Posted on: January 31, 2010 3:17 am
Edited on: January 31, 2010 3:26 am

Kansas will be (and should be) No. 1

No need to wait till Sunday night.

I can tell you now that I'll have Kansas No. 1.

The reason is because the Jayhawks are 20-1 with two huge road wins (at No. 11 Kansas State and at No. 15 Temple), and the lone loss came in the final minute at No. 14 Tennessee. Syracuse (21-1) has also registered good wins (over No. 7 Georgetown at home, at No. 9 West Virginia, at Seton Hall, over Florida on a neutral court), but the loss is a double-digit home loss to No. 17 Pittsburgh. Like Kansas and Syracuse, Villanova (19-1) has two wins against ranked opponents (over No. 7 Georgetown at home and over No. 18 Ole Miss on a neutral court), too. But the lone loss is a double-digit loss to a Temple team Kansas beat by 32, and so I think KU deserves the nod.

Thus, I'm ranking Kansas first.

I'll put Syracuse and Villanova second and third in some order.

Then Kentucky.

Then ... who knows?
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 27, 2010 11:21 am
Edited on: January 27, 2010 11:39 am

Dear Gary (on the next No. 1)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: You know that no matter who you have at the No. 1 spot next week, you will hear it from the fan bases of the other one-loss teams.

-- Cody

The best thing that could happen (in the spirit of simplicity) is for Kansas to win Saturday at Kansas State. That would push the Jayhawks to 20-1 with road wins over No. 11 Kansas State and No. 15 Temple, and the lone loss would be a close loss at No. 14 Tennessee. That's strong -- slightly stronger, I think, than Syracuse and Villanova. Syracuse, barring a slip-up at DePaul, will be 21-1 with a home win over No. 7 Georgetown, a road win over No. 9 West Virginia, and a lone loss by double-digits at home to No. 17 Pitt. Meantime, Villanova, barring a loss to Notre Dame, will be 19-1 with a home win over No. 7 Georgetown, a neutral-site win over No. 18 Ole Miss, and a lone loss by double-digits at No. 15 Temple.

(NOTE: Even if Kentucky beats Vanderbilt this weekend to improve to 20-1, I don't think the Wildcats can match the bodies of work of Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova. They would have wins over No. 19 UConn and No. 21 Vandy, but the lone loss would be at unranked South Carolina. So Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova would have better wins and a better first loss, which is why I'll be picking between Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova as long as none of those schools lose between now and Sunday night. And, no, this does not mean I'm giving up on Kentucky. I'll pick the Wildcats to win the national title when the time comes. But at this point of the season, I try to rank by putting a lot of emphasis on bodies of work, and I don't think UK's body of work is going to measure up Sunday night. Anyway ...)

So if Kansas wins, Kansas should be No. 1.

If not, we'll see.

But here's a more important question: Does anybody want this stupid No. 1 ranking?

The AP's top-ranked team has, after all, lost its past three games. First No. 1 Texas lost to Kansas State, then No. 1 Texas lost to UConn, then No. 1 Kentucky lost to South Carolina. If the Wildcats lose to Vanderbilt, that'll be four straight losses for the nation's top-ranked team. That could be some sort of record, but I can't say for sure. Either way, the good news is that if KU moves to No. 1, its first game as the top-ranked team will be against Colorado, and I'm not even sure a phone call from President Obama could jinx Kansas into losing to Colorado.
Posted on: January 19, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2010 1:58 pm

Dear Gary (on why I have Duke ahead of Syracuse)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: How can you have Duke ahead of Syracuse?

-- Every Syracuse fan on the planet

Emails and Tweets including those words started arriving Sunday shortly after I updated the Top 25 (and one), and they haven't really stopped. I ignored them for a while, then started looking at it from every angle. And what I've found, I hate to admit, is that you guys are right, that there's no real way for me to justify Duke ahead of Syracuse.

Now let me explain what happened.

When Syracuse lost at home to Pitt on Jan. 2, I dropped the Orange to No. 9 while Duke came in at No. 5. Duke was 12-1 with its lone loss coming at Wisconsin, and Syracuse was 13-1 with its lone loss coming at home to Pitt. At the time, the home loss to Pitt looked bad, because nobody (except AP voter Roger Clarkson, of course) thought Pitt was good. Then the Blue Devils lost at Georgia Tech the following weekend, but they still had three wins over teams I had ranked Jan. 10 (Connecticut , Gonzaga and Clemson) while Syracuse only had one win over a team I had ranked Jan. 10 (North Carolina). So I considered that, decided the home loss to Pitt was still kind of questionable, and gave the edge to Duke.

