Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Basketball??? I Say a Big YES!!

I know most of you are looking forward to college football and the Bowl series over the next several days, however, I am salivating over the college hoops that is on tap during that time period.

Tonight 12/30:
Northwestern at Illinois -- we start with a little warm-up from the B10. I know what you are thinking Northwestern is the doormat of the B10, how can this be a good game. Not anymore friends, even without their start player, Kevin Coble, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury, this team is 10-1 and playing very good basketball. They have 3 players scoring in double figures, including Jr. guard Michael Thompson averaging 16.7 ppg. They have wins over Notre Dame, NC State and Stanford. Their only loss is was to #23 Butler. Illinois is a bit of a work-in-progress this year with two starting freshman, but have shown flashes of being a very good team in wins over Clemson and Vandy. Oh, and let's not forget that this is an in-state rivalry. I will take the Illini at home in a close game.

Tomorrow 12/31:
Now things start to really heat up...we start with
#15 Ohio State at Wisconsin 2PM ET -- The Buckeyes take their 10-2 record into the Kohl Center. Bo Ryan is a master at coaching up unknown guys into a formidable defensive juggernaut. Just ask Mike Krzyzewski, who took his #7 Duke team in there for the B10/ACC challenge and came away with an L. If the Buckeyes had Evan Turner back, I think they could steal this one, but without him I give the edge to Bo Ryan to find a way to win.

#14 Tennessee at Memphis 4PM ET -- Then we get the battle of Tennessee when the Volunteers travel down the road to Memphis for some BBQ and Blues. This game has been very entertaining the last several years. It may have lost a bit of its luster with the Calipari's exit from Memphis, but the Tigers have a good team that only lost by 2 to #1 Kansas earlier in the season. I look for this one to be competitive but if Tennessee can show a little offensive discipline, they should pull this one out.

Are we done yet...oh no my friend not by a up
St John's at #13 Georgetown -- What looked like a blow-out prior to the season, has become a very intriguing match-up. The Red Storm are 10-2 including wins over #19 Temple and Georgia. They also played Duke fairly win losing by 9 at Cameron. I do think Georgetown will win this one at home but I am looking forward to seeing both of these teams play (for the first time this year).

We end the night out west...
Oklahoma at #22 Gonzaga -- No one can accuse the Zags of padding their schedule. They have played a monsterous schedule to a 9-3 record so far. They have wins over Wisconsin and Cincinnati and their three losses are very respectable including Mich State by 4, Wake Forest by 2 and Duke in a laugher. Oklahoma probably will not be in this one in the second half and I think the Zags will record another BCS conference win.

Surely, that is all...nay nay, I say... how about the grandaddy of them all on New Year's Day. Strap in for a battle of unbeateans...
#6 West Virginia @ #4 Purdue --- WOW. This should be a colossal battle. WVU would fit well in the smashmouth Big 10 and there will be some bumping going on in the paint in this one. WVU has a couple battleships down low in Da'Sean Butler and Kevin Jones. They weigh nearly 500 pounds combined. Purdue will counter with the finesse of Robbie Hummel and my pick for B10 player of the year JuJuan Johnson. Then, we have Devin Ebanks vs E'Twuan Moore. Wow, what more could you ask for. I guess Purdue has the slight edge with the homecourt advantage but either of these teams could win this game and either or both could end up in the Final Four next March. Sit back and enjoy this one!!!

Then of course on Saturday it is back to normal weekly college hoops. How about these plum weekend matchups:
(11-2) Pitt @ #5 (13-0) Syracuse 12PM ET -- Can Jamie Dixon hand Boeheim's surprising Orangemen their first loss? I don't think so in Syracuse, but crazier things have happened in college hoops.

#22 (9-3) Gonzaga vs. Illinois in Chicago 1PM ET -- On paper, you would give the Zags the edge this year. But Illinois has an unbelievable record playing in Chicago dating back to when the B10 tournament was played there. Anything can happen in this one.

(9-3) Louisville @ #3 (14-0) Kentucky 3:30PM ET -- Think the stakes aren't high in this in-state rivalry this year?!! Louisville is 9-3 and Pitino would love to steal Calipari's thunder and take this annual classic.

#1 (12-0)Kansas @ #19 (10-2) Temple 5:30PM ET -- I would bet Bill Self felt a lot better about this game when they were scheduling it this summer. Temple looks pretty good now with wins over Villanova, Seton Hall and Penn State. Their two losses were by a combined 8 points to Georgetown and St. Johns. You know Temple will work to keep this score in the 50s while Kansas will be shooting for the 70s.

It is going to be some holiday weekend for college hoops. Come do the dark side and forget about football -- strap in for some explosive hoops this weekend!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Amen, Bobby Knight, Amen!!

Finally one of the big names in college basketball has said what needs to be said. Asked the question that most true basketball fans have asked but never got any answers from the media. Thank you Bobby Knight for asking the question.

How can Calipari still be coaching college basketball? Yes he wins -- through recruiting cheating, a lax scholastic record and who knows how much cash passing under the table. But do we really not care about those things? Where is the commissioner, where are the trustees for the University of Kentucky?

He has a proven track record of violations at UMASS and now Memphis and still everyone turns a blind eye.

When are we going to start holding the coach responsible for the infractions, rather than just the school he leaves? If you are a two time loser in the NCAA violations lottery, you should be banned from NCAA coaching for at least 5 years and a 3 time loser should be banned for life.

Winning isn't everything -- but apparently at Kentucky it is the only thing!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why the Big Ten ACC Challenge Matters

This week I have seen a number of posts in forums and blog comments asking "why the B10/ACC Challenge matters". Most of them come from fans of other conferences and I can understand that it matters less to those people. However, irrespective of which conference you grew up with, the B10/ACC Challenge does matter for college hoops --- and here is why.

1. Most Final Fours - Whether you look at the last 10 years or the last 30 years, no two conferences have put more teams in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament than the ACC and the Big Ten. During the last 10 years, the ACC and Big Ten have produced 9 and 8 Final Four teams, respectively. Next closest -- the Big East with only 5!! And during the past 30 years, the ACC and Big Ten have produced 32 and 21 Final Four teams, respectively. The SEC was next with 19. Read full story here.

2. Large Basketball Following - Lets face it; college hoops has thrived because TV viewers watch it. The B10 is known to have the largest following (because of the total number of graduates) in the country. The ACC has long been considered the perennial basketball conference -- which good reason (see Point 1 above). While I don't have hard viewer facts, I would guess that these are the two most watched conferences in college hoops -- and if they are not the Top 2, then they are 2 of the Top 3 -- with the Big East.

3. Best Coaches - Top to Bottom - These two conferences have more "legendary" coaches than any other two conferences. Between them there are likely 4 Hall of Fame coaches - Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and likly Bo Ryan (when all is said and done). The Big 10 has more "big name" coaches than any conference including Izzo, Ryan, Tubby Smith, Beilein, Matta, Weber and Crean. The ACC is also star studded with Krzyzewski, Williams, Gary Williams, Skinner, Purnell and Lowe. Successful basketball comes down to coaching and talent.

4. Exciting Games - The last two years this has been a very competitive challenge with the ACC winning in 2008 6-5 and this year the B10 winning 6-5. What's more in this years challenge, the 11 games were decided by a total of 79 points or about 7 per game. If you through out 3 games that were decided by 12 points each, then the other 8 games averaged 5 points difference. It was a very competitive and exciting battle.

Whether you like or dislike these conferences, they matter in college basketball. This challenge gives us valuable insights into how the teams stack up against teams in another top conference. I, for one, look forward to many more years of competitive, exciting B10/ACC Challenges to come.