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Monday, December 31, 2007
The Week Ahead
Connecticut at Seton Hall (Thursday, 7:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Big East opener for both teams. Connecticut has lost only two games all season, to Memphis and Gonzaga, and look like an at-large contender. Seton Hall has been up-and-down but it has the scoring potential to play with anyone.
West Virginia at Notre Dame (Thursday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): Another solid Big East battle. West Virginia is coming off a double-overtime loss to Oklahoma at home, while Notre Dame has won seven in a row heading into the week. Both teams would like to get off to a good start in league play.
Providence at Marquette (Thursday, 9:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): A third marquee match-up in the Big East on Thursday. Providence has been somewhat inconsistent at times this year, but the Friars are coming off a 101-point performance against Florida State. Marquette’s only loss came to Duke by four points.
Oregon at Arizona State (Thursday, 9:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Interesting Pac-10 match-up. Oregon was expected to fight for a top-3 spot in the league, but the Ducks have struggled this year and need to get on the right track. Arizona State has won six in a row, including a blowout over Xavier.
UCLA at Stanford (Thursday, 10:30 PM, FSN): Two of the contenders in the Pac-10 square off. UCLA is one of the best teams in the country and is a legit national title contender. Stanford struggled early in the year but the Cardinal have won seven in a row and have Brook Lopez back.
USC at California (Thursday, 10:30 PM): Another intriguing battle out west. USC is probably the best three-loss team in the country, but it will be interesting to see how the Trojans’ young guns react in the league opener. California looks like it should be in the running for an at-large bid in March.
Top Non-Conference Games
Kansas State at Xavier (Monday, 7:00 PM, ESPNU): Two teams looking to boost their at-large resumes before conference play. Kansas State has won four in a row but needs another big victory, while Xavier remains the Atlantic-10 favorite despite losing two of its last three.
Utah at Gonzaga (Monday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): A decent match-up out west. Utah looks like a contender in the Mountain West, as it has won six of its last seven. Gonzaga has lost two in a row and three of five, and need to get back on the right track heading into WCC play.
Clemson at Alabama (Tuesday, 4:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Should be a game filled with extraordinary athletes on both teams. Clemson might be in the running for a top-3 spot in the ACC, while Alabama could use a decent win to boost its chances of a bid out of the SEC West.
Akron at Dayton (Wednesday, 7:00 PM): An intrastate contest in the Midwest. Akron has won five in a row and nine of ten, but plays in the loaded MAC, meaning it needs resume-boosting wins like this badly. Dayton would be in the NCAA Tournament as of now, especially after its blowout of Pittsburgh this past weekend.
Houston at Massachusetts (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, CSTV): Two teams that look like surprises in their respective conferences. Houston was expected to be solid but not this good – the Cougars have just a one-point loss to VCU in the negative column. UMass is another solid Atlantic-10 group.
Kent State at North Carolina (Wednesday, 8:00 PM, ESPN): Another good mid-major visiting Chapel Hill. Kent State is arguably the MAC favorite, despite excellent showings so far from teams like Akron and Miami (Ohio). North Carolina is playing like one of the best teams in the country.
New Mexico at UTEP (Wednesday, 9:05 PM): Battle in the Southwest. New Mexico has won five in a row after back-to-back losses and is looking to get momentum heading into MWC play. UTEP could be another decent team in Conference-USA after winning its last five games.
Virginia at Xavier (Thursday, 8:00 PM, CSTV): One of the best games of the week. Virginia is 10-2 and could be in line for an at-large berth with a good ACC performance. A win here would do wonders, though. Xavier needs to pick up its play in the Atlantic-10 if it wants a bid.
Siena at Memphis (Thursday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): Sure, it’s likely to be a blowout. However, Siena has shown the ability to beat quality teams as it knocked off Stanford earlier this year. Memphis is looking like a Final Four favorite and a tough team to beat when the Tigers are at their peak.
Other Conference Openers
Cincinnati at Louisville (Tuesday, 2:30 PM, ESPN): Cincinnati doesn’t look like it will be much of a threat in the Big East; Louisville is starting to get healthy, which bodes well for conference play.
Illinois State at Wichita State (Tuesday, 8:05 PM): Solid battle in the Missouri Valley. Illinois State pulled off a huge road win by knocking off Creighton; Wichita State fell at home to Drake.
VCU at James Madison (Wednesday, 7:00 PM): Surprisingly good intrastate conference game in the CAA. VCU is the league favorite, while JMU looks like a sleeper after a good non-conference showing.
Wisconsin at Michigan (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Don’t expect an upset, especially after Wisconsin’s great road win over Texas Saturday. Michigan needs to improve drastically in the Big Ten.
Rutgers at South Florida (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): Will either of these teams reach the Big East Tournament? Both teams have shown flashes this year, but USF has more talent than RU at this point.
St. John’s at Syracuse (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Both teams are looking for answers heading into Big East play. St. John’s has problems everywhere, while Syracuse needs to replace Eric Devendorf.
Arkansas-Little Rock at New Orleans (Wednesday, 8:00 PM): Early-season tilt in the Sun Belt. Arkansas-Little Rock has lost two in a row since starting 9-1, while New Orleans has wins over Colorado, NC State and Tulane.
Bradley at Missouri State (Wednesday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): Another chance for these two MVC teams to get some momentum. Bradley lost at home this weekend to Northern Iowa, Missouri State to Southern Illinois.
Southern Illinois at Drake (Wednesday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): The preseason MVC favorite vs. the up-and-coming MVC contender. SIU is only 6-6 on the year, while Drake is 10-1 and No. 19 in the RPI.
Penn State at Northwestern (Wednesday, 9:00 PM, ESPN2): Two of the worst major-conference programs in the country square off. However, both teams are currently riding four-game winning streaks.
Indiana at Iowa (Wednesday, 9:05 PM, Big Ten Network): One of the league favorites against a cellar-dweller. Indiana has some of the best talent in the country, while Iowa has lost six of nine.
Georgia Southern at Davidson (Thursday, 7:00 PM): Interesting match-up in the Southern. Georgia Southern is 2-0 in the conference and has played Florida and URI close. 4-6 Davidson was everyone’s preseason darling, but it has struggled.
Ohio State at Illinois (Thursday, 8:00 PM, ESPN): Two teams looking to close the gap between the top-3 and the rest of the league. OSU has won five in a row, but Illinois just lost at home to Tennessee State.
Oregon State at Arizona (Thursday, 8:30 PM, Regional TV): Although Arizona will be without star freshman Jerryd Bayless because of a sprained knee, it won’t have a problem with OSU, who has losses to Alaska-Fairbanks, Tennessee Tech and Montana State.
Villanova at DePaul (Thursday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): Is there a more overlooked good team than Villanova? The Wildcats are 10-1 and look like an NCAA Tournament squad, but they get no pub. DePaul is going to have trouble making the league tourney.
