Posted on: February 2, 2009 11:50 pm

UConn might keep this thing for at least a week

I'm not ready to put faith in any team given how this season is going.

But know this: Connecticut is positioned to stay No. 1 for a while.

The Huskies' win at Louisville on Monday night improved Jim Calhoun's team to 21-1 overall, 10-1 in the Big East. More to the point, it allowed them to clear one of their final road hurdles, and now they won't play another tough road game until Feb. 25 at Marquette.

Four of UConn's next five games are at home.

Only two of those games are against ranked opponents.

So the guess here is that UConn will keep its No. 1 ranking longer than Duke kept its.

Which, of course, means the Huskies are destined to lose at home to Michigan on Saturday, just because.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 2, 2009 2:54 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2009 9:00 pm

Dear Gary (on Louisville-UConn)

Here's Monday Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Who wins: Louisville or UConn?

-- Lou

I don't get excited about many games to the point where I can't wait for tip-off, but this one falls under that category. What we have tonight is the nation's No. 1 team (Connecticut) against the team that is playing like the nation's No. 1 team (Louisville), and it should come as no suprise that the Cards are the favorites at home in Freedom Hall.

Official line: Louisville minus 2.5 points.

My advice: Wrong team favored! Take the Huskies.


Posted on: January 29, 2009 3:19 pm

Dear Gary (on the argument for Wake to be No. 1)

Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Oklahoma No. 1? Maybe. UConn No. 1? Maybe. But the true No. 1 stands tall. Neither Oklahoma nor UConn could beat both UNC AND Duke, which is why Wake Forest should be No. 1. Do you follow the crowds, Gary, or do you THINK? There's no other choice but Wake Forest.

-- AW

I hate people like this.

Honestly, I do.

Because rather than make a reasonable argument for Wake Forest -- and there is a reasonable argument to be made -- AW starts with a ludicrous statement, that neither UConn nor Oklahoma could beat both UNC and Duke. Really? Why not? If Boston College can beat North Carolina (which it did) and Michigan can beat Duke (which it did), then how are we to conclude that UConn and/or Oklahoma couldn't beat North Carolina and Duke, particularly if UConn and/or Oklahoma had home games against those two just like Wake Forest did?

See, it's a stupid premise.

But like I said, there is an argument to be made in Wake's favor.

The place to start is to highlight that the Demon Deacons have three wins over opponents with Top 10 RPIs (UNC, Duke and Clemson) while Connecticut and Oklahoma have zero. So while the Huskies and Sooners have more quality victories (UConn is 9-1 against the Top 100, OU is 14-1 against the Top 100 and Wake Forest is 7-1 against the Top 100), neither can match Wake Forest's top three victories. That's the argument, and I could accept that argument. But to suggest that UConn and Oklahoma couldn't beat North Carolina and Duke is silly, because if UConn and Oklahoma had home games against North Carolina and Duke then I assure you that UConn and Oklahoma would be favored to win those games.

Posted on: January 25, 2009 12:58 am

Duke might be better than UConn, but it's close

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Duke Blue Devils will be the nation's new top-ranked team.

But should they be?

It's a fair question after Connecticut's 69-61 win at Notre Dame, because the Huskies have a comparable body of work considering they have now beaten three teams ranked in the latest AP poll (No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 20 Villanova and No. 23 Gonzaga) just like Duke has beaten three teams ranked in the latest AP poll (No. 12 Georgetown, No. 15 Xavier and No. 18 Purdue). UConn's lone loss was to No. 12 Georgetown; Duke's lone loss was at unranked Michigan. So though I'm not stating that Connecticut should be ahead of Duke, what I am stating is that the bodies of work are closer than the gap will be between the two schools when the AP and Coaches polls are released Monday.

Anyway, here are the bodies of work ...

-- Duke Blue Devils --

Overall record: 18-1
Best six wins: No. 12 Georgetown, No. 15 Xavier, No. 18 Purdue, Davidson, Michigan, Florida State
Lone loss: Michigan

-- UConn Huskies --

Overall record: 18-1
Best six wins: No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 20 Villanova, No. 23 Gonzaga, Miami, Wisconsin, West Virginia
Lone loss: No. 12 Georgetown

Given that information, which team should get the No. 1 spot?


Or UConn?

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Connecticut, Duke
Posted on: January 17, 2009 9:51 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2009 9:57 pm

Wake Forest deserves the No. 1 ranking

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It'll be a debate, because people love to debate.

But there really shouldn't be any debate at all.

So go ahead AP voters -- and you too, coaches -- and slot Wake Forest No. 1 on your ballots now that top-ranked Pittsburgh has lost at Louisville. Why? Because otherwise you'll be wrong, that's why. Dino Gaudio's team is 16-0 with wins over No. 5 North Carolina, No. 10 Clemson and No. 21 Baylor. One of those games was at home (UNC), one was on the road (Clemson) and the other came on a neutral court (Baylor) -- meaning the Demon Deacons have proved they can beat you here, there or over yonder, and they have all the ingredients of a traditional No. 1 team.

A star?


His name is Jeff Teague.

At least three future NBA players?


Their names are Jeff Teague, Al-Forouq Aminu and James Johnson.

A strong defense?


They have one of the five most efficient defenses in the country, according to KenPom.com.

