StatJunkie's Hoop Blog | thoughts on ncaa hoops from

Last 4 In: San Diego St., Richmond, Cincinnati, Mississippi St.
Next 4 In: Louisville, Clemson, Dayton, Charlotte
Bubble Out: St Mary’s, Wichita St., Seton Hall, Northeastern, Florida, Notre Dame, William & Mary, Northwestern

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams)
A10 (7; 6): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier, Charlotte
ACC (3; 6): Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St., Maryland
AmEast (27; 1): Maine
Atlantic Sun (24; 1): Campbell
Big Ten (5; 4): Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Ohio St.
Big 12 (1; 8): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Missouri
Big East (2; 8): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati
Big Sky (17; 1): Weber St.
Big South (26; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (19; 1): Pacific
CAA (12; 1): Old Dominion
Conf USA (11; 1): UAB
Great West (33; 0):
Horizon (13; 1): Butler
Independent (31: 0):
Ivy (20; 1): Cornell
MAAC (15; 1): Siena
MAC (16; 1): Central Michigan
MEAC (29; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 1): Northern Iowa
MWC (6; 4): New Mexico, UNLV, BYU, San Diego St.
NE (30; 1): Quinnipiac
Ohio Valley (21; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 1): California
Patriot (28; 1): Lehigh
SEC (4; 5): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Mississippi St.
Southern (18; 1): College of Charleston
Southland (25; 1): Sam Houston St.
Summit (22; 1): Oakland
Sun Belt (23; 1): Arkansas St.
SWAC (32; 1): Texas Southern
WAC (10; 1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (14; 1): Gonzaga

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Last 4 In: Xavier, Missouri, California, Notre Dame
Next 4 In: Baylor, Richmond, Vanderbilt, Louisville
Bubble Out: San Diego St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Marshall, Va Tech, Cincinnati, Wichita St., Missouri St.

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams)
A10 (6; 5): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier
ACC (3; 7): Miami FL, Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St.
AmEast (27; 1): Vermont
Atlantic Sun (26; 1): Belmont
Big Ten (5; 4): Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Minnesota
Big 12 (2; 8): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Missouri
Big East (1; 8): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame
Big Sky (17; 1): Northern Colorado
Big South (24; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (20; 1): Pacific
CAA (11; 2): William & Mary, Old Dominion
Conf USA (10; 1): UAB
Great West (32; 0):
Horizon (13; 1): Butler
Independent (33: 0):
Ivy (21; 1): Cornell
MAAC (16; 1): Siena
MAC (15; 1): Akron
MEAC (28; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 1): Northern Iowa
MWC (7; 3): New Mexico, UNLV, BYU
NE (30; 1): Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley (19; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 2): California, Washington
Patriot (29; 1): Army
SEC (4; 3): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Southern (18; 1): Western Carolina
Southland (25; 1): Texas-San Antonio
Summit (23; 1): Oakland
Sun Belt (22; 1): Denver
SWAC (31; 1): Prairie View A&M
WAC (12; 1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (14; 2): St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

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Ranked teams tumbling

Ok, I’ll take the heat for it.  KU goes down three days after I said that an under-manned Tennessee team had no shot.  Sorry Gusto, no 40-0 for the Jayhawks this year and a different Big 12 team is, for now, #1.  There were a number of surprising scores from over the weekend, so lets take a look.

#15 Tennessee 76 #1 Kansas 68

No Tyler Smith.  No experienced depth in the backcourt.  No problem.  The Volunteers shocked the undisputed top team in the country, handing the Hawks their first loss of the season.  It was hard to watch this game, mainly because the NFL playoffs were airing on another network, but I had to.   Tennessee was in turmoil coming in, but give credit to Bruce Pearl for getting his team to focus in and shut down the high-powered foes from Lawrence holding them to 17 points below their season average.

Defense won this game for the Orange (as it normally does in games against teams who are superior talent-wise) as they held the Jayhawks to 13% below their season average shooting percentage, including 17% below their 3-point shooting average.  Serron Collins finished with 22 points, but shot just 7-20 from the field going just 2-10 from behind the arc.  Xavier Henry again disappeared in a big game, going for just 10pts (6pts below his season average) in taking just 7 shots.

Bill Self may have to face some tough questions about this one, mainly why they didn’t get the ball inside more and relied on the outside shooting so much.  The trio of Aldrich and the Morris twins only got twelve shot attempts the entire game. Twelve!  KU had a huge size advantage inside, but failed to get the ball to the wide bodies in the paint on a regular basis.  A lot of credit for that can go to the Volunteers denying the entry pass, but with the talent that Kansas has I can’t imagine that they couldn’t create passing angles to get it there.

