Tag:Michigan State
Posted on: December 8, 2010 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 2:19 pm
 

Finally, a good event to start the season on tap

I've been asking -- begging is probably more accurate -- for an interesting event to start the college basketball season for a while now. Something different than, you know, Pittsburgh vs. Rhode Island, which is what we got this year. Nothing against Pittsburgh (or Rhode Island, for that matter). It's just that casual sports fans won't turn their attention to the start of the college basketball season for Panthers-Rams.

But they'll turn their attention for this (via ESPN.com's Andy Katz):
Four of the sport's top programs -- Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky -- have committed to create the Champions Classic, an early season marquee event debuting in 2011 and televised by ESPN. The first Champions Classic is set for Madison Square Garden in New York, with Duke facing Michigan State and Kentucky meeting Kansas on Nov. 15, 2011. Year 2 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will see Michigan State vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kentucky on Nov. 13, 2012. The third event, Nov. 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, will have Michigan State playing Kentucky and Kansas playing Duke.
Yes, yes, yes!

And finally!

For too long this sport's season has started with a whimper, and most people never knew when or where it began, or with whom. Now everybody will know. ESPN has secured commitments from four of America's top programs, and the four schools will tip the next three seasons under one roof. Two will play each other, then the other two will play in a double-header format not unlike what I witnessed Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Each team will switch opponents each year for three years. So by the time this is over we will have experienced every possible combination of Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky, and that the games will happen in the context of a high-profile event should only make them more special.

So kudos to ESPN for making this happen. And hats off to Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari for letting it happen. I haven't been this excited since Delta started adding Wifi on domestic flights. The Champions Classic is going to be epic. It's an event that's decades overdue, obviously. But as I type these words, it's less than a year away.

Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 1:29 pm
 

The Poll Attacks

Somebody ranked Florida 16th after a loss to UCF. Same somebody didn't even rank undefeated UCF. And that voter from the Daily Progress isn't progressing well at all. That's too bad for him. But it's great for the Poll Attacks.

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

Associated Press poll: Florida returned five starters from a roster that made the NCAA tournament, and the Gators added a McDonald's All-American to the bunch. So ranking them high in the preseason made some sense. I even did it myself. But now the season has started, and the Gators are 6-2. Their losses are a lopsided loss at home to Ohio State that didn't really bother me and a surprising loss on the road to UCF that bothered me quite a bit.

But you know who wasn't bothered by it?

Scott Mansch from the Great Falls Tribune in Montana.

It didn't bother him at all.

Dude had the Gators 16th last week and 16th again this week.

(Worth noting: Florida didn't make the Top 25 (and one) or actual AP poll.)

Needless to say, this was startling. So I decided to further examine Scott's AP ballots from last week and this week and compare the two. Here's what I found: He dropped Missouri five spots for losing in overtime to No. 9 Georgetown, dropped Michigan State two spots for losing by five points on the road to No. 1 Duke. (More on this below.) But Florida? Scott kept the Gators right where they were last week on his ballot after the loss at UCF. And what makes it even sillier is that Scott didn't rank undefeated UCF at all. So he apparently believes losses to teams he and everybody else has ranked are worse than losses to unranked teams. That's all I can figure.

(Moving on …)

Does anybody know Whitelaw Reid from the Daily Progress in Virginia?

We have to sit this guy down, ASAP.

I busted him up in last week's Poll Attacks, and I thought he might listen and adjust. Alas, he did not. My man still has Villanova ranked No. 8 and Tennessee unranked despite the fact that Tennessee is undefeated with a neutral court win over Villanova. He still has Connecticut behind Michigan State, Kentucky and Washington despite the fact that Connecticut is undefeated with wins over Michigan State and Kentucky, both of which beat Washington. And he still has Missouri ahead of Georgetown despite the fact that Georgetown is undefeated with a win over -- you'll never guess -- Missouri.

That last game, a thriller, happened last Tuesday.

Do you think Whitelaw heard about it?

Do you think Whitelaw even knows the season is underway?

Coaches poll: There are lots of things I hate about how people vote in polls -- that's sort of how I stumbled into doing this every Monday -- but there's nothing I hate more than when teams drop for losing competitive games to higher-ranked teams, especially on the road. By definition, a team ranked No. 1 is supposed to beat a team ranked No. 6, particularly when the game is on the top-ranked team's home court. So it should've surprised nobody when No. 1 Duke beat No. 6 Michigan State 84-79 last week at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What's surprising is that the Spartans dropped from No. 6 to No. 8 in the coaches poll because of the loss.

Seriously, why?

