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ONIONS

Columnists | Message Board  | Onions Archive

By Adam Glatczak

arfboy37@yahoo.com

February 3rd, 2006

College Basketball: "Onions" Weekly Review

 

- One of the neat things about Temple this year is that the Owls show us just how simple basketball can be. Amazing stat shown on Saturday’s ESPN broadcast of Maryland/Temple about how the Owls have led Division I in fewest turnovers committed in ten of the past 13 years, and John Chaney’s bunch leads this category again this year (which made it rather surprising when Gary Williams tried pressing the Owls). Knowing that a big difference in turnovers gives a team more possessions and therefore should give that team an advantage in scoring opportunities, it begs the question why Temple is only 12-7 this year. (Particularly when they play like they did against the Terps on Saturday). Ah, but they don’t usually play like they did against Maryland; the Owls are one of the worst-shooting teams in the country. Even their 44% shooting on Saturday was a considerable improvement over their usual 39% accuracy (that last term used loosely).The advantage Temple gains in possessions is frequently offset by dreadful shooting-quite simple indeed, and the result is a slightly better than mediocre record.

 

- As one who does not hide his belief that a certain couple conferences dominate a few more NCAA tourney berths than they need to, it’s sometimes too easy to accentuate those leagues’ negative points. However, there’s just no delicate way to put it; this year most of the biggie conferences are exceptionally average once you get past the top one or two teams. Maryland is a classic example; the Terrapins have now lost to both George Washington and Temple of the Atlantic 10. Both are first division teams in that league, but Maryland is supposed to be an NCAA Tournament-quality team from the ACC, and top ACC teams shouldn’t be going 0-2 against the A-10. The Terps are also 1-5 against the top 50 in the RPI. And not to pick on Maryland, because there are at least two dozen teams like them in the ACC, Big 12, SEC and Pac-10, teams with similar resumes and not much for quality wins. Teams like Miami, Kansas State, Stanford and Arkansas have done next to nothing outside of conference and at best have only beaten up on teams like them in conference at home, yet at least two of them likely will get into the tourney. At this point, the only leagues definitely worthy of more than three NCAA bids are the Big 10 and Big East, and even the Big East isn’t all that it’s being cracked up to be. The idea that it will deserve ten teams in the tourney is crazy; at this point seven would be a generous number. It is fair to say, though, that the Big 10 and Big 16 are in a class by themselves, and we’d take the top seven in the Big 10 over the top seven in the Big East.

 

-The number of thoroughly forgettable games on TV between the middle and even upper-middle teams in these leagues this past weekend just amplified the above mentioned mediocrity. Stanford beat Washington only because the Huskies, with a three-point lead, fouled a three-point shooter at the buzzer of regulation. And Washington is supposed to be a top 25 team. So is Boston College, which struggled to win at Georgia Tech, something that Illinois-Chicago (#136 in your RPI) had no trouble doing. Arkansas had Kentucky buried, but found a way to lose. At least the Wildcats are probably a deserving NCAA tourney team at this point. The rest of this bunch isn’t, not right now anyway. Some will make it, if for no reason than few others will do better than them, Washington and B.C. being prime examples. But would the tourney really be missing much if they missed the field?

 

-On the other hand, how many other conferences (besides the Missouri Valley) really deserve multiple bids this year? Case in point is the Colonial Athletic Association. George Mason, NC-Wilmington, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth all have a chance if they can win a regular season title, but likely no chance otherwise. Currently, Mason and Wilmington are tied for the lead in the CAA standings, with ODU and quietly strong VCU just a game back and Hofstra just one game back in the loss column. These teams are going to have to get their good wins in league, though, because their non-conference profiles aren’t too fly. It’s hard for us to take the at-large chances of George Mason very seriously because the Patriots have blown opportunities for signature wins, losing close to distinctly second-tier teams from the ACC (Wake Forest) and SEC (Mississippi State) as well as getting bounced by Creighton by 20 points at the Patriot Center. UNCW and Old Dominion both have some o.k.-to-pretty good wins (Seahawks over Butler, Northwestern and at Wyoming; Monarchs over DePaul, Virginia Tech and Georgia) but also hard-to-explain losses to the likes of East Carolina and Richmond. VCU has a decent win (at Houston), a bad loss (Appalachian State) and not much else in between. Hofstra can also make a brief argument with wins over St. John’s and La Salle but lost badly to Notre Dame and played an overall weak non-conference slate. The other side of all this, though, is all five of these teams are ranked well (top 60) in the RPI, making wins against each other of some value to the Selection Committee. If a team can win an outright regular season title in the CAA, it could (should?) be good enough to deserve an NCAA bid.

