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Columnists | Message Board  | Monday Mailbag Archive

By Joel Welser

December 20th, 2005


College Basketball: Weekly Mailbag


Each Monday, CHN college basketball expert Joel Welser opens up his mailbag to answer fan questions.  One question is chosen each week to be answered by a few college assistant or head coaches.  At the end, Joel also includes some timely college basketball tidbits.  If you'd like to ask Joel a question or if you'd like to read past editions, check out the Monday Mailbag archive.


Note: The Coaches Question will return after the holiday season. 



What’s the deal with Michigan State?  Are they still the favorite to win the Big Ten like many are saying?


From James,  



Well they are the favorites, but not the big favorites that some are projecting.  The Big Ten is brutal.  There are still nine teams with legitimate hopes for a Big Ten title and, more importantly, nine teams that can knock off the Spartans on any given day.  If anybody says it is a lock for Michigan State to win the Big Ten, they are crazy. 


The biggest reason, which nobody is talking about, is the schedule.  Michigan State plays the top six teams twice and the bottom four teams once.  The bottom four being Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State and Minnesota, although the Gophers are head and shoulders above those other three.    If the Spartans do win it, they’ll definitely deserve it, but Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan could just easily come out of dust with the Big Ten title.



Tennessee is 6-0, and they just finished beating up the # 7 team in the land?  Will they finally get some much deserved respect and be ranked, or will the perception that they're merely a football school with a crappy basketball program continue to prevent them from achieving a spot in the top 25?


From Ben,

Knoxville, Tennessee


The problem is that the Volunteers received zero votes last week.  When a teams’ preseason projection is low, it takes more than one big win to knock them into the top 25.  Victories over the likes of East Tennessee State, Louisiana Lafayette, Murray State and Eastern Kentucky at home won’t garner any respect, since Tennessee is supposed to win those games.  The Volunteers need another big win and they can get it Thursday at Oklahoma State.


The other issue is the win over Texas.  While Tennessee played extremely well and deserves credit for playing well, the Volunteers aren’t a team that should be able to blow out Texas.  The Longhorns didn’t show up to play the game.  If Bruce Pearl and company can prove that theory wrong and continue winning, they’ll be ranked soon enough and dancing in March. 


I don’t believe that the perception of Tennessee being a football school has any effect.  The preseason expectations are what causes a 6-0 team not to be ranked and the low expectations are justified by a new coach, a questionable frontcourt and the loss of Scooter McFadgon and Brandon Crump.  It was very tough to rank Tennessee any higher than 5th in the SEC East during the preseason, so they have a lot of ground to make up.  And that takes time and victories. 


Have a question?  Email Joel at  We’ll post and answer as many as possible.  Please include your first name and home state and put Monday Mailbag in the email title. 


Joel’s Thoughts of the Week

After beating Wake Forest, DePaul headed to Norfolk, Virginia to face Old Dominion.  The Monarchs were coming off a couple of less than stellar performances, but they sure didn’t show it.  ODU absolutely destroyed DePaul 87-43.  Jerry Wainwright’s squad all but left the court in the final minutes, allowing ODU to rack up 58 second half points.  DePaul is one streaky team. 


The battle for second place in the WAC took place on the islands Saturday when Hawaii knocked off Utah State 69-59.  If a WAC team outside of Nevada wants to have a shot at an automatic bid, it’s most likely going to come from those two teams.

Conference USA teams lost to Lamar, Appalachian State and South Alabama on Saturday.  That’s not going to help the RPI or get a second team into the NCAAs.


Speaking of South Alabama, the Sun Belt squad now has wins at Houston, Southern Miss and Loyola Marymount.  The Jaguars haven’t had much success since going to the NIT in 2001, but the additions of Chey Christie from Clemson and Demetric Bennett from SMU, not to mention the senior leadership of Mario Jointer and Richard Law, have turned John Pelphrey’s squad into Sun Belt contenders.


Six Degrees

I don’t need six to get from Saint Xavier (IL) to Wake Forest.  Wake Forest lost to DePaul, who lost to Northern Illinois, who lost to University of Illinois-Chicago, who lost to Saint Xavier (IL).  The Cougars, who, based on this theory, are practically the best team in Chicago, squeaked by UIC 74-73 on a late lay-up by senior Jason Reiter. 


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