Monday, November 29, 2010

2010-11 Week 3 Review and Week 4 Preview

Today Texas Christian announced that they were leaving the Mountain West for the Big East. This move will shake up the Big East as much as a scratchy throat would affect Dick Vitale's verbosity. The Horned Frogs haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and figure to serve two roles in their new home: to give the bottom-feeders some company and to make some of the league members complain about the long road trip.

 Their current conference mates have had an easy time with the boys from Fort Worth in recent years, especially the top dogs.

Interestingly enough, TCU is leaving the Mountain West because they are not considered a BCS conference. Considering their football prowess and the college gridiron galaxy this is a decision they had to make to better their interests but any college hoops fan knows this conference is definitely BCS-worthy.

 Last season they sent four teams to the Big Dance and came within two three-pointers of having all of them advance to the second round. So how have things changed since their big run last season?
Brigham Young remains a Top 25 team, thanks to the return of Mormon Nation's biggest hip-hop star (Jimmer Fredette) and some improved scoring from their front line.

The Cougars recently beat a St. Mary's squad to stay undefeated. UNLV has not only returned to the national scene but has done it without the collection of agents hanging out in hot tubs. San Diego State is enjoying a Top 25 ranking for the first time in school history and features probable lottery pick Kawhi Leonard collecting double-doubles like beachcombers collect seashells.

 New Mexico was expected to fall a bit after losing Darlington Hobson and Roman Martinez but are benefiting from a balanced attack that has seven players averaging at least six points a game. With the Pac-10 poised to struggle again this year it's clear that to see the Best in the West you have to head for the Mountain.

Gonzaga has rightfully become the model program for mid-majors but their conference foe St. Mary's is on the same track. In the past few seasons they have lost key personnel but have managed to reload instead of starting from scratch. Had they not lost that nail-biter to BYU they would have sneaked into the Top 25 or come very close.

This year Mickey McConnell has assumed the role of team star but four others average double figures in scoring, including San Diego transfer Rob Jones. Look for the Gaels to be a threat once again to make the Dance.

Syracuse is nearly ranked in the Top Five in the major polls but I don't see anything to justify that ranking. Every game they have played has been close, which wouldn't be a big deal if they were playing some top teams. But look at the teams that have occupied the Orange schedule: Michigan, William & Mary, Detroit and Georgia Tech. It's doubtful any of those teams will make the Dance. Michigan State looms on December 7.

If their struggles to find a fourth scoring option continue and Fab Melo continues his run of non-production (1.3 ppg so far from a kid who was picked on some first-team all-conference ballots at the beginning of the year) don't expect the Orange to occupy prime space in the fruit bowl for long.

Oklahoma and Alabama make their bones on the football field but it's not like they haven't had basketball success. Still, their seasons have already had their loyalists counting the days until spring practice. The Sooners were going to lose to Kentucky, though they did put up a fight against the heavily favored Wildcats. Then they lost by 18 to Virginia, which hasn't had a prominent team since they lost to Chaminade, which beat the Sooners the next night. Alabama had an even worse time in the Virgin Islands.

They dropped a close one to Seton Hall (which might be smack on the bubble in March), then lost to Iowa (who, to be blunt, stink) and closed out their trip with a nail-biting loss to St. Peter's. Paradise lost, indeed.

I got a late start due to circumstance beyond my control but there wasn't a lot happening in the galaxy tonight so it's not a huge deal. There are some interesting games as we star-gaze, though.

Georgetown-Missouri. (Tuesday, 9 ET) The Tigers are the best team in the Big 12 that doesn't live in Kansas. Mike Anderson turned this program around in a hurry following the disastrous turn by Hugh Grant, who should've stuck to playing cads alongside Renee Zellweger. Considering Kim English was supposed to be the star for the Tigers and he's fourth on the team in scoring is a very good sign. The Hoyas' star, Austin Freeman, hasn't been affected at all by diabetes while his team is making nearly half their shots in six games. Considering that the D.C. Demons usually build several houses with their bricks they are actually fun to watch for people who like their hoops to be more than forty minutes of bruises and sweat.

St. Mary's-San Diego State (Wednesday, 10:30 ET) This is the best game NOT on national TV that night. If you're on the West Coast and the Duke-Michigan State turns out to be a blowout switch the channel to this affair. This will be a really good test for the Aztecs, who could be known for something more than being Tony Gwynn's alma mater or the school that was attended by the main characters of Sideways.

Presbyterian-VMI (Saturday, 1 ET) This isn't as big of a reach as you think. The Keydets get to work out all of the frustration of not being able to act like normal college students by running around like crazed cheetahs en route to over ninety points a game while the Blue Hose gave Kansas State all they could handle earlier this year before beating Ivy League favorites Princeton. However, they only score 58 points a game, so something will have to give in terms of tempo.

This week's Top 25 poll had some changes with the rise of Connecticut (though I didn't debut them in the Top Ten – it's still early, people) and the fall of Butler. I'm keeping Gonzaga in for now, even with their two losses, but they could be the next to go.
  1. Duke
  2. Kansas
  3. Ohio State
  4. Michigan State
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Villanova
  7. Missouri
  8. Florida
  9. Purdue
  10. Kansas State
  11. Memphis
  12. Kentucky
  13. Tennessee
  14. Syracuse
  15. Baylor
  16. Illinois
  17. Connecticut
  18. Brigham Young
  19. San Diego State
  20. Minnesota
  21. Gonzaga
  22. Georgetown
  23. Texas
  24. Notre Dame
  25. UNLV