Monday, November 24, 2014
Poll Dancing: TBI's College Basketball Top 25 (Nov. 24 Edition)
Faceplants: #17 Colorado, #20 UConn, #25 SMU
--Despite the amount of respect I have for what Larry Shyatt's building at Wyoming (and the massive mancrush TBI harbors for Larry Nance Jr.), I can't keep CU in the top 25 after the sheer ineptitude it displayed in Laramie. For UConn, it boils down to the head-to-head. I can't leave the Huskies in and keep West Virginia out...yet. As for SMU, they miss Markus Kennedy quite a bit, but they miss last year's Nic Moore just as much.
Bubbling Under: UCLA, UConn, Colorado
25. West Virginia (5-0, LW NR)
--The Mountaineers appear to be playing Bob Huggins defense for the first time in a couple of years. There's the kind of depth on hand that allows that defense to stay aggressive, and there's plenty of athletes on hand to crash the offensive glass. The downside is that the UConn win is about the only chance WVU will get to prove itself against top competition, unless you have a great opinion of LSU or NC State.
24. Utah (2-1, LW 22)
--The Utes' loss to San Diego State was unfortunate, but it's the kind of game that the Aztecs will force a lot of teams into this year. The Utes now have to handle their business against Texas-Pan American, North Dakota and Alabama State while trying not to look forward to Dec. 3 against Wichita State.
23. Providence (5-0, LW NR)
--LaDontae Henton is throwing down in a big way with Darrun Hilliard, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and any other candidate for Big East POY. Twice already this season, he's averaged nearly a point per minute, including scoring 38 in a clutch win over Notre Dame. The Friars are absolutely a tournament-caliber team, especially if their freshmen don't tail off late in the season. Rookie wing Jalen Lindsey has racked an absurd 155.4 OR per KenPom.
22. Florida (2-1, LW 16)
--Most of UF's ranking hit has nothing to do with the loss to Miami. Giving away a big lead is a bad look, but Angel Rodriguez had that look of a man who could sink a three-point shot through a Dixie cup in a hurricane. That, and TBI is the ranking unofficial Hurricane cheerleading blog this season. No, the Gators took more damage in barely surviving UL Monroe. This is a struggling bunch that has to rely on Jacob Kurtz way too much and is getting way too little from point guard Kasey Hill. Expect Chris Chiozza to take over the starting role sometime during the Battle 4 Atlantis. Just hope it's not in the seventh-place game, Gator fan.
21. Illinois (3-0, LW 24)
--Like so many teams this early in the season, the Illini have played a succession of cupcakes. While the opener with Georgia Southern was closer than it should have been, Illinois took the lesson well and proceeded to hand Coppin State and Austin Peay their asses by a combined 99 points. No one's scoring on Nnanna Egwu, Leron Black has helped immensely on the glass and seemingly everyone is strokin' like Clarence Carter from the arc. Still, real competition will help. Indiana State on Thanksgiving, Baylor or Memphis the next day and Miami on Dec. 2 will do.
20. Arkansas (3-0, LW 23)
--The Hogs are another squad handling its business against the patsies. Arkansas gets bonus points, however, for at least feasting on a power-conference scrub in Wake Forest. A game at SMU tomorrow night promises to be interesting, while Sunday's game against Iona should be balls-to-the-wall with two teams that like it fast.
19. San Diego State (3-0, LW 21)
--The Aztecs still can't score. That much should be evident from their sub-25% shooting against Bakersfield, of all teams. That defense, tho. BYU will bring plenty of shooters to Maui, and SDSU gets the pleasure of trying to contain them all tonight. The winner should cruise to the final and a likely meeting with Arizona. That's a game that will tell us just how good this Aztec defense is, plus will give ex-Wildcat Angelo Chol a great shot at revenge.
18. Miami (FL) (5-0, LW NR)
--The circumstances surrounding the Florida win probably couldn't be repeated with a thousand attempts. Where the Canes really impressed, however, was in Charleston. Three wins in four days by a total of 67 points over solid mid-major programs in Drexel, Akron and Charlotte? Sure, I'll buy some stock in that. Charlotte gets a shot at revenge tomorrow night, but the first week of December will be the real test, as the Canes host Illinois and Green Bay.
17. Michigan (3-0, LW 19)
--The Wolverines had to put things together in the second half to escape Detroit, but that's not a major stain on their resume or anything. Detroit should be considered a legitimate favorite in the Horizon League. UM is still humming along with one of the nation's most efficient offenses, no one's hitting the offensive glass (that includes the Wolverines themselves, but whatevs) and Max Bielfeldt is looking various shades of useful. If all these things continue, Michigan is in line for a succession of very impressive wins, starting tonight with Oregon and tomorrow against either Villanova or VCU.
16. VCU (3-0, LW 18)
--Speaking of VCU, that's another team that has everything going right so far. Briante Weber is still playing restraining order defense (meaning you can't dribble within 500 feet of him) and Melvin Johnson is becoming a versatile scoring threat. Wins over Villanova and likely Michigan will certainly set Shaka's crew on a course for the top 10, but we've seen this movie before. How does the new sequel end?
