Posted on: February 19, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 5:49 pm
 

The top 10 is stacking losses, one after another

It started last Saturday when Ohio State fell at Wisconsin. Then Kansas lost at Kansas State on Monday. Then Georgetown lost at Connecticut on Wednesday while Wisconsin lost at Purdue. And then, on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost at St. John's, Notre Dame lost at West Virginia and Texas lost at Nebraska, meaning we've seen the schools ranked first, second, third, fourth, eighth, ninth and 10th in the latest AP poll lose over the past eight days.

Four of those losses were to unranked teams.

All of them were on the road.

So, more than anything, this stretch is a reminder that winning road games is difficult without exception. But it also highlights how vulnerable even the so-called best of the best are this season, and it should make for an interesting NCAA tournament because the top seeds aren't going to seem invincible. Assuming it's true that believing you can win is the first hurdle an underdog must jump, let's go ahead and acknowledge that the eight and nine seeds will have more realistic dreams than usual of the second weekend because they're going to see the one seeds as beatable.

Take the schools projected as one seeds now, for instance.

The Pittsburgh Panthers? They've lost to two currently unranked teams. The Texas Longhorns? They've lost to two currently unranked teams. The Kansas Jayhawks? They've lost to a currently unranked team. The Ohio State Buckeyes? Well, they haven't lost to any currently unranked teams. But they have played one-possession games with three currently unranked teams (Penn State, Northwestern and Minnesota), and that alone suggests they're capable of losing to almost anybody even if they beat almost everybody.

In other words, who's scary good?

Who scares you?

Though neither Kansas nor Kentucky made the Final Four last season, both were intimidating outfits heading into March Madness. Nobody wanted any part of those rosters, and it was a major surprise when the Jayhawks and Wildcats were eliminated early. This March nothing will be a surprise. Any of the one seeds could make the Final Four or lose in the opening weekend. Granted, the former is more likely than the latter. But I've seen enough so-called elite teams lose over the past week to know nothing is guaranteed.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 12:23 am
 

Videos, videos and more videos!

I recorded previews of six weekend games with Jason Horowitz yesterday.

Click this link to start with Pittsburgh-St. John's.

Then just keep on clicking.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 18, 2011 12:31 am
Edited on: February 18, 2011 12:33 am
 

Pitt's Gibbs will return against St. John's

Pittsburgh junior Ashton Gibbs has been cleared to return from a knee injury that cost him two weeks, meaning he'll be available Saturday when the Panthers play St. John's at Madison Square Garden.

Gibbs was averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game before the injury. The 6-foot-2 guard missed the fourth-ranked Panthers' past three games with a partially torn MCL in his left knee. Pittsburgh beat West Virginia, Villanova and South Florida in his absence.

The Panthers are now 24-2 overall, 12-1 in the Big East.

They have a two-game lead over Notre Dame in the league standings.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 16, 2011 11:32 am
 

Headed to UAB-Memphis tonight

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- I've got a column about the competitiveness of Conference USA filed that should be posted shortly. Then tonight I'm headed to FedExForum to watch UAB and Memphis play a game that will launch the winner to the top of the league standings (provided Southern Miss handles UTEP tonight in Hattiesburg).

Also: This game represents the (expected) return of Wesley Witherspoon.

Witherspoon, a 6-foot-9 wing, hasn't played since being suspended Jan. 13 for mocking an assistant coach on a team bus after the Tigers lost at SMU. The suspension was lifted after two games. But Witherspoon was then sidelined with what was described as a "soar" knee, and, needless to say, it might be the most curious sore knee in the history of Memphis basketball considering there were no indications that it was sore before the suspension. Either way, Witherspoon has practiced the past two days and should be in uniform tonight. Whether he'll play is another matter altogether, though, because the Tigers have been better without him. They are 10-4 with him, 9-2 without him this season. So minutes of any kind aren't guaranteed.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 15, 2011 8:33 am
Edited on: February 15, 2011 8:42 am
 

And my new top four would be ...

1. Ohio State
2. Pittsburgh
3. Texas
4. Kansas
 
So, yes, it would be exactly the same as the top four from the latest Top 25 (and one) that was published Sunday night, i.e., roughly 24 hours before Kansas State ran Kansas off the court and cruised to an 84-68 victory at Bramlage Coliseum. Why no change? Because I think the gap between my No. 4 (Kansas) and my No. 5 (Notre Dame) was too wide for one KU loss on the road to a rival to completely close it. In other words, I would leave Kansas No. 4 after this loss at KSU for the same reason I left Ohio State No. 1 after that loss at Wisconsin, because the Jayhawks' body of work suggests that remains where they ought to be positioned.

