Friday, February 8, 2008

The MTAC Power 16

The Week That Was: It was rivalry week in college basketball. The greatest of them all, North Carolina and Duke, resumed with round one. UNC ranked #3, Duke ranked #2. Duke ran the Tar Heels over in Chapel Hill 89-78, but the Heels were without their starting Point Guard Ty Lawson and his backup Bobby Frasor. Forced to turn things over to Quinton Thomas, the Heels just never got in sync. Thomas turned the ball over six times and was completely overmatched by Greg Paulus, who hit six of Duke's 13 threes. Coach K completely worked over Roy Williams, whose lack of in-game adjustments to Duke's drive and kick game was stunning. The Devils have seized control of the ACC and look like a potential #1 seed in the East. With the ACC so soft this season, it wouldn't shock us at all if Duke only lost one more game the rest of the way into the ACC Tournament.

You had other great rivalries renewed. The Border War, where Kansas destroyed Missouri by 19. The Backyard Brawl, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, was won by the Panthers as Ronald Ramon's three at the buzzer sunk Bob Huggins club 54-53. UCLA and Arizona met with a lot on the line at Pauley Pavilion and the Bruins completely dominated the Wildcats 82-60. Then you had the Eric Gordon bowl in Champaign. Indiana's Freshman sensation made his first trek to Illinois, the school he backed out on to become a Hoosier. He was booed lustily everytime he touched the ball as the Illini faithful sounded like bitter scorned ex-lovers. In the end, Gordon got the last laugh as his bank-shot three forced OT and they eventually won in double OT 83-79.

Bob Knight Resigns: You've heard it by now, but the General has called it quits in Lubbock. Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight decided now was the time for him to step aside and turn the team over to his son, Pat. He leaves the game with 902 wins, the most by any coach in D-1 history. or does he leave the game? He has never come out and said he is done coaching. For the right job, we think he'd jump back in. Here's a thought. Northwestern. How does Bill Carmody keep his job when he coaches a last place team every year? It's a great academic institution, something Knight loves, plus this would get him back into the Big Ten. If I'm the A.D. there, I approach Knight during the offseason and gauge is level of interest.

Other Notables: This week was marred by injuries, suspensions, and a major coaching change. Arizona who had been playing well since moving Nic Wise to the point and Jerryd Bayless to the two-guard, have
lost Wise for 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus in his knee. The already depth-challenged Wildcats get even thinner...... Oklahoma, who has been rounding into form with the return of Blake Griffin from a sprained knee, got bad news as starting Center Longar Longar broke a bone in his leg and will be sidelined indefinitely. Tough break for Jeff Capel's Sooners who have seen Longar turn into an offensive force playing next to Griffin....... While Memphis continues to roll through their bad conference, Starting PF Robert Dozier has been suspended indefinitely by John Calipari for violating team rules. He seems to be on his last leg. "If he screws up again, he's gone. He's got one more chance," said Calipari..... The second major college coach to get the ax this season is LSU's John Brady. Just two years after making the Final Four, Brady hasn't been able to parlay that success into anything. His stay lasted 10 years, but an 8-13 record and an angry fan base did him in..... We welcomed back Dick Vitale from his three month hiatus after throat surgery. His first game back (shocking, I know), was Duke/North Carolina. As much as I admire his passion for the game, listening to him stroke these two programs can be insufferable at times.

Team of the Week: Connecticut Huskies (17-5) - Talk about an impressive six game winning streak. Three wins on the road, three at home, all against legitimate competition. Not to mention they have won the last four without suspended leading scorer Jerome Dyson. They beat Pittsburgh by seven in a physical battle, and then outlasted Syracuse in the Carrier Dome thanks to a dominating defensive performance by Hasheem Thabeet. PG A.J. Price has been magnificent of late, controlling the game with his passing skills and driving ability. PF Jeff Adrian can play for us any day. He is a double double waiting to happen and is the last link to the dominating club three years ago that spent most of the season #1. This stat bears repeating: The last five Teams of the Week have lost their next game. We don't see this happening to the Huskies with Georgia Tech coming to town Saturday. UConn is a team nobody will want to play in March.