Linked Up, Dec. 31
- Arizona freshman guard Jerryd Bayless sprained his right knee Friday, causing him to miss Saturday’s game against Memphis. It will also likely keep him out at least another two weeks. (Arizona Daily Star)
- Pittsburgh junior guard Levance Fields will miss eight to twelve weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot during Saturday’s game against Dayton. He will undergo surgery today. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
- The long-awaited arrival of Texas freshman Gary Johnson is finally here. The 6-7 forward has been cleared to play beginning Wednesday after not being allowed to play in games all season. (Dallas Morning News)
- Florida State freshmen centers Solomon Alabi and Julian Vaughn are both out for extended periods of time. Alabi will miss for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right leg that requires surgery, while Vaughn reportedly has an irregular heartbeat and is out definitely. (Tallahassee Democrat)
- Skip Myslenski writes that Michigan State is the favorite in the Big Ten, mainly because of its improved big men. He also evaluates the rest of the conference heading into league play. (Chicago Tribune)
- Anything less than a top-3 finish in the Big East would be a disappointment for Marquette, which has been pointing to this season for a couple of years. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Memphis went an astonishing 34-1 in 2007 -- a "special run" as coach John Calipari called it. Dan Wolken looks at the ten best Tiger moments from the past year. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- 5-6 Kentucky, which has just two non-conference games remaining, has a chance to bounce back and possibly turn its season around tonight against Florida International. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
- Washington is looking for its fifth win in a row heading into Pac-10 play tonight against Idaho State after going on the road and beating LSU over the weekend. (Seattle Times)
- Dick Jerardi gives his College Basketball Wrap, touching on a variety of topics, including Penn; Florida; Wisconsin's Boy Ryan; Oklahoma and Blake Griffin; undefeated teams and much more. He also gives his top-15 -- Memphis is No. 1, Dayton No. 6. (Philadelphia Daily News)
More to come later...
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Dec. 30 Player of the Week: Brian Butch
Despite the holiday-shortened week, there was plenty of outstanding basketball played the past few days. We had the A.J. Graves pull-up three to beat Southern Illinois; great finishes in the Oklahoma-West Virginia, Wisconsin-Texas and Florida State-Georgia Tech games; and marquee match-ups with Tennessee vs. Gonzaga and Memphis vs. Arizona. With all the great hoops came standout performances from across the country, including Dayton’s Brian Roberts, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, Winthrop’s Michael Jenkins and Tennessee’s Tyler Smith. However, the best overall performance which helped his team win came from Brian Butch of Wisconsin.
Butch came into school as a highly-touted big man who was expected to make an immediate impact for the Badgers. However, he never really lived up to his billings through most of his career in Madison aside from the occasional big game here and there. Well, coach Bo Ryan needed him on Saturday on the road against top-10 Texas and he came through in a major way. With leading scorer Trevon Hughes out, Butch had to step-up, and he did, scoring 21 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and also dishing out three assists. Butch was also clutch, hitting several big shots in the second half to keep Wisconsin in the game. On the season, Butch is averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
It remains to be seen if Butch will ever live up to his high school press clippings, as he has shown this type of ability before – only to fall back to a 10-point, five-rebound performance the next game. If Hughes is still out, the Badgers will need Butch to become a go-to-guy and a leader on the court. With Big Ten conference play looming around the corner, the senior is going to have to finish his career on a high note. Luckily for him and the Badgers, they open the Big Ten with an enormously easy schedule, playing four of the six games at home, with the only road games at Michigan and Penn State. It’s a great chance for Butch to continue his stellar play.
Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes weekly columns for Collegehoops.net.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Wisconsin (+7) at Texas (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN2): Two of the more successful programs in the last decade or so, this game should be a factor when it comes to seeding both teams in March. Wisconsin has been a solid team without Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, sitting at 9-2. However, the Badgers have no significant wins and lost to Duke and Marquette in their only tough games. Trevon Hughes has emerged as a scorer in the backcourt for Wisconsin, while Brian Butch has finally performed up front. Texas has been one of the best teams in the country all season despite the loss of Kevin Durant to the NBA. D.J. Augustin has stepped up at both ends of the floor and could be the best point guard in the country right now. The only loss Texas has was at the hands of Michigan State on the road last weekend. Prediction: Texas 75, Wisconsin 64
Tennessee (+1.5) at Gonzaga (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN2): Although it is one of the last marquee non-conference match-ups of the season, this should be an outstanding game. Both teams are very deep; they like to get up-and-down the floor in transition but also have the ability and personnel to get points and defend in a half-court setting. Tennessee will press the entire game, especially after made baskets, hoping to force turnovers and create easy baskets. Gonzaga has players who can run the floor, but it also has plenty of good shooters who can get open in the half-court, which makes them more difficult to defend. Prediction: Gonzaga 79, Tennessee 75 Click here for the rest of this week's Game of the Week
Oklahoma (+8) at West Virginia (Saturday, 6:00 PM, ESPN2): A battle between two squads that are doing better than predicted in their respective conferences. Oklahoma looks like an NCAA Tournament contender in the Big 12 as it has notched back-to-back wins over Arkansas and Gonzaga. Freshman Blake Griffin and center Longar Longar are a very good frontcourt duo. West Virginia has been outstanding in its first season under new coach Bob Huggins, with its only loss at the hands of Tennessee. The Mountaineers still run a difficult-to-defend offense but now play tough man-to-man defense. Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff are a very good wing duo on a team that can do a variety of things offensively. Prediction: West Virginia 73, Oklahoma 66
Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Dayton (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2): Match-up between two of the more surprising 10-win teams in the country. Pittsburgh has always been a good early-season team, but this year’s version solidified itself among the nation’s best when it came back to win in overtime against Duke last week in New York. DeJuan Blair is one of the best freshmen in the country. Dayton has only a loss at George Mason between itself and an undefeated record. The Flyers have wins over Miami (Ohio), Louisville and Holy Cross – all on the road. Senior guard Brian Roberts is one of the best perimeter players in the country and could be the favorite for Atlantic-10 Player of the Year – and that’s saying something, especially this year. Prediction: Pittsburgh 67, Dayton 64
Arizona (-8.5) at Memphis (Saturday, 10:00 PM, ESPN2): As with most Memphis and Arizona games, expect an up-and-down contest filled with plenty of transition basketball and plenty of points. Arizona is the nation’s top-ranked team in the RPI, and has reeled off six straight very impressive victories since falling in overtime to Kansas at home. Chase Budinger and freshman Jerryd Bayless are one of the best wing tandems in the country, while Jordan Hill is emerging as a consistent post presence down low. Memphis had struggled somewhat heading into last weekend, but its 14-point victory over Georgetown quieted the doubters for now. The Tigers are my No. 1 team and are ranked No. 2 in the polls. Freshman Derrick Rose is an outstanding point guard, while junior wing Chris Douglas-Roberts finally awoke from his recent slump. Prediction: Prediction: Memphis 83, Arizona 73
Other Games to Watch
Washington (+5) at LSU (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Can either of these teams contend in their respective conferences? Washington has won three in a row since losing four of five and could be hitting its stride. LSU has been up-and-down all year, but the Tigers have talent. Prediction: LSU 77, Washington 71
Northern Iowa (+4.5) at Bradley (Saturday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): One of many quality Missouri Valley Conference battles this weekend. Bradley was projected to finish second in the league in the preseason, but it has lost two in a row and three of four. Northern Iowa has been very inconsistent in the past month. Prediction: Bradley 69, Northern Iowa 58
