Eye of the Hurricane

February 21, 2011

College Basketball Rundown

Filed under: sports, college — eadeutsch @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

We are three weeks from March Madness, and it may be time for a rundown of a few of the top NCAA teams.

The new coaches poll was released earlier today, and the top 10 looks like this:

1. Duke 2. Kansas 3. Ohio State 4. San Diego State 5. Texas 6. Pittsburgh 7. Brigham Young 8. Purdue 9. Notre Dame 10. Arizona

The Blue Devils are on a 6 game winning streak following their blowout loss at Madison Square Garden against a surging St. John’s team. Their only other loss this season was at Florida State in January, and they ought to be a lock to win the ACC regular season title.

Kansas has had a relatively quiet season for one reason or another, but their 25-2 record is anything but.  Their first loss came a month ago against Texas and their other loss on Valentine’s Day at Kansas State.  The Jayhawks looked flat in both of these losses, but their overall statistics–fourth overall in points per game (83.5), second overall in assists per game (18.5), and first in the nation in field goal percentage (52.1%)–reinforces the team effort of Kansas.  The weakness of a Kansas team led by Marcus and Markieff Morris comes in the relative strength of the Jayhawks’ schedule.  They have only beaten two ranked teams this season (now unranked Memphis and #20 Missouri), and it will be tough to fully judge Kansas until they play their two toughest games next week when they go up against #17 Texas A&M and a rematch at Missouri.

Ohio State is enjoying a #3 ranking even after their second Big-Ten loss within ten days, being defeated by Purdue yesterday by thirteen points.  They had lost at Wisconsin on February 12th.  Jared Sullinger is still considered a favorite to win Player of the Year honors, but it’s been shown several times now that the team may not be deep enough to carry them through consecutive games against top-ranked opponents that they will likely come across it the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.  The Buckeyes wins against ranked teams have been against Florida, Minnesota (twice), Illinois (by five points) and a rout of Purdue at home.  They will likely need to win out in the regular season and get at least into the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament in order to secure a top-seed in the tournament.  Even with a #1 seed, I would not feel confident in choosing Ohio State as my champion.

Texas did not receive a single number one vote today although they were ranked second in the poll last week–punishment for losing by three points at in-conference rival Nebraska.  The Longhorns lost to then #4 Pitt by 2 points in November, then #9 UConn by a single point in January, and their only bad showing of the season was a 16 point loss at USC in December.  They have beaten six top-25 teams this season and clearly came within one shot of beating two great Big East teams.  Led by sophomore Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns should be awarded a top seed if they win the remainder of their regular season games and should be feared in March.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, received 4 of the 31 votes for first place, even though they landed at No. 6 in the coaches’ poll.  They lost by a single point at MSG to St. John’s on Saturday, and their three losses on the year have come against then #13 Tennessee and a top-ten Notre Dame team.

Parity is present in college basketball this season.  A Duke team that many thought might go undefeated this season has looked vulnerable at times this season, and they should not be considered a favorite to repeat this season.  San Diego State and Brigham Young are easy to overlook, considering the ease of their conference play, but high seeding will help them in March and they will undoubtedly beat some teams from more established conferences.  Regardless, there are no clear favorites this season, and that is surely a good thing for the NCAA and fans alike.


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