My annual Stock Report (cont.)
Washington (10-3, No. 24): SELL
The Huskies could very well end up winning the Pac-10. That plus $2.25 will get them a ride on the New York City subway. A team that loses by 11 points at home to unranked Oregon does not strike me as a team with Sweet Sixteen potential. (Yes, I know Syracuse lost at home to unranked Pittsburgh. Apples and oranges, my friends.) Washington's lone significant win came at home against Texas A&M in the game in which Aggies guard Derrick Roland gruesomely broke his leg. The Huskies have been playing some pretty decent defense, but aside from Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter they are not getting nearly enough scoring when they really need it. If they were unranked and unnoticed I might recommend you hold them until they get a few more league games under their belt, but I can't help but believe this team has gone as high in the rankings as it will go.
West Virginia (11-1, No. 8): SELL
The Mountaineers finally ran out of lives on Friday when they got blitzed at Purdue, but since that was a road game against a higher-ranked team, it did not adequately deflate West Virginia's stock. The Mountaineers needed not one but three great escapes to stay undefeated during their first 11 games, including when they blew a 17-point second-half lead to win by two against a Cleveland State that has a 5-10 record. Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks are marvelous talents who have done a terrific job filling in at point guard, but using smoke, mirrors and duct tape is no way to fill the most important position on the floor. I still expect West Virginia to contend for a Big East title, and if their regular point guard, Joe Mazzulla, gets healthy, I'll be happy to upgrade their stock down the road. As it stands, this team has maxed out its market value. It won't fall far, but it has nowhere to go but down.
Wisconsin (12-2, No. 17): BUY
Not only is this a great stock, it's a great time to buy it. The Badgers play at Michigan State on Wednesday and then face Purdue at home on January 9. That's a great opportunity for them to knock off one of the last remaining undefeated teams, but even if they lose those two games their stock price won't take a hit. Wisconsin is going to be the main benefactor of the surprising weakness of this league. They have already knocked off Duke and Ohio State at home, and their nine-point win over Marquette last month looks even better in retrospect. This is another classic Bo Ryan team -- no superstars, just solid, smart, strong, tough veterans who know how to play Bo ball. They're ranked 10th in the U.S. in offensive efficiency and lead the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. You won't get rich buying Wisconsin, but you'll never go broke.
Five sleeper stocks
William & Mary (10-2): Since dropping their first two games, the Tribe, who boast a bevy of excellent three-point shooters, have won 10 in a row, including two league road games by one point each.
Northern Iowa (12-1): I'm still not sure how good the Missouri Valley is, but I'm pretty confident the Panthers are the best team in it. This is a big week for them as they hit the road to play Southern Illinois and Illinois State.
BYU (14-1, No. 25): Jimmer Fredette is a superb setup man (5.6 assists per game), and his 49-point explosion at Arizona ranks as the single best individual performance of the season.
Saint Mary's (13-2): No Patty Mills? No problem. The Gaels have plenty of Aussies to surround superstud post man Omar Samhan, but they still lack a quality win. They'll have a great chance to get one when they host Gonzaga on Jan. 14.
Virginia Tech (12-1): The Hokies just beat Seton Hall in Cancun, Mexico, with their best player, Malcolm Delaney, sidelined with an ankle injury. Delaney should be back in the next week or two, which will give him plenty of time to spur Virginia Tech to just its second NCAA tournament bid in the last 14 years.
Five to dump (if you haven't already)
Oklahoma (8-5): The Sooners looked like they had righted the ship with six-game win streak, but after getting walloped by UTEP and Gonzaga by a combined 29 points, they are once again listing badly. The good news is Willie Warren will have to come back next season, if he's smart enough to realize it.
Fordham (2-10) and Penn (0-8): They deserve to have horrible records next year, too, for firing their coaches during the season.
Arkansas (7-7): Suspensions, shoddy perimeter defense and bad luck are no way to go through life, son.
Iowa (5-9): It's rare to see a team from a power conference emerge from nonconference play two games under .500. I'd say there's a 50-50 chance the Hawkeyes will not win a game in the Big Ten this season.
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