This week showed us there are two and only two formidable championship contenders. The rest of the teams can lose and lose big on any given night - perform like world-beaters then deliver a gutter-ball. North Carolina and UCONN are a few lengths ahead of the field going into the homestretch. Both have a ton of talent and enough depth to overcome foul trouble and fatigue. The duo also has the senior leadership needed to make big decisions and take tough shots down the stretch. All have 4 or 5 legitimate scoring options. However, UCONN was dealt a serious blow yesterday with the injury to guard Jerome Dyson's knee. He is listed as out indefinitely. Guards Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker can pick up the slack scoring wise and freshman Scottie Haralson will fill the minutes.
As we all know, Cameron Indoor is a tough place to play and Carolina went in took a punch in the face - down double-digits, then came back with a series of incredible runs and won by 14. Ty Lawson is the best pure point guard in the country (Stephen Curry doesn't count) and Hansbrough gets more calls than anyone, besides Jordan, has received in history. It just adds to how good Psycho T is - he gets 50/50 calls, makes his free-throws, shuts-up, and runs back down the court. I hate it, but it works and teams must gameplan accordingly. Aside from Wayne Ellington getting his stroke back, Deon Thompson has risen to the occasion and become yet another scoring threat. Rumor has it, freshman Tyler Zeller is shooting around after recovering from the broken wrist he suffered against the Cats and will possibly be returning in the near future. A decision must be made whether to still sit him out. It would be tough for him to lose a redshirt for a 10 game stretch, but a title would cure that.
I'm not forgetting about Oklahoma. Like I have said before, they are a good team, but are not worthy of the seed they will get. They have great athletes and are in the midst of a great rum, but when put up against a team like UNC, UCONN, PITT, Louisville, Duke, ect. that match-up, they are complete toast. I know they make SportsCenter every night with their windmill dunks and beatdowns, but when it comes to being able to successfully execute a gameplan against a top team in the tourney - I don't find coach Jeff Caple capable (I know - that was bad).
- I really want to know why UCLA jumped up to 6th place in the coach's poll and moved slightly to 11th in the AP. Not saying the Bruins aren't a potential 6th team, but right now that is a ridiculous statement. Last night the Bruins lost to Arizona St, completing the regular-season sweep. This just goes to prove that the ESPN/USA TODAY coach's poll is a complete joke in both basketball and football. The coach's have no time to watch games, especially of 25 different teams and neither do the SIDs, trainers, mistresses or whoever fills that form out every week. The good thing about it is the selection committee allegedly doesn't take it into account , where as in football the weight of the world depends on it. They might as well have Joe B. and Denny do it - just another thing to laugh at unintentionally.
- Is it just me or has this basketball season been a little more chippy than in years past? By that I mean, more elbows, stomps, suspensions, technicals, problems with sideline reporters, and arrests for beating up a girl with your pasty white tatoos. Just recently, a member of my All-Frosh team, Arkansas' Courtney Fortson was suspended indefinitely by UK alum John Pelphrey (perfect timing right?) for the always cruel "unspecified reasons" aka "quit acting stupid". We all saw what Walter Hodges did to a Cat in Tuesday's game and Tom Crean even suspended IU leading scorer Devan Dumes for excessive elbows. I'll always enjoy a little rough-housing on the court and an elbow to send a message here and there is permissible in my book. However, when it starts getting the attention of your coach and warrants a suspension it needs to stop.
What to watch for this upcoming week...
Friday - The hottest team in the country right now is Villanova and they go into Morgantown to play a West Virginia team that is fighting for their tournament lives. These Wildcats have averaged a shade under 100 points in win against NCAA caliber teams (@PROV, SYR, MARQ) their last 3. Dante Cunningham has to be the most-improved player in the nation this year as he has gone from BIG EAST jobber to a potential all-conference accolade. Expect Huggy bear to be extra-pissed as the 9 PM start seriously cuts into his drinking/kicking-the-dog time.
Saturday - Start off the day with a classic BIG EAST rivalry as Georgetown looks to get a resume win at the 'cuse (12 ESPN). These two team baffle me with their inconsistency so I don't know whether to expect an old-school bruise fest or a series of jacked-up threes. At 4, Wake will try to get back on the right track against #25 Florida St. The Seminoles are on of those middle-of-the-pack ACC teams that makes the conference so tough.
After that I will be carrying on the tradition ever since I saw Jordan dunk from the foul-line and age 6 - NBA ALL-Star Saturday Night on TNT. You got your Rookie/Sophomore game which is like an upgraded version of the McDonald's AA game - always some sick dunks. An awesome added feature that Bill Simmons has been harping for years about, an ole game of HORSE, will feature Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson and OJ Mayo - not a bad field at all. Then you have your old-faithful 3-point and Dunk competitions. As long as you can get through the 2-ball, it should be a good night.
Sunday - As good as i think the Heels are, this emotional high I'm sure they're on could come back to bite them against MIami. The Canes are playing well and just throttled a Wake team that previous has beaten Carolina. Two of the silkyest jumpers in America go face-to-face as Wayne Ellington meets Miami's Jack McClinton.
Monday - A doozie of a game to off-set that case of the Monday's. #1 UCONN v. #4 PITT. There is going to be some paint traded down low and I wouldn't be surprised to see DeJuan Blair and Jeff Adrein get into a fist fight. Possibly the best one-two combos at PF/C in the land as Hasheem "Shagari Alleyene on HGH" Thabeet joins Adrien and the real life Benjamin Button, Sam Young, joins Blair.
Tuesday - Michigan St. travels to West Lafayette to face a Purdue team that might not be at full strength with the injury to Robbie Hummel. the super-soph has been having back problems and is out indefinitely. The Spartans are starting to turn the corner and become the team experts say they could be, despite a loss of their own in F Raymar Morgan to pneumonia.
Wednesday - Memphis might be the 2nd hottest team in the country next to Nova. they dominated in the win against Gonzaga last week and have been a more complete team since moving freshman Tyreke Evans to PG. Having a guy that can get to the basket handling the ball is essential in Calipari's dribble-drive-motion offense and I'm surprised it took him this long to figure out the answer was Evans. The Tigers headline a dull day in hoops against So. Methodist.
Thursday - Game of the night has to be UCLA/Washington at 11 on FSN. The Bruins are trying to bounce back from a loss to ASU that ended their recent hot-streak and Washington, like numerous other teams I have metioned, are up aginst the wall when it comes to an at-large bid. I'm putting the upset-alert on this one. UCLA is streaky and vulnerable after the loss. Washington just might capitalize on the road