Which teams helped/hurt themselves in nonconference play? (cont.)
I can't believe anyone would suggest that Evan Turner's draft stock was going suffer because he got hurt. I wonder how that theory's holding up now.
Oregon is about the last team I'd expect to overturn the theory that it's hard to win on the road in college hoops. McArthur Court is supposed to be one of the toughest places to play, yet the Ducks, who opened Pac-10 play by winning at Washington State and Washington, have now lost three in a row at home. Their main problems: lousy defense and lousier three-point shooting.
Whenever I hear an announcer say a player was called for "over the back," I hear Clark Kellogg's voice in my head saying, "You can go over the back. You can't go on the back."
The thing I most respect about Villanova is that even though they have small teams every year, they still do a great job on the boards. This season they have a +6.8 rebound margin, which is ranked fifth in the Big East. I also love that they get to the foul line so often instead of settling for threes.
Here's something older players tend to know that younger players don't: There's a difference between intensity and emotion.
It's starting to get ugly at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have lost six in a row, and it's hard to see where their next win is going to come from. Their next four games are vs. Villanova, at Georgetown, at Marquette and vs. Notre Dame. Plus, one of their top big men, Gregory Echenique, just transferred to Creighton.
Three really good players on really bad teams: Dominique Jones, South Florida; Landry Fields, Stanford; Charles Jenkins, Hofstra.
Bill Self has an interesting conundrum. Cole Aldrich is one of the best centers in the country, but in many respects Kansas is actually a better team when he's not in the game. There's more space for drivers, the fast break is quicker, and the ball moves around better in the half court.
I'm sorry, but Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell is one of the most overrated players in the country. Not only does he give new meaning to the term "volume shooter" (it takes him 18.5 shots per game to average his 22.9 points), but he does very little else to help his team win. When the Pirates lost at Georgetown, Hazell scored 17 points but did not have a single rebound or assist.
I'm a little surprised that more details haven't leaked out about the statement of facts the NCAA sent to Mississippi State last week about Renardo Sidney. From what I'm hearing, there are some extremely problematic allegations in that document. The school has the option of challenging those facts, but I think it's safe to say that Mr. Sidney will not play a minute of college basketball.
I know UConn is struggling, but it is absolutely mind-boggling that the Huskies are on pace to lead the nation in blocks for the ninth straight year. That has to be one of the more remarkable streaks in sports.
One of the better rule changes of in recent history was the decision to count technical fouls as a personal foul as well.
I'm not ready to say that Oklahoma has turned the corner, but the Sooners at least stopped the bleeding by edging Oklahoma State and Missouri at home last week after losing three out of four in embarrassing fashion. Willie Warren played a terrific all-around game against Mizzou (21 points, five assists), but Cade Davis played arguably the best game of his career. OU has three out of its next four on the road, followed by a home game against Texas, so we'll know in about two weeks whether this team will be a factor down the stretch.
You all better start paying attention to Dee Bost, Mississippi State's sophomore point guard. Over his last five games he is averaging 16.6 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
Don't look now, but Siena is looking like a bracket buster again. The Saints won at second-place Fairfield on Saturday to improve their record in the MAAC to 7-0 (14-4 overall). Remember, when they stumbled earlier this season, it was partly because their best player, Edwin Ubiles, wasn't fully healthy.
It's a good sign for BYU that long-range marksman Jonathan Tavernari, a 6-foot-6 senior from Brazil, has apparently rediscovered his touch. Tavernari, who has converted a career-low 33.7 percent from behind the arc this season, endured a brutal four-game stretch in December when he averaged 4.0 points. But he has scored 14.0 points per game off the bench over his last five outings to help the Cougars improve to 18-1.
This week's AP ballot
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Texas (1)
Dropped off my ballot: Connecticut (12), Dayton (17), Baylor (21), Virginia Tech (24).
Skinny: This was the most fun I've had this season filling out a ballot. There were lots of consequential results last week, so it was a challenge deciding how far to drop the teams that lost.
The biggest casualty was the UConn Huskies. Normally I wouldn't punish a team so badly for losing on the road, but Michigan has been so mediocre this season that when UConn lost in Ann Arbor, it forced me to step back and reevaluate where I've been ranking them. The Huskies may be one of the 25 best teams in the country, but do you know what their best win is so far this season? At home against William & Mary. Sorry, folks, that's not enough.
I might have said the same for North Carolina after their two losses last week, but since both Clemson and Georgia Tech are ranked ahead of the Heels on my ballot, I didn't want to drop them completely out. Plus, at least North Carolina has some quality wins over Ohio State (with Evan Turner) and Michigan State at home. As for Purdue, I may have gone a little easy on the Boilermakers by not dropping them further after their third straight loss, but I still believe they are better than the teams I ranked behind them -- including Northwestern, which got on my ballot for the first time this season after knocking off the Boilermakers in Evanston.
As for the risers, Ohio State has earned my respect by beating Purdue on the road and Wisconsin at home. With Evan Turner back in the fold, this is obviously a different team. Pittsburgh cracked my top 10, and while it's not easy for me to reconcile not putting them ahead of Syracuse considering they won in the Carrier Dome, the Orange also helped their own cause by winning at West Virginia. It's a close call which I'm sure will sort itself out in the coming weeks.
It was also tough figuring out what to do with the three schools atop the Atlantic 10. I've been voting Dayton on my ballot consistently, and it's hard to punish the Flyers for losing by four at Xavier. But I also didn't want to rank them ahead of Xavier in the wake of that result, so it was easier just to leave those two out. Temple remains on the board largely because of its win over Villanova.
Dayton and Xavier are thus at the top of my list of teams I strongly considered but left out, followed by Vanderbilt (which still does not have a win against a ranked team), Baylor and Virginia Tech. Texas A&M would have been ranked if they had pulled off that road upset of Texas, but at this point in the season, close enough isn't good enough.
More College Basketball
College Basketball Truth & Rumors