15. Kansas (2-1, LW 6)
--That Kentucky game was ugly by all measures. Most of Kansas' supposed stars curled into the fetal position and cried. A few may have crapped themselves. Herein lies the danger of building your All-American teams off of NBA draft boards, because Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander still have a ton to learn about being college players. Shame they won't have time to finish before they go get paid. Look out for Rhode Island on Thanksgiving.
14. Oklahoma (2-1, LW 12)
--Losing to a post-Dougie Creighton team isn't a great look for a team that's supposed to have Final Four ambitions. Still, the Sooners got back on the horse and blitzed Northwestern State to tune up for the Battle 4 Atlantis (Prince's favorite college basketball tournament, no doubt). There are no weak sisters in that field, and the Sooners can validate themselves as a top 10 outfit with a championship. That would likely require rolling through not just UCLA, but North Carolina and possibly Wisconsin or Georgetown.
13. Villanova (3-0, LW 14)
--If Lehigh and Bucknell kept things close against the Wildcats, what can VCU accomplish? The Cats and Rams have both been doing a fine job forcing turnovers, so this game could set offensive basketball back 30 years. Win or lose, another tough matchup comes up the following day, so we're going to get a lot of answers on where Villanova, VCU, Michigan and--to a lesser extent--Oregon fit in the national picture.
12. Ohio State (3-0, LW 15)
--D'Angelo Russell will have the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award on ice by Christmas with a few more 32-point explosions like the one against Sacred Heart. The unfortunate part is that outside of Louisville and North Carolina, the Buckeyes have a skimpy non-conference slate to coast through. We'd like a few more concrete answers about this team before Big Ten play starts. Is Jae'Sean Tate for real? Can Shannon Scott keep making all the right passes against good defenses? Will Sam Thompson eventually get his nuts caught on the rim? The world needs answers, dammit.
11. Iowa State (2-0, LW 11)
--The Cyclones have been MIA since drilling Georgia State last Monday. Games against Alabama and likely Maryland at the CBE Classic will be decent tests, but barring a dominant championship run, look for ISU to drop next week, depending on the Legends Classic winner (Villanova, VCU or Michigan most likely) or Oklahoma's results in Atlantis.
10. Texas (4-0, LW 13)
--Never mind Cameron Ridley or Myles Turner, the meatiest Longhorn so far this season has been senior Jonathan Holmes. His 40 points and 18 rebounds against Iowa and Cal proved who Rick Barnes can rely on against stronger competition. The backcourt is still questionable, even more so with Javan Felix having to work as the primary handler.
9. Wichita State (3-0, LW 9)
--The Shockers keep holding steady because they're winning. Others are simply winning over a better class of competition. Tulsa, Utah, Seton Hall and Alabama still await in the non-conference slate, and dominant wins over those opponents will give WSU a shot to move up.
8. Louisville (3-0, LW 8)
--The Cardinals are now into the cream filling of their cupcake-laden non-ACC schedule. Until the Ohio State and Kentucky games, only absolute eviscerations will allow them to even hold steady.
7. Gonzaga (4-0, LW 10)
--Speaking of eviscerations, the Zags have three wins already by at least 46 points. The narrower SMU win proves a bit more than the other three, but nothing about Gonzaga is in stone until that battle with Arizona on Dec. 6. All the blowouts have done one major thing, however: They've given Domantas Sabonis plenty of playing time to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding.
6. Virginia (4-0, LW 7)
--The Hoos are enjoying the hot early start from junior wing Justin Anderson. Not just a dunker these days, he's ripping the nets from deep, draining 58.8% of his threes through four games. Opponents have sunk only 27.3% of their twos against the pack-line so far, but let's see if Maryland, VCU and Harvard have some better luck than James Madison and Norfolk State.
5. Arizona (3-0, LW 4)
--UC Irvine thought it was in the game against the Wildcats until very late. We're still not 100% sure what we're getting from Arizona with Gabe York as a starter and only six men in the rotation. The Maui Invitational should answer a few more questions.
4. North Carolina (3-0, LW 3)
--What was just said about Arizona, double it for UNC. The Battle 4 Atlantis could be the venue for the Heels to truly prove they can dominate some tournament schools that aren't Robert Morris. Also, TBI POY Marcus Paige needs to get off the schneid, and the Bahamas may be the perfect place for him to pull a Stella. (You know, getting his groove back? ... No? ... Never mind.)
3. Wisconsin (4-0, LW 5)
--The Badgers hurdled both Arizona and North Carolina because they stomped a pair of quality programs in Green Bay and Boise State. Those games should have been much closer than they were, but Frank Kaminsky is absolutely smashing all comers. I take full credit for it, since only being named a second-team TBI All-American is obviously his motivation.
2. Duke (5-0, LW 2)
--It's Quinn Cook, not Jahlil Okafor, that's been the MVP for Duke in the early part of this season. Or is it Justise Winslow? Or is it Tyus Jones? Could Grayson Allen start for 347 other teams in America right now? Does Coach K own an absurd amount of stock in Just For Men? Could this offense break 70 on Kentucky? God willing, we'll get answers to all of these at some point.
1. Kentucky (4-0, LW 1)
--That defense. Dear God. If this team ever really finds shooters (Devin Booker, you're up, bro), winning by less than 20 would qualify as an upset. One dissenting note: Alex Poythress truly appears to have no role in this offense, which explains why he hasn't seemed to be missed these past two games.