue its defensive prowess, playing yet another home game against the same team they needed a buzzer beater to defeat last year. The Hokies upperclassmen will be seeking revenge, however the Devils at home is a tough out.

UCLA vs. Oregon: What was to be the battle of the undefeated’s is no longer, therefore the game is not as monumental as originally advertised. I believe Ernie Kent's guys will play well at home especially since UCLA hasn't had any tough tests on the road yet. However, the Bruins know how to win and finish off their opponents when it counts.

UNLV vs. Air Force: Lon “the unibrow” Kruger has the Rebels on the cusp of the Top 25 with recent wins over Texas Tech and Nevada during their 10 game win streak. Air Force has an 11 game winning streak of their own and find themselves at #16 in the polls. I like the Falcons at home.

Georgia Tech at Clemson: Clemson’s got a new swagger much like K-Fed after shockingly defeating John Cena in their first Monday Night Raw match and I don’t think they’ll lose their first game at home against the young Jackets.

UConn at LSU: UConn’s incredibly young and incredibly talented team suffered their first loss to WVU, while struggling to defend and/or make the three. Luckily, LSU does not shoot the three well, but they certainly play stingy defense. UConn will try to suffocate Big Baby, but he’s a good enough passer out of the post and his teammates should pick up the slack.

Arizona at Washington State: Tony Bennett’s boys and cerebral play are the talk of the Pac-10 with a record of 13-2 and wins over the Zags, USC and Arizona State (not to mention just a 3-point loss at UCLA). It’s a true contrast of styles as the Cougers look to slow the pace down, however I look for the Wildcats to turn this into a second half track meet.

Syracuse at Marquette: Both teams are in need of a quality win and quick after Pitt took down the Cuse on their home court and Marquette was defeated by the sensational sophomore’s of Providence. Marquette at home will be tough to knock off and no one in the country can stop Dominic James.

Quips, Quarrels, Querulous Inquiries

To date analysts around the country have been praising the much heralded freshman class and how they’ve impacted the college basketball landscape. More than ever, freshman are playing much larger than contributing rolls, often leading their respective teams in the traditional statistics such as scoring, rebounding, assists and sometimes in the areas of leadership as well. Mainstream media has been promoting the high profile freshman such as Greg Oden, Chase Budinger, Kevin Durant, Brandon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Durrell Arthur, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, and Javaris Crittenton just to name a few. By all means, these former McDonald’s All-Americans deserve every accolade being handed to them, they’re performing at a very high level, and producing right away. But this is just a handful of the young talent that is spread throughout college basketball and there are many others who deserve the same recognition. Here are a few less heralded freshmen earning the star treatment on their respective campuses:

Duke Crews, Tennessee: This man-child of a power-forward with averages of just over 10 points/6 boards per saves his best for wins against the big boys (9 points/10 boards against Memphis, 17 points/9 boards over Ok. State, and 16 points/8 boards over Texas).

Stephen Curry, Davidson: There are plenty of sleepers around the country, maybe no one more so than Stephen Curry of Davidson, son of former NBA guard Dell Curry. Curry is averaging over 19 points/4 boards/ 3 assists and has the Wildcats winners of their past eight.

Quincy Pondexter, Washington: Until Spencer Hawes’ recent tear, the 6-7 Pondexter was certainly fulfilling the hole left by the departure of Brandon Roy. Through the first 9 games, Pondexter led the Cats in scoring having eclipsed 20+ points four times and is currently averaging almost 15 points and 5 boards per game.

Grieves Vasquez, Maryland: The Terps' mature lead guard has already hit double figures 6 times coming off the bench including a 17 point performance in a win at Champaign against Illinois. He posts averages of 9 points/3.6 rebounds/4 assists per.

Ryan Anderson, California: One of the top freshmen in the country, the power forward is averaging 17.3 points and 8.4 boards a game and will look to keep Cal afloat now that junior center DeVon Hardin is out for nearly three months with a stress fracture.

Tajuan Porter, Oregon: Porter started the Ducks rolling with three straight games scoring 27 or more, capped off by 38 against Portland State. This 5-6 dynamo has slowed down a bit as of late as the upperclassmen are coming into their own, but he continues to contribute around 15 points a game.

Shamari Spears, B.C.: A undersized power player inside has been a must-have spark off the bench for giving the Eagles balance up front especially while they cope with the injured Jared Dudley. Spears is averaging 8.7 points/6.2 boards

Tweety Carter, Baylor: One of the least heralded of the former McDonald’s All-Americans, Carter has scored in double figures four times including 31 points in a disappointing loss at Syracuse. The 5-10 point guards is averaging 10 points in 22 minutes of action per game.

Luke Harongody, Notre Dame: This “Big Country” Reeves look-alike is making a major impact with 11.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per and has been solid for the upstart Irish

Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati: This 6-1 guard is having a heck of a season thus far where he’s already posted point totals of 17, 24, 25 and 33 against Temple, Xavier, N.C. State and Wofford. He’s averaging just over 14 points/4 assists/3 boards per.

Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall: This former running mate of Duke’s Lance Thomas is now in the limelight for the Pirates. Given the green light to run the team from coach Bobby Gonzalez, Harvey has yet to disappoint averaging over 16 points/5 assists per and has scored in double figures in every game but one. He’s also averaging 33.7 minutes a contest.

Raymar Morgan, Michigan State: A future star, this solid 6-7 forward caught the injury bug as of late, but was averaging 11 points/6 boards for a Spartan club looking for help on offense. Morgan has also scored in double figures in all but one game.

As the old saying goes, the best thing about freshman is they eventually become sophomores. In 2007, these players are no longer freshman, they are simply basketball players.