Saturday, January 26, 2008

College Basketball: Who's Hot & Who's Not

Time for a mid-season assessment and a little who's hot and who's not. We all know that Memphis, Kansas, UNC, Duke, Tennessee and UCLA are playing great basketball, but what lesser known schools are making some waves and who has cooled off relative to expectations.

Who's Hot

UConn - I have been talking about UConn for a couple weeks now. Yes they have 5 losses but they are playing great basketball right now. Their losses include #1 Memphis, #9 Georgetown (on a last second 3 pointer) and Gonzaga. This win in Bloomington over #7 IU is very impressive.

Vanderbilt - I don't remember Vandy being in anybody's Top 25 to start the season, but here we sit deep into the season and the Commodores are 17-2 and one of those losses is to #3 Tennessee. Their best wins are against unranked teams so they still have something to prove, but they have impressive wins over Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, DePaul and UMass. This week's games against Florida and Mississippi and the 2/26 rematch with UTenn will be real tests for Vandy's true grit.

Xavier - They have wins over #7 IU, #14 Dayton, Kansas State, Auburn and Virginia. Their losses include #3 Tennessee and #25 Arizona State. At 16-4, they look like a lock to be dancing this year.

Who's Not

Dayton - In the past 10 days, the Flyers have lost to UMass, Xavier and Richmond. They also have an ugly early season loss to George Mason. Not a good trend for the Flyers.

The Big Ten - Tough year for the Big Ten, I could only find 5 wins by the conference over one of the top 4-5 teams from the other conferences. MSU is likely the only legitimate elite team in the conference this year. IU is one dimensional and it is unclear how good Wisconsin really is. Purdue is the surprise team in the conference, but it is hard to see this conference earning more than 4 spots in the tourney.

Texas A&M - The Aggies have been ranked as high as #10 this year but in the past 11 days, they have lost 3 times to unranked teams; Texas Tech, Kansas State and Baylor.

Villanova - The Wildcats were rolling in 2007 but 2008 has not been so kind to Nova. The cats have lost to 4 unranked teams in 08; DePaul, Cincy, Rutgers and Notre Dame. The Wildcats will have to turn it around to remain a tourney team by selection Sunday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week Eleven Bloggers NCAA Poll

I was recently invited and voted in a weekly bloggers poll on the Top 25 NCAA hoops teams. Thanks to Gabby at March to Madness for all his hard work in compiling the poll. Unlike the AP Poll, we get to discuss (or argue) about the final outcome and then tweak it as necessary.

There was a lot of debate after the compilation this week, which highlights the wide open nature of college basketball below the Top 10 teams. Once you get through the one loss teams, it is unclear who is better than anyone else.

1) Memphis
2) Kansas
3) Tennessee
4) Duke
5) North Carolina
6) Washington St.
8) Indiana
9) Michigan St.
10) Georgetown
11) Wisconsin
12) Texas
13) Butler
14) Dayton
15) Ole Miss
16) Vanderbilt
17) Pittsburgh
18) Drake
19) Texas A&M
20) Xavier
21) Marquette
22) Stanford
23) Villanova
24) St. Mary's
25) Arizona State

My only gripe with the final outcome - both Butler and Dayton should drop 3 spots to below Ole Miss, Vandy and Pitt. Both had very bad losses to unranked teams this week.

If you want to see how I voted or any of the other bloggers, check out the full ballot here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Upset Saturday was Full of Great Games

There was a cornucopia of college hoops yesterday with many of the top teams falling to unranked teams. There will be a lot of movement in the polls this week.

Congrats to Maryland and USC who pulled off upsets over UNC and UCLA, respectively. I watched the Maryland upset and they played like one of the top teams in the country. Now if someone could only explain to me how this team lost to American and Ohio University? Vasquez is emerging as one of the top point guards in the nation and he is only a Sophomore. Yesterday, he had 12 pts, 11 assists, 6 rebounds with 6 turnovers and only 1 foul. That is a very good line playing against Ty Lawson who had 11 pts, only 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 4 personal fouls.