What did anybody see in that loss at Duke to make them think MSU wasn't worthy of its ranking?

How many teams would've or even could've won that game in that building on that night?

So stupid.

If you want to rank Michigan State eighth, that's fine. Or put the Spartans 12th. I don't care. My point is only that there isn't a single thing that happened over the past week that should've diminished anybody's opinion of Michigan State. So wherever a voter had the Spartans last week is, at worst, where that voter should've had them this week.

For instance, I had Michigan State No. 5 last week.

Same thing this week.

Because a five-point loss on the road to the No. 1 team is no reason to drop them.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 3:35 am
 

Cameron and Allen in consecutive nights is fun

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You can tell by the timestamps on my last two posts that this road trip I'm currently enjoying has really disrupted my sleeping habits. And by disrupted my sleeping habits, I mean I'm not really sleeping anymore.

That's not fun.

But I'd still put my past two nights up against anybody's.

I was at Michigan State-Duke Wednesday night and UCLA-Kansas Thursday night.

So in a span of 24 hours I sat courtside in what I consider to be the two neatest college basketball arenas in the country (Cameron Indoor Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse) and watched four possible Hall of Fame coaches (Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Ben Howland and Bill Self) compete in two high-level games. Duke's Kyrie Irving was the story late Wednesday, a questionable call was the story late Thursday. And now I'm just anxious to see what the story will be early Saturday, because I'm getting ready to fly back to North Carolina for this weekend's showdown between Kentucky and North Carolina.

I'll be inside the Dean Smith Center for tipoff.

I won't mind seeing another freshman dominate and be a star.

What I would mind seeing is another referee ruin a good competition.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:14 am
Edited on: December 2, 2010 9:40 am
 

Dude, where's my (rental) car?

DURHAM, N.C. -- You know what's worse than walking out of Cameron Indoor at 2:30 a.m.?

Walking out of Cameron Indoor at 2:30 a.m. and not being able to find your rental car for 30 minutes when it's really cold outside. Seriously, that's the most depressed I've been in at least a month. If not for an assist from a campus police officer, I'd probably still be stumbling around looking for my car, hating myself and pretty much everything else in this world. So allow me to offer a big thanks to the Duke campus police. You guys are as important to me as Kyrie Irving is to your basketball team.

You saw Irving, didn't you?

He was tremendous in Duke's 84-79 win over Michigan State.

Next up for him is Saturday's game against Butler.

Next up for me is Thursday's game between UCLA and Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

I'm flying there in a few hours.

Gonna try to not lose my car on this portion of the trip.

Fingers crossed.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:01 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 12:44 pm
 

Getting ready for Michigan State-Duke

DURHAM, N.C. -- It's the school ranked first in all sensible preseason polls vs. the school ranked second in most preseason polls. It's Hall of Fame coach vs. Hall of Fame coach. Elite point guard vs. Elite point guard. Cameron Indoor. ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I could go on and on, but you get the point that Wednesday's showdown between Duke and Michigan State is a must-watch for college basketball fans and a must-attend for college basketball writers.

So I'm attending and I can't wait.

I'll be courtside for the nationally televised tipoff.

Here are four storylines for this game featuring two Final Four teams:

1. Power program/coach vs. Power program/coach

Kentucky is the all-time winningest program. UCLA has more titles than anybody. But an argument could be made that no two schools have been more consistently dominant in recent years than Duke and Michigan State, and that no two coaches are better at what they do than Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo. Coach K leads active coaches in national titles (4) and Final Four appearances (11) while Izzo has one national championship and six Final Fours in the past 12 seasons. Both men have rejected multiple offers to move to the NBA, Izzo's decision to pass on a huge contract from the Cleveland Cavaliers last June serving as the latest example. Their approaches are different, personalities opposite. But one thing Krzyzewski and Izzo have in common is that they're true icons of the sport still operating at an elite level. To watch them against each other in person should be a treat.

2. Duke's quest to finish undefeated

It's still a longshot, and I doubt it'll happen. But if the Blue Devils win this game (Duke is a 10-point favorite, by the way) they'll have wins over No. 5 Kansas State, No. 6 Michigan State and be the owners of a remaining schedule that includes no more games against teams ranked in the latest Associated Press poll. Clearly, at N.C. State (Jan. 19) will still be tricky, and two of the final three regular season games are at Virginia Tech (Feb. 26) and North Carolina (March 5). But barring a notable injury, Duke won't be an underdog in any game this season. So get ready for a discussion about whether the Blue Devils can finish undefeated provided they handle Michigan State convincingly.

