StatJunkie's Hoop Blog | thoughts on ncaa hoops from http://statjunkie.org

Nov/09

30

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.

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