Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
I'll be interested to see how much of a contribution Missouri gets from Andrew Jones, a senior tight end on the school's football team who recently joined the hoops squad. The Tigers have plenty of scorers, but they're hurting for big bodies inside, if only to go up against Ricardo Ratliffe in practice.
Incidentally, the best basketball-playing football player I ever saw was North Carolina's Julius Peppers. He was obviously big, strong and very athletic, but Peppers had genuine, high-level basketball skills as well.
Odd stat of the week: Last year, Wisconsin led the nation in free throw shooting at 81.8 percent. This year the Badgers are 219th at 66.4 percent.
I'm a huge Midnight Run fan. So whenever I hear someone mention the name of Maryland senior guard Sean Mosley, I instinctively yell out, "I'm Mosley!"
Beware the elite big man who can't make free throws: UConn's Andre Drummond (33.3 percent), Duke's Mason Plumlee (38.1) and Xavier's Kenny Frease (30.0).
Ohio State got some good news last week when it learned that its top freshman recruit, Jackson, Miss., swingman LaQuinton Ross, would be eligible to enroll in school for second semester. Thad Matta told me that because Ross has not practiced with the team, he has no idea what kind of shape the kid is in. However, Matta also pointed out that Ross is 6-8 and was a great shooter in high school. Those guys usually find their way on to the court.
Have you noticed that when an announcer describes someone as a "typical foreign player," he's usually paying him a big compliment? It usually means the kid is skilled and savvy for his size. To borrow the title from the current best-seller by Tom Friedman: That used to be us.
Finally, today's grammar tip for broadcasters, writers and fellow Hoop Thinkers everywhere: There's no need to modify the word "unique" -- as in, "He's a very unique player," or "He's a little bit unique." If he's unique, that means there's only one like him. You're either unique, or you're not.
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Ohio State (2)
2. Syracuse (3)
3. Kentucky (1)
4. North Carolina (5)
5. Duke (6)
6. Florida (7)
7. Baylor (4)
8. Louisville (8)
9. Xavier (9)
10. Missouri (10)
11. Kansas (11)
12. UConn (12)
13. Marquette (13)
14. Georgetown (14)
15. Wisconsin (16)
16. Vanderbilt (17)
17. Mississippi State (18)
18. Michigan State (19)
19. Indiana (NR)
20. Pittsburgh (22)
21. Illinois (23)
22. UNLV (21)
23. Gonzaga (24)
24. Harvard (25)
25. Creighton (20)
Dropped out: Alabama (15)
The big decision voters had to make this week started at the top: Who should be ranked number one?
You could make a case for a number of teams -- including Kentucky. After all, the Cats lost a true road game against a good team on a buzzer-beating, three pointer. Are they still the best team in America? Maybe. But I generally don't like to leave a team in the top spot following any kind of loss.
That said, I went with Ohio State, even though it also lost last weekend. (Yes, I am selectively applying my reasoning. Voter's privilege.) The reason is obvious: The Buckeyes did not have their best player, Jared Sullinger, and they still hung with Kansas for most of the game. Moreover, Sullinger is only going to miss another game or two. You can make a case that Syracuse should get it based on the next-man-up theory, but I didn't want to put the Orange at No. 1 just because it's their "turn." The bottom line is this: If Syracuse played Ohio State (and a healthy Sullinger) on a neutral court tomorrow, I think Ohio State would win. So the Buckeyes got my vote.
Elsewhere, you'll notice that I dropped Baylor three spots even though it did not lose. I like to use my previous week's ballot as a guide, but I try not to box myself in. The Bears could rightfully lay claim to the No. 3 ranking, but I just couldn't see putting them there considering how weak their schedule is. Baylor's best wins have come at home against San Diego State and on the road at Northwestern. I understand that Perry Jones III was serving an NCAA suspension the first five games, but I cannot understand why Scott Drew didn't challenge his team more. So until they get into the Big 12 season, I'm going to keep Baylor out of my top five.
Meanwhile, the team that vanquished Kentucky makes its first appearance. Indiana fans have been all over me for not ranking the Hoosiers before now. Though I still think the expectations surpass what this team is prepared to deliver, there's no doubt that Hoosier fans have suffered the last four years. They have every right to savor this moment.
I dropped Alabama off my ballot because of its loss at Dayton last Wednesday night. The Crimson Tide also lost at home to Georgetown, which means their best wins were neutral-court victories over Wichita State and Purdue. A few other teams on last week's ballot also lost, but I couldn't justify dropping them out. Gonzaga, UNLV and Harvard all lost to teams ranked above them (Michigan State, Wisconsin and UConn, respectively.) I probably should have dropped Creighton after its loss at Saint Joseph's, but I figured I'd let the Bluejays hang on at No. 25 for one more week and see if they prove they belong.
If I did have one more place on my ballot, I would have given it to Murray State. The Racers are off to an impressive 10-0 start and won at Memphis Sunday night. The main reason I didn't rank Murray State is that, unlike my fellow AP voters, I did not have Memphis ranked. I'm sure my colleagues will see the light and leave the Tigers out of the rankings this week.