Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recapping Saturday in College Hoops

The other day, I wrote about the Final 11. The Final 11 unbeatens in College Hoops. I knew that it wouldn't be long before that number would be reduced. But not sure I expected it to be so dramatically reduced on Saturday as 3 of the 11 were handed their first losses.

I'm sure the biggest surprise of the bunch was Georgetown falling at home to Old Dominion. But it wasn't a big shock for me. The Monarchs are a good team - who caught the Hoyas coming off a pair of big wins. Also ODU is one of those real good defensive teams that make it very difficult for teams. And I wouldn't go as far as to say the Hoyas hadn't been challenged yet, but they did have things seem to go their way most of the season. Consequently, I knew Saturday would be tough. Not sure I expected them to lose, but it was not a shock. Old Dominion can be an NCAA first round winner and maybe a Sweet Sixteen team, depending on the draw, and if they get there.

Seton Hall was the biggest untested of the group before the weekend - and they weren't able to get a win in the first real test. I was going to say failed the first test. But a six-point loss to a good Temple team can't be viewed as a failure. In fact, it probably makes me feel that the Pirates are exactly what I thought they would be. A team that will be right around .500 in the Big East. Syracuse opens Big East play with the Pirates after Christmas and we'll learn more about the Bobby Gozalez coached team then. But still, I think they are a team that is going to push folks all season long.

Texas Tech also fell from the ranks of the unbeatens. It was just the second road trip for the Red Raiders this year, so the loss to a very good Wichita State team was not a surprise. However, what it does prove to me is that this Tech team is more of a pretender than a contender in the Big 12. Because I don't think they are going to be able to win consistently in the conference. And they won't able to keep up with the likes of Kansas and Texas. Expect Pat Knight's group to be a bubble team come March and around .500 in conference.

Meanwhile, there were also some escapes from the other unbeatens. West Virginia scored near the buzzer to hold off Cleveland State. The Mountaineers had a big lead (17) in the second half, but almost lost to the Vikes. Give Huggins and his group credit for playing on the road against a true-mid major.

No surprise for me that New Mexico had a tussle with Creighton. The Blue Jays are solid and they made the Lobos work for their 12th win of the season. But in the end, Steve Alford's group won by five. Just a thought, but is Alford going to be on everybody's shortlist soon. Or are the struggles he at Iowa going to end up keeping folks away from him.

Solid win for Missouri State to go on the road and beat St. Louis, you know Rick Majerus' bunch, by 10 in St. Louis. Good win.

I was extremely impressed with Duke yesterday. This is the best group that Coach K has had in a while. I know they aren't unbeaten. But they are one of the folks that I'd think could win the tournament if it started tomorrow. They've got enough balance to endure the tournament and play hard enough defensively to stop good teams when necessary.

Not sure what to think of Gonzaga. Many expected this to be a down year for the Zags. And then they won in Maui (against a weaker than normal field) but played so well against Michigan State. Games against Oklahoma and Illinois in the upcoming weeks will be very important.

Watching the Texas game. I just kept thinking that the Tar Heels couldn't keep up with Texas. Eventually, it turned out to be that way. Texas made that one run near the end of the first half, and then countered every push that Carolina made. The Heels need a true outside shooter in my opinion. I'd also like to see Strickland at the point guard spot some more.

Kansas cruised past Michigan. However, it was a somewhat sluggish effort from the Kansas team after they rolled to an early lead. The Jayhawks were bothered by the zone of Michigan after the Wolverines went to it. However, it seemed like they went to cruise control after they opened up an early lead. And even though that has worked for Kansas against most of their opponents this season, it won't work against better teams like Michigan who has some talent. Kansas is obviously superior - and that kept Michigan from getting back in the game, but there were some chinks in the armor.

I hoped to watch Bama and Kansas State last night. Because I wanted to see K State. They are probably the best team that nobody realizes right now. Only loss came in Puerto Rico to Ole Miss. They have quality wins over Dayton, Xavier, UNLV, Washington State, and now Alabama. Maybe they don't have the horses to play with the big boys, but they've shown they are better than the mid-tier teams and a definite NCAA tourney team.

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