 

-As easy as it is to beat on so many of these leagues, it’s been just as easy to get on the MVC bandwagon this year. While some of us like to think we’ve seen this league rising for years, without a doubt this is also turning out to be a banner season unparalleled in the league’s past 20 years. As mentioned last week, in this opinion the Valley should comfortably have four teams in the field, though that got a little shakier for now with Southern Illinois losing to Indiana State. Is a fifth possible? Our faith in the selection committee only goes so far; we’re pretty sure it won’t happen unless someone outside of the top four (Northern Iowa, SIU, Creighton and Wichita State) wins Arch Madness. However, the case for a fifth bid is better than some might think. Consider these numbers:

Team 1: RPI of 69, 14-6 record, SOS of 70, 2-4 vs. RPI top 50, 5-5 vs. top 100, 3-1 vs. 101-200, 6-0 vs. teams 200 and lower, 4-5 on the road.

Team 2: RPI of 54, 11-8 record, SOS of 8, 1-5 vs. top 50, 6-7 vs. top 100, 2-1 vs. 101-200, 3-0 vs. 200 and lower, 2-4 on the road.

Team 3: RPI of 63, 13-8 record, SOS of 37, 2-6 vs. top 50, 4-8 vs. top 100, 5-0 vs. 101-200, 4-0 vs. 200 and lower, 4-6 on the road.

Team 4: RPI of 66, 13-6 record, SOS of 59, 2-3 vs. top 50, 5-6 vs. top 100, 4-0 vs. 101-200, 4-0 vs. 200 and lower, 4-4 on the road.

Team 5: RPI of 52, 13-7 record, SOS of 66, 3-4 vs. top 50, 5-5 vs. top 100, 3-2 vs. 101-200, 5-0 vs. 200 and lower, 3-6 on the road.

 

The first four teams are Arkansas, Alabama, Miami (Florida) and Kansas. The fifth is Bradley. Other than one more loss against teams 101-200 (a number some might argue is offset by more top 50 wins) the Braves match up very equally with the other four. If a bracket was done today, the first four would be squarely on the bubble, if not actually in the field. Why shouldn’t the Braves be considered similarly? If the Braves beat who they should the rest of the way (a big ‘if’ given their inconsistency) and get at least one more win against the top four in the MVC, they would end up with 18-19 wins and deserve to enter into the discussion on Selection Sunday.

 

-Kansas is playing well now, but let’s not get carried away yet. First off, the Big 12 is not very good at all. Second, many seem to be forgetting that the Jayhawks still have some odd losses this year, even at full strength. Those back-to-back losses at home to Kansas State and at Missouri are not very good ones, and KU still has work to do to overcome them. Run that win streak to seven or eight and we’ll talk, and we do think the Jayhawks eventually are going to solidly make the field. Right now, though, if the last NCAA bid came down to Nevada and Kansas, how could you not go with the Wolf Pack, considering they won at Phog Allen Fieldhouse?

 

-Back to the Pac-10, Leon Powe is a man (he looks ten years older than anyone else on the court), has post moves, athleticism and a fascinating knack for getting to the free throw line (at least eight attempts in 11 of 15 games played.) He’s maybe the best player in his conference and the difference between California being .500 and at least a solid NIT team, but he has work to do on defense. (In other words, he’s ready to be an NBA lottery pick, you say?) His defense in the Washington State game, in which he repeatedly was confused by screens, had as much to do with the Cougars staying in the game as his 14 points and 11 rebounds had with the Golden Bears winning. His team is going to be an interesting case study right up until Selection Sunday. Cal has been playing well and looked good in winning easily at Oregon State last night, but the way the Beavers played one wonders how impressive that win really is. If Richard Midgley keeps playing the way he has and continues to give California a third scorer behind Powe and Ayinde Ubaka, then this team has a chance to go places yet. The Bears would be wise to dominate the rest of their Pac-10 schedule, though, and even that might not give them much juice when breaking down at-large contenders. They could get a pass for losing to Eastern Michigan (RPI: 303) in their opener without Powe, but their best hope for getting in may be by proving that they’re on a roll going into the postseason, similar to the one Washington was on in 2004, when a below-average at-large profile was trumped by a late season winning streak.