3. Kyrie Irving as America's best point guard

BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Kansas State's Jacob Pullen received much of the preseason hype, and Connecticut's Kemba Walker is the star of this young season. But ask NBA general managers for the name of the first guard likely to be selected in June's NBA Draft, and the answer you'll get most often is Duke's Kyrie Irving. Simply put, he's been better than advertised, and the advertisement was incredible. The freshman point guard is averaging 14.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range and 92.3 percent from the free throw line. Irving is so good, in fact, that I'd give the edge at point guard in this game to Duke even though Michigan State's Kalin Lucas is more experienced and the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year.

4. This could decide the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The Big Ten takes a 4-2 advantage into the final day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge but remains the underdog in the event because ACC schools are favored in four of Wednesday's five games. Assuming everything goes as planned, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be tied 5-5 when the Spartans and Blue Devils tip at 9:30 ET. So this game could decide things, and such a scenario would have fans from Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue gathered around televisions rooting for Michigan State while fans from Virginia, Florida State and North Carolina -- OK, probably not North Carolina -- pull for Duke. Thus, the timing of the game could make the stakes higher than they already were, and they were already pretty high given the stature of the schools, players and coaches involved.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 1, 2010 6:48 am
 

The Big Ten leads 4-2 heading into tonight

I correctly picked Wake Forest over Iowa, Northwestern over Georgia Tech, Ohio State over Florida State, and Illinois over North Carolina. But I missed on Michigan over Clemson. So my Tuesday night projections were slightly off. And now the Big Ten has a 4-2 advantage over the ACC in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. But I still have the ACC winning the event based on the way I suspect Wednesday night's games will go.

Take a look:
  • Indiana at Boston College: Boston College
  • North Carolina State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin
  • Purdue at Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech
  • Maryland at Penn State: Maryland
  • Michigan State at Duke: Duke
That means I've now got the ACC winning 6-5, but this could clearly go either way. Yes, it's true, every team I picked to win tonight is technically the favorite. But Maryland is only a 2-point favorite at Penn State, and Virginia Tech and Boston College are only 4-point favorites over Purdue and Indiana. So it should be a fun night of hoops. I'll be at Michigan State-Duke, by the way. Can't wait for that.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 4:03 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 7:06 pm
 

The Poll Attacks

One guy left Villanova and Michigan State off his ballot but put Purdue and Virginia Tech in the top 20. Another guy ranked Villanova in the top 10 (that's reasonable) but left the undefeated team that just beat Villanova unranked (that's unreasonable). Silly AP voters, I tell you. They're the gift that keeps on giving during this holiday season.

Let's do the Poll Attacks!

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

Associated Press poll: Michigan State and Villanova are both talented, and both only have one loss to a team ranked in the top 15 of the latest AP poll. The Spartans are 5-1 with a loss to No. 7 Connecticut by one possession, and they have a win over No. 23 Washington. The Wildcats are 5-1 with a loss to No. 13 Tennessee, and they've got a double-digit win over UCLA. So we can argue about whether Michigan State and Villanova belong in the top five or the top 10 or even the top 20, I guess. But there is no sensible way to leave either school off a Top 25 ballot.

And yet John Shinn from the Norman Transcript in Oklahoma left both off his AP ballot.

Seriously.

No Michigan State.

No Villanova.

But John has Purdue (no good wins and a double-digit loss to unranked Richmond) ranked 14th and two-loss Virginia Tech ranked 19th, which is three spots higher than the undefeated UNLV team that just beat Virginia Tech on a neutral court by 12. So to recap: Michigan State is 5-1 with a loss to the team ranked No. 8 (UConn) and a win over the team ranked No. 23 (Washington), and John decided that resume isn't worthy of being ranked. And Villanova is 5-1 with a lone loss to the team ranked No. 13 and a win over UCLA, and John decided that resume isn't worthy of being ranked, either. Meantime, Virginia Tech is 4-2 with double-digit losses to the teams ranked No. 5 and No. 24, but John somehow decided that resume is worthy of being ranked all the way up at No. 19, which, again, is three spots higher than the undefeated UNLV team that just beat Virginia Tech on a neutral court by 12. And he has Purdue at No. 14 with a 5-1 record featuring a double-digit loss to unranked Richmond.

Also ranked on John's ballot: North Carolina at No. 25.

So two-loss Virginia Tech and two-loss UNC are both on John's ballot.

But one-loss Michigan State and one-loss Villanova are both off John's ballot.

Perhaps he's just an ACC fan trapped in Big 12 country.

Who knows?

