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Mid-Major Top 15 (Weeks 1-2)

Posted by Patrick on November 27, 2008

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Keeping up with good mid major teams is much harder than it looks, with top teams in action almost everyday and playing tough teams on the road so its tough to weigh which losses are better than the rest. Anyway, here is the Mid Major Top 15 for weeks one and two.

(Gonzaga, Memphis, Xavier, MWC, WAC, and C-USA are not considered)

1. Davidson (5-1)- Still at the top of the list. Stephen Curry is in my opinion the best player in college basketball. Should be interesting to see them against North Carolina State and West Virginia in their next two games.

2. Kent State (3-0)- Al Fisher continues to lead this team to great heights and they look as if they’re establishing themselves as the best team in the MAC.

3. Siena (2-1)- Tough loss against Tennessee in the first round of the Old Spice Classic, but I expect that they will bounce back and take fifth place in the tournament.

4. Butler (4-0)- Matt Howard is probably the best player in the Horizon League, and Butler’s defense is helping their chances of making it back to the NCAA tournament.

5. Saint Mary’s (3-1)- Lost to UTEP earlier today, but they still stay high on the list because of their experience and overall talent in the starting lineup.

6. Arkansas Little Rock (4-0)- It looks like this team is for real upsetting Creighton at home and they may be the new favorites in the Sun Belt.

7. Rhode Island (4-1)- Only loss is at Duke, with Jimmy Baron being one of the best three point shooters in the nation, it’s possible that the Rams could strongly contend with Xavier for the A-10 title.

8. Dayton (4-0)- Dayton hasn’t really been tested yet, but they could definitely be another force in the A-10 with the great play of Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson leading the way.

9. Illinois State (4-0)- This team could possibly be emerging as the team to beat in the MVC, especially with Creighton struggling on the road.

10. Cleveland State (4-2)- J’Nathan Bullock is still one of the most athletic big men in the nation, and with Cedric Jackson at point I wouldn’t be too concerned with those two losses. The Vikings are for real this season.

11. Creighton (3-1)- Only loss is at Arkansas Little Rock. It should be interesting to see how they fare on the road against Nebraska.

12. Portland State (4-0)- A balanced team is playing great on the road and should easily win the Big Sky conference this season to get back to the NCAA tournament.

13. American (4-1)- After getting manhandled by Oklahoma in their first game, Garrison Carr is leading American and giving them a great chance at repeating as Patriot League champs.

14. Vermont (2-2)- Only two losses are against George Mason and Maryland, both in overtime. Vermont has a strong core group of leaders and Mike Trimboli’s outside game will cause a lot of trouble for teams playing the zone against the Catamounts. Marqus Blakely may be this year’s Jason Thompson.

15. Virginia Commonwealth (2-2)- Rough start to the season, but Eric Maynor will not let his senior season end with the Rams not in the NCAA tournament field.

Also Considered: San Francisco, Northeastern, Southern Illinois, Mercer, San Diego

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Pac-10 Week in Review (Nov. 17- Nov.25)

Posted by Patrick on November 26, 2008

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Here is how the Pac-10 teams have fared thus far:

Arizona: 3-1 (3-1 this week)- I feel terrible for any Wildcats fan after that disaster against UAB. I don’t understand how a team as talented as Arizona and with some very experienced players can let that happen to themselves. So, they don’t take the trip to Madison Square Garden, but Arizona still showed a solid effort in a close win against Santa Clara, and if things go their way should be 5-1 heading into the game away at Texas A&M next week.

Wildcats Player of the Week: Chase Budinger- 23.5 points 5.3 rebounds 2.8 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/30 vs. Northern Arizona, 12/2 vs. Loyola Marymount

Arizona State: 3-0 (2-0 this week)- James Harden is proving why is one of the best players in the nation, putting up 33 points against Pepperdine on Monday night. Arizona State also had a signature win on the road against San Diego State earlier in the week. The Sun Devils will continue to benefit from a pretty easy schedule, except the Anaheim Classic this week which features Wake Forest as another top team in the field.

Sun Devils Player of the Week: James Harden- 25.5 points 8.5 rebounds 2.5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/27-11/29 Anaheim Classic (First game vs. Charlotte)

California: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- California has four players that are starting to emerge as leaders on the roster: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin. The Golden Bears have taken advantage of an easy schedule so far, but now they have six games in a row against formidable opponents.

Golden Bears Player of the Week: Jerome Randle- 18.3 points 5.3 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 at UNLV, 12/3 vs. DePaul

Oregon: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Oregon lost to Oakland (Mich.) for the second straight year, but rebounded nicely with a convincing win over Alabama in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Ducks still have problems with ill-advised shots, but they are young and freshman center Michael Dunigan is showing that in a few seasons he may be the best big man in the Pac-10.

Ducks Player of the Week: Michael Dunigan- 15.5 points 8.5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Utah

Oregon State: 0-3 (0-2 this week)- Oregon State continues to prove that they are the worst team in the Pac-10 by far with losses to Yale and Howard. To the Beavers credit, they played a very tough game against Nevada. It should be expected that with a new coach, players that are not as talented will have trouble adjusting to the different situation.

Beavers Player of the Week: Josh Tarver- 17 points 4 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 Montana State, 11/30 at Fresno State

Stanford: 2-0 (1-0 this week)- I still don’t know what we should expect from the Cardinal this season because they haven’t played good competition. Anthony Goods put on a show against Cal State Northridge, and Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson are following suit, playing great basketball. However, before they play a tough team it will be hard to know how they’ll fare in conference play.

Cardinal Player of the Week: Anthony Goods- 25 points 5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Air Force, 11/29 vs. Colorado

UCLA: 3-1 (1-1 this week)- The Bruins were exposed by Michigan in New York. UCLA has no dominant inside presence and it will be tough for them to adjust because in the past three seasons they have always had a powerful big man. They play at Texas next Thursday and it will be interesting to see if they have recovered from the Michigan loss.

Bruins Player of the Week: Darren Collison- 14.5 points 5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 Florida International

USC: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Wow, what happened to Southern California in Puerto Rico? Two losses to teams that were not picked to finish high in their conferences, and giving up big leads at halftime. I was skeptical about this team at the beginning of the season because I didn’t think they played team basketball, and they don’t. The Trojans need to play together if they want to make it back to the NCAA tournament.

Trojans Player of the Week: Taj Gibson- 17.2 points 12.7 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. UT-Martin, 12/1 vs. San Francisco

Washington: 2-3 (2-2 this week)- The Huskies have really proved me wrong. I thought that Jon Brockman could lead this team back to the NCAA tournament, but it looks almost as if Washington is worse than last season. Quincy Pondexter is doing nothing on the offensive end, and the defensive play of the entire team is lacking tremendously.

Huskies Player of the Week: Isaiah Thomas- 15.2 points 4.2 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 vs. Pacific

Washington State: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- The Cougars are blowing out teams with their tremendous defensive play, and I think that Wazzu is the sleeper in this conference. Aron Baynes is one of the best defensive big men in the country, and freshman Klay Thompson is fitting in very nicely to the system. Though they have played some bad competition, I think they will continue to win their non-conference games leading up to the conference season.

Cougars Player of the Week: Klay Thompson- 13.6 points

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. Mississippi State, 12/2 vs. Idaho State

Pac-10 Team of the Week: California Golden Bears

Pac-10 Player of the Week: James Harden, Arizona State

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Olson Tainting His Own Legacy

Posted by Zach on October 24, 2008

It’s a difficult task to question Lute Olson’s accomplishments during his coaching career at Arizona. A national title, numerous lottery picks, Sweet 16’s and Pac-10 titles galore. Trophies, pennants and shiny awards nobody in Tuscon could have ever dreamed of when Olson arrived from Iowa City in the mid-80s. Olson belongs in the conversation with Hall-of-Famers like Coach K, Boeheim, Calhoun, Pitino, Knight, Williams and Izzo in the discussion over the best NCAA basketball coach of the last 20 years. Nobody is denying that. Nobody is trying to deface his proud accomplishments.

Yet it’s hard to sit back and accept this next bizarre chapter in Lute Olson’s strange exit from Arizona as just another legend passing the torch. Much like other coaching greats who have departed under shady circumstances, namely Bob Knight (more than once) and Eddie Sutton, Olson seemingly leaves his program in a state of turmoil. His exit proved less than graceful. His decisions over the last two years have hurt the Arizona program rather than kept it on the winning track.

A brief timeline: Olson stunningly steps down as Arizona head coach prior to last season and names Kevin O’Neill his successor without guaranteeing a return, Olson announces prior to the Pac-10 Tournament that he will return to the sidelines next year, prompting an enormous distraction, O’Neill then angrily departs for the Grizzlies and his entire coaching staff needs to be replaced, Chase Budinger is convinced Olson is now in good health and decides to return because he wants to play for Lute another season, Olson ducks out of practice Monday, remarking he is “just sick,” ESPN learns mid-Thursday that Olson has retired without the players and prominent administration ever hearing of such news.

Now Arizona is left with an interim coach in Russ Pennell who most recently was an AAU coach in Phoenix and formerly worked for the Arizona State coaching staff before being let go. Quite a resume to be leading the Arizona Wildcats. Meanwhile, assistant Mike Dunlap, who was originally reported to be taking over for Olson, turned down the job because he wanted long-term security while Arizona looks to go after Gonzaga coach Mark Few or Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. I have a hard time believing either of them will leave comfortable situations for what could end up being the next Indiana sans the major violations.

Rather than exiting gracefully from Tuscon with his head held high and the program in workable shape, Olson takes off with Arizona under a coach with no experience, a team completely confused and angry over their coach suddenly deciding to retire, and two top-50 recruits in Abdul Gaddy and Solomon Hill who will likely de-commit and look elsewhere. If Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill depart for the NBA early like we all expect next June, this program could be headed for a spell of turmoil and irrelevance.

Surely, Olson dealt with difficult family and health ordeals over the last 12-24 months. Leaving the Arizona program under the tutelege of O’Neill may not have gone over well with many Wildcat fans, but as long as Olson got his well-being taken care of in time for 2008-09, the problem would be solved. Now, with practice just beginning and Arizona looking to return to prominence in the Pac-10, their legendary coach, one that promised to return this season and lead the march to glory, has ducked out, replaced by an AAU coach from Phoenix and fired Arizona State assistant. If an Arizona fan is looking for the nearest bridge, I don’t necessarily blame them.

In an age where athletes and coaching legends just cannot quit, Olson has quit in the worst way possible. No private meeting telling his players the news and giving specifics on why he’s leaving, instead a leaked news report and word of recruits’ fathers receiving word prior to Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. No organized departure this summer before practice and leaving the program plenty of time to recover for this season, just a stunning and sudden retirement with three weeks remaining before the season begins.

Whether or not Lute Olson accomplished the unthinkable at Arizona during his illustrious term at head coach, nobody can deny the last two tumultious years of his tenure have been more problematic than graceful.

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Loss Of Miles Doesn’t Kill Huskies

Posted by Zach on October 3, 2008

Woke up this morning to the news that talented Connecticut freshman Nate Miles has been expelled from the school for violating a restraining order he received just 20 minutes before the incident. According to the court reports, he tried to force a woman into having sex, then called that same woman moments after getting the restraining order. Miles, an oft-troubled talent who enrolled at five separate high schools, will mean more minutes for Craig Austrie off the bench and quite possibly crunch-time minutes going to a three-guard lineup of Kemba Walker, A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson.

I agree with Andy Katz’s blog entry this morning in that the loss of Miles doesn’t change my opinion very much on the status of the Huskies. Sure, the upside and scoring potential of Miles at the small forward position would have completed a loaded Huskies roster. But with Walker, Price, Dyson, Austrie, Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet and the possible return of Stanley Robinson by the end of December, Connecticut remains my #2 team in the nation.

Still, it remains close-knitted for the #2 spot in the country and the #1 spot in the Big East. Louisville dealt with the loss of Derrick Caracter. Pittsburgh won’t have Mike Cook back this season. Marquette lost blooming freshman Trevor Mbakwe. The loss of personnel has not affected Notre Dame yet, so many argue they are the second best team in the nation. My money is still on Connecticut.

The upside for Miles, according to coach Jim Calhoun, was former UConn star Richard Hamilton. The odds of that happening were slim. The downside for Miles is the same downside for troubled college athletes like Derrick Caracter- unable to consistently contribute on the court due to off-the-court troubles, eventually leading to a conclusion like expulsion.

Miles was the X-factor for UConn this season. Now they’re just a little more predictable.

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Summer Pac-10 Report

Posted by Tommy on August 15, 2008

While my colleagues are out east in DC, I’m going to go out west and preview the Pac-10 from my computer at home. The Pac-10 lost a lot of talented players to this year’s NBA Draft such as Kevin Love, Brook and Robin Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo, Russel Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kyle Weaver, Malik Hairston, DeVon Hardin and Maarty Leunen. Despite the loss of talent, the Pac-10 is still going to be a great conference to watch especially because there is such a level playing field. UCLA will in all likelyhood be at the top of the Pac-10 once again but after the Bruins there is a pack of 6 or 7 teams that will beat up on each other, and that is why I give this year’s version of the conference the nickname the “Pack-10”.

Arizona: After a dissapointing 7th place finish in the Pac-10 last season, the Wildcats will try and return to the top of the Pac-10, a familiar place for Zona. Unfortunately, the Cats have a void at the point guard position due to the departure of Jerryd Bayless and the decision of Brandon Jennings to play professionaly in Europe instead of coming to Tucson. Nic Wise, along with other role players from last year’s team, will have to shoulder much more of the scoring load if the Cats are to succeed. Jeff Withey and the incoming freshmen are going to have to help Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger out on the offensive end, otherwise Hill and Budinger will have to do a majority of the scoring. I don’t think Arizona is going to improve too much on their 8-10 record in the Pac-10 this season and will likely ride the bubble all year long. Right now I’d have to say they’re bubble-out but maybe they could ride their SOS to another tournament bid.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek pleading to a ref

Arizona State: Last year Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils burst onto the scene by beating their in-state rivals Arizona twice and by upsetting Stanford, but only to get their bubble bursted at the last minute. Stars James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph return to Tempe along with guards Ty Abbot and Derek Glasser to show the nation what they’re capable of. The Devils will be much improved this year and will avenge last year’s snub with a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

California: Cal is going to see their fair share of struggles this season with the departure of leading scorer Ryan Anderson to the NBA. The scoring is going to have to come from the guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle who are the only two double digit scorers returning to this year’s team. Cal will be near the bottom of the Pac-10 once again and will most likely end up participating in the CBI.

Oregon: After signing coach Ernie Kent to and extention through the 2012-13 season, they obviously see Kent as the right guy to lead Oregon back to the top tier of the Pac-10. Unlike Arizona State, the Ducks made it into the field of 65 with a 9-9 record in the Pac 10 but lost in the first round to Mississippi State.  The Ducks don’t have the talent to make it back into the tournament again this year because of the departure of leading scorers Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen as well as Bryce Taylor. Tajuan Porter is the only returning double digit scorer and will have to use his 5’5″ frame to carry this Oregon squad. Joevan Catron, who averaged 8.8 PPG and 5.7 RPG last year, will be the go-to guy in the frontcourt. These young Ducks don’t have the firepower to compete in the Pac-10 and it will take a couple of years until they return to the NCAA tournamnet.

Oregon State: Coming off a 6-win season, the Beavers don’t have too high of expectations for the 08-09 season. They were winless in the Pac-10 last year and will likely be the bottom team in the Pac-10 once again. The versatile guard/forward Seth Tarver will be the go-to guy for OSU, while his brother Josh will play a supporting role along with Lather Wallace and OmariJohnson. The Beavers will be relatively young and will experience plenty of growing pains with the stiff Pac-10 competition, but could improve in the coming years. As of right now they won’t get a sniff of any postseason, not even the CBI.

Stanford: This year’s Stanford squad is going to look much different after the departures of the Lopez twins along with frontcourt-mates Taj Finger and Fred Washington. They’re presence in the paint is going to be missed throughout next year. New coach Johnny Dawkins is going to have a rough first year with his 9-man roster which has nobody over 6’9″. However, they do have two senior leaders in the backcourt in Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods as well as senior wing man Lawrence Hill. Dawkins has shown he can coach under-sized teams as the right-hand man to Coach K at Duke, but will have a lot to prove in his first job as a head coach. The Cards are going to have to play terrific defense if they want to near the top of the Pac-10 again this season. It’s hard to say what the Cards will do as far as postseason goes but I think Stanford will make the tournament as a 8 or 9 seed.

UCLA: After losing Kevin Love and Russel Westbrook to the #4 and #5 picks as well as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real, one would think that Ben Howland and the Bruins would have lowered expectations for this season. Think again. Howland brings in the best recruiting class in the nation for 2008 which includes Jrue Holiday, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon and Jerime Anderson, all 4 or 5 star recruits. In addition, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp return for their senior seasons in hopes to make another deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Once these freshmen mature, the Bruins have a good chance of making yet another Final Four run.

USC:Tim Floyd has done a great job with the Trojans thus far especially in the recruiting aspect. Last year Floyd brought in superstar freshman OJ Mayo but was a one-and-done as he went third in this year’s NBA Draft. Now Floyd has brought in the McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest winner and another likely one-and-done player in Demar DeRozan. DeRozan will be the main offensive threat for the Tojans and will be supported by Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis. The Trojans have another good lineup for the 08-09 campaign and could be one of those teams to battle in the pack of the Pac-10.

Washington: The Huskies, who went 7-11 in Pac-10 play last year, return some of the same faces to this years team and hope to improve on their record from last year. The main man for the Huskies will be big man Jon Brockman who can put up 19 PPG and grab 12 RPG over the course of next season. Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning are the returning players that will play supporting roles for Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies also have a pretty impressive incoming freshman class with names such as Elston Turner Jr, Scott Suggs, and Isaiah Thomas (no, he isn’t Zeke’s son but has drawn some comparisons with his explosiveness). I really like the play of Brockman and if he gets strong support, the Huskies could be a tournament team but like some other teams in the Pac-10 they’ll be riding the bubble.

Washington State: Two years ago, coach Tony Bennet brought WSU from the depths of the Pac-10 and made them a nationally recognized team. Now, with the graduation of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill the Cougars will struggle a bit. Having low pre-season expectations from the media hasn’t stopped coach Bennet from doing well before, so I expect the Cougs to be competing in the pack of the “Pack-10”. Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling, and Taylor Rochestie will be the veteran leaders for WSU and will uphold coach Bennet’s style of hardnosed defense and offense that uses plenty shot clock. Tony Bennet brings in a top-10 small forward in freshman Klay Thompson as well as a couple of other freshmen that can contribute right away. Even though they aren’t the best team on paper, the Cougersare going to frustrate opponents with their great defense and I think could win a game or two in the NCAA tournament.

Predicted Pac-10 Standings w/ Postseason

  1. UCLA – NCAA
  2. Arizona State – NCAA
  3. Stanford – NCAA
  4. USC – NCAA
  5. Washington – NCAA (bubble)
  6. Washington State – NCAA (bubble)
  7. Arizona – NIT (bubble)
  8. Oregon – NIT
  9. California – CBI
  10. Oregon State – none

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Poll: The Best Conference in the Nation

Posted by Patrick on August 13, 2008

Please say why in the comments. Oh yeah, and this is only for basketball.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »