The AP Top 25: Countdown to Relevance

February 20, 2008

1. Memphis tilleyjpg.gif

You know how when a team is undefeated, and people start saying that the best thing would be for them to lose at least once during the regular season, which then leads to the sports media saying how ridiculous that is and losing once isn’t going to make any difference? Uhh…we can pretty much lay that argument to rest now, right?

2. Tennessee earnie_shavers23.jpg

We’re begrudgingly upgrading them a tic, but we’re still not entirely convinced. There’s not another team in the SEC that we can realistically see in the Sweet Sixteen.

3. North Carolina tilleyjpg.gif

4. Kansas tilleyjpg.gif

5. Duke earnie_shavers23.jpg

6. UCLA tilleyjpg.gif

7. Texas earnie_shavers23.jpg

The lack of depth is a real concern for the Longhorns, but the continued development of Gary Johnson and having D.J. Augustin puts them back as a contender.

8. Butler bateman1.jpg

Can a team in the top 10 really qualify as a darkhorse? Frankly this ranking is way too high for a team that hasn’t played anybody of note, but we still like them as a Tournament team.

9. Stanford pretenders1.jpg

Afther much consideration we’re going to stick to our guns here, particularly since the Cardinal were a phantom foul and no-call goaltend away from being swept in Arizona. We like the Lopez boys, but the backcourt will be their Tournament undoing.

10. Xavier earnie_shavers23.jpg

As opposed to Butler, we don’t think this ranking is too high. Xavier is legit.

11. Wisconsin lithium-2.jpg

There’s only one Big 10 team whose chances we like. This ain’t it.

12. Georgetown earnie_shavers23.jpg

13. UConn earnie_shavers23.jpg

It’s either a statement about the lack of a dominant team in college basketball this year or about the Huskies themselves that they have come so far so fast. The truth is we were really, really close to vaulting them into the territory of the Elite. Wherever they are placed in the Tournament, this team will scare the living hell out of everybody else.

14. Purdue pretenders1.jpg

Nope, not this Big 10 team either.

15. Indiana earnie_shavers23.jpg

You got it. Speed dialing be damned, this team has two potential lottery picks.

16. Drake bateman1.jpg

17. Washington State earnie_shavers23.jpg

If they enter the Tournament as a 5 or higher seed, I’m calling my bookie.

18. Louisville earnie_shavers23.jpg

19. Michigan State pretenders1.jpg

I sure as hell hope you didn’t think it was this Big 10 team.

20. Vanderbilt pretenders1.jpg

21. Notre Dame lithium-2.jpg

Harangody may end up Big East Player of the Year, Torin Jackson gives them much needed athleticism, and as usual the Irish have a bunch of white guys who can and will shoot from anywhere at any time. Hopefully they’re scouting the Big South for potential first round Tournament matchups a little better this year.

22. Texas A&M lithium-2.jpg

23. St. Mary’s bateman1.jpg

24. Kansas State lithium-2.jpg

25. Marquette lithium-2.jpg

I Ain’t Dead Yet :

  • Arizona – Very, very close to being dead however. Losing Nic Wise could prove crushing, it’s not like there was a lot of depth to start with.
  • Pitt
  • Rhode Island
  • Gonzaga
  • Arkansas – if for no other reason than we haven’t been able to talk about Steven Hill for three months. His absence lo these many weeks has absolutely nothing to do with any missing persons in the greater Fayetteville area.
  • New Mexico
  • USC
  • Syracuse
  • Kentucky

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AP Top 25: NCAA Tournament Preview Preview

January 31, 2008

The rankings, and the snarky comments that accompany them, are all well and good, but exactly does it all mean? Who really gives a fuck if Vandy is ranked 19 in January if they’re playing a home game in the NIT in March? In college basketball, the non-conference and conference schedules are all prelude to the NCAA Tournament, so all our legion (legion = more than five) of readers really want to know is what is each team’s prospects are for the Tournament, should they get that far. That being said, let us further qualify our shiny new rankings key…

tilleyjpg.gif  Though some of The Elite may have been knocked down a peg since last we spoke, these teams are still the cream of the country’s crop. The odds are very short for these teams to have One Shining Moment, but we’ll make an argument in the coming weeks for why a couple of them won’t.

earnie_shavers23.jpg The Contenders at least have a good shot at the Final Four. They could also make the Championship game, though we doubt they could knock off one of the big boys in the end. Think the Andre Miller Utah Utes.

pretenders1.jpg The Pretenders are teams, some highly ranked, who feel a hell of a lot better about themselves than we do.

bateman1.jpg A Darkhorse either is a team most of the country doesn’t know about, or most of the country vastly underrates. Like Greek food.

lithium-2.jpg The Bipolars are generally major conference schools (though a team like Gonzaga also qualifies) that we wouldn’t stake our life’s savings on, one way or the other. They could just as easily go to the Final Four as get knocked out the first weekend.

