Here's the article I write every week for one my old hosts on SportsNight, Matt Jones, on KentuckySportsRadio.com. I haven't gotten kicked off yet so either they respect my college hoops knowledge or haven't found out I'm a Cards fan who's second favorite team is whoever the Cats are playing yet. Either way, like I say at the end of the post, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" Hope you enjoy and don't despise me.
Five weeks into the season and we have a definitive #1 team, the boys from Chapel Hill. However, the question begs to be asked - Who's #2? I guess it is pretty insignificant in the whole scheme of things, but since you can't really debate the classic "Who's #1?" question this year, then I guess for arguments sake we'll step back a notch. There are a few teams that stick out above the rest, as the polls indicate:
1 - #2 UCONN - The Huskies are one of the few teams that can match up with the Heels, Top 5 against Top 5. They have beaten a couple good teams (Wisconsin, Miami (FL)), a couple bad teams (Delaware St. , Bryant) and had a close encounter with the mighty Buffalo Bulls last Thursday, surviving 68-64. C Hasheem Thabeet doesn't look uncoordinated and lost out there anymore. He's a double-double every night and along with Mr Underrated Jeff Adrien, makes the second most formidable 4-5 combination in the nation. Jerome Dyson and AJ Price take care of the outside scoring and Kemba Walker has been acceptable at PG. However, the freshman Walker has 24 assists and 22 turnovers in 8 games, not the ratio coach Calhoun is looking for I'm sure. UCONN is hoping freshman Ater Majok will be granted eligibility in the next few weeks and become available for Big East Play. He will not be available on December 20 when the Huskies take on...
2 - #4 Gonzaga - The Zags have 5 guys averaging double figures and have the most unselfish team in America. I know that IU kept it close the other night, but talent took over and the Zags ended up winning by 15. I think the only thing hurting them is their depth. Yet, these guys have been answering the critics and dominating opponents, most recently Washington St. Just as long as their center Josh Heytvelt doesn't serve the team his special batch of brownies or replace Gatorade with some "herbal" tea, I think the Zags have as good a shot as anyone to knock off the Heels.
3- #3 PITT - Lavance Fields is one of those guys like Clarence Ceasar at LSU or Jerald Honeycutt at Tulane that just seems like he's been playing for 10 years. He is always there to make a huge shot and has developed into a smart distributor of the ball (4:1 Asst/TO). Jamie Dixon has hands-down the most physical team in the country. No player this year will go down low against DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Tyrell Biggs and come away without a few bumps and bruises. Blair is a monster, averaging 14-14, but I'm wondering if the joke of a non-conference schedule, highlighted by Wash St. and Texas Tech, will come back to bite them. Their first game against a team the garnered ONE vote (one) in last week's AP or ESPN poll is Florida St. on the 21st. The 'Noles received 1 vote in both polls combined.
Other teams that deserve consideration are Duke, Tennessee and Louisville. However, all three teams rely on shooting entirely too much to compete with the other three undefeated teams right now. Tennessee is very young and raw on both ends, but Pearl has the athletes to compete. Duke lost to a very underrated Michigan team. Louisville has the talent to compete inside, but showed that they can be beaten rather easily if their shots aren't falling from the outside. I'm just not sold on teams like Oklahoma, Texas, Notre Dame and Xavier - too many holes and question marks. Feel free to give your two cents.
Other tidbits from the week that was...
- Stephan Curry has what so many good (but not great) players were lacking. That killer instinct and icewater flowing through his veins in crunch time. The ability to rip your opponent's heart out of your chest, Temple of Doom-style, and show no remorse. It was an art perfected by Jordan, but carried by guys like Bird and Jerry West. Curry has it, and showed Bobby Thuggins "it" Tuesday night by scoring 13 of Davidson's final 15 points to give them the win. Curry started 1-12 in the first half, but when his team needed him he turned into Superman. He was not going to be denied. As of this very minute, Curry is the Player of the Year. No doubt about it. Thanks for all the Mom shots too ESPN. You can see his dad, Dell, doesn't really care too much for the attention.
- John Belien of Michigan is starting to prove his worth as a top-notch college hoops coach and one of it's top minds. He has taken a Michigan team that is nothing close to the team he would prefer to coach to a 6-2 record with losses to only Duke and Maryland. The Wolverines have beaten 2 top-5 teams so far (UCLA, Duke) and look like they have a legitimate shot at winning the Big Ten. Belien was blessed with players like Manny Harris (a unique player who I love to watch) and DeShawn Sims (28 points, 12 boards in Duke win) to help with the transition. Be that as it may, they are a far cry from Pittsnoggle, Gansey, and A-BARE. If he can implement his 1-3-1 D and spread offense with the caliber of athlete he'll get in Ann Arbor,Michigan could become a force again sooner than later.
