Here are some quick hitters from the Monday through Wednesday (1/7-1/9/13) games and how it could affect the Tournament:
[Get a leg up in your office pool with this week's Bracketology update]
-Two SEC teams made very different statements.
Two bubble-bound SEC teams hit the road. Ole Miss to a decent, but not great Tennessee team and LSU to a fairly weak Auburn club. The Rebels came away with an 18-point laugher of a win with a 50-point half. On the other hand, LSU barely got to 60 points and lost by five. It was the league debut for both teams, yet only one played like it meant something.
-Georgetown is out of synch and needs to get their groove back ASAP.
The Hoya’s 73-45 whipping at the hands of an okay Pitt team marks the fourth time they’ve failed to score 50 points in a contest. They were fortunate enough to win the first two poor offensive nights but have lost back-to-back league games with woeful output. Forget that top-25 ranking they have. This win helps Pitt in the race for an invite, but also takes some of the luster out of Marquette’s win. I still like GT and MU to make the field, but now the spotlight will be turned towards the Panthers a bit more with Marquette coming to town this weekend.
-Iowa State may have found something in Lawrence.
Yes, they ended up losing in OT in Lawrence. Against major league squads, ISU has lost to Cincy by eight, New Mexico by 12 and Iowa by nine. By playing lights out at Kansas, Iowa State should realize that they are better than those previous three losses indicated. With four winnable games in a row before hosting Kansas State, there is a real chance Iowa State will be in the thick of the Big 12 race. A lot of people, myself included, thought the Cyclones were a tournament-caliber team and their near-miss against Kansas was the first time they really showed it.
-Illinois-Chicago is ruining something good.
On December 15 UIC throttled to win their 8th straight and improve to 9-1. In the hot start they took care of Northwestern, Colorado State and Mercer. The lone loss was a tight one against New Mexico. Since the 15th, they are 1-5 with a tepid 1-2 league start. The Horizon was probably going to be a one-bid league anyway, so they can still win the tournament and get the auto-bid, but they are not making it easy on themselves. Wright State is now the team to beat but Detroit is also hot. Valpo, the team that knocked off the Flames last night, is just a half-game back of Wright/Detroit. With impressive non-conference wins, UIC just had to take care of business and could have gotten a nice seed in the tournament. Instead they are now in a real battle to have a decent seed in their own league tourney. Not good.
-Florida State is back … I think.
FSU was pretty stinky in the non-con but facing some ACC foes has awakened the ‘Noles. They are 2-0 in-league with both wins on the road. Their win last night at Maryland was huge considering how well the Terps had been playing lately. They host an up-and-down North Carolina team this weekend so there is a good chance the good vibes will continue.
-My Delaware pick, look at my Delaware pick!!
Injuries completely tanked this team to start the year but they have won their last four, including Wednesday’s beatdown of Hofstra and are just a half-game back in the CAA. Towson, a team that won just a single game last year, sits ahead of them as well as a Northwestern team that is just 8-7 so far (and was under .500 a year ago). It hasn’t been pretty but I never lost faith in the Hens and I expect this good play to continue.
[Play catch-up with a complete review of the first half of the college basketball season]
-Cincy needs a shot in the arm.
Tuesday’s loss to Notre Dame drops them to 2-3 since crushing crosstown rival Xavier. With a road trip to improved Rutgers, Marquette at home and then to upstate New York to take on the Orange as three of their next four games, they really need to find themselves, otherwise the slide will get worse before it gets better.
-Duke took it to Clemson, but it still may cost them.
In Monday’s 28 point humiliation of Clemson, Duke’s rugged front liner, Ryan Kelly, injured his foot and is now out indefinitely. Kelly was having a solid senior season with 13.4 points and over five boards a night to go along with 1.5 apg and 1.7 blocks. Duke has better players in that starting rotation than him but his 6-foot-11, 230-pound body was a load in the paint and helped prevent teams from solely keying on Plumlee down there. Unless someone from the bench steps up, I don’t think it is overly dramatic to say Duke’s title chances take a hit with him sidelined. Hopefully he can return, and when he does, plays up to the level he was showing.
Minnesota went to Illinois and beat a fellow top 12 team by 17 on Wednesday night. Enough said.
-The Mountain West is really, really fun.
In back-to-back games on Wednesday night, Boise State knocked Wyoming from the ranks of the unbeaten in Laramie and then you could flip over and watch New Mexico’s Pit live up to its reputation as the Lobos knocked off fellow-ranked MWC foe, UNLV. The four teams in action are now a combined 53-8. SDSU and Colorado State are also in the league. That my friends, is an embarrassment of riches — and to think it was nearly broken up because of the Big East’s desire to stay relevant in football.
-Stick a fork in Cal, they’re done.
I cannot believe some publications loved Cal, a couple even claiming they would contend with Arizona for the crown. I never understood it and after failing my eye test at Wisconsin, I have been keeping tabs on them. Since Christmas they had a home loss to Harvard, got spanked by UCLA managed to beat USC despite a ho-hum effort but the reason I am declaring them done is what they did late Wednesday night. At home to a mediocre 9-5 Washington team they got absolutely blitzed in another lifeless performance. Losing by 15, at home, to a so-so league team and fail to score 50 points? Take them out of the oven now before that Golden Bear gets burned.
-Eastern Kentucky made an Ohio Valley-sized statement.
I apologize for that horrid pun. Moving on, the Colonels had a nice record and started 2-0 in the league, but the wins were against so-so OVC talent and at home. Well, they got that big win on Hump Day, beating the Murray State Racers in Murray, by 12, in a game they controlled throughout. This will be a great league race here on out between EKU, Murray and Belmont.
-Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have made themselves right at home in the A-10
Last night VCU dominated league stalwart Dayton. Meanwhile the Bulldogs won their 10th straight, this time on the road at Saint Joe’s in a very tough environment against a team a lot better than their record would indicate. Many, and I am of that group, thought these two teams would have a bit of a learning curve after leaving the CAA and the Horizon; both good leagues but nowhere near as deep as the Atlantic 10. Guess we are all eating crow on that.
-Oh yeah, Michigan is 16-0
Lastly, the Maize and Blue have tied their best start in school history. The last time they were this hot they won the whole enchilada. They still have plenty of tough games so going undefeated might be a stretch, but there is some magic right now in Ann Arbor and the way they are clicking; I wouldn’t put anything past them.