College Basketball Week In Review: Jan. 8-14, 2007
Posted by Mike on January 15, 2007
It’s been a very busy week in college basketball, especially if you live in Tobacco Road like me, so let’s get right to the good stuff:
- Virginia Tech Upsets #1 UNC, Cracks Top 25: The Hokies did what was thought impossible and slayed my beloved Goliath in Blacksburg on Saturday, becoming the first team since Herb Sendek’s 2003 Wolfpack to beat Duke and UNC in the same 1-week span. The pollsters rewarded them with their first top 25 ranking since, I think, ever. This win leads to two different topics in my mind:
- The Hokie win less than 1 week after Duke’s two losses supports my theory that when Duke loses Coach K (a devout Catholic) prays for UNC to lose in the near future in order to balance the college basketball equilibrium. Each of our last four non-Duke, non-Big Dance losses (VT, Gonzaga, Boston College twice) followed a Duke loss no more than one week prior (VT/Ga. Tech, Marquette, UNC). This is a trend worth tracking this season, if you find that kind of voodoo stuff amusing (which you probably do).
- NC State fans had absolutely no business running Herb Sendek out of town. His late teams were by far the best the Wolfpack have had since Jimmy V, and just one year before he left, NC State reached its first Sweet Sixteen since 1989. If he was allowed to stay (read: left the hell alone by boosters), he could have turned the Pack into a team rivaling Duke and UNC. But that’s the problem. When you’re a coach at NC State, you end up living in the shadows of two giants in your backyard. I would argue that there may not be a more pressure-filled job in college basketball, when you have to live up to those kinds of neighbors. Maybe that’s why he went as far away from Raleigh as he could and fled to Arizona State. By the way, the Sun Devils are 6-11 and on a seven game losing streak. This may be one of the rare moves that hurt both teams involved.
- Almost forgot: UNC dropped to #4. Ironically, I’m not complaining. We fully deserve being behind UCLA, Florida and Wisconsin, but we are still undoubtedly a #1 seed if tournament time was looming.
- Maryland Beats Clemson, No More Unbeatens: Once again, congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for the honor of being Division I’s last unbeaten team, initially considered by prognosticators (geez, that’s a gross-sounding word) as a weak team in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. They proved us wrong and showed that they are a strong team. Having said that, I think they will be pressed to win half of their games from this point on. Their schedule is very daunting, as they have 12 games remaining (all ACC) and only 3 are at home against unranked teams below them in the conference standings. This really could go either way. The could go 9-3 or 3-9. My guess is 5-7. This would still put them at 22-8 (8-8 ACC) and in good position for the conference and NCAA tournaments. Speaking of Clemson’s loss, ACC teams should fear the turtle, or at least keep a eye on the turtle at this point. Maryland could surprise some people.
- Duke Women Crush #1 Maryland: Yet another result I did not see coming. I certainly expected the Dookettes to be competitive in this game against the defending national champs, who return their entire lineup from last year’s squad. But Duke absolutely dominated this game from start to finish, as seniors Alison Bales and Lindsay Harding had career days, and the defense prevented Maryland from getting any momentum. The possibility of UNC-Dook being a 1-2 matchup makes it all the more interesting.
- Duke Starts 0-2 in the ACC, Behind Butler, Air Force in Rankings: I can’t believe that Dook could actually lose two straight in the ACC against unranked opponents. Then again, I can’t believe UNC lost to Va. Tech. Three stats from the Ga. Tech game stand out at me: they shot 20% from downtown, the Yellow Jackets shot 56% from the field, and Duke only shot 11 free throws. This points to me that Duke needs to play more aggressively if they want to play deep into March. If Coach K asks, I told you NOTHING.
- Oregon Wins Thriller vs. Arizona, Surprise of Nation So Far: How could anyone have expected this? The Oregon Ducks, who only received 1 top 25 vote from the two combined polls at the beginning of the year are now 9th in the AP, 10th in the Coaches Poll, 1st in the Pac-10 (having beaten Arizona and UCLA), and 20th in the RPI standings. What’s more amazing is that they have done by playing sound defense and playing with a four guard set like Villanova did last year. Speaking of surprises, if the RPI standings are any indication, the game on Feb. 20th between Air Force and UNLV in Vegas is shaping to be one of the best mid-major games this year. And speaking of mid-majors…
- What The Hell is Wrong with Wichita State? Last year the Wichita State Shockers were a force to be reckoned with, going 26-9 winning the regular season title in the tough Missouri Valley Conference and reaching the Sweet 16 before losing to a team of destiny, Final Four bound George Mason. This year they seemed to pick up where they left off, starting 9-0, beating the likes of Syracuse and LSU on the road, and reaching #8 in the polls. Since then they have lost 6 of their last seven (albeit all close against relatively tough opponents, and their one win blowout of Bradley, who also made the Sweet Sixteen) before beating Evansville this past weekend. I felt it was my duty as a journalist to investigate the crux behind Wichita State’s fall from grace. There are only two common threads that I find in 5 of the Shockers’ 6 losses (Missouri St. being the anomaly):
- Opponents in WSU’s wins have a lower shooting percentage than they do in their losses, possibly pointing to the Shockers letting up on defense for the stretch of time they lost games. But this possibly underlies a bigger problem…
- Wichita State has suddenly been unable to rely on the normal 18-20 minutes of good play from backup guard Karon Bradley. Currently, they have a nine-man rotation, and Bradley plays at the all-important position of Point Guard. Wichita State seems to always play close games, and a dropoff in his play (his scoring is way down in the losses) could tip the balance against them and be the difference between a close win and a close loss, as all 6 losses have been by 8 points or less. It would be interesting to see how he plays the rest of the season, and if as he goes, the Shockers follow.
That’s pretty much all you need to know from the week in college basketball. If I missed anything important, so sue me. Tonight I’ll be at the UNC-UConn women’s basketball game, and tomorrow I will provide a postgame analysis of the game on Tar Heel Mania.