 

-By the way, an admission of guilt: we were correctly called out by a reader last week regarding Arizona’s defense, and we did not mean to imply that the Wildcats’ sometimes physical D, particularly on the press, equated to good D. Indeed, the Wildcats’ defense of late has been…well, to say Arizona is playing matador defense would be an insult to Bobby Braswell’s Cal State-Northridge team. We’ll just say the Cats are doing a good job rolling out the red carpet in front of their own basket.

 

Also, a couple other clarifications from last week. One, we don’t disagree that it looks like there is a ‘soft’ bubble this year, we just don’t believe it has any relation to the Missouri Valley’s deserving four NCAA bids at this point. In any season, if you put the numbers those MVC teams have on some ACC or SEC teams, there would be little doubt about their NCAA worthiness. (It is those teams’ responsibility, though, to continue at that pace.) Two, we aren’t completely against judging teams’ NCAA worthiness on the ‘eye test,’ we just don’t believe it should be the main criteria, as it sounds like it may be to the selection committee chair. How teams look should only matter when looking at the final spots in the field and if those teams are pretty close to equal in most other areas. Last year we thought Buffalo should’ve received one of the last at-large bids, not because the Bulls had a lot of big wins but because they finished strong and lost their conference title game at the buzzer in overtime. They looked like an NCAA team, and when the other at-large possibilities were uninspiring teams like UCLA and Iowa, we thought the Bulls were a better choice.

 

-Before losing to a New Mexico State team that keeps getting better and better, Utah State was on a roll and, like some might say about California or Kansas, playing better than the RPI numbers may indicate. In fact, the Aggies are three baskets from being 18-2 right now, having lost two road games by a point and a third in double overtime. The Most Underrated Program in The Country just continues to do what it does on an annual basis, which is 1) playing stealth defense; 2) developing talent and integrating returnees with newcomers brilliantly, and 3) almost never losing at home. Stew Morrill has USU ahead of Nevada and just one game behind Louisiana Tech in the WAC, with a chance to catch the Bulldogs this weekend. Nate Harris is the latest in a growing line of back-to-the-basket studs at the school, and Jaycee Carroll should appear with J.J. Redick, Steve Novak and Blake Ahearn on any short list of the best shooters in the country. Per usual, Morrill has done a fine job of replacing a key player (Spencer Nelson) from a year ago, and his team is 11-0 before the hardy fans at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Utah State also is one of the oldest teams anywhere; starting point guard David Pak is 29-years-old, and USU perennially features players on the roster who have been on two-year Latter Day Saints missions, including two this year. Finally, the Aggies are an example of a school that made a wise move in switching conferences and is already benefiting. While DePaul, Louisville and Cincinnati should all be wishing right about now to be back in Conference USA, Utah State moved up to a league that will give them more access to the NCAA Tournament, not less.

 

-Pardon another brief excursion into the Billy Packer Land of Coach Deification or the Dick Vitale Book of Grand Pronouncements, but it must be said that Dana Altman is one of the best coaches in the country in regards to flexibility and ability to push the right buttons with his team. The Creighton coach has never settled on playing just one style and is always willing to adjust to get the most out of his talent. An example is how he periodically uses a full-court press to keep opponents off guard and energize his own team. Under Altman, the Bluejays press some years more than others, and they’re doing it more this year and used it Saturday to come back from an early 25-6 deficit to beat Wichita State at the buzzer, 57-55, before a don’t-tell-the-fire-marshal crowd of 15,678 at the Qwest Center. Altman is a master at searching for and finding the right combinations to get CU going. He traditionally has one of the longest rotations in the country, usually playing 10-11 players every game, and it was that 10th man, Brice Nengsu, who played a big role in beating the Shockers. The sophomore hit three crucial three-pointers for Creighton, and his total of 10 points in the game was only nine below his previous total for the season. Altman’s teams have been famous for having many different players who can come up big at any given time, and it’s a big reason why he’s won big in Omaha despite having what many consider modestly talented players.

