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College Basketball Primer
2008-01-24 23:57
by Scott Long

With my increasingly hectic schedule, I haven't paid as much attention to college basketball as usual. Here are the teams that jumped out at me, after checking out the records.

  • All the experts knew the Pac-10 was as good as it has ever been. So far, the league has exceeded even those lofty expectations. Outside of the stinky Beavers, every other team in the Pac-10 is at least 4 games over .500. It seems like a lock that the league will get 7 NCAA tourney teams, with even an 8th squad joining them, if they can get to 6 wins.
  • Baylor is 16-2 and ranked for the first time in 40 years. The Bears won a 5 overtime game the other night versus A&M. Scott Drew is the leader in the clubhouse for coach of the year. No coach has come into a worse situation than Drew inherited when he came to Waco. Miraculous.
  • Right behind Drew for coach of the year is Keno Davis, who is in his first season as the head man at Drake. The Bulldogs are 17-1 under the son of Dr. Tom Davis. Last year was the first winning season at Drake in 20 years, as a school that used to have a lot of basketball tradition during the 60's and 70's, had become a dismal coaching job. Drake's only loss was to a very good St. Mary's team.
  • The new NBA age restriction rule has brought more quality players to college basketball than I've seen in 15 years. Freshmen will have a bigger impact in the tourney this year than any year in history.
  • Memphis will end up undefeated at the end of the regular season, but will fail to make the Final 4 because they are not prepared for the tourney grind playing in the weak Conference USA.
  • Kentucky is 8-9, while Minnesota is 12-5. Do you think Tubby Smith knew something?
  • Florida lost most of its starting 5 to the NBA and still is 17-3.
  • Speaking of the SEC, both Mississippi schools are actually good.
  • Butler has lost 2 games in the Horizon League and is still ranked 15th in the polls.
  • Indiana has the best inside/outside combo in the nation in D.J.White and Eric Gordon.
  • If I was to pick a Final 4 at this point, I would go with Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Tennessee.
2008-01-25 02:22:04
1.   Eric Enders
Nice summary, Scott. It's been an interesting hoops season so far. I do take issue with this, though--

"Memphis will end up undefeated at the end of the regular season, but will fail to make the Final 4 because they are not prepared for the tourney grind playing in the weak Conference USA."

Oy. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that cliche this year. Thing is, people spout that like it's gospel, but nobody's ever actually done a study and proved or disproved the notion that great teams in weak conferences do poorly in the NCAAs. I seem to recall St. Joe's, UNLV, and Memphis themselves as data points against that theory in recent years.

I actually think that Memphis WILL stumble once in C-USA play, but will make the Final Four anyway.

A few other thoughts.

- Tennessee I think is a longshot to make the Final Four. They look good when everything's going right, and are arguably the most athletic team in the country, but they play like a bunch of knuckleheads and their poor decision-making and shot selection will trip them up in the NCAA.

- Florida is crap. They have a 17-3 record because they haven't played anyone. They might do as Clemson did last year, and miss the NCAA despite a phenomenal mid-season record.

- Washington State, despite losing at Arizona tonight, is for real. They probably have as good a chance of making the Final Four as anyone.

- Just a hunch, but Kentucky will end the season with an NCAA resume as good (or almost as good) as Minnesota's.

- Texas has the best starting five in the country, by a wide margin. They'd be a Final Four favorite if they had any depth at all.

- Gonzaga is going to be a better team in March than their record indicates, due to the return of Heytvelt and the late emergence of freshmen Gray and Daye.

- Usual multi-bid contenders WAC, Mountain West, and C-USA will be one-bid leagues, while the MVC, WCC, and especially A-10 will get multiple bids.

To date, some All-America picks:

First Team
G DJ Augustin, Texas
G Eric Gordon, Indiana
F Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
F Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
C Kevin Love, UCLA

Second Team
G Eric Gordon, Indiana
G Kyle Weaver, Washington State
F Richard Hendrix, Alabama
F Michael Beasley, Kansas State
C Roy Hibbert, Georgetown

2008-01-25 02:22:42
2.   Eric Enders
2008-01-25 06:28:16
3.   Penarol1916
1. UNLV is the only team of those data points that refutes Scott's claim. Both Memphis and St. Joseph's have failed to reach the final four. The other team you may want to add is UMass from 1995.

