NCAA Hoops - What We've Learned Plus a Look Ahead
If you're like me--a certifiable hoops junky--it still takes me a minute to digest my Thanksgiving turkey and return from my post-football coma to really get into the swing of hoops season. And as the calendar marches on to December and football season draws to a close, NCAA hoops is starting to roll and though it's early, we've learned a little bit already.
- North Carolina can be had - I watched their game in Vegas against UNLV last week and they looked shocking unathletic against the Runnin' Rebels. This is a Tar Heel team that has at LEAST four first round NBA picks at the end of the year. How is this possible? No idea, but I was sober and my eyes weren't lying. Vegas did a fantastic job of exploiting Kendall Marshall's lack of elite foot speed on defense by constantly beating him off of the dribble and kicking to open shooters (Chace Stanbeck went off for 28) on the wing. Plus, UNC played an awful lot like they'd rather have been chasing skirt at Milk Bar than playing a basketball game.
- Dook...I'm still not buying it...Sure, they won another Maui Invitational for Rat Face. Yes, they beat a perennial power (albeit one who is down this year) in Kansas in the Finals. Sure, they're now 7-0...BUT...Well to start; they've struggled at home against both Belmont, holding on to win by 1; and against Davidson, before pulling away in the second half. Yes, I know they've beaten a solid Michigan club, but tonight in Columbus against a really, really good tOSU team...beat the Jared Sullinger-lead Buckeyes, then get back to me on how good the Blue Devils really are.
- Rick Majerus...Good Lord, he can coach - I really miss Rick on ESPN as he was the finest analyst the WWL had in terms of pure basketball knowledge (Admit it, you loved hearing him spin yarns about Al McGuire or about the best way to play OH-ffense). But college hoops is better when Rick in on the sidelines, and don't look now, but his Saint Louis Billikens are 6-0 and have destroyed Villanova, Oklahoma, and Washington in the last month. They do it just as you'd expect a Majerus team to do it: by running beautifully diagramed set plays on OH-ffense and sharing the basketball. SLU is one mid-major I'd want no part of in March if they continue to play at this level.
- Kentucky's youth is ridiculously talented - Again, you guys know how I hate me some Wildcats and their slime-ball coach, John 'Vacate' Calipari, but the amount of talent the Wildcats have on this team is just stunning. Anthony Davis, in one scribe's humble opinion, is a once in a generation type of talent with his speed, athleticism and length. He is a game-changer on both ends of the floor. Eventually, I think their youth will cause them some problems, but certainly not one they can't overcome with sheer talent. If uk continues to mature and improve, it's very easy to envision the Wildcats reaching another Final Four that Calipari can have vacated.
With all that, here's what you should watch in the coming days...
- The ACC - Big Ten Challenge - This is, of course, the brainchild of the pencil-pushers at the WWL for TV viewing only, but has in recent years, featured some compelling hoops. This year's slate includes Wisconsin at North Carolina, Florida State at Michigan State, and the headliner Dook at the Ohio State. Last year the B1G claimed victory winning 6-5.
- Big East - SEC Challenge - As a Big East guy, I'm thankful this is basketball and not football (well, other than annual punching bags of the gridiron Kentucky). The SEC has some very good young teams and should provide a bit of a challenge for the usually dominant Big East. The best games on the slate are: Vanderbilt at Louisville, Georgetown at Alabama, and Florida visiting Syracuse.