College Hoops Weekend Report
WE GO 'ROUND THE LAND WITH NEWS/NOTES/PREVIEWS AND EVEN A SNEAK PEEK AT OUR TOP SEEDS FOR MARCH MADNESS (SUBJECT TO CHANGE, OF COURSE!)
Don't dare for a minute think that the one-and-only storyline for this 2014-15 College Basketball Season is whether or not the Kentucky Wildcats (22-0 heading into Saturday's game at Florida) will stay unbeaten right to the bitter end.
Sure, the quest of the 'Cats to be perfect by year's end is riveting stuff but there's so much happening right now in the college hoops world that we figured that we'd stuff as much as we could into this weekend's Jim Sez column, so do come along for the ride! Here's some topics worth tackling on this first full weekend of February:
1 - WHO IS THE BEST LEAGUE IN THE LAND?
It's a slam dunk that the Atlantic Coast Conference - currently boasting four teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25 - is tops even though we've seen plenty of rankings put the Big 12 and even the Big East ahead of the mighty ACC - forget about it!
Maybe the lower level of the 15-team ACC field ain't great (see Boston College, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech each with just one conference win thus far) but you could make the case that it'll be an upset of sorts if the likes of Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina and Duke aren't part of the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round this spring and who's to say if two-or-more ACC teams will be still standing come the Final Four in Indianapolis?
Each and every week we're getting high-profile matchups from the mighty ACC - it's almost a round-robin effect with the league's powers banging heads and this weekend we get two such potent matchups with #10 Notre Dame at #4 Duke while the Saturday night headline game on ESPN is #9 Louisville at #3 Virginia - and can you even imagine what the ACC Tournament will look like next month!
2 - WHO ARE THE TOP COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES RIGHT NOW?
Gotta say that Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Utah's Larry Krystkowiak quickly come to mind but if you dig a bit deeper than just the ranked teams than you must include Tulsa's Frank Haith - we're big-time believers that he's been a top 10 college coach for years now with this Golden Hurricane squad sitting atop the better-than-you-think American Athletic Conference at 17-5 overall and 10-0 in league play - and how about Larry Shyatt's second tour of duty at Wyoming (19-4 overall and 8-2 inside the Mountain West Conference) where the Cowboys have met every challenge this year. Heck, Wyoming might wind up with 25-or-more wins even before we get to this year's NCAA Tournament and that might earn Shyatt's club a #5 or #6 seed, not bad.
Still, if we had to hand out a gold, silver and bronze medal for Coach of the Year, the gold would go to Brey, the silver to Haith and the bronze to Shyatt.
3 - ASIDE FROM THOSE TOP 25 HEAD-TO-HEAD SHOWDOWNS WE DISCUSSED IN YESTERDAY'S JIM SEZ, WHAT RANKED TEAMS ARE REALLY ON UPSET ALERT THIS WEEKEND?
Check this out ...#8 Kansas figures to have hands full in its Saturday matinee game at Oklahoma State as the visiting Jayhawks (19-3, 8-1 Big 12) must stop leaving so many points on the floor with missed free throws. In last Monday's 89-76 win/cover against Iowa State, Bill Self's team simply couldn't pull comfortably ahead while missing 8-of-23 FTs including front end of one-and-ones. If Kansas shoots less than 75 percent from the charity stripe here, the gritty Pokes could snag the home dog win.
And #20 Ohio State ventures into Rutgers on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET tip) and the 17-6, 6-4 Buckeyes best beware that you simply can't mail it in and get a "W" against the Scarlet Knights when they're serving as Big 10 hosts.
In fact, Ohio State has lost three conference road games this season - at Indiana, Iowa and Purdue - and in that 60-58 loss at the 1.5-point underdog Boilermakers the other night there was Thad Matta's starters shooting just 18-of-46 from the field while the entire O-State team generated a mere 9 free throws.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/month with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and pound the books today!
IT'S STILL EARLY, BUT WE'RE CHECKING
OUT THE TOP 16 SEEDS
Okay, so we know here at Jim Sez we told you all not to fret about "March Madness" till it gets here, didn't we? Well, so call us a bunch of phonies but we've come up with what we believe - right here and right now - #1-thru-#4 seeds in each bracket and so go ahead and see what you think. If the season ended today, this is how our top 16 seeds would look like: Here's the brackets as of February 6th:
- Notre Dame
- Wichita State
Can you imagine a Kentucky vs. Wichita State rematch come Sweet 16 time? Wow, that would be must-see TV and ratchet that up should the 'Cats still be there without a single loss.
- Iowa State
Let's not hear that we're "haters" when it comes to Gonzaga - currently the #2 team in the current AP rankings - as everyone knows that doesn't equate into a numero uno seed come the NCAA Tournament. But a potential Duke vs. Gonzaga showdown come Sweet 16 time would be ultra-special, no?
- North Carolina
Folks tend to forget that the Wisconsin Badgers were part of last year's magical Final Four along with champion UConn, runner-up Kentucky and Florida - hypothetically speaking couldn't Wisky beat this crowd listed here?
If we happened to get a Louisville vs. Kansas matchup in the Elite 8 round, than hold onto your shorts for one of the fastest-paced games played in modern hoops lore. First one to 90 points wins!
MORE NCAA BASKETBALL NEWS/NOTES
The Big 10 footballers spent the better part of the 2014 season getting verbally whipped by the know-it-all media and then the league had the last laugh when Ohio State won in all in the first-ever playoff.
Could we be repeating recent history here as it pertains to the hardwood?
After all, the pundits have come out of the woodwork to declare a host of Big 10 teams "dead" when it comes to the NCAA's (read Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska, among others) but the fact of the matter is this might be the deepest top-to-bottom league in the land with 10 or 11 teams jockeying for a "Big Dance" berth and maybe the night-in and night-out battles that have been taking place will serve the likes of Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue and Michigan State well - we won't be shocked if a couple of these teams makes long runs in the NCAA Tournament and wouldn't it be a kicker if Ohio State (17-6, 6-4) laid in the weeds all year and then exploded late ... yeah, just like the football team did in Columbus ...
Okay, how about the goings-on for a couple of mid-major squads that enter the weekend in first place in their respective leagues:
Northern Iowa (21-2, 10-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference) owns the tie-breaker in the MVC these days thanks to last weekend's decisive 70-54 home win against 1 ½-point favorite Wichita State and note the NIU Panthers have won 10 in a row while heading into Saturday's home game against Drake. If Northern Iowa can rub the table - and that would include a road win at Wichita State on Feb. 28th - then Ben Jacobson's crew could be thinking a top four seed come NCAA Tourney time.
And Conference USA-leading Western Kentucky (16-6, 9-1) - which hosts Rice on Saturday night - has shaken off a 1-3 start that included back-to-back-to-back non-league losses to Minnesota, Belmont and Stony Brook and note the other Hilltoppers' losses came against Murray State, Louisville and Louisiana Tech. P.S., it's possible all six of these teams could be NCAA Tournament-bound next month.
NOTE: Get all caught up with the weekend wrap-ups plus Monday/Tuesday previews in the very next edition of Jim Sez.
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