No team comes into the season with a stated goal of going undefeated, so all of Kansas’ goals can still be obtained.  A huge win for Tennessee, but they will have to continually give this type of effort in an improved SEC and in games which wont hold such a lime light, which will not be easy.  The pollsters are over-reacting to this.  The Vols were not a top ten team with all the suspended players and certainly aren’t moving forward.

Notre Dame 70  #8 West Virginia 68

No one saw this coming.  Notre Dame may have come into the day ten games over .500, but they didn’t have a signature win to their credit.  They have one now.  The game came down to the wire because of a ferocious comeback by the Mountaineers.  The Irish were up by 20 at the half and WVU was another De’Sean Butler buzzer beating shot away from taking this upset away.

This win was great for Notre Dame considering the only other shot at a decent win was a game against UCONN (L 82-70).  It should help them carry some momentum toward getting an at-large bid and was a nice start to a brutal five game stretch in which 1-4 looked like a probability.

For West Virginia, it’s not time to hit the panic button but they obviously are not playing up to the form they were in earlier in the season.  The hole they dug themselves shows that they weren’t ready to play, which speaks directly to the coach.  The comeback should give them some confidence moving forward which is a good thing considering the huge home game with Syracuse looming Saturday.

Scatter thoughts on other top 25 upsets from the weekend

Arizona 87 #24 Washington 70:  This just proves what I was saying in my “yuck” post last week, that the Pac 10 is real bad.  After Washington’s embarrassing weekend in the desert the conference is left with no ranked teams and the serious prospect of only getting the automatic qualifier into the tournament.

Missouri 74 #11 Kansas St. 68:  Not a surprise as Columbia is a scary place to play for any team to travel to.  The Cats should get back on track with a home game against A&M and a road trip to Colorado before welcoming the new number 1 Longhorns.

#17 Wisconsin 73 #4 Purdue 66:  Another one that isn’t a shocker because of the Kohl Center’s presence (just ask Duke).  Purdue remains the favorite for the Big Ten in my opinion, it’s doubtful that any team will win in Madison this year.  For Sconnie they will face two tough ones on the road with a rejuvenated Northwestern and a desperate Ohio St.

UNLV 74 #15 New Mexico 62:  The shimmer has worn off of the Lobos.  My first Sweet Sixteen has a few duds on it and team Alford can qualify as one of those.  After racing to a 14-1 start they’ve dropped their first two MWC games by double digits.  For the Rebels, they have a big home game versus SDSU Wednesday and should compete for the conference title to the end.

#20 Georgia Tech 71 #5 Duke 67:  The Devils really struggled shooting in this game, getting no production from one of their stars Kyle Singler (9pts-5rebs in 38 min.).  Jon Scheyer went for 25 but shot under 50% from the field including just 3-13 from behind the arc.  Duke struggled with the size of the Yellow Jackets and that could be their Achilles going throughout the season.

Mississippi St. 80 #14 Ole Miss 75:  A really tough loss for the improved Rebels at home to their in-state rival.  They can look at a lack of aggression as a big reason that they lost this game as they went to the charity stripe 20 less times than the Bulldogs.  The loss looks even more daunting as the next 4 of 5 will be conference road games for Ole Miss.

Maryland 77 #18 Florida St. 68:  The road in the ACC is just not a kind place no matter where you are playing.  The Seminoles have to be happy that their next three are going to be at home.  The ACC really is an enigma going forward, any number of teams could finish on top.

Monday night’s game between #4 Villanova and Louisville was incredibly entertaining, but at the same time disturbing.  The refs decided to call 66 fouls.  Sixty-Six.  There were 94 free throws taken.  Ninety-four.  The Big East needs to sit-down and hold a serious bitch-out session of John Cahill, Michael Stephens, and Karl Hess (the refs), because they ruined that game.

Why do refs think that they need to control things at that kind of extreme level?  How can they not know how frustrating this makes fans, players, and coaches?  Yes the game was extremely physical, but in this case the refs have to adapt to the game that is presented.  They needed to have a meeting with the coaches to stress the fact that the physicality of the game was out of control and needed to be toned down.  Instead, the refs just continued to blow their whistles.  While they needed to keep the game civil, they didn’t have to be the main story behind it.

