For the second straight week, #1 was beaten with PITT being beaten on Saturday and Wake Forest falling to Virginia Tech Wednesday. The race for the top spot is officially wide open. Conference play is a couple weeks old now and teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack. I’m switching-up the format a little this week – sure you’re heartbroken. Here’s my outlook on the conferences so far…
The second best conference as a whole, but maybe the heaviest when you look at the top 3 positions. Wake, Carolina, and the Dukies all are legitimate top 5 teams and Final Four contenders. Once you get past those 3, it gets a little shaky, with Miami poised to give the best run at the trio. Unfortunately, the Dukies have the depth they haven’t in past years and will most certainly be the new #1 barring an upset loss to Maryland Saturday. The Terps seem to always beat Duke at times like this to put them in their place. Wake came back down to earth after the VT loss and will have a chance to regain their short-lived #1 slot by holding down fort against Duke Wednesday. Carolina is back to their old ways and Wayne Ellington has found his shot after struggling early. I still think the Heels are the class of this conference with the Devils and Deacons a close second. Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague edges out Psycho T (sure-fire winner) and Keyle Singler for POY.
A tale of two teams as Oklahoma and Texas seem to be a cut above the rest with Kansas coming into their own lately. I’m not sold on Baylor until they play somebody worth anything. However, Curtis Jerrells is one of the most unsung players in the country. His #23 Bears travel to Norman on Saturday then host the #15 Longhorns on Tuesday. This will expose Baylor’s true identity as a contender or pretender. Sure-fire POY Blake Griffin will have a field day in this year’s basketball version of “Bedlam” against Travis Ford’s OK St. team Monday night. Ford’s team plays “small-ball” and Griffin has been known to feast on smaller defenders. The Sooners win the conference title, get a #1 seed and lose in the second round. Griffin is hands down the POY.
Kentucky has established themselves as the clear-cut favorite so far with no other team showing very much hope. Tennessee has turned out to be a disappointment, Florida doesn’t have an identity, and Arkansas is inconsistent. Two teams not expected to do much, LSU and Mississippi St. , are now looking to be in the thick of things. As many fouls a he may commit, Jarvis Vernado is a difference maker and the main reason why the Bulldogs are a formidable defensive team. Former Stanford coach Trent Johnson has the Bayou Bengals sitting pretty after a soft schedule early. The Tigers’ road gets bumpier this week as they take on Xavier, UT and Arkansas in a 7 day span. Arkansas could get their mojo back, but Kentucky wins regular season convincingly with Jodie Meeks being the POY.
Like I said last week, the Big Ten is going to sneak 6 maybe 7 teams in the NCAAs. Michigan St. looked to be the front-runner, but a loss to Northwestern ends that talk. Illinois looks to be challenging the Spartans with 4 guys averaging 11 points a game. Bruce Weber’s Illini might be the most overachieving team in the country. Purdue is back on track and still might live up to the high preseason expectations. Their two “go to” guys, Robbie Hummel and E’Twan Moore hit the sophomore slump at the same time and are just now starting to emerge from it. Tubby’s Gophers play the game of the week against the Illini on Thursday. I’m still going with my preseason prediction here : Purdue wins the conference and Robbie Hummel is the POY.
Like UK in the SEC, UCLA has no excuse not to run away with this conference. They have competition in Arizona St. who defeated the Bruins this week in OT, and Washington who have started conference play 5-1. The Huskies have a freshman PG Isaiah Thomas, who is leading the team in scoring and assists, and the homeless man’s Psycho T, Jon Brockman leading the way. Washington faces UCLA on Saturday for the sole conference lead. The Sun Devils are more than just stud James Harden. PG Derek Glasser and F/C Jeff Pendergraph join to make them more than just a one-trick-pony. In the end, the Bruins will have no problem wrapping this deal up with Darren Collison possibly having a beef for POY honors. The honor will be James Harden‘s as he is in the top 10 in nearly every conference statistic.
Might as well save the best for last. By most accounts, 9 teams have pretty much already puched their ticket to the tourney with #10 (West Virginia) a potential top 25 team. Although not every match-up is as closely fought a battle as expected, it is a true test 9 nights out of 10. The bottom 4 of St. John’s, Rutgers, Seton Hall and So. Florida are pretty bad, giving the powers somewhat of a break. However, any of the 4 could pull of an upset on any night. With 6 teams in the top 14, it is hard to say who is the leader so far. Marquette & Louisville have yet to drop a game in conference and UCONN, PITT, Georgetown and Syracuse are all threats to take the crown. The game(s) of the week have to be Louisville at Syracuse on Sunday and PITT/Villanova on Wednesday. As of right now, I’m going to say UCONN takes the crown barely over Louisville and their stifling defense. Terrence Williams is the POY with Frankengody and Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn not far behind.
For Your Daily Viewing…
Saturday – Maryland @ Duke (12, ESPN), Memphis @ Tennessee (3:30 CBS), UCONN @ Notre Dame (7 ESPN), Xavier @ LSU (8 ESPN2)
Sunday – Louisville @ Syracuse (12, WHAS11), Florida @ Vandy (1:30 CBS), Michigan St. @ Ohio St. (3:45 CBS), Georgia Tech @ Clemson (7:45 FoxSports)
Big Monday – Marquette @ Notre Dame (7 ESPN), Oklahoma @ Oklahoma St. (9 ESPN)
Tuesday – UK @ Ole MIss (7 ESPN), Purdue @ Wisconsin (9 ESPN)
Wednesday – Michigan @ Ohio St. (6:30 Big Ten Network), Duke @ Wake Forest (7 ESPN), PITT @ NOVA (7 ESPNU), Georgia @ Florida (8 FoxSports)
Thursday – Illinois @ Minnesota (9 BTN), St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga (11 ESPNU)
If you’re about to trash me and my blazing hot team, at least go to the L Yes! Report afterwards. Peace