1. Kansas tilleyjpg.gif

2. Memphis tilleyjpg.gif

The favorite for at least half of our editorial crew, but why are we suddenly very, very nervous that they’ll go into the Tourney undefeated? The best thing that happened to the 1995 UCLA team was to lose in the Pac-10 Tourney. That and they told George Zidek lose and it’s back to the circus with you.

3. Duke earnie_shavers23.jpg

An oddly likable Blue Devils team, even with Greg Paulus. There are three reasons for this: 1. DeMarcus Nelson, 2. They play an entertaining up-tempo style, and 3. Ultimately they’re no threat to win it all. In other news, for those members of the hoopserati still thinking they miss his inside presence, Josh McRoberts is now 43 on David Thorpe’s rookie rankings, behind George Karl’s kid and just two spots ahead of Kosta Perovic.

4. North Carolina tilleyjpg.gif

5. UCLA tilleyjpg.gif

6. Georgetown earnie_shavers23.jpg

7. Tennessee pretenders1.jpg

College basketball does not exist in a vacuum. The laws of displacement in the physical world also apply to the balance of conference power, so where the Pac-10 is absolutely loaded this year and the Big East is having a typically top-heavy year, other conferences must accordingly suffer. The SEC and the Big 10 suck. So the Vols could go ahead and lay waste to the mediocre-yet-oddly-ranked Mississippi teams and every school in the Southeastern pocket of the country, but unless they show us a little more than we’ve seen right now we’re going to peg them for an early upset in the Tourney. ESPN currently has them pegged for a 2 seed, playing the winner of the UConn/Rhode Island game in the second round. That will likely change greatly by March, but Tennessee fans better pray it doesn’t shake out that way.

8. Michigan Statepretenders1.jpg

See above: sucky, conferences.

9. Washington State earnie_shavers23.jpg

10. Texas lithium-2.jpg

Nice team and about as deep as the cast of “The Hills”.

11. Indiana earnie_shavers23.jpg

So we spent all that time knocking down teams at the top of bad conferences, yet we still like the Hoosiers. If God had wanted opinionated rants to be consistent, he wouldn’t have created blogs.

12. Butler earnie_shavers23.jpg

13. Wisconsin pretenders1.jpg

14. Stanford pretenders1.jpg

15. Xavier earnie_shavers23.jpg

16. Drake bateman1.jpg

Korver sounds like neither a Mormon nor an Irish Catholic name, so all we can think is that Momma and Daddy Korver had a lot of cold Midwestern winters with no TV, holed up with nothing but Southern Comfort and the Marvin Gaye box set.

17. Marquette earnie_shavers23.jpg

18. Pittsburgh pretenders1.jpg

19. Vanderbilt pretenders1.jpg

We didn’t suspect that Vandy was as good as their earlier rankings, but this is ridiculous. The Commodores still have a nice little inside/outside combination, but unless they start making some hay, and soon, they’re not even going to make the NIT.

20. Florida pretenders1.jpg

21. St. Mary’s bateman1.jpg

I’m sure there are still non-believers out there, particularly after the loss to San Diego. But how good does the Gaels non-conference schedule look now that Oregon is back, Drake is ranked, and even Seton Hall is making some noise? They still have a Bracket Buster game coming up as well, which should be a great opportunity for white suburban kids from Midwestern mid-majors to see how white suburban kids in California live.

22. Kansas State lithium-2.jpg

23. Texas A&M lithium-2.jpg

24. Mississippi pretenders1.jpg

25. Baylor bateman1.jpg

I Ain’t Dead Yet (Not in the Top 25 but could make some noise in March):

  • UConn/Louisville/Arizona – There aren’t 10 teams above that we would take in the Tourney over these guys. Yes they could easily crap the bed early, but would it suprise you to see any of them in the Final Four? How about Stanford, Vandy, Mississippi, or any team in the Big 10 outside Indiana? We didn’t think so.
  • Notre Dame 
  • Rhode Island
  • Gonzaga
  • Oregon – Will make the Tournament. You will smile and think you are very cunning by picking them in the Sweet Sixteen. Then you will watch them and within two minutes be horrified to learn that they don’t have a point guard.
  • New Mexico
  • USC – We’ve written about them more than any other team this year and still couldn’t tell you what the hell they’ll do.
  • Syracuse – Left for dead, but this is a team with a tough schedule and a boatload of first round picks. Let’s call them USC East.
  • Kentucky


The AP Top 25: New, Improved, and The Likely Source of Public Ridicule In Two Months

January 17, 2008

As a show of good faith for our extended absence from the blogosphere, we’re unveiling our new, improved look inside the AP Top 25. Like the USA Today, it includes shiny graphics and is written for a fourth-grade reading level.

