Friday, February 29, 2008

The MTAC Power 16

Let us start off by saying we have never been more confused about what to do at the top. Memphis loses to Tennessee. Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt. UCLA struggles at home before finishing off Oregon. North Carolina pounds Wake Forest, but is still without Ty Lawson. Texas garners two more big time wins. Who is #1 right now? Not even the experts know. ESPN's Power Rankings has 16 voters. Five different teams received #1 votes with UNC leading with five, followed by UCLA with three. Yet, they rank UCLA #4. So what do we do? Right now we are going with our gut and who we think will have the best success in March.

#1 UCLA (25-3, last week #4) - After their thrashing of Arizona State on the road and with the experience they have going going to back to back Final Fours, we think you'd have to say that right now, UCLA is in the best position to win it all. Yes, they struggled with Oregon for a half, but their veteran presence of Darren Collison and Josh Shipp on the perimeter and the power of double-double machine Kevin Love in the post and they are never out of any game. Plus, these Bruins no how to finish. This Week: Arizona, Stanford

#2 Tennessee (25-3, #2) - So they were only #1 for 36 hours. So what. You can't take the win at Memphis away from them. Going into a hostile Fed Ex Forum and controlling the game with their pressure defense was extremely impressive. Bruce Pearl showed why he is one of the game's most underrated X's and O's men when he ran sets down the stretch to get Tyler Smith touches in the post, and when up three under 10 seconds left, he chose to foul instead of play defense, which worked magically. You knew they were going to let down in Nashville three days later. It's not as if they lost to a bad team. Vandy is undefeated at home and beat the Vols by just three. Remember who told you last week the Vols would lose one of these two games. This Week: Kentucky, at Florida

#3 Memphis (27-1, #1) - Free throw shooting and rebounding did them in against Tennessee. The good news is, they have gotten their loss out of the way and the enormous pressure that came with being undefeated is now gone. They can concentrate on getting better. The bad news is this free throw shooting problem isn't going away. It must be repeated: the Tigers are ranked 326th out of 328th nationally in free throw percentage. This Week: at Southern Mississippi, at SMU

#4 North Carolina (26-2, #5) - Give Roy Williams credit. He has been without the man that drives the bus, Ty Lawson, for six games and after the first game loss to Duke, they won five straight. PG Quinton Thomas has improved steadily and Tyler Hansbrough has taken his game to another level offensively. There is little to no seperation between UNC and the three teams listed ahead of them. We have UNC 4th because we still think they don't have the defensive goods to win it all. This Week: at Boston College, Florida State

#5 Texas (24-4, #6) - With all that said about the four teams above, the hottest team is Texas. Coming off a great week where they spanked a good Oklahoma team by 17 and went into Manhattan and controlled Michael Beasley and company, they are the most dangerous team out there. Why? Because unlike Tennessee and Memphis who like to shoot a lot of threes, Texas actually makes theirs. Plus, nobody has a Center that can bang at hit three's the way Connor Atchley does. This Week: at Texas Tech, Nebraska

#6 Kansas (25-3, #3) - Wow did the Jayhawks blow their chance to win the Big 12 title. With the inexplicable loss at Oklahoma State, Texas now can coast to the conference title since they hold the tie-breaker over KU and lead by one game with four to play. When Darrell Arthur figures out how to stay out of foul trouble, the Jayhawks will be much better. But this season looks like it may end like a lot of others have recently unless they wake up. This Week: Kansas State, Texas Tech

#7 Duke (24-3, #7) - Spent the week taking out their anger on St. John's and Georgia Tech after losing two straight on the road in conference. The bad news is that their three point shot is starting to come back down to earth. While they beat Tech by 13, they shot just 2-15 from deep after poor performances last week. Coach K has also decided to dust off injured Center Brian Zoubek to see if he can get anything going in the post. It isn't working. This Week: at NC State, at Virginia

#8 Stanford (23-4, #7) - We said this before, but since they are on the West Coast and play the majority of their games by the time most of us go to sleep in the East, they are flying way under the radar. If they can go into Pauley and knock off UCLA next Thursday, do we start talking about the Cardinal as a #1 seed? 12-3 in the best conference in America is extremely impressive. That's another reason why we have UCLA #1 right now. This Week: Washington State, at UCLA

#9 Xavier (24-4, #9) - The Musketeers continue to impress us with another solid week, beating Duquesne by 27 and winning at Dayton, something Louisville couldn't do. This team has all of the makings of a sleeper Final Four pick; they are deep, veteran, and are a great deep shooting team. How long until Sean Miller gets run for the Indiana job? This Week: GW, at St. Joseph's

