CAT | 2009-2010 Season
Technically everyday is the end of a ten-year period, but this is when the numbers look the nicest so it’s looked at as the end of a decade. This is used as an excuse to make a bunch of lists and save any real analysis of what is currently happening in the sport being covered. Well that sounds like fun. Here is a list that can’t be proved, and will give no real perspective to what will happen as we enter 2010. At the very least they can be debated.
Top Ten Championship Teams
1. ’05 North Carolina (33-4)
Defeated Illinois 75-70 to give Roy Williams his first National Championship. The only team with four lottery picks in one year (Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashard McCants, and Marvin Williams) couldn’t be stopped. This Heels squad was arrogant and had plenty of swagger, rightfully so.
2. ’01 Duke (35-4)
Defeated Arizona 82-72 to win the title and solidify Coach K as the best coach of our era. Stacked roster included Jay Williams, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon, and Carlos Boozer, all future NBAers. Three of the four losses were by a combined 5pts with the only bad loss coming at Maryland by 11. They had an unbelievable comeback in the semifinal versus that same Terps team, rallying from 22 down to advance.
3. ’07 Florida (35-5)
Defeated Ohio St. 84-75 to become first repeat Champion since ’91-’92 Duke. Led by three lottery picks; Johkim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. Five losses may seem like too many, but as the defending champ they got everyone’s best shot and still rolled to the title. It’s hard to see a defending champ at three, but the talent of the teams above trumps a two time run.
4. ’ 08 Kansas (37-3)
The best record among our teams of the decade and they won their first Championship since ’88 beating Memphis in one of the most exciting finals of the span. Jayhawk fans were disappointed when Brandon Rush tore his ACL the year prior, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rush, forced to return because of the injury hurting is draft position, combined with Mario Chalmers, Sharron Collins, Darrell Arthur, and a slew of others dominated the next team on the list in the semifinals.
5. ‘09 North Carolina (34-4)
Defeated Michigan St. 89-72 and were never really challenged on their way to their second title of the decade. Led by first round picks Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansborough, and Wayne Ellington. Not only did they annihilate MSU in the title game, it was the second time smacking them around in the Spartan’s backyard at Ford Field.
6. ’02 Maryland (29-4)
Beat Indiana 64-52 to win a title that could’ve been their second straight had they not choked the year before in the semifinals versus Duke. One of the deeper teams on the list led by Jaun Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Byron Mouton, and Steve Blake. Unexpectedly, Blake has gone on to have the most successful pro career of all the members on that team.
7. ’04 Connecticut (33-6)
Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate to give Jim Calhoun his second national title. Led by versatile guards Taliek Brown, Rashad Anderson, and Ben Gordon, this team also had a fantastic front line with Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva, and Josh Boone. While the championship game wasn’t close, they had to rally from 8 down in the final four minutes in the semifinals against a strong Duke team.
8. ’03 Syracuse (30-5)
The Carmelo Anthony’s won the most exciting championship game of the decade, topping Kansas 81-78. Hakeem Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s potential tying three-pointer, with less than a second to go, stopped the furious Jayhawk comeback in the second half. Along with Anthony and Warrick, the Orange also had Gerry McNamara hitting threes for them as a frosh. Anthony is still the most impactful freshman, in my opinion, to ever play considering the way he carried the team to this kind of height.
9. ‘06 Florida (33-6)
The first title team snuck up on some people destroying UCLA 73-57 in the final, winning Florida’s first basketball title. Led by the same group as above they were only tested once in their title round in a second round matchup with Georgetown. This team inexplicably lost three games in a row during the regular season, so it wasn’t surprising the Billy Donavan’s team was an afterthought going into the post season.
10. ’00 Michigan St. (32-7)
Knocked off Florida 89-76 to win Sparty’s first Championship since Magic was running the show. The first team of the decade was led by a trio of Flint, MI products in Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson, who came together at the end of the year to make a run. One of the feel good stories of college basketball in recent memory, with the hometown kids, who came from nothing to win it all.
