Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
Grammar pet peeve: I don't like it when announcers say of a team, "Their RPI is 45." No, their RPI ranking is 45.
I've always thought it was a tremendous weapon to have a great rebounder who can rip and run -- that is, grab a rebound and then dribble out of the post to initiate the fast break. Thinking here of UNLV forward Mike Moser.
Syracuse doesn't have many weaknesses, but defensive rebounding is one. That's a natural concern when you play so much zone defense, but the Orange need to tighten that up. According to kenpom.com, they rank 337th in the country in defensive rebound percentage. They gave up 20 offensive rebounds to Georgetown and were out-rebounded by 18 overall in the game. That's why Jim Boeheim was so mad during his postgame news conference.
Let me make something very clear: In any year, the absolute worst team in the NBA would absolutely crush the absolute best team in college basketball. If you mistakenly believed otherwise, I hereby absolve you.
If you've never seen Hoop Dreams, shame on you. Drop everything you're doing and watch it immediately.
Random Missouri stat: Through their first 24 games this season, the Tigers took 50 charges. Last season, they took 40 charges in 34 games. Think it's an accident they are where they are?
Oh, and by the way, it's just silly to denigrate what Frank Haith is doing by saying he is coaching Mike Anderson's players. People who say that have no idea how hard it is to walk into a new situation and teach a brand new system to a bunch of kids you didn't recruit. Haith is such an obvious choice for National Coach of the Year that I don't even think there needs to be a discussion.
THIS WEEK'S AP BALLOT
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Kentucky (1)
2. Syracuse (2)
3. Missouri (4)
4. Kansas (5)
5. Michigan State (8)
6. Ohio State (3)
7. Duke (15)
8. North Carolina (7)
9. Baylor (6)
10. UNLV (11)
11. Georgetown (14)
12. Marquette (18)
13. Michigan (12)
14. San Diego State (19)
15. Florida (9)
16. Murray State (13)
17. Florida State (10)
18. Virginia (16)
19. Wisconsin (20)
20. Indiana (23)
21. Notre Dame (24)
22. Wichita State (25)
23. Saint Mary's (21)
24. Temple (NR)
25. VCU (NR)
Dropped out: Mississippi State (17), Creighton (22)
The big question voters faced this week was where to rank Murray State. To me, this shouldn't be hard. It was always misguided to rank the Racers extra high just because they were undefeated. You may recall that I said I would cap them at No. 14 even if they kept winning. I violated my little rule by letting them get to 13, but that means they did not have far to fall once they lost. I still believe Murray State is one of the top 20 teams in America, and until they lose again my ballot will reflect that.
Elsewhere, there was some shuffling at the top. Michigan State clearly needed to be ranked ahead of Ohio State. Even though the Spartans lost to North Carolina and Duke, that was eons ago. Some might think I have Baylor ranked too high, but the Bears have lost to just two teams all season -- and both of them are ranked in my top four. If nothing else, you have to give Baylor credit for beating everyone it was supposed to beat, including on the road.
We often hear that there is no such thing as moral victories, but I think San Diego State earned that last Saturday in Las Vegas. I thought UNLV would win the game in decisive fashion, but the Aztecs gave the Rebels all they wanted before succumbing by a deuce. In fact, both games between these teams this season were decided by two points. Can we call off the rest of the Mountain West season and let the Aztecs and Rebels complete their best-of-seven series?
I usually don't like to brag about my rankings (cough, cough), but you'll note that while the rest of the country is just now hopping on the Wichita State bandwagon, I was one of the few who ranked the Shockers last week. Their win at Creighton moved them up a few spots, but more significantly, it knocked the Bluejays out. Unless Creighton runs the table from here and wins the league tournament -- which is possible -- it has made its last appearance in my top 25.
I tend not to penalize teams for losing to good teams on the road, which is why Saint Mary's is still ranked despite losing at Gonzaga. Likewise, I didn't think it was right to overly reward the Zags for winning at home, especially since they lost so badly on the road to St. Mary's and BYU earlier this season.
As for my final two spots, Temple, which has now won eight straight thanks to the return of injured center Micheal Eric, was an easy choice at No. 24. Since I tend to favor mid-majors at No. 25, my decision came down to George Mason and VCU. I went with the Rams because they have been on such a tear, but those two will fight it out on Tuesday night without my help.
I also took a long look at Nevada, Iowa State, Weber State and Louisville. I am intrigued by how well the Cardinals have been playing, and now that freshman Wayne Blackshear is back they could very well have a number next to their name by this time next week. All they have to do is beat Syracuse at home tonight. Simple, right?
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