Each team in the Top 25 is assigned a label. The key for that labeling system is as follows.

tilleyjpg.gif For The Elite we use the New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley, symbol of elitism for almost 100 years.

earnie_shavers23.jpg For The Contenders it’s our favorite 1970’s heavyweight contender from the golden era of heavyweights, Earnie Shavers.

pretenders1.jpg The Pretenders get…well, I think it’s fairly obvious, though I think it’s important to point out that we used the original lineup as the first two albums are certified classics while the succeeding ones were certified classics to your dad.

bateman1.jpg Don’t sleep on The Darkhorses, the teams who, like Jason Bateman’s career, you just never saw coming. They’re legit, as is Bateman for those of you who didn’t watch “Arrested Development”. According to the ratings and the show’s subsequent demise, that’s most of you, but like these teams you’re only hurting yourself if you continue to miss out.  

lithium-2.jpg 600 mg of Lithium for The Bipolars, typically big conference teams we could easily see losing to the Mountain West champ in the first round, yet have the talent to prove everyone wrong and make a run as a 9 seed.

1. North Carolina tilleyjpg.gif

2. Memphis tilleyjpg.gif

3. Kansas tilleyjpg.gif

In a fit of either extreme juvenile egotism or paranoid solipsism, I am now convinced that whatever I do with Kansas in my pool will determine their fate. Should I pick them to lose in the Final Four, they will win their first Championship since Larry Brown was lucky enough to hire this guy named Ed Manning as an assistant coach and then found out his son was, like, a really good basketball player. Should I pick them to win they will lose to a 6 seed in the Elite Eight. Bad news for me, good news for you if you know which way I’m leaning.

4. UCLA tilleyjpg.gif

Among the other things we did during our time off spent catching up on the docket of Lifetime Original Movies, was to have a live view of Russell Westbrook’s near-Frederic Weising of Jamal Boykin against Cal on January 5. Having seen both of Cal’s games against the LA schools, the conspicuous difference between the two opponents is jarring. Tim Floyd and Ben Howland both procured the one freshman they dearly wanted, but the difference with the Bruins is that no matter how big the dog, they go to Westwood knowing that they will need to buy into a system. The same can be said, for better or for worse, of coaches like Coach K and Dean Smith. Not so in South Central, where it is clear that to a certain extent the lunatics are running the asylum. With UCLA there is a clear commitment to playing defense and crashing boards, from the tallest of high school phenom freshmen to the shortest of walk-on seniors. You can’t get lazy with passes and on the boards or the Bruins will bury you. In comparison, USC looks to only have a commitment to disarray.

5. Georgetown earnie_shavers23.jpg

We’re going to keep the Hoyas as Contenders even after their loss to Pitt, but they’re on watch. Poor Roy Hibbert really should have cashed in his chips, but he can still be a force in the middle, and we like the backcourt especially if freshman Austin Freeman continues to develop. He, along with Vernon Macklin, who had moments against Pitt where he looked like a player, are the X factors for Georgetown.

6. Tennessee pretenders1.jpg

Here’s the thing with Tennessee – both their offense (threes) and defense (steals) is predicated on a gambling philosophy. They do both well, but that’s not exactly a strategy you want to rely on in a one-and-done format. Kansas and UCLA get buckets of steals as well, but their all-around perimeter and interior team defenses make the Vols’ look as permissive as Indonesian child labor laws. 

7. Duke earnie_shavers23.jpg

8. Washington State earnie_shavers23.jpgpretenders1.jpgbateman1.jpg

Our most wishy-washy pick. We hesitated to dub them a darkhorse except there still seems to be a contingent of the unconvinced or uninformed out there. Don’t be. We also think they are legitimate threats to just about anyone, but their prolonged scoring droughts and the lack of a go-to offensive threat (whither Kyle Weaver?) concerns us.

9. Indiana earnie_shavers23.jpg

10. Texas A&M lithium-2.jpg

11. Michigan State pretenders1.jpg

We know Tom Izzo likes to win ugly but fuck, I’d rather watch Kelly Osbourne stretch in a bikini.

12. Butler earnie_shavers23.jpg

The SEC sucks, the ACC is down, the Big 10 and Big 12 are woefully shallow. This could be a big year for the little boys in the Tourney, but the truth is this Butler team would be a threat in any year. Love the Bulldogs – they can shoot their way past anyone, a characteristic for any March David, but with freshman post Matt Howard they now have the requisite beef down low. Sweet Sixteen may not be appreciated as much as it is expected.  

13. Marquette earnie_shavers23.jpg

The one team everyone seems most ready to write off. We’ve already made our feelings on future Italian League All-Star Dominic James known, but that’s a pretty damn good college backcourt and if Hayward and Barro can carry the freight inside they will make some noise in March. All that being said, they’re going to lose to Louisville tonight.

14. Dayton pretenders1.jpg

15. Pittsburgh pretenders1.jpg

We admit this sucks, because if this team were healthy we’re convinced they could finally break past the Sweet Sixteen, but the injury gods have been most unkind.

16. Vanderbilt pretenders1.jpg

Nice team, but this is bad, bad year for the SEC, and unfortunately they can’t take that stupid arena to the Tournament. 

17. Wisconsin lithium-2.jpg

18. Mississippi pretenders1.jpg

19. Texas lithium-2.jpg

20. Xavier earnie_shavers23.jpg

21. Miami pretenders1.jpg

Somebody has to finish 3rd in the ACC.

22. Arizona State lithium-2.jpg

23. Rhode Island bateman1.jpg

We’re kind of pissed that our favorite sleeper is now ranked, but Rhode Island should be winning games deep into March even if they can no longer sneak up on people. We love the Will Daniels/Jimmy Baron inside/outside combination. Plus they have a guy named Parfait, a highly underrated dessert, though we’d like them even more if he were named Creme Brulee.

24. Clemson pretenders1.jpg

25. Villanova pretenders1.jpg

The Oscar voters who thought “Crash” was Best Picture think the Wildcats belong in the Top 25. 

  

I Ain’t Dead Yet (Not in the Top 25 but could make some noise in March):

  • Louisville/Arizona – Both are better than half the teams above. The five votes to Arizona is a nice gesture for scheduling the toughest slate in the country and having their best player out for a couple of weeks.
  • Notre Dame 
  • Oregon
  • New Mexico 
  • St. Mary’s 
  • Syracuse – The Orangemen still have a lot of talent, and as much as everyone seems to want to write them off as “too young”, we can’t help but remember the last time that was said about a Syracuse team.


AP Top 25 : Movers, Shakers, and Tennessee

December 13, 2007

1. North Carolina – The good news for Roy Williams is that these next few weeks will at least guarantee something positive for the 2007-2008 season blurb on his Wikipedia page.cupcakes1.jpg

(Editors’ Note: Call us Tar Heels haters all you want. We’re not, at absolute worst we’re Tar Heel ambivalents but the reality is the following: going into next week Sacramento State will have played Kansas State, Stanford, Oregon and Marquette on the road. North Carolina will have played BYU and Pennsylvania. Yes we know those are fine teams, but unless the Orange Bowl selection committee is picking this year’s Final Four we wouldn’t get too excited just yet.)

2. Memphis – Memphis is to College Basketball 2007-08 what USC was to College Football 2007-08. Inspirers of all things hyperbole while still a work in progress, they’re neither as good nor as bad as we perceive them to be. On the list of undefeateds they’re the lock to lose first. They’re also the lock for the Final Four.

3. Kansas – Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing, Kansas. Tarting yourself up in that short skirt to show off the results of those pilates classes you’ve been taking, making nice with us, inviting us over for dinner, we’re not falling for it. We’ve been hurt too many times before. Don’t lose our number though.

4. Texas

5. Georgetown Certified Final Four material right now, but here’s my issue. College baseball is a great sport but falls short of required viewing because they use equipment, specifically aluminum bats, that gives them baseballfuries02-712988.jpgmore in common with T-ball than major league baseball. Hell, even the Baseball Furies had the good sense to use wood bats. Now it’s not exactly the same thing, but college basketball having 5 personal fouls per player unlike the 6 allowed by the NBA often changes the dynamics of a game in a way unseen in pro ball. For instance, a team that relies on a dominant big man, like Georgetown, can be screwed should said big man pick up two quickies. Yes I know colleges use aluminum bats because they’re cheaper, and I know college hoops has five fouls because there’s less running time and the end of games are too damn long as it is. I’m not saying I have the answer, I just wish there was one and we wouldn’t have games like Sunday’s Cal/Kansas State game where DeVon Hardin saw more time on the floor in pre-games warm-ups than he did the first half.

6. Duke – Josh McRoberts is currently 42nd on David Thorpe’s rookie rankings, a few ahead of Marcin Gortat and just behind such luminaries as Joel Anthony and Carl Landry. Remember when this kid was a potential Lottery pick? Duke fans don’t.

7. Washington State – Believe it, Wazzou is a legitimate threat to UCLA in the Pac-10. They’re balanced, smart, well-coached, and play defense as if they were told they were going to school on the West Coast and then had to spend four years in Pullman, Washington.

8. UCLA – It’s ironic that a team whose success is so predicated on their mastery of the fundamentals (passing, man defense) could ultimately be undermined by their inability to be consistent with THE fundamental (jump shooting).

9. Michigan State

10. Marquette

11. Pittsburgh – After several years of building teams around Chris Taft, Chevon Troutman, Aaron Gray, and other amorphous leviathans, the Panthers have started walking upright and are finally learning how to use tools. Now let’s see if playing more uptempo can finally evolve them past the second weekend of the Tournament.