The only reason that Florida may not pull a Clemson and that Kentucky will pull out a decent record is because of the mediocrity of the SEC this year. That is also why Tennessee will not be sufficiently tested to make the final 4 this year (that was a little joke, they won't make the final 4 because they have looked awful against any team with the ability to hold onto the ball and play with discipline).

2008-01-25 07:04:19
4.   Smed
I haven't followed much either, but I think it'll be a free for all. I wouldn't be surprise if Memphis is eliminated after the first weekend of the NCAA, nor if they win it all.
2008-01-25 08:59:37
5.   Todd S
1 OK, maybe I'm just a biased Purdue fan, but having Eric Gordon on both the first team and second team? That seems a little extreme-he's not THAT good is he? :)

I'll make a (probably stupid) suggestion for your second team: How about a true point guard to run the offense? A guy like Mike Green from Butler who has a well-rounded game (check out his rebound numbers the last two years).

2008-01-25 09:22:48
6.   Scott Long
I haven't heard any of the pundits say this about Memphis this season, but I'm sure you're right. UNLV was the exception because they basically had a NBA team. I was at the second Final 4 game between them and Duke (best sporting event I've attended live) and I'm still convinced if they would have played in a tougher conference they would have beaten Duke by 10.

I would put Derek Rose (of Memphis) on my second team all-american list. He's dynamite and has been the best point guard I've seen this year. Having said that I'm not crazy about a frosh point guard in the tourney.

Tennessee's style makes them really hard to match-up with in a tourney, especially when you have only 1 day to prepare. If they get past the sweet 16 game, they will be tough to stop in the Elite 8. They are a donut team, but in college b-ball this isn't such a major problem.

I know Florida has played a weak schedule, but Donovan is such a great coach they will make the tourney. The SEC isn't as weak as being stated here.

I watched Wisconsin beat Texas in Austin. A disciplined team like the Badgers gives them fits.

Washington State runs the Dick Bennett style which gives great teams fits, but also gives cinderella teams a chance to compete.

Gonzaga has went from overachiever to underachiever status in the tourney over the past few years. The competition in the WCC has greatly approved (hard to believe the Pepperdine could have become the worst team in the league), but I still think they will struggle against more physical teams.

2008-01-25 10:43:28
7.   Eric Enders
5 Heh. I was switching Gordon back and forth because I couldn't decide where to put him. That second team spot should go to Ty Lawson. Although Mike Green's not a bad choice.

3 St. Joe's and Memphis both made the Final 8, though, as I recall. Is there something about the fourth round that dooms teams from mid-major conferences?

2008-01-25 10:50:51
8.   Eric Enders
Speaking of Pepperdine, the resignation of Vance Walberg kind of came from out of nowhere. I thought he'd get them back on the right track. I believe that leaves only two teams now running the AASAA offense (Memphis and UTEP). Wonder if Calipari will hire Walberg as an assistant?
2008-01-25 10:53:54
9.   Penarol1916
7. Yes, Scott, specifically said that they wouldn't make the Final 4, thus there are only two data points that defy his criteria. I'd say that what would doom a team from a mid-major conference about the fourth round is that in general, they do not have to face two games in three days against high caliber opponents until that point, like you will do more often in major conference play.
2008-01-28 00:19:28
10.   Another Tom
As an 'SC alum I would certainly like to see Floyd make another run in the tourney but I just don't see it this year. Unless Taj Gibson wakes up and realizes how to play without fouling out it will probably be a 2nd round exit.

However, the team out of the Pac to watch is Washington St. Their tournament existence will rely completely on the matchups of their draw. But if they get a lot of individual-oriented teams (read: Memphis) they will shut them down. The thing about this Wazzu team that is different from the Dick Bennett teams is that they're actually offensively talented. I wouldn't want to play them.

Final Four - UCLA, Wazzu, UNC, Kansas

2008-01-28 08:38:09
11.   Penarol1916
10. I wouldn't doubt that Wazzu could shut Memphis down, as they have been shut down by a few defenses already this year. The problem would be that Memphis's defense would do the same to Wazzu. Looking at tempo-free stats, there are two outstanding defensive teams this year, Kansas and Memphis, everyone else is substantially behind and that includes Wazzu.

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