Well we are about 1/3 of the way through the College Basketball season and we have seen a lot of different things up to this point. We saw a mammoth clash between UNC and UK that went right down to the wire before the Cats pulled out a victory. We seen a great group of teams assembled for the Maui Classic, including Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown but when it was all said and done, the “Dukies” continued their mastery of the islands and brought home the championship. We have already had 3 teams stand atop the polls at #1; we started with North Carolina, then we had Kentucky and now we have Syracuse. We have been surprised by some teams while disappointed by others but thru it all, we are prepared to witness even more great things as each team quickly approaches conference play. So with that being said, let me hand out a few honors as well as a few “head-smacks” for what has transpired thus far.
The Five Most Disappointing Teams:
- UCLA Bruins (5-5) – Began the year as a Top 15 Team; they have won 3 in a row just to get to .500. Howland’s seat in Westwood is starting to get warm.
- Vanderbilt Commodores (7-4) – Began the year as a Top 15 Team; the Commodores are struggling with injuries in the post and they have been abysmal at times on both ends of the court.
- Villanova Wildcats (7-5) – While most people knew Jay Wright’s program would be rebuilding most could not have thought it would be this painful.
- Memphis Tigers (6-4) – Began the year as a Top10 Team; now to their credit, Memphis has lost to some good teams but they better get it turned around quickly.
- Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (8-5) – Much like ‘Nova, fans in South Bend knew this team was not as good as the last couple of seasons but the loss of Tim Abromaitius may be more than this team can withstand.
The Five Most Surprising Teams:
- Missouri Tigers (11-0) – Currently #9 ;Despite the changing of coaches over the off-season, some wondered if the Tigers were getting the worse end of the deal with former Miami coach, Frank Haith………..I think the record says it all
- Indiana Hoosiers (10-0) – Currently #17; Tom Cream finally looks to have what he wanted in Bloomington, a team that is solid on both ends of the floor.
- Georgetown Hoyas (9-1) – Currently #16; many thought the Hoyas would be scuffling just to get wins but they have beaten Alabama and Memphis already.
- Virginia Cavaliers (9-1) – Currently #24; The Cavs are one of those “under the radar” teams with no big-name player to speak of, but they have already beaten Michigan.
- Harvard Crimson (9-1) – Currently #25 (USA Today) – Tommy Amaker has a solid ball club whose only loss thus far was on the road at Connecticut.
The Best Conference: The Big 10 – After the Big 10 destroyed the ACC in their annual conference clash, there is no reason not to believe that this conference can put 8 or 9 teams in the “Big Dance” in March.
The Most Scrutinized Team: The Louisville Cardinals (10-0) – Some people are saying the Cardinals are the worst Top 5 team they have seen but the numbers show different. The have beaten Vanderbilt, Memphis and Butler but they have only played 1 game outside of the friendly confines of the YUM Center….that game was right up the road in Indianapolis.
The Most Scrutinized Conference: The PAC-12 – This conference does not boast ONE single team in the Top 25 in any poll at this point and that quite frankly is reason for concern. Stanford (10-1) and California (10-2) have the best records but when they have played a team of caliber, both have lost. The third best team at the moment is Oregon State………., yes I said Oregon State (9-2).
The Most Improved Player: Dion Waiters (Syracuse) – Waiters has gone from a guy that barely saw action last year to a star in the making. Waiters came out of high school highly acclaimed but then struggled to understand the offensive and defensive philosophies that Jim Boeheim teaches. Waiters even considered transferring this summer. But he seems to have a renewed spirit and dedication and he is one of the reasons the ‘Cuse are #1 right now.
The Conference Most Likely to Turn MMA: The Big East – Between the Georgetown Hoya’s brawl with the Chinese National team over the summer and the fight the Cincinnati Bearcats had with Xavier, the Big East referees must be fully prepared for anything once conference play begins. Factor in other physical teams like UCONN, PITT, Syracuse and Seton Hall, some of the conference games could resemble a match in the caged “Octagon”.
Conference With the Most to Prove: The SEC – Because John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have ruled the recruiting and the conference for two consecutive seasons, it has overshadowed nearly every other team. This season, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are considered to be contenders to the throne but more importance will be placed on what they do in March.
The Best 5 Teams I Have Seen Up to This Point:
- Syracuse Orangemen – This may be Boeheim’s best team since Carmelo Anthony was in the Orange.
- Kentucky Wildcats – The Cats have tremendous talent at every position but one, at the point. While Teague is quick and explosive, he is not in the Caliber of former PGs, Wall and Knight so he will have some growing pains along the way.
- North Carolina Tar Heels – The Heels are similar to UK in that they have talent all over the floor but Marshall must become a factor offensively if UNC wants to be a complete team.
- Missouri Tigers – The Tigers are truly “high octane” at the highest level. They push the ball on offense and will even press you 94 ft. on defense.
- Duke Blue Devils – The Blue-Devils have a good inside / outside combination that makes it hard to key on anyone facet of their game.