 

-Altman’s Creighton team got hosed in the Bracket Buster pairings, but mostly through little immediate fault of the Bluejays, their opponent (Fresno State, for the second time in four years) or the organizers of the event. The Bracket Buster this year has a slew of excellent home teams and few good road teams. Throw in the more-than-likely fact that the other participating conferences didn’t want the Missouri Valley to be hogging up all of the best road teams and wanted some good games for themselves, and the Jays’ matchup isn’t surprising. It should give the MVC consideration, though, about whether it really wants to be a part of this in the future. At the very least, the leagues involved should demand more balance in who gets home and away games. We’re not a fan of the mega-sized, watered-down Bracket Buster (bigger doesn’t equal better) but if there’s one thing that needs to be changed right away, there has to be some balance added to who are the home and away teams. If one had looked at those lists before the season, they would have seen this coming. It’s quite possible that this year the Bracket Buster will fail more than it succeeds in meeting its objective of generating another high RPI non-conference game for the best teams in the event, and the lack of quality matchups will hurt whatever TV appeal the event has this year and could in the future as well if this isn’t corrected.

 

-Next to nothing interesting or even relevant about the NCAA releasing its own RPI rankings. The rankings are almost identical to approximations done by the likes of Ken Pomeroy and Jerry Palm. Would’ve been nice to see a little more detail, though. The NCAA’s release does not include teams’ actual percentages, so we still don’t know for certain how much that extra little secret something weighs into the numbers. Judging by the minor differences, though, it likely doesn’t matter much.

 

-The best way to beat Indiana should be pretty evident by now: slow down Marco Killingsworth. Indiana State, Iowa and Minnesota all did it, and the Hoosiers went 0-3 in those games. Killingsworth scored just ten points against both the Sycamores and Hawkeyes in IU losses, and he was held in check in the first half on Sunday as the Golden Gophers built up a big halftime lead. (Big 10 also-ran Northwestern also held him to nine points on Wednesday and nearly won at Bloomington) The Gophers slapped a zone on Indiana early and used it to race to an 18-point lead at the half. Mike Davis did make a nice adjustment in the second half by pulling Killingsworth away from the basket, but the big guy still was less of a factor than his 15 points and eight rebounds would attest. Marco is by far IU’s best player, and stopping him is easier said than done. If a team can minimize the damage he does, though, then the Hoosiers are left to rely on three-point shooting. Didn’t work against Minnesota (5-for-23), and if Indiana can’t show more discipline than it did against the Gophers’ zone, it can count on seeing a lot more similar defenses in the future.

 

-Upon further review, the worst term in basketball still is ‘dribble drive.’ Straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. How else is one going to drive with a basketball? With a punt?

 

-Crazy to think a game between the bottom two teams in the Big South (VMI & Liberty) could be one of the better games of the week, but we watched this one Thursday and enjoyed it. Nice 71-67 win for the Flames, and the effort from both teams in this one was first-rate. Also another stellar performance by Liberty’s Larry Blair, too; 23 points and 13 rebounds from the 6-1 junior guard, who deserves better than a 5-16 team. Blair, who helped lead the Flames to the NCAAs as a freshman, is averaging 22 ppg this year.

 

-If you’re looking for one of those sleeper teams that most aren’t talking about yet but could be in a month, buy up on Western Kentucky right now. Aside from an inexplicably gory 27-point loss to Troy a few weeks ago, the Hilltoppers have been rolling since mid-December. WKU is another team not getting much from the Bracket Buster; a game against Big Sky leader Northern Arizona is quite intriguing, but NAU is around 145 in the RPI, not much help to a team that may well be good enough to deserve one of the last few at-large spots. Oh, and is it just us, but does Anthony Winchester just look like he has some of the best shooting form anywhere because he wears wristbands?

