Friday, November 25, 2005

Thoughts on teams 40-31

40. Northern Illinois
Lost at Missouri State in the only game played thus far. This wouldn't be too much of a concern, as Missouri St. looks to be a solid NIT team, except that it was a blow-out, 87-51. They missed 10 of 20 free throws, shot 30% overall and 22.7% from three. That's gotta improve in a hurry if they're going to build a NCAA at-large bid resume.

39. Alabama-Birmingham
Haven't played yet, open their season tonight against a decent-looking UMass club. The Minutemen have a sterling frontcourt, but if UAB pressures their guards effectively, this game could be over in a hurry.

38. South Carolina
Looking at this pick now, my first inclination is to think "How did I pick this team this high?" But they're 3-0, with solid wins over a decent Toledo club and a road win against Western Carolina.
Terrance Kinsey is playing like a star, and soph forward Dwayne Day is providing a bit of punch to boot. Low-post play is still a concern, but rail-thin 6-11 Brandon Wallace may be a solution there as the season goes on.

37. Charlotte
Not looking good at all after losses to Northwestern, Wyoming, and a particularly pathetic showing against Mississippi State. "The 'Niners" scored an appropriate 9 points in the first-half en route to a 53-38 defeat. Curtis Withers is putting up great numbers, and De'Angelo Alexander is making the expected offensive contributions, but Bobby Lutz has got to get other guys to step up.

36. Ohio
Hasn't played yet. On Satrurday they open with St. Francis (PA) who they really should handle easily. In fact, there aren't any scary teams on the pre-conference schedule outside of Kentucky, and I'm not that high on the Wildcats at the moment either. To find out about this team's mettle, watch the back-to-back road games against Rhode Island and Cincinnati, two expected NIT teams. The Bobcats need to get a split out those games to keep its at-large resume decent, but I still expect this club to win the MAC outright again.

35. New Mexico
Another pick that looks a little shaky upon reflection, but I'm confident this is a better MWC title contender than the currently trendy SDSU. A road loss to Kansas State doesn't inspire optimism, but losing this one in November is a lot better than in, say, February. The 95-42 pillaging of Mississippi looks pretty sweet, 'though. I did expect a little more of their new big men Joel Box and Dan Faris, but Box could still show up in time to make a difference.

34. Creighton
The Bluejays have destroyed both teams they've met, and the 20-point win at George Mason looks impressive on paper. The perimeter crew looks as good as advertised, and the inside guys are looking alright as well, with Dane Watts and Anthony Tolliver combing for 38 points, 24 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks in two games. Freshman surprise comes from Josh Dotzler, registering some decent minutes at point and looking like the lead guard of the future for CU.

33. Pittsburgh
Suddenly, some experts have started recalling the success that Pitt's had over the last few seasons. They haven't beaten anyone of consequence, but they've looked okay doing it. The Pitt Defense and Carl Krauser should carry them to NCAA tourney again this year. Getting minimal contributors Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall to hit the glass this year (currently combining to average 16 rebounds a game) will help a lot, too.

32. Arkansas
The Razorbacks may be headed for redemption or ruin, but it's hard to tell right now. After destroying Portland State and hanging with UConn for a moral victory, they eked by Kansas 65-64 and lost 62-75 to Maryland, who had just been clearly outgunned by Gonzaga. Right now Stan Heath has another NIT squad on his hands, and despite Ronnie Brewer's great numbers (22.8ppg), this club has got to get it turned around by conference time.

31. Virginia Tech
A one-point loss to Bowling Green is the only blemish on an otherwise untarnished 4-1 record, but will this team be battle-tested enough to face the rigors of ACC play with this light of a schedule? Well, the schedule will not be so light after facing St. John's and road games to Stanford, Old Dominion, and Ohio State. It's way too early to tell what the Hokies are going to be this year, but if the starting 5 can continue its success against tougher ballclubs, they still could repeat last year's success.


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