College Hoops Start-of-the-Week Primer
THE COLLEGE HOOPS START-OF-THE-WEEK PRIMER -
WE EXAMINE THE TOP TILTS ON THE MONDAY/TUESDAY B-BALL DOCKET
By Jim Hurley:
Okay, so we're now inside 30 days till NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday - only one of the five greatest sports days of the year, if you ask us! - and there's sure a whole lot of questions yet to be answered like just how many power conference teams are gonna comprise this year's 68-team field and just what sort of NCAA Tourney seeds are the non-power conference stars gonna get (we mean you, Bracket Buster winners Murray State and Wichita State!).
Let's just go on record - right here and right now - to state that we would love the tournament "pie" to be approximately two-thirds made up of the power conference or "super six" leagues and one-third comprised of the non-power conference crews and mark us down every time for giving the benefit of the doubt to the high-octane team that goes 14-2 or something like that in their league over a club that is at or below .500 in a big-time league. Is there any real reason someone like LSU (16-10, 6-6 in SEC play) should get a tournament nod over someone like an Akron (19-8 overall and 11-1 in Mid-American Conference play)?
You tell us!
In fact, sitting here right now we would believe that the likes of LSU, Seton Hall and Northwestern - go ahead and google their records, if you get a moment - don't deserve consideration when stacked up against a solid mid-major team or must we remind you once again that last year Butler and Virginia Commonwealth comprised half of the Final Four?
And now hear this...
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Okay, so let's check in the "Big Monday" and "Super Tuesday" tilts this week:
CONNECTICUT (16-10, 6-8 Big East) at VILLANOVA (11-15, 4-10 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say that the defending national champion UConn Huskies never did get this 2011-12 season jump-started after the NBA departure of guard Kemba Walker and now here at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly it's an opportunity to eyeball two rather punch-drunk teams that can't get much right these days...
The 'Nova Wildcats - maybe one of the country's two or three biggest disappointments on the hard court this year - enter this prime-time affair having lost five of its last six games and no doubt Jay Wright's club is still emotionally reeling off Saturday's 74-70 OT home loss to Notre Dame when the Wildcats blew a - get this - 20-point lead and finished up by shooting a rotten 38.1 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, UConn coach Jim Calhoun remains out of action and it sure didn't do much for assistant coach George Blaney's confidence to hear Huskies guard Shabazz Napier say the team is really hurting without Calhoun's sideline lessons - note that Napier (averaging 13 ppg) might wish to keep mouth zipped as he's shooting 38.7 percent from the floor this year. Ugh!
#9 BAYLOR (22-5, 9-5 Big 12) at TEXAS (17-10, 7-7 Big 12) - 9:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe you happened to catch some of the pre-game hoops action on CBS on Sunday afternoon when analysts Greg Anthony, Steve Lappas and Seth Davis talked about "chemistry" and said that these Baylor Bears lacked it here as we headed down the home stretch - not sure if Bears boss-man Scott Drew appreciated those comments but what's he gonna say after his club dropped its third game in four tries (to say nothing of the fact Baylor now is a dead-even 5-5 in its last 10 games straight-up)?
Baylor's latest wobbly effort came in Saturday's 57-56 home loss against 8-point underdog Kansas State and so there are major concerns for the Waco gang who once upon a time figured to be a #1 or #2 seed in next month's NCAA Tournament and now instead look like they'd be happy with a #4!
If the Baylor folks want to re-live some better times, than they can recall that January 28th win against archrival Texas (a Longhorns pointspread win at plus the 7½ points, mind you) when the Bears copped a 76-71 triumph behind the stat-sheet stuffing exploits of Perry Jones III who registered 22 points and hauled down a career-best 14 rebounds but one question for Baylor here is can it win the board battle in dominant fashion as was the case in Round I (note that Baylor out-glassed Texas 38-to-24 in last month's matchup)? Stay tuned.
On Tuesday night, it's ...
ILLINOIS (16-11, 5-9 Big 10) at #6 OHIO STATE (22-5, 10-4 Big 10) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Think there wasn't aa little bit of overtime being played on this next-to-last weekend in February?
When folks went to bed on Sunday night, they knew there was a new leader in the Big 10 race:
Michigan State - fresh off Sunday's 76-62 come-from-behind win at 4½-point pup Purdue - had first place to itself with a dazzling 11-3 league mark while Ohio State was tied with Michigan for second place and suddenly that little bit of magic that's been following around the Buckeyes all year long was gonzo.
Thad Matta's squad now has lost two of its last three games and the troublesome part of Saturday night's much-hyped 56-51 loss at 5½-point dog Michigan is that the 'Eyes shot it so darn poorly from beyond the three-point arc: Ohio State finished 3-of-16 from three-land and note the starting five accounted for that entire lackluster total - think maybe the likes of G William Buford (0-for-3 from three) and F Jared Sullinger (also 0-3 from downtown) can aim it a bit better here in this revenge game against the Fighting Illini?
Just remember that Illinois snagged a 79-74 upset win at home against 8½-point fav Ohio State way back on January 10th - Illini guard Brandon Paul poured in a career-high 43 points in that tilt and how about his final stat line that read 11-of-15 FG shooting and 13-of-15 from the foul line plus 8 rebounds in 36 rollicking minutes of play! Do not expect Mr. Paul to get that many clean looks at the hoop here -- and shame on Matta's guys if he does!
#1 KENTUCKY (26-1, 12-0 SEC) at MISS STATE (19-8, 6-6 SEC) - 9:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
Last but certainly not least is a look here at the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats who - let's say it the way we see it - are right now head-and-shoulders better than any team in the land.
Want some proof in numbers?
John Calipari's club hasn't lost a game since December 10th - folks, that winning streak reached a mind-numbing 18 with last Saturday's 77-62 non-cover victory against 20½-point dog Ole Miss - and afterwards Rebels boss-man Andy Kennedy told media folks that this Kentucky team is the best squad he's faced in six years of coaching in thee SEC.
Perhaps Miss State - a team that plays hard-nosed defense and can block a shot or two - can force the 'Cats to take more perimeter jumpers but it remains a pick-your-poison deal with this 2011-12 Kentucky club that last game out had five players register double-digit scoring totals while shooting a neat 48.3 percent from the field (that was 28-of-58 against Ole Miss).
Now crunch these numbers: National Player of the Year frontrunner (says us) freshman F Anthony Davis is averaging 13.9 ppg, 9.7 rebounds-per-game and is shooting 65.5 percent from the floor (yes, many of 'em dunks, of course) but can you think of any Kentucky player this good in his first year at school? We can't.
Okay, so these are the headliner games on this Monday/Tuesday night late in the month of February but don't sleep on some other early-week goodies including Tuesday'sKansas Staate-Missouri clash along with North Carolina at N.C. State.
The "madness" will be here officially soon - but keep your eyes on who's really peaking as we play out the final days in February.
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball Mid-Week Update in the next Jim Sez and don't forget that later this week we will bring you our NBA First-Half Report Card Grades... Enroll right now in Jim Hurley's Network's® The Executive Key Basketball Club... currently 15-5-1 in the last 10 days... Don't miss another day of these outstanding winning palys.
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