Taking stock of Pitt and Vanderbilt and more mail (cont.)
As for the rest of my ratings, I got lots of varying opinions. Some of you wrote to say you agreed with me -- shocking, I know -- but what fun would it be to answer those? Instead, allow me to address some of the more notable dissenters:
I couldn't disagree with you more about your "SELL" assessment for Villanova. I think it was the one glaring mistake. As you know, they just got back their best on-ball defender and smartest player, Reggie Redding, and with Yarou being cleared to play, they have immense depth. (They easily go nine deep.) Put that together with a clutch playmaker (Scottie Reynolds) and a great coach, and I think a run to the Final Four is very possible. I think you discount the type of toughness a Big East team will gain over a season. Villanova is more talented and deeper than, eh, your once-again-overrated-alma-mater Dukies.
I'm going to let Thomas in on a little secret: I didn't mean to rate Villanova a SELL. I meant to rate them a HOLD. It sounds like that still won't be enough to satisfy him, but when I originally wrote up my assessment of Villanova, Mouphtaou Yarou, the 6-foot-9 freshman center on whom this team's prospects heavily depended, had not been cleared to play after he came down with Hepatitis B in November. In fact, it looked like he could possibly be gone for the season. Yarou has not played in a game yet for 'Nova, but I was at least willing to wait a little while to see what kind of impact he would have and decided to change my rating. Only, when I rewrote the analysis, I forgot to make that change. My bad.
That still does not answer my concerns about this team's defense, and given how young Yarou is and how much time he missed, he won't have nearly the same impact he would have had he played from Day 1. I was as bullish as anyone about Villanova in the preseason, but given that they're 12-1 and ranked No. 6 in the AP poll, it is still very hard for me to rate them a BUY.
And thanks for the Duke hate, Thomas. Really makes me feel like the season is kicking in.
If Wisconsin is a BUY, why didn't you have them ranked in this week's poll? Are you trying to hedge your bets? How many times have you told yourself not to bet against a Bo Ryan-coached team? Methinks you should start listening to those voices in your head.
First of all, be glad I don't listen to those voices in my head. We're all better off.
Second, what's with using actual facts to undermine my arguments? No fair, bro. I have no idea where you found my AP ballot (I know it's available online somewhere, I just don't know where), but I double-checked it on my computer and you're right -- I didn't rank Wisconsin, and I don't know why. I guess it was just an oversight. I'd like to promise you that I'll rank them next week, but considering they've got Michigan State and Purdue coming up, I'll have to reserve judgment.
Either way, I agree Bo knows hoops, and this team is a great bet to make the NCAA tournament. There are a lot of other teams in the Big Ten that wish they could say that right now.
I still find it amazing that the media is still giddy over Syracuse. They are a decent team, but certainly not a great team. It all happened when they beat Florida (average-at-best team) and beat North Carolina (average team). People will soon realize that Syracuse is nothing special. It will take some time, but it will happen. They are no better than last year. Mark my words!
I give Don credit for making a bold prediction, and he makes a good point about Florida and North Carolina (though I'm not sure I'd describe the Tar Heels as an "average" team). I would also submit that Don is underrating the Orange's win at Seton Hall. A road win is never a given in college hoops -- just ask Carolina. Obviously we'll have a better sense of how good 'Cuse is in a few weeks, but I still think they're a good pick to get to Indy. The one thing that the Orange have done exceptionally well the last few years is defend the three-pointer, yet in their loss to Pittsburgh they allowed the Panthers to make 10 of their 24 attempts from behind the arc. I call that a bad night, not a deficiency. Plus, Andy Rautins and Brandon Triche combined to shoot 1-for-11 from three-point range themselves. How often is that going to happen? For the time being, I'm willing to give Syracuse a mulligan, but if they go into a slide, my pal Don from Warrington is going to look more prescient than I will.
Finally, here are two more e-mails not related to the stock report:
How would you diagnose the state of the Maryland Terrapins? Though they started the year with lofty expectations, they have sunken to new lows, with not a single impressive victory on their resume. In the past week their prize recruit Terrence Ross decommitted, they lost (at home) to William & Mary, and again the Gary-bashers are preparing themselves for a verbal war. What does it take to get this once-storied program back to national prominence? Can they compete effectively as long as Gary Williams is the coach? Looking ahead to the future (after 2013), who do you see as a potential coaching possibility for the Terps?
It was only a matter of time before this narrative began anew. While I would disagree that the Terps began the year with "lofty" expectations (they have never been ranked in the AP's Top 25, though they were first in "others receiving votes" in the preseason poll), I don't disagree that they have been a disappointment. There was some optimism that freshmen forwards Jordan Williams and James Padgett could shore up Maryland's weaknesses inside, but so far those guys have not panned out.
As for Terrence Ross, my understanding is that the Maryland coaching staff did an excellent job evaluating and recruiting him, but once Ross figured out just how good he was, he decided he wanted to test the waters. Now he is getting recruited by big boys like Duke, Kansas and Kentucky. This, I'm sure, is a distressing development for Terps fans, because it feeds their suspicion that no matter how hard the Terps huff, no matter how hard they puff, they will never be considered a truly elite program.
As for Williams, while he and athletic director Debbie Yow are still barely on speaking terms, I do not see her mustering the will to show Williams the door. Gary is going to leave when Gary wants to leave, and while in my view he has earned that privilege, he needs this program to start showing some signs of life or this thing is going to get ugly. (Just ask Bobby Bowden.) Though it is way too early to speculate on possible successors, the names of Maryland natives Tubby Smith and Mike Brey always seem to come up in basketball circles whenever this question arises. Still, Maryland does not have a coaching vacancy, and I don't expect it will have one in the foreseeable future.