College Basketball: Monday 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.
The Coaches Question will return next week. After the
week off, the Mailbag is overflowing so I will get through as many as
possible starting with the hot topic of Florida.
Why does Florida not get the publicity they deserve?
This is the most balanced team in college basketball. Any player on the team
can step up and score 20. Against Miami when Horford and Brewer were off,
Noah and Humphrey stepped up. Do you think Duke could win without JJ and
Shelden having good games? Please explain this to me.
The surprising sophomores from Florida have high energy
and are extremely athletic. Will the babies go to bed early come March?
I donít know if I could say a top five team isnít getting
enough respect, but people arenít talking about Florida as much as Duke,
Connecticut, Villanova and Memphis; and for good reason. The wins against
Wake Forest and Syracuse are looking less impressive as time goes on. No
doubt there is balance, but any way you look at it, Iíd rather have J.J.
Redick taking a clutch shot down the stretch than any sophomore on Florida.
Redick and Williams rarely have a bad day at the same time. When they do,
theyíll lose, but Florida will have bad days too. Do the Gators deserve the
top five ranking? Absolutely. Will they end the season there? I donít
When it comes down to it, the important thing is March.
There isnít a game on the schedule that Florida canít win and we could be
looking at a three or four seed for the Gators. Billy Donovan hasnít
reached the Sweet Sixteen since 2000 when they lost in the national
championship game. I call it the curse of hurting Mateen Cleaves. With so
much parity this season, even playing a 13 or 14 seeded team wonít be easy.
If Florida drops further, we could be looking at that dreaded 5/12 match-up
that has given the Gators so much trouble in recent history. Of course it
all comes down to match-ups come March, but with a young team and a point
guard who never started before this season, picking against Florida will be
very popular on brackets across the country. Right now I will give the
Gators one win in the NCAAs. After that, the lack of experience becomes
With all that said, the Gators are looking great for the
future. For years Coach Donovan hasnít been able to take his team over the
humpÖmostly due to star players splitting early. That could still happen,
but for now this team is a team, not a player or two increasing his draft
position. Florida is in the top ten in assists per game and this team will
easily be a contender for a Final Four in 2007, as long as they stay a team.
What's going on with the Oklahoma Sooners? Is it just
a funk or are they very overrated.
The backcourt departures hurt a lot more than most people
thought they would. Terrell Everettís numbers look fine, but somebody has
to control that backcourt. The end of the Tulsa game was ridiculous. The
Sooners took five shots in 20 seconds up by 20 points with five minutes
left, if my memory serves me correctly. And we are not talking easy, open
shots. Player after player forced up shots that they could have gotten 30
seconds later, which would have wisely eaten up some clock. Everett and
Mike Neal are putting up more shots than Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout. Take
it inside, thatís your strength. OUís 3-point field goal percentage is 11th
in the conference, just slipping ahead of Baylorís 0%.
The question becomes if anybody can do anything about
it. If anybody can, itís Coach Sampson. The backcourt isnít young, but
there are a lot of new players. None of the backcourt contributors have
been at Oklahoma for more than two seasons. They are still adjusting to
playing with each other. A top ten ranking was a little much, but Texas and
Texas Tech were overrated even more. The Sooners are still a top 25 team
and will stay there throughout the season.
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When are you going to give George Washington some
love? Clearly the best team in DC, the A10, and increasingly a national
contender. 'Nuff said.
Have I not given love to the Colonials? I had GW ranked
#17 in the preseason, which incidentally is the highest ranked team in the
A-10 or the D.C. area, surpassing Georgetown and the Terps. (
George Washington lost recently to N.C. State, making
their only good win against Maryland. Yet, GW has done a good job of
handily beating teams they should beat. The game at Temple should be a good
indication for both teams. There is no doubt in my mind that GW is the team
to beat in the A-10, especially if they can get by John Chaney and company
If I watch just one Notre Dame game this season, which
one should it be?
It depends on what you want. Do you want a Notre Dame
victory or just to see a good team beat up on your Irish? At Marquette
should be a close, hard fought battle on Friday, January 20th.
If you want a better team, Iíd go with at Connecticut on Tuesday, February
21st. That should also be a very important game if ND wants to
clinch an NCAA bid. If you are planning to trek across Amish country to
South Bend, check out Villanova on Saturday, January 28th. Donít
forget to support your local schools.
Will Baylor defend their national championship? If
not, how far do you think they will go?
I did a double take when I read this question. Do we
cover womenís basketball? Iím no expert on the subject (160 games is
enough for one weekend, I canít handle 160 more). Yet, being the only game
in town at the moment, Iíll take a stab at it. I have to go with Tennessee
to win it this year. It is nice to see the dynasty days of Tennessee and
UConn coming to an end though. Schools all over the country are continuing
to develop solid programs that can compete with the big boys, so to
The Bears lost two starters in Chelsea Whitaker and
Steffanie Blackmon, as well as super sub Emily Niemann, from last years
National Championship squad. The loss of Whitaker was the main concern, but
sophomore Angela Tisdale stepped up and then some to take over the point
guard duties. With Tisdale, who is coming off of a three game suspension,
and the senior leadership of returning starters Sophia Young, Abiola Wabara
and Chameka Scott, Baylor has the tools to make another deep run in March.
Last year was a magical season in Waco. The Bears will be a good program
for years to come, but Iíd be surprised if they won another championship so
soon. Iíll put them in the Elite Eight, just missing out on another trip to
the Final Four.
Check back each week for Joel Wesler's Monday Mailbag. If
you'd like to ask Joel a question or if you'd like to read past editions,
check out the
Monday Mailbag Homepage.