Kansas is still 6-2 against Top 50 RPI teams with no losses outside of the Top 35.

My No. 5, Notre Dame, is 7-3 against Top 50 RPI teams with one loss outside of the Top 35.

(Most people's No. 5, Duke, is 6-2 against Top 50 RPI teams with one loss outside of the Top 35.)

Is it close and debatable?

Sure.

But if the NCAA tournament started today, I'd still have KU as a No. 1 seed along with Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Texas. Notre Dame, San Diego State, Duke and BYU would be my No. 2 seeds. Georgetown, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Villanova would be my No. 3 seeds, and Florida, Louisville, Purdue and Vanderbilt would be my No. 4 seeds.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 8:07 am
 

The Poll Attacks

How could somebody still have Louisville unranked?

No idea.

But somebody does.

And that somebody just got Poll Attacked.

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com.)

Associated Press poll: I could tell you why the top of the poll is wrong, why the middle of the poll is wrong and why all sorts of other things are wrong, too. But the reality is that college basketball is a mess this season. Only a handful of teams are reliable, and it's reasonable to disagree on much of this stuff. So I decided to do something slightly different this week. I'm not going to debate anybody's order. I'm only going to highlight an insane omission from one ballot that is totally indefensible.

It's Louisville.

The Cards were left off Gary Laney's ballot despite A) a 19-6 record featuring wins over the teams he has ranked 14th (Connecticut) and 20th (Syracuse), B) the fact that Louisville is all alone in fourth in the Big East standings, and C) a 4-4 record against Top 25 RPI teams. Now that might not sound like much, I know. But it's worth noting that there are just 11 teams in the country with a Top 25 RPI and at least a .500 record against Top 25 RPI schools, and Louisville is one of those 11. That's partly why I ranked the Cards 14th in the Top 25 (and one), and it's among the many reasons why no logical voter should have Louisville unranked.

And yet Gary Laney from The Advocate has Louisville unranked.

He went with Alabama and Coastal Carolina instead.

Alabama is 8-8 against the Top 200 of the RPI. But Gary Laney has the Crimson Tide ranked 23rd and thus ahead of Louisville, which is 12-6 against the Top 200. Coastal Carolina? Well, the Chanticleers have only played two Top 100 RPI teams -- Georgetown and College of Charleston. They lost 81-60 to Georgetown and 83-67 to College of Charleston, meaning they're 0-2 against the Top 100 with a pair of losses by an average of 18.5 points. But Gary Laney has Coastal Carolina ranked 24th and thus ahead of Louisville, which is 9-5 against the Top 100.

I dare you to try to make sense of any of that.

Coaches poll: I started the Poll Attacks by explaining how and why I'm not going to debate order. So I'll stay true to my word and just make two points about schools that got votes that shouldn't be getting votes.

Utah State is 24th in the coaches poll.

That's silly for all of the same reasons I told you it was silly two weeks ago. The only thing of note that's happened since then is that the Aggies lost to an Idaho team that has a 14-11 record against a terrible schedule. In other words, Utah State shouldn't have been ranked two weeks ago, and its body of work has only gotten worse. Meantime, the coaches are still giving Minnesota four points in their poll, which is silly for all of the same reasons I told you it was silly last week. The only thing of note that's happened since then is that the Gophers have taken a home loss to a collapsing Illinois team. In other words, Minnesota shouldn't have been getting votes last week, and its body of work has, like Utah State's, only gotten worse.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 11:16 pm
 

Updated Top 25 (and one)

The Top 25 (and one) will be updated on the college basketball page shortly.

Here's how it will look:

1. Ohio State (24-1)
A loss at Wisconsin is no reason to drop the Buckeyes; they still have the nation's best body of work.
2. Pittsburgh (23-2)
The Panthers have a two-game lead in the Big East standings after huge wins at WVU and Villanova.
3. Texas (22-3)
All of the Longhorns' victories in this 10-game winning streak have come by at least nine points.
4. Kansas (24-1)
The Jayhawks will have to try to keep pace with Texas despite the temporary loss of Thomas Robinson.
5. Notre Dame (21-4)
Only Pittsburgh can match Notre Dame's six wins against Top 25 RPI teams.
6. San Diego State (25-1)
The Aztecs' game with BYU on Feb. 26 will likely decide the MWC championship.
7. Duke (23-2)
Nolan Smith's 16 second-half points pushed Duke past Miami on Sunday.
8. BYU (24-2)
Jimmer Fredette's 23-point effort against Utah was his lowest point total since Jan. 18.
9. Georgetown (20-5)
The Hoyas haven't lost in more than a month, which is rare for a team playing a Big East schedule.
10. Wisconsin (19-5)
The Badgers' win over Ohio State was their 35th in 36 games at the Kohl Center.
11. Connecticut (19-5)
Kemba Walker's 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists Sunday helped UConn avoid consecutive losses.
12. Villanova (19-6)
The Wildcats' 47-game winning streak at the Pavilion was snapped Saturday by Pittsburgh.
13. Florida (20-5)
Barring a collapse, the Gators will be SEC East champions.
14. Louisville (19-6)
The Cards are on path to receive a top-four seed in the Big East tournament.
15. Purdue (19-5)
The Boilermakers' only loss to a team ranked outside the top 50 of the RPI came early to Richmond.
16. Vanderbilt (18-6)
The Commodores' win over UK kept them in a tie for second in the SEC East with Georgia.
17. North Carolina (18-6)
Kendall Marshall got a career-high 18 points in UNC's win at Clemson.
18. Arizona (21-4)
The Wildcats' sixth straight win came Sunday night at Arizona State.
19. Kentucky (17-7)
Six of UK's seven losses have come on the road and by an average of three points.
20. Syracuse (20-6)
The Orange have dropped six of their past eight since starting 18-0.
21. Missouri (19-6)
Marcus Denmon missed most of the second half of Missouri's win over OU after being hit in the face.
22. Texas A&M (19-5)
The Aggies are 2-1 in their past three games -- all of which have been decided by one possession.
23. West Virginia (16-8)
The Mountaineers are 1-2 since Casey Mitchell returned from suspension.
24. Marquette (15-10)
The Golden Eagles have three Top 50 wins and just one loss outside of the Top 50.
25. Temple (19-5)
The Owls had no problem winning at Dayton despite the absence of Lavoy Allen (sprained ankle).
26. UCLA (18-7)
The Bruins have won five straight and are all alone in second in the Pac-10 standings.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 12, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2011 9:45 pm
 

OSU will stay No. 1 in the Top 25 (and one)

MADISON, Wis. -- Kansas will likely be No. 1 when the AP and Coaches polls update Monday.

If not Kansas, then Texas (especially if Matt Norlander has his way).

It'll be one or the other, and I can almost guarantee it because voters in those polls typically move winners up and losers down regardless of the details. So get ready for a new No. 1, but the top of my Top 25 (and one) will remain the same. I'm not dropping Ohio State even after Saturday's 71-67 loss at Wisconsin because, I mean, who wouldn't -- and doesn't -- lose at Wisconsin? If we're gonna start punishing teams for that, we might as well start punishing teams for wearing baggy shorts. Or chest-bumping. Or doing all the things all college teams do -- like lose at Wisconsin.

Beyond that, I still think Ohio State has the nation's best body of work.

The Buckeyes are 24-1 with wins over three teams ranked in the top 30 of the AP poll (No. 14 Purdue, No. 17 Florida and No. 26 Minnesota), and the only loss came by four points at No. 13 Wisconsin -- a place where the Badgers have won 35 of their past 36 games, a place where last season's national champion Duke Blue Devils also lost. Meantime, Kansas is 24-1 with just two wins over teams ranked in the AP top 30 (No. 15 Arizona and No. 19 Missouri), and the Jayhawks one loss is a nine-point loss at home to No. 3 Texas.

Road loss to Wisconsin > Home loss to Texas

Thus ...

OSU's resume > KU's resume

As for Texas, well, the Longhorns (22-3) have better wins than Ohio State and Kansas.

That's undeniable.

But they also have three losses -- one on a neutral court to No. 4 Pittsburgh, one at home to No. 10 Connecticut and one on the road (by 17 points) to unranked Southern California -- and I don't think you can just disregard that, and I don't believe the big wins are enough to cancel out the three losses. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course. But that's my mindset. So while I would definitely have Texas ahead of Kansas (remember, Texas won at Kansas), I can't bring myself to jump Texas ahead of Ohio State -- not when it would be based on little more than Ohio State's final-minute loss at a place where visitors almost never win.

Anyway, that's why I'm keeping OSU No. 1.

I'll figure out the rest of the rankings late Sunday.
Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com