2001-04.jpg

12. Tennessee

13. Indiana – The Washington State of the Big Ten – much, much more dangerous than you realize. Now that I think about it, that makes them the Amy Winehouse of the Big Ten.

14. Texas A&M – Is Aggie apathy outside of College Station and the Bush administration a direct result of school colors that conjure all the excitement of my grandmother’s Christmas sweatpants?

15. Clemson – Trying to make an impression on the committee now, as the NIT likes to reward early season success with home games.

16. Oregon

17. Xavier – I was going to make a joke about Drew Lavender having played with both Stacey King and Ebe Ere, but now that I think about it I’m not sure he didn’t.

18. Butler – If the early season is any indication, and as much as we’d like to pretend that it’s not it almost certainly is, stay tuned for an apocalyptic March. This may be yet another year where a well placed mid-major in the Elite Eight wins you your tournament. We bring this up because Butler could easily be that team.

19. Gonzaga

20. Vanderbilt – Mr. Inside (A.J. Ogilvy) + Mr. Outside (Shan Foster) + Fucked-up home court = SEC Champs.

memorial-gym-wide.jpg

21. Arizona – No jokes about Lute, because frankly it looks pretty shitty whatever it is. As far as the Cats are concerned, maybe it’s too early to say we told you so but they sure look a hell of a lot better relying more on Jerryd Bayless and less on Jud Buechler, I mean Chase Budinger.

22. Louisville – Ladies and gentleman, we give you Derrick Caracter, the most ironically named athlete since Rod Smart.

23. Villanova

24. Saint Mary’s – In the long run, playing a good team on a hostile floor will be good for the Gaels. Of course, in the short run they’ll be rewarded by being lumped in the purgatory that is Others Receiving Votes in next week’s poll.biglove.jpg

25. Brigham Young – We know it’s fictional, but is it too much to ask that BYU’s court be sponsored by Henrickson’s Home Plus?


The AP Top 25, Bill Raftery’s Hot/Not List

November 20, 2007

This week’s AP Top 25  

1. North Carolina 2-0  
2. UCLA 3-0   
3. Memphis 4-0   
4. Kansas 3-0  
5. Georgetown 2-0  
6. Louisville 2-0  
7. Tennessee 3-0   
8. Indiana 2-0 
9. Washington State 3-0
10. Michigan State 2-0
11. Marquette 2-0
12. Oregon 4-0
13. Duke 2-0  
14. Gonzaga 3-0
15. Texas 3-0
16. Texas A&M 4-0
17. Pittsburgh 4-0
18. Kansas State 3-0
19. Southern Illinois 1-0
20. Villanova 2-0
21. Syracuse 3-0
22. Butler 3-0
23. Virginia 3-0 
24. Clemson 3-0 
25. Florida 4-0 

Who’s In:

21. Syracuse – For all the talk of New York and Philadelphia as the Mesopotamias of East Coast basketball, why doesn’t Maryland get more love?  Syracuse and Georgetown both owe previous Final Four success to the Old Line State, home of legendary DeMatha High, and if they win anything this year it’ll be on the backs of Maryland natives Greene, Hibbert and Summers. 

23. Virginia – Given the way Arizona played defense Saturday night I’m not entirely convinced my Dad’s rec league basketball team “The Sweathogs” couldn’t have blown them out. 

24. Clemson – Honestly, at this point Clemson could be ranked in the Top 10 in Mid February and there’s still no way they’re making the tournament. 

25. Florida – Florida has acquitted itself rather nicely this early in the season given they’re playing the next few months without Tim Tebow. 

Who’s Out:

Arizona – Although our initial reaction is that the Wildcats will be back here soon, defense played as badly as the Wildcats are playing is often indicative of larger problems, like not giving a shit. 

Arkansas – Of the Razorbacks loss to Providence in Puerto Rico, Steven Hill said, “It rubs the lotion on its skin.”  When asked to elaborate, he added, “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”hillhair.jpg

buffalo-bill.jpg

Stanford – Lawrence Hill was banged up and Brook Lopez was cramming for his Lit exam at the opening night of “Beowulf”, so while the loss to Siena was a surprise it’s not the end of the world for the Cardinal.  All of the numerous parallels that were drawn between this game and Siena’s first round upset of Stanford in the 1989 NCAA Tournament just reminded us of the tragedy that was the basketball career of Todd Lichti, a favorite of ours despite the fact that we have no love lost for Stanford.  An ambidextrous wing who could put it on the floor and hit from the outside, Lichti’s collegiate career ended with that devastating loss to Siena.  After falling to the 15th pick in the ensuing draft, he had a couple of promising seasons before a tragic accident which killed his fiancée and crushed his foot.  Lichti bounced around the league for a few years but never really recovered from the accident.  And now to brighten things up, the short, happy life of Ian Curtis…  

North Carolina State – Lost in the Rose/Mayo/Beasley/Gordon/Love shuffle are some other truly exceptional freshmen, like Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin and NC State’s J.J. Hickson, who has scored 53 points in his first two collegiate games.  For all of the deserved fuss over last year’s freshman class, it was fairly top heavy, and the depth of this year’s freshman class may prove to make it a better one.  With Hickson and Brandon Costner, the Wolfpack will be back, it’s just a matter of when. 


