Friday, February 1, 2008

The MTAC Power 16

The Week That Was: We saw the ranks of the unbeaten whittled down to one, Memphis. Kansas went to the Little Apple and lost to Kansas State in Manhattan. Michael Beasley became a household name with his 25 point performance. That leaves us with the Memphis Tigers as the last remaining shot to go undefeated. They very well may do so too. Other than a home date with Tennessee February 23rd, they should be a double digit favorite in every game the rest of the way.

Drake continued there stellar play and is now 19-1. Word is the February 23rd Bracket Buster featured game will be Drake vs. Butler. The two best mid-majors squaring off, which could be a dandy. The Big East is being controlled by Georgetown, by the team everyone is talking about is Connecticut. The Huskies have knocked off Marquette, Cincinnati (road), Indiana (road), and Louisville in succession. The Big Ten continued to be jumbled at the top after Wisconsin lost to Purdue, then beat Indiana. Michigan State joins them with one loss each. Out West, Stanford is looking strong one game back of Pac-10 leader UCLA, and the rest of the conference keeps beating itself up.

The ACC is going to be a great two team race down the stretch between rivals Duke and North Carolina. Both teams seem to be in a different league compared to the rest of the garbage that currently is the ACC. Clemson should make the tournament, but outside of them, no argument can be made for any other team. BC? Miami? Maryland? Wake? Don't think so.

The Cream Rising to the Top: Take a look at your rankings right now and look at the top. Save for Memphis, it's the elite programs you see up there. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA. It's the traditional powers continuing their excellence. Meanwhile, what has happened to Kentucky? They are playing much better of late and no doubt Billy Gillispie will turn the program around, but it's strange to see them hovering around the .500 mark at the beginning of February.

Other Notables: Don't say we didn't tell you so. After starting 7-0 in conference, the Cleveland State Vikings have started their four game road swing through Wisconsin and Chicago 0-3.....Connecticut suspended it's second leading scorer Jerome Dyson and sixth man Doug Wiggins indefinitely for violation of team rules. It turns out they were pulled over with alcohol in their car. A defiant Jim Calhoun ripped into the media for it's deep digging into the story. Meanwhile, as Wiggins returned to practice Thursday, Dyson reportedly has been suspended for 30 days for failing a second drug test. Calhoun sounded disturbed when asked about it: "It was done by the athletic director. He's the one who put that release out."......In Thursday night's home loss to Arizona, USC lost PG Daniel Hackett two minutes into the game with a hip injury. It seemed more serious than it looked. Coach Tim Floyd can't afford to lose him: "Daniel is a critical part of this basketball team defensively," said Floyd. "He's our best penetrator, kick guy, best assist guy, and he's great with his ability to get to the free-throw line."......Stat of the week: In Michigan State's 10 point win over Illinois, they didn't make a single three point shot.

Team of the Week: Kansas State (15-4) - There may be no hotter team in the country and if you are looking for a Final Four sleeper, the Wildcats are for you. Winners of six straight, the Wildcats have really found themselves. It helps having the best player in College Basketball on your team in Michael Beasley standing next to another future lottery pick in Bill Walker. These two completely controlled the game in their 84-75 win over unbeaten Kansas. In the process, the ended the dreaded streak in which KU had beaten their cross-state rival 24 consecutive times in Manhattan. Beasley boldly predicted over the summer that the 'Cats would "beat them in Manhattan, beat them in Lawrence, beat them in Africa, or wherever else we may play 'em." He and Walker backed up every word, combining for 47 points. They now lead the Big 12 at 5-0 and do not have to travel to Texas or Texas A&M the rest of the way, giving them a schedule advantage over the Jayhawks. FYI - Four straight weeks our team of the week has lost their next game.

