Friday, November 25, 2005

November thoughts on teams 20-11

20. Memphis
The Tigers looked very strong in the finishing off Alabama and UCLA, and also just smacking what I think is an under-rated Wisconsin-Milwaukee club. But Memphis has played well in November before, and come back with an absolute wasting of the talent available. I suspect this will be perhaps Coach Calipari's best team yet in Memphis, but I'll need more convincing before I pencil them in the Sweet Sixteen or higher.

19. Iowa
The Hawkeyes have looked thoroughly decent in November, dumping Kentucky and hanging with Texas. But wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Colgate were no more impressive than you might suspect, and beating Kentucky sans Randolph Morris won't mean anything if those two clubs meet again in March. The loss to Texas (who I'm not very high on at all, thank you very much) just showed their lack of depth more than anything else. Alford's team deserves to be ranked, but that's about it.

18. Washington
Washington may be 5-0, but they haven't really faced anyone of consequence outside of Air Force, who they beat solidly 85-74. Perhaps the only pre-conference tests for the Huskies will be home games against Gonzaga on Dec. 4th, followed by New Mexico on Dec. 10th. The Gonzaga game should speak volumes about the mental state of UW. Frosh Jon Brockman is quite the stud in the paint, but can he hold up at 6-7 against power conference foes?

17. Stanford
Stanford beat San Francisco solidly, but the opening game thumping at the hands of UC-Irvine is cause for concern. I picked UC-Irvine to take the Big West, but they had just gotten killed by George Mason when they faced the Cardinal. Guards Dan Hernandez and Tim Morris need to do a better job of knocking down outside shots and someone has to be able to bang inside next to Matt Hayarsz, or it'll be a long, unhappy season.

16. Nevada
I was right to remember Marcellus Kemp's return from a redshirt year, giving the Wolfpack a legit wing presence and outside shooting to go along with a solid guard crew and the nation's best center; Nick Fazekas. The wolfpack is looking decent at 2-0, but wins over Sacramento State and Vermont are nothing to write home about. Mo Charlo and Chad Bell are giving Fazekas a lot of support down low, and that's good news for Nevada fans.

15. Indiana
IU hasn't played anyone yet, so it's hard to tell, but I do like the new hurry-up offense and the depth the newcomers have brought. The loss of a guy like DJ White would've crippled this team year ago, but there may be more talent on this roster than when the Hoosiers made their 2002 title-game run.

14. Kentucky
The Wildcats miss Randolph Morris bad, and he only averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds last year. That's how bad their desperation for a player in the paint is. Right now, Tubby Smith has a three-headed monstrosity of barely-mobile 21 feet and 5 inches stiff at center, and a decent power forward in Juco Rekalin Sims. The best rebounder is 6-1 Rajon Rondo who's 12 boards a game is nearly twice Sims' average, and 3-4 times better than that of the rest of the team. Until Morris gets back, UK could absorb some losses. But they had a nice bounce-back against West Virginia, getting hot early and holding off the Mountaineers down the stretch.

13. George Washington
Pops Mensah-Bonsu is sitting out a few games due to his NBA draft experimentation, but wasn't needed for the dismantling of Kennesaw in the Colonials only game to date. Watch for the December 5th game against Maryland for better measure of this team.

12. Texas
I just don't think much of Texas, and if the Adamite refs hadn't swallowed their whistles at the end of the game, my ranking of WVU as one-notch better than the 'Horns would've been upheld.
That said, Lamarcus Aldridge has worked hard to become the real deal inside, and Daniel Gibson has a lovely distance stroke with a killer instinct. But this club just looks like an early NCAA upset waiting to happen, just like Lute Olson's old Arizona teams.

11. West Virginia
Again, I think WVU would be in a whole other place if the foul had been called on Aldridge in the final second of the Texas game. Mike Gansey would've sunk those free-throws, and WVU would've taken down Iowa. Instead, the Mountaineers got an angry Kentucky team smarting from a stupid loss to the Hawkeyes. Patrick Sparks was hot early, and WVU never was quite able to come back despite a game effort. But I think as the season goes on and Pittsnogle continues to balance his inside and outside attack, we'll see that West Virginia is a quality club not be underestimated.


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