#10 Connecticut (22-6, #10) - Some may scoff at this seeing as though th Huskies 10 game winning streak came to an end at Villanova, but in our eyes, this is still the best team in the Big East. Jerome Dyson came back Tuesday after his 30 day suspension, allowing Jim Calhoun to play more than seven guys. Getting him re-acclimated is essential for entering the Big East Tournament. This Week: West Virginia, at Providence

#11 Indiana (24-4, #11) - Ok, so there two wins this week were squeekers against Northwestern (road) and Ohio State (home), but don't they deserve a pass for all of the b.s. they have had to deal with on account of the coaching situation? Has this team responded to Dan Dakich or are they still bitter? We don't know, but we do know that D.J. White and Eric Gordon are monsters, but its what they get out of Armon Bassett and Jordan Crawford that is going to make all of the difference. This Week: at Michigan State, Minnesota

#12 Louisville (23-6, #15) - Why did we jump them ahead of Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Purdue? Simple, these teams are all pretty much equal and the Cardinals impressed us big time with wins over Syracuse and at Pittsburgh. The final five games of their schedule is brutal, but they are off to a good start at 3-0, after last night's win over Notre Dame. When asked if he thinks his team will make a deep tournament run, Rick Pitino said "I do. I think we have depth and we execute well, and that's the key." This Week: Villanova

#13 Georgetown (23-4, #12) - Another ho-hum week with two more wins. Struggling with St. John's after Duke just throttled them by 30 is a concern. This team just doesn't seem to have the killer instinct needed to win the four straight to get to the Final Four. We don't know what they can do to make us change our minds either. This Week: at Marquette

#14 Purdue (22-6, #13) - Let the Gophers hang around way too long on their home floor, but teams play bad games from time to time. Nothing to worry about. The end of the Big Ten regular season should be fun and should tell us more about this team. They close with three winnable games and could end 16-2 playing nothing but Sophomores and Freshman. Pretty Impressive. This Week: Northwestern, at Ohio State

#15 Wisconsin (24-4, #14) - Might as well list them as tied with Purdue. A very impressive spanking of Michigan State last night has them in a half game agead of Indiana and Purdue at 14-2 with two bottom feeders left on their schedule. Bo Ryan is a genius. This Week: Penn State

#16 Vanderbilt (24-2, NR) - Mad props to Kevin Stallings for righting this ship. They are on a high after knocking off #1 Tennessee and have won seven straight. They also haven't lost at home and have a huge advantage with the baseline benches. Shan Foster is coming strong to make his bid for an All-American candidacy. They went through a rough patch in early January, but are peaking at the right time. This Week: at Arkansas, Mississippi State

On the Outside...Looking in

Notre Dame - On the cusp, but lose out after the beat down at the hands of Louisville. Luke Harangody locked in Big East Player of the Year with this 40 point outing.

Drake - Won the battle of the best mid-majors going into Hinkle Fieldhouse and beating Butler. The bad news was stubbing their toes against Missouri State three days later.

BYU - Nobody is talking about them, but the Cougars are back on the radar after winning 10 of 11 and leading the tough Mountain West at 11-2.

Butler - Hanging on by a thread here after the loss to Drake, but still dominating the Horizon League and will host the conference tournament.

Kent State - That's right, we said it. The Golden Flashes are amongst the hottest teams in America and are ranked for the first time since Antonio Gates wore basketball shoes. the Bracket Buster win at St. Mary's most likely locks them in an at-large bid, regardless of what happens in the MAC tournament.

Marquette - We've been on their case most of the year, but they remain near the top of the Big East at 11-5 and have win five straight.

Falling....Can they get up?

Kansas State - Dropping like a stone and in-fighting while doing so. Michael Beasley is still the best talent in America, but nobody seems to be helping him like they were earlier in the season. Either that, or the zone they now see every game has neutralized the rest of the team.

Mississippi - Wow, the Rebels are falling off the map. Remember when they were 15-1 and ranked as high as #10? They are now 18-9 and won't make the Tournament.

Miami-FL - Just a week ago, they were the toast of the ACC after beating Duke and Maryland. Then Clemson taught them a lesson and they sit 6-7 in the mediocre ACC which will be lucky to get a 4th bid.

Oklahoma - The Sooners were a lock two weeks ago, but losses at Texas and at Nebraska and scoring just 45 points in both games won't endear you to the committee. Remember this fact - the Big 12 has never had a Tournament team that finished 8-8 in the league.

No comments: