College Basketball: Week in Review
Rob Carpentier's "Seven Day Stretch" is a whirlwind tour around every corner of college basketball nation:
Seven Day Savior (Team): Clemson
The Clemson Tigers have a habit of stating fast and then fading once ACC play begins. That may finally be changing this season. With Sunday's impressive more-than-you-know victory AT Miami (Fla.), the Tigers won a game that they simply couldn't last season; namely on the road. Even though Clemson made the NCAA Tournament last season, they definitely struggled again during the meat of their schedule. This win, a convincing one at that, on the road against a good, (read: NCAA), type team is an encouraging sign that the Tigers won't be fighting just to make the Big Dance at the end of the season. With double digit scoring from K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker and Terrence Oglesby, and solid point guard play from Demontez Stitt, Coach Oliver Purnell has perhaps his best outfit yet. I'm not suggesting that the Tigers can challenge Duke, let alone North Carolina for ACC supremacy...yet, but I am saying that as of now, Clemson should have the inside track on the third spot in the ACC.
Seven Day Savior (Player): Champ Oguchi
I was going to write about Illinois State last week, but computer issues prevented that. In lieu of talking about the team, though, I can talk about the Redbirds' best player, Champ Oguchi, an Oregon transfer who has Illinois State on the road to their first NCAA bid since 1998. Oguchi scored 18 points in a win over Illinois-Chicago in what has been the Redbirds' biggest game yet. This is the same UIC squad that has already defeated Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech on the road. Oguchi leads the team in scoring and his athleticism is a step above what the Missouri Valley Conference is used to...and that's saying something. As well as his scoring, Oguchi is essentially tied for the team lead in rebounding and has fast become a leader on a squad that was decimated by injuries before the year and lost three starters to graduation. Oh, and the Redbirds are undefeated.
Game of the Week (The one you already heard about): Georgetown @ Connecticut
Georgetown travels to Connecticut on Monday night to open the Big East campaign for both squads. Georgetown has already defeated Maryland and Memphis and their only loss has come on a neutral court against Tennessee. The Huskies are undefeated and have beaten Miami (Fla.), Wisconsin and Gonzaga along the way. This will be a test of coaching acumen between two of the best gam coaches in the country; UConn's Jim Calhoun and G-Town's John Thompson III. On the floor, Hoya super frosh Greg Monroe will be tested by Husky big man Hasheem Thabeet. However, the game should come down to guard play and that's where the Huskies have an advantage in talent as well as depth. A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson should have the better of the match-up against Hoya guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Calhoun brings Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker off the bench while Thompson counters with Jesse Sapp and Jason Clark. Here's where UConn really gets the better of the match-up; Austrie and Walker could start for most teams around the country, while Sapp and Clark can't. Guard play and UConn getting this one at home should mean a big early conference victory for the Huskies.
Game of the Week (The one you DON'T know about): Davidson @ Charleston
Davidson may have the name, but they are still a mid-major team in a mid-major, (Southern), conference, so winning the conference may be a must for Davidson to get into the Big Dance come March. While Davidson has gotten the headlines, the best team in the Southern Conference may the College of Charleston Cougars, coached by former Georgia Tech head man Bobby Cremins. With Cremins on the sidelines the Cougars may have an answer for Bob McKillop, Davidson's high level head coach. Many teams in the Southern Conference have played Davidson at a disadvantage from before the opening tip because of McKillop's presence. Cremins at least neutralizes that if not even giving Charleston a slight advantage. Unlike Davidson, who has the superlative Stephen Curry, Andrew Lovedale and little else in the way of scoring, the Cougars have four players averaging in double figures led by sophomore guard Andrew Goudelock. Charleston has more balance; Charleston has a heck of a coach; Charleston is at home; Charleston should win the game.
Seven Days Under the Radar: St. Mary's Gaels
They shouldn't be under the radar after last season, but very few people are talking about the Gaels of St. Mary's...yet. Coming off a 24-6 2007-2008 regular season and an NCAA berth as well as returning the best player in the West that you've never heard of, (sophomore guard Patrick Mills), you'd think more "basketball people" would be mentioning the Gaels in the same breath with Gonzaga and Davidson, but they aren't. Her is what the Gaels have done to date. They are 9-1 with an RPI in the Top 25. They've already defeated Oregon, Providence, San Diego State and they crushed Southern Illinois this past weekend. As well as the Aussie Mills, who averages just under 20 PPG, the Gaels have two players who average a double double in Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson. Coach Randy Bennett is as good as they come in the West Coast Conference, and yes, that includes Gonzaga's Mark Few, and the Gaels have a real homecourt advantage. The Gaels' schedule is fairly light, with only the road tilt at San Diego to really worry about before the first match-up with the Zags. Don't be surprised if St. Mary's is 17-1 going into that contest.
Seven Days on the Hot Seat: Steve Alford, New Mexico
Last year I wrote about Iowa forcing out Steve Alford and how shabby that looked. Well, the folks in Iowa City may have been right. Alford is off to a pretty poor start this season at New Mexico, where the Lobos sit at 7-5. That may not seem so bad until you look closer at the losses and see that four of the five have come against mid-major competition. And its not as if the Lobos are losing to Davidson and Gonzaga. No, New Mexico has been defeated by Virginia Commonwealth, Drake, Creighton and (gulp), Central Florida. Alford's charges had better sweep the annual home-and-home games with New Mexico State or the Lobos are staring at an 8-6 record entering conference play in the Mountain West with possible sweeps coming at the hands of UNLV and BYU, as well as another daunting non-conference game against a good UTEP squad. People in Albuquerque aren't known for having a lot of patience with what is the state's premier sports program, so even though Alford won 24 games last season and he brought in a stellar recruiting class, including top 100 recruit Phillip McDonald, he may hear a lot of grumbling if his Lobos, who had four returning starters, finish around .500 for the season. It doesn't mean he'll be canned this year, but two in a row may very well give him his walking papers.
Seven Days of Head Scratching: Coaching Etiquette
Drexel coach James "Bruiser" Flint was barred from coaching in a game against Memphis this past Monday night because he had violated the Colonial Athletic Association's sportsmanship rule by getting himself ejected in an earlier game against Bucknell. I don't care that Flint and Drexel appealed the ruling to the CAA office so hat Flint cold coach against his former boss, John Calipari, and that the CAA didn't bend, (that's a great decision), no, my concern is why many other conferences DON'T have a sportsmanship rule. Fans complain about game officials, and on occasion rightly so, but there's a line between criticism and outright harassment, and many coaches, especially at the BCS level, (read: Coach K, Jim Calhoun, etc.), abuse officials in order to impose their will on a game. I'm not saying that every conference should have a tried and true, set in stone rule, but there should be some sort of sportsmanship clause in each conference so that abuse of officials doesn't take place. I understand that to impose a hard and fast rule gives officials, who in many cases have egos as large as the coaches of the games they're working, an ace in the hole to show up a coach, but let's face it; the CAA did the right thing. Common sense can and should prevail. It would be nice to see other conferences, regardless of the level of play, follow suit.