Welser Wonders: Bo Ryan, Dave Odom, CSUN

January 23rd, 2008

As a neutral observer, I never get to have any personal interest in the bubble. But I figure I have the right to cheer for my alma mater and boy is it fun. Even when my school has little to no chance of an at-large bid, I still can’t help but check the RPI numbers right after an opponent of an opponent plays a game. ‘Was that win by Utah Valley State enough to move Northridge up .01 points in the RPI?’ I always hope and wonder. And those Matadors kick off this week of what “Welser Wonders…”


…where the love is for the Matadors? I’m not one to care about polls very much, since they are meaningless and it is difficult to argue with somebody’s opinion of a team, but I had to find a way to talk about California State University, Northridge. In the collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, CSUN is ranked 13th. Ranked 12th is Cleveland State and UC Santa Barbara is 11th. So what’s the problem? Northridge has beaten both of those teams this year.

Cleveland State has a valid argument. Their RPI is nine spots better than CSUN and they do have some quality wins over Butler, Florida State and Valparaiso. UCSB, on the other hand, has one good win against UNLV. However, at least by the RPI numbers, that is not as impressive of a win as Northridge’s victory over Cleveland State. Northridge has a better record than UCSB and a much better RPI. CSUN’s worse loss of the year is at Washington, while the Gauchos lost to UC Irvine.

It is quite clear that the preseason expectations have continued to play a large part in these polls. UCSB was expected to win the Big West while CSUN was expected to continue their mediocrity by turning the ball over 20 times a game and getting out-rebounded by 30 a game. Luckily, it has no effect on anything and the Big West will come down to four days in Anaheim anyway. And, of course, the Matadors lost to Chicago State on Tuesday after I wrote this anyway, so there goes my fun RPI watching.

…why he doesn’t take his own advice? About a month ago I was talking to a friend about hoops. What else would I talk about? Somehow we got on the topic of Texas A&M and they were wondering how good they really were. So I go on about senior leadership, the absence of Acie Law and so forth. Beating Washington and Ohio State on a neutral floor is all well and good, but the Aggies lost their only true road game at Arizona by 11. After glancing at a schedule during that conversation, I told my friend if he wanted to make some easy money, take Texas Tech and the points on January 16th.

The occasional trip to the slot machines and the not so friendly family card game is about as much gambling as I can handle, but when a team is playing their second road game in mid-January, you can bet the spread will be in your favor. It turned out there was no need to take the five or six points Vegas was giving the Red Raiders, as TAMU lost by 15. It didn’t get any better a few days later when the team had to head to Kansas State where they lost by 21.

The real story, besides me not trusting myself, is that Texas A&M has had the second easiest schedule in the Big XII and the RPI numbers are not promising if they can’t win a game on the road. The next road game is Saturday in Stillwater and besides the February 5th trip to Iowa State, Okie State may be the most winnable road game on the Aggies schedule.

…what to think about the departure of South Carolina coach Dave Odom? Odom stepped down, or retired, or whatever you want to call it, this week effective at the end of the season. The Gamecocks have actually done better than I expected this year. They’ve only lost to one team outside of the top 50 in the RPI and have beaten two teams in the top 50 in Providence and Arkansas. Who really expected anything better than that? But that is part of the problem…the expectations in Columbia are a lot higher than consistent NIT success.

Coach Odom’s resignation speech reminded me of Richard Nixon. Even the most die-hard Democrats who have been hoping for years for that moment must have felt some pity for the man inside the tough exterior as he said goodbye to the nation. Most South Carolina fans probably weren’t as sympathetic. When you lose your people, it is time to move on and that is what Coach Odom has done. The coach mentioned many times during his press conference that the fans weren’t behind his team anymore. I don’t know if it is ever wise to boo your own team, but it happens and that is a good time to go your separate ways.

The problem was Coach Odom’s constant mention of the fans rubbed some the wrong way. I don’t think he intended to blame the fans, he was just pointing out the fact that when the fans aren’t behind you, it is time for a change, but some came away with the impression that the fans were being blamed. To keep the politics thing going, that didn’t work for Jimmy Carter and the energy crisis and it won’t work in college basketball either. In the end, it was time for a change and now South Carolina fans can at least be excited for the rest of this season about next season.

…when we will learn to respect Bo Ryan? Except for last year, the Badgers rarely have any superstars. That is the case again this year and Wisconsin is off to a 16-2 start. Most had them pegged as a bubble team, but Coach Ryan is back to his old ways of going under the radar and putting together a quality team based on solid defense and interchangeable parts. Trevon Hughes, Brian Butch and Marcus Landry are all averaging double figure scoring and the bench has plenty of talent.

However, the jury is not out quite yet on the Badgers. The team’s two losses were against Duke and Marquette, which is fine. Their best win is at Texas, which is becoming less and less impressive with each passing two point Longhorn victory over inferior opponents. Wisconsin’s 6-0 conference mark is somewhat misleading. The Badgers have played Michigan twice and each of the four other cellar dwellers of the Big Ten. Once the Badgers start playing Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and Minnesota, we will see if the Badgers are something special or just another probable one and done team come March.