I had Duke No. 6 and Syracuse No. 7 on Jan. 10.

Which brings us to this past week.

As you know, Syracuse won at Rutgers, then won at West Virginia while Duke beat Boston College and Wake Forest. Meantime, Duke's win over UConn started looking worse (because UConn has now lost three straight), and Syracuse's loss to Pitt started looking better (because Pitt has now won eight straight). Bottom line, Syracuse went to bed Sunday with a 17-1 record featuring two wins over teams I currently have ranked (No. 11 West Virginia and No. 24 North Carolina) while Duke went to bed Sunday with a 15-2 record featuring two wins over teams I currently have ranked (No. 14 Gonzaga and No. 15 Clemson).

Clearly, Syracuse has the best win (at West Virginia).

Clearly, Syracuse has fewer losses.

And though I suppose I could argue that losing a home game to No. 8 Pittsburgh is worse than losing road games at No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 23 Georgia Tech, I'm not sure I believe that to be true. Thus, I acknowledge, that what I should've done after Syracuse's win at West Virginia was jump the Orange over the Blue Devils, put Syracuse fifth and Duke sixth, then debated whether to put Syracuse ahead of Villanova, too.

In other words, you're right.

Is it close?


But, I agree, Syracuse should be ranked ahead of Duke right now.

I got it wrong.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, Syracuse
Posted on: January 11, 2010 8:01 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 8:12 pm

The Poll Attacks

Purdue slipped from fourth to sixth in the latest rankings.

But don't worry, Boilermaker fans, I've got your back.

(Seriously, I've got your back on this.)

Let's Poll Attack!

AP poll: I learned my lesson about constantly picking on one voter when I focused three weeks of Poll Attacks on Roger Clarkson's decision to rank Pitt. As you know, Pitt has since proved to be awesome. Which made me look stupid (even though I was right at the time I was filing the Poll Attacks , but I digress). Anyway, I subsequently decided to spread the Poll Attacks around, be an equal opportunity basher of AP voters. And I'm telling you that because I know this is going to look like I'm targeting Gary Horowitz from Oregon again, but that really wasn't my intent.

Honest to God, all I did was look at the AP poll.

I saw somebody ranked Florida.

And I said, "Who the %$&# ranked Florida?"

Naturally, I looked.

And when I saw it was Gary Horowitz, I just shook my head.

Yes, the same guy who ranked Oregon last week ranked Florida this week, and this one might actually make less sense. Florida is 11-4 with two good wins (Michigan State on a neutral and Florida State at home), one reasonable loss (Syracuse on a neutral), one somewhat reasonable loss (at Vanderbilt), and two terrible losses (Richmond on a neutral and South Alabama at home). Beyond that, the Gators needed a 75-foot shot to beat N.C. State, and the loss to Vanderbilt just happened. So I'm not sure how that body of work is worthy of a Top 25 vote.

Is Florida terrible?

Absolutely not.

But there are plenty of teams not on Horowitz's ballot that should be considered before Florida.

Like Vanderbilt, for starters.

That said, I won't be surprised if Florida beats Kentucky Tuesday night.

Please, make note of that.

But that's Tuesday night, and this is Monday.

And it's difficult to justify ranking Florida on this Monday with that body of work.

(UPDATE: The worst part of this, I just noticed, is that Horowitz didn't rank Florida last week. So when the Gators were 11-3, he had them unranked. But when they dropped to 11-4 with a loss at Vanderbilt, he decided to rank them 24th. Again, Florida entered his ballot after a loss at Vanderbilt, and nothing else. Yes, that really happened. Yes, this is why I do the Poll Attacks .)

Coaches poll: I might never know how I got so crossed with Purdue fans, and I'm not sure they're ever going to understand me any more than I understand them on the subject of whether Purdue has the roster necessary to win a national title. At this point, I'm fine with agreeing to disagree because, honestly, I'm just tired.

But before I take a nap please allow me to -- ready for this? -- defend Purdue.

(Come back to me, Boilermaker fans!)

No way should Purdue have dropped from fourth to sixth in the Coaches poll for losing at Wisconsin.

Almost everybody loses at Wisconsin.