- Syracuse looks like they have to cope with life without G Eric "I Wanna be like Ike" Devendorf, who may or may not play again, due to the fact he is appealing a season-long suspension dealt to him by the school for a beating incident involving a girl. A definite no-no. You never know in situations like that though until the evidence is looked at, but his future is looking bleak. The Orange take on Long Beach on the U Saturday at noon. It may be addition by subtraction as I always thought 'Dorf had way too many awful-looking tats that probably distracted and embarrassed his teammates and took the "White-Chocolate" gimmick to a ridiculous level that would bewilder Jason Williams. No offense to those of you with tats, but if I ever have a daughter and a guy looking like Dorf rings my doorbell, I'm sending her to a monastery.
Here's what to look forward to this week..
Friday - No games scheduled on TV. #25 Miami takes on Florida International in the only Top 25 action. If you need something to do come to Brownie's The Shed and we'll play alma mater trivia for beers. A lean night.
Saturday - Since there's no college football to hold us back, a full slate of games is on tap. Aside from Louisville/Austin Peay and IU/UK at 1 and 4, there are some very intriguing match-ups. At noon, The Ladies Man and his Vols take on Temple on the Mothership. I don't know if temple still runs that slow down ball, but it could get ugly against Tyler Smith and co. The best match-up of the day is Memphis at Georgetown at 2 on CBS. Both teams are coming off recent losses and are still trying to replace departing stars. However, guys like Tyreke Evans and Robert Dozier going up against the stifling Georgetown D will be entertaining. I just see a veteran defensive team like the Hoyas forcing a lot of turnovers and handling the inexperienced Tigers. The Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and Cincinnati is always entertaining. Sean Miller has the Muskies in the top 10 early behind the play of G/F BJ Raymond and F Derrick Brown. Plus, PG Terrell Holloway is back from injury. The Muskies start a nice three game stretch of @UC-@Duke-Butler against a Cincy team that is having a tough time scoring points.
Sunday - Arizona has an interim coach in Russ Pernell and will almost surely be looking for a coach in the next 6 months. A name that has been thrown out there is Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Arizona has always been a spot people thought might have the clout to get Few to bolt Spokane. Few's Zags visit Tuscon at 6 on Fox Sports. Could the 'Zona brass be cheering for their team and also scouting a possible replacement for Lute Olsen?
Monday - Syracuse and UCONN take on jobbers who they will slaughter by 40 and gain nothing from in Cleveland St. and Stony Brook respectively at 7. Another night this week with no games on TV, however if you are luck enough to have ESPN 360, the UCONN clash and Charleston Southern - Cincinnati are the feature games of the night. Also, keep your eyes on the Anderson-Liberty score. Liberty features Seth Curry, brother of Stephan and Anderson is not very good. The younger bro is averaging 21 points for the Flames who play in a familiar conference to teams around here - the Big South.
Tuesday - A skirmish between two Top 25 teams comes at you at 9:30 as the Ladies Man reappears against Marquette. A lot of good slashers in this game - Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews for Marquette, Smith, Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum for the Vols. I predict a mild upset in this game as the Vols are due for a let down with all the young talent they rely upon. The under card is South Florida/Vandy which features two guys you'll probably see in the league one day playing on sub-par teams. South Florida's dynamic guard Dominique Jones and Vandy 7-footer AJ Ogilvy. Both teams are struggling, but these guys try to keep them above water. Vandy does have 5 guys averaging double figures, which is surprising to me.
Wednesday -The Dukies look to bounce back from their loss by taking on the giant Tony George-less UNC-Ashville team at 7:30 on ESPN2. I know George is the only reason this joke of a game is on TV. Plus, it gives ESPN another chance to "pleasure" Coach K. PITT takes on one of the preseason mid-major sleepers in Siena at 9:30. The Saints lost three straight to OK St., Wichita, and Tenn in Orlando, so PITT should have no trouble. At least PITT is finally playing on TV, over a month into the season.
Thursday - I will be off to Cincy to watch the Big East/SEC Challenge double-header of Miss St./Cincy and Ole Miss/UL which starts at 6:30 on ESPN2. Ole Miss has two guards, David Huertas and Chris Warren, averaging over 20 a game but haven't faced anyone with Louisville's defensive ability yet. Miss St. has maybe the best defender in the country, Jarvis Vernado, and Ballard product Twany Beckham. I'm looking forward to watch how Beckham improved in prep school and just how vicious Vernado is in person. He'll be facing Yancey Gates of Cincy, a formidable big man who should see the ball a lot.
Until next week, remember what Don Corleone once said, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer".