College Basketball: 5 Things We Learned This Week

December 16th, 2008

Kevin McNeill's weekly 5 Things column breaks down what's important in the world of college basketball.

Five things we learned this week...

1) That Bill Self is not very happy with his freshmen right now. 

It's the last play of the game, Kansas is down by one, time is ticking away, Sherron Collins' shot is altered and the rebound, and the possible final shot, comes down to...Conner Teahan?  Not to pick on Teahan, he actually had the shot of the game with an acrobatic three point play minutes earlier, but some Kansas fans found it surprising that the seldom used sophomore was in the game for so long, and in that situation. 

The reason was that all five members of KU's heralded freshman class were on the bench for most of the losing effort against UMass, including the final minutes.  In fact, for large parts of the second half, all five were on the bench at the same time - for good reason.  The Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor combined for 3-16 shooting for 7 points, while Travis Releford and Quintrell Thomas played only four and two minutes, respectively. 

This is still a very, very good freshman class.  But if they came to Lawrence believing they were going to have an immediate impact and instantly become the stars they were accustomed to being in High School, so far, they have been pretty humbled. 


2) That no team since the 1991 UNLV Running Rebels has looked this dominant up to this point in the season as North Carolina. 

After UNC's 16 point formality over Oral Roberts on Saturday, the Heels have beaten every one of their first 9 opponents by at least 15 points to start the year.  They drubbed Kentucky without Tyler Hansbrough, crushed a very good Notre Dame team in Maui, and flat-out embarrassed Michigan State in Detroit. 

Yet few seem to be ready to start asking the obvious: can they run the table?   Maybe it's because the Heels lost star freshman Tyler Zeller for the year.  Or that UNC plays Duke twice, possibly three times if you include the ACC Tournament, and it is unlikely that they will sweep what has become the nation's most infamous rivalry against an outstanding Blue Devils team.  Whatever the reason, should this juggernaut continue on its current pace, you won't be able to suppress talk of an undefeated season much longer.

3) That some sleeper teams are emerging. 

Baylor is now 8-1, with wins over Arizona State and Providence, and will in all likelihood not be truly tested until Big 12 play begins, which means they will be sitting at 12-1 come January. 

Arizona is showing that they are not as dysfunctional as we were led to believe in the wake of Lute Olson's surprising retirement.  Led by Chase Budinger and the much-improved duo of Jordan Hill and Nic Wise, the Wildcats upended #4 Gonzaga Sunday - although granted not exactly on a neutral court in Phoenix - and would be undefeated if not for single point losses to UAB and Texas A&M. 

Also, don't sleep on 10-1 Seton Hall, who dispatched St. Peter's this week by 14 points, and already has quality wins over USC and Virginia Tech.  


4) That the A-10 had a pretty good week. 

It hasn't exactly been a banner year so far for the A-10, but with UMass beating Kansas in Kansas City, Temple shocking Tennessee, and Xavier continuing to impress with a win over a solid Cincy program, the conference has plenty to smile about this week.


5) That if Dionte Christmas has another great game against Kansas on Dec 20th, commentators and sportswriters may set a single game pun record. 

After Christmas poured on 30 points in the second half to lift Temple to a relatively easy, yet shocking, thumping of Tennessee, we learned it was "a Christmas story" and that "Christmas came early", among many other things.   It might be best just to watch the Kansas - Temple matchup with the mute on.