Monday, November 28, 2005

November thoughts on teams 10-1

10. UCLA

Er, they look alright, I suppose. A loss to Memphis is nothing to fret about this early, but narrow wins over Temple and Drexel aren't proving much. They need Josh Shipp back and healthy, and also for centers Michael Fey & Ryan Hollins to quit teasing with their potential and start being grown-up Bigs in the paint. The trouble Bruins have had in just scoring also points to an imbalance on the offense. I don't think Cedric Bozeman is going to have the year that Dijon Thompson did last year, and unless Shipp, Fey, and Hollins are around and playing well, I'm not confident that this is a top 25 team at all.

9. Gonzaga
Wow, totally deserving of top ten and maybe top 5. Adam Morrison is great, and has some solid support, but completely surprising is Derek Raivio. Brilliant win over Michigan State followed by a tough loss to UConn, but after 3 overtimes against MSU, how much can you have left in the tank the very next day? Wins over Maryland and Idaho fill out their 3-1 record thus far. Jeremy Pargo and Josh Heytvelt are earning time as freshmen, which Heytvelt I expected to do, but Pargo appears to have enough game to bump Nathan Doudney from the rotation.
edit: I guess Heytvelt is done for the year due to a broken ankle. Frontcourt depth takes a hit.

8. Louisville
Nothing to see here, as the Cardinals have only played one game (v. Tenn-Martin) but injuries cause worry. Juan Palacios looks fine now, but center David Padgett is still out, and depth behind Palacios and Brian Johnson will scare no one. It's still really early, but this may not be the typically deep and athletic Pinito ballclub that I thought it was.

7. Boston College
Who has BC played? They got a decent win over Oklahoma State last night, after just slipping past Drake. So they're 5-0 after playing maybe 2 teams that get to the NIT, and what's scarier is the 7-man rotation. And I don't mean 7 players averaging 30 minutes and 3 averaging 10, I mean 7 players have played 976 out of 1000 possible minutes. That sort of "depth" looks like a big target come ACC road games. But BC's goal has to be to just hold on until Sean Williams gets himself eligible again.

6. Michigan State
Actually looking pretty good, despite the thumping by a clearly inferior Hawaii team and subsequent loss to Gonzaga in what may have the preconference game of the year. That games *head shakes* ...just amazing. Despite the 2-2 record versus D-1 foes, a lot of questions have been answered positively. Ager and Davis are playing like superstars, Goran Suton is the answer to the who-else-besides-Davis-is-inside question that's been plaguing Izzo for 3 years. Also, frosh Marquise Gray and Travis Walton are nice bench players, and Drew Nietzel is earning his starter's spot at the point.

5. Arizona
Arizona looked kinda weak in the first half when I saw them playing against Virginia, of all teams. I guess they pulled away to win by 30, but losses to UConn and Michigan State are not offset by the UV win and a 61-49 victory over Kansas. The guard corps looks elite, but inside a lot of questions remain. Ivan Radenovic is a good player, but not a great scorer or rebounder and what's alongside of him? Isaiah Fox and Mohamed Tangara have been disappointing so far, and that's really bad news for Lute Olson.

4. Oklahoma
Uh, has Oklahoma played anyone? Surveys says: Samford, Binghamton, and Belmont = no. Mike Neal is coming off the bench and is the leading scorer right now, Nate Carter is less of the impact player I'd thought he'd be, but is in the rotation. Keep an eye on freshman forward Taylor Griffin who's posting a very respectable 6.3 rebounds/game in just 13 minutes per outing.

3. Villanova
Curtis Sumpter's injured, which doesn't inspire confidence in what has been the weakest link of the Wildcats in recent years, their health. 2-0 against Lehigh and Stony Brook have proved nothing, December 3rd's game against Oklahoma should prove a lot for both clubs. Jason Fraser has been unimpressive inside, and if 6-9 frosh Dante Cunningham hadn't been playing capably, the only other option would be enigmatic Will Sheridan who's averaging 8 rbs but only 1.5 points. The perimeter crew, of course, looks awesome.

2. Connecticut
Still many questions, and Rudy Gay is unsurprisingly not the next Michael Jordan. Denham Brown has been playing well, and hit the last-second shot to beat Gonzaga. Good wins over Arkansas and Arizona do place this squad solidly as a top-5 team, and frosh Craig Austrie has been nearly heroic in filling in at point, so there's really nothing to complain about. But, I dunno, they've just not been impressive, and I'm not sure that the Huskies are a Final Four team without Marcus Williams.

1. Duke
Beat a hot Memphis team, but have not really been impressive otherwise. This doesn't look like the championshop squad everyone was predicting. They win the NIT, but it used to be that no team that ever won the Preseason NIT had gone on to win the National Championship, but I think that someone ruined that recently. Playing Indiana Wednesday at Assembly Hall should be a good chance for Coach K to get a real assessment of his team's character. But the Blue Devils always play pretty well in the Big-ACC challenge, so it unfortunately looks like the betting money should be on hated Duke on Wednesday.


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