Winthrop (OFF) at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 4:30 PM, Regional TV): Usually, these two teams are flip-flopped when it comes to success. However, this season Miami is 11-0 while Winthrop is only 6-5 with five losses in its last eight games, including one to Mount St. Mary’s. Miami should head into ACC play at 13-0. Prediction: Miami (Fl.) 63, Winthrop 55
Fresno State (+20) at Stanford (Saturday, 5:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Battle in California. Fresno State has won two in a row and could potentially be a contender in the wide-open WAC. Stanford won at Texas Tech last weekend and look like an NCAA Tournament team now that Brook Lopez is back in the lineup. Prediction: Stanford 68, Fresno State 57
Miami (Ohio) (-3.5) at Cincinnati (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Intrastate contest. Miami (Ohio) might have been in the mix for an at-large bid if it hung with Kansas last weekend, but it was blown out and just needs to keep its resume strong. Cincinnati needs momentum heading into Big East play. Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 62, Cincinnati 59
Illinois State (+6.5) at Creighton (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): The MVC is wide-open this season, and these two teams have as good of a chance as any to win the league. Illinois State has won three in a row and five of six, while Creighton is a surprising 9-1 in its “rebuilding” year. Prediction: Creighton 75, Illinois State 64
Drake (+1.5) at Wichita State (Saturday, 8:05 PM): Another big first game for both teams to kick off conference play. Drake has been a surprise so far this season, winning its last eight games and looking impressive doing it too. Its only loss is at Saint Mary’s by six points. Wichita State has won back-to-back games over LSU and UAB. Prediction: Wichita State 71, Drake 65
BYU (-4.5) at Boise State (Saturday, 8:30 PM, Regional TV): An underrated battle of big men out west. BYU has one of the best post players in the country in Trent Plaisted, while Boise State counters with a terrific duo in Matt Nelson and Reggie Larry. Both teams might be the favorites in their respective conferences right now. Prediction: BYU 73, Boise State 71
Missouri (+2.5) at Mississippi State (Sunday, 1:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Two teams that really need a win in order to boost their at-large profile and get momentum heading into conference play. Missouri started strong at 5-1 but is only 4-3 in its last seven games, while MSU went from possible SEC West favorite to marginal bubble team. Prediction: Mississippi State 77, Missouri 70
Missouri State (+6.5) at Southern Illinois (Sunday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Two of the disappointments in the conference. Missouri State is just 6-5 after losing two in a row, while Southern Illinois is just 5-5 heading into a huge non-conference game tonight against Butler. The Salukis were expected to be a top-25 team all year, but have struggled thus far. Prediction: Southern Illinois 60, Missouri State 51
Florida State (+4) at Georgia Tech (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): The ACC is going to be very unpredictable this season, mainly because of the extensive middle-of-the-pack it has – and these two teams are right in there. Florida State has shown the ability to knock off Florida and Minnesota but also lose to Cleveland State and South Florida. Georgia Tech has plenty of talent but has yet to put it all together at both ends of the floor. Prediction: Georgia Tech 83, Florida State 77
Minnesota (+2) at UNLV (Sunday, 7:00 PM): Two of the top-32 RPI teams in the country square off in what could be a surprisingly solid non-conference game. Minnesota has been solid in its first year under Tubby Smith, losing only at Florida State – although the Golden Gophers have played a soft schedule. UNLV has three tough losses to Arizona, Louisville and UCSB. Prediction: UNLV 71, Minnesota 64
Valparaiso (+22.5) at North Carolina (Sunday, 7:30 PM, FSN): Don’t laugh at this one (although I also said that last week against UCSB). Valpo has just two losses on the season, one at undefeated Vanderbilt and one at Wisconsin, two games in which the Crusaders hung in there throughout. North Carolina is emerging as one of the handful of teams that look like early favorites to cut down the nets. Prediction: North Carolina 88, Valparaiso 69
The Missing Links, December 28
- Texas head coach Rick Barnes believes freshman Gary Johnson will be cleared to play soon, but will use Dexter Pittman more until then. (ESPN.com)
- Memphis junior forward Robert Dozier performs well in big games, but needs to develop consistency if he is going to fulfill his vast potential. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- Arizona poses a more difficult challenge to Memphis than Georgetown did because of its talent and ability to match-up with the Tigers. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- The most intriguing personnel match-up this weekend is going to be a battle of freshmen: Memphis' Derrick Rose vs. Arizona's Jerryd Bayless. (Tucson Citizen)
- Syracuse freshman point guard Jonny Flynn is already being mentioned among the all-time great Orange point guards and the best guards in the country. (Syracuse Post-Standard)
- With the injured Mike Cook out for the season, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon will turn to redshirt freshman Gilbert Brown to fill the void in the starting lineup. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- North Carolina junior guard Bobby Frasor tore the ACL in his left knee on Thursday and will miss the rest of the season. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Washington hasn't won a non-conference road game since 2004, but will try to break that streak Saturday at LSU. (Seattle Times)
- Washington senior guard Tim Morris broke his nose in practice on Thursday, but will still start against LSU Saturday. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Georgia Tech seems to be hitting its stride just in time for conference play, which starts Sunday against Florida State. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- There are myriad reasons for Maryland's 6-6 start, including inconsistent offense; not winning at home against teams it should beat; slow starts to games; and freshmen playing like freshmen. (Baltimore Sun)
- St. John's redshirt freshman forward Rob Thomas is finally back on the basketball court after overcoming illiteracy at the age of 17, dyslexia and a severe knee injury last season. (New York Times)
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Missing Links, December 27
- Louisville senior center David Padgett has been cleared to work out and could return against West Virginia on Jan. 10. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
- North Carolina State point guard Farnold Degand is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- With Degand out, head coach Sidney Lowe will start freshman Javi Gonzalez and possibly use Tennessee transfer Marques Johnson for the first time this season. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Former Kentucky freshman guard Alex Legion has announced he will transfer to Illinois, where he will be eligible after the first semester next season. (Chicago Tribune)
- Former Kentucky, Arkansas, Creighton and Oklahoma State head coach Eddie Sutton will be the new interim head coach at San Francisco, replacing Jessie Evans. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- New Mexico State freshmen Herb Pope will begin to practice with the team and could appear in the Aggies' next game after the state district judge signed a restraining order against the NCAA in order to make Pope eligible. NMSU is still worried about possible sanctions if he plays in a game, though. (Las Cruces Sun-News)
- Indiana guard A.J. Ratliff was ruled academically eligible and can now play for the Hoosiers, but an injured right ankle is keeping him sidelined. (Indianapolis Star)
- Kansas State freshmen Dominique Sutton and Jamar Samuels have been cleared to play by the NCAA. (Kansas City Star)
- People across the country are beginning to take notice of the Miami Hurricanes and their 12-0 record. (Miami Herald)
- Connecticut needs to avoid a repeat of last season, when the Huskies went just 2-8 on the road and stumbled after an 11-0 start. (Hartford Courant)
- UCLA sophomore guard Russell Westbrook has taken departed guard Arron Afflalo's role as defensive stopper for the Bruins. (Los Angeles Times)
- Senior Jawann McClellan and Kirk Walters missed Wednesday's practice due to plane problems, but coach Kevin O'Neill said the punishment would be in-house. (Tucson Citizen)
- Despite a 9-2 record, Wisconsin has been playing sloppy basketball and needs to work on limiting turnovers and knocking down free throws. (The (Madison) Capital Times)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Secondly, I wanted to give a few updates and notifications about the site. If you haven't noticed yet, I updated the "Links" section in the right column, adding about 20-25 links to it, so now March Madness All Season (if it wasn't before) can be your one-stop shop for everything college basketball. Just come to MMAS, and then go to other sites from here; it's definitely a nice directory of websites.
