Don't discount teams who've had early slip-ups, more
Posted: Thursday December 27, 2007 3:25PM; Updated: Friday December 28, 2007 12:48PM
Never make too much --good or bad -- of one game.
They're words to live by in the world of college hoops, where radio and Internet bloviators are far too quick to bury any team or player that has one off night. This isn't college football, folks, and Duke's Jon Scheyer isn't the worst player in the nation (as we heard in some quarters) just because he had a rough shooting night against Pittsburgh last week.
With that in mind, here are four teams that were labeled "disappointments" after November losses but are now showing why we thought they'd be good in the first place:
MICHIGAN STATE (11-1)
Early loss: to UCLA on Nov. 20.
The Spartans' lone defeat (to national-title contender UCLA) came after Drew Neitzel had been throwing up all day, and MSU got lousy performances from Goran Suton (0 field goals attempted in 20 minutes) and Kalin Lucas (five points, four turnovers). All three were good in the Fighting Izzos' win over Texas last Saturday (we're amazed at how effective Suton can be when he wants to), and the Spartans' defense against the 'Horns was even better. Add leading scorer Raymar Morgan to the mix, and MSU has the best ensemble cast this side of ...
Early loss: to Texas on Nov. 24.
The Vols' blowout loss to Texas got everyone (including the 'Bag) down on Bruce Pearl's crew, but Tennessee's response has been impressive, especially its win at Xavier last Saturday. Chris Lofton still isn't playing like a national Player of the Year candidate, but the Vols have other threats. Newly eligible J.P. Prince came out of nowhere to score 23 points against Xavier; Brian Williams has shown promise filling in for Duke Crews; and everyone from Wayne Chism to Ryan Childress to the Smiths (Tyler, JaJuan and Ramar) is picking up the slack for Lofton (who I expect will start playing like Chris Lofton again soon). Even better, the Vols' half-court defense is looking better and their toughness is winning the day: witness Ramar Smith's remarkable skiding dive to win a loose ball late against the Musketeers. Classic Tennessee basketball.
Early loss: at Siena on Nov. 17.
Siena? You're right: no excuse. Don't look now, though, but the Cardinal could be a real player in the loaded Pac-10. Granted, the schedule has been weak (Stanford's best win was a virtual road game against Texas Tech on Saturday), but the Cardinal are a completely different team with 7-footer Brook Lopez back after being academically ineligible for the first part of the season. Lopez dominated Tech during the second half last Saturday, and he's a game-changer on both ends. Can't wait to see him go up against UCLA's Kevin Love on Jan. 3.
Early loss: to Xavier on Nov. 24.
We love Eric Gordon, but the best thing that may have happened to the Hoosiers was for Gordon (and Armon Bassett) to sit out the win over Kentucky and let his teammates realize that D.J. White and Jordan Crawford are awfully good too. Indiana is infinitely more dangerous when White is a focal point of the offense, and the Hoosiers are playing much more like a team than they were in the loss to Xavier a month ago.