The best team to not win it all? This is a tough one with ’05 Illinois and ’03 Kansas competing for that illustrious prize. The Jayhawks were a veteran team led by Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich while going 30-8. They beat #1 seed Arizona in the regional finals, avenging an earlier loss in the season, and sent Dwyane Wade and Marquette home in embarrassing fashion. The Illini, meanwhile, went an astounding 37-2 behind Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Roger Powell Jr. Their only regular season loss came in the finale at Ohio St by 1 and if not for the huge hole they dug for themselves late in the first half and early in the second they would probably be on the list above. They were able to come back and tie the championship, but were never able to regain the lead. In the end, the ’03 Kansas team was really good, but the ‘05 Illini team was great, and were probably a better team than half of the champions listed above.
**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.**
Brennan Cougill #44
- Cougs’ eyes light up as he skies for a burger.
- Height: 6′-9″
- Weight: 255
- Class: Freshman
- Position: Forward, Center
- Hometown: Sioux City, IA
- Nicknames: Big Cougs, Cougs
Cougill comes to Iowa City as the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa for 2008. In addition to his basketball prowess, Cougill also holds several competitive eating titles across the midwest. His insatiable appetite for hamburgers is only surpassed by his hunger for rebounds. Playing high school ball for Sioux City Heelan, Cougill averaged a double-double each of his three years and led his team to the state 3A championship his senior season, averaging 18.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.
Iowa coaches identified Cougill’s weight as his number one area to work on when he stepped on campus. Hawkeye physicians immediately put into action a substantial diet and conditioning plan and the results have been nothing short of phenomenal. Cougill dropped nearly 25 pounds in the offseason, the results in no small part due to dietary changes. By limiting Cougs’ burger intake to seven per day, down from a baker’s dozen, his physique has gone from Jerry O-Connell in Stand By Me, to Jerry O-Connell in Joe’s Apartment.
Being the biggest body on an undersized Hawkeye squad will lead to lots of minutes for the Cougill. Possessing excellent hands, shooting range extending to the three-point line, above-average court vision, and great passing skills, comparisons have been made to former Notre Dame standout Luke Harangody, minus the thousands of freckles and fire-crotch. Cougill is still raw and should get better as the year goes on. Expect about 7 points, 4 rebounds, and about 25 minutes per game for the freshman this season.
As the second month and nonconference portion of the season winds down I’m unveiling my Sweet 16. These aren’t necessarily the teams that will be there in the second weekend of the tourney (as we know anything can happen in March), but the top teams as I see heading towards conference play.
- Kansas: This team has so much talent and can beat you in so many ways. The consistent argument that I will proclaim until they do is that they haven’t played anyone. While the other top teams have gone on the road and to neutral spots to play top competition, they’ve stayed at home or played weak teams away from home. That being said, they still have so much depth and have played unselfishly through the early part of the year that it makes it hard to put anyone in front of them (although I’m tempted). Oh, and don’t worry, the big non-conference road games are approaching in trips to Temple and Tennessee.
- Texas: The Horns have won their three biggest non-conference games and continue to show that they have enough talent to make a title run. Rick Barnes hasn’t faired great when expectations have been high, but they are currently running with it in stride. The Longhorns haven’t faced a murderers row either considering their games against UNC, Michigan St., and USC have all come in Texas. The Kansas game is still over a month away and can’t come soon enough.
- Syracuse: Now here is a team with some meat in its ranking! They have beat UNC and Florida on neutral courts in dominating fashion. They also boast a fantastic balance in scoring with six players averaging double digits. The biggest challenge for other teams will be to overcome the length of their 2-3 matchup zone (they have great size at all positions allowing them to really spread the floor). This could be the strongest team Jim Boeheim has ever had.