#1 Memphis (20-0, #2 last week) - This was a big week for the Tigers were they were expected to be tested by two potential NCAA Tournament teams. They passed with flying colors knocking off Gonzaga at home and Houston on the road. Joey Dorsey is a dunking and rebounding machine. He completely controlled the glass at Houston, grabbing 20 boards. Nobody seems to be able to slow down Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts either. This Week: UTEP, SMU

#2 Kansas (20-1, #1) - You cannot drop the Jayhawks for one loss to their rival on their home floor in front of what KU coach Bill Self called "the loudest building I've ever been in." Darrell Arthur's foul trouble as well as a sub par game from PG Russell Robinson didn't help matters either. The good news for KU and it's fans, they will never face a crowd like this in March when it counts, and the Jayhawk Nation is out for one thing only, a National title. This Week: at Colorado, Missouri

#3 UCLA (19-2, #3) - After seeing how they destroyed both Oregon State on the road and Arizona State at home by a combined 56 points, I think it's safe to say the USC lost got their attention. Who else cannot wait for the big game against Arizona on Saturday's Primetime ESPN game? Side Note, who else loved old school Bruin Pooh Richardson? This Week: Arizona, at Washington State

#4 North Carolina (20-1, #4) - All of these pundits who have Duke ahead of them in power rankings and polls are fooling themselves. Head to head, who would take Heels? Here's a question for you, who on Duke exactly is going to guard Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson in the post? Ty Lawson is far superior to Greg Paulus at the point. Wayne Ellington is more consistent than his best friend Gerald Henderson. You don't agree with us? We'll see on Wednesday night. This Week: at Florida State, Duke

#5 Tennessee (18-2, #5) - Bad news for the rest of the country, SG Chris Lofton's shooting slump is over. In two wins this week over Georgia and Alabama, he hit 12 three points and scored 53 points. We can see it already, The Vols season will come down to whether or not Wayne Chism and Brian Williams can deliver in the post. A very important week awaits Bruce Pearl and company. This Week: at Mississippi State, Florida

#6 Duke (17-1, #6) - Why is Tennessee ahead of Duke? The Vols do what Duke does, only better; shoot threes and play pressure defense. Really it's a coin toss. Tennessee has Chism, Williams, and hopefully soon, a healthy Duke Crews up front. Duke has Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler, who really is a three man. Advantage Vols. The Devils played two lousy first half's, trailing to both Maryland and NC State before exploding in the second half. Highlight of the week: The Cameron Crazies dressed in Green for a Green awareness event against NC State, then throwing the shirts on the floor at the half when they trailed by nine. That's some good mo-jo. This Week: Miami, at North Carolina

#7 Georgetown (17-2, #8) - Say what you want about the Hoyas, but they always seem to win the close games. Their late game performance against West Virginia, on the road, down four with under 30 seconds left was something only veteran teams can pull off. Jesse Sapp's three with six seconds left followed by Pat Ewing Jr's game saving block was magnificent. This team more than any other in the country is a reflection of their coach. This Week: Seton Hall, at South Florida

#8 Michigan State (19-2, #10) - Another week of unspectacular, but solid ball produced wins over Michigan and Illinois. They are doing nothing spectacular, but they have won five straight. They beat the Illini without hitting a single three pointer while holding them to 41 points on 30% shooting. Pretty impressive. That is how they are going to have to win in the tournament; on the defensive end. This Week: at Penn State

#9 Xavier (17-4, #16) - We know what you are thinking, #9? That's right. The A-10 has been a gauntlet thus far and the way they handled Dayton at home (by 26) and UMass on the road (12) impressed the heck out of us. This veteran club can play with anyone, just ask Indiana (won by 15) and Kansas State (won by 26). This Week: Lasalle, at St. Louis

#10 Wisconsin (17-3, #11) - Like Kansas, losing a tough road game at Purdue in front of an angry crowd by single digits is nothing to be ashamed of. You are going to lose tough road games in conference. It just happens. How you respond your next time out is the telling sign. The Badgers dominated Indiana for 40 minutes in beating them by 13 and holding them to a season low 49 points. This Week: at Minnesota, at Iowa

#11 Stanford (17-3, NR) - Here comes the run of Pac-10 teams. Everyone in the league is beat each other up, but the Cardinal have come out relatively unscathed. Brook Lopez is playing better than any big man in the league, and that includes UCLA's Kevin Love. His back to back 23 and 31 point performances on the road in wins were as solid as you will see. For now, we are buying Trent Johnson's club. This Week: at Washington State, Oregon

