Taking stock of Pitt and Vanderbilt, 'Cuse's legitimacy and more mail
Villanova may be rounding into form, but I'm still concerned about its defense
Gary Williams needs Maryland to start showing signs of life or this will get ugly
Why I still think Cousins should have been ejected from the Louisville game
Have I told you lately that I love you?
This year's Hoop Thoughts Stock Report was the longest, mostly inclusive one I've ever done. It ran more than 5,000 words, issued ratings with explanations for 30 teams and offered my takes on 10 additional schools classified as either sleepers or busts. But it wasn't enough for you, my devoted Hoop Thinking readership. Once again, you deluged my e-mail and Twitter accounts with solicitations for ratings of even more teams. I gave you all I had, and you still couldn't get enough.
Seriously, you had me at hello.
It is always interesting to see which fan base objects the most to being left out of the HTSR. This year's prize goes to Pittsburgh fans, who had the most to say through e-mail. Believe it or not, the most frequent complaint I got via Twitter was my omission of Vanderbilt. Who knew?
Equally surprising was the base from which I heard nary a peep: Illinois. There was no particular reason I left Illinois out; I simply had to draw the line at some point. Yet, while I think of the Illini Nation as one of the most passionate and rabid fan bases in the nation, their silence was deafening. Could it be that fatigue and apathy is settling in after several unremarkable years on the hardwood? Or maybe you all just have better things to do than fret over my column?
Anyway, here is one of several e-mails I got about my exclusion of Pitt:
Pitt isn't on your radar yet? 3-0 in the Big East with two quality road wins. I'd say a team that just got two valuable starters back to their rotation would be a strong BUY option! They had one bad game against IU (Crean knows how to beat Dixon), but their other loss (against Texas) was a matter of depth, which they have now. I'm saying 10 Big East wins and a 5 seed for an overachieving Panthers squad.
As for Vandy, here are two of the tweets that were sent to my account at SethDavisHoops:
From @VSLNation: why doesn't a 10-3 Vanderbilt team get any attention?
From @anchorofgold: @SethDavisHoops obviously isn't vetting his selections through KenPom. Vandy #23. Florida #47. Vandy dangerously below radar.
I am happy to rectify this situation by rating those two teams. I warn you, though, to be careful what you wish (and e-mail and tweet) for:
Pittsburgh (12-2, No. 23): HOLD
The Panthers have shot their way onto the national radar with road wins at Syracuse and Cincinnati. So now what? Well, it's hard to say, considering they have only been at full strength for four games. Senior guard Jermaine Dixon (21 points vs. Syracuse) missed the first eight games because of a broken bone in his right foot, and junior forward Gilbert Brown (17 points off the bench against Cincy) missed the first 11 while serving a suspension for academics. I'd love to tell you the Panthers are on their way to great things, but check out what they have coming up: at UConn, home versus Louisville, at Georgetown, at Seton Hall, home versus St. John's, then road dates at South Florida and West Virginia. Will Pitt's lack of inside scoring be exposed in the next few weeks? Or will they continue to shoot lights out and take a ton of foul shots? Time will tell, but while I grant that this team is better than I thought, given all they lost from last season I have a hard time envisioning them moving into the top 15 and staying there.
Vanderbilt (11-3, not ranked): SELL
Tennessee's woes present the Commodores with an opening in the SEC East, but even if they do a little better than expected in the conference, I still don't see this as a team that can make hay in the tournament. Kevin Stallings likes full-court pressure, but he doesn't have the personnel to pull it off. The Commodores are high on skill (A.J. Ogilvy) and agility (Jeffery Taylor), but they are low on toughness. That shows up at the defensive end, where Vandy ranks 10th in the SEC in steals and seventh in rebound margin. When Vandy lost to Cincinnati in Hawaii, they got outrebounded by 18. That's the kind of rugged team the Commodores will face in the NCAA tournament (presuming they get there). Vandy hasn't made much noise thus far, but to me this is not a stock on the rise.