Two weeks (and a trip to L.A.) have passed, the Bruins are still No. 1 and Lorenzo Mata is still shooting free throws at a sub-30-percent clip (26.5 as I write this). But we have a nice new development out of the UCLA Web world: a photo of Mata lounging poolside with what appear to be members of the Bruins dance team. In this setting he appears to be shooting somewhere in the range of 100 percent. The original blogger to post the photo, Insomniacs Lounge, called it a "moment of inspiration from Lorenzo," and Bruins Nation titled it "Life Of A Ben Ball Warrior." I call it the L.A. collegiate equivalent of a snapshot of Sam Cassell, with Playmates, at Hef's mansion.
Next three: 12/23 vs. Michigan, 12/28 vs. Washington State, 12/31 vs. Washington.
We didn't learn a lot from the Shockers' ninth win, a 74-65 scare against Kennesaw State on Tuesday -- a letdown game following an Off-The-Meter-attended win at Wyoming. Mostly we learned that coach Mark Turgeon is willing to relegate three of his stars -- Kyle Wilson, Matt Braeuer and Sean Ogirri -- to the pine if they aren't producing. The lack of an inspired effort from Wichita left the stage open for Owls coach Tony Ingle, who had a post-game quote double-double (from the Wichita Eagle): • On losing to Kansas State by 28 two days earlier: "K-State beat us like we stole something from them." • On the environment at WSU's Charles Koch Arena: It was "tougher than my mother-in-law's biscuits." We'll assume he meant actual biscuits, and not the Humpty Dance kind: ( I sang on Doowhutchalike, and if ya missed it, I'm the one who said just grab 'em in the biscuits)
Next three: 12/22 at New Mexico, 12/30 vs. Northern Iowa, 1/1 at Southern Illinois.
The Wildcats' Mustafa Shakur is morphing from the point guard everyone loved to call overrated ... into the point guard who, in Memphis coach John Calipari's words, can "control" a game. Staf' diced up Cal's Tigers on Wednesday, scoring 23 points and dishing out five assists in a 79-71 win. Teammate Marcus Williams thinks Shakur is the nation's best floor general, and told the Tuscon Citizen, "There are obviously guys who get a lot more pub than he does, but he just has to continue to play as well as he's playing. We'll then run into those other guards and have a showdown." I'm picturing a sort of back-alley news team backcourt rumble, after which an unscathed Shakur remarks, "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast."
Next three: 12/28 vs. Cal, 12/30 vs. Stanford, 1/4 at Washington.
The last Tyler Hansbrough Power Rankings nugget dealt Texas-style ping-pong. This time it's pedicures. In a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatchfeature, Psycho T admits that he takes extra-special care of his feet. "A lot of people look at it kind of like being a sissy, but it really takes care of your feet," said Hansbrough of his pedicure appointments. Adding that he never thought he'd be a pedicure kind of guy, Hansbrough admits "I'm probably going to catch a lot of heat for that from some of my guys back home." Home is Poplar Bluff (population: 15,000), in southeast Missouri, so yeah, he's probably going to get some heat.
Next three: 12/22 at St. Louis, 12/28 vs. Rutgers, 12/31 vs. Dayton.
In a Madison TV interview before the season started, I was asked if I thought Alando Tucker had a real shot at winning the Wooden Award. My answer was lukewarm; I trusted in his ability but was realistic about the national-recognition gap between Tuck and guys like UNC's Hansbrough and Florida's Joakim Noah. Twelve games into the 2006-07 season, though, the reality is that Tucker may be the No. 1 candidate for the award -- and he's already had two monster games on national TV. He had 28 points and five rebounds in the Badgers' win over Marquette on Dec. 9, and then 32 and 10 in their trouncing of Pitt last Saturday. His rebounding numbers are slightly down from last season (4.4 as opposed to 5.7) but everything else about him has improved. He's increased his scoring average by 2.2 points to 21.2 per game, and his field-goal percentage has skyrocketed from 45.3 to 52.2 percent. Tucker's offensive game was somewhat reckless in '05-06, but he's shooting more than 50 percent for the first time since 2003-04, and has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.15) for the first time in his career.
Next three: 12/23 vs. Pacific, 12/27 Gardner-Webb, 12/31 at Georgia.