Another weird ballot involving Villanova belongs to Whitelaw Reid of the Daily Progress in Virginia. He has Villanova at No. 8 and Tennessee unranked despite the fact that UT is undefeated with a win over -- wait for it -- Villanova. Not sure how anybody could make sense of that. But this is the same guy who has Washington at No. 12 and Connecticut at No. 23 despite the fact that Washington has two losses and UConn is undefeated with wins over both of the schools (Kentucky and Michigan State) that beat -- wait for it -- Washington. So maybe making sense isn't a priority with good ol' Whitelaw.

Coaches poll: Nobody likes Temple more than I like Temple.

I had the Owls ranked in the top 15 in the preseason, and as high as No. 13 last week. But then they lost to California late Thursday and to Texas A&M on Sunday, and you just can't have a 3-2 team coming off losses to Cal and Texas A&M on your Top 25 ballot. But that's exactly what at least one coach -- and possibly multiple coaches -- did this week. Temple got five points in the coaches poll. That's five more than Texas A&M (5-1) or Cal (3-2) received, case you were wondering.
Posted on: November 24, 2010 2:10 am
Edited on: November 24, 2010 2:22 am
 

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

Tuesday marked the first real day of great college basketball games, and it was terrific. Here are five thoughts from a night that saw No. 1 Duke remain undefeated, No. 4 Kansas State take its first loss, Kemba Walker lead UConn past No. 2 Michigan State, and No. 8 Kentucky get by No. 13 Washington thanks to another stellar effort from yet another terrific John Calipari-coached freshman:

1. Duke is seriously talented, elite, all that and more

The Blue Devils were the nation's consensus preseason No. 1 team, and the nation saw why during their 82-68 win over Kansas State. You could reasonably argue -- I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, just saying it could be reasonably argued -- that Duke has college basketball's best player at three different positions, and that freshman Kyrie Irving is already the team's top player despite the fact that he joined a roster featuring seven guys with national title rings. This team was easy to love on paper, and it's even easier to love after watching it on the court. They won't lose when they play well. To top them, somebody will have to be really good on the same day they're a little off.

2. Jacob Pullen will probably be OK, I think

Jacob Pullen struggled against Duke, missed 11 of the 12 shots he attempted. So if you want to question him, you can. And I won't blame you. But I would like to remind you that he's had awful nights before and recovered nicely. The All-American candidate posted back-to-back 2-of-15 games last January and still went on to put 34 on BYU and 28 on Xavier during the NCAA tournament. Granted, it's unclear if Pullen can be that same type of player without Denis Clemente in the backcourt beside him, and, I know, Pullen hasn't looked great this season regardless of the opponent. But he's still undeniably the best player on a team that already owns wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, and that's worth remembering in the spirit of perspective.

3. Kemba Walker is turning into a star

New York-area basketball enthusiasts have wanted Kemba Walker to be a star since the moment he enrolled at UConn, but it didn't happen that quickly for a variety of reasons. It's happening now, though. Walker recorded at least 30 points for the third straight game and led the unranked (for the moment) Huskies to a 70-67 victory over Michigan State. He's driving and scoring and, perhaps most impressively, leading. And though I can't imagine Walker keeps it up and really averages around 30 points per game, if he's anywhere close to this good consistently then my prediction that UConn will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year will be wrong in a major way.

4. Michigan State, as usual, will be a work in progress

As sure as Tom Izzo is spelled with two Zs, Michigan State will be there in the end. To think otherwise would be stupid. But it must be concerning for Spartan fans that Kalin Lucas was awful in the loss to UConn. While Walker had the type of game that enhances (and in many cases inflates) reputations, Lucas had one that damages them. He recorded four field goals and five turnovers in the loss, and an elite point guard shouldn't have games like that in his senior year even when he's coming off of an injury.

5. Terrence Jones is way better than I anticipated

I knew Terrence Jones would be good because he's big and skilled and naturally gifted, but what he's done through four games is ridiculous. The 6-foot-8 freshman is averaging 20.1 points and 11.8 rebounds after geting 16 points and 17 rebounds in UK's 74-67 win over Washington, and he's the main reason why the Wildcats are still overwhelming opponents despite losing five first-round picks from last season's team. Jones' waffling between Washington and Kentucky for two weeks last May -- specifically the way he toyed with fans via Twitter -- before ultimately signing with the Wildcats was a major turnoff in my eyes, but I don't care about that anymore. Kid is performing like a monster. Just tremendous. He'll never play college basketball next to permanently ineligible Turkish star Enes Kanter (barring a successful appeal to the NCAA). But, my lord, can you imagine how scary Kentucky would be with those two?
 
 
 
 
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