#1 Memphis (22-0, last week #1) - We were a little stunned by their struggle with UTEP. What came out of that was something we already knew: This is not a good three point or free throw shooting team. It's alarming to see they missed 20 free throws in that game and currently rank second to last nationally at 58.1%. Also watch to see what happens with suspended PF Robert Dozier. This Week: Central Florida, Houston

#2 Kansas (22-1, #2) - Played poorly for 30 minutes in Boulder before pulling away to win by 13. Looked like a post-K-State loss hangover. They took it out on their rival Mizzou and crushed them at home on Big Monday. Two things to watch: The steady improvement of Brandon Rush who looks to have it all back after knee surgery and the sluggish play of PG Russell Robinson. All of a sudden, guards are having their way with him. This is a huge week for the Jayhawks if they plan on getting that #1 seed in the Midwest. This Week: Baylor, at Texas

#3 UCLA (21-2, #3) - With the way the Bruins are playing, we were very close to putting them at #2. They played two games this week against top 15 opponents and dominated both of them. We actually thought Arizona had a chance to hang with them too. Kevin Love has become an unstoppable force in the post and Darren Collison is breaking out of his shooting slump. We can't imagine this well coached club not being the #1 seed in the West. This Week: at Washington

#4 Tennessee (20-2, #5) - We know, you can't understand why we are so stubborn as to have the Vols ahead of Duke, especially in light of the fact that Duke won at UNC Wednesday night. Well it's our power rankings, not yours. Seriously, we said this before, these two teams mirror each other, but the Vols have a far superior post presence with Wayne Chism, Brian Williams, and now Duke Crews back from his heart ailment. They went into Mississippi State and beat the hottest team in the SEC with ease before coming home and spanking the surging Florida Gators while dropping 104 on them. That and Chris Lofton is officially on fire. This Week: at LSU, Arkansas

#5 Duke (20-1, #6) - They do get props from this corner for an excellent game plan and exposure of UNC. They decided they would let Tyler Hansbrough have his way, yet shut down everyone else. It worked. Nobody is talking about him, but PF Lance Thomas has been much improved of late and was stellar in his work against the Heels. If they can get consistent production out of him, Duke could be lethal. Our main concern is they live and die by the three and teams that do that in the tournament have been known to flame out earlier than expected. Same goes for Tennessee. This Week: Boston College, Maryland

#6 North Carolina (20-2, #4) - You have to preface this drop by saying they just aren't the same without Ty Lawson. Dick Vitale said it best "it's like driving a sports car without the engine." You saw that twice this week as UNC needed OT to beat the 11th place ACC team in Florida State and were dominated at home by Duke. Tyler Hansbrough continues to be an absolute stud, but if Wayne Ellington and Danny Green aren't making shots, they aren't going very far because this team cannot defend consistently. This Week: Clemson, at Virginia

#7 Georgetown (19-2, #7) - The Hoyas keep beating everyone in front of them, but have a tendency to sleep walk through occasionally, as they did with South Florida. They won't get the chance to do that as three of their next four are on the road, including Saturday night's primetime ESPN game with Louisville. They have now won six straight and hold a two game lead in the Big East at 9-1. This Week: at Louisville, Villanova

#8 Stanford (19-3, #) - There many be no team hitting there stride more than Stanford right now. Brook Lopez is playing like a bonafide first team All-American, they are getting dependable play from Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson, and they are holding opponent's to just 56.9 PPG. Trent Johnson has done a magnificent job of keeping them below the radar. Meanwhile, they are 8-2 in the Pac-10, just a game behind UCLA. This Week: Oregon State, Arizona State

#9 Xavier (19-4, #9) - Staying strong in the A-10 at 7-1 after escaping with a road win at St. Louis. They almost blew a 13 point second half lead, but Derrick Brown's tip in at the buzzer saved them. This team scares us and here's why: they have a multitude of three point shooters and have veteran guards in Drew Lavender, Stanley Burrell, and C.J. Anderson. Josh Duncan can also play with any big man in the country. A big test awaits them Sunday with second place St. Joseph's coming to town. This Week: St. Joseph's, at Charlotte