Also, with 2008 on the horizon, we only have about two and a half months left until Selection Sunday -- and things are already starting to heat up around the country. With that in mind, I've decided to let everyone know the content schedule around here. It is subject to change, but this is what it will be until February or so, when I start doing the Bubble Watch, projected brackets, "Road to Selection Sunday," etc. Anyway, here it is:
Sunday Night: CHN Player of the Week, Power Sweet Sixteen Rankings
Monday: The Week Ahead
Tuesday: PFS "Real Deal or Fluke?"
Wednesday: Stock Watch (not definite yet, but it is likely going to alternate between this and another bi-weekly column; if you have any ideas, feel free to leave it in the comments)
Thursday: CHN Game of the Week
Friday: Weekend Preview
And, of course, don't forget about my "News and Notes" column every morning (which is still deciding on a definitive name) and my Daily Predictions every evening. Furthermore, I will be writing two or three columns a week for the Big East Basketball Report, so I will definitely post links to those works as they appear.
As always, thank you for visiting March Madness All Season, and continue to do so in 2008!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Real Deal or Fluke?
If you like college basketball, you would have loved this past week. After an extremely dull week of final exams, this week brought college hoops back with a bang. There were great games every night of week, including several battles between undefeated teams (Memphis-Georgetown, Pitt-Duke, and Clemson-Mississippi) and other quality top-25 match-ups. Although it was probably very difficult to get your last-minute holiday shopping done, you made the right move by staying in and tuning into all week to great college basketball.
Luckily, with the increase in top-notch games, there were more intriguing individual performances to sift through. Furthermore, as the year comes to an end and the calendar turns to 2008 in a week, we all know what that means: conference play. For fantasy teams, it means those four-game weeks aren’t going to happen anymore, and neither will huge performances from an average player because he is playing a far inferior opponent. It’s more important than ever to know which players are going to be consistent contributors and which are going to ride virtual – and possibly real – benches in the coming months.
Jason Rich, G, Florida State Seminoles: After the Seminoles lost Al Thornton after last season, everyone knew the focus for FSU would shift to the perimeter. As a result, it seems every week another one of Leonard Hamilton’s guards steps up and puts up a solid streak – it was Rich’s turn this week. The 6-3 senior had been inconsistent all season, but has since put together a very good four-game stretch in which he averaged 18 points, six rebounds and more than two assists per game. This includes a 27-point, eight-rebound, four-assist performance in a loss to Providence over the weekend. Expect his numbers to hover around 12-14 points, four-to-six rebounds, and two-three assists per game.
Eric Hayes, G, Maryland Terrapins: Although Greivis Vasquez gets all the attention in the Terrapins’ backcourt, classmate Eric Hayes has also been stuffing the stat-sheet recently. In the past four games, Hayes is averaging over 14 points, three rebounds and six assists per contest. He has become more aggressive offensively and is taking on more of a scoring and playmaking role in the Terps’ offense. If he continues to shoot double-digit attempts, expect solid numbers from Hayes.
Stanley Robinson, F, Connecticut Huskies: Well, look who might be finally reaching the much-discussed potential he had coming out of high school. Robinson has always shown flashes of his ability and talent, but he has never been consistent enough to become a star. That could change soon. After not hitting 50 percent of his field-goal attempts in any of his first five contests, he has reached that plateau in four of his last five games, averaging 17 points and six rebounds in that stretch. UConn needs him to become a scorer, and so do you.
Randall Hanke, C, Providence Friars: For all those owners that took a flyer on Hanke (or ranked him in his top-25 centers) in the preseason, you have been rewarded for waiting. After sporadic playing time and production in the first games of the season, in which he totaled 31 minutes, eight points and six rebounds, Hanke has become a go-to-guy out of nowhere. In his past three games, Hanke is averaging 16 points and four rebounds per contest. He is also hitting 79% of his field-goal attempts in that span. Expect a return to something resembling his 2005-2006 numbers: 13 points and five rebounds per game.
Marcus Hall, G, Colorado Buffaloes: Yes, I know Colorado is one of the worst major-conference teams in the country and CU guard Richard Roby is owned in most fantasy leagues – but I am advocating owning two Buffaloes. Hall provides decent scoring, rebounding and assists, and will also pick up some steals along the way. He had a rough opening to the season, but has reached double-figures in seven straight games, playing at least 36 minutes in each contest. He is averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 steals in the aforementioned seven-game stretch.
Kevin Rogers, F, Baylor Bears: Although basketball players in Waco don’t receive much national accolades, this group deserves attention. The Bears are 9-1 with the lone loss a three-point defeat at the hands of Washington State. As a result, despite how tough it might be to start a player from Baylor, feel free to get Rogers in the lineup ASAP. He struggled mightily to start the season, but is heating up in the past couple of weeks. Rogers is averaging 19 points per game in his last four contests and has reached double-figure rebounds in four of his last five. Expect the outstanding numbers to continue.
Ty Abbott, G, Arizona State Sun Devils: Arizona State is one of the rising programs in the country and the addition of coach Herb Sendek prior to last year is a major reason why. He is an underrated coach and a solid recruiter who has brought several quality newcomers to Tempe. Abbott is one of them. He had an up-and-down first month or so, but has come into his own lately. In his past four games, Abbott is averaging 14 points, 5.3 rebounds and one assist per contest. He is not going to have outstanding numbers by any stretch, but you can do worse than him if you’re in need of a solid freshman.
J.P. Prince, G, Tennessee Volunteers: I usually don’t advocate players after only a couple of games on the court, but Prince needs to be mentioned after the weekend he had. He became eligible three games ago after transferring from Arizona, and is already the second-leading scorer on the team. He had a solid opening two games, combining for 21 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, but really stepped up against Xavier this weekend with 23 points. Remember, though, that Prince is not a starter and should not be counted on for consistent production just yet.
Darian Townes, F, Arkansas Razorbacks: The past few years, Arkansas has had a large stable of big men that it rotated in and out, making it difficult for one of them to really separate himself from the pack. However, Townes has done his best this year. He is averaging only 21.5 minutes per game, but has managed to hit double-figures in points and grab at least five rebounds nine times each. Townes is averaging almost 15 points and five rebounds in his last three games. It might be a sign of things to come.
David Huertas/Eniel Polynice, Mississippi Rebels: The Rebels have been one of the biggest surprises in the country this season, and with that comes surprising individual performances as well. We’ve discussed freshman point guard Chris Warren in previous weeks so I’ll leave him out. Yes, we did mention Polynice once, but he and Huertas both deserve additional consideration. Polynice cooled off considerably in early December, putting up only 10 points in three games, but he bounced back to average 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and more than two steals per game in the last two contests. Huertas had been extremely inconsistent all year long, but has averaged almost 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in his last three games. Keep an eye on both.
Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes a weekly column for Pro Fantasy Sports.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Dec. 23 Player of the Week: Dwayne Curtis
After a dull period two weeks ago in which there were only a few scattered great games and standout individual performances because of final exams, this past week more than made-up for it. Saturday was filled with top-25 contests and must-see match-ups, and there were also plenty of quality contests during the week. With the increase in important games came several impressive individual performances. Stanford’s Brook Lopez came back from academic suspension to make an immediate impact; Ohio State’s stuff freshman Kosta Koufos led the Buckeyes to back-to-back wins; Shaun Pruitt of Illinois and K.C. Rivers of Clemson were impressive; and, of course, Michael Beasley had an absurd 40-point, 15-rebound game Saturday. But the best week of all came from one of the biggest surprise teams in the country – Mississippi and its senior center Dwayne Curtis.
Mississippi was 8-0 heading into the week, but there were many people across the country who were still skeptical of the Rebels, who hadn’t really beat anyone overly impressive. However, Ole Miss headed to Puerto Rico this weekend for the San Juan Shootout and went 3-0, including a solid win over previously unbeaten Clemson. The main catalyst was the 6-foot-8 Curtis, who scored 19 points and had nine rebounds in the championship game against the Tigers. Curtis also put up 21 and seven against DePaul and 14 and five against a game La Salle team. He shot 61% from the field and 88% from the free-throw line in three games.
On the season, Curtis is averaging 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, and is shooting 68% from the field and 81% from the charity stripe. The Rebels wrap up 2007 against Southern Miss and open 2008 with Alabama A&M, but Curtis and Mississippi will certainly be pushed once the SEC opens up on Jan. 9 vs. Tennessee. Will the Rebels be able to continue their undefeated run, and can Curtis continue his dominance down low?
Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes weekly columns for Collegehoops.net.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Georgetown (+4) at Memphis (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): This top-five match-up should be an outstanding game between two teams with their respective sights set on the Final Four. As a matter of fact, don’t be surprised to see these two squads meet up again in three and a half months in San Antonio. Saturday’s game will be a battle of varying tempos. Memphis wants to push the ball and play transition basketball, while Georgetown would rather have a half-court game in which it can run its offense and play tough defense at the other end. Memphis has shown the ability to play at slower tempos, but it is obviously much more comfortable in an up-and-down game. Prediction: Memphis 72, Georgetown 68 Click here for a complete preview for the Game of the Week
Miami (Ohio) (+18) at Kansas (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): A surprisingly good match-up between a team that has a chance to upset a team or two in March and a Final Four favorite. Miami (Ohio) is 6-4, with the four losses coming by a combined nine points. The RedHawks have wins over Xavier, Illinois, Mississippi State and South Alabama. Michael Bramos and Tim Pollitz have been an excellent duo. Kansas has been one of the best teams in the country all season, sitting at 11-0 with wins over Arizona, USC, Georgia Tech and MAC contender Ohio. Five players average in double-figures, led by emerging forward Darrell Arthur and all-around guard Mario Chalmers. Prediction: Kansas 66, Miami (Ohio) 58
Tennessee (+4) at Xavier (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN): An interesting match-up between two teams that can really score. Tennessee was the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC heading into the season but has struggled somewhat in the non-conference. The Volunteers were obliterated by Texas, but have also defeated West Virginia and Western Kentucky. Chris Lofton’s shooting numbers have fallen dramatically since last season, while JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith have played well. Xavier is still the favorite in what is a much-improved Atlantic-10. It has wins over Indiana, Kent State and Creighton, but is coming off a blowout loss to Arizona State. Six players average in double-figures for the Musketeers. Drew Lavender is one of the best point guards in the country, while Derrick Brown is a freak athlete who can rebound and score very well. Prediction: Xavier 79, Tennessee 74
Florida (+6.5) at Ohio State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS): A rematch of last season’s title game, both teams lost a lot of talent but still have enough quality personnel to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Florida is 11-1, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Florida State on the Gators’ home floor. Freshman Nick Calathes has been one of the best newcomers in the country, while big man Marreese Speights has emerged as a potential force down low. Ohio State has struggled somewhat this season, sitting at only 7-3. Freshman center Kosta Koufos is a future lottery pick with his inside-outside ability, while guards Jamar Butler and David Lighty form a solid backcourt. Prediction: Ohio State 70, Florida 65
Clemson (-3) vs. Mississippi (Saturday, 5:30 PM): Too bad this game will not be on television – it’s going to be an outstanding contest with plenty of scoring. Both teams are undefeated and can get up-and-down the floor quickly. Will one of them be exposed on Saturday? Clemson has a couple of nice wins, including victories over Mississippi State, South Carolina and Purdue. K.C. Rivers has adapted well to a starting role on the wing, while James Mays has made an impact when he isn’t injured. Trevor Booker is an outstanding rebounder on the interior. On the other side, Mississippi has surprised many by becoming a team to watch in the SEC West. The Rebels were expected to finish in last place in the division. Their best wins are over New Mexico, South Alabama and Winthrop – not exactly murderers’ row. Dwayne Curtis is a very good big man down low, while Chris Warren is an exciting scorer and passer who tends to turn the ball over. Six players average at least 9.5 points per game. Prediction: Clemson 85, Mississippi 80
Texas (+4.5) at Michigan State (Saturday, 6:30 PM, ESPN2): Another game that could be a preview of the Final Four in San Antonio. Both teams are in the top-10 and are playing very good basketball. Texas has arguably been the country’s most impressive team this year, with wins over UCLA and Tennessee. The Longhorns have been blowing out teams left and right all year. D.J. Augustin has improved greatly since last season, and could be the Player of the Year this season. Damion James and surprise double-figure scorer Connor Atchley provide balance up front, while A.J. Abrams can knock down threes from beyond the arc. Michigan State struggled at the outset of the season, losing to a Division-II Grand Valley State in an exhibition game. However, the Spartans have bounced back and are 10-1, with wins over Missouri, BYU, North Carolina State and Bradley. Drew Neitzel is one of the best guards in the country, while Raymar Morgan is a developing star up front. Goran Suton has been a solid asset down low. Prediction: Michigan State 67, Texas 63
Other Games to Watch
UC-Santa Barbara (+21.5) at North Carolina (Saturday, 1:00 PM, Regional TV): Don’t laugh; this could be a surprisingly good game. UCSB is 10-1 and is the favorite to win the Big West. Alex Harris is one of the best players in the country that you’ve never heard of, while Chris Devine is also a solid player. North Carolina is the No. 1 team in the country, but are coming off of a bad performance against Nicholls State. Danny Green has been a surprise for the Tar Heels. Prediction: North Carolina 91, UC-Santa Barbara 73
San Diego State (+11.5) at Arizona (Saturday, 3:00 PM, Regional TV): Battle on the West Coast. San Diego State is 9-2 with the lone defeats coming at the hands of California and Saint Mary’s – two likely NCAA Tournament participants. Lorrenzo Wade and Kyle Spain are a terrific wing duo. Arizona has won five in a row since struggling early, including wins over Texas A&M, Illinois and UNLV. Jordan Hill has emerged as a go-to option down low. Prediction: Arizona 81, San Diego State 72
