Welcome to the latest edition of Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis. We have a lot to get to, starting with a couple of teams that look like national championship contenders.
We start with Kansas, who had two great wins in the past week at Kentucky and against Baylor. The latter reminds everyone that Kansas is the team to beat in the Big 12 until someone knocks them off, and it’s not happening just yet. The Jayhawks are very tough to beat at Allen Fieldhouse, and they continue to ride the play of Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III as leaders of a short but very effective rotation, and also one not loaded with size.
Along the way, we go into more depth on suspended Kansas forward Carlton Bragg. While his absence is a bit of a distraction from the standpoint that it’s in the news, even when he has been healthy he hasn’t lived up to his billing. He’s another who came in with a big-time reputation, and one that may not have been entirely earned, but has never really looked the part. It leads to some discussion about the phenomenon of young players acquiring these reputations at an early age and what it can do to players, notably how today is a different time with more games on TV as well as social media.
Following that, we shift over to Villanova, a team that bounced back from a loss at Marquette with an impressive comeback win at Virginia and then won at Providence in a game where they didn’t play their best. Along the way, the current Villanova seniors have now won more games than any other class in Villanova history – topping last year’s class. An additional note to my column on this is that this group of seniors has never lost two games in a row – that is remarkable enough for one year, but even more so to do that for nearly four years.
It looks more and more like the Big East is very much Villanova’s to lose, but the Big Ten has two teams tied for the top entering this weekend, one of them an unlikely one. A year ago, Maryland was expected to be a national title contender and never quite looked like it. This year, Melo Trimble has become a leader and a clutch player, and the Terrapins are tied with Wisconsin for the top spot.
One of Maryland’s old rivals, Duke, welcomes back Mike Krzyzewski on Saturday after missing about four weeks recovering from back surgery. The Blue Devils went 4-3 while he was away, and as he returns, we’ll have to watch what happens with the lineup. Duke has dealt with numerous disruptions all year, but if healthy this team could make a deep run in March.
Along the way, we get into how the NCAA Tournament field could shape up, including some teams that in many years might seem questionable having a good shot of making it. There is a lot of mediocrity, and conferences like the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are down at the top while there are not many mid-majors who have impressive resumes this time around.
We close by looking at some notable games this weekend, including a showdown in the Big Ten bright and early on Saturday.