At The Top:
Duke struggled in both of their games in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. However, they won both, beating Drexel by 10, and defeating Memphis by 3 in a great game. They were not overly impressive, however. Connecticut looks like the best team in the country after winning the stacked Maui Invitational. They defeated Arkansas, Arizona, and Gonzaga en route to a title. The Huskies don't look like they are as good as they can be, though. That's scary. Texas escaped against West Virginia, and then came back against Iowa to win the Guardians Classic. They did not look like one of the top 3 teams in the country most of the time. Daniel Gibson turned it over too much, and the frontcourt players were somewhat inconsistent.
Rest of the Best:
Gonzaga looks like the best outside of the Big Three, and possibly even better than Texas. Adam Morrison could be the best offensive player in the country, while JP Batista and Derek Raivio are impressive. They beat Maryland and Michigan State in a game for the ages before falling to UConn in the Maui final. Boston College escaped against Drake and Oklahoma State, and Craig Smith is not playing like the dominant player he can be. Tyrese Rice is providing scoring punch from the perimeter. Michigan State showed they are a top team, after nearly beating Gonzaga and defeating Arizona. There is something that seems to be missing, though. Memphis has been extremely impressive in the Preseason NIT. They dominated every team they played, up until falling to Duke in a great game. The Tigers are athletic and can take most teams in a one-on-one type game. Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney are possibly the best forward combo in the nation. Iowa looked good against Kentucky, and nearly knocked off Texas. Adam Haluska and Greg Brunner are a good inside-outside duo. Villanova and Oklahoma have not really played anyone yet, but are looking solid. They play each other Saturday in what should be a classic game. Kentucky has not had consistent play from their wing players. Rajon Rondo is showing that he is one of the best players in the country, while Rekalin Sims is solid down low. They lost a tight game to Iowa, but won handily over West Virginia. West Virginia had a very tough week, going 0-3 against quality opponents. They fell to Texas by one, then got beaten by Kentucky in the Guardians Classic. On Saturday, the Mountaineers lost to LSU by 3 in overtime. Arizona showed that they were not ready for their lofty preseason expectations, after struggling with Kansas, and then losing to UConn and Michigan State. They are, however, going to be a very good team by the end of the season.
Teams on the Rise:
Washington might be the best team in the Pac-10. Jon Brockman, Bobby Jones, and Jamaal Williams are developing into the best frontcourt in the conference, while Brandon Roy is one of the best all-around guards in the country. Nevada and George Washington are quietly winning games against lower-tier teams, and are padding their records. LSU got a huge win on the road against West Virginia Saturday night. Darrell Mitchell and Glen Davis are one of the best inside-outside combos in the country, while the slew of freshmen frontcourt players are producing very well. Tasmin Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas are impressive. Wisconsin is quietly making moves in the Big Ten. Alando Tucker is one of the best players in the country, while Kammron Taylor has demonstrated his ability to be a scoring point guard. Indiana is averaging over 100 points per game, and are looking to pull off the upset over Duke this upcoming week.
UCLA looked vulnerable in games against Delaware State and Drexel, and nearly lost to the Dragons. They also nearly got blown out of the gym by Memphis in the Preseason NIT. Wake Forest still really has not figured out their point guard situation. Justin Gray moved to the two-guard this week, leaving freshman Harvey Hale at the point. That won't work in the ACC. Syracuse got upset by Bucknell, and has not looked consistent this season. Bucknell, on the other hand, will make some serious noise this season. Iowa State got blown out by Iona in the Cyclone Challenge. Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock are doing all they can, but the Cyclones are getting absolutely no inside production. Illinois needed a last second shot from Warren Carter, as well as a called-off half-court shot from Wichita State, to beat the Shockers. Miami needs point guard Anthony Harris back. They got destroyed by Temple without him. Charlotte is still on the decline. They got blown out by Mississippi State on their homecourt, and only scored NINE points in the first half.
Marquette won the Great Alaska Shootout, with a win over South Carolina. The Golden Eagles had excellent games from Steve Novak, who hit six threes, and Ryan Amaroso, who dominated the interior. Dominic James has been one of the best freshman in the country at the point. On the other hand, the Gamecocks showed their athleticism and their ability to get second-chance points. Temple had a big win over Miami on Sunday. Mardy Collins and co. could be a sleeper NCAA team later in the season. Northwestern State had a big win at Mississippi State on Saturday. They could be a sleeper Cinderella squad. Old Dominion is one of the best candidates to make a run in the NCAA Tournament from a mid-major conference. They are quietly beating good teams, and nearly pulled off the upset at Wisconsin.
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