#12 Washington State (17-3, #9) - Each week we are losing more and more confidence in this bunch. After gutting out a tough road win against Arizona State, they came home and inexplicably lost to Pac-10's ninth best team in Cal. Ryan Anderson killed the Wazzu guards with his deep range and athleticism. We've said this before, this team more than any is a case of the sum being greater than its parts. One of those parts, Derrick Low, needs to come to play. he has been struggling most of the year. The next three games will tell us a lot about their guts as Stanford and the two LA schools visit Pullman. This Week: Stanford, UCLA

#13 Kansas State (15-4, NR) - The first appearance for the Wildcats who sold us big time with their blowout of Texas A&M and their close wins at Oklahoma and over Kansas at home, ending a 24 year losing streak to their nemesis. The bottom line here is they have two lottery picks talking the floor every night. If they can get the same guard play out of Freshman Jacob Pullen and Senior Clent Stewart that they got out of them against KU, they could be scary good. This Week: at Missouri, Nebraska

#14 Arizona (15-6, NR) - Want to know why a six loss team is #14 in our rankings? Three losses came without PG Jerryd Bayless and now that they are healthy, they are proving they can beat anyone. They have won four straight after going into USC and knocking off the Trojans. Chase Budinger and Bayless on the outside, Jordan Hill in the post, and the consummate glue guy in Jawann McClellan. That is the recipe for a sleeper team in March. Our only worry is their lack of bench. This Week: at UCLA, Arizona State

#15 Indiana (17-3, #7) - This was not a good week to be a Hoosier fan. First they lose at home to an undermanned Connecticut team who completely out-physicalled them. Then in their biggest game of the year at Wisconsin, they lay an egg and are non-competitive. Imagine where they'd be right now without All-American candidate PF D.J. White, who is averaging a double-double and looking like a top 10 pick. This Week: Northwestern, at Illinois

#16 Drake (19-1, NR) - Time to show the Bulldogs some love. They remain unbeaten in the Rolls Royce of mid-major conferences. SG Josh Young has returned from injury and has begun to light it up, scoring 24 in their win over Creighton. Throw in Klayton Korver's three point stroke, and you have a team nobody wants to face. Their only loss was in at St. Mary's by six on November 10th, a team who has been in the Top 25 twice this year. This Week: at Indiana State, at Illinois State

On the outside, looking in

Butler - Now that Cleveland State has faded, the Horizon league is their's for the taking and they are smoking every one in their way

Pittsburgh - I know they didn't really lose to Rutgers at home, did they?

Connecticut - Kentucky was known as Team Turmoil a few years back under Tubby Smith, the Huskies may have taken on that moniker this year; however, their size in the post and athleticism on the perimeter is scary. Just ask Indiana and Louisville.

Florida - It's time for the Gators to get some national love at 18-3 and 5-1 in the SEC. Forget the last two years. This may be Billy Donovan's finest coaching job.

Texas - Dangerously close to the "falling" list. Just when we thought the loss at Missouri was a fluke, they go to College Station and get annhilated by A&M.

Texas A&M - Speaking of those Aggies, could the five OT loss to Baylor have been the best thing that could have happened to them? They look re-focused.

Mississippi State - The SEC's flavor of the week last week, got worked on the road by an average Arkansas team. They get exactly two games to show us that was a fluke.

Falling...can they get up?

Louisville - We wanted to believe in this team, we really did, then they go out and lose to Seton Hall and Connecticut and look very average over the last two weeks.

Vanderbilt - Has any team's star fallen quicker than Vandy's? Started 16-0. Now they are 17-4. That's what happens when you play real competition and road games.

Mississippi - Like Louisville, I wanted to love this team. But when you lose to Auburn and get blown out by your rival Mississippi State by 20, we just can't.

Baylor - We stroked them last week and promptly they lose a home game to Oklahoma. Their next two are at Texas and at Kansas. Can you say three game losing streak?

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