Even the broadcasters were annoyed with what was taking place.  At one point Jay Bilas quipped, “This game will have to be finished with freshman managers.”  As it turns out he was wrong, but it was amazing that only two players fouled out of the game.  The ESPN double-header would’ve been a 1 and a half header had the Bedlam game not gone to overtime.  They didn’t get to the second game until there was under 7 minutes left in the first half.

The refs took away from the focus of what was a very good game (other than the 44 turnovers).  ‘Nova came back from 17 down late in the first half.  They were lead by their phenomenal All-American Scottie Reynolds who went for 36pts shooting 9-10 from the field including 5-5 behind the arc.  The big question for the Cardinals (other than how to stop Reynolds, which every team has to wonder) is why they weren’t getting the ball into Samardo Samuels more.  The sophomore went for 21pts, but was only 4-4 from the field while going 13-13 from the line.  He was regularly open in the paint and the Cardinal guards couldn’t or wouldn’t send him the entry pass.  I don’t know why Rick Pitino didn’t scream at his team to send the ball Samuels’ way, baffling.

The Big East’s biggest surprise has to be the Pittsburgh Panthers.  After a shocking loss to Indiana at home by ten earlier in the year the Panthers have rattled off six straight wins including huge wins on the road against conference foes Syracuse and Cincinnati.  The most brutal three game stretch of any team possibly in the country concludes Wednesday with a game at UConn.  Pittsburgh’s schedule doesn’t get easier just because they get to go home, Louisville and Georgetown are next on the docket and then they head to Seton Hall.  If they can get through all of this with even just one loss, this team could be top ten worthy.

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What is the most annoying sound in the world (world of college basketball)?  Right now, other than Dickie V, it’s someone trying to continue to make the claim that the Pac 10 is still a power conference.  The league is garbage.  The only team that is ranked is Washington (#24 in AP and #22 in Coaches) and I don’t know how this is possible with the loss to Oregon at home last weekend.  Three of the traditional powers of the conference are .500 or worse and have some really bad losses.

One has to start with UCLA who is 7-8 overall including losses to Cal St. Fullerton and Long Beach St.  Those two teams are currently in the bottom half of the Big West Conference standings.  Getting into conference play has been a bit kinder to the Bruins (which further proves that the league is crap).  They split with the Arizona schools at home last week and started their weekend in the Bay with an OT win over previous conference favorite Cal.  The fighting Wooden’s have been humbled this season by Kansas, Portland, and Mississippi St. by an average of 22pts per game.

Next we go to Arizona where the Wildcats are plugging along at 7-7 and are in major jeopardy of having their streak of 400 straight NCAA tourney’s snapped.  They’ll have to win the conference tournament to get in.  The Wildcats have lost to every decent team they have run in to and their best win is a two point home win over NC St.  To be fair they have a new coach after the Lute Olson fiasco of fence sitting (Seriously this guy waffled more than Brett Favre and Bobby Bowden combined, why wasn’t this made a bigger deal? Why did he get a pass?).

We finish with the educational institution of Stanford, which is also sitting at 7-7.  The Cardinal don’t have a signature win (their best showing was an OT loss to Kentucky) unless you think a five point win in Mexico over possibly the worst ACC team in Virginia counts, which I don’t.  They just got a one point win over USC who had recently found out that this season will all be for not.  Landry Fields has been the one bright spot, consistently tearing it up for them, averaging 23-9-3 this season.

Ok, so the traditional powers might be struggling, but that means other teams have stepped it up, right?  Um, no.  The non-conference record for the PAC 10 against other power conferences is 8-24.  Throw in the MWC and the WCC and the record doesn’t improve, staying 16 under .500 at 20-36.  The PAC 10 has a losing record to the little brother WCC (6-7).   They are 1-15 versus the current top 25 coaches poll (the lone win was the ineligible USC’s victory over Tennessee at home).  According to the latest rankings on this site, 2 teams will make the tournament (would be three if, again, USC were eligible).  That seems very optimistic to me, but to be fair it was done before Cal’s home loss to the Bruins.

The Pac 10 is not a power conference, if you try to argue such you must be taking crazy pills.   Let’s move on from bad to stupid.

Ok, so you attend a major University in which you are getting free education because you play a game really well.  This past fall some classmates, who are also getting free education for playing a different game, are dismissed from school because they are going to pretend to be gangsta pulling an air pistol on people near campus then cruising away in their getaway hybrid while smoking some green leaf.  But this doesn’t make you stop and think, “I probably shouldn’t roll around town with my glock with the altered serial numbers smoking it up with some teammates.”  Forget crazy pills, the four Volunteers must have been taking moron pills.

