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Wisconsin Badgers (14-2)
I spent some time with the late-blooming Brian Butch for the Inside College Basketball column in this week's SI, which has a slightly more famous Wisconsin sports star on the cover. A couple of things that didn't make it in:
• In keeping with his old-guy identity -- Butch is 23 -- the preferred video game in his apartment living room is Super Tecmo Bowl for original Nintendo.
• The "Polar Bear" nickname given to him by ESPN's Steve Lavin isn't the first time Butch has been referred to as bear. Unbeknownst to Lavin, Butch said his dad's first nickname for him was "Bear" -- because he used to carry around a stuffed animal named Brian Bear as a kid. "My dad even used to yell 'C'mon Bear!' at high school games," said Butch. "I'd hear plenty about that from my teammates."
Next three: 1/19 vs. Northwestern, 1/22 vs. Michigan, 1/26
Mississippi Rebels (15-1)
Big week for the Rebs: Forward Kenny Williams' Baron-esque beard made it into the Style Archive, and his team picked up a good win over a rapidly maturing Florida club. Barring a Vandy upset of Tennessee, Ole Miss looks like the second-most-dangerous team in the SEC. You have to wonder how many years Andy Kennedy will stay there, given that he's establishing himself as perhaps the best young coach in the country. What Kennedy did with Cincinnati -- keeping the heavily depleted, oft-injured Bearcats afloat after Bob Huggins' de-facto firing, was impressive. And what Kennedy's done at Ole Miss -- turn the Rebs into a league contender in just his second season -- has been even more stunning.
Next three: 1/19 at Auburn, 1/26 at Mississippi State, 1/30 vs. Vanderbilt
Michigan State Spartans (15-2)
What happened to torching the footage? Spartans coach Tom Izzo claimed he would do just that following his team's atrocious 42-36 loss at Iowa on Saturday, saying, "This will be a tape that gets burned because there is nothing positive we can get out of it." Instead, after returning to East Lansing, he kept players in the film room until 4 a.m. reviewing State's lowest-scoring game in 56 years. Senior Drew Naymick told mlive.com that there were no fires lit, physically, in the film room." The verbal ones got the message across, as the Spartans responded with a 66-60 win over Ohio State on Tuesday.
Next three: 1/20 at Minnesota, 1/24 at Northwestern, 1/27 vs. Michigan
Arizona State Sun Devils (13-2)
An admission: I'm a week late in getting the Sun Devils, who have now beaten Xavier, Oregon and Arizona, into the rankings. Their efficiency profile is a little too close to the Texas model -- great offense, not great defense -- for me to consider them real Pac-10 title contenders, though:
Team Adj. Off.Eff. Adj. Def.Eff.
(Nat'l Rk.) (Nat'l Rk.)
Texas 125.1 (1) 95.9 (94)
Arizona St. 116.6 (17) 92.8 (61)
Still, how good must Herb Sendek feel, to have one of the nation's best freshman guards, James Harden, in his lineup, while the school that never loved Herbie, N.C. State, is facing a crippling backcourt situation -- the lack of a point guard -- and looks headed to, at best, the NIT?
Next three: 1/17 at Cal, 1/19 at Stanford, 1/24 vs.
Pittsburgh Panthers (15-2)
I'll admit I was expecting the Panthers to fold after losing Mike Cook and Levance Fields -- and they did, to a degree, losing big at Dayton and narrowly at Villanova in the following two weeks. But they've rebounded nicely to win three straight in the Big East, including a Power-Rankings-worthy victory over Georgetown on Monday. DeJuan Blair, who had 15 points and nine boards in that game, and did yeoman's work defending Roy Hibbert, remains under-hyped in this freshman class. He well behind Mike Beasley in terms of production, but stacks up against the other power-forward phenoms:
Player Team PPG RPG BPG Dbl-Dbls/Gms
DeJuan Blair Pitt 12.4 9.8 1.6 7/17
Kevin Love UCLA 16.8 10.2 0.7 8/17
Pat Patterson Kentucky 16.7 8.0 1.4 5/14
Blake Griffin Oklahoma 14.5 8.6 0.8 6/17
Next three: 1/19 at Cincinnati, 1/23 at St. John's, 1/26 vs. Rutgers
Georgetown Hoyas (13-2)
Roy Hibbert's game-winning three-pointer against Connecticut was a YouTube mini-hit, getting posted on the site five different times. It was a shocking shot, given that it was just his second trey attempt of the season (he's made both) -- and it came while the game was tied, not with the Hoyas down two. But it still doesn't stack up with the two best college hoops YouTubes of the season: DeAndre Jordan's super-wingspan follow-slam against Colorado (a feat of athleticism Hibbert cannot match) and Russell Westbrook's posterization of Cal's Jamal Boykin.
Next three: 1/19 vs. Notre Dame, 1/21 vs. Syracuse, 1/26 at West Virginia
ON THE CUSP, TIER 1
Texas A&M (15-2): I still think the Aggies will finish second in the Big 12 ... but Wednesday's offensive performance at Texas Tech was ugly.
Dayton (14-2): Gotta protect home court in the A-10 to stay in the rankings ... and the Flyers didn't take care of business against UMass.
Texas (13-3): 'Horns have some killer wins on their resume, but they've lost three of their last five. Recent performance is weighted heavily here.
Drake (15-1): The Bulldogs are dominating the Missouri Valley -- and will likely jump into the rankings with win over Illinois State on Saturday.
ON THE CUSP, TIER 2: Vanderbilt, Villanova, Notre Dame, Stanford, Oregon, New Mexico, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Missouri, Baylor, Illinois State, West Virginia, Louisville.
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