#10 Wisconsin (19-3, #10) - It's always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, so props to Bo Ryan's club for two grind-it out wins at Minnesota and at Iowa. We've said this before, the Badgers do nothing special, they just win. The biggest week of their season is here with two straight battles for first place. One at home, one on the road. This Week: Purdue, at Indiana

#11 Texas (18-4, NR) - Showed some guts in winning big games over Baylor and in Norman against a good Oklahoma team. Rick Barnes benched PF Damion James in an attempt to fire up his best post player and it worked. He had 17 and eight against Baylor. The guards stepped in big in Norman. The question is, can A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustine continue to carry them when they are getting so little production elsewhere? They'll see how they measure up on Big Monday as Kansas rolls into Austin. This Week: at Iowa State, Kansas

#12 Connecticut (17-5, NR) - By our standards, the hottest team in the country with the bets mojo. Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrian can be the best PF/C combination in the country and have become borderline impossible to score upon. Stanley Robinson is a defensive wizard locking down the opposing team's three man. Looking ahead, their schedule is soft down the stretch and they are capable of running the table the rest of the regular season. They have four road games left: at South Florida, Villanova, Rutgers, and Providence. Four of the bottom six teams in the conference. This Week: Georgia Tech, Notre Dame

#13 Drake (21-1, #16) - What more can you say about a team so dominant in its own league? They have swept both second place Illinois State and third place Creighton and own a four game lead on the rest of the MVC. They win close games thanks to balance and stellar shooting. Josh Young, Leonard Houston, and Klayton Korver give them three superior perimeter threats. Their toughest test happens this Wednesday in Carbondale. This Week: Evansville, at Southern Illinois

#14 Michigan State (19-3, #8) - We've been hot and cold on the Spartans, but we are sorry, you absolutely cannot lose to Penn State without their best player. Something happened in Happy Valley that rarely does with a Tom Izzo coached team, they were out-hustled. Drew Neitzel, who seemingly was out of his shooting slump, has gone back in the tank with back to back poor performances against Illinois (4-12) and Penn State (2-10). This Week: Northwestern, at Purdue

#15 Indiana (19-3, #15) - They are lucky to be holding on here. Yes, they had a 2-0 week, but they really struggled at Illinois in the Eric Gordon bowl before pulling it out in double OT. Gordon seemed to be sped up by the crowd. He finished 3-13. D.J. White's consistency has been astounding. Here are two questions for Kelvin Sampson: why do Jordan Crawford and Armon Bassett seemingly take turns in and out of your doghouse? Why all of a sudden has Mike White been tossed out of the rotation after you lifted his redshirt mid-year for walk-on Kyle Taber? The next three games dictate to us where this team is going the rest of the way. This Week: at Ohio State, Wisconsin

#16 Kansas State (16-5, #13) - Followed up the signature win over KU with a bad loss at Missouri where they blew a 16 point lead and Missouri was without four key pieces of their rotation. They did bounce back nicely by blowing out Nebraska. Michael Beasley had another easy 35 point, 13 rebound game. The Cats played with heavy hearts as the mother of starting Guard Clent Stewart died earlier in the week. Still looking good with one loss in the Big 12. This Week: Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech

On the outside, looking in

Butler - Their great escape at Valpo was huge. Still the standard bearer for all mid-majors. Huge announcement this week that they will meet Drake in the bracket buster February 23rd.

Texas A&M - We said it once before, the best move Mark Turgeon made was benching DeAndre Jordan for Brian Davis. It lit a fire under both parties involved.

Notre Dame - Very quietly, the Irish are all alone in second in the Big East at 7-2 after thrashing a good Seton Hall team. Luke Harangody is having a marvelous year.

Purdue - Nobody is noticing the job Matt Painter is doing in West Lafayette this year. The Boilers are 9-1 in the Big Ten and this is a very young team.

Falling....Can they get up?

Arizona - Losing the way they did at UCLA raised a major red flag, now PG Nic Wise is out for 4-6 weeks. Not good.

Florida - I love spending one week stroking a team, then watching them get pounded twice in a row.

Washington State - All is not well on the Paloose where the Cougs have lost four of five.

Mississippi - Losers of three of four including a home loss to a sad sack South Carolina club. Yikes. Could be this year's Clemson. 17-0 and didn't make the NCAA Tournament.

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