Archive for November 2009
Feast Week Review
Well ESPN’s got a name for pretty much every week in the season so we’ll play along since it has pretty much seeped into everyone’s sub-consciousness. It’s hard to believe the season is already three weeks old and the last two have offered some lessons about what we thought heading into the season. Here are some things that have stuck with me in the last two weeks.
The Big Ten has to be disappointed with their start, I sure am. The conference was hyped as being back and perhaps, the best in the country. This week proved that it’s just not there yet as a number of the elite teams fell to less than stellar competition.
No. 2 Michigan State fell to an unranked, although talented, Florida team in Atlantic City, NJ in the Legends Classic. I wonder if Izzo’s squad was looking ahead to the big rematch with UNC or spent too much time on the boardwalk. Either way, the Spartans need to get more from Raymar Morgan (a frustratingly streaky player) and better three point shooting (2-10 vs Florida) to really compete for a title.
Meanwhile, Michigan and Minnesota lost twice in their holiday weekend tournaments. Michigan, playing in the Old Spice Classic, started off alright, beating a decent Creighton team in OT. They were then hammered by 14 by Marquette and lost the third place game on an exciting blocked shot at the buzzer to Alabama. The Marquette game had to be discouraging to Coach Beilein in that his guards were out played, which is the strength of his team.
But at least they’re losses came from power conferences, just ask the Gophers. Minnesota started with a seemingly big win, beating then No. 10 Butler by nine Thanksgiving night, but that win was diminished as the tournament played out. The Gophers lost to the Portland Pilots by five in the semifinal and then lost to Texas A&M in consolation final. The lost to Portland isn’t as bad as perhaps it may have seemed, the Pilots returned all five starters from a team that won 19 games (including victories over Washington and St. Mary’s) a year ago, and should compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title.
The loss to Texas A&M actually hurts the Gophers more (as does the losses for Michigan) simply because they’re only so many spots in the tourney and head to head wins will go all the way to determining those at large bids. Minnesota should turn around faster than Michigan thou, as Devron Bostick returns this week and Trevor Mbakwe and Royce White could return within the month, giving them a full roster.
Let’s not forget about Illinois either. They lost on Friday to a crap Utah team and then followed that up by losing to instate mid-major Bradley. Unfortunately for the Illini, what happened in Vegas will not stay there. It’s not all bad in the Big 10 though. Indiana bounced back after dropping three in the Puerto Rico to knock off Southland power (note: sarcasm) Northwestern State and Iowa topped a Carolina, unfortunately it was 1-6 NC Central. The actual big wins for the conference came from Purdue, who beat Tennessee in the Virgin Islands and Northwestern who sneaked by Iowa State and smacked Notre Dame.
The Big East can again make a case for being the best league in the country. Syracuse came out like gangbusters (luckily Le Moyne wasn’t on the regular season schedule) beating the defending champs and shutting down PAC 10 contender Cal in the Coaches versus Cancer tip off.
(Quick side note: How pissed would you be if you were an Iowa State fan? Wesley Johnson transferred out and looks like the best player for the Orange. Think how good the Cyclones would be if he were teaming up with Craig Brackens, they would probably be the third best team in the Big 12.)
Back to the Big East, West Virginia looks like a top 5 team, especially with Devin Ebanks in the line-up. Villanova is a top five team and got some nice wins down in the PR over Dayton, Ole Miss, and G Mason. Pitt and UConn have plenty of talent and Cincinnati looks to be much improved.
We still don’t know much about Kansas. They’re good, but they haven’t played anyone (Memphis gave them a run and should probably have beaten the Jayhawks had they, ehhh, made free throws towards the end of the game) and they wont play anyone until 2010 when they head to Temple and Tennessee in early January.
Who is the most disappointing team this year so far? Oklahoma has to be in the conversation, as a preseason top 20 team who is now 3-3 with losses to VCU, San Diego (which I’m told is German for a whale’s vagina), and Houston. Butler who was given a top ten ranking dropped two games at the 76 Classic in Anaheim and they showed their achillies in the lack of depth behind the returning starting five.
Both are contenders for an award that no one wants, but UCLA is the clear cut winner. The Bruins suck. They got spanked by thirty by Portland, lost a heartbreaker to Butler, then were beat by Long Beach State by 11 in the 76 tourney. Everyone knew they would be rebuilding, but this start was unthinkable. I know they have been “one and done” U the past couple of years with Jrue Holliday and Kevin Love leaving after their freshman years, but really? It’s a good thing John Wooden is still alive or he’d be rolling over about now. Of course that means he has to watch this team. Have fun with Kansas next weekend.
So the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is this week and this is suppose to be the year that the Big Ten actually makes it a challenge. So with that in mind lets make some picks!
- Wake Forest at Purdue: The Boilers are at home and should walk in this game. WF haven’t played anyone close to Purdue’s talent and are coming off a loss to William & Mary at home.
- Northwestern at NC State: This looks like an even matchup, although this game won’t wow people with athletic ability. The question will be how the Wolfpack handle NW guards and how the Wildcats defend the combo post players NC St. has in Tracy Smith and Dennis Horner. Classic inside outside matchups, I’ll take the Pack at home.
- Florida State at Ohio State: This is another great matchup with the ‘Noles coming off a surprising Old Spice Tourney championship. FSU has scoring ability on all three levels and just beat a guard dominated club in the tourney final in Marquette. Unfortunately for them the Bucks guards are that much better, Ohio State by 10.
- Maryland at Indiana: Unfortunately for the Big 10 Wisconsin’s win over the Terps in Maui wont carry over to the final tally, expect Maryland to bounce back over a young Hoosier squad in Bloomington.
- Penn State at Virginia: The Nittany Lions haven’t played anybody yet and still have two losses. Virginia also hasn’t played anyone and it’s doubtful they can contain Taylor Battle so in a toss up I’ll take PSU.
- Virginia Tech at Iowa: I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. The Hawks are bad, I mean really bad. The Hokies should walk in front of half a crowd.
- Boston College at Michigan: Both teams have been slightly bi-polar this year, but I like the Wolverines at home. The Eagles just haven’t seen this type of talent yet and Beilein wont let his team drop three in a row.
- Minnesota at Miami: The young Canes are 7-0 and (obviously) playing some good ball. The Gophers are coming off two tough losses and are traveling across country from the 76 Classic in Anaheim to South Florida. Slam-dunk win for Miami? Not quite, Minnesota’s size, depth, and defense squeeze them by.
- Illinois at Clemson: This one is going to be a war on the interior. Look for Trevor Booker to have a big game as the best player on the floor and the Tigers to knock off the reeling Illini and overrated coach Weber.
- Duke at Wisconsin: Saving the best two games for last. The Kohl Center is not kind to anyone, but Duke is not just anyone. The Devils are coming off a big win over a more athletic UConn team while the Badgers return home from a third place finish in Maui. The Badgers played well in their win over Maryland, but showed a lot of weaknesses in their loss to the Zags. Expect Nolan Smith to shut down Trevon Hughes and Kyle Singler to have a good game spreading the Wisconsin front line. It will be a low scoring grind (as Wisconsin games always are), but the Devils pull away late.
- Michigan State at North Carolina: The Heels are entering a brutal stretch with 3 of the next 4 being the Spartans at home, at Kentucky, and versus Texas in Dallas. They need this game at home. Michigan State has some question marks after losing to Florida and being pushed at home by a “rebuilding” Gonzaga team. UNC obviously gets a lot more scoring from their front line, however Michigan State will be able to be physical with them. Sparty’s guard play has solid and UNC’s has been a work in progress. We saw this before with UNC and a Big Ten team on a neutral court in Ohio State and how’d that work out? I’m going with Carolina to win the rematch on their home floor, but I wouldn’t bet on this game with someone else’s money.
- Recap: 6-5 ACC, sorry Big Ten maybe (but not likely) next year.
**Getting to Know Your 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes is a regular feature on StatJunkie. This feature will profile every player of the team unanimously predicted to finish 11th in the Big Ten: the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes.**
Jarryd Cole #50
- Height: 6′-7″
- Weight: 250***
- Class: Junior
- Position: Power forward, Center
- Hometown: Kansas City, MO
- Nicknames: The Beast, Sir Boards-a-lot, The Virgin Slayer
*** 90% muscle, 10% brawn
Jarryd Jerrod Cole, yes his middle name is Jerrod, came to Iowa City in 2007 from Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, MO. During his freshman year, Cole’s bulk, physique, and sheer intimidation earned him playing time in Iowa’s first 13 games including six starts before suffering a torn left ACL against perennial powerhouse Southeast Louisiana. Cole would sit out the remainder of the 2007-2008 season, instead opting to focus on free weight-lifting, martial arts, and snapping the necks of wild grizzly bears with his hands.
Cole, recovering from the ACL tear, eased his way back in the lineup playing sparingly early in his sophomore year. As the year progressed, Cole clocked more and more minutes on the floor and steadily improved his game. His best performance came in a 75-67 win over Penn State where he scored 14 points, ripped 11 rebounds, and inadvertently impregnated all fertile women sitting within five rows of the court.
This year, Cole will be counted on to be one of the leaders of a Hawkeye team that contains only one senior and is one of the youngest in the Big Ten. Still only a junior, Cole is now Iowa’s most seasoned veteran, having been with the team longer than any of his teammates. He substantially improved the range of his jumper in the off-season, which should open up more options for him offensively. The extra work in the weight room has definitely paid off, as anyone who has seen Cole this year could easily mistake him for a Greek god. Look for Cole to increase his minutes substantially and average around 12 points and 8 rebounds per game this year.
Jarryd Cole fun facts:
- Cole was considered for the role of John Rambo in the 2008 version of the Sylvester Stallone directed Rambo, but was deemed too physically imposing and terrifying for the role. Test audiences were reported to consistently lose all control of their bowels when Cole appeared shirtless on the screen. Stallone would eventually play the role.
- Cole has never lost to Bull Hurley in an arm wrestling competition.
- Iowa physicians have confirmed Cole’s body fat to be less than zero percent.
- Cole can instantly grow a beard by merely flexing.
- Cole urinates testosterone.
College Basketball: But football isn’t over yet!
Ok, so technically the season has started and games have been played. For all intents and purposes though, football is still on TV so the season is still a couple of months away in many of our minds. However, many of these early season matchups will go a long way towards deciding who will be in or out come tourney time and who will get the champion from MEAC or a fourth place team from the ACC. So I’ll give you a few November clashes that should make you want to switch from the gridiron at least for a couple of hours.
November 17: Memphis vs Kansas
An early test for the favorites? Not likely considering everything the Tigers have been through in the past eight months, but it will give the Jayhawks top tier talent a chance to show how they will handle their rotation with a deep, talented bench against a solid opponent. It will also show how KU will handle a team that will not be able to match them size wise inside and will likely try to spread them out and force the big guys to guard on the perimeter. I’m sure new Memphis coach Josh Pastner would like to have a couple more pushovers before facing a team like this, but we’ll get to see what kind of attitude and heart this Memphis team has as they are likely being run out of the gym. Don’t let the neutral site fool you. Even though the two schools are the same distance away, the Scottrade Center will be echoing Rock Chalk the entire day.
November 19: North Carolina at Ohio State
The defending champs take their title defense on the road to face a top team from the best conference in CBB this year. The Heels have questions about their backcourt, which is the biggest strength of this Buckeye team. The Buckeyes have questions in the paint, which is UNC’s biggest strength. OSU’s Evan Turner, fresh off a triple-double in the opener, will be matched up against Marcus Ginyard, which should be one of the best individual matchups of the year. If the Buckeye’s want to take that next step this year (because with the recruiting class they have coming in they will in the next two) they have to show they can beat top teams in their non-conference schedule, especially at a neutral local. The past three years the Buck’s are 2-6 against non-conference top 20 teams.
November 19: Syracuse at California
Cal is the enigma going into this season of the top 16 teams out there. They are considered to be the class of the Pac 10 (which isn’t saying much this year) with the majority of their team coming back and it being year two of Mike Montgomery’s system. This will be a good litmus test to see if this team is for real or not, a neutral site game against a traditional Big East power on national television. Cal is known for their jump shooting ability and it will be interesting to see how that fairs against the famous Boeheim match-up zone the Orange thrive on.
November 26-29: 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA
Big time preseason tournament out west starting on Thanksgiving features four top 25 teams in action. The first round is highlighted with Butler, the top Mid-Major team this year (sorry Gonzaga), against Minnesota, the deepest team in the Big Ten. Second round matchups may include the winner of that game against a rebuilding UCLA and West Virginia vs the Texas A&M/Clemson winner and of course the final should be a clash of titans. I love these tournaments, teams playing three times in four days will have their depth and conditioning on display.
Let the Smack begin
Ok, so I give Gusto some credit, he showed some balls in his predictions and being the first one to post, but I have some issues with those ten predictions.
40-0!? I don’t see that from KU this year. First of all, there is the potential for chemistry issues on that team. They have enough talent to do anything, but will Bill Self be able to control all those egos and make them play team basketball? They play in the second toughest conference in the NCAA which means road games to NCAA tourney teams (potentially this year) Iowa St., Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., and Texas. They also have a nonconference slate that includes a trip to Tennessee as well as home games vs Michigan and Cal. Gusto, sorry to be a boner killer but there are at least two losses in there.
Kentucky will not be one and done. Sure Coach Cal is about as credible and Kim Jong Il when it comes to recruiting, but the guy can coach. His dribble drive offense is why point guards that can penetrate thrive under his tutelage, and John Wall is just the latest that will exemplify that. Add that to the best big man he’s had since Marcus Camby in Patrick Patterson, and the Wildcats are set up for a deep run in the tourney.
Finally, Butler is not new to town. If you paid more attention to what happens outside of Allen Fieldhouse Gusto you’d realize that they have been to 4 of the last 7 tournaments including two Sweet Sixteen appearances. They may have their best squad in that time this year, but in no way are they a new darling on the block.
Posted by: Michael Dufresne
For many of us the greatest part of the sporting season has just tipped off. Scores of us have been waiting for over seven long months since our beloved teams exited from the most thrilling post season event in all of sports that is the NCAA tournament. Last year you may have seen enough of your up and coming or rebuilt squad to garner aspirations of cutting down the net this April in Indy. Or maybe this class of incoming freshmen has created so much hype on campus surely this is the year your program makes the leap to the next level. Perhaps your school’s BCS and bowl hopes were squashed prematurely leading you to say “just wait ‘til hoops season.” It could be all of the above or you are just an All-American fan who enjoys following the thrills and pitfalls that is college basketball. Wherever your interest lies here are ten bold and not so predictions on what will surely be another fantastic season to add to the games mystic.
10: Coach of the Year: Bill Self. Duh, no peaking but see number one.
9: Player of the Year: Luke Harangody. It is this simple, he is and will be the most productive player in the country. He may be unorthodox and lacks tools NBA executives crave but no one can deny his hustle or heart. This short and stocky power forward for the Irish does it all. He is a scoring machine that hits the trinity with the best of them and is just a beast on the boards. Oh how refreshing it will be to see a POY not be an underclassmen. Bonus, he is from a school with higher admission standards than even a John Wall impersonator can get into.
8: Game of the Year: Circle 2/13/2010 on your calendar for what is sure to be a game for the ages. The two most talented teams square off in Austin which is the equalizer Texas needs if anyone hopes to stand in the way of KU and a perfect season. What isn’t to love? The top two teams from the Big XII the past decade square off. Barnes has recruited an unbelievably talented squad featuring number one recruit Avery Bradley. KU features its own super frosh in Xavier Henry. What an opportunity for Texas to show the nation it has more than football going for it, not to mention they are no longer just playing second fiddle to KU in the Big XII.
7: One and done no more. Headlined by a huge UK meltdown and an uprising in upper classmen, freshmen are suddenly wondering if leaving after their freshman year is in their best interest. Failure to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament due to lack of experience and maturity the Wildcats show this isn’t the bellwether blueprint many believe it is and why for the most part teenagers simply aren’t ready to make the jump. All this happens while Cole Aldrich, Luke Harangody, Sherron Collins, Evan Turner, Kyle Singler, Craig Brackens, and Talor Battle show what time and good coaching can do for a player as they increase their draft stock.
6: ESPN discovers Universities exist that don’t border the Atlantic. It has been no secret that this elite sports network drools all over itself for schools that have Atlantic or East in their conference names. Much to their dismay these conferences leave too much to be desired while the two best conferences Big XII and Big 10 prove to be the class of the country and it simply can’t be blatantly ignored.
5: A new mid-major in town. Butler has established itself has a March staple in recent years and looks ready to institute itself as the premier team not in a power conference. Is there a coach that coaches a more fundamental and classic style than Brad Stevens? What a better year to make their footprint on the college landscape by making the Final Four in their own backyard this year? The Bulldogs are a team loaded with talent and returning their whole squad, what a feel good story this will make.
4: The Big 10 unseats the ACC. Eleventh time is a charm for a conference that has for the most part slumped since the new millennia, particularly in their annual challenge. That now changes with both MSU and Purdue being superior to both UNC and Duke this year. Michigan, OSU, Illinois, and Minnesota all have stronger teams than the only other competitive team Georgia Tech in what is down year for the ACC. Don’t mistake this for a hiccup, the Big 10 has done some serious upgrading in coaching and talent the past two years and look poised to return to relevance on the national scene for years to come.
3: More Blues in the Bluegrass state. In blinding pursuit to reach college basketball prominence UK hires two time cheat Calipari who brings with him more baggage than Dianna Ross. UK and the fans want a winner so bad they are willing to ignore and forgive him for the scandals he lead at employers past despite these schools being forced to vacate Final Four seasons as a result of his reprehensible actions. Calipari’s longtime friend “World Wide” Wes’ relationship is finally infiltrated by the NCAA for more violations than this site can hold. Unfortunately another black eye on perhaps the most storied program in the game. Here goes the coaching carousel again. Sorry Ashley Judd, I still love you!
2: Dukie V is busted. It turns out for the past 10+ years he has been doing more than drinking the ACC kool aid. He is in fact a paid lobbyist by the ACC to pimp up the conference above and beyond your usual ESPN and media east coast bias. This doesn’t matter to ESPN who despite the bad publicity it receives is too in love with their poster boy star broadcaster to get him to change his ways or financiers.
1: Lookout ‘76 Hoosiers. UNLV came close to running the table nearly two decades ago and experts say with the parity in the game today it can’t be done. Those that believe that need to look at this year’s Jayhawks. They return everyone who played from a team that was mugged out of the tournament last year to the eventual runner-up Spartans. Most notably are two future 1st team All-Americans Collins and Aldrich. To make a run through the tourney everyone knows you need an inside game and backcourt, having the best center and point guard in the country is a good start (sorry Wall but you haven’t proved a thing yet). These lads also bring a championship resume along with their coach. Bill Self has shown he is capable of out coaching the best in signature games over UNC’s Roy Williams and former Memphis’ John Calipari during their ‘08 title run. The toughest challenge will be against the next best team in the land, the Longhorns, who Self has owned and out coached in his KU tenure. If you aren’t in Indy April 5th, 2010 you won’t find a bigger party on the planet than Mass St. in Lawrence that night when the Rock Chalk Jayhawks dance their way to a second championship in three years and rewrite the record books going 40-0.
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