Western Kentucky (+4) at Southern Illinois (Saturday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Two of the best mid-majors in the country heading into the season, neither team has been overly impressive this year. Western Kentucky has three losses and its best wins are over Nebraska and Michigan. Courtney Lee is still one of the best wings in the country, though. Southern Illinois has been one of the biggest disappointments in the nation. The Salukis are only 4-5, losing five of their last six games. Randal Falker and Matt Shaw are a solid forward tandem. Prediction: Southern Illinois 58, Western Kentucky 53
Florida State (+3.5) at Providence (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): For two teams that could eventually have the credentials to make a case for an at-large bid in March, this would be a solid resume win. Florida State is 10-3 with wins over Florida and Minnesota, but losses to South Florida and Cleveland State. Isaiah Swann leads a very good three-man backcourt. Providence is 7-3 with impressive victories over Arkansas and Boston College. Brian McKenzie is leading the team in scoring, but the Friars need injured point guard Sharaud Curry back and healthy – eight minutes per game from him isn’t going to cut it. Prediction: Providence 80, Florida State 73
Stanford (-5.5) at Texas Tech (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN2): Solid game between two teams looking for a quality win. Stanford is 9-1 but doesn’t really have any noteworthy wins, but Brook Lopez is finally back and ready to lead the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament. Texas Tech has a win over Gonzaga but a horrible loss to Centenary. Martin Zeno is one of the best scorers in the Big 12 in the backcourt, while Alan Voskuil has stepped up beside Zeno. Prediction: Stanford 64, Texas Tech 61
VCU (+4.5) at Bradley (Saturday, 8:05 PM, Regional TV): One of the best mid-major match-ups of the day between two teams with NCAA Tournament hopes. VCU has won four in a row since struggling to a 3-3 start. Eric Maynor is one of the best point guards in the country, while Jamar Shuler has stepped up on the wing. Bradley could use a signature win, as it as fallen short in its previous three tries against Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Butler. Daniel Ruffin and Jeremy Crouch form a very solid backcourt. Prediction: VCU 76, Bradley 74
Illinois (+3.5) vs. Missouri (Saturday, 8:30 PM, ESPN2): Match-up between two teams that could really use a win if it harbors at-large hopes heading into conference play. Illinois is 6-4 and only 4-4 in its last eight games, including overtime losses at home to Miami (Ohio) and Arizona. Shaun Pruitt needs to continue his dominance down low. Missouri has won three in a row since a rough 2-3 stretch last month. Stefhon Hannah and DeMarre Carroll form a good inside-outside combo. Prediction: Missouri 70, Illinois 65
Keep an Eye on these Games
Holy Cross (OFF) at Siena (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Decent mid-major battle between two teams that could eventually make the NCAA Tournament from the MAAC (Siena) and Patriot (Holy Cross). Both teams have given major-conference teams trouble this year. Prediction: Siena 67, Holy Cross 59
James Madison (+7.5) at Seton Hall (Saturday, 1:00 PM): Potential upset alert. Seton Hall has struggled somewhat against lesser teams that can score with them, and James Madison has been a surprise in the Colonial. Prediction: Seton Hall 88, James Madison 78
New Mexico State (+13.5) at Louisville (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Both teams have been disappointing this season, although Louisville has an excuse with injuries. Can NMSU turn it around? Prediction: Louisville 83, New Mexico State 70
UCLA (-14.5) at Michigan (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Likely a blowout on paper, but John Beilein gave UCLA a lot of trouble when he was coaching at West Virginia. He also had better teams in Morgantown than he does now, though. Prediction: UCLA 72, Michigan 56
Nevada (+5) at Northern Iowa (Saturday, 2:05 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Both teams were expected to have down years are losing a lot to graduation, but both teams will contend in conferences that have struggled this season. Prediction: Northern Iowa 69, Nevada 62
Texas-Arlington (OFF) at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Texas-Arlington was one of the last undefeated teams before falling in overtime Monday to TCU; Oklahoma State is coming off a 15-point loss to Oral Roberts. Prediction: Oklahoma State 73, Texas-Arlington 63
Arkansas-Little Rock (+14) at Creighton (Saturday, 3:05 PM, Regional TV): Could be a decent game. Arkansas-Little Rock is 9-1 with the lone loss coming to UT-Arlington, while Creighton is 8-1 and the potential favorite in the Missouri Valley. Prediction: Creighton 70, Arkansas-Little Rock 55
Utah (+7) at California (Saturday, 6:00 PM, Regional TV): A decent match-up in the west. Three of the country’s best big men will be on display in Cal’s Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin and Utah’s Luke Nevill. Prediction: California 72, Utah 61
Missouri State (+2) vs. Alabama (Saturday, 8:00 PM): Another chance for a Missouri Valley team to pick-up some momentum heading into conference play. MSU is 7-3, while Alabama has won three in a row to move to 7-3. The Tide need a win here for at-large purposes. Prediction: Alabama 71, Missouri State 65
Valparaiso (+13) at Wisconsin (Saturday, 8:30 PM, Big Ten Network): Another potential upset game, although it’s unlikely. Valpo is 2-0 in the Horizon and will contend with Butler for the regular-season crown, while Wisconsin has struggled at times this year. Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Valparaiso 59
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (Sunday, 5:30 PM, FSN): The bottom-feeders in the ACC battle it out to see who starts the season in last place. Wake is coming off nice wins over Bucknell and South Florida, while Tech has won four of its last five. Prediction: Wake Forest 68, Virginia Tech 58
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Thursday, December 20 Predictions
For a preview of these games and every key game this week, click here for The Week Ahead.
Miami (Ohio) at Illinois (-9.5): Prediction: Illinois 52, Miami (Ohio) 48
Duke vs. Pittsburgh (+5.5): Prediction: Duke 78, Pittsburgh 67
Gonzaga at Oklahoma (-2.5): Prediction: Gonzaga 71, Oklahoma 69
Game of the Week: No. 5 Georgetown at No. 2 Memphis
Although college basketball lost some of its momentum with the dull hoops played during finals week, this week was the perfect way to bounce back. There are several marquee match-ups on the docket, starting with Pittsburgh and Duke on Thursday and peaking on Saturday with a plethora of big-time games, including Texas vs. Michigan State; Clemson and Mississippi in a battle of undefeateds; and top-25 clubs Tennessee and Xavier. However, arguably the most anticipated game of the non-conference season will overshadow the rest: No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 5 Georgetown.
Memphis Team Breakdown
Memphis was ranked as the preseason No. 1 in several polls, including mine, and although the 9-0 Tigers haven’t lost yet, they haven’t played like the best team in the country. Memphis has quality wins over Connecticut, Oklahoma and USC – all in New York City. The Tigers are the No. 7 ranked team in defensive efficiency but only No. 94 on the other side of the ball. Memphis has one of the best perimeter duos in the country in freshman point guard Derrick Rose and junior wing Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose is a premier point guard although he tends to make freshmen mistakes at times. Douglas-Roberts has become one of the better scorers in the nation with his ability to finish in a variety of ways. Antonio Anderson contributes in different ways, while Doneal Mack and Willie Mack are very solid players coming off the bench. Andre Allen sees minutes backing up Rose. Up front, Robert Dozier has shown flashes of his potential but has not been consistent, while center Joey Dorsey shoots 82 percent from the field but struggles with foul trouble. Shawn Taggart provides very good depth behind those two.