AP, and not the fun kind

November 13, 2007

Throughout the year we will be taking an occasional peek inside the occasional team in the AP Top 25.  To start things out, however, we’ll examine every team in the rankings with the acuity of a junior college student hopped up on Red Bull.

1. North Carolina A Roy Williams team with a ton of NBA talent and a conference in retrograde?  We’ve found our ACC Champion.  Now all we need to find is the Mid-Major that beats them in the Sweet 16.

2. UCLA – Minka Kelly.  The Hold Steady.  Rum and Coke.  There’s very little not to like about these things, and very little not to like about the Bruins.  The boys from Westwood have a nice mix of the old (Darren Collison) and the new (Kevin Love), they have bigs, they have littles, they have wings, they are well-coached, they play great defense, they are battle-tested.  In fact, if you want to crown them, go ahead and crown their asses. Still we can’t shake the lingering feeling that what they lack is a true go-to scorer, the guy to get the ball to when you want to make Adam Morrison cry.  Josh Shipp was supposed to be that guy, but after two years on the court and one in the training room he hasn’t yet developed into the kind of cold-blooded shooter/scorer he was recruited to be.  But in our day, youngsters, the Cal Bears had this kid who didn’t look like much, a decent shooter but a little heavy and not too quick.  Well that kid developed into the Bears go-to scorer HIS Junior year, and in his Senior year he led the Pac-10 in scoring.  That man was Joe Shipp, who is probably still rubbing off Amit Tamir screens for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

3. Memphi$ – The Tigers are just relieved they don’t have an Atlantic Sun team on their early season schedule.

4. Kansas– Admit it, you hate Kevin Smith.  Oh sure, you give him a chance every time another retarded movie of his is released, hoping for something remotely as entertaining as “Clerks”, but the truth is that even as the cast of every succeeding movie seems to hold promise (“More Jay and Silent Bob!”, “Randal is back!”), it unfailingly results in yet greater disappointment than the piece of crap that preceded it.  Even before armageddon3.pngCriterion Collection made the curious decision to release “Chasing Amy”, apparently to have someone at alumni parties to hang out with Michael Bay, it was time to give up on Kevin Smith, right about the same time it was time to give up on the idea of Kansas as National Champions.  We’ve all crapped away enough movie tickets to feel confident saying that “Clerks” ain’t gonna happen again, and frankly there have been enough brackets befouled by Kansas being good but not good enough in the Tourney.  Maybe one of these days we’ll be wrong, because this is clearly another ridiculously loaded Jayhawk squad that can run with anyone, but at this point it’s not worth the time to find out.  We’ll wait for the DVD.

5. Georgetown – Just can’t shake the feeling that although the Hoyas return 4 of 5 starters from an excellent squad…

6. Louisville – …that this is the Big East squad you want your money on in March.

7. TennesseeAt first this ranking may seem excessively high, but think about.  They’ve got the best coach in the business in Pat Summit, they’ve got Candace Parker, who has more athleticism individually than any combined frontcourt in the Missouri Valley Conference and they have one of college basketball’s best incoming Freshman classes (including Sacramento native Vicki Baugh) so while it may seem improbable, it’s certainly not impossible to think the Tennessee Lady Vols are the 7th best team in basketball, male or female.

Wait…the ranking is this high for the Tennessee men‘s basketball team? Really?  Fuck…We’ll get back to you…

8. Indiana – What’s mystifying about Kelvin Sampson is that despite the frequency and fervency with which he’s violated NCAA recruitment regulations, he’s never coached a particularly talented team.  Nothing against call-me.jpghis players from Washington State and Oklahoma, but realistically how many rules do you need to break to sign Eduardo Najera and Hollis Price?  But practice makes perfect and all of Sampson’s three way phone calls, late night text messages and Facebook pokes have finally paid off as he landed, or more appropriately stole, the star of the Big 10 Recruiting class, Eric Gordon.  For all the understandable hype surrounding Derrick Rose, Gordon may prove to be the better of the two, at least collegiately.  Watching his development, however briefly, will be interesting. More interesting will be how Sampson handles the limelight that comes with coaching the Hoosiers.  His previous indiscretions were forgiven at least in part because he was at Football schools where Basketball was effectively Lacrosse like.  Yes the Indiana football team is bowl eligible for the first time in ages, but this is still a basketball school in a basketball state, and a Big Ten Championship and trip to the Final Four (both real possibilities this year with Gordon and D.J. White) will be meaningless if they’re rescinded in 5 years and the Bob Knight hangover continues.