- Kentucky: The Wildcats have also done the job in the nonconference and have this guy name Wall leading them to an undefeated mark thus far. They have had a couple of games that probably were closer than they should have been (Stanford and Miami-OH), but they just keep rolling over anyone who comes calling. The win over UConn in MSG has probably been their biggest considering the adversity they faced in that game (specifically hanging in the game even though Wall was out for much of the first half). Also, if your John Callipari (or Ashley Judd) you’ve got to love that Patterson and Cousins are both nearly averaging double-doubles.
- Purdue: This has been the most complete and consistent team in the Big Ten so far and, considering MSU’s troubles, have got to be considered the favorites now. They have scoring ability at all three levels in Moore, Hummel, and Johnson, but haven’t found a consistent threat beyond those three. The New Years Day heavyweight clash with the next team on the list should be fantastic because the two teams are so similar.
- West Virginia: They’ve only played eight games so they are still somewhat of a mystery. Four players average more than 10 a game and Bobby Huggins has them playing some fierce defense. I’ll never understand how this school gets so many great players to go to Morgantown, but they do. The upcoming games at Purdue and home against Ole Miss (Wednesday, 6:30 c.t ESPN2) should give this team a much better sense of whether they are a Final Four contender or not. The Mountaineers maybe the ultimate matchup nightmare with their top three scorers standing 6-7, 6-8, and 6-9.
- Duke: Jon Scheyer has been incredible thus far in the year (if they’re wasn’t a consistent hate of Duke, which I must admit I too hold, out there you’d probably hear his name more as a potential POY candidate). The senior is averaging 18-4-6 through ten games and is averaging just one TO per game. This team isn’t flashy (has any Duke team ever been?), but like all of Coach K’s teams they play hard intelligent ball, fanatical D, and they can shoot from anywhere (over 40% as a team beyond the arc).
- Kansas St.: Some may think this is too high, but look at the body of work they have. Before Monday’s win over AR-PB, they rattled off four wins over potential tourney teams. The biggest credit in those wins was that two were on the road and every game was won by double digits. They have an absolute assassin in Jacob Pullen who averages 20 a game and shoots over 43% beyond the arc (including 6-9 at Alabama and 7-10 at UNLV). Other than the game at Texas, the January 30th game in Manhattan will be the biggest test for the #1 Jayhawks.
- Villanova: This team probably has the best backcourt in the country and that will be a big factor for them making another final four run (always fear a team that has a point guard who can score come March). The biggest thing making it not so sunny in Philadelphia is this teams’ lack of size. While Antonio Pena has been putting up good numbers it will be interesting to see how he does once conference play begins and he’ll have to take on the bigs of Syracuse, UConn, G-town, and WVU.
- North Carolina: I can’t totally trust this team in the top-10 with the amount that Larry Drew III turns the ball over (over 3 per game), but they have one of the most talented and deepest front lines in the country. They’ve beaten two of the Big 10’s best in Ohio St. (with Evan Turner) and Michigan St. but struggled against top teams Texas and Syracuse. They could still be the favorites to win the ACC and with the continuing experience Drew will gain don’t completely write them off.
- New Mexico: I gave Darington Hobson and the Lobos some love before their last three wins and Roman Martinez has given me something more to gush about. The Senior is averaging 17 and 6 through the twelve games and came up big at Texas A&M going for 22 and 7 including 4-7 behind the three point stripe. This team doesn’t turn the ball over (under ten a game), can score (avg. 82ppg, 40% 3pt), and have depth with 8 guys averaging over 15mpg. This team is no longer a sleeper for the final four, they’re a contender.
- UConn: This team played both Kentucky and Duke tough but lost in virtual home games to them in MSG. Again though, this team an excellent backcourt in which both players can score in bunches. I think Jerome Dyson could be a star at the next level if he cuts down his turnovers (nearly 4pg) because of his playmaking and scoring ability. He seems like a smart player who just has lapses in judgment, but that will have to change for this team to make a run. The other problem for the Huskies is the lack of depth they have. Their top four all average over 11ppg, but nobody else averages more than 5.
- Mississippi: The Rebels have flown under the radar as of late with the softness of their schedule. They do have the only win over Kansas St. (neutral court win in Puerto Rico semifinal) and don’t underestimate the O.T win over UTEP last week to build the resume. This squad is extremely deep in the backcourt, regularly using a 3-guard line-up. Like the other teams in the second half of these rankings they don’t have great balance, as they struggle to get consistent production in the paint.
- Michigan St.: Sparty finally makes the list although they are a lot lower than where many would place them. I like the experience factor with this team and they have the balance that is so coveted, but they simply haven’t played to a high enough standard in big games. Turnovers have been the biggest problem for this team with nearly 15 per game thus far, including season highs of 22 versus both Florida and Texas. They also struggle to shoot from the outside in big games (2-20 vs UNC, 2-10 vs Florida). This team has the experience to turn it around, but they’ll have to rely on the conference season to do so as they only have one quality win (Gonzaga) in the non-conference portion.
- Ohio St.: They can only move higher when Evan Turner returns from two broken vertebrate. This team has had a nice non-conference season sans the loss at Butler (which with Turner I don’t think they lose). The trouble for this team is that before the return of their Junior wingman (Jan 9th at Minnesota is the targeted date) they have travel to both Wisconsin and then to Michigan. The selection committee will take any loss without him into consideration so in the end their seed shouldn’t be affected terribly.
- Temple: The Owls can play some D and have a superb backcourt in Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez. They just got done handing Big East foes Villanova and Seton Hall their first losses of the season with the latter coming on the road. They could easily be undefeated if not for the one point loss at Georgetown and a loss to an improved St. John’s team in which they played easily their worst game of the year. They have an enormous home game versus #1 Kansas Jan. 2nd and the A-10 looks very strong this year with Charlotte, Rhode Island, and Dayton all playing really well, so this team has the potential to move up or down depending.
Waiting in the Wings:
Georgetown: A bad home loss to ODU keeps them out of the top 12 and off the list completely. They do however, have a trio of non-conference wins over Washington, Butler, and Temple.
Tennessee: They had an inexplicable performance in L.A versus USC which could be the worst loss in the Bruce Perl era. The Vols are a very athletic group though and could bounce back in conference play and the big home date versus the Jayhawks.
Clemson: If not for the self-destructive loss at home to Illinois the Tigers would’ve made the list, but they are still contenders in the wide-open ACC.
Washington: Quincy Pondexter is a man averaging 22 and 9, Isaiah Thomas plays a little out of control sometimes but is still averaging 19 a game, but this team needs a third player to step up to help pick up the scoring slack and make them a true threat.
UNLV: The Rebs have some wins over some power programs, unfortunately all three of those schools (Louisville, Pitt, and Arizona) are having down years.
The X-Man vs Wall Debate
The two’s numbers are very even and both men lead their highly ranked teams in scoring, but not everything is about numbers. Again, Kansas has yet to play a team that is as good as the teams that Kentucky has faced. In Kansas’ games versus potential tournament teams, Memphis and Cal, Henry’s scoring has been below his season average going for 11 and 12 respectively and had 15 against flop Michigan at home. Mr. Wall however, has had his biggest games in the wins over UConn going for 25, UNC going for 16 (just two below in avg.), and Stanford as he went for 23 in an overtime win on a neutral floor. In the UConn game, Wall completely took over in the second half and has consistently hit big shots (game winner versus Miami-OH) for the Cats. Henry has yet to take over a game against big time competition and I understand that Kansas has so many weapons that he probably doesn’t have to, but Wall has proven he can be the man. They are both phenomenal players and have the potential to be stars at the next level, but the explosiveness and take-over ability of Wall gives him the nod for now.
A recap of the first two weeks of December. Results through December 13, 2009.
