Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
Joe Jackson threatened last week to transfer from Memphis. Here's what a head coach whose team has played the Tigers had to say about their point guard situation: "Antonio Barton is much better than Joe Jackson. It's not even close. I'll take Barton over Jackson any day of the week. I feel bad for Josh [Pastner] because Joe is from Memphis. That's the only reason to play him right now."
Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman, who was hit with an eight-year show cause penalty by the NCAA for paying players while he was the coach at Cal, was suspended over the weekend by his school for allegedly punching a player in the face during a game. Over the last couple of years, Bozeman has been publicly arguing that he is ready to take a high-major job. I didn't see this incident so I can't tell you if the allegation is true. The player himself said it's exaggerated. But this will certainly not help whatever chance Bozeman might have had to move up.
My goodness have the wheels come off at Arizona State. In the midst of an absolutely horrendous 5-10 season which has seen multiple suspensions and one ugly fight, Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek announced on Sunday that his leading scorer, Keala King, has left the program. I like Sendek, but his tenure in Tempe can be summed up as: James Harden came there, they won some games, then Harden left, and they're not winning anymore.
Forget about Harvard's loss to Fordham. The Crimson weren't going to get an at-large bid regardless. Why? Because the way a team like Harvard gets an at-large is by having a great regular season and then getting clipped in the conference tournament. The Ivy League, however, does not have a conference tournament (I think it should btw). So the only way Harvard can be eligible for an at-large is by finishing second. And a team that finishes second in the Ivy is not going to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Perhaps it's not a huge surprise given all his injury issues, but Robbie Hummel is not having the kind of big offensive season Purdue needs him to have. Hummel hasn't passed the 20-point mark since Nov. 26, and his field goal percentage of 41.8 is by far the lowest of his career. He has been particularly bad of late, shooting 37.3 percent over his last nine games.
I've always thought it was much easier to slow down a team that wants to run than speed up a team that wants to play slowly.
The SEC is making a mistake by going from 16 to 18 games after Texas A&M and Missouri get there. That will only make it harder for teams to schedule quality nonconference games, which helps in the hunt for at-large bids.
And how does Texas A&M, which was picked to finish second in the Big 12 in the preseason, lose at home by 20 points to Iowa State?
Speaking of Iowa State, all props to Minnesota transfer Royce White for his triple-double against the Aggies (10 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists). But if a player has to transfer schools because of a checkered past, he probably shouldn't take the court with a mohawk that is dyed red. Maybe Royce should just go with the clean-cut look for a while.
I love it when I hear DePaul fans long for the glory days of Ray Meyer. That's the same Ray Meyer who, while being a respected coach and a beautiful human being, went to exactly two Final Fours in 37 years -- and the first was in 1943 when there were eight teams in the bracket.
I guess I should stop waiting for Washington junior guard Abdul Gaddy to become a great college player. I'll never forget watching him run circles around Brandon Jennings as a high school player at the NBA Players Association camp four years ago. For shame.
You think Boston College coach Steve Donahue wishes he had tried to convince Brady Heslip to stay at BC? Donahue had just taken over for Al Skinner and Heslip wanted to stay, but Donahue gave him the cold shoulder so he transferred to Baylor. Now Heslip is a major part of the Bears' success while BC is one of the worst power conference teams in the country.
It's hard to believe Southern Illinois appears bound to miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year. Back in 2007, the Salukis were playing in their sixth straight NCAA tournament and their second Sweet 16 during that stretch. Chris Lowery signed a lucrative contract extension after that run but things have really gone downhill since then.
THIS WEEK'S AP BALLOT
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Syracuse (1)
2. Kentucky (2)
3. North Carolina (3)
4. Ohio State (4)
5. Baylor (6)
6. Indiana (10)
7. Michigan State (13)
8. Duke (5)
9. Missouri (7)
10. Kansas (15)
11. Georgetown (11)
12. UNLV (16)
13. Michigan (19)
14. Kansas State (21)
15. Gonzaga (17)
16. Murray State (20)
17. Florida (12)
18. Mississippi State (13)
19. Seton Hall (NR)
20. Virginia (25)
21. UConn (9)
22. Louisville (14)
23. Marquette (23)
24. West Virginia (NR)
25. Saint Mary's (NR)
Dropped out: Harvard (18), Ohio (22), Wisconsin (24)
You probably assumed that because so many ranked teams lost last week that a lot of them would move down. But it was hard to move most of them too far down because ... so many ranked teams lost that week. Once again, I started my ballot in a punitive mood, but ended up being Seth the Merciful.
For example, I'm not sure Duke could beat any team on this ballot right now, at least away from Cameron. The Blue Devils lost at unranked Temple and then nearly got clipped by a pretty woeful Georgia Tech team in Atlanta. However, at least they were competitive in those games. Missouri got absolutely embarrassed in its first legitimate road test of the season, and Duke already beat Kansas in Hawaii -- the same Kansas team that lost a de facto home game to Davidson in Kansas City. So Duke landed safely at No. 8.
See what I mean?
Florida was another team I really wanted to ding after another road loss to a non-NCAA tournament team, Tennessee. But is that so much worse than Mississippi State losing at home to Arkansas? Or UConn losing at Seton Hall and Rutgers? What has UConn actually done to even merit being ranked? The Huskies' best win came on a neutral court in overtime over Florida State. The Seminoles have been horrible ever since.
Seton Hall is the highest-ranked team among the newcomers. I'm honestly not sure how good the Pirates are -- that 26-point drubbing at Syracuse left an impression -- but I figured I should reward their wins over West Virginia and UConn. Plus, there's something to be said for avoiding bad losses. Every team seems to have at least one of those by now.
As usual, I looked at a bunch of teams for my final spot. I thought about leaving Harvard at No. 25 despite its loss at Fordham, but the Crimson's best win was also on a neutral court over Florida State. Besides, it's time to give someone else a chance. I went with Saint Mary's because the Gaels are 14-2, and of all the teams I looked at with comparable records, they had the best wins (Weber State, Missouri State, BYU).
The other teams I considered included Iowa State, George Mason, Iona, Middle Tennessee and New Mexico. Creighton probably deserves to be ranked, but I didn't think wins last week over Drake and at Bradley quite made the grade. If the Blujays sweep Northern Iowa at home and Illinois State on the road this week, they'll be very hard to leave out. Likewise, Southern Miss can make its case by winning at Memphis on Wednesday.
Finally, San Diego State fans have been all over me for leaving them off my ballot to this point. But what am I supposed to do with a team that hasn't played a Division I opponent since Dec. 22? I'd love to know Steve Fisher's logic on that one. Still, SDSU plays UNLV at home on Saturday. If the Aztecs win that one, I'll rank them next week. Deal?
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