9. Washington State It is fitting that a team from the Pacific Northwest would play a brand of basketball that, stylistically, is the hoops equivalent of Raymond Carver’s prose.  In a conference of Pynchons and Wolfes, where soundbites and celebrity can overwhelm substance, Washington State plays with the clarity of a declarative sentence.  Those who want to dismiss last season as an aberration do so at your own risk.  Now all we need is a Carver type title for this year’s Cougar season (What We Talk About When We Talk About Brackets is a tad too obvious.)

10. Marquette – Is Tom Crean The Great Gatsby’s Tom Buchanan?  Stuffing his roster with small guards from the Midwest so he can recreate, however half-assed, those halcyon Final Four days when his team was uncle_rico1.gifcarried by another small guard from the Midwest?  If Earl Boykins (who is still without an NBA contract at the moment) hasn’t signed with a team by January, he may want to try for Spring Enrollment at Marquette, they could use a Power Forward.  We kid, but the reality is the Golden Eagles salvation is their damnation.  They can penetrate, shoot and steal with the best of them, but they can’t rebound in one of basketball’s best rebounding conferences.  Small ball is great in theory, but the smallest of small ball, in execution, could prove to be a different story.

11. Oregon Isn’t it amazing how swiftly a team’s culture can shift?  Wasn’t it only a few years ago that Gonzaga and Oregon were synonymous with shaggy headed shooters with floppy socks and hometowns like Coeur d’Alene?  Now Gonzaga is occupying the first and second spots on Sportscenter’s Top 10 list thanks to dunks and two of the best players on the current Oregon roster hail from Detroit.  Success breeds access and thanks to their thrilling, and entirely unexpected, run to the Pac 10 Championship and Elite 8 last year it’s conceivable Ernie Kent could, and should, continue fielding a mini-Motown in Eugene.  And thanks to the perpetual presence of Phil Knight, there’s no need to be wary of the world’s Ed Martins.

12. Michigan State – It seems a tad unfair for the Spartans to get knocked down for an exhibtion loss, but imagine if it was to Athletes in Action.

13. Duke – This is not a great Blue Devils team.  It may not even be a good one.  In fact, in a typical ACC season we may have seen Coach K suddenly and mysteriously stricken again with the season-ending injury that happened to coincide with his worst assemblage of talent in post-Grant Hill 1994, a gambit since co-opted and crafted into science by Pat Riley.  But this is not a typical ACC season, it appears the weakest in years, and it is not a typical Duke team.  It is possible that by maximizing the strengths they do have and going small the Devils may surprise, at least as much as Duke can surprise.  Coach K also seems to have translated four years of JJ Redick’s teeth into recruitment gold in West Coast white trash meccas, plucking impact freshmen Kyle Singler and Taylor King from Medford, Oregon and Huntington Beach, respectively.  Most likely though is that while they roll out a lineup lacking in sure-fire NBA talent, and as long as Coach K has to worry about Team USA and the Olympics, Duke will continue to lose to the Virginia Commonwealths of the world.

14. Gonzaga – See under “Oregon” above.  Dan Dickau fans, however, can take heart in the fact that Gonzaga still has Matt Bouldin…

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15. Texas A&M – If Mark Turgeon can simply stay the course with this A&M team he will do wonders to rehabilitate the Coach Fran fractured confidence of Aggie fans.  If Turgeon can actually exceed expectations with DeAndre Jordan and Co. he could end up the frontrunner for the school’s football job.  In either case it remains in his best interest to avoid starting a website like CoachTurg.com in the hope of bilking boosters of their cash in exchange for program secrets.  In part because said practice has gotten Franchione into considerable trouble and in part because, as this is still Texas, basketball secrets would, generously, fetch a $15 Luby’s Gift Certificate.

16. Texas – It is a testament to the strength of the program Rick Barnes has built in Austin that Texas Basketball has become the college hoops equivalent of Texas Football.  Highly touted recruiting classes and untitled4.jpghigh expectations, however, have invariably and consistently led to championship disappointments.  Rick Barnes may be the Big 12’s Tubby Smith, which would be a bigger deal if he were coaching any place other than Texas, and which could still prove to be a bigger deal if teams with the talent of LaMarcus Aldridge and D.J. Augustin can’t get out of the first few rounds.  Fortunately for Barnes, as Mack Brown can attest, it takes only one standout season, with one superlative star, to stem the tide of negativity.  Unfortunately for Barnes that season, and that star, were both last year.

