Sunday, December 26, 2010

Plenty of schools waiting, not so patiently, in line for Duke to fall

Now that we’re almost through the holidays it’s time for conference play to begin and see if anyone in the ACC can take out Duke. They may make it through the conference but there are plenty of candidates that have also made it through the pre-season tournaments and sleeper games where the students aren’t quite as loud, unbeaten and make their own case for being the best in the nation.

Ohio State (10-0) – A very impressive 10-0 record but only one win over a ranked opponent leads many to question whether the Buckeyes are for real, and they won’t really be tested until January 9th when they host #16 Minnesota, other than that, they don’t get a road test until Jan 22 when they travel to Illinois.

Kansas (10-0) – We’re still not quite sure what to make of Kansas as they can easily handle a very athletic Memphis(#14) team by 13 points but need the aid of a terrible call to beat an unranked UCLA team at home by 1, and also struggle to beat an unranked USC team by 2. Despite how their play can oscillate from one extreme to another don’t be surprised to see them sitting at 16-0 when they travel to Baylor but they had better be swigging near the top for that game.

UCONN (8-0) Big East play will not be an easy in itself and Calhoun’s struggles may have actually galvanized the team, and they’ll need to be together if they’re going to be able to travel into the “pit at Pitt” and get a win over the #6 Panthers. Already set up to be the game of the year in the Big East, it will be a great litmus test for both schools but more so for the Panthers who have not beaten an top 10 school so far this year.

San Diego State (12-0) Is it too early to talk of tournament Cinderellas? Probably so, but these guys are athletic, fun to watch, and they have a school excited that normally has nothing to cheer for this time of year. They will not get the respect they deserve as they’re only win versus a ranked opponent came at the expense of Gonzaga (#12 at the time) who is now nowhere to be found in the top 25 at 7-5 despite knocking off Baylor ( #9) last week, and if you still don’t know who they are you may not get a chance to see them play until March when they may just be a top seed. Now if you could stop laughing for just a minute you would see that they don’t play a ranked opponent the rest of the way and could very likely be a 2 or 3-loss team going into the dance and do I dare say …….unbeaten?

The Big-East firing squad of Syracuse (11–0), Pitt (11-1), and Georgetown (10-1) is this taking us back to the days of Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullen? All of these schools can and will give Duke problems come tournament time IF they don’t beat each other up too much before then. Unfortunately for all of them they play in the Big East which means no one will stay unbeaten for very long and will all have a couple of blemishes on their record come tournament time but they will all be battle tested and ready to go deep into the field.
Can you see Duke, or anyone else going unbeaten? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Schools look to stop Duke from repeating but no one from the West is on the radar

If you look at the top-25 to start the season as we’re six games in there are some things that you expect to see, such as Duke sitting atop the polls and bogarting all the first place votes in both polls and Tom Izzo and his green army looking to get back to another Final Four, but what is a total surprise is that six games into the new season there is only one school west of the Mississippi in the top TWENTY and they’re not even from the Pac-10. No powerhouse that starts 3 seniors, no sleeping giant like Gonzaga, waiting in the wings, just San Diego State sitting at 6-0. So what happened West Coat hoops? It’s one thing to claim East Coast Bias but you can’t make a case for being snubbed come tournament time and not have on team of substance to make a case. Now I know this is not the NBA and you don’t bring back a starting five from a playoff team but the flipside to that coin is that you can go from worst to first one good recruiting class so there is no reason to not be in the mix two years in a row. Conversely, to say that Duke just re-loaded would be an understatement as they may be better than they were last season and getting a chance to see Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith play it’s amazing how they seem to be able to ‘select’ rather than ‘recruit’ each year. But if they are going to repeat it certainly won’t be easy and the remaining top five teams of Ohio St., Pitt, Kansas, and K State are no strangers to competitive play and have the strength of schedule to back up their undefeated records. So what to expect from the rest? Well, OSU has only had one game against a top 10 opponent (#10 Florida) and won’t face one until next year when conference play begins and they host Tubby Smith and Minnesota. Now if Pittsburgh gets through December after facing Texas (#22), Tenn (#17), and UCONN(#9) and still has a zero in on the right side of the ledger then they’ll be number two and stealing some votes from Duke if they haven’t jumped over them by that time. KU escaped at home against UCLA and was almost caught ahead looking towards Memphis but after that they should be able to stay up near the top as they won’t play a ranked school until well into January. KState has already had their litmus test and failed miserably vs. Duke last week and will need wins against Florida(#16) and UNLV (#23) to get back in the talk of the best in the nation. The good thing about hoops is, (and you know where this is going), than unlike their kinsport football the season is all about seeding and we’ll get a chance to settle this on the court with no speculation or conjecture. In the meantime hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what the tournament has in store for us with more games like the Missouri/Georgetown TO thriller. Which schools have been overlooked so far this season? Can anyone challenge Duke? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.