Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Ten NCAA CBB Surprises

First, the Good:

Butler (HOR)
The Bulldogs should start being given the respect they deserve as a program, and I'm as guilty as anyone. I thought they'd get some sort of postseason (NIT, I think- still a possibility), but they look like they'll probably romp through another season in the Horizon on the way to yet another NCAA tourney. They got a nice home win over Northwestern (yes, see below) and then won three straight road games before falling ever-so-narrowly at OSU.

Maryland (ACC)
I knew Greivis Vasquez would be good, and would have a little help from Hayes & Milbourne, but they've cranked out some quality wins over Michigan & Michigan State. I didn't know Vasquez would be this good, or that Adrian Bowie would jump to be an effective third-guard in the line-up. However, the Terps have been frighteningly inconsistent, squeaking out an OT win over Vermont and getting beat by Gonzaga and just destroyed by Georgetown.

Georgetown (Big East)
I thought the Hoyas, and the Big East in general, were way overrated going into this season. I think the Big East is still a little overrated, but Georgetown's definitely a NCAA contender. Greg Monroe has been surprising with his immediate contributions at center, and Austin Freeman & DaJuan Summers have made good on their transition to offensive centerpieces. GU has that nice beatdown of Maryland on their resume, as well as a good OT win over Memphis, and the Tigers were a bit lucky -I thought- to even send the game to overtime.

Michigan (Big Ten)
Beating UCLA & Duke? I did not see that coming. Honestly, even if they scrape together a .500 record in conference, they should be set for the NCAA. And furthermore, the way the Wolverines are playing defense, the maturing of Manny Harris, and the new-found poise of this team should give everyone confirmation that Beilien is a very good coach, not just a gimmicky flash-in-the-pan.

Northwestern (Big Ten)

I could've slid Ohio State here just as easily, as OSU really has the better wins, but it is absolutely nuts to see NU at #35 in Sagarin and #18 (!) on Kenpom. And our favorite geeks, Big Ten Geeks, have a nice post about the Wildcats "growing up" with their newfound height and the effect it's had on their defense. NU's only loss is a narrow one at Butler, and immediately before crushing DePaul, the Wildcats slapped a (currently, the only) loss on a much more athletic Florida State team. I watched the second half of that game, and NU had the 'noles absolutely befuddled. FSU just couldn't match up. I thought NU would be better than Indiana this season, but not by a lot. I was wrong.

Better than expected so far, but wait and see:
Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Seton Hall


Charlotte (Atl-10)
What the heck, Charlotte? You were supposed to be contending for the crown of the Atlantic-10 and building a case for an at-large berth, not dragging down the conference RPI with losses to Appalachian State and Cal-State Fullerton. I will say that the 49ers have recently turned things around with road wins over SIU and Miss. State. I hope it continues, for my own prognosticating pride.

Drake (MVC)
I can't hold Drake to much criticism for falling to a better-than-expected Butler team, but the lopsided loss to Vanderbilt and recent home loss to Stephen F. Austin sure take the air out of their non-conference resume. I thought they'd be flirting with a top 25 ranking again. I stand corrected.

Georgia (SEC)
The Bulldogs rescued their season last year with an amazing run through the SEC tourney, winning a surprise bid to the Big Dance. It's looking like they'll have to do that again to get any kind of postseason, as Georgia's getting beaten on by mediocre squads like Illinois & Loyola.

Michigan State (Big Ten)
It's a bit unfair, as the guy my numbers always favored, Goran Suton, just got back into action AND the superstar freshman, Delvon Roe, isn't really 100% yet. Thrown in the fact that Izzo teams are invariably better in March than in December, and I think it's way too early to pronounce the Spartans a real disappointment. However, they do make the list as they just were not competitive at all in the losses to Maryland & UNC. Neither team is really all that bad to lose to, but it's the way that MSU lost that has me concerned.

Virginia Tech (ACC)
Yeah, I don't know what is up with the Hokies. They should be better. Again, I thought that they'd be flirting with a top 25 ranking, but they've had a hard time shaking bad teams, can't beat good teams, and recently lost at Georgia. That's the same Georgia team that I just mentioned.

Southern California, Purdue(if loses to Davidson), UAB- for losing four players


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