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Tuesday Morning Point Guard

January 23, 2004 Columns No Comments


Tuesday Morning Point Guard

by Dean Austin

Greetings and salutations gentle readers on another crazy week of basketball where anyone can and will beat anyone else. The funny thing is that when all is said and done Connecticut could be a pre season No. 1 that wins it all and yet I could make the case for well over thirty teams winning the Big Dance.

Read on . . .

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. Every week I vote in the Hoopville Top 25. I have to say that this week was by far the hardest. Duke and Stanford as No. 1 and No. 2 were relatively easy as were Louisville and Cincinnati at No. 3 and No. 4. Then it gets interesting. When it full flight I’ve yet to see a better team this year than Arizona. The Wildcats lost to USC, an amazing result, but I can’t put them lower than No. 5.

2. I’m loathe to rank Saint Joseph’s high but how can you not? Jameer Nelson is playing out of his skull and raising the game of all of those around him. The Hawks, and their silly mascot are in at No. 6. Gonzaga lost to Saint Joseph’s in their first game and have never returned to the high reaches of the polls. I’m not sure why. Remember that Ronny Turiaf had only limited minutes in that game and subsequently the Zags have beaten a tricky Georgia squad who constantly play to the level of their competition and a nasty Maryland team capable of beating anyone. Sure Gonzaga lost to Stanford but there’s no shame in that, the Zags are in at No. 7. My Hoopville Top 25 was entered Sunday night, as always, and prior to the Pittsburgh vs. Connecticut game. That being said given the 3 point difference on Connecticut’s court I’m not sure I wouldn’t leave Pittsburgh at No. 8 and Connecticut at No. 10 anyway. The Huskies seem to have the most individual talent in the country, but have failed to play as a team. Speaking of which, a group of five individuals who just might become a team under Roy Williams has North Carolina at No. 9.

3. Syracuse had moved all the way up to the No. 11 spot in my own voting however their defeat against Seton Hall will change that next week. Still flying under the radar is Bobby Knight and his Texas Tech team at No. 12. College Basketball’s Jekyll and Hyde, Texas, sits in No. 13 while the team they smacked around, Wake Forest comes in at No. 14 which leaves Kentucky at No. 15. And to be honest I thought of placing Tubby Smith’s squad lower, but couldn’t justify any of the teams below them being placed higher. Wake Forest fell to earth with a thud this past week with losses to both Texas and Duke. That streak has continued this week with a loss against Georgia Tech which is no disgrace. Obviously the Demon Deacons will fall in the poll next week but not as far as you might think. This is a team that could easily make a Final Four run.

So the first 15 of my Hoopville Top 25 weren’t easy but at least didn’t take the better part of a day. Not so the next 10 which were a real challenge.

4. Dropping into the No. 16 slot are one of my favorites, Vanderbilt. The Commodores always seem to lose against Kentucky but balanced that nicely with a great win over Florida. Sandwiched in between was a defeat at Tennessee. Funnily enough I rate the Vols a bit better than most, as you shall see and so didn’t penalize Vanderbilt as much as a defeat against an unranked team. Sitting just below Vanderbilt at No. 17 is South Carolina and here is a perfect example of the subjective nature of polls. You can argue, Gamecocks’ fans, that South Carolina should be ranked ahead of Vanderbilt as Dave Odom’s squad beat Tennessee which beat Vanderbilt. And you’re right. The flip side of course is that the Commodores can argue that they beat Florida while South Carolina lost to the Gators. What it comes down to is I like Vanderbilt’s losses to Kentucky and Tennessee rather than South Carolina’s to Temple and Florida. One of the few squads I thought about shifting about Kentucky was early season darling Georgia Tech. In all honesty I think I’ve placed them so low because of the pasting they took against North Carolina. But at the moment they are No. 18. Rounding out my top 20 in the voting for Hoopville Top 25 are quite possibly the two squads no-one will want to play at the Sweet Sixteen level, Maryland and Florida. Losses to Vanderbilt and Maryland keep the Gators at No. 20 but I haven’t forgotten their early season win over Arizona. Maryland has lost too many games to be ranked higher but as evidence by their victories over Florida and Wisconsin Gary Williams’ team is capable.

5. The last five places go to a mixed bag of teams. Those that should be playing better but aren’t such as Oklahoma at No. 21 and Kansas at No. 22, teams that have only one defeat but haven’t played much of anyone such as Mississippi State at No. 24 and teams that I like such as Tennessee, No. 23, even if they do have weird defeats against Nebraska. And at No. 25 probably my strangest pick; Georgia. The classic example of a team that plays to their opponent’s strength the Bulldogs have victories over Georgia Tech and Kentucky and lost by twenty to Winthrop!

6. Just missing the Hoopville Top 25 Utah and Utah State. Utah has only defeats against Connecticut, LSU and Texas Tech and holds a victory over Utah State which is the Aggies only loss. At Utah State Stew Morrill’s squad hasn’t really beaten anyone except BYU so it is hard to rank them in the Top 25. As regular readers know, LSU is another team I like year in and year out. Losing to Houston was bad enough but winning by only 3 points against Centenary is the biggest reason not to have the Tigers sneak into the last place of the Top 25. There are others, Oklahoma State for example but they lost to BYU and got blown out by Texas Tech. The win over Oklahoma was nice but I still have Utah, Utah State and LSU ahead of them.

6a: Notice something about that list. Not a single Big 10 team, not one. And seven SEC teams with an eighth knocking on the door.

7. Ironically Pittsburgh losing to Connecticut by only 3 points could do more for them than the previous 18 victories. So-so victories against Georgetown KY, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Miami made this team hard to figure. Certainly victories over Alabama, Georgia and Florida State indicated a reasonable talent level. Syracuse is next this Saturday and will give observers a good benchmark for both teams.

8. Obviously the tension has been building in administration buildings around the country. Who are the final two on Austin’s list? Mike Montgomery, Lute Olsen, Mike Kryzewski, Paul Hewitt, Bob Knight, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Kelvin Sampson are joined by two from the Big 10, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan.

8a: With apologies to John Chaney at Temple. Ask me to list the Top 10 of the last twenty years and Chaney would be in that list, but I honestly don’t think that Chaney is one of the top ten coaches today.

9. Coaches that nearly made the cut include Stew Morrill at Utah State, Dennis Felton at Georgia, Roy Williams at North Carolina, Bill Self at Kansas, John Beilen at West Virginia, Jim Baron at Rhode Island, Dana Altman at Creighton, Ben Braun at California, Rick Stansbury at Mississippi State, Gene Keady at Purdue, Charlie Coles at Miami and Mark Few at Gonzaga.

9a: I’ve never been a fan of Gary Williams at Maryland, Jim Calhoun at Connecticut and Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. I’m sure they all go to sleep at night, looking at the national championship, saying “but if only I’d been in Austin’s Top 10!”

10. Is there any other game this week than Louisville vs. Cincinnati? While I rank the Bearcats fairly high this is their first real opportunity to play against a team of substance. Louisville to a certain extent is on a hiding to nothing. If they win, the comment will be that Cincinnati was over rated and had not played anyone, but if they lose they will fall in the polls.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. I’m curious as to the lack of reaction to Michelle Wie. This is one of the great sport stories of the past decade and yet it made a splash for all of 24 hours. Sure she knew the course inside out but even so we are talking about a 14 year old missing the cut on a PGA event by one stroke. There seemed to be almost an attitude that this was old hat after Annika Sorenstam and Suzy Whaley played in Men’s events last year. Folks this was a 14 year old.

2. Seems to me to be rather a ho hum Super Bowl this year. As suspected the AFC teams kind of beat themselves up however I don’t think Carolina is a team that can take advantage.

2a: Anyone remember that it was the Raiders who ran John Fox out of town a couple of years ago? That’s the same John Fox who leads his Panthers into the Super Bowl this year. Meanwhile the Raiders are still looking for a coach, although they are said to be zeroing in on Dallas Assistant Head Coach Sean Payton.

3. That’s one messed up system that the good old boys of NASCAR have come up with. All they had to do was change the number of points for a victory and it would have been fine.

4. Yeah, the Australian Open is on. Wake me up when it is time for Wimbledon, the only Tennis event that really matters.

5. Classic example of how much FIFA President Sepp Blatter is out of touch with his comments this past week that woman soccer players should wear tighter shorts. Resign Mr. Blatter.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. There is something as too much of a good thing. CBS has announced that there will be a CSI New York premiering next season. Why New York? It’s such a cliche to put a cop show in New York. New Orleans doesn’t have enough going on that it couldn’t be picked? Maybe they could put it in San Diego and Rick and AJ Simon could turn up?

1a: Yeah I’ll end up watching it.

1b: The original CSI this past week was unbelievably superb featuring an unsolved crime along with a great explanation of why the Grissom – Sidle romance didn’t happen.

2. So how about a three part “sweeps” event next year on CBS which combines CSI Miami, CSI New York and the occasionally excellent Without a Trace? Heck, have Grissom and a couple of others in town for a convention to kick it off.

3. I know I mentioned it only last week but if you haven’t watched Wire in the Blood yet you really really should.

     

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