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Picking out some early season turkeys – and sweet performances

by - Published November 23, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and that means we’re cooking up something for the holiday.

For the main course, we’re serving a few turkeys that have crept up in the college basketball nation. These conferences, teams, players and — in one case — an entire city’s judicial/law enforcement institution just aren’t getting the job done for one reason or another.

Some of these look tastier than others, but all will be heading to the chopping block if they don’t shape up soon. Some much-needed improvement could save these proverbial turkeys from the fate awaiting their avian namesakes across the country.

After the entrees, we’ve got a delicious spread of all-American winners that are worth saving room for — just like that pumpkin or apple pie. In the Protos household, my mother has added a German chocolate pie to the mix that is as mouth-watering as its more traditionally American pastries. Perhaps we need a new name for the pie. Or maybe not, as one of the coaches that we name has a distinctly Central European flavor.

Let’s get to the tryptophan-inducers first.

J’Covan Brown

How can someone putting up more than 26 ppg be on a list of turkeys? Well, when you get kicked out of a game for swearing and your young teammates subsequently choke up a double-digit lead in a few minutes, you become a turkey. Brown is absolutely essentially to a Longhorns team dominated by freshmen. After picking up a fourth foul midway through the second half against NC State, Brown protested the call with a vulgarity en route to his bench during a timeout. The referee took offense and gave Brown at technical and fifth personal, thus ending his night and beginning the Wolfpack’s comeback.

Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA isn’t exactly off to a great start, just months removed from sending VCU to the Final Four. The conference’s preseason favorite, Drexel, dropped a game to Norfolk State and then scored only 35 points in a loss to Virginia. George Mason has two overtime losses already, to Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Every team except Northeastern has at least two losses already, and five teams haven’t won more than one game.

UCLA

It’s messy out in Westwood. Heading into tonight’s game against Michigan, the Bruins are still looking for their first win against a Division I team after losing to Kansas in Maui and Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State — by 20 — at home. The team can’t hit anything right now, and Reeves Nelson earned a suspension for sulking during the team’s opening loss to Loyola Marymount. There’s time to turn it around, but if they don’t, Howland might take much of the blame for this sloppiness.

The Syracuse edition of law & order

There’s no bigger turkey in college basketball right now than the attorneys and police officials in Syracuse, N.Y. They’re not even related to Orange basketball, but they have been thrust into the spotlight by accusations that Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two ball boys over a span of more than a decade. The sordid story has devolved into people calling one another liars, and we need a functional investigation to get even close to realizing justice and revealing the truth. But the Syracuse district attorney’s office and police chief are too busy blaming each other for bungling the original investigation last decade. The DA has accused the police chief of hiding information while the police officers are calling the attorneys incompetent and unresponsive.

And now let’s enjoy some good stuff.

Coastal Carolina

The Chanticleers are back in business after injuries and suspensions derailed a promising season last February. Coastal Carolina already has knocked off power conferences foes LSU and Clemson — with the victory against the Tigers coming on the road. Besides a road game at East Carolina and a home date with Charleston, the Chanticleers look setup to post another gaudy record, which could earn this team an at-large bid if needed. That’d be a major accomplishment for the Big South.

Cleveland State

It’s certainly far more common for the Horizon League to get some extra love in the NCAA Tournament than the Big South, and the conference is certainly on the basketball nation’s radar after Butler made two consecutive trips to the title game. But with Norris Cole gone this season, the Vikings didn’t appear to be the team to beat in the conference. They certainly are playing the part after taking out Vanderbilt and Kent State on the road and a strong St. Bonaventure team at home by Lake Erie.

The cream of the crop

The top teams in the country have looked strong thus far, as North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke have performed well against some stiff competition. As mentioned plenty of times, the top teams are returning an unusual amount of top talent, thanks in large part to the NBA lockout. We should be in store for a fantastic season with plenty of epic match ups, especially come March and April.

Coach K

Speaking of Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski notched one of the sweetest accomplishments in sports in 2011 by surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA coaching history. Coach K has Duke in contention for ACC and NCAA titles nearly every season, a testament to his ability to adapt to a changing game and remain in the forefront for multiple generations of ballers.

Missouri Valley

The MVC might be the new CAA, which had been the new MVC anyways. Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and even Missouri State look like they could be in NCAA Tournament contention by the end of the regular season. Creighton annihilated Iowa on in Des Moines, while Wichita State dispatched Colorado and looked strong against Alabama and Temple.

Norfolk State

A week after losing to Marquette by 31 points, the Spartans regrouped to win three straight — including games against Drexel and TCU — before taking Marquette to the final possession in a rematch in the Paradise Jam title game in the Virgin Islands.

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