1) It’s still early!! The selection committee still doesn’t have much data to work with. Most teams still have yet to play 10 games and conference schedules are just kicking off. Be prepared for a lot more movement.
2) Conference strength is becoming very apparent. The top 4 conferences (Big East, ACC, SEC, and Big 12) are getting 21 of the 33 at-large bids. While the A-10 and the Mountain West conferences are proving to be stronger than the Pac-10.
3) Big Wins: Northwestern over NC State, San Diego St. over Arizona, Xavier over Cincinnati, Butler over Ohio St.
4) Tough Losses: Marquette at Wisconsin, Minnesota at Miami (FL), Ohio St at Butler
5) Bad Losses: Portland at Idaho, Louisville to Western Carolina
Last 4 In: Mississippi St., Xavier, San Diego St., Butler
Next 4 In: South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina
Bubble Out: Marquette, Minnesota, Richmond, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Southern Miss, Seton Hall
Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams)
A10 (6; 4): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Xavier
ACC (2; 6): Virginia Tech, Duke, NC State, Clemson, North Carolina, Maryland
AmEast (27; 1): Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun (26; 1): Belmont
Big Ten (5; 3): Purdue, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Big 12 (4; 5): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas
Big East (1; 7): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Connecticut, St John’s, Pittsburgh
Big Sky (19; 1): Northern Colorado
Big South (18; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (17; 1): Pacific
CAA (14; 1): Vir Commonwealth,
Conf USA (9; 1): UAB
Great West (33; 1): South Dakota
Horizon (15; 2): Loyola Chi., Butler
Ivy (22; 1): Cornell
MAAC (20; 1): Fairfield
MAC (13; 1): Buffalo
MEAC (30; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (10; 2): Missouri St., Northern Iowa
MWC (7; 3): New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego St.
NE (31; 1): Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley (23; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 3): Washington St., California, Washington
Patriot (29; 1): Army
SEC (3; 7): Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi St.
Southern (16; 1): Western Carolina
Southland (24; 1): Stephen F. Austin
Summit (25; 1): IUPUI
Sun Belt (21; 1): Denver
SWAC (28; 1): Prairie View A&M
WAC (12; 1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (11; 2): St. Mary’s, Gonzaga
Thank you General
Never one to hold back and always a shoot from the hip chap, my all time favorite coach for more reasons than this site can hold, called it like it is, again. As far as media and color commentary goes this has been an elephant in the room that hasn’t been called out, until yesterday.
With coach Bob Knight speaking at a fundraiser for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame he called into question the current integrity of the game. Specifically he addressed coach John Calipari from UK when he said “We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching. You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky, who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”
While the game has changed for better and worse this has long been a black eye. Coach Cal isn’t in exclusive company but epitomizes what tarnishes the game from a coaching standpoint. Beyond helping students illegally qualify academically he has a laundry list only the likes of the Kelvin Sampson could appreciate.
No More Parity?
The greatest championship event in all of sports is the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (wouldn’t this site lose some credibility if I said otherwise?). Maybe the biggest reason is the unmatched parity it offers.
With so many powerhouses running things lately, it will be a surprise to only the johnny-come-lately that it will be the same old teams who wind up in Indianapolis come April. Kansas is the clear frontrunner to win its second title in three years and become the fourth school since 1999 to win multiple titles. North Carolina won its second in four seasons last year. Florida won a pair in 2006 and 2007.
While still being early in the year, the new kids on the block leave much to be desired besides the Longhorns. The Wildcats and Blue Devils, along with the early season surprise upstarts Orange and Gators all have the look and feel of teams that can close out the season with six wins and a net clipping.
Two teams won two titles from 1983 to 1999. Isn’t the party more fun with some fresh faces?
The Great Wall or X-Man
Wall-mania has quickly taken its hold on TV and internet coverage, for good reason. The kid flies by defenders and throws it down with a sick array of moves like few who’ve come before. He dominates so much so there hasn’t been room for any sort of coverage or debate of the other super frosh that have come onto the scene, namely KU guard Xavier Henry.
I’m not saying one is better than the other because there are just too many caveats and intangibles that stats can’t account for. Still, it is a gross injustice not to consider the accomplishments of X so far this season in comparison to J-Weezy.
Here’s a look at the numbers through nine games of Wall and Henry:
• The 6-foot-4 Wall has averaged 18.1 ppg in 35.1 minutes, the 6-6 Henry 18.0 ppg in 27.0 minutes.
• Henry has hit 55 of 99 shots for 55.6 percent, Wall 54 of 100 shots for 54 percent.
• Henry has made 24 of 45 threes for 53.3 percent, Wall seven of 19 threes for 36.8 percent.
• Henry has converted 28 of 34 free throws for 82.4 percent, Wall 48 of 61 for 78.7 percent.
• Both players have 37 rebounds. Wall has 64 assists, 39 turnovers, 25 steals and five blocks; Henry has 16 assists, 18 turnovers, 16 steals and seven blocks.
The four things November taught me.
1) It’s early!! The selection committee wouldn’t have much data to work with right now. There is a reason the NCAA doesn’t post the RPI (the most significant variable in our model) until February, because the values will continue to be unstable until then.
2) The ACC will get more than 4 teams (North Carolina and Georgia Tech). The Big Ten will get more than 3 (Michigan St. and Ohio St.). The Pac 10 may only get 3. The SEC will not get 8 teams.
3) The addition of the Great West Conference and its automatic bid isn’t going to make the trip to Indianapolis, but it is going to take away one of the at large bids from a mid-major on Selection Sunday. This means two teams from the West Coast Conference instead of three.
4) The Big East made an early claim to get more than the seven teams it got last year. The 16 teams combined for a 79-12 record, led by a somewhat surprising West Virginia (5-0; RPI=1), Syracuse (7-0; RPI=32), and St. John’s (5-0; RPI=4).
Last 4 In: Clemson, New Mexico, Northern Iowa, Kentucky
Next 4 In: Tennessee, Arizona, Minnesota, Richmond
Bubble Out: Louisville, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Dayton, LSU, Miami Fl, Northwestern, Texas Tech
A10 (3): Rhode Island, Temple, Richmond
ACC (3): NC State, Duke, Florida St., Clemson
AmEast (1): Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun (1): Campbell
Big Ten (3): Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Big 12 (5): Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., Kansas
Big East (10): West Virginia, Syracuse, St John’s,
Villanova, Georgetown, DePaul, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, South Florida, Marquette
Big Sky (1): Northern Colorado
Big South (1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (1): Cal St Fullerton
CAA (2): Vir Commonwealth, William & Mary
Conf USA (1): Southern Miss
Great West (1): Utah Valley St.
Horizon (1): Loyola Chi.
Ivy (1): Harvard
MAAC (1): Iona
MAC (1): Ohio
MEAC (1): Morgan St.
MVC (2): Missouri St., Northern Iowa
MWC (2): UNLV, New Mexico
NE (1): Quinnipiac
Ohio Valley (1): Eastern Kentucky
Pac-10 (3): Washington, California, Arizona
Patriot (1): Army
SEC (8): Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky
Southern (1): Western Carolina
Southland (1): Texas San Antonio
Summit (1): IUPUI
Sun Belt (1): Denver
SWAC (1): Prairie View A&M
WAC (1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (2): Portland, Gonzaga
The Mountain West’s top three.
New Mexico: Turn away Iowa fans because the man you ran out of town has the Pit and the Lobos formidable again. Steve Alford has led New Mexico to a 9-0 including a win over Cal at home. Although that may be the only signature win thus far, the Lobos have a handful of games before conference play begins including home games against Creighton, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Dayton which could solidify their return. The pleasant surprise has been Darington Hobson. The JC transfer has averaged 17pts, 4ast, and 8rbs per game through the nine games, including 22 and 15 against Cal.
