Few quick thoughts on college basketball half way thru the season:
The most complete team in the country right now is…PITTSBURGH. UNC and UConn might have the most potential, and Wake might be the most athletic, but the team most ready to win six games in March run right now is Coach Jamie Dixon’s squad. They play terrific team defense, don’t turn the ball over late in games, and have a deep and stable rotation. In addition they have the three components most great teams have: a low post banger in DeJuan Blair, a reliable scorer in Sam Young, and most important a veteran point guard in Levance Fields. Pitt will also benefit from being battle tested week in and week out in a tough and deep Big East.
Team that will disappoint in the post season is….DUKE. Look for them to be watching the Final Four from their Durham dorm rooms again this year. Don’t get me wrong they will win a ton of regular season games, get a high NCAA tourney seed, and maybe even split the season series with Carolina, but without any semblance of an inside game they hardly have the makings of a team that will make a deep postseason run. Duke relies far too heavily on perimeter players and their 3 point shooting. They struggle anytime they don’t shoot the three-ball well or if they play a team with size.
The most frustrating team to follow will be…. WAKE FOREST. Blessed with a roster that includes four player 6’11 or taller, probable All-ACC players Jeff Teague and James Johnson, and a future lottery pick in forward in Al-Farouq Aminu, the Demon Deacons have the talent to beat any team in the country (see wins this year over UNC and Duke). However, on the flip side they are also a very young and inexperienced team that can loose to teams they shouldn’t, as evidenced by losses to Virginia Tech and a putrid Georgia Tech team. They have problems closing out games which can be attributed to youth and inexperience on the roster and on the sideline. It’s unpopular to say, but I think Dino Gaudio may have become the head coach of a big time program a few years before he was ready. This is a team that will make some noise this year, but more than likely is a year away from hoisting any hardware.
Whatever happened to….OREGON. This team which has been a perennial contender in the PAC 10 over the last decade, sent half a dozen players to the NBA, and has more money than most medium-sized countries (on account of their close associations with Nike and Phil Knight), has gone completely in the toilet this year. Coming off an Elite Eight run in 2007 and a #9 seed a year ago, they currently stand at 6-14 overall and 0-8 in the PAC 10. Even more embarrassing than Joey Harrington on the guitar, they’ve lost home games this year to Oakland, Portland, and a “neutral” court game to San Diego at the Rose Garden. Don’t look now Duck’s fans but the Oregon State Beavers, coached by President Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson, are now a better basketball team. Coach Ernie Kent better get his resume ready.
Also whatever happened to…..CALLING A TRAVEL! It has long been the standard in the NBA that the ref’s swallow their whistles with regards to traveling, but now it’s starting to seep into college basketball. Next time you catch a game, go ahead and watch the player’s feet. Every player that catches a pass, comes to a jump-stop, pump fakes, or uses a pivot foot has “happy feet”. Across the board they all shuffle their feet. In addition, every player’s drive to the basket or post move includes more than the allotted two steps. One hundred percent of all a spin moves should be whistled. Go ahead and try it. Try to spin all the way around while moving and take only two steps. It’s impossible. I was watching Carolina last week and I’m pretty sure Tyler Hansbrough used this up and under post move and took AT LEAST four full steps without ever dribbling.
Don’t be surprised if…Bobby Knight takes over one of the two jobs that just opened up in the SEC (Alabama and Georgia) next year. He’s been keeping his finger on the pulse by doing analyst work for ESPN the past two seasons, plus he is not afraid to coach basketball at a football school (as at Texas Tech 2001-2008). Another possibility might be the University of Maryland if Gary Williams is let go or retires following this season. Despite his antics and personal failings “The General” can and will maximize the talent he’s given and win a ton of games.
Keep you’re eye on…. Keiton Page. VERY generously listed at 5’10 and 165 pounds, and looking like far more like the team manager than a basketball player for a big time program, this true freshman guard for Oklahoma State is hustle personified. Possessing little to no athletic ability, Page has used an out of this world motor and tremendous basketball IQ to average 10.5 points a game in only 24 minutes per. He is a kid among men on the court, but is really fun to watch. If you get a chance to see him play I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. It will also be interesting to see how he does next year, when point guard Byron Eaton graduates, and he gets the lion’s share of the minutes.
Player of the Year: Blake Griffin (OKLAHOMA)
First Team All-American: Blake Griffin (OKLAHOMA)
Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)
Stephen Curry (DAVIDSON)
Jeff Teague (WAKE)
James Harden (ARIZONA STATE)
Freshman of the Year: Samardo Samuels (LOUISVILLE)
Most underrated player: James Harden (ARIZONA STATE)
Most valuable player: Ty Lawson (UNC)
Tim Tebow Award
(most over-hyped player): Tyler Hansborough (UNC)
Coach of the Year: Mike Montgomery (CAL)
Coach most resembling mascot: Coach K and the Blue Devil
Most overachieving team: Butler
Most underachieving team: Notre Dame/Gonzaga
Two teams I would not like to play come March: Louisville and Marquette
Please get a room: Dick Vitale and the Cameron Crazies