So why should the Boilermakers be punished for not winning at a place nearly everybody loses, particularly when you look at their entire body of work? To date, Purdue has wins over No. 9 West Virginia, No. 10 Tennessee, Wake Forest (receiving votes) and Minnesota (receiving votes). You know how many wins over Top 10 teams Villanova has? Zero. You know how many wins over Top 10 teams Syracuse has? Zero. And Villanova's one loss (at Temple) is clearly worse than Purdue's one loss (at Wisconsin), just like Syracuse's one lloss (at home to Pittsburgh) is clearly worse than Purdue's one loss (at Wisconsin).

And yet Villanova and Syracuse are ranked ahead of Purdue.

Makes no sense.

In all seriousness, you could make the case that, based on body of work, Purdue should actually be ranked ahead of Kansas, too. But I'm not about to start that debate. Like I said, I'm tired.
Posted on: December 28, 2009 2:36 pm

Dear Gary (on Syracuse)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I've been a 'Cuse fan since my dad made me drink the orange kool-aid during the Louie & Bowie run in '79. Every year, Syracuse basketball finishes great when they're under the radar. ... They've ascended too early this year. Their big wins are looking a little thin as time goes by. Florida loses again; UNC beaten by another top 10 team. My favorite team is heading for the biggest January freefall, right?

-- Greg

I can see why you might be concerned ...
  • .No great preseason expectations.
  • An exhibition loss.
  • Two wins that don't look as great now as when they happened.
  • No true road games to date.
... but I really don't think Syracuse will fall apart, even though I don't quite believe the Orange belong in the top tier with Kansas, Kentucky and Texas. I just don't think Syracuse has that kind of roster with those kinds of pros. But the Orange are still pretty darn solid, and I'll be shocked if they don't battle West Virginia, Villanova, Connecticut and Georgetown for the Big East title.

So relax, Greg.

Enjoy this little ride.

But if the Orange go out and lose at Seton Hall, well, then you might have a point.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 20, 2009 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2009 10:54 pm

What if Johnson would've never left Iowa State?

Who's the man most bothered by what happened at Madison Square Garden late Friday?

It has to be North Carolina coach Roy Williams, right?

I mean, Syracuse just ran his team off the court.

But second to Williams, I'm guessing, is Iowa State coach Greg McDermott, whose former player, Wesley Johnson, led the Orange to an 87-71 win over the Tar Heels while establishing himself as the star of a team that has rebounded from the exhibition loss to Le Moyne with wins over the Pac-10 favorite (California) and ACC favorite (North Carolina). Johnson finished with 25 points and eight rebounds against the Tar Heels; he was the best player on the court. When the Orange move into the top 10 of the Top 25 (and one) late Sunday, he'll be the main reason, making it difficult not to wonder if he could've done the same for Iowa State.

Think about it.

How good would a Wesley Johnson/Craig Brackins combo be this season?

Both are possible lottery picks in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Both are All-American candidates.

If McDermott had them to go with Lucca Staiger and Marquis Gilstrap, the Cyclones might've been the smart pick to finish third in the Big 12 behind only Kansas and Texas. As it is, Iowa State was picked eighth. And it's things like these that can change a coach's entire career.

What if Johnson never transferred? Could he have led Iowa State to the NCAA tournament last season? If so, would the "winning culture" created by an appearance have been enough to convince Ames High star Harrison Barnes to reject an offer from North Carolina and play at the school for which his mother works?

Obviously, we'll never know the answers to those questions.

But they are interesting questions, aren't they?

"We're so thankful to have him here from Iowa State," Syracuse guard Andy Rautins told ESPN's cameras right after the win over UNC. "He's helping this team in more ways than we could've imagined."

Indeed, Johnson is doing exactly that.

Now imagine what he could've done for Iowa State.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 20, 2009 2:14 pm

Dear Gary (on the sensitivity of some Cuse fans)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: North Carolina will beat Syracuse by at least 15 points tonight?

-- Hunter

If it'll make Syracuse fans calm down , then I'm for it.

But seriously, it should be fun, regardless of the outcome.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 19, 2009 6:22 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2009 6:30 pm

Harris signs with Tennessee

Tobias Harris, as expected, committed to Tennessee on Thursday.

"I really have a great relationship with Coach [Bruce] Pearl and his assistant coach [Tony] Jones," Harris said. "It's just a family atmosphere down there. I got along with the players real well, and it's just a great opportunity and fit for me."

MaxPreps.com ranks Harris No. 21 in the Class of 2010. The 6-foot-8 forward joins Trae Golden (No. 59) and Jordan McRae (No. 87) to comprise a three-player class that should be among the Top 15 classes nationally when team recruiting rankings are finalized.

Harris is from New York.

He also had offers from Syracuse, Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Louisville and West Virginia.
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