Posted on: February 9, 2010 12:09 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2010 12:11 pm

Dear Gary (on Texas being like last year's WFU)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: This Texas team reminds me a lot of last year's Wake Forest squad.  Both made it to mid/late January without a loss and were ranked No. 1.  Both had a player that was being talked up for Player of the Year (Jeff Teague/Damion James), and both went through a rough stretch in early February. Wake Forest righted the ship at the end of last regular season to win six out of seven.  But then the Demon Deacons flamed out early in the ACC tournament and didn't put up a fight against Cleveland State.  What does Texas need to do to avoid a similar fate?

-- Sean

That's a nice comparison.

I'll add to your details that Wake Forest had the necessary number of pros (Jeff Teague, James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu) to be great that I always take about, and Texas has a similar number now (Avery Bradley, Damion James, Dexter Pittman). So I think you nailed it, Sean.

What does Texas need to do to avoid a similar fate?

Even though I wasn't blown away by J'Covan Brown's performance (it was mostly just a lot of points in a lopsided game), going with him over Dogus Balbay is a step in the right direction. I like Balbay; he's an awesome guy and good defender. But opposing teams don't even guard him, and you can't play four-on-five on the offensive end. Getting Justin Mason out of the rotation is wise, too. So Barnes is correct to move away from two upperclassmen and more toward his most talented players. But there are still issues, and lots of them.

What's happened to Dexter Pittman?

Why can't Jordan Hamilton play smarter?

Is J'Covan Brown careful enough with the ball to be the primary ball-handler?

These are things that must be addressed, and soon. Otherwise, I can absolutely see this Texas team going the way of last season's Wake Forest team, and that would be too bad because this is a nice collection of talent that doesn't need to be wasted.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 20, 2010 3:08 pm

Media panel has Wall way ahead in POY race

Michael Rothstein of AnnArbor.com polled 45 college basketball writers to get a glimpse of how the Player of the Year race is unfolding. It's no surprise that John Wall got 32 of the 45 first-place votes, just a surprise that three voters didn't list Wall among their top three.

I like to call those people stupid.

Seriously, how could Wall not be in somebody's top three?

Anyway, click this link to check the results.

My ballot (as of this minute) is ...

1. John Wall (Kentucky)
2. Evan Turner (Ohio State)
3. Damion James (Texas)
Posted on: January 18, 2010 1:39 pm

Worth noting: Kansas State is favored over Texas

Tonight's best game is No. 1 Texas at No. 10 Kansas State.

And the Longhorns are supposed to lose, according to Sportsbook.com.

KSU is actually a 1.5-point favorite over Texas, as I type. That means if things go as planned -- or at least as planned by oddsmakers -- Kentucky will be the only remaining undefeated team on Tuesday morning. Either way, it should be a fun game. Click this link to watch a video preview I did with CBSSports.com's Jason Horowitz.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 9, 2010 6:51 pm

And then there were three

There's no shame in losing at Wisconsin.

Almost everybody does it.

And the loss doesn't mean Purdue stinks.

Purdue is very good.

But the nice thing about the Boilermakers' 73-66 loss at Wisconsin is that it will, at least momentarily, end the debate about whether Purdue belongs in the top tier with Kansas, Texas and Kentucky, i.e., the other schools that entered this weekend with undefeated records. Now that Purdue is no longer among the undefeated teams, folks won't try to group Purdue with the other undefeated teams, and then I won't have to argue that Purdue doesn't belong with the other undefeated teams, and everybody's life gets simpler.

As I type, three undefeated teams remain.

Kansas, Texas and Kentucky.

That's perfect because I've insisted for a while that those are college basketball's top three teams, and that they belong on a tier above all others, Purdue included. Purdue fans took offense to that opinion, explained how their team was undefeated, too, and then asked why I thought Purdue was terrible. Obviously, I never thought Purdue was terrible, and I still don't. In fact, I think Purdue is good enough to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four. It's just that I'm a big believer in the theory that it takes three NBA players to win the NCAA tournament, and I don't think Purdue has three.

Kansas does.

(Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry)

Texas does.

(Dexter Pittman, Damion James, Jordan Hamilton, Avery Bradley)

Kentucky does.

(John Wall, Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe)

But Purdue doesn't.

And that's the only reason I've never grouped Purdue with Kansas, Texas and Kentucky. I simply don't believe Matt Painter has the roster to compete with those rosters for the national title. Could I be wrong? Sure, I guess. But understand that 40 of the past 41 NCAA tournament champions have had at least three players who were either A) selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, B) selected in the second round of the NBA Draft or, C) not selected in the first or second round but still went on to play in the NBA.

The only exception is the Syracuse team in 2003.

So though history suggests you can get to the Sweet 16 with anything and make a Final Four with close to anything, it also tells us that you'd better have three NBA players or Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick if you want to win it all. Short of that, you're falling short. And I think Purdue is slightly short of that, which makes the Boilermakers a very good team that just isn't equipped to be elite.

Now that Purdue has one loss, that's how Purdue will be perceived by the common fan.

