Self pushes KU to develop killer instinct; more national notions (cont.)
You probably forgot this (if you even knew in the first place), but we're coming up on 10 years since the Midwestern Collegiate Conference changed its name to the Horizon League. The move was made to help the conference differentiate itself from other mid-major leagues. Looking back, you'd have to say it was a brilliant marketing move. Whoever made that decision should be hired by Jim Delany to come up with the names of the Big Ten's new divisions.
UNLV's offense has two main problems: The Rebels can't score in the post and they can't make three-pointers. Not sure what else there is.
I got a message last week from someone I respect who took exception with my labeling Virginia Tech as the season's biggest disappointment in my Hoop Thoughts column two weeks ago. (I won't say who called, but his name rhymes with Schmeth Feenberg.) This person pointed out that I neglected to mention that the reason the Hokies have been disappointing is because they have suffered a rash of injuries. This person was right. Mea culpa. So yes, the Hokies are down to eight scholarship players after losing four guys -- J.T. Thompson, Allan Chaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Cadarian Raines -- to injury or illness. (Though Hudson did play 31 minutes in the Hokies' loss at home to Virginia on Dec. 5.) Virginia Tech has won six straight, but we'll know a lot more about the Hokies future prospects when they play at North Carolina on Wednesday night.
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Duke (1)
2. Kansas (2)
3. Ohio State (3)
4. Syracuse (4)
5. Pittsburgh (5)
6. Villanova (6)
7. Connecticut (9)
8. Kentucky (7)
9. Texas (8)
10. San Diego State (10)
11. Notre Dame (15)
12. Illinois (13)
13. Washington (14)
14. Purdue (18)
15. BYU (NR)
16. Missouri (11)
17. Vanderbilt (19)
18. Temple (25)
19. North Carolina (21)
20. Texas A&M (24)
21. Georgetown (16)
22. Gonzaga (22)
23. Minnesota (20)
24. Georgia (NR)
25. Utah State (NR)
Dropped off my ballot: Michigan State (12), Kansas State (17), UCF (23).
There was a lot of road kill to sort through this week. With so many ranked teams losing on the road to conference opponents over the weekend, it was hard to punish them as much as I would like. Remember, if one team moves down, another must move up, and as a voter I have to make sure both teams get what they deserve.
The biggest fall was by Michigan State. I probably gave the Spartans too much benefit of the doubt -- which they've earned -- by leaving them at No. 12 last week. But after Michigan State lost at Penn State -- a team that has lost at home to Maine 10 points and Purdue by 15 -- that benefit has been taken away. The Spartans' other losses were all to ranked teams, but two of them were by double-digit margins, and their best win came over Washington on a neutral court in Maui. The Spartans may well be one of the 25 best teams in the country, but right now they don't deserve to be ranked.
Neither does Kansas State after the Wildcats lost at Oklahoma State by 14. Yes, I am taking scoring margin into account. Voter's prerogative. I realize K-State is still without Curtis Kelly, but a lot of teams are missing players right now, and Kelly is no Kyrie Irving or Robbie Hummel. Kelly and Jacob Pullen were also both in the lineup when K-State lost to Florida by 13 points last month.
I am usually the first guy to stick up for mid-majors, but I am holding the line at San Diego State at No. 10 for now. As I said last week, I think this is a good team, but I don't believe in pushing a team up in the rankings purely because others are losing to good teams. If the Aztecs keep running the table in the Mountain West they'll get into my top five, but I want to give it a couple of weeks. My fellow voters apparently disagree.
Purdue fans don't like to hear my skepticism about their team either, but the fact is the Boilermakers' four Big Ten wins have come against Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa. I'm not saying Purdue's not good, I'm just suggesting we hold off planning their parade just yet. The Boilermakers have a big week ahead of them. They play at Minnesota on Wednesday in a huge game for the Gophers, and then they travel to West Virginia on Saturday. We'll know a lot more about how good they are after that.
Speaking of Minnesota, which is 1-3 in the Big Ten, I was inclined to drop the Gophers off my ballot, but it's hard to punish a team for losing on the road to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, all by respectable margins. I also moved Georgia onto my ballot and dropped out UCF for the simple reason that beating Kentucky at home is harder to do than beating Florida on a neutral court.
Why did I rank Utah State at 25? To quote the great philosopher John Blutarsky: "(Belch) ... Why not?!" Stew Morrill's Aggies very quietly hold a 15-2 record. Their two losses were at BYU and at Georgetown. True they don't have any wins over ranked teams, but what ranked team is dumb enough to play in Logan? Think of this as a vote for the little guys.
I might have ranked Butler on the heels of their rout of Cleveland State, but the close escape at home against Youngstown State two days later spooked me. The Bulldogs need to learn to bring their A game night in and night out, and not try to choose their spots. Beyond that the next man up is Missouri State, which scored an impressive win at Wichita State Sunday night to improve to 5-0 in the Missouri Valley and 13-3 overall. I see you, Bears.
Click here to send your questions to Seth Davis for his upcoming Mailbag column.