Posted: Tuesday December 27, 2005 10:45AM; Updated: Wednesday December 28, 2005 3:58PM
In that same column, I wrote that Ohio State was my sleeper pick to finish second in the conference, while it seemed others were leaning toward Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. This prompted several missives from Wisconsin fans who felt insulted that their Badgers were left out of the mix. The best came from Jeff Spielmann of Madison, who wrote: "Every year the so-called experts find a new reason for why the Badgers will not be a factor in the Big Ten. Last year they didn't have a point guard with the loss of Devin Harris to the NBA. All they did was take North Carolina to the wire in the (Elite Eight). I may be a bit biased, but it is getting old."
Excellent point, Jeff. Perhaps the Badgers get so consistently overlooked because they are so consistently good. This Wisconsin team can be every bit as good as last year's, so I promise not to take them for granted again.
I wouldn't have thought anyone in the Maryland/D.C. area would object to my call for an annual matchup between Georgetown and Maryland, but I never realized that George Washington had so many fans! Writes Chuck Todd from Arlington, Va.: "GW is the only school located in the heart of D.C. that plays major college basketball. Georgetown is still riding a reputation that is now nearly 20 years in the past."
Mark Vane from Austin, Texas: "George Washington is the best program in the region. We own the Terps. And when will G'town finally play us?" D.C. native Frank Dale pines for a Big Five-like round robin involving GW, Maryland, George Mason, Georgetown and Virginia. "Believe it or not," Frank writes, "there is other competition in the area."
I'm glad GW has such a big following, and I agree that the 12th-ranked Colonials, who beat Maryland for the second straight year earlier this month, are currently the best team in the area. But in terms of tradition, Maryland and Georgetown still reign supreme. After GW gets to a couple of Final Fours and wins a national championship, then maybe it will be time to reassess.
A couple of readers (Cliff Wilson of Charlotte, N.C.; Bro Krift of Beaumont, Texas) pointed out that I left Davidson out of my mid-majors column. The point is well-taken -- the Wildcats are 7-3 -- but in a different column I did give a nod to Bob McKillopp as someone who is extremely well-respected by his coaching peers. I'm happy to do so again.
Yes, I had plenty of egg on my keyboard for revealing that I was switching my first-place vote in the AP poll from Duke to Connecticut just two days before the Blue Devils waxed then-No. 2 Texas by 31 points. (I also picked the Longhorns to win in my Friday pickoff column. And for the record, I haven't changed back.) Setting aside the fact that the Blue Devils' victory lost a bit of its luster after Texas dropped its next game by 20 at home to unranked Tennessee, it was quite amusing to get so much email from people accusing me of an anti-Duke bias. I am, as some of you may know, a graduate of that university. I must say, after hearing for years about what an unrelenting suck-up I am to my alma mater, I found the stream of electronic vitriol from Duke fans a refreshing change.
My column about breakout sophomores prompted multiple nominations for Villanova guard Kyle Lowry (Robert Ruch of Phoenixville, Pa.; Joe Jamesburg of Pittsburgh; Tim Shelley of Rockville Centre, N.Y.), and Tennessee guard Chris Lofton (Brad Carl of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Donnie Jones of Knoxville, Tenn.). I also got single, but inspired, nominations for Nevada forward Marcellus Kemp (PB of Las Vegas), GW guard Maureece Rice (Pierre Douge of Hyattsville, Md.), Arkansas forward Darian Townes (Brian Francis of Conway, Ark.), Kentucky guard Joe Crawford (Lewis Fermaglich ofWashington, D.C.), Illinois guard Brian Randle (Dan Wilson, of Chicago) and Cal forward Devon Hardin (Mark Aubry of Kirkland, Wash.).
Finally, one of the, er, interesting byproducts of my appearing on television is that it provides me with another outlet through which to provoke my many loyal Hoop Thinkers. And boy, did I get a barrage of hate mail from people in Memphis after I said on CBS two weekends ago that I thought the Tigers, who were then ranked fifth in both polls and have since moved up to fourth, were "overrated."
Memphis native Jay Adkins' email was unusual from the rest in that it was: a) somewhat civil; and b) grammatically correct. After listing all the teams Memphis has beaten on the road, Jay concluded by writing, "Thanks for saying that, though. You gave our team bulletin board material. I look forward to you commenting on them in the NCAA championship game in April."
Well, Jay, stranger things have happened than Memphis playing in the championship game. Still, I stand by what I said. To declare that Memphis is not overrated right now would be akin to saying that I think the Tigers are going to make the Final Four. While this is clearly John Calipari's most talented team at the school, and while this squad doesn't seem to have the chemistry and character problems of his other Tigers teams, I simply can't foresee a team that counts five freshmen and three sophomores among its top nine players playing in the championship game.
But as Dennis Miller likes to say, That's just my opinion, I could be wrong. And if I am, I'm sure Jay Adkins and his many neighbors will make sure I eat my words.