Georgetown Team Breakdown
Georgetown reached the Final Four last season but lost Jeff Green to the NBA Draft – and has not missed a beat without the lottery pick. The Hoyas haven’t defeated anyone particularly noteworthy besides Alabama on the road, but have won their eight games by an average of more than 22 points per game. Georgetown is balanced, as it is the No. 23 ranked team in terms offensive efficiency and No. 13 on the other side of the ball. The Hoyas are balanced, with five players averaging at least nine points per game. All-American center Roy Hibbert leads the way up front, although he is averaged only 9.3 points per game in the last four contests. DaJuan Summers has filled Green’s shoes well, showing the ability to score both inside and outside. Patrick Ewing Jr. and Vernon Macklin provide solid rebounding and scoring inside as well. On the perimeter, Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp form one of the more underrated guard duos in the country. Wallace’s shooting numbers are down, but he is still a decent guard, while Sapp does everything well. Freshman Austin Freeman has been a very good scorer off the bench, while Chris Wright and Jeremiah Rivers have also played well in reserve.
Game Analysis and Prediction
This top-five match-up should be an outstanding game between two teams with their respective sights set on the Final Four. As a matter of fact, don’t be surprised to see these two squads meet up again in three and a half months in San Antonio. Saturday’s game will be a battle of varying tempos. Memphis wants to push the ball and play transition basketball, while Georgetown would rather have a half-court game in which it can run its offense and play tough defense at the other end. Memphis has shown the ability to play at slower tempos, but it is obviously much more comfortable in an up-and-down game.
If the Tigers are to win, they are going to have to do several things. One, Joey Dorsey has to stay out of foul trouble and contain Roy Hibbert. Although Hibbert has not scored much lately, he clearly can dominate at times. Two, the Tigers will have to play solid half-court defense against Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense. They can’t let the Hoyas get easy baskets. Three, Derrick Rose has to limit the mistakes against a seasoned veteran Georgetown backcourt. On the other side, Georgetown has to slow down Memphis. The Hoyas are comfortable at a quicker tempo, but they can’t run with the Tigers – no one can. Furthermore, Georgetown has to force Memphis to shoot outside shots. The Tigers aren’t consistent from beyond the arc and are much less effective when they can’t drive to the basket. Lastly, they have to try and get Dorsey in foul trouble and take away his focus. In the end, Memphis’ homecourt advantage and ability to score in a variety of ways will be the difference. As long as Dorsey keeps his mouth shut (re: Greg Oden), he should be able to slow down Hibbert and the Tigers will be able to outrun the Hoyas for easy transition opportunities.
Prediction: Memphis 72, Georgetown 68
Linked Up, December 20
- Stanford sophomore forward Brook Lopez didn't take long to make a dominant impact in his first game back after academic suspension. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- UCLA freshman center Kevin Love isn't getting the ball enough, but he also might not be at his peak in terms of fitness. (Los Angeles Times)
- Arizona freshman guard Laval Lucas-Perry is transferring to Michigan after just one semester on the Wildcats. (Ann Arbor News)
- Alabama is really struggling from the free-throw line, hitting only 57.5 percent of its foul shots -- 11th in the SEC. (The Tuscaloosa News)
- The Louisville players are trying to rally around sophomore big man Derrick Caracter and support him after another one of his recent suspensions. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
- Injuries have played a major role in Kentucky's 4-5 start, although head coach Billy Gillispie has avoided saying that until now. (Lexington Herald-Leader)
- Kansas head coach Bill Self was happy with the Jayhawks' win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday, but he says they still have a lot of things to work on. (Lawrence Journal-World)
- Joe Posnanski writes that Kansas State needs to get freshman forward Michael Beasley more involved in the team's offense and build around him. (Kansas City Star)
- Pittsburgh has a chance to show the country it is for real tonight when it faces Duke in a battle of undefeateds at Madison Square Garden. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Duke has been running its own version of the Phoenix Suns offense this season, which has helped the Blue Devils become more explosive than last year. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon is beginning to prepare his team for Big 12 play by using his top players for more minutes in the coming games. (Bryan-College Station Eagle)
- Oregon, last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, will emphasize that side of the ball in practice until conference play begins. (Eugene Register-Guard)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Wednesday, December 19th Predictions
Bradley at Butler (-10): Prediction: Butler 68, Bradley 57
South Florida at Wake Forest (-5): Prediction: Wake Forest 73, South Florida 66
Memphis at Cincinnati (+13.5): Prediction: Memphis 81, Cincinnati 65
UNC-Asheville at Tennessee (OFF) : Prediction: Tennessee 84, UNC-Asheville 60
Baylor at South Carolina (-3.5): Prediction: South Carolina 69, Baylor 64
New Mexico State at New Mexico (-7.5): Prediction: New Mexico 78, New Mexico State 70
Arizona at UNLV (+3.5): Prediction: Arizona 74, UNLV 72
Santa Clara at Stanford (-13.5): Prediction: Stanford 67, Santa Clara 53
Real Deal or Fluke?
Whew! Finally, finals week is out of the way. No, not because college students (i.e. me) are done with finals, but because college basketball fans don’t have to live through another week of subpar games and weekday nights with only a handful of games. Luckily, it’s over and we can now return to flipping channels between different games each night, or simply settling down on one station and staying on that for about four hours per night.
In terms of fantasy college basketball, last week was a killer. Of course, some guys get lucky and somehow have 12 games from his six players, while others have seven players with zero games each and/or are forced to use players that average less than four points and four rebounds per game. Furthermore, there were not too many random noteworthy performances last week, although it gave me more time to find some players who are unexpectedly trending upwards as the holiday approaches. Will it last?
Trevor Booker, F/C, Clemson Tigers: It seems like we go through this every year: Clemson gets off to a great start then falters down the stretch and misses the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team is different, and Booker is a major reason why. He was a solid scorer and rebounder last year, but he has been an absolute monster on the glass this season. He is averaging 10.5 rebounds per game, but has reached at least 11 in five of the last six games. Booker’s scoring numbers are down to 8.5 per game, but he is a must-have if you need rebounds.
Gavin Grant, G/F, North Carolina State Wolfpack: Did you jump off the Gavin Grant bandwagon that was crowded in the preseason? If you did, it’s time to hop back on. Sure, his numbers are not as impressive as they were last year, but he is averaging 24 points and 6.5 rebounds in the past two games and he could be starting to heat up. His assist numbers are down, but so are his turnover numbers, and his shooting is up from both the field and beyond the arc. He’s a great buy-low candidate.
Jeff Allen, F, Virginia Tech Hokies: We took a look at Allen earlier in the season, but it’s time to revisit him. He started off the season very strong, had an up-and-down stretch, but has now put together three straight double-doubles. He is averaging 13 points and almost 13 rebounds per game during that stretch, and has become more aggressive offensively. The 6-7 freshman should be able to continually to produce solid numbers.
Lazar Hayward, F, Marquette Golden Eagles: The guards get all the publicity on the Golden Eagles, but if Tom Crean and co. are going to make it deep in the NCAA Tournament, Hayward is going to have to pull his weight down low. He has certainly done so lately, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game in his last five contests. He is an extremely efficient shooter and creates match-up problems – always a good combination to have.
Jordan Crawford, G, Indiana: Although the Hoosiers have a stockpile of perimeter players as well as a go-to-guy in the paint, Crawford has still been able to put up very good numbers lately. He started the season well, but then missed three games due to a suspension. However, in the two games since he returned, Crawford has put up a combined 39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. If Indiana keeps scoring (and he stays out of Kelvin Sampson’s doghouse), so will Crawford.