17. Arizona – Chase Budinger very well may turn out to be the all-around stud he was advertised as, but frankly his Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honor was built more on the program’s reputation than anything else.  Budinger showed flashes of brilliance but far too often was content drifting, much more so than fellow frosh Tajuan Porter, sparkplug of an Oregon Elite Eight team, or Cal’s Ryan Anderson, a true big wing who shouldered the load in the post after DeVon Hardin went down early.  There’s enough of Lute Olsen’s usual talent to compete even in the nation’s toughest conference, but much depends on Budinger’s desire to be either the next Sean Elliott or the next Jud Buechler. 

18. Arkansas – Fans of Chris Kaman, Chris Andersen, and other big, scary hill-3.jpgwhite guys need to know the name Steven Hill.  He is 7 feet tall.  He is a shot-blocking force.  He is from Branson, Missouri, where he was no doubt weaned on nothing but Andy Williams, Yakov Smirnoff, and the Oak Ridge Boys.  He looks like what would happen if Bill Walton’s family tree didn’t branch.  Look for Hill in the NBA in a couple of years, where there’s always room for an offensively-challenged 7 footer who can block shots, and where they really don’t care how many people you have stored in your basement. 

19. Pittsburgh – There’s seldom a tougher team in the country than Pitt, but this year they will be leaning almost exclusively on their backcourt for the first time since before Charles Smith and Jerome Lane were listening to The Bronski Beat (We take that back.  Jerome Lane never would have listened to The Bronski Beat.)  Our guess is that the Panthers won’t have to worry about losing again in the Sweet Sixteen, but that’s not meant as a compliment.

20. Stanford– In his fourth year on the Farm, Trent Johnson seems as close to returning the Cardinal to Mike Montgomery era prominence as ever.  This is a savvy team at all positions, and as long as there are at least a few classes in the Fall Semester schedule that Brook Lopez can get through without breaking a sweat, Stanford will finish with a much better record than most people expect.  Unfortunately, this also likely means the usual March upset at the hands of a team with an athletic backcourt and low admission standards. 

21. North Carolina StateIt must be nice to be a College Basketball fan in North Carolina, a place where even a University comparable to Sacramento State has a hoops team ranked in the Top 25.

22. Kansas State If it looks like Cincinnatti, sounds like Cincinnatti, acts like Cincinnati and plays like Cincinnati it must be…Kansas State?  Bob Huggins may have spent only a year in Manhattan, but that was more than enough time for him to turn these Wildcats into a facsimile of his previously great Bearcat teams.  Rugged rebounding and low-post scoring?  Check.  Aggressive defense?   Check. Explosive athleticism?  Check.  Attitude problems to match that athleticism?  Check.  The role of Kenyon Martin this year is being played by Michael Beasley, who, without hyperbole, is probably the best Freshman in all of college basketball.  Proof?  In his first outing for Kansas State he broke the Big 12’s single game rebounding record.  Beasley looks a little like a cast member from the Wire and his play is twice as intimidating.  He will be coached by first timer Frank Martin, who appears up to the task…  

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Martin is already a fairly notorious figure in some basketball circles, thanks to recruitment violations at a Miami area high school and a handful of unsolved mid-80’s Manhattan murders…

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In a wide open Big 12 Kansas State has as good a shot as anyone, and consequently their current ranking is lower than it should be.  An oversight that Beasley’s continued rebounding should fix.  What remains to be seen, however, is whether these Wildcats will exhibit another hallmark of Huggins’ teams, an early tournament flameout.

23. Southern IllinoisPut the Salukis, Creighton, Bradley, Witchita State, and Northern Iowa in a bag, pull one out and you’ve basically got the same hard-nosed, scare-the-bejesus-out-of-the-big-boys team.  Sorry dad (alumnus, Creighton Prep) and the rest of you in the country’s belly button, but I just can’t profess to know a whole hell of a lot about these teams at this point of the season.  Check back in January.

24. VillanovaThis feels more like a placeholder for a Big East team rather than for Villanova specifically.  The underrated Scottie Reynolds can carry the Wildcats, it just remains to be seen how far.  Syracuse, with Paul Harris, Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene, and the dude who looks like every white kid on the Northbound 40 in East Oakland, appears to have the most talented, if not the most combustible, of the remaining Big East squads.  But remember the good ol’ days when “Lost” didn’t suck, the Nano was all the rage, and UConn was good?  With Jerome Dyson, Jeff Adrien, and the gratuitously voweled Hasheem Thabeet, those days could be coming again.

25. Butler – The underdog Bulldogs are dangerous, a heady veteran squad with clearly defined roles.  Rade makes things go at the point, Flatch and Strap take care of business in the paint, while Buddy is the defensive stopper every good team needs in crunch time.  But Butler will continue to struggle even against the likes of Oolitic until Jimmy Chitwood finally decides to lace them up.