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Posted on: January 15, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2011 1:38 am

Massive Monday is almost here

PITTSBURGH -- Saturday was interesting complete with wild comebacks by Louisville and Tennessee, close calls by Kansas and Michigan State, and another questionable home loss after a nice win for Florida. But two games that could easily double as the semifinals for March's Big East tournament are scheduled for Monday. So I'm already over the weekend (even though the weekend isn't over) and ready for MLK Day.

Thank you, Villanova, for winning Saturday.

You too, Connecticut.

You too, Syracuse.

You too, Pitt.

Your results ensured Monday will bring two games between four top 10 teams with a combined record of 65-4.

The day-night doubleheader sets up like this:
  • No. 7 Villanova (16-1) at No. 10 Connecticut (14-2) at 3:30 ET.
  • No. 4 Syracuse (18-0) at No. 5 Pittsburgh (17-1) at 7:30 ET.
I'll watch the first game on TV here in Pittsburgh, then be courtside at the Petersen Events Center for the second. According to, the home teams (UConn and Pitt) are supposed to win, meaning the Panthers should move to 6-0 in the Big East and sit alone atop the league standings come late Monday. But we could easily get opposite outcomes (even though Syracuse's Kris Joseph will miss the showdown with Pitt because of a concussion suffered in Saturday's win over Cincinnati), and, either way, who cares? I'll wait to figure out what it all means. For now, I'm just digging the anticipation. A national holiday with two terrific Big East games is on tap. So Saturday, I enjoyed you, and I'm glad we got to spend this time together. But I'm already ready to move on. Monday can't get here fast enough.
Posted on: January 12, 2011 11:38 am

UConn's Walker POY leader, according to poll's Mike Rothstein is conducting a National Player of the Year straw poll for the third straight season.

Fifty-five writers submitted ballots with their top three choices.

My ballot looked like this:
  1. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
  2. Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
  3. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
That's also how the top three of the straw poll look.

Click this link to check it out.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 10:16 pm

I would hate to coach in the Big East

I've got a column up on the college basketball page about Donnie Jones in which I list many reasons why UCF is a better job than Marshall, and one of the reasons I give is that the UCF job could at some point turn into a Big East job. Such a move would raise the profile of UCF, no doubt. But I'm not actually sure it would make it a "better" job because the Big East is ridiculous.

Who would want to coach in that league?

I bring this up tonight because I just watched No. 8 UConn -- which owns wins over No. 10 Kentucky and No. 18 Michigan State -- take its second league loss in three league games. Meantime, Georgetown (another school that was ranked in the top 10 as recently as last week) already has two league losses, too, and the Hoyas next two games are against West Virginia and No. 5 Pittsburgh. So good luck. Seriously, the Big East is just an incredibly stressful way to go through January, February and early March, which means it's the opposite of C-USA.

So would a Big East invitation be good for UCF as a school?


But it wouldn't be any fun Jones.

Just ask Jim Calhoun or John Thompson III.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Connecticut, UCF
Posted on: January 3, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2011 4:02 pm

The Poll Attacks

Arizona lost at Oregon State late Sunday.

One voter apparently didn't get the memo.

He'll suffer the consequences in the Poll Attacks.

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of

Associated Press poll:
Let me start by saying that Lindsey Wilhite's top seven is perfect.

It looks like this:
  1. Duke
  2. Ohio State
  3. Kansas
  4. Syracuse
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. San Diego State
  7. Connecticut
That's exactly how the first seven of the Top 25 (and one) looks, too. So, needless to say, Lindsey (from the Daily Herald in Illinois) got off to a nice start, and he's pretty good for the most part. I mean, I don't know why he ranked Cincinnati (undefeated with no good wins) 22nd and left UCF unranked (undefeated with a win over Florida), but whatever. My issue is this: Lindsey ranked Arizona 24th.

Arizona entered the weekend with no good wins and two losses -- one of which was reasonable (87-79 to Kansas in Las Vegas) and another that was not (87-65 to BYU in Salt Lake City). So ranking the Wildcats last week would've been a mistake. But how in the world can anybody rank them after Sunday night's 76-75 loss to an Oregon State team that had previously lost to Seattle, Texas Southern, Utah Valley, Colorado, Montana and George Washington?


How. In. The. World?

Arizona is now 12-3 with no good wins, a reasonable loss to KU, a blowout loss to BYU and a head-scratching loss to Oregon State. The only explanation is that Lindsey worked on his ballot early like I do every Sunday afternoon and constructed it as if Arizona would win (I do similar things every Sunday afternoon). So from our top seven to how we operate on Sunday afternoons, Lindsey and I are similar. Where we part is that I don't file anything until every team I'm considering is done for the day, and Lindsey (again, I'm assuming here) goes to bed early on Sundays because "True Blood," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Eastbound and Down" are all out of season. In theory, not a bad move. But if it leads to you ranking Arizona, well, something's got to change.

