Posted: Wednesday January 10, 2007 11:20AM; Updated: Wednesday January 10, 2007 12:24PM
The 'Bag is feeling pretty good about its preseason Final Four prediction of Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Remember, there were big questions heading into the season about the point guards at Arizona (Shakur) and Wisconsin (Kam Taylor), but both have proven up to the task so far. Meanwhile, all Alando Tucker has done is establish a sterling candidacy for national Player of the Year, playing at his best against the best by lighting up Marquette (28 points), Pittsburgh (32), Missouri State (26), Georgia (29) and Ohio State (17).
So who got left out?
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Ohio State: Easily the toughest omission from the Magic Eight, the Buckeyes are the nation's most fascinating team because of their surpassing talent and the giant unknown of what they may yet become. But we actually disagree with our own headline writer for the 'Bag's recent Greg Oden story in Sports Illustrated: Ohio State is not the team to beat, not even in its own conference. (That would be Wisconsin, as we've said from the start.) Long story short: OSU's potential is off the charts, and this could come back to haunt us, but potential doesn't equal accomplishment.
Alabama: That 27-point loss to Arkansas threw up some warning flags, even though the Crimson Tide came back with a nice win at home against LSU on Tuesday. We're still a little concerned about Ronald Steele's bum wheel.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are still a solid sleeper Final Four pick, not least because they can defend like crazy. But we still think coach Billy Gillispie is a year or two away from something really big.
LSU: Glen "Big Baby" Davis still has his mojo, but we thought Magnum Rolle would have done more to fill in for the departed Tyrus Thomas. The Tigers also miss the calming influence of Darrel Mitchell.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are now the favorites in the Big East, but they just don't strike the fear into you that Arizona, North Carolina and Florida do.
Oklahoma State: It was awfully tough to leave the Cowboys out of the Magic Eight, but making hard choices is part of the game, right? Mario Boggan is having an All-America-caliber year, though we still have some lingering questions about the point guard spot.
Butler: The one-loss Bulldogs certainly deserve to be in this company with wins over Tennessee, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Indiana and Purdue. We just don't think there's going to be another George Mason in this year's tournament.
Duke: We still think the Blue Devils will finish second in the ACC, but youth, turnovers and the lack of a go-to superstar make a national title highly unlikely.
Clemson: Give Oliver Purnell's Tigers a ton of credit for being the nation's last undefeated team and pulling off some solid wins. This is a team that can make the NCAA tournament's second weekend, but beyond that? We don't see it.
Opening the 'Bag
We promise we'll get to your questions next week in a Mailbag blowout, so send in your best queries, mind-benders, etc., on the college hoops racket. In the meantime, for your continued enjoyment, we present the next installment of ...
The 'Bag-Bilastrator Challenge!
Week 1 got the B-B Challenge off to a rousing start as the 'Bag attempted to match wits with ESPN's Jay Bilas -- no small task considering the multitalented Bilastrator's achievements include playing in a national-title game, appearing in a White Shadow episode and winning a case against Barney the Dinosaur in a court of law. (No lie, dude's a lawyer, too.) This time it was Jay's turn to suggest a topic, and given its nature we decided to expand responses to a 500-word max. The envelope, please:
Question: If you were crowned Omnipotent King of All Basketball, which is a distinct possibility, what changes would you make in the game and why?
When the Bilastrator was just a lad in his freshman year of college, he was asked his "future goal" for a player questionnaire. The Bilastrator responded, only partly in jest, he wished to become the Ruler of Time, Space and Dimension. Although accepting the appointment as Omnipotent King of All Basketball would be short of his stated goal, and pays far less, the Bilastrator knows he is up to the task.
First, the Bilastrator would decree all media members shall refrain from referring to themselves or their columns in the third person. That egomaniacal domain is for coaches only, and the media needs to seize the high ground before making fun of said coaches.
Second, the Bilastrator would rule the three-point line shall be moved back to the NBA distance, irrespective of the cost of paint and lacquer. Too many bad shooters take the shot, and there is not enough risk involved.
Third, the Bilastrator would ban all lane violations if the free-throw attempt is made. If missed, only then call the violation. Who cares if someone is in early when the shot goes in?