Gist and Osby are a formidable frontline that provided a combined 34 points yesterday. While the Terps lost the total rebound margin 46-32, they were much more efficient on offense and shot 46.9% to UNC's 38%.

Other big upsets included K State's win over #10 Texas A&M (the second loss for the Aggies this week), Cincy's nail-biter over #15 Pitt, NC State's overtime win over #21 Miami(FL) and Stanford's thrashing of #22 Arizona St.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

College Hoops Dynasty for Free

I have written before about Hoops Dynasty, the coaching simulation game where you coach a DI, DII or DIII hoops team against other human and sim coaches. You recruit players, set an offense and defense, develop a practice plan, plan your game strategy and play your way into the National Tournament at the end of each season.

The game is a lot of fun and will give you new appreciation for DII and DIII programs that you have never heard of before, such as DII powerhouses St. Thomas Aquinas, Nebraska, Omaha or Delta State.

While the game usually costs money to play (although you can reduce or eliminate those costs with playing success), for a brief time they are offering a Free Season to try the game.

This takes fantasy sports to a new level. I used to be an avid fantasy football guy but have given it up for Hoops Dynasty. The strategy and comeradarie is far deeper in HD than in fantasy.

If you want to check out the free offer, click here and enter promotion code: FREEHD

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Roy Hibbert for Three

Never thought I would have heard that one. Great shot, great game and great win for the Hoyas over UConn today.

Couple observations in this one:

1. The vaunted UConn/Georgetown Rivalry of old is back!! These are two great programs that had been down for a few years and it is great to see them both back.

2. UCONN may be the most underrated basketball team in the country. They are very good. Great young guard play, intimidation and size inside. This was the first full game I had seen of them this year but they are very good. I would expect to see them in the Top 25 by the end of the year. They played very well in the face of a "nasty loud crowd".

3. Roy Hibbert for three. As I watched the ending I am wondering why Hibbert was so far out on the perimeter with only 10 seconds remaining. Why wasn't he cutting to the basket to slam home the go ahead basket. I am sure the UCONN coaches were wondering the same thing and felt really good seeing him with the ball beyond the arc. The defense played it perfectly. Tie game and the 7 footer has the ball beyond the arc, leave him wide open to take the shot. That is where you want the shot to come from. Then he drains it. Beautiful shot and nothing but net --- ouch!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Let's go to Erin Andrews Courtside

I had not fully jumped on the Erin Andrews bandwagon, but I am driving the bus now. Thank you to March to Madness for this shot.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Trailer for the upcoming Cloverfield

I am very excited for the release of Cloverfield. The live documentary filming style and the subject matter have me on the edge of my seat already.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Basketball Recruiting Rolls on...

Interesting news on the recruiting front. Talk about momentum, UNC is rolling in it.

UNC already has one of the top recruiting classes for 2008 (currently ranked 6th), they have landed 3 more top big men for 2009. Yesterday, John Henson the 6th rated PF for 2009 (24th overall) committed to the Heels and today the Wear twins, David and Travis, gave their commitment.

The Wear twins were rated 26th and 27th in nation for 2009. Combined with C Tyler Zeller (2008) and PF, Ed Davis (2008), the Heels are loaded in the frontcourt. It will be interesting to see what Roy does with all these bigs. The Wears bring an inside/outside game that provides good flexibility to play at the 3 and the 4 spots. And of course, Zeller may be a one and done which could also solve the playing time issues.

In other news, the Illini have continued their recruiting momentum that has become a landslide. After adding transfer Alex Legion from Kentucky (11th SG in 2007 class) last week, it looks like Crandall Head will commit in Champaign on Sunday. Crandall is the younger brother of Luther Head (former Illini now with the Rockets). Many feel Crandall is farther along in his basketball development than Luther was at the same age. He is expected to be a Top 100 recruit in the 2010 class and he pairs nicely with Jereme Richmond, a Top 10 recruit for 2010 that has previously committed to Illinois.