So while I like Duke, Connecticut and Pittsburgh plenty -- you have my permission to rank them second, third and fourth, if you want -- the reality is that none of them can match Wake Forest's body of work, if only because Wake Forest's body of work doesn't include a loss. The lone one-loss team that can even try to make a case for the No. 1 spot is Duke, which is 16-1 overall and 4-1 against schools currently ranked in the AP Top 25; that's impressive, no question. But Wake Forest is 16-0 overall and 3-0 against schools currently ranked in the AP Top 25, and that's the difference, to me.

Duke and Wake Forest both have good wins.

But Duke lost at Michigan.

And Wake Forest hasn't lost anywhere.

So that's why the Demon Deacons deserve to be No. 1 in any respectable ranking.

And you can rest assured that's where they'll be in mine -- i.e., the Top 25 (and one) -- come late Sunday night.

Posted on: January 1, 2009 1:40 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2009 1:42 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

I was on a radio station in Arkansas yesterday talking about the Hogs' win over Oklahoma when the conversation turned to postseason aspirations. I commented that Arkansas looked as much like an NCAA tournament team as anybody at this point, and that if the goal was a Sweet Sixteen then that seemed possible to me, if only because any tournament team from a power conference will usually be one of the top 12 seeds in a region, and as long as you're not an eight-seed or nine-seed it's reasonable to hope to advance past the first weekend because all you have to do is win what is typically a winnable first game, then hope the bracket breaks in your favor like it did for Western Kentucky last March, when the Hilltoppers beat Drake and San Diego to advance.

So anyway, that was my main point -- not that Arkansas is necessarily one of the best 16 teams in the country, but that a tournament team from a power league almost always has a chance to advance to the second weekend, and now I'm ready to take it a step farther in light of what we've seen this week and suggest that any so-called top 30 team can reasonably hope for a trip to the Final Four because it's clear multiple flawed teams will get there given that there is only one truly elite squad: North Carolina.

Just this week, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 9 Purdue have all gone down while preseason top 10 teams Gonzaga and Louisville took their fourth and third losses, and when you compare what's happening this season to what happened last season it really puts things into perspective. Consider that last season it was easy to identify four elite teams pretty much from the start, specifically Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA. Those schools were ranked first, second, third and fourth in the preseason poll, and on New Year's Day they were a combined 49-1 with the lone loss of the bunch belonging to UCLA, which had fallen only by two points to No. 8 Texas.

This season, the top four teams in the preseason poll were North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and UCLA, and on New Year's Day they have a combined record of 42-6. North Carolina is great, obviously, but Connecticut lost its Big East opener at home, Louisville has no good wins and three losses to unranked opponents, and UCLA has no good wins to go with its two defeats. Consequently, I submit -- and I've said this before, but now I have the stats to back it up -- that UNC is better than any team from last season, but that nobody else is even close to as good as Kansas, Memphis, UNC or UCLA was last season, meaning that if you combined all the teams from last season and this season your top five would look like this:

1. North Carolina (2008-2009)
2. Kansas (2007-2008)
3. Memphis (2007-2008)
4. North Carolina (2007-2008)
5. UCLA (2007-2008)

Bottom line, dream big Clemson!

And you too, West Virginia!

And you too, Baylor!

Sure, on the surface, none of you look like Final Four teams in the traditional sense. But the thing about the Final Four is that four schools have to be there, and any combination featuring North Carolina and three other teams seems possible this season because there aren't four teams clearly better than the next 30, and that fact has been on display all week, every night.

Posted on: October 27, 2008 11:11 am

Dear Gary (on what makes a "top 10" program)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I see you called Arizona one of the "top 10 programs in America" last week. I'm fairly sure you also stated as much about Indiana when that job was open. So what are the top 10 programs?

-- Brian

What I mean when I describe something as a "top 10 program" is that it should be one of the top 10 programs in America when everything is going the right way. Obviously, that's not the case at Arizona right now. But assuming Jim Livengood makes a great hire I believe Arizona will again establish itself as one of the top 10 programs in America.

Does that make sense?

If not, try to think of it like this: Pretend you are the nation's hottest coaching candidate and attached to no particular school or region. Now pretend every school wants to hire you and then try to determine which 10 jobs would give you the best chance to succeed based upon factors like the level of national prestige, the recruiting advantages (geographic or otherwise), the passion of the fanbase and the commitment from the administration.

That's how you determine a great program.

In that case, my list would probably look like this:

1. North Carolina
3. Duke
4. Kansas
5. Ohio State
6. Texas
7. Kentucky
8. Arizona
9. Indiana
10. Connecticut

Posted on: September 15, 2008 12:17 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2008 12:20 pm

Nation's best inside-outside duo?

I've been to Oklahoma and Notre Dame the past two weekends and listened to folks from both schools tell me they have the nation's best inside-outside duo. At OU, there's Willie Warren and Blake Griffin. At Notre Dame, there's Kyle McAlarney and Luke Harangody. Honestly, I think either duo can make a reasonable claim to the title. But the whole thing got me thinking about which combinations might really be in the running for best inside-outside duo.

Here's a list off the top of my head ...
  • Oklahoma (Willie Warren and Blake Griffin)
  • Notre Dame (Kyle McAlarney and Luke Harangody)
  • North Carolina (Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough)
  • Pittsburgh (Levance Fields and DeJuan Blair)
  • Connecticut (A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet or Jeff Adrien)
  • Arizona State (James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph)
  • Southern California (Demar DeRozan and Taj Gibson)
OK, who am I missing?

And which combination is the best?
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