That'll leave Kansas, Texas and Kentucky alone at the top, which is the way it should've been all along.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 28, 2009 6:41 pm

The Poll Attacks

Don't ever let anybody tell you the Poll Attacks aren't working.

Because they're working.

Pitt got zero votes this week.

I made that happen.

Now let's see what this week's Poll Attacks can get done.

AP poll: God bless you, Roger Clarkson from the Athens Banner-Herald . You are hard-headed, no doubt. But you finally came around and dropped Pittsburgh from your ballot, and you are to be applauded on this Monday. Sure, it took three weeks of Poll Attacks to make it happen, the last of which was vicious. And, yes, I think it's hilarious that the week you finally decided to remove Pitt is the week in which the Panthers beat Ohio 74-49. But that's beside the point. The point is that you listened, and that the Poll Attacks are working. And this must be how people feel when they help the less fortunate around the holidays. Like them, I now know that I'm making a difference in this world. It's a proud day for both me and this blog. See how I'm smiling in that picture up there? That's how I'm smiling right now. With tears of joy in my eyes.

Coaches poll: One of the things I hate about rankings is how teams are dropped when they lose road games to higher-ranked teams. It makes no sense. I mean, why should a team ranked No. 9 go win on the homecourt of the team ranked No. 2? Answer: It shouldn't. And it shouldn't be penalized when it doesn't (unless it's an absolute massacre), which brings me to Michigan State.

The Spartans were ranked No. 9 in the Coaches poll last week.

Then they went and lost 79-68 at No. 2 Texas.

And so the voters processed that information and decided to drop Michigan State from No. 9 to No. 11.


Why penalize a team for playing tough non-league road games?

If anything, we should reward teams for playing tough non-league road games.

Meantime, Connecticut moved from No. 11 to No. 10 thanks to wins over Maine and Iona because voters decided in that last week that UConn deserves to be ranked higher than Michigan State because UConn beat Maine and Iona while Michigan State failed to upset a Texas team that got three No. 1 votes. It's crazy. Switch the schedules, and it's safe to assume Michigan State would've moved up with meaningless wins over Maine and Iona while UConn dropped after a loss at Texas, and that means voters are ranking teams based on nothing more than scheduling philosophies, which is wrong.

Again, it's wrong to penalize teams for losing games they should lose.

That's why I didn't drop Ole Miss for losing at West Virginia.

That's why I didn't drop Michigan State for losing at Texas.

That's why the Coaches poll makes me crazy.
Posted on: December 23, 2009 11:54 am

My five-games-in-four-days road trip is ending

AUSTIN, Texas -- Over the past four days I've been in Arlington for Texas' win over North Carolina, in Waco for Baylor's win over UT-Arlington, in Oklahoma City for UTEP's win over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's win over La Salle, and in Austin for Texas' win over Michigan State.

It's been a long trip.

I'm glad to be heading home now.

And among the things I'll think about over Christmas is whether to break my personal rule of allowing top-ranked teams to remain No. 1 until they lose, no matter what. I've now seen seven of the nation's top 11 teams in person -- including No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Kentucky -- and I cannot deny that the Longhorns have been the most impressive of the bunch. If I was breaking it down, I'd say Kansas is still the safest pick to win the national title, but that Texas is probably the smartest pick while Kentucky has the highest ceiling of any team because John Wall is the best player in the country, and DeMarcus Cousins might be the second most talented. It's just that you can't rely on Cousins, which is why UK might be less reliable. But either way, I'd put Kansas, Texas and UK in the top tier of teams, then put West Virginia, Purdue, Syracuse, Duke, Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State in that second tier.

Will I keep Kansas No. 1?

Yes, probably.

Again, I don't like to drop teams for winning.

But I'm at least considering it.

And that should tell you how impressed I am with Texas.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 20, 2009 11:29 am
Edited on: December 20, 2009 11:31 am

I hear the drive to Waco is beautiful

ARLINGTON, Texas -- I was at Texas-North Carolina at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday. Now it's Sunday, and I'm headed to UT-Arlington vs. Baylor in Waco. Then I'll be at a double-header -- UTEP vs. Oklahoma/La Salle vs. Oklahoma State -- in Oklahoma City on Monday. Then I'll be in Austin on Tuesday for Michigan State vs. Texas, where I hope to see whether Rick Barnes can figure out a way to play 24 different Longhorns at least five minutes.

Anyway, busy times.

I'm leaving for Waco now.

It'll be my first trip to the Ferrell Center.

I hope it has a 60-yard-long television, just like the one I saw yesterday.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 14, 2009 10:15 am

We are about to experience a boring five days

You can tell finals are happening on many campuses because the games this week are terrible.

Nobody wants to travel.

Nobody wants to compete.

A quick glance of the schedule shows there are no matchups between Top 25 teams between now and Saturday. Nothing Monday night. Or Tuesday night. Or Wednesday night. Or Thursday night. Or Friday night. The next time two ranked teams play each other will be Saturday afternoon, when North Carolina and Texas meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. We also have Duke-Gonzaga on Saturday. But until then, prepare to be bored.
Category: NCAAB
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