Coaches poll: The thing I like best about Lindsey's ballot is that he has UConn at No. 7.

Any lower is wrong.

I mention that because the coaches have UConn ninth, which isn't a big difference but still wrong because the only one-loss team that can reasonably be ranked ahead of UConn (at this point) is the one-loss team that just beat UConn, i.e., Pittsburgh. If you want to rank all the undefeated teams (except for Cincinnati and UCF) ahead of UConn, I'm OK with it. I have Duke (13-0), Ohio State (14-0), Kansas (13-0), Syracuse (15-0) and San Diego State (15-0) ranked ahead of UConn, and Pittsburgh (13-1), too. But do those who dropped the Huskies drastically after last week's loss at Pittsburgh realize that UConn (11-1) is the nation's only one-loss team whose lone loss came on the road to a team currently ranked in the top 10? And do they realize UConn is one of just two one-loss teams with two wins over teams currently ranked in the top 20?

The the other is, of course, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh has wins over No. 9 UConn and No. 12 Texas.

Connecticut has wins over No. 11 Kentucky and No. 19 Michigan State.

(And both of UConn's key wins came on a neutral court.)

Tennessee (wins over No. 5 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Villanova) is the only team besides Pittsburgh with two wins better than UConn's best two wins, but the Vols are irrelevant to this conversation because they have four bad losses. Again, UConn's only loss came at No. 5 Pittsburgh. So if anybody can explain why the Huskies are behind Villanova (no Top 25 wins/one loss came to currently unranked Tennessee) and Missouri (best two wins are over No. 20 Illinois and No. 24 Vanderbilt/one loss came to No. 13 Georgetown in Missouri), please do because I can't figure it out.

I have no idea what the future holds for UConn, obviously.

But anything lower than a No. 7 ranking in the present is wrong.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 12:06 am

Breaking news: Pitt beat a great team at home

You can beat Michigan State and Kentucky in Hawaii, start 10-0 and move to No. 4 in the nation. But sooner or later, if you're a top tier Big East school, you're gonna have to play Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center. And when that happens, more likely than not, you're done.

For proof, consider the following: Pitt 78, UConn 63.

That was the final for the first big game on the first real Big Monday of the season, and, no, it doesn't mean Connecticut's ranking was unwarranted. What it means is that even good teams lose at Pittsburgh, which should come as no surprise to anybody with a Pitt media guide. Not only did the Panthers enter with an all-time record of 141-11 at the Peterson Events Center, they were 7-0 against top five teams.

Seriously, 7-0 against top five teams.

Now they're 142-11 and 8-0 against top five teams.

So if you took UConn and the 7.5 points, well, I can't help you now.

Just know better going forward.

And pick against Pitt at home at your own risk.
Category: NCAAB
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

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: November 25, 2010 1:22 am
Edited on: November 25, 2010 1:40 am

Now UConn is the nation's best story, of course

How often do you actually write?

That's a question I'm often asked when I speak to classes, meet readers at games, sit in bars later than I should. I get a variation of it every few days, and I always answer by telling the curious soul that in the offseason I try to write three or four columns a week, and that during the season there's rarely a day -- Christmas, perhaps -- when I'm not typing words about college basketball. That exchange almost always leads to a follow-up question.

How do you find something to write about EVERY day?

It's at this point that I go into a speech about how there are hundreds of teams playing and that stories just constantly and consistently develop. You can't always predict when and where, I tell them, but you can safely assume stories will emerge because stories always emerge.

Which brings me to Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies.

They are a perfect example.

UConn won the Maui Invitational late Wednesday.

The eight-team event featured the schools ranked No. 2 (Michigan State), No. 8 (Kentucky) and No. 13 (Washington) in the latest Associated Press poll, and yet the unranked Huskies -- the same unranked Huskies who were projected 10th in the Big East, according to a preseason vote of league coaches -- are the ones returning to the mainland still undefeated thanks to wins over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky.

The second of those wins (over Michigan State) was the biggest surprise.

The third (over Kentucky) was the most impressive.

UConn dominated UK and won 84-67 thanks to a 29-point effort from Walker, who has been nothing short of spectacular through five games. He scored 60 points in UConn's first two contests this season, 90 in Maui. I don't need a calculator to realize that's an average of 30 points per game, and I don't know where this came from, exactly, but I'm certainly thrilled it's here.

How do you find something to write about EVERY day?

Like I said, stories just constantly and consistently develop. Oftentimes, they're precisely where most anticipated. But every once in a while they come out of nowhere, and this week has been one of those weeks thanks to Kemba Walker and his soon-to-be-ranked Huskies.
Category: NCAAB
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?
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or