Tennessee’s hopes for a conference title, run in the NCAA Tourney, or chance at beating Kansas this weekend all went down the tubes when four players who all averaged over 15 minutes a game were suspended indefinitely.  Two of them, Tyler Smith and Cameron Tatum, were top four scorers for the Vols.

The Big Red of Cornell certainly scared the pants off Jayhawk nation the other night.  Lucky for KU they still have Sherron Collins, the senior picked up the slack of his younger teammates by going for 33 including 13-14 from the line.  Rock Chalk dominated in their first road game against a quality opponent and a little let down would be expected and Cornell, being a lot better than most used to think, almost took advantage.  This is a game the Jayhawks used to lose and it’s nice to see the top team come through in a tough spot.

Ohio St. must be happy that Evan Turner came back Wednesday night against Indiana, even if it was in limited fashion.  Turner played 20 minutes, scoring 8 points while adding 5 assistants and 4 rebounds, but the big score was him playing  3 weeks before team doctors thought.  It couldn’t have come at a better time (although they probably would’ve beaten Indiana at home without him) since the Bucks had just lost two games in bad fashion at Wisconsin and Michigan.  It will be interesting to see how effective he will be in the next few games and how long it will take him to get back to full strength.  Either way, he’ll have a huge impact on the remainder of the Big Ten season.

Finally, we get to what was perceived as a monumental upset with College of Charleston taking down the defending champs in OT.  Was it though?  North Carolina is obviously not the same team as a year ago, they’ve struggled finding consistent play in the backcourt and were missing Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves.  The last point was enjoyed most by the Cougars guard Andrew Goudelock who went for 24pts including a game tying three with just 2 seconds left.  Sure CoC was just 7-6 entering the contest, but better teams have lost to worse.

Ok, I suppose that’s enough negativity today.  Coming soon a look at the conference leaders emerging.

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1) Conference season is just kicking off. The non-conference season has given us a good idea as to how many teams each conference will get. Now we will begin to see movement within those conferences.
2) The Great West conference does not get an automatic bid this year (this is a correction to a previous post). No teams from this conference will get an at-large bid, therefor it opens another spot for a bubble team.
3) USC has just imposed self-sanctions that include no post-season play this year. This will be corrected in future posts.
4) Big Wins: Baylor at Alabama, Okla St. at Stanford, William & Mary at Maryland
5) Tough Losses: Florida vs. Richmond
6) Bad Losses: Florida vs. S Alabama, South Carolina at Wofford

Last 4 In: Alabama, Baylor, Xavier, Oklahoma St.
Next 4 In: Richmond, Tennessee, VA Commonwealth, Florida St.
Bubble Out: Mississippi St., Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Illinois, Cincinnati, BYU, Old Dominion, Maryland

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams)

A10 (7; 5): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier
ACC (3; 6): Miami FL, Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest
AmEast (27; 1): Vermont
Atlantic Sun (25; 1): Belmont
Big Ten (5; 3): Purdue, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Big 12 (2; 7): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor
Big East (1; 7): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Connecticut, St John’s, Pittsburgh, Louisville
Big Sky (17; 1): Northern Colorado
Big South (22; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (20; 1): Pacific
CAA (11; 2): VA Commonwealth, William & Mary
Conf USA (10; 1): UAB
Great West (33; 0):
Horizon (13; 2): Loyola Chi., Butler
Independent (31: 0):
Ivy (23; 1): Cornell
MAAC (18; 1): Fairfield
MAC (15; 1): Akron
MEAC (29; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 2): Missouri St., Northern Iowa
MWC (8; 2): New Mexico, UNLV
NE (32; 1): Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley (19; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (6; 3): California, USC, Washington
Patriot (30; 1): Army
SEC (4; 5): Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi St.
Southern (16; 1): Western Carolina
Southland (26; 1): Stephen F. Austin
Summit (21; 1): IUPUI
Sun Belt (24; 1): Denver
SWAC (28; 1): Texas Southern
WAC (14; 1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (12; 2): St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

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Rumors of Coaching Changes Fly – Pastner to UTenn, Pearl to UK, Calipari to Louisville, and Pitino to Memphis… New Border State Conference to be announced?

In a tawdry, but increasingly familiar game of musical coaching chairs following recruiting improprieties have arisen. Anonymous sources in several border state cities report a flurry of rumors of coaching changes coming on the heels of a group of UTenn players reputedly being arrested on felony drug and gun charges recently.