Craig Moore, G, Northwestern: It’s certainly not sexy or chic to own a player from Northwestern on your team, but if you must, Moore is the way to go. He leads the Wildcats in scoring, rebounding, steals and is second in assists. Furthermore, over the past three games, he has boosted his averages to almost 19 points and four assists per game. He is also putting up close to four rebounds per game on the season.
Connor Atchley, F/C, Texas Longhorns: It seems like centers are in high-demand this season, mainly because there are not many players who produce on a consistent basis. That is the primary reason Atchley is on this list. He has improved in leaps and bounds since last season, and is averaging almost 13 points and six rebounds per game this season, and is also shooting an unbelievable 63 percent from three-point range. He is also putting up 21 points and 8 rebounds per game in his last two contests.
Aron Baynes, C, Washington State: Another player who will see a spike in ownership in the coming weeks due to the fact many owners need centers. Despite the fact he is playing less than 22 minutes per game, Baynes is averaging over 11 points and almost six rebounds a contest. He has reached double-figures in three straight games, and is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds in the past two games. He also shoots 67% from the field. Baynes is definitely a solid center for the next few weeks.
Jordan Hill, F, Arizona Wildcats: Talk about making a gigantic leap from year-to-year. Last season, Hill was a solid big man who provided good rebounding and defense. However, this year, he has become a go-to player in the post who can score very well and still rebound at a high level. Hill had an inconsistent first few games, but has hit his stride lately, averaging 17 points and more than nine rebounds and two blocks per game in his last three contests. He is certainly a rising star in the Pac-10.
Ryan Appleby, G, Washington Huskies: If you were one of the few owners who drafted Appleby in the preseason then watched as he missed the first seven games of the season due to injury, congratulations. Appleby has been on an absolute tear since he returned from injury, averaging 19 points per game in three contests. He won’t provide much in the way of rebounds and assists, but if he continues to hit 55% of three-pointers, it won’t matter. Keep an eye on him.
Sorry, no surprises this week.
Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes a weekly column for Pro Fantasy Sports.
The Morning (Link) Dump, December 19
- Georgia Tech senior center Ra'Sean Dickey has announced he will redshirt the rest of the season because of knee problems. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Memphis' biggest problem all season has been its inability to consistently knock down three-pointers. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- South Carolina guard Brandis Raley-Ross is shooting 71 percent from three-point range, an improvement of about 40 percentage points from a season ago. (The Greenville News)
- Tennessee is trying to push the ball without making poor decisions with the basketball. (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
- Tennessee sophomore big man Wayne Chism is in danger of losing his starting spot to freshman center Brian Williams. (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
- Dick Jerardi has another national college basketball report, touching on summer recruiting, seniors, Kyle Hines and much more. (Philadelphia Daily News)
- Butler deserves accolades as one of the best teams in the country despite its "mid-major" label. (Chicago Tribune)
- One of the many keys to Saint Mary's hot start is the presence of three players from Australia, including freshman guard Patrick Mills. (USA Today)
- Arizona guard Nic Wise has had an up-and-down season and wants to become more consistent. (Tucson Citizen)
- Arizona freshman guard Jerryd Bayless has had to adjust to a multitude of changes, including the transition from high school to college. (Arizona Daily Star)
More to come shortly...
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tuesday, December 18th Predictions
Click here for a preview of these games and many other top match-ups in The Week Ahead.
Kansas at Georgia Tech (+10): Prediction: Kansas 83, Georgia Tech 72
Kentucky at Houston (-4): Prediction: Houston 77, Kentucky 67
New Orleans at Southern Miss (-6.5): Prediction: Southern Miss 73, New Orleans 60
The Week Ahead
Kansas at Georgia Tech (Tuesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN): Kansas has already separated itself from the rest of country as one of the favorites for the Final Four, while Georgia Tech really needs a win here to boost its non-conference resume.
Kentucky at Houston (Tuesday, 9:00 PM, ESPN): Interesting match-up between two teams going in opposite directions. Kentucky has lost three in a row and will drop to below-.500 with a loss, while Houston is 9-1 with its only loss by one point to VCU.
New Orleans at Southern Miss (Tuesday, 9:00 PM): Don’t overlook this game right away. New Orleans has wins at North Carolina State, Tulane and Colorado, while Southern Miss has only one win against a Division-I team.
Bradley at Butler (Wednesday, 7:00 PM): Battle between two mid-major teams looking to pick up a solid win. Bradley did something Butler couldn’t do: win at Wright State. However, Butler is 9-1 and one of the best teams in the country.
South Florida at Wake Forest (Wednesday, 7:00 PM): Will either team be a potential sleeper in its respective conference? This game could tell us a lot. South Florida has won seven in a row, while Wake Forest is 6-3 and undefeated at home.
Memphis at Cincinnati (Wednesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): I don’t know if anyone thinks Cincinnati will win, but Memphis hasn’t played a true road game yet and Cincinnati played well against Xavier in last week’s Crosstown Shootout.
UNC-Asheville at Tennessee (Wednesday, 7:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Is Asheville a legit contender in the Big South? Don’t look at its 8-2 record and assume so. Only five wins are against D-I teams – Tennessee will make sure it doesn’t get another one.
Baylor at South Carolina (Wednesday, 7:30 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV): Two teams playing better than expected so far. Baylor is 7-1 with only a three-point loss to Washington State on its schedule, while USC has been tough all year.
New Mexico State at New Mexico (Wednesday, 9:00 PM, Regional TV): Intrastate battle between two teams that have already faced each other. NMSU won the first game, but it has struggled all year and is only 5-7, while New Mexico is 9-2 on the season.
Arizona at UNLV (Wednesday, 10:00 PM, CSTV): West coast match-up. 7-2 Arizona has played well despite the loss of coach Lute Olson for the season, while UNLV is also 7-2 and has won three in a row. Both teams are in the top-20 of the RPI.
Santa Clara at Stanford (Wednesday, 10:30 PM, Regional TV): Wednesday’s game will mark the return of Stanford star Brook Lopez from academic suspension. Santa Clara is 7-3 and has already won five games on the road, while the Cardinal are 8-1.
Miami (Ohio) at Illinois (Thursday, 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network): Two teams in need of a solid non-conference win in order to boost their respective at-large resumes. Miami (Ohio) has lost four games by a total of nine points, while Illinois is 6-3 thus far.
Duke vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday, 7:00 PM, ESPN): By far the best game of the week. Two top-ten teams will match-up in a battle of the undefeateds. Both teams are 10-0, although Duke has been more impressive so far. Expect an outstanding game at the Mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden.
Gonzaga at Oklahoma (Thursday, 9:30 PM, ESPN): Should be a very interesting game. Gonzaga is 9-2 despite the fact Josh Heytvelt, one of the best big men in the country, is out with an injury. Oklahoma is 8-3 and has won three of its last four games.
Davidson at North Carolina State (Friday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV): Going into the season, both teams looked to be solid at-large candidates. However, neither team would get a bid if the season ended today. Davidson has been in every game, but it is only 3-5, while NC State is 5-3 with losses to East Carolina and New Orleans.