 

- Cal-Irvine is still leading the Big West, but we’re saying Pacific is still the team to beat. The Tigers made it a race again by beating UCI on Thursday night, closing to within one loss of the Anteaters. This year’s Pacific team isn’t as good as the last two that featured stars such as David Doubley, Miah Davis and Guillaume Yango, but we still wouldn’t want to bet against Bob Thomason or Christian Maraker coming down the stretch of the season.

 

-Good luck finding a more unselfish team anywhere than Winthrop. You won’t often be able to accuse the Eagles of not making the extra pass. In fact, they may be unselfish to a fault; sometimes the Eagles pass up perfectly good shots in the name of trying to hook up their teammate. At some point (read: NCAA Tournament) they’ll need some players to assert themselves the way James Shuler did against Charleston Southern on Saturday. Shuler was impressive, but Torrell Martin and Craig Bradshaw are others who will need to play big in order for Winthrop to advance in the tourney the way they are fully capable of doing.

 

-Speaking of unselfish, Hawaii’s Julian Sensley has been that for most of his career as a Rainbow Warrior, quite a feat for someone who is playing at a supposedly mid-level program and was thought to be an NBA prospect straight out of high school. This year, though, he’s shooting too many three-pointers, and it’s not helping a team that has lost some players to injury and is not the same team that opened the season with a rout of Michigan State. A skilled player all the way around, he should be spending more time inside, in this opinion.

 

-Was reminded recently of the memory of former Canisius player Richard Jones. Jones was the Golden Griffin who two years ago this May collapsed during a workout and later died. There is another Richard Jones playing in Division I right now, though, at Alabama-Birmingham. UAB’s Richard Jones wears number 31, the same number worn by the Richard Jones who died much too young.

 

-Congratulations to Duquesne on getting a win in the A-10 on Saturday against St. Bonaventure. The Dukes are in the midst of one of those exceptionally miserable seasons that seem to strike Atlantic 10 schools every so often, dating back to when George Washington went 1-27 in 1988-89. St. Bonnie had one last year (2-26), Fordham has had several, Rhode Island was 5-25 just a few years ago, and even Duquesne has gone through this before (5-23 in 1998-99). Usually the Dukes haven’t been this bad, often hovering around nine-win land, but this year has been rough. Injuries and defections have left this team as the Bryant McAllister Show (18.5 points per game, only Duke averaging in double figures) and have had their role in Duquesne losing to the likes of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Youngstown State. The Dukes even went 0-2 in their own holiday tournament, losing to Troy and Appalachian State. Yeech. However, Danny Nee’s team is now not even the worst in the A-10. That team now would be-you guessed it-St. Bonaventure. To the credit of the Dukes and Bonnies, both have had something of a silver lining in their losing. St. Bonaventure has lost four games by five points or less and another in double overtime, and Duquesne has actually played better against better teams, giving Boston College, Pitt and George Washington some trouble.

 

Games you can’t or won’t watch but should

Have to go with the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Other than Seattle fans, is there really anyone that wants to see the Seahawks win? Pittsburgh has The Bus, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. Seattle has Shaun Alexander, who no matter what he does this season is still at least as famous in these eyes for throwing a hissy-fit last year when he wasn’t allowed to get the rushing title.

Also, as has been the case in the past, the Duke-North Carolina game does not make this list, in protest of ESPN’s utter over-coverage of the series. One of the top rivalries in the nation, but not far-and-away the best as we’ve been led to believe. On the other hand, we’ve had a run of a few straight weeks with some excellent Thursday night games. Last week’s UAB-Memphis game (on CSTV) lived up to its billing, while we found the Western Kentucky-Louisiana-Lafayette game on ESPN2 a good watch. The George Washington-Xavier game this week (again, ESPN2) was also one of the best we’ve seen all season. For all the guff we give ESPN, the network deserves credit for showing some interesting games on Thursday nights of late, and we hope it continues in the future. Thursday night is the one weeknight that ESPN doesn’t have contracted out automatically to its chosen five conferences, and it would be nice to see it start spreading the wealth a little bit.

 

Saturday, February 4

 

Michigan at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are unranked, but is it really any surprise that they’re beating some of the Big 10’s best at Carver-Hawkeye Arena? It shouldn’t be.

 

Cincinnati at West Virginia. Like last weekend, a number of Saturday games featuring ranked teams against unranked teams that could use a win for NCAA hopes. This weekend, though, many of those teams, like the Bearcats, are on the road. Reports that the Bearcats may be running out of gas may not be as accurate as the fact that the schedule is just getting them, but remember, the Mountaineers are only one cold shooting night away from being very beatable.

 

Indiana State at Northern Iowa. Trees earn this one with their win at Southern Illinois on Wednesday. David Moss is back, and the Sycamores are 9-2 in games when he’s healthy; winless when he’s not.

 

Bucknell at Colgate. Scary game for the Bison. This is the time of year when it would be real easy for a team like them to get a little bored and not get it done on the road.

 

Yale at Pennsylvania. Bulldogs are one of the few with a realistic, though slim chance of staying with the Quakers in the Ivy Group.

 

NC-Wilmington at George Mason. Big February coming up for the Patriots. Nice to see UNCW back on track this year; like Utah State, this is a much underrated program.

 

Central Connecticut State at Monmouth. No matter what the standings say, these two are likely the teams to beat in the Northeast until knocked off in March.

 

LSU at Alabama. May not be another game this year with more solid frontline depth. Too bad neither team has a backcourt equal to its frontcourt, or these would both be top 10 teams.

 

Utah State at Louisiana Tech, Nevada at New Mexico State. First place in the WAC is on the line here. A Utah State win would mean the Aggies and the winner of the Wolf Pack-Aggies game would be in a three-way tie for first. It would also be demoralizing to La. Tech because it will have meant the Men Techsters had lost to both USU and Nevada at home this weekend.

 

Southern at Grambling. Top two teams in the SWAC meet, and first game of a huge three days for the Jaguars.

 

Arkansas State at South Alabama. USA has been one of the surprises of this season, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians have some say in who’s the best in the Sun Belt yet, either.

 

Southern Illinois at Wichita State. ESPN2 game has become a monster for both. Shockers may need this one a little more, but SIU could distinguish itself as the third-best MVC team with a win here.

 

Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Butler. Panthers are not invincible, and the Bulldogs are playing well.

 

Bradley at Missouri State. Fifth place in the MVC is on the line, which means more than it might sound like. Braves won first meeting. The winner keeps alive NCAA at-large hopes; the loser can likely forget it.

 

Oakland at IUPUI. This has turned into one of the Mid-Continent’s best series. Jaguars came back to steal first game by a point at O-rena.

 

Akron at Kent State. Huge one is for first in the MAC East. Was stoked to find out this one will be on Fox Sports-Ohio.

 

Creighton at Drake. Danger zone for the Bluejays. Bulldogs are starting to get worn down by their schedule but traditionally play Creighton tough. Indiana State’s upsetting Southern Illinois may not allow Drake as much chance of lying in the weeds here.

 

Air Force at BYU. Important week for the Falcons’ at-large chances. AFA beat Cougars handily in first meeting.

 

Sunday, February 5

Pittsburgh at Georgetown. Seems like old times, when Charles Smith and Jerome Lane were taking on Reggie Williams and Perry McDonald.

 

Loyola (Maryland) at Manhattan, Marist at Iona. The Gaels and Jaspers are in a sprint to the finish in the MAAC, while Marist and St. Peter’s are hot on their trails.

 

Navy at Army. A salute to the college sports rivalry that transcends all others.

 

Monday, February 6

 

Robert Morris at Fairleigh Dickinson. We know who they were, but if anyone can tell us who both of these people were, maybe we can have Shawn set you up with an Official CHN Chip Clip. Maybe.

 

College of Charleston at Elon. Two teams going in opposite directions. The Cougars are back on the upswing, while Elon has come back down to earth after a hot start in the SoCon.

 

Southern at Jackson State. Second straight big game for Southern, which would be in great position to win the SWAC regular season title if it wins both.

 

Loyola Marymount at San Diego. Could be the two best teams in the WCC behind Gonzaga. Also on this list because at some point this year we needed a game played at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion, a.k.a. the Slim Gym.

 

St. Mary’s at Gonzaga. The Bulldogs should win this one, being at home and given that the Gaels have been close but usually unable to close the deal against them. SMC can beat Gonzaga, though, even on the road if the Zags have an off night. Then again, we’ve been saying such things all year about GU opponents…

 

Tuesday, February 7

 

St. Joseph’s at Villanova. Wildcats are certainly better, but 1) this is a Big 5 game and 2) both teams know each other very well. In this case, that advantage goes to the underdog; St. Joe’s knows it can play with Villanova and has enough guards that it may be able to hold up in a jump-shooting contest.

 

Wichita State at Northern Iowa. Things getting just a little hairier in the MVC now with UNI losing at home to Creighton last week, Southern Illinois getting bumped by Indiana State and the Shockers still maybe needing a marquee win. Hoping to see the Panthers in person soon.

 

Tennessee at Kentucky. Sniff, sniff. Smelling that Wildcats late season run that we’ve been expecting.

 

Missouri State at Southern Illinois. The Salukis can’t afford many more slip ups after losing to Indy State, even if it isn’t nearly as bad of a loss as many might think since the Sycamores had David Moss back. Bears beat SIU the first time these two met and still have postseason hopes of their own.

 

Wednesday, February 8

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. The Sooners are obviously the better team, but would it be any surprise at all if the Cowboys win this one? No.

 

Indiana at Wisconsin. Forget the RPI numbers; if the Badgers start going on a free-fall-not completely unlikely given all the injuries-they could miss the NCAA Tournament.

 

New Hampshire at Binghamton. We told you about the Wildcats, and while it looks like this is Albany’s league to lose, UNH is making a push into the first division of the America East.

 

Manhattan at St. Peter’s. Peacock’ Keydren Clark is making one final push to get into the NCAA Tournament. It would be a treat if he finally at long last got a chance to strut his stuff (horrible pun) on the national stage.

 

Seton Hall at South Florida. Let’s calm down the storm about the Pirates for a little bit. Remember, this is still the same team that was destroyed by Duke and has lost to Richmond and Northwestern. If the Hall can get through Sunday’s game with Rutgers and this one against the pesky Bulls without losing, then we’ll start taking this team more seriously.

 

Temple at UNC-Charlotte. The Owls are teasing us again, looking great in beating Xavier, Maryland and Massachusetts.

BYU at Utah. The Cougars are quietly having a nice season, while the Utes are not.

 

Air Force at San Diego State. The Mountain West is hard to handicap this year, but this one could be for the conference title. Falcons won the first, but the Aztecs are hotter.

 

Alabama-Birmingham at Texas-El Paso. Hate to be smart about this, but unfortunately it’s true: this is a rare relevant Conference USA game not including Memphis. Still like the Blazers a lot this year, and remember, Mike Anderson’s teams usually are playing their best ball at the end of the season.

 

Thursday, February 9

 

West Virginia at Pittsburgh. The Backyard Brawl may end up being the game of the year in the Big East.

 

Ohio State at Michigan. We’ll give the Wolverines some due, though it’s likely we’ll never be as impressed with them this year as most others are.

 

George Mason at Virginia Commonwealth. Big one in the CAA should be one of the most intense games of the week. Jeff Capel continues to do a swell job every year at VCU and is the rare unheralded young coach.

 

Campbell at East Tennessee State. How many know that the Camels ranked third in the nation in scoring? Playing against a Buccaneer team with Tim Smith that also likes to put it in overdrive, first one to 100 wins this.

 

Texas-Arlington at Northwestern State. Congratulations to the Demons for getting a well-deserved good Bracket Buster game on TV vs. Utah State. We love both of these teams because they run most of their offense inside the three-point line, something you don’t see much these days. Northwestern State will be a fun team to watch in March.

 

Gardner-Webb at Kennesaw State. Runnin’ Bulldogs are climbing back into the A-Sun title picture.

 

Stanford at California. Count the loser out of the bubble talk for a few weeks. At least they’re off our bubble.

 

Pacific at Cal State-Fullerton. Question: why did ESPN stop showing late-night games on other nights of the week besides Big Monday? Never understood that one, we always loved them. This is the Big West’s token regular season game on the four-letter network this year. After last year’s NIT run, Fullerton has been a disappointment this year.

 

 

 

 

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