BYU: The Cougars of Mormon University are off to a 7-1 start and had a nice beat down of Arizona State earlier in the week. They have a nice balance in scoring from their second tier of players and are led by Jimmer Fredette. The junior has picked up where he left off last season averaging 18pts, nearly 6ast, and is shooting 40% from behind the arc. They’re non-conference games coming up at Arizona and UTEP may not sound daunting, but they aren’t easy places to play.
UNLV: The best of the “big 3,” the Runnin Reb’s are making people reminisce of the early 90’s. They have beaten quality opponents Louisville and Southern Illinois at home, and Arizona on the road. Tre’Von Willis leads the team with 17ppg but has been streaky scoring 25 one night and then 14 the next. The Rebels also lack ideal size, which could hurt them when they face a team with size in March (then again it didn’t hurt them when facing Samardo Samuels). This weekend they get another surprise team in Kansas State before the non-conference slate goes into snooze mode. They open the conference schedule in rough fashion heading to BYU and New Mexico in the opening week.
Kentucky and Florida
The SEC is getting a large boost in conference respectability thanks to these top two teams. Kentucky was expected to be good, but this good? Beating UNC and UCONN in successive games and they will probably be undefeated when they head to Florida on Jan. 12th. Florida meanwhile went from the unranked to a top 15 team. UF has beaten Michigan St. and Florida St. in convincing fashion before losing to a real good Syracuse team last night. The rest of the non-conference should be a cakewalk for the Gators before heading to Vandy to open conference play and then the aforementioned home date with the Wildcats. The depth and lack of size for the Gators was exposed a little versus the Orange, but if super frosh Kenny Boynton can improve his outside shooting to his high school level, look out for this team come spring.
Speaking of super frosh, John Wall, WOW. Everyone knew he had the talent, but he is Carmelo reborn as a guard (not going to compare him to Derrick Rose because Wall is better). Anthony led the Orange to a national title as a frosh with a nice compliment of role players and Wall could have a similar scenario for himself at UK. The Big Blue’s wonder kid needs to cut down on the turnovers but that will come with experience. In the game against UCONN, Wall struggled in the first half, picking up two fouls and riding the pine for the majority of it as the Huskies pulled into the lead. But, Wall came out in the second half and put on a show finishing with 25pts and 6stls, hitting big shots late in the game. He’ll be the number one pick next year and Kentucky fans better enjoy him while they have him.
The Big East
This was supposed to be a down year for this league that is widely considered the best year in and year out. But with the emergence of the ‘Cuse, West Virginia, and Cincinnati this league looks like the best again. The Orange have been the most impressive with wins over UNC, Florida, and Cal, all of which they dominated. The Bearcats have a couple of nice neutral court victories over Vandy and Maryland. West Virginia has beaten both Texas A&M and an upstart Portland team, but we’ll find out if this team is great when they head to Purdue on January 1 and then of course in conference play. Combine these three teams with a superb Villanova team, an undefeated Georgetown, and an athletic UCONN team this league easily has the best top six teams in the country.
The surprise team thus far in the rough and tumble Big 12 has gone undefeated in the non-conference with one big win over Washington in the Hardwood Challenge. The Red Raiders have amazingly balanced scoring with seven players capable of going for double digits on any given night. They have two non-conference games that should continue to give them a litmus test in a game at home versus Stanford and at New Mexico. The preseason poll put the Raiders at 9th in the conference, but it’s hard to see this team finishing in the bottom half of the league with this start.
