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.


Anonymous pbrods said...

I was looking forward to ripping you again but you left out your usual incorrect analysis. What's up with that?

9:19 AM  
Blogger JT & Deuce said...

Hey, Happy New Year my man! I promise to make more of an assertive effort to be wrong tomorrow! Also, I thought for sure I'd hear from you regarding the POY piece having left Aaron Gray off the list.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous pbrods said...

No, Gray isn't a POY candidate, imo. He's really good and probably a first team All Big East but he isn't the most outstanding player in the country.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Winona said...

Well said.

10:39 PM  

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