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