For a mid-major that was suppose the make a run for the final four this team has done zero to prove that they were worthy of such lofty expectations. In the 76 Classic they played two teams ranked at the time and lost to them both while just getting by a horrible UCLA. They were given their next chance against Georgetown and were beaten in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score in the Jimmy V Classic. How is this team still ranked? The only quality win was over a Northwestern team who had just found out that they would lose their top player Kevin Coble for the year and had yet to figure out how to win without him. They’ll have one more chance to beat a big time program tomorrow versus Ohio St. Even if they can get that victory in Hinkle, it wont be as highly regarded as it could’ve been now that Evan Turner is out for a while with the two broken vertebrate. Their lack of depth has been exposed and when they face a team with size they will be in trouble come March.
The Wolverines were a top-15 team heading into this season and with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims coming back, why not? But year 3 under John Beilein has not gone as expected for the maze and blue. They started out 3-0 before falling on their face in the Old Spice Tourney losing to Marquette and then Alabama. They then dropped a tough one at home to Boston College in the Big 10/ACC Challenge and, after stalling the bleeding with a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, got shellacked by an average Utah team on the road. With a date in Lawrence with the number one Jayhawks coming up Michigan should enter conference play at 6-5. It’s tough to see this team going better than 9-9 in conference play so this team seems to be NIT bound.
This team was supposed to compete for an at large tournament spot if they didn’t win the Missouri Valley championship, but with home losses to Iona and Xavier the Blue Jays cannot count on an at large bid in any way shape or form. Their under .500 mark may not evaporate soon with games at George Mason and at New Mexico in two of their next three. The Jays did get a nice win over a scrappy Nebraska team this past Sunday and could put themselves in good position in the conference if they can beat Northern Iowa at home in the opener.
I went back and forth about adding the Sooners to this list because they have recently turned things around with thrashings of Arkansas and Arizona. However, the three consecutive losses they took at Coach Cable’s old school VCU and two defeats in Alaska got them in. The biggest alarm from the losses at the Great Alaska Shootout was that they blew an 18point lead and gave up 100pts to Houston following a double-digit defeat to San Diego. This team has the best opportunity to turn things around of any of the teams named (and again, they may have already started), especially with the superb backcourt combination of Warren and Crocker.
I could rip into UCLA again but, nah, too easy, other honorable (or dishonorable depending on which you make) mentions; Good: Texas A&M, William & Mary, Miami-OH’s balls (check out that nonconference schedule!), Isiah Thomas’ recruiting, Wisconsin beating Duke, St. Mary’s and Jimmy Dykes announcing ESPN primetime games. Bad: Kansas’ nonconference schedule (you’re the top team in the country, play someone!!), post 76 Classic semifinals Portland (blown out by West Virginia in the finals and then losses to Portland St. and at Idaho), Isiah Thomas’ 3-8 record, Wisconsin losing at Green Bay, and Dick Vitale speaking…….ever.
Just look at these guys! It’s like someone splashed water on Hanbrough in the off season and these two slack-jawed yokels were spawned (also, wtf team are those jerseys for? Double Pump vs Pump n Run?). They kind of reminds me of the twins in the 2nd Matrix, if the Matrix twins were rednecks. I’m sure that CBS is involved in this conspiracy at some level – hopefully they’ll air some sort of Jim Nantz narrated montage of how they came to be. After years off blank faced Psycho T taking over the airwaves in March, I was really looking forward to not being forced to sit through an interview (or many) featuring his slow, agonizingly monotone retelling of how he got his nickname. “Ma frends called me Psa-coh T cuz I’m all crazy and intanse. Psa-coh T.” Now I’ll probably have to sit through TWO of these mouthbreathers babbling on about what it’s like to be twin brothers playing on the same college basketball team.
Who knows, maybe they’ll fail out of UNC by the end of the year. Although I will have to say that I haven’t seen them give any kind of interview yet. They probably have British accents and will brush off basketball questions to explain their economic theories of how to get the GDP growing again as they put glasses on and light their pipes. Until then I can make fun of them, since there’s NO WAY I can give any actual analysis of how good any college basketball team is at this point in the season.
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.