Sources of known reliability close to UK and UTenn report UK and UTenn could be entering a bidding war for Bruce Pearl. His ability to attract long, athletic players capable of arrest on felony drug and gun charges particularly appeals to UK, which reputedly wants to take the next step toward an illegitimate national championship, after taking the first step last year by hiring Coach Calipari, reputedly to land explosive, ball screen creators with help from SAT test-taking surrogates. There is no word yet on whether UK will agree to rename the University of Kentucky, as Bruce Pearl University, but sources close to the negotiations indicate that doing so is part of the incentive package being offered to Pearl.

Current UK Coach John Calipari is, of course, impacted by these negotiations. Calipari has reputedly simultaneously entered negotiations to jump from UK to Louisville to double his salary to $10M/year and depart UK before possible recruiting improprieties at UK regarding SAT test surrogates (that he reputedly will not be held responsible for) reduce future scholarships at UK.

Calipari’s reputed attempt to jump to Louisville is potentially feasible, only because Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is now reputedly in secret discussions with Memphis to assume head coaching duties there to escape the on-going stigma of marital infidelities made public some time ago in Louisville, regarding Pitino. Sources close to Memphis officials suggest that they feel Pitino’s mid life crisis and related infidelity could play extremely well with Memphis’ middle aged boosters after less than a year of the so very young and squeaky clean Josh Pastner.

Perhaps not surprisingly, and to come full circle on this daisy chain of coaching change, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is reputedly (again according to anonymous sources) in secret negotiations with UTenn to replace Bruce Pearl, who reputedly started the entire process when some of his long, athletic players were reputed to have been arrested on felony drug and gun charges. Sources in Knoxville, TN, suggest UTenn officials hope that Pastner’s youth could energize UTenn’s booster base and give UTenn a recruiting connection with Pastner’s father, a reputed broker of long, athletic basketball talent in Houston, TX. Sources near UTenn indicate possible consensus that there is enough long, athletic talent capable of arrest on felony drug and gun charges to take UTenn to the next level.

On a related note, sources also report that UTenn, UK, Louisville and Memphis are in secret negotiations with each other and with NCAA officials regarding starting a new border state conference to be called “The Big Rogue Conference.” The NCAA is reputedly weighing the costs and benefits to college basketball of designating a specific conference where rogue programs are permitted to break any rules they wish.

(Note: The preceding post – both parts and the whole – are fictional and are a satire of the current situation unfolding at UTenn regarding four of its players that reputedly have been suspended for the arrest of felony drug and gun charges. The sources are fictional. The rumors are fictional. Anyone misconstruing any of the above as true has been notified to the contrary.)

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Sports fanatics thrive off moments, players, and teams, even to tears in the scarily extreme cases, yet we remain hungry for more. Having just turned the corner on the first decade of the 21st millennia it seems necessary that we take a look back on what a great ten years of college basketball we have just experienced.

The game appears to have evolved more so in this last decade than any other era but fortunately there is always one constant, the debate over who was the best. There has been no shortage of excellence and milestones and here is this one man panel’s assessment of the best. Please comment or offer your own insights.

Best Program

When judging on overall excellence the Jayhawks leave little to nitpick about. Under Williams and then Self the program simply maintained quality and never dipped, unless you count two first round tourney losses. They have one national title, three final fours, second in wins for the decade, seven conference titles, and unlike UNC and Florida they danced every March, never experiencing a down year.

Runner Ups

It is hard to make a case against this program and the success they have seen, especially after they brought their own Williams back to right the ship. They have two national titles, four final fours, and five ACC titles. If it was not for the Doherty Disaster that occurred early on they could have taken the honor. Finishing 8-20 is too much of a black eye to overcome.

They took the first national title of the decade and have not had a hiccup since. They also have four final fours and three conference championships to add to the resume. The Spartans can also boast while they may have had a few off years they managed to make the tourney every year.

Best Coach

‘Ol Roy Boy – KU and UNC
By far the easiest call here. This coach lead five teams to final fours and two titles between the two programs. While exuding excellence behind the reigns at KU he was finally able to take it to the next level at UNC. While he inherited an immensely talented team at UNC he was also able to start recruiting east of the Mississippi, something that never happened at KU for some reason. It is hard to argue that another coach is better able to recruit, develop, and plan for games than Ol’ Roy. No need to look further than how quickly he rebuilt the Tar Heels. He also gets style points for coaching such a fun and up tempo game.

Runner Ups

The Izzone – MSU
The man reached four final fours and won one national title game. Ever a model of consistency he made the tourney every year and spread his final four appearances out enough so anyone who wore green danced at least three weekends in their career. He also moved MSU from a good program to elite status in relatively short order.

The Few, The Proud – The Zags
Probably the most underappreciated coach in the game is Mark Few. He has consistently lead the Zags to the tourney throughout the decade and is every coaches nightmare of a possible early match up come March. Americans love an underdog and no teams resembles Cinderella better than the Zags, in no small part as a result of their coach.

Self – Tulsa, Illini, and KU
It was tough to peg Self over Coach K but my differentiator comes down to, “what have you done for me lately?” Duke was brilliant the first half but has fallen off and under achieved the second half. Self has lead three teams to elite eights. In four years he moved Tulsa from a bottom feeder to 32 wins and nearly a final four in 2000. The Illini program he left Bruce Dub nearly won a title. Now he has reinvented KU bringing a title back to Larryville and currently has them as a near unanimous numero uno in the polls.

Best Player

Psycho T – UNC 2005-9
Not much room to debate here, just look at his decorations. The only four time first team All-American ever he also lead the Tar Heels to a national title. He also happens to be the ACC all time leading scorer. You will also be hard pressed to find any weaknesses in his game. He was a great on the ball and team defender. On offense he was a great scorer whether in iso or taking feeds, and he could also pass like few big men can. He probably had the best motor leading his great teams by example.

Runner Ups

JJ Redick – Duke 2002-6
I am not sure there was a player who was more hated (I have to plead guilty here) than this kid. For some unfortunate reason both opposing fans and players absolutely tormented him on any road stop. The guy could hit the trifecta from anywhere on the court. If there was a harder worker than Hansbrough it would have to be Redick. Defenses built entire game plans to stop him and failed miserably.

Jay Will – Duke 1999-2002
One of the best offensive players we have ever seen. At times he was absolutely unguardable. He was brilliant in iso and off the screen. He was also a phenomenal distributor when running the point and rarely turned the ball over. JW played sound and fundamental basketball and was also a premier defender in the ACC. Unrelated he also graduated in three years with a 4.0.

Steph Curry – Davidson 2006-9
Who really heard of Davidson before he put the school on his shoulders and was a shot away from making the ‘08 final four? There was not another player who willed his team to victory this decade like Curry. I will never forget the day that I played hooky and got to watch him push past the Zags that special Friday afternoon with his mom crying in the stands during their second half comeback. That elite eight run will go down as one of the most memorable we have ever seen.

Best Game

KU 75, Memphis 68 in OT – 2008 National Title Game
This may be the most difficult to defend when strictly talking about an individual game but what put this into elite status was that it was for all the marbles, plus it was arguably the greatest championship game ever played. Who really saw the drama unfolding the way it did with KU down nine and two minutes left in regulation? Sherronotron Collins picking stud of the night Roses’ pocket and draining the trinity to cut it to three with twenty seconds left? Then there was the new “shot heard ‘round the world” when Sherronotron handed the ball off to Super Mario Chalmers who drained the game tying trey with two seconds left which pushed the game to OT. KU was in the driver seat from there and clipped the nets at the Alamo taking home its first national championship in twenty years.

Runner Ups

‘Cuse 127, UConn 117 in 6 OT – 2009 Big East Tourney
Not sure whether to call this basketball at its greatest it has ever been or just a freak show but it left me dragging at work the next day staying up hours past my bedtime. If I was exhausted I can only imagine how the kids who played in this game felt. 244 points scored in what looked like eight suspense filled halves. Those that saw should still have this fresh in their memory and will not soon forget the performances of Flynn, Price, and Devendorf.

Zags 109, MSU 106 in 3 OT – 2005 Maui Invitational
Not sure whether to call this an epic game or simply a slugfest but another I was fortunate enough to watch. I don’t recall ever watching a player, let alone three in Morrison, Ager, and Downtown Brown play at such a ridiculously high level during fall semester. Watching these teams match shot for shot over the final twenty minutes felt like neither team lost, just the Zags got credit for the win.

Okey St 105, Texas 103 – 2002 Conference Play
This game was as good as it gets for a conference rivalry match. This game was not at the same level as the others above but was an absolute pleasure to watch because two players put their team on their shoulders and refused to fall in this game of chicken. Sr. Boggan made a case that experience can trump raw ability when he made the game winning three in the third OT taking down the most talented frosh of the decade in Durant and the Longhorns.

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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.

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**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.
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.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.

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