Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

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Around the Power 6 "Plus 1"

February 14, 2011

ACC
Ascending: Duke
Descending: Maryland
Player of the Week: Nolan Smith, Duke (23.3 pts, 4.3 rbs, 4.5 assts, 1 stl)
On the Horizon: Maryland at VT (Tues.), BC at UNC (Sat.)

My favorite team (which so happens to be dominated by freshmen and sophomores) was up 14 points at halftime in Cameron Indoor. This was a shocker, to say the least. More on this game to come, but Duke gets the nod because they proved they're the class of a very weak ACC. Even without Kyrie Irving, the Devils have found another scoring option in Seth Curry to go with an ever-dominant Nolan Smith. Smith hit every big shot and put Duke on his back against Carolina, with Kyle Singler doing nothing and the Plumlee brothers looking like they had money on UNC. He's inched his way ever closer to serious national player of the year consideration. Maryland is now 5-5, sitting at 16-9 overall and needing a spectacular finish to avoid the NIT. Maryland gets a chance to move up a little if they can win in Blacksburg Tuesday, while Boston College gets a chance to avenge the ass-kicking they absorbed at home against Carolina on Saturday.

Big East
Ascending: Georgetown
Descending: Cincinnati
Player of the Week: Chris Wright, Georgetown (16.5 pts, 4.3 rbs, 5.5 assists)
On the Horizon: St. John's at Marquette (Tues.), Georgetown at UConn (Wed.), UConn at Louisville (Fri.), Pitt at St. John's (Sat.).

Georgetown has shaken off its 1-4 start to climb into the top 10. They've now won 8 league games in a row, using multiple contributions to make up for losing Greg Monroe to the NBA. I was seriously considering putting Marquette in the descending spot, as both they and the Bearcats look to be the first casualties of the murderers row that is Big East conference play. Chris Wright struggled right around when the Hoyas were 1-4, but has gotten his act back together just in time for Georgetown latest hot streak. My only knock on him is his inconsistent shooting, but he's one of the best point guards in the country in terms of leadership and intangibles, proving this with his play of late. St. John's looks to continue its streak of big wins at MSG, this time getting a Pitt team that still might not have Ashton Gibbs on Saturday. Also, UConn gets Georgetown at home, then has to turn around and go to Louisville in a rare Friday night contest.


Big 10
Ascending: Wisconsin
Descending: Illinois
Player of the Week: Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (22 pts, 4 rbs, 6.5 assts, 4.3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio)
On the Horizon: Michigan St. at Ohio St. (Tues.), Wisconsin at Purdue (Wed.), and Ohio St. at Purdue (Sun.)

Wisconsin was the first team to knock off Ohio St. just like they did in football, winning on Saturday and climbing to number 10 nationally. They look ready to go much further than their first round exit last season when they lost to Cornell. Michigan St. has been the team most criticized for leadership questions, but Illinois has fallen to pieces, largely because of a rift between the seniors and some of the younger players. Bruce Weber has benched Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale, as a team that was clearly going to be dancing a couple of weeks ago now has some work to do. Taylor gets player of the week (it's actually 2 weeks, but who's counting) largely off of his work Saturday, going off much like Nolan Smith did against UNC. Sparty gets one of their final chances more a marquee win on Tuesday, while the spotlight shines upon West Lafayette as Purdue gets 2 games against the league's elite in four days.

Big 12
Ascending: Texas
Descending: Oklahoma .
Player of the Week: Jordan Hamilton (18.3 pts, 7.8 rbs, 1 blk)
On the Horizon: Kansas at Kansas St. (Mon.) and Colorado at Kansas (Sat.)

Texas continues to roll unexpectedly and at this pace should be headed toward a number one seed. Oklahoma had a decent stretch early on, but the team that lost to D3 Chaminade has shown that they simply have lost too much talent in the last two years (Where the hell are Tommy Mason-Griffin and Keith “Tiny” Gallon even playing right now?) to compete in the second or even the third best league in the land. Jordan Hamilton has been player of the week two times in a row now, providing a little bit of everything as the best player on the 2nd best team in the country. My preseason final four pick Kansas St. gets the Jayhawks at home in a non-eventful week schedule wise, and the Jayhawks also get a relatively frisky Colorado team Saturday at home.

SEC
Ascending: Florida
Descending: LSU
Player of the Week: Chandler Parsons, Florida ( 16.3 pts, 11.7 rbs, 5 assts)
On the Horizon: Vanderbilt at Georgia (Tues.), Georgia at Tennessee (Sat.)

I'm firmly planted on the Florida bandwagon right now, if only because they're another one of my Final Four picks that actually isn't making me look completely stupid right now. The Gators are now 9-2 and running away from the rest of SEC East. Remember when LSU had players like Big Baby Davis and Tyrus Thomas, all of five years ago? Well they don't have them anymore, and their record of 10-15 shows it. Parsons gets a free pass for playing hurt against UT on Saturday, but averaged a double-double in his 3 other games in the last two weeks. Georgia gets a chance to bump up its resume with challenging games against Vandy and Tennessee, which could vault them to second behind Florida.



Mountain West
Ascending: San Diego St
Descending: UNLV
Player of the Week: D.J.Gay, San Diego St. (12.5 pts, 4.8 assts, 2.3 stls, 18/0 asst to turnover ratio)
On the Horizon: New Mexico at San Diego St. (Wed.), UNLV at Colorado St. (Sat.)

I've been as guilty as anyone in perpetrating the “2011 Jimmer Fredette Love Fest,” but San Diego St. should be getting just as much pub as the Mighty Mormons. They're now 25-1, and could arguably make a case for a number one seed if they win out. UNLV now sits at 6-5 in a league that was supposed to be better than it has been (as I rethink whether the Mountain West really deserves to be included as the “plus one” part of this bi-monthly blog enterprise). They've blown chances against the top 2, and now will be on the bubble unless they do some damage in the conference tourney. Again the player of the week spot is usually exclusively Jimmer's domain, but this week I'm going with SDSU point guard D.J. Gay. Stunningly, he has gone a four game stretch without turning the ball over once. New Mexico has been just as disappointing as UNLV, but gets a crack at the Aztecs in San Diego on Wednesday, as the MWC tries to get more than two teams into the NCAA's.

Pac 10
Ascending: UCLA
Descending: Cal.
Player of the Week: Tyler Honeycutt ( 8.3 pts, 7.8 rbs, 4.3 assts, 3.3 blks)
On the Horizon: Washington St. at Arizona (Thurs.), Washington at Arizona (Sat.)

I try not to harbor an East Coast bias in writing this, and in doing so I've actually watched Pac 10 games quite a bit in the last month. The league isn't as bad as it was last year, and the main reason is the reemergence of “Blue Blood” programs like Arizona and UCLA. The Bruins look to be hitting their stride, entering the week at 9-3 in the league, and getting a big non-conference win against their old boy Steve Lavin and St. John's on 2-6. Cal was looking like they were going to shake off their early struggles with a strong conference start, but it looks as though losing in triple overtime to Arizona might have been the death knell to their year. Honeycutt didn't put up huge scoring numbers, but he did have an 8 block game as is considered to be a potential lottery pick. Arizona looks to continue a streak that has them up to number 13 in the country, getting the two talented Washington schools at home in the span of two days.

Duke-UNC Recap and other Observations
I'm not normally a believer in the term “moral victory,” that being said, I came away from the Greatest Rivalry in College Sports in good spirits. Like I mentioned up top, UNC was up 14 points at the half, something that I and probably a great number of Carolina fans would not have fathomed going into the game. Especially after the blowouts last year, even if UNC should have won the game. But to go into Duke and play that well in stretches, bodes well for the rest of the season. The major key that I can see going forward is the need to develop one or two consistent shooters. If Reggie Bullock or someone else can start knocking it down from deep, biased or not, this is a dangerous team that could end up in Houston for the Final 4. Barnes is starting to get it, and Kendall Marshall has been a revelation. They beat people up on the boards, and after some early season problems defensively, they do a good job locking people down. I don't want to say we're back, but after the carnage of last year, I'm highly pleased with the improvement I've seen from Chapel Hill.

Kansas is a lot better than I thought. Last Monday in the Missouri game, they took the Tigers' best punch in the beginning of the game, with Mizzou starting off 7-9 from the field, and ended up putting up 103 points and winning by 17. Russ' cousins Markieff and Marcus are the real deal, and the rest of the supporting cast have all gotten better since last year's early exit, offsetting the losses of players like Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry. They are now number one, and they deserve to be.

Three teams that I saw in spurts over the weekend as I attempted to channel surf sans remote control (harder than you think unless you're 50 or older) that will be top 10 teams next year are Vandy, Louisville, and UConn. Vanderbilt has shooter John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley, and possibly Jefferey Taylor all coming back. Louisville brings in 2 McDonald's All-Americans to a team that has dealt with all kinds of injuries, all the while losing just Preston Knowles. UConn is probably losing Kemba Walker, but will bring back everybody else, including freshman guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier who have become the 2nd and 3rd scoring options the Huskies need with teams keying on Walker. All of these teams have Sweet 16 potential right now, but the future is extremely bright as I try to get a jump on actually picking teams for the Final Four in the preseason that even make the NCAA's.

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