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The State of College Hoops: Pre-conference Recap

January 7, 2011

I haven't posted anything about college basketball since the 24 hours of hoops marathon. I figured I didn't want to get into my weekly posts until conference play starts up. For my “Breakfast with Berndon” stuff will resume on a weekly basis starting this week. (Side note: hopefully with a new name). I've watched a good deal of games since November 12th, so here's my short recap on the goings on of the last 6 weeks.

Biggest Surprise: Boston College
Biggest Disappointment: Virginia Tech
Best Win: UNC over Kentucky 75-73
Worst Loss: Georgia Tech 80-63 to Kennesaw St. at Kennesaw St.
MVP: Nolan Smith
Conference Predictions: 1.Duke, 2. UNC, 3. Florida St. 4. Maryland, 5. N.C. State, 6. BC, 7. VT.
Sentimental Fav: Chapel Hill

BC under new coach Steve Donahue has surpassed expectations that had most picking them to finish in the bottom half of the league. They're the only team to beat Texas A&M and have also beaten the likes of Cal, Indiana, Providence, and won at Maryland. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was in the top 25 early on, but lost all of the games they had in place to help strengthen their non-conference schedule. Nolan Smith has been good with Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and even better without him. I look for Duke to dominate the league with Carolina as a solid number 2, especially if their guards continue to play better. The rest of the seven I mentioned all have chances to make the tourney, with Florida St. having the highest upside with the way they can defend.

Big East
Biggest Surprise: Cincinnati
Biggest Disappointment: Seton Hall/West Virginia
Best Win: Georgetown at Missouri 111-102 in OT.
Worst Loss: Depaul 71-53 to Indiana St. at Indiana St.
MVP: Kemba Walker
Conference Predictions: 1. Pitt, 2. Syracuse, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Georgetown, 5. Villanova, 6. Marquette, 7. UCONN, 8. St. John's, 9. West Virginia, 10. Louisville, 11. Cincinnati, 12. Seton Hall
Sentimental Fav: Georgetown or Notre Dame

Everyone thought the Big East was going to be good, but lo and behold, they're even better than people realized. Credit the unexpected starts from teams like Syracuse, Notre Dame, UConn, Louisville, and Cincinnati adding to their prodigiousness. Cincinnati has gotten off to a 14-0 start, finally jumping into the rankings for the first time this week. They're big and athletic, but the lack of a proven 18-20 point scorer plus the inability to consistently knock down outside shots will end up hurting them. Seton Hall is a disappointment because I thought they'd be better, but it's probably not going to be your year when you're best player gets injured, then gets shot. West Virginia still might get on a run, but I thought they'd do more with what they have back. Austin Freeman struggled against Notre Dame and last night against St. John's, but for the most part has been on fire. I still think Pitt is the best of the bunch, as I put Syracuse right behind them until they shoot a little better from deep. St. John's senior-laden crew looked great last night against Georgetown, and if they can survive playing 8 games in a row against ranked teams with maybe a 3-5 record, they'll be in great shape to be in the tourney for the first time since Ron Artest played there. Marquette is another sleeper, with Darius Johnson-Odom starting to emerge, and I look for UConn to fall off, unless Alex Oriahki or Roscoe Smith becomes a legitimate number two scorer to go with Kemba Walker.

Big 10
Biggest Surprise: Purdue
Biggest Disappointment: Michigan St.
Best Win: Ohio St. over Florida 93-75.
Worst Loss: Illinois losing to UIC 57-54 in Chicago.
MVP: Jared Sullinger
Conference Predictions: 1. Ohio St. 2. Michigan St. 3. Illinois, 4. Purdue, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Minnesota.
Sentimental Fav: Illinois

Like the Big East and ACC, the Big 10 has been great. These conferences have clearly established that they are the best of the bunch. For Purdue to be ranked number 11 at this point shows the talent level of Jajuan Johnson and E'Twuan Moore. Michigan State has morphed into “a pretty boy, jump shooting team” according to their coach, but Draymond Green and Delvon Roe both had 10 plus boards in their recent win against Northwestern. If they get back to being their old blue collar selves, then they'll cement their place in the top 10. Ohio St. and Jared Sullinger are clearly the team to beat. I like the way the vets like David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford have meshed with Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. Not to mention the great addition of Aaron Craft at the point. Michigan St. is still Michigan St, and Illinois and Purdue are also really good. All six teams I ranked will be in the NCAA tournament, with maybe Northwestern or Penn St. finding their way in as well.

Big 12
Biggest Surprise: Texas
Biggest Disappointment: Kansas St.
Best Win: Texas at Michigan St. 67-55.
Worst Loss: Colorado 82-66 to Harvard at Harvard.
MVP: Jordan Hamilton
Conference Predictions: 1. Missouri, 2. Kansas St. 3. Kansas, 4. Baylor, 5. Texas, 6. Texas A&M. 7. Oklahoma St. 8. Colorado
Sentimental Fav: Kansas St.

This might be one of the few times I ever give Rick Barnes credit, but Texas has been really good so far this season. I've seen them play maybe 3 or 4 times and the one thing that stood out was there defense. Jordan Hamilton has gone from the player with probably the worst shot selection in the country to a league POY candidate. He's shooting the three over 40 % and giving them 7 rebounds a game. Combine this with how well Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson have played, and you get the best Texas team in 4 or 5 years. Kansas St. has dealt with suspensions and uninspired play from their leaders, making Frank Martin's halftime speeches legendary, I'm sure. Much like Michigan State, I still think they have time to turn things around. Especially with power forward Wally Judge's improved play the last two games, going over 20 points in each contest. I'm picking Missouri based upon Tony Mitchell being able to come back and gain his eligibility. Plus I hate Kansas. Baylor is a sleeper, with the tallest back 3 of a 2-3 zone in history. The Aggies have been really good so far, but I'm not buying in yet.

Biggest Surprise: Kentucky
Biggest Disappointment: Mississippi St.
Best Win: Tennessee over Pitt 83-76 in Pittsburgh.
Worst Loss: Auburn 69-55 to Jacksonville at Auburn.
MVP: Terrance Jones
Conference Predictions: SEC East: 1. Kentucky, 2. Vandy, 3. Florida, 4. Georgia, 5. Tennessee. SEC West: 1. Mississippi St.
Sentimental Fav: Florida

I also ripped Calipari in mine and Langston's preseason podcast, although I never said Calipari was a bad coach, but that he was a douchebag. Just wanted to clarify. I didn't think Kentucky would be nearly this good, but the kids they got, while not as athletic as their counterparts last season, seem to just get it more. They play smarter, and with college basketball's version of Kevin Love (Josh Harrellson) controlling the boards and doing all the little things with veterans Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins, I actually think this version of Kentucky basketball might go to the Final Four. Mississippi State is only the most disappointing because I couldn't pick the whole SEC West. Vanderbilt looks to be more steady than either Tennessee or Florida. I still think Florida can be really good. As for the Vols, I honestly have no idea what to think; One game they look like a Final Four contender (wins over Pitt, Villanova, and Memphis) and the next a first round loser in the NIT (losses to College of Charleston, Oakland and UNC-Charlotte).

Mountain West/Pac 10
Biggest Surprise: San Diego St.
Biggest Disappointment: UCLA
Best Win: USC over Texas 73-56
Worst Loss: Oregon 69-55 to Idaho at Oregon.
MVP: Jimmer Fredette
Conference Predictions: Mountain West: 1. San Diego St. 2. BYU, 3. UNLV, 4. New Mexico
Pac 10: 1. Washington, 2. Arizona, 3. Washington St. 4. Cal, 5. UCLA
Sentimental Fav: BYU

San Diego St. has risen to number 6 in the land, but outside of a win at Gonzaga (and maybe their wins against St. Mary's and Cal) they don't have anything else on their resume worth mentioning. UCLA is a little below where I thought they'd be, although they did had the Mormons their only loss. The Bruins of old do not lose to Montana at home however. In the Mountain West, SDSU and BYU will be at the top, with UNLV and New Mexico more than likely giving the league 4 tournament teams. Meanwhile in the Pac 10, Washington is back in the top 25, and could go 14-2 or 15-1 if they get going. They have 5 or 6 legit guys that can make threes and they can run people out of the gym if they're all clicking. Washington St. looked good in the Hawaii tourney, with Klay Thompson leading the way. Likewise, Arizona could be dangerous as they jump on sophomore stud Derrick Williams' back.


Russ said...

I usually try to watch as many non-Duke ACC games as I can, but right now the league is so down it will affect my viewing. UNC is marginally better than last year, but by default they will be the second best team this year. Wake Forest wouldn't win 8 games in the Big South this year. Boston College the "surprise" team, is winless against the Ivy League. Duke wins less than 14 games this year, I take the blog out to dinner.

January 9, 2011 at 12:15 AM
Teach said...

I think UNC is marginally better now, but I think by the end of the year, they'll be light years ahead of last year's team on one condition: Roy really needs to let Marshall be the point guard in late game situations. Drew is supposed to be a shooter, but his shots aren't falling, therefore, he's not a shooter. Only thing keeping him in is maybe the thought that he's a better defender and he's an upperclassman.

I bet Duke wins at least 15 conference games.

Talking about the rest of the ACC just makes me depressed and miss Bobby Cremins, Randolph Childress, and Junior Burrough.

January 9, 2011 at 10:34 AM
Russ said...

I would be happy with Herb Sendek, Julius Hodge, Deron Washington, and Luke Schenscher.

January 9, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Teach said...


January 9, 2011 at 2:24 PM
berndon4 said...

i just caught that i had a typo in there and listed the acc with the big 